Thursday, April 17, 2014

Winter is going and it is time.

“Adventure is still an adventure even if you can still see your car.”

I think it might be time to fire this up again… I haven’t been lazy or most importantly I haven’t not had anything to say but I have been enveloped in the magic of winter and skiing in the mountains. So essentially let’s say I was on a powder skiing hiatus. So consider this the winter recap…

Having survived my first Colorado winter, I will say that it was the easiest winter I have ever endured. Did we get a lot of snow? YES! You bet we did, almost 400” of the white stuff. Was it cold, kind of? I think we had 10 days or so below zero, but it wasn’t -20 or anything like that, it was more like -2 to -5 with hardly a wind chill, in Minnesota -5 with no wind chill is shorts and Frisbee weather. The best part of the cold weather here is, when the sun is out and it was below zero, it never really felt cold. I was never miserable and I when it would snow, nothing closed down, the roads were easy to drive, people were happy and it was just an easy winter. It is interesting see this side of winter, people here love winter and embrace it.

Winter did come early here to Aspen, it started snowing pretty heavily in late October and continued pretty much all through and up to about mid-December. In fact the conditions were so good that Aspen Mountain opened 2 weeks early and Snowmass opened a week early. I skied on opening day at Aspen which was Saturday November 16th. It snowed all day while I was there and it turned out to be an awesome opening day. The mountain was in great shape, good coverage, and I think if I remember right the mountain was about 70% open. Which from what I heard was the best opening in years! I skied all day and had a blast. The snow was soft and like I said it was snowing and it was snowing hard enough that by the time you finished your run and got to the top and started over your tracks were covered and you were skiing fresh tracks. We call that a powder day with free refills.

Before I go on, I should tell you a little bit about me and skiing. I started skiing just 7 years ago and I instantly fell in love with the sport. I am not a great skier, I am not a fast skier, I would rather take my time, stop here and there and take in my surroundings and just enjoy my time in the mountains. What I am is a consistent skier, I make a lot of turns and just cruise around the mountain at my own pace and in my own world. I can ski “some” double diamond terrain and pretty much all single diamond stuff, well at least here at the four mountains around me. While I am not an awesome skier, no one loves it more than I do, so I try hard at it and I have a ton of fun just being out there enjoying winter, because it is better to embrace winter then to fight it.

Anyway like I said, my season started early and it was a blast, I skied at Aspen Mountain the first few times and thought it was the greatest thing ever, then I went to Snowmass and everything changed. Besides Big Sky, Montana. Snowmass is the best ski resort I have ever been too. I fell in love with it instantly and found myself there almost every weekend! I felt at home there, the mountain spoke to me and I spoke to it. We have an understanding and a love affair that I cannot explain to anyone. I feel small there, but Snowmass Mountain makes me feel powerful, capable and happy. I learned a few of the secrets to Snowmass during my time there this winter. Secret ski lines, ways to ditch the tourists and have areas to myself. Places to stop, sit and enjoy the amazing vistas or just listen to the wind go through the trees, or if you are lucky which I felt I was a few times, being in an area that was so quiet that you could hear the snow landing around you. Good places to eat and ways to get good deals! There were a few moments this ski season that were spiritual and eye opening for me. I stood multiple times this season at the top of the Cirque Headwall at 12,510’ feet and could see in 30 miles in all directions and felt so small and the realization of what was happening hit me, I was standing on top of a mountain that was massive and had been there for millions of years and would continue to be there for millions more and that I was a mere visitor and nothing more. I let myself enjoy those moments every time and took the time to ponder them. It was amazing to me. The mountains have not lost their lustier for me at all. I still look at them with amazement every day and the day I don’t look at them anymore is the day it is time for me to move back to Minnesota.

Snowmass is a huge place. 3400 skiable acres and 4300 vertical feet of rise. The runs are amazing and long. Some are scary, some are easy, but all are enjoyable. I learned a few things this year. I learned how to ski moguls, how to ski deeper powder and I have started to feel much more confident skiing on steeper terrain. I continued to learn and to push myself into harder and harder areas of the mountain. I skied the Cirque, the Hanging Valley and Powderhorn which are all double diamond zones at Snowmass. The entire time I had a ball and felt that I was getting better and better and having more and more fun each time I was out. But more importantly I was expanding the available terrain for myself which means that the entire mountain becomes my playground which is the most important thing.

Besides the things above I had a few skiing firsts this year as well. I skied in 32” of fresh snow and it was amazing. It took me a little while to get the hang of skiing in snow that deep but it was worth the effort and looking like a complete idiot till I figured it out. Skiing in snow that deep is not easy, you have to forget everything you know about skiing and relearn a little different technique. I also used a Poma lift for the first time. The Poma lift is a round platter on a “stick” that you put between your legs and it pulls you up the hill. It is a little nerve racking at first because if you don’t get it right you will and up falling in front of the lift line and that is never good. I ended up loving the Poma lift at Snowmass and rode it almost every time I skied there this season. It served what ended up being my favorite zone at Snowmass, The Cirque. Huge fun lines, awesome snow conditions and not every many people up there. Win, Win!

My favorite runs at Snowmass turned out to be: The Cirque Headwall, Longshot, Upper and Lower Green Cabin, Coffee Pot, Powderhorn, Slot, Cookies, The Edge, Roberto’s to Lower Ladder and and and… I could continue for a while but I won’t because most of you have no idea what I am talking about anyway.

Snowmass closes this coming Sunday April 20th for the year. I am sad, I am going to go up there and say goodbye to my friend and get a couple last turns in for the season. Aspen Mountain is going to stay open two additional weekends only and will close for the year May 4th. I am not sure I will make an appearance at Aspen after Snowmass closes. As of right now, I have 28 ski days and my total vertical feet skied for the year is 301,241. I was hoping to make it to 300,000 for the season. And I did! Next year I am going to shoot for 400,000. I definitely got my money out of my season ski pass.

Besides of course skiing with Melissa, who is my best ski buddy, I had some friends out this winter to ski with me. My oldest friend Chris whom I have known for almost 38 years. And my buddy Bryan. It was great to see them both and show them around my new home. The skiing was good for both and I think they both had a great time out here with me. I hope they both return next year. I know the mountain even better now! But seeing them made me a little homesick. I am still not 100% here yet, a huge piece of me is still in Minnesota.

But like all things something has to end for another to begin. Ski season is ending for me and it is time to get back out on the water and fly fish. I didn’t fish at all this winter like I had planned on, but every time I was thinking about going fishing it would snow a foot and the call of fresh powder was much stronger for me. So I hung up the rods and waders for the winter and didn’t look back and didn’t regret it. This winter I skied and thought about fishing. Now it is time to fish and think about skiing. On my drive to work or up to the resorts I would always look at the Roaring Fork and the Frying Pan, say hello and smile.
But now it is time for me to get out, get that fly rod back in my hands and my feet back in the Pan. Even though I am sad that one season is ending, deep down I know it is time. The fish are starting to call. 

I hope that your winter was a good one like mine was and I hope you found something in yourself that you didn’t know was there, because I did and it was a great feeling.

Here we go…

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