Thursday, November 1, 2012

Back to Basics: Skiing

A big reason we moved here was the promise of skiing.

We've generally bought multiple 4-passes and used other deals to get about a dozen or so downhill days per year.  After being a student (again), I was able to buy an Eldora pass for $149, so I'd get somewhere around 20+ days/year, but I never got anywhere near the gaudy yearly downhill totals that ski bums accumulate.  

In addition, I bought some backcountry skis to bang around on, which really came in handy in the epic 2006-7 winter that we moved here, where I had a blast just skiing around town and local trails.
I found that I enjoyed that about as much as downhill anyway, especially on rolling trails where I could get some decent speed.

I upped that a bit then by taking the skis on bigger mountains, until I got in over my head (and beyond the capability of the skinny skis) and busted a binding on Mt. Sherman.
The binding still worked but didn't latch, so I could still shuffle ski on it but not take it down any real downhills.  I did by a more legitimate tele setup last year instead.

But to enjoy the flatter stuff, I decided to call up the folks at Voile in SLC and talk with them, and they're so awesome they fixed the binding for free!

I'm glad my newer bindings are Voile as well -- no problems being loyal to quality gear and service.

After a few years, I've come to some realizations...while I'll still enjoy the social aspect of skiing with friends, I otherwise don't love the traffic and hassle of downhill skiing.  I hate the cost and the crowds and the danger of other people.  And I actually don't like riding a lift for 10 minutes and then riding down in 3 (Eldora) -- yeah, I know you can tilt that ratio at other (farther and more expensive) resorts, but I still don't like spending half of my day not skiing.

And now that I have skins, I actually enjoy uphill skiing, just like I enjoy uphill mountain biking.   wouldn't think to take a gondola up and run down a hill; I never had any desire to put my bike on a ski lift; and my mindset is now taking a similar approach to skiing.  It doesn't hurt that it's free and is a great workout!

Lift service is almost a necessary evil to learn how to ski, to jump quickly on the learning curve, as I went from zero experience in my mid-twenties to passable advanced intermediate. (Your best bet is still to learn as a flexible, fearless kid, especially taking advantage of the free programs for 5th-graders, etc.)  I still do have much to learn in downhill, but I'm OK doing that over time.  Instead, I'm looking forward this winter to poaching some legal laps on the edges of ski areas, and some intermediate backcountry stuff when conditions are safer (matching my comfort with practicing with my beacon and some basic avy knowledge).  I want to do Commando Run this Spring, and somewhere on the horizon, I think about things like the Grand Elk Traverse.

CO Ski Area Uphill Access:
Even better to have all that fun for free. 

Breckenridge (Designated route off-hours; all-mountain during hours; possible free parking pass)
Loveland (Designated route, all hours, free uphill pass required)
Powderhorn (No known restrictions; I had fun last year with an inverted lap starting with the West Bench trail at the top of the Mesa and then returning to my car)

Sunlight (No known restrictions; Full moon report)

Eldora (private land at base, and Not allowed)

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