4.03.2005

Feeling Like Spring

It sure is starting to feel like spring around here. This weekend was warm and sunny, with highs in the 50’s in the valley. The grass is getting green, and the gophers (or are they prairie dogs?) are starting to come out of hibernation. So what does one do with their weekend? Why go skiing of course! The snow doesn’t just melt on the first signs of spring; up in the higher ground it takes weeks, months even to all melt out. The ski areas still have a few more weeks of operation before the season ends, and with the warm up, this may have been on of the last good weekends before it starts to get too slushy. Saturday I used another one of my Copper days. This time I tried to get in a few different runs from what I had done the weekend before, but some of the “favorites” I had to go for one more time, of course. I was thinking it would be a good day to take the snow cat and hike up Tucker Mountain, but there were an awful lot of people in the cat line. I rode the lift with a guy who had just finished a run up there and asked him how long he had to wait for the cat, he said 40 minutes. After the 5 minute cat ride it’s about a 20 minute hike up the ridge; and I didn’t really feel like standing around waiting for a ride. Fortunately there is another option, although to some it may not seem appealing. If you take the chair lift up, you end up on the opposite side of the U-shaped ridge, this adds close to a half hour to the hike, but it is relatively flat, even with a few downhill sections, and it saves having to wait for the cat. Hey, with ski season ending I could use some training for climbing season anyway, and shouldered my skis to hike across. The run was worth it, the snow was soft, deep and the run was steep. I also had it all to myself because I managed to time it so I climbed in-between cat trips. It’s like a backcountry adventure, but with the security of being inbounds.

Sunday my friend Ben and I met up at Vail. He is training for an ironman triathlon, and the next two weeks are big training weeks for him, so this is probably his last good ski day. We took a few runs in the back bowls, some of the runs had great spring conditions, but some were really hard and crusty. I guess it depended upon how much of that warm spring sun had hit the trail. We then went over to Blue Sky Basin and grilled ourselves some lunch. The grilles were not in good shape today, only about a third of the grilling surface actually worked, it took over a half hour to cook a couple of polish sausages, and they still weren’t 100% done. It’s a good thing they are precooked! After that we hit a couple of runs that Ben had never done before back there, then it was getting close to 3 and the lifts in Blue Sky were closing for the day. We headed back to the front to ski down for the day, and found a nice little slot below Mid-Vail that neither of us knew even existed. It was a great surprise, a narrow gully through what in the summer I imagine must be a creek that had the shape of a sort of natural half pipe. It had a trail sign, but it’s not on the trail map, and provided us with a nice way to avoid the crowds on the other runs. Some parts of it were steep, some parts had some dirt and stumps poking through, but in general it was a really fun little run; one I will have to remember for the future.

We are now down to two weeks left in the season, and a lot of warmth in the forecast. Tuesday it is forecast to snow, but I’m sure it will mix with some rain in the valley as it is forecast to be about 40. After that it is supposed to be warming back up to the low 50’s for the end of the week. It has been a great ski season, and it’s not quite over yet!