Thursday, February 7, 2008

More Skiing and Snowboarding

After the excitement of the snow sculpture festival, it was back to the daily grind: skiing and snowboarding just about every day. On Sunday, January 27, we went to Breck and we both skied. Monday it stormed outside all day, so we stayed home. Sarah read John Grisham’s “King of Torts” cover-to-cover – she hadn’t read an entire book in one day in ages.

Tuesday we saw that Beaver Creek had a half foot of new snow, so we headed over there for the first time ever. As we left Breck, it was cold, windy, and snowing, so visibility was nonexistent due to blowing snow. But we carefully drove over Vail Pass on I-70, and gradually it cleared up so that by the time we got to Beaver Creek, it was just cold – not snowing or windy. Never having been there before, we consulted a trail map and decided that Grouse Peak should have some good terrain for us. It took three lift rides to get from the base to the top, though, and by the time we got there we were icicles. Temperatures were barely above zero and it was windy on the lifts. We stepped inside the ski patrol hut at the top of the mountain to get out some hand and foot warmers and to generally warm up. The ski patrol folks were nice. They said it was a good thing we hadn’t come the day before – due to high winds, the upper part of the mountain was closed. Once again, we were glad to have taken Monday off. They recommended a run off the side of Grouse Mountain called Screech Owl, so eventually, when we were sufficiently warmed up, we headed to that run. The snow was positively amazing! There were some huge moguls, but the troughs were completely filled in with fresh snow. We had to ski carefully – it would have been easy to stick a ski tip into a mogul and lose a ski, and on a powder day like this, losing a ski could be a permanent sort of thing, rather than a quick recovery!

Next we tried Raven Ridge, the run right next to Screech Owl, and it was entirely different – the snow was wind-blown and crunchy and it was nearly impossible to maneuver. We went into the lodge afterwards to drink some tea and warm up again, and chatted with a guy who called it a “survival run”. He wasn’t kidding – it wasn’t really skiing, but rather picking a path with extreme care and concentrating on your balance to avoid toppling over. Nevertheless, Brian fell about four times on that run. Not much fun.

We moved over to Larkspur Bowl next, and it wasn’t nearly as crunchy. Later in the day, we would do some lovely gladed skiing in a huge area of aspens off to the side of the bowl – the powder in the aspens was incredible and largely untracked.

We also spent some time skiing in the Rose Bowl, and then we skied the Birds of Prey downhill course, which was constructed for the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships. The topmost section was insane – unbelievably steep bare ice. Fortunately, there was a little cat track that bypassed the super-steep icy section, so we took that. At the end of the cat track, we saw a snowboarder riding down the steep part, where “riding” actually consisted of sitting down and scraping down on his back edge and butt. The rest of the course was still steep but hadn’t been groomed, so we skied the moguls the rest of the way down.

Wednesday, January 30, was still really cold and the snow was still fantastic. We went to Breck, and Brian snowboarded while Sarah skied. We did some double-black-diamond runs, which was a first for Brian on a snowboard – they’re pretty easy when you can bounce over soft fluffy moguls and turn whenever you feel like it. At lunch, we saw three grown adults dressed up in full-body elephant, cow, and monkey costumes. We never did figure out what that was all about.

Also at lunch, Sarah noticed a bright red spot on Brian’s face. He looked in the mirror and didn’t notice anything through his several days of stubble, but the next day, after shaving, he noticed a purple/gray patch. After doing a little bit of research we decided it was frostbite, which we confirmed in a chat with ski patrol the next day. Frostbite! You hear of people getting frostbite and losing fingertips or toes on Everest expeditions, but frostbite at a ski resort in Colorado? Who would have thought? Ever since then, Brian’s been keeping his face covered when outside, and it’s recovering nicely.

Wednesday night we watched the Republican debate and laughed along with the audience when Ron Paul made fun of McCain and Romney for their pedantic debate about “timetables”.

Thursday we went back to Breck and both snowboarded. We watched the Democratic debate that night and puzzled over the exact differences between the nearly identical healthcare plans of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Friday we woke up and found out that Vail had seven inches of new snow, so we made a beeline for the slopes, Brian with his snowboard and Sarah with skis. We went to the back bowls, but the visibility was close to zero, so we went back to the front side and skied some fluffy groomers. Eventually the fog lifted, and we went back to the Sundown Bowl and did run after run in different parts of the bowl, rarely running into another person and constantly plowing through deep fluff. Nothing beats Vail on a powder day!

On Saturday the snow report looked good yet again – we’ve just had an amazing series of storm after storm dumping snow on us! But since the slopes are usually crowded on Saturdays, we decided to take a day off.

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