Go Higher My Friends!
It’s getting to be that variable time of year when paying close attention to the weather is a great way to plan out your ski day. I knew from reading my fellow bloggers’ posts that the mountain had gotten almost a foot of fresh and was skiing powdery again, but I still wasn’t sure what to expect, as the weather in town has fluctuated between the 40s and the high teens just in the last 12 hours. True to the Colorado weather adage: “If you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.” The same can be said for the skiing on the hill: If you don’t like the conditions, move over 5 feet. There is so much variety to the skiing up there, so try out all elevations, aspects and angles, and you are sure to find something you like.
I started my day with a quick lap from the top of the gondi back down Vagabond. (A quick detour to see how the bumps on Surprise were holding up — carvy and forgiving, fyi). The groom on Vagabond was perfect; you can hold an edge like a dream but it’s still zippy and fast. There is, however, a distinct elevation line, a few turns below the teepee, where the warm sun got to the snow yesterday afternoon, and the lower half of lower Vag is really different — firm and set up, making you work for your carve.
My next run was another beauty groomer on Rudi’s to hop on Storm and test out the top of the mountain. My, how quickly one can fall out of powder skiing shape! The top of the hill is a veritable powder morning after. The groomers are as good as it gets, and the non-groom is fun and soft, too! I expected to make turns that cut to hard pack, but it’s far enough under there that I didn’t feel a thing. Centerfield, the non-groomed area in the middle of Storm Peak Face, was my run of the day: The bumps were soft, the snow was light, the visibility was solid, and it’s been so long since I’ve skied off groom that just being there was a treat. The top of the mountain is still firmly wintry, which is how I personally like my snow, though my legs — more accustomed to skiing groomers with toddlers these days — were screaming at me just a little.
Another ride to the top took me over to Three O’Clock, another favorite that I haven’t skied in a month. I was a bit more hesitant as I dropped into my first few turns because Three O’Clock gets quite a bit more sun, but it is skiing perfectly carvy and powdery with well spaced bumps. (I think it must have been groomed before this storm as the “bumps” are super user friendly.) The view out toward the Flat Tops shows the storm that is expected to roll in this afternoon with hopefully another few inches of moisture to keep things soft. I must admit, below Duster on Three O’Clock leaves a bit to be desired. I was definitely pushing my legs as the bumps drop into much firmer sun-affected snow. In my opinion, it was totally worth a few less-than-dreamy turns to have had such a great time on the top. And the groom in the Sundown basin is holding up beautifully, so an easy traverse gets you to a much happier place to finish the run.
There you have it, skiers and riders: Go higher, where the mountain is still firmly holding to winter conditions. Move right, move left, see what the sun did to areas facing south and west. Ski groomers because they feel so lovely, corderoy buzzing under surefooted turns. Ski trees and bumps up high — the new snow this week will feed your soul. Or, if you’re a college racer, tear it up on lower mountain, where it is absolutely perfect firm, fast racing conditions for the first day of the NCAA Championships. Something for everyone!
Ali Givnish, Alpine skier
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