Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lisa's Day at Vail

Lisa wanted to get a chance to snowboard at Vail while she was here, so on Thursday, she and Brian went while Sarah snowshoed with her parents.

Lisa and Brian arrived at Vail soon after the lifts opened and went straight to the Back Bowls. It was a bright, sunny day with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. A couple of runs in the bowls made it clear that there hadn’t been new snow recently – the snow was hard and chunky from melting the previous day and refreezing.

So they went to Blue Sky Basin, which often has good snow when the rest of the ski area doesn’t. That pattern held on this day, and they did run after run in great powder. First, they tried to hit the Skree Field but overshot it, winding up in trees. At first, they were in some soft deep powder among reasonably spaced trees, but pretty soon the trees became denser, and they found themselves barely able to make the tight turns necessary to navigate the glade. Lisa nose managed to hit one tree and Brian’s butt made solid contact with another, but some ugly riding and a bunch of falls later, they made it out, relatively unscathed. Always good to get the hardest run out of the way early, while you’re still fresh!

Brian coaxed Lisa into doing a run called Lover’s Leap, a bowl that begins with a sheer drop of several feet but then gradually becomes less and less steep. Again, they found more great powder.

We’re not sure why Blue Sky Basin is frequently so much better than the Back Bowls. Our best guess is that since the terrain is more tree-covered, it gets less sunlight, so it has less of a chance to melt during the day and refreeze at night.

In any case, Lisa and Brian stayed in Blue Sky Basin for most of the day, boarding Steep & Deep, Champagne Glade, Heavy Metal, the Skree Field, and more. In the afternoon, they returned to the Back Bowls and found some untracked slush in the China Bowl. It was a shame – a couple days earlier, it would have been great snow, and no one bothered to ski it. When they got to the bottom of that run, they decided to head back to Blue Sky Basin, where they stayed until it closed. At the end of the day, they did a couple of runs on the frontside.

Lisa’s conclusions from the day were that it kicked her butt and she was now ruined, because she’d compare every other ski resort to Vail, and nothing else would measure up. And this wasn’t even a powder day! The weather was great, but the snow was sub-par, yet Brian still had to agree – it was a great day. They boarded pretty much nonstop from shortly after the lifts opened to after they closed, and had an awesome time.

Meanwhile, Sarah and her parents jumped on the Summit Stage buses and headed to Lily Pad Lake. The free transportation around here is quite convenient. The bus actually drops off right at the trailhead. The trail is relatively flat and quickly enters the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness. It gets a lot of traffic in general, but there was nobody else on the trail that afternoon. All the traffic packs the trail pretty well, which was a good thing since Sarah was having a hard time with her snowshoes and ended up hiking in boots the whole way.

The trail is forested the whole way, but some views open up at the lake. Here’s a view of the lake:

From the photo, you can see the damage that the pine beetles are doing to the lodgepole pine in the area. Some experts estimate that in five years, all of the area’s lodgepole pines will be dead. That will dramatically change the landscape in this area.

After a snack at the lake, Sarah’s parents posed for a photo:

Then they retraced their steps and headed back to the condo to wait for the snowboarders to return. It was a beautiful day to be outside, whether it was boarding or snowshoeing.

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