Tuesday, January 31, 2006

If you missed them, a look a Breck's snow sculptures

The 2006 Budweiser Select International Snow Sculpture Championship which concluded this weekend in Breck brought an amazing array of competition from around the world this year. And hey... The local guys, team Breck, won. These photos are courtesy of GoBreck.com. See the whole gallery here.

Team Breck's "Discover

Team Switzerland's "Somersault."

Team Germany's "Coming Home"

Czech Republic's "elephant place"

Team New York's "natural grace"

Hey, ditch work alert! Free skiing!

SKI FREE AT MONARCH! Monday Febuary 13th is a free ski day (lift tickets at no cost) for everyone. No strings attatched. No voucher needed. Just bring yer skis and get ready for some great snow.

Free the Fourteener Four! Err... Five, well, maybe six.

The Gazette reported today that the Colorado House of Representatives unanimously approved a measure to limit liability of land-owners on 14,000-foot peaks. The bill will let private land-owners open their property to hikers without worrying about getting sued if someone falls and breaks his melon.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where, if the House is any indication, it will pass handily.

The legislative move is meant to patch up a scrape that happened in the summer of 2005 when mine claim owners on four fourteeners near Alma (Lincoln, Democrat, Brass, and Cameron) posted "no trespassing" signs at trailheads. The move caused a big kerfuffle in the press with people asking "how many more mountains would be closed?" and "Will people still visit Colorado if they can't climb the famous fourteeners?"
The truth on the ground was that there were no "no trespassing" signs and dozens of people a day were climbing the banned peaks. And Cameron isn't counted as a fourteener anymore that a particularly large mole is counted as a head.
Anyway, all the talk lit a fire under the legislature, which, from a hiking point of view, can only be a good thing.
One can only hope it will re-open the four fourteeners already mentioned, and also one that usually escapes mention: Wilson Peak near Telluride, which has been closed for a few years because the summit is surrounded by mining claims. Mount Sherman is also in the private land club, but so far has remained open.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Dream of wearing the Smoky the Bear hat?

Now is your chance.*
Learn the joys and rewards of becoming a Naturalist Docent volunteer at Bear Creek and Fountain Creek Nature Centers in Colorado Springs. Volunteer positions as environmental education program leaders are available now at both nature centers. Anyone interested in the training class should contact Paula Megorden at Bear Creek Nature Center, 520-6388, by February 10, 2006

* actually, since the parks are not part of the National Parks Service, you don't get to wear the funny hat, but you might get a neat pin.

Eldora trip report

My wife has been in Colorado for seven years now and she has skied just about every ski area in the state. She's so close, in fact, that she's trying to knock the last few off her list this winter.

Which explains what brought us to Eldora on Sunday.

We should have known what we were getting into: By the time we got to Nederland, the wind was blowing so hard that we frequently couldn't see the road because of blowing snow. It was no better at the mountain. The chairlifts were swaying in the gale and I had to cover the ear flaps on my helmet to keep my ear drums from freezing.

We would have just turned around and headed home but... the snow was actually pretty good. Especially back in the trees and glades all the way on skier's left at the edge of the ski area.

So we skied, shivered, skied, shivered and went into the Lookout restaurant to warm up. Then we took one more run and returned to the top to find the glades roped off. We headed off to find another run and found that the whole darn mountain was roped off, except for one of the double chairs up the kiddie hill. And that had a 10 minute wait to get on.

Thus, after all of two hours of skiing, we headed for home with another mountain crossed off our list, but not much else accomplished.

