2006 Winding Down

Seeing as I am heading home for the holidays on Thursday, it looks like the outdoor activities for the year are winding down, minus New Years weekend anyway. Saturday was our office Christmas Party, so before the party a group of about 7 of us headed to Beaver Creek to ski together. We mostly skiied on intermediate runs with a couple of mogul runs thrown in to keep people on their toes. The snow was pretty good, after a snowy week things have really softened up out there. The fresh groomers in the morning were just about perfect! We even took a few runs in the terrain park. I avoided the rail and box features, I always seem to fall and hit my hip on those! I did go over a couple of the jumps, no tricks or anything, just air. The party was fun too! It was in the same place as last year, we even had a lot of the same waitstaff and menu items. That was fine, the steak with the mushroom sauce was worth another round! We then had our "famous" white elephant gift exchange. No santa thongs this year, but there were a few interesting gag gifts. As usual wine and booze were popular and switched hands many times!

Sunday was a climbing day. Despite some morning snow on Vail Pass I headed to Empire to meet up with a few other people. I got there late because of the snow and there was no one at our meeting place. So after waiting for a while I thought maybe they headed on to the trailhead without me and drove up to Berthoud Pass. I didn't see anyone there either, but wasn't surprised. If they did go on ahead they already would have been hiking. There were several backcountry skiiers and boarders out so I decided to head up Colorado Mines Peak on my own and see how the day went. It only took about 45 minutes to reach the top and the weather wasn't looking bad. It was a little windy and occassionaly there would be a brief snow shower but visibility was good and the sun kept making appearances so I continued on along the ridge. I made it Mount Flora in another hour, and decided to go one peak futher to Mount Eva. That too took about an hour and I had a nice snack break on the summit before starting the return. I had to reclimb Flora, but was able to traverse around Colorado Mines on the way back down to the car. I had already been up Colorado Mines and Flora last spring, so it was nice to pick up a "new" summit on the day. These were also the first peaks I ever summited in December, now only February remains as a month with no summits. I later found out that the one person I was supposed to climb with canceled due to the snow, but I didn't check my email the day before and missed the message. Oh well, next time.

I hope to see as many of you as I can this weekend when I am back home, and for those I don't get to see have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and all that jazz.


Expanding Terrain

Ski conditions improved a lot from our recent snows, and as a result there were even more terrain openings last weekend. First Saturday was the first day of the season for parts of the Back Bowls which meant they were completely un-tracked, at least for the first run. I managed to get to the mountain early enough be in line for the chair lifts when they started running. In fact the lift that took me to the top of Sundown Bowl opens at 9am and I managed to be on the 5th chair! That meant I had my pickings in the bowl, but rather than turn down the first face I traversed out a little farther to "Never" where I had the entire face to myself and put down the first tracks of the season. It was knee deep and wonderful! I managed to get to the lift line before the masses and barely had any wait. I decided to take another run back there, and again got fresh tracks, this time down the trees of "Yonder". The lift line was growing and it took a half hour to wait the second time, but no matter; I got my 2 first tracks for the season and was pretty happy. I decided at that point to head to the front side and explore the area around Northwoods and Highline where the crowds were light and a few more runs were open than the weekend before. I even found some first tracks in the trees below Prima Cornice's rocky face. It was a fun day, but it was also very cold. The lows overnight last weekend were around -10 up here, and the highs barely hit 15 in the valley, so at the top of the resorts I'm sure it was more like 5. I left by 2pm and had lunch in West Vail before warming my toes at home.

Sunday I decided to hold off and ski later in the morning to wait for it to warm up a little. This time I went to Beaver Creek where the Rose Bowl had opened earlier in the week. While not fresh tracks, they were the first turns I got in that area all season and it was a lot of fun re-familiarizing myself with the soft moguls of Ripsaw. This run almost never gets sun and rarely ices up so you can get soft bumps even days after a storm! They were also racing the World Cup this weekend, American Bode Miller won the Downhill on Friday, but no other American's claimed gold over the weekend. I was going to head down and watch the slalom races on Sunday, but with the cold it felt better to be moving than standing around watching, so I passed this year. I have seen the slalom the last two years, its really the downhill I want to see but its always on Friday when I have to work. It looks like it would be really exciting to watch because they hit speeds of at least 60mph and some of the rollers in the terrain send them airborne for distances in excess of 100 feet, despite that they are rarely more than 10 feet above the ground! That's some serious speed they are carrying, with nothing but their race suit to protect them if they fall. I'll stick to the bumps and powder, I don't think I want to launch myself down the hill quite that fast!

More terrain has been opening this week, Vail and Beaver Creek are both close to 60% open and with more terrain expected to open for this weekend. All we need now is another 2 foot storm and we will be up to our knees skiing once again!