Taking it up a notch

Saturday I went to Vail with my friend Drew from work. We decided to spend the day at Blue Sky Basin, which to me is the best area to ski. They don’t open the lifts there until 10am, so we took 2 warm up runs in the Back Bowls first, then headed back there. First we hit the Champagne Glade, one of my favorite runs there. Its basically like inbounds backcountry skiing, ungroomed, with widely spaced trees and a few rock outcroppings here and there. It’s almost as if they never touched it, just left it raw and gave it lift access. If it wasn’t for the nearby lift it would be totally silent and peaceful save but for an occasional other skier or rider passing by. We only took one run there though, and instead headed over to some of the steeper runs, Skree Field and Lover’s Leap. Both of these runs are guarded at the top by obstacles that tend to keep people off them. Lover’s Leap usually forms a snow cornice upwards of 3-4 feet tall (hence the name) and Skree Field has a cliff band at the top. It is possible to track along the top of the cliffs and find nice places to drop in-between though. At the base of both runs, you have to navigate through a series of narrow slots through the trees to get back to the main runs. Again, the backcountry experience, but inbounds. We were having a great time, and decided to up the ante a little bit. Both runs have a lot of rocks scattered about the slopes, some are huge, but most are no more than 3 feet high, and make for nice launching pads for some air. It’s like a natural terrain park! With the confidence built up from our rocks, it was time to take the cliffs at the top of Skree Field head on. That was exciting; standing on top of a 4 foot cliff above a steep run you can’t see anything directly below you and have to trust yourself and your judgment. Having been over the run a few times, I knew the landing area was good snow and a good pitch, so with a “here goes nothing” attitude, I pushed off. Right at the edge of the cliff I hopped up a little bit, to make sure my skis would clear it, and landed softly in the snow, on both feet. I checked my speed with a quick turn and did a little hip check on the snow, popped back up on both feet and admired my accomplishment. That was my first cliff jump on skis! I was nervous, but figured it wasn’t really any taller than the cornice on Lover’s Leap, just made out of rock (much less forgiving) instead of snow like the cornice. We had a short day, but it was definitely full of new experiences and made me realize how much I have been able to grow as a skier by getting in so many more days. Typically I have only been able to get 5 or 6 days, but including my trip to Beaver Creek today, I now have 20. Today was a much mellower day, sort of, I mean there were no cliffs, cornices or rocks involved. They had the World Cup run, Golden Eagle, groomed today, wow that was fun. You can really open it up and let it fly on that run! I can see how those racers can hit 85 mph; of course I was turning so I wasn’t near that fast. I also advantage of the opportunity to practice my mogul skills on some of the runs on Grouse Mountain, and of course the showcase Peregrine run. Peregrine is probably about 30 degrees, almost 1500 vertical feet, and right under the chairlift the whole way down. I am proud to say I didn’t embarrass myself with any “yard sales”, but I wasn’t perfect by any means. It’s a great run though, and a great challenge. No matter how good of shape I ever manage to get in, I doubt I would ever make it top to bottom on that run without stopping; it’s a real thigh burner! It was a fun weekend at the local slopes, but its back to work tomorrow, and next weekend is a “blackout” weekend for President’s Day, which means my pass is no good next weekend. Sigh. Maybe we’ll try and go on another hike instead if the weather is good. Talk to you then.