-- Andy Wineke

A really big fish

A morning temperature of -29 degrees didn't stop some fishing friends from heading to Eleven Mile Reservoir last week. And their disregard for the cold paid off. Noel Kessler of Colorado Springs caught this 38-inch trophy northern pike within 10 minutes of drilling a hole in the ice. His friend, Darrell Lindquist, also got lucky, catching a 27-inch pike that day. The friends, who were with Terry McKenna (who took the picture) have been fishing at Eleven Mile for years, going an average of once a week year-round. Lindquist reports this fish is going on the wall.
- Deb

My dear colleague turned guest blogger Joanna Bean hit the slopes this weekend. Here's her report:

My kids, ages 6 and 10, have been raised on Colorado packed powder. For them, a powder day has been a rare thing, usually just a dusting of snow that's gone by 10 a.m. Until this year. There was a foot (!) of fresh snow to greet us at Monarch on Sunday morning, and it snowed all day. My kids were utterly delighted - and a little perplexed.
Here are a few things they learned:
1. Zip all zippers, fasten all Velcro, snap all snaps before heading up the lift. Snow this deep - with more falling all day - ends up everywhere. My 10-year-old daughter learned the value (during our lunchbreak) of tucking some of her layers into her pants before heading back out.
2. Carry tissues or a hanky. Epic snow means epic wipeouts.
3. Keep track of your skis when they're on your feet. If you step out of a binding or fall, don't move too far away. It can be tricky trying to find a wayward ski under a foot of powder.
4. It takes a lot of work to make turns and pole your way through the flats when there's this much snow. Frequent rests and breaks are a good thing.
5. Hot cocoa tastes especially good when you come into the lodge looking like a snowman.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Winter drama

Why I like Rocky Mountain Park best in the winter: The elk outnumber the humans. I took these pictures Saturday afternoon. Hundreds of elk grazed in Moraine Park. The wind blew in 50-m.p.h gusts at Bear Lake and swirled dramatically around Hallett's and Longs Peak.
- Deb

Friday, January 27, 2006

Jesus saves! Well, good luck with that.

This little tidbit from Lou Dawson's blog, WildSnow.com
"When they had the parking and crowd problems up at Loveland Pass a few weeks ago, a USFS ranger confronted one of the ravers with questions about carrying an avalanche beacon. Their reply: “Jesus is my beacon.” As a Christian, I’d like to share with that guy that he needs to study his theology. While similarities exist, there is a big difference between Jesus and an avalanche beacon. That kind of statement reminds me of when I meet people skiing solo with dogs in the backcountry, and they claim fido will dig them out if they get buried. While I’m somewhat of a mystic and believe that spiritual forces operate in the natural realm, I’d say carry the beacon — and pray. As for dogs digging you out alive if you’re truly buried. Delusional at best. "

Echo ain't helpin' the slacker snowboarder image

Echo Mountain Park, the "all terrain park, all the time" resort near Evergreen that was supposed to open in December, then January, is still not open.
Dude, what a buzz kill.
The weekly progress update on the Web Site is not particularly encouraging:

"Needed elements are slowly falling together.…No opening date set yet, but we’re inching closer… "

This is exactly the type of knuckle-dragging slacker attitude that gave rise to all those 1990s snowboarding jokes, such as:

Three snowboarders are in a car, who's driving? The cops.

How many snow board instructors does it take to change a lightbulb?
Three - one to hold it, one to video tape it and the other to say "AWESOME DUDE!"
What do you call a snowboarder with no girlfriend/boyfriend?

Etc. Etc. Etc.


Something that didn't get into out Out There Calendar: Pikes Peak White Water Club will be hosting a "Introduction to Kayaking" Slide Presentation at Christy Sports (1808 N Academy, 597-5222) on Monday, January 30th at 7 p.m.
All are welcome at the hour-long slide show about whitewater kayaking in Colorado accompanied by a talk about how to get started in the sport. Club members will cover the basics on what type of rivers are available on the front range, kayaking equipment, classes available to learn, and safety.Christy Sport will have kayaking equipment available on site for all to see.


Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hooray for Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek has been univited to much of this season's big fat snow party. Now, the area is finally getting some of the white stuff. It snowed a foot there today. Check it out on one of the coolest Web cams around - it's streaming video that shows the lifts moving, skiers skiing and flags waving. You could even see it snowing today. - Deb

X rated

Winter X Games 10 start Saturday at Buttermilk at Aspen/Snowmass. In case you don't know where that is, the EXPN network offers this explanation on their Web site:
"All competitions are going down at Buttermilk Mountain at Aspen/Snowmass (39.19N/106.83W), in the fine state of Colorado, in the Western United States, on the Continent of North America, in the Northern Hemisphere of the planet Earth, in the Milky Way galaxy, amidst globular star clusters, black holes, and nebulas formed from the gases of exploded stars."
The games feature more than 230 athletes competing in Moto X, skiing, snowboarding and SnoCross events. Among those to watch: Blair Morgan, (pictured) who is the "old man" of SnoCross at age 30. - Deb

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fashion forward

So I was reading about the fashion show at the SnowSports Industries America trade show taking place this week in Las Vegas (yes, there was a fashion show), and I started feeling kind of guilty. Just last week, a friend and I were making not-so-nice comments about a woman wearing a psychedelic '80s-era Pucci-esque ski jacket at Copper Mountain. Now I find out that Pucci is back. In fact, the designer has teamed with Rossignol (check out this season's Pucci-designed Rossi skis here) and next season will introduce, you guessed it, a Pucci-printed suit. That's right, one-piece suits are also coming back, but they aren't the ones you've seen in the lift lines this year - all shiny and usually too tight, cinched in at the waist and puffy in the shoulders. Along with Rossignol, Roxy and Burton are in on the one-piece act, but you can bet their versions won't invoke memories of the disco floor. - Deb

Maybe not that part of Switzerland

President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Passing through your wonderful mountains and canyons I realize that this state is going to be more and more the playground for the whole republic... You will see this the real Switzerland of America." We don't like to brag, but Switzerland has 10 peaks "close to or higher than 13,000 feet" while Colorado has nearly 600 that are 13,000 feet or higher. Still, the Matterhorn (pictured here) is hard to beat.
- Deb

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Let's get this straight

Earlier today, we talked about Colorado's fourteeners on which trails cross private property or mining claims. We got the story right about legislation that could once again give hikers access, but we didn't list the right peaks. The information, supplied by the Associated Press, lists Mount Cameron, which isn't a recognized fourteener on the official list of 54, and missed Mount Sherman, 14,036 feet. And seasoned climbers know it's Mount Wilson, at 12,246 feet, not Wilson Peak.
And another thing: Let's start using the new elevations for the peaks, as determined by the National Geodetic Survey: Lincoln has grown to 14,293 feet. Can you handle that? I'm actually having a hard time readjusting to Pikes Peak's new, loftier elevation.

- Deb

About boundaries

You're skiing, say, Keystone. The trails are crowded, or you're looking for a new thrill, or you consider yourself a rebel. So you jump the rope and you're outside the ski area, on national forest land. Is that your right?
The U.S. Forest Service doesn't go that far, but spokesman Matt Mathes did tell the Associated Press Monday, "We do not consider it a crime to leave the permit area. It goes against our grain to close the national forests."
But last month, the Summit County sheriff issued citations for violations to the state's Ski Safety Act, with $300 fines to two snowboarders who were lost outside Keystone's boundaries. The sheriff, John Minor, doesn't just believe people should be punished for jumping ropes. He wants that fine to be raised to $500. What do you think - do you side with the sheriff, who says he's trying to prevent costly and often life-threatening rescues? Or do you think he's gone too far?
- Deb

Open again?

Recently, the "L" word threatened the hopes and dreams of peak-baggers. Access to Mount Lincoln (above), 14,286 feet , and five other fourteeners covered partly by private land or mining permits had been closed to hikers because owners had become worried about liability. But the future for those who hadn't crossed those peaks off their list is suddenly brighter. On Monday, Colorado lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a bill that would ease those worries and open the path to hikers again. The bill would relieve landowners of liability as long as there is a marked trail around abandoned mines and warning signs. It's not a sure thing, however. The law would allow but not require landowners to grant access without fear of being sued. For the complete AP story, check out www.gazette.com
Can you name the other fourteeners where access is limited by private property?
Mount Lincoln, 14,286 feet
Mount Cameron, 14,238 feet
Mount Bross, 14,172 feet
Mount Democrat, 14,148 feet
Culebra Peak, 14,047 feet
Wilson Peak, 14,017 feet
- Deb

