Snow, Steeps and Crowds

We have been getting a lot of snow up here in the Vail Valley recently, unfortunately most of it has been when I have been at work. The snow report for Wednesday was 13 inches, Thursday 9, and Friday 12 more. Just under 3 feet in 3 days, and I got to watch it all out of my window at the office (sigh). Friday the sun came out, and I’m sure it was a great day on the mountain, but, with the sun, that meant that for Saturday we wouldn’t have any fresh powder. Overnight there were some light snow showers, so we had a report of 3 inches by morning, and it snowed a good part of the morning and early afternoon, so though there were no “fresh tracks”, it was still nice and soft. I met a group of friends from work up at the village, where they all promptly ditched Ben and I, who wanted to do the Talons Challenge. I think they just couldn’t handle the 13 black and double black runs totaling over 23,000 vertical feet of skiing in one day (equal to about 16 Sears Towers, at a pitch similar to the stairs). Ben and I, however, were up to the challenge and headed straight over there after getting our official checklists from the ski school. We started with the 3 easiest runs of the challenge, completing them in under an hour. Then we hit some of the hardest, while the snow was still good, and the runs a lot less crowded. I think a lot of the people started out by getting all of the single black runs, then moving up to the doubles. We actually had a great time on the doubles we did early, because there was a lot of great snow still left over from the storms. The lift lines were really the only thing that slowed us down, but they thinned out a little bit near lunch time. We only had 4 runs left, and decided we would eat after we finished, taking advantage of less crowded lifts and runs. We finished at about 1.45, only 4 hours and 15 minutes after we started our first run, averaging over a mile of vertical per hour! We got our commemorative lanyards, and pins, and turned in our cards so that they can put our names on the “wall of fame” at Red Tail Camp. Ben’s is already on there, as he did the challenge last year. It was nice to ski with a goal in mind, usually it’s just aimless wandering, “hey, that run looks good” or “let’s go to a different area, this lift line is too crowded”. After we finished we had lunch at Red Tail Camp, where we met up with Ben’s girlfriend, she had been sick in the morning but felt good enough to make it up in the afternoon. We then did two runs on the front side with her before calling it a day. It was a great day of skiing, and I hope our other friends had a good time as well, we never did see them again. Overnight (and during the day yesterday), we got 6 more inches of snow, but once again the sun is shining, although tonight through Tuesday we should be getting some more snow showers. We have really started to build up our snow base over here, but there are still a few rocks and tree branches to look out for here and there. Unfortunately Summit County has not gotten hit nearly as hard by this storm, getting half of what we have which means Vail was packed as everyone headed to the snow. I heard yesterday the parking structures were both full by 9.30 am, and the line of traffic getting off the highway was backed up so far, it was into the right lane of the highway! Some people we shared a lift with said it took them 3 hours to get here from Denver, and its only 100 miles away. Even at Beaver Creek the lots filled up, and people had to park on the road. It even affects the crowds at the local restaurants and at the grocery store; it really feels like I live in a resort town now!