Monday, January 23, 2006

It's the team

Here they are - members of the 2006 U.S. Snowboard Olympic Team. And here is the team's official hat, modeled by member Seth Wescott. The team features two Coloradans, Jason Smith of Basalt and Gretchen Bleiler of Aspen-Snowmass, along with halfpipe superstar Shaun White and snowboardcross world champions Wescott and Lindsey Jacobellis. The team was announced Sunday at the end of the final qualifying event, the Chevrolet U.S. Snowboard Grand Prix. See more at www.ussnowboarding.com

Take a Hike

I needed to get out Sunday, but I wanted to watch the Broncos game, so headed for Waldo Canyon. It's a decent pressed-for-time outing with beautiful views.

The parking lot was about half full when I got there about 9 and the same when I left at noon. Perfect! I passed a couple dozen people coming and going - some running, one biking, a few strolling - and a half-dozen dogs having a GREAT day in the snow.

If you go, watch for ice on the east faces where snow has melted and then frozen overnight. There's still plenty of fluff about a half-mile in, so if you're hiking with a friend, get ready for flying snowballs.

If you were out on local trails over the weekend or are lucky enough to get out today, send in trail conditions. - Dena (Deb's and Dave's editor)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Celebrate diversity

This cave cricket in Sequoia National Park has some company. In case you missed the news earlier this week, biologists have found 27 new species in the dark, damp caves of two central California national parks. Scientists studied 30 caves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks for three years
and found previously undiscovered spiders, centipedes and scorpion-like critters. Park officials say the cave-dwelling invertebrates can tell scientists about environmental problems or changes because of their sensitivity to surroundings. For info on the caves, go to http://www.nps.gov/seki/snrm/geology/geology.htm - Deb

Look like an Olympian

Remember the buying frenzy created by the berets worn by athletes at the 2002 Winter Olympics? Remember how you wanted one, but couldn't get your hands on one? (Admit it... you thought they were cool.)
Well, the beret is back, designed by the same company, Roots. The 2006 version will be worn by the Americans at the opening and closing ceremonies. If you gotta have one, head to Target. - Deb

A Basin's east wall opens!

Arapahoe Basin's steep, above timberline East Wall opened today.
For the last few weeks, patrollers at the ski area have been setting off explosives to reduce avalanche potential.
On top of that, the Basin got 5 new inches last night.
Should make for epic skiing today and tomorrow.

P.S. If you're driving I-70 to the ski areas this weekend, remember that the Broncos game at 1 p.m. Sunday will affect traffic. Figure the rush home will start a little earlier than usual.


Bomb or Booty: Geocaching gets blown out of proportion

The GPS/internet treasure hunt sport of geocaching lets cachers look up coordinates of hidden spots on the Web, then rove over hill and dale until they find them. At the end, there is usually a small box or bucket or something like that where a cacher can leave a trinket and take a trinket. Usually it's small stuff like a toy car or an airline-sized bottle of tequila.

Sounds harmless enough, right?

The Department of Homeland Security doesn't think so. Cache buckets stuck under bridges, or near power lines, or around airports have a nasty tendency to look like bombs. Several times the bomb squad had been brought in.

I suppose enough little bottles of tequila could make for a pretty good explosion under the right circumstances.

Geocachers are advising one another to not place any new caches where they might cause "public harm or alarm."

I can't help but be reminded of how Hash House Harriers were similarly targeted after the anthrax scares in 2001. Harriers are basically groups of grown-ups that play a game of chase through neighborhoods. One runner gets a head start and leaves a trail of flour for the others to follow.
Try explaining to the police why you're spreading white powder around the city.
You can see why there might have been some misunderstandings.

So far though, both the Colorado Springs hashers, and the local geocachers have avoided police actions.


Thursday, January 19, 2006


Wolf Creek, I presume?
Years ago I signed up for e-mail alerts from Wolf Creek Ski Area. And I suffered through days at work watching messages pop up that said "10 inches" or "15 inches" or even "28 inches."
But this year I heard nothing. Not a peep. Until about 10 minutes ago:

Rejoice, here is what the Wolf got, and it's still snowing all over the state.

Summit Base Depth : 56 inches
Midway Base Depth : 50 inches
New Snowfall : 14 inches
Latest Storm : 14 inches
Year To Date : 103 inches


Not $40!!!

We happened upon this Associated Press story from April 1988:
VAIL - Ski industry analyst Charles R. Goeldner, who says ski areas have been underpriced for years, predicts that eventually Colorado skiers will accept $40 lift tickets. But that $40 ticket is still at least five years away, Goeldner told the 13th annual Ski Travel Symposium on Thursday. If customers feel they are receiving a good value, they will not rebel against that $40 daily lift ticket price, said Goeldner, associate dean of the College of Business and Administration at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Because of the price war of deep discounting, the eventual $40 ticket actually will sell for about $32 to skiers savvy enough to know where to find bargains, he said.

You know the skiing is bad when...

People from the East Coast are having such a rotten ski winter they have started asking Westerners on the telemark ski chat Web site to adopt them.

One savvy guy in Boulder said, "I will gladly rent out my couch for a few cases of Long Trail and Magic Hat."

Confused about what the heck he means? Take a tasting tour of Vermont's fine beers.


For Bloom, it's football, not skiing

I tend to think of Jeremy Bloom first and foremost as a freestyle skier, especially with the 2006 Winter Olympics fast approaching, but apparently Bloom sees the real game is played on the gridiron, and skiing is just something that happens on the side.
He told the Washington Times (collective groan) today that:

"The Olympics are great, but they're not the Super Bowl," he said.
"I love football. Skiing is primarily a recreational sport. Football is your teammates and the pressure and the rivalries and 80,000 people screaming. ... Football is that unknown right now, that missing block, like 'What if?' I need to answer that."

Considering he is tops at both, maybe he knows where the money is. Even top names in skiing don't pull in the cash that an NFL player does.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Of sand and snow

And you thought the Mall of America was impressive. Does it have a ski resort within its walls? I don't think so. You have to travel a little further than Minneapolis to find that...all the way to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on the Arabian Peninsula. Ski Dubai is the main attraction at the Mall of the Emirates. It features five slopes; the longest run is 1,312 feet with a vertical drop of 196 feet. And it has a black diamond run (check out the schematic - it drops like an elevator shaft). Dubai is not a very wintry city - the temperatures this week are in the 70s and 80s - so the resort, which keeps its temperature at a comfortable 30 degrees, rents jackets, "trousers" and disposable socks as a part of its ski equipment package. Read more about the resort and Dubai in the Travel section in Sunday's Gazette. - Deb

Feast and famine

Wolf Creek has a 37-inch base. This is not a joke. The ski area that normally gets about 40 feet of snow a year only has about three on the ground. I've seen that much snow fall at the Wolf in a single weekend. Durango Mountain is hurting too. The culprit is that lesser known accomplice of El Nino, La Nina.

She's back. This cold spot in the Pacific can make or break a ski season. Why? Typically La Nina causes the jetstream to shift to the north, leaving the southern half of the country without moist winds blowing off the Pacific. No winds, no snow. But we should continue to see great snow in the north.

Consider Winter Park, where the mid-mountain base is 64 inches and more snow is on the way. WP is forecasting six inches of snow tonight.

And by the way, the picture above is not Winter Park, or any of the resorts in Colorado. We wish we got that much snow! This is a shot from the trans-Labrador highway in northern Quebec, which was only completed in 2002, and looks to me like it will be reclaimed by the wild before too long.


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Did you know...

Abert's squirrels don't set up winter caches of food. Instead, they spend the winter months looking for food. Their favorite snacks? Twigs and inner bark of the ponderosa pine.
How do I know this? It's on the newly designed Web site for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Check it out and amaze your friends with your vast store of knowledge. - Deb

Gondola lust

You shelled out a few hundred bucks for a ski pass this year. What's another $550? Apparently not much. Aspen Skiing Co. is replacing the gondola cars on the Silver Queen, and offered up its old cars for sale. Aspen Mountain manager Steve Sewell decided to sell the cars at $1 a pound, or $550, and almost immediately, a waiting list developed. Within 36 hours, the ski company sold all 165 of its cars - half to a Michigan businessman. That move angered residents hoping for their very own gondola car. - Deb

Say hello to Klaus

I couldn't believe it when I was thumbing through the Aspen Daily News and saw Klaus Obermeyer was still hitting the slopes. Klaus invented the quilted ski parka around 1950 when he was a ski instructor because his students only paid if they finished the lesson, and many got cold and went back to the lodge before ski school was over.
Here's the start of a story about better-than-normal snow conditions:
After skiing through over a foot of fresh powder Monday, Klaus Obermeyer said this season ranks among the best he's seen since escaping Nazi Germany and immigrating here in 1947.
"The skiing has been absolutely outstanding," said Obermeyer, a ski-wear manufacturer and 1997 Colorado Ski Hall of Fame inductee who, at the age of 86, continues to carve his graceful turns in Warren Miller's famous ski movies. National Weather Service data supports Obermeyer's grand assessment of the ski season, revealing that Aspen saw 71.8 inches of snow from October through December.

Klaus also developed the first mirrored sunglasses, the first nylon wind jacket, and the first dual ski boot with an inner boot to keep feet warm.

Way to go, Klaus!


Monday, January 16, 2006

Because we never get tired of these pictures...

Here's another one, taken today at Aspen, where holiday skiers were greeted by a foot of new snow. Winner in this most recent storm? Powderhorn, that got a whopping two feet. - Deb

Silverton packed with snow

There are rumors that the San Juans are bone dry this winter, and certainly some places are. Durango Mountain has only about a third of its usual snow. But Silverton Mountain has almost 100 percent of average so far this weekend and got another 18 inches this week.
Most people don't know this. Booking at the expert-only mountain is down even though the skiing is great right now.
So steep freaks have an opportunity in the next few weeks. Many of the often sold-out 80 slots a day for skiing at Silverton are open for the next few weeks. Log on to www.silvertonmountain.com to check availability. Then brush up on your skiing, because this place is the real deal.


'Ski' is just 'sick' rearranged

Another Monday, another enticing snowstorm in the mountains. (That's a Web cam image taken this morning at Copper Mountain, at right). But because today is a federal holiday, a whole lot of fortunate people didn't even have to craft an excuse for that call in to work. In the event that you need an excuse in the future, check out www.excuselist.com for ideas of how NOT to call in.
Our favorite bad excuses from that site?
"I cannot come into work today because I came down with a bad case of something or other."
"My psychic warned me not to leave the house today."
"My internal clock's power went off during the night."
- Deb

Friday, January 13, 2006


A new fashion trend? Some foreign filmmaker's vision of how people ski in the American West? No, it's just the Bud Light Cowboy Downhill at Steamboat. An event that makes even the Winter Olympics look downright unimaginative, this is one of the strangest and most entertaining ski events in Colorado. The event - scheduled Tuesday - features a hundred cowboys who travel from the rodeo at the National Western Stock Show in Denver to Steamboat Springs. There, they step into skis and snowboards and compete on the snow instead of in the dusty arena. It's a ski competition with a decidedly Western theme - racers in the dual slalom must ski or board the course and jump, lasso a person and saddle a horse before they cross the finish line. But the grand finale should make you appreciate your favorite mountain even on its most crowded day. The Stampede features a mass start, with all the cowboy skiers and boarders racing down Headwall at the same time. - Deb

There are 7 certified avalanche dogs in Summit County

This is one.
He dug me out of a mock avalanche on Thursday. - Dave

Imperial Express's third grand opening! Really.

Breckenridge's Imperial Express chairlift up to 12,800 feet on Peak 8 has now officially opened three times.
The first time was when it actually opened: Dec. 9 or so.
The second time was the media day a week later: this was marred by zero visibility, 60 m.p.h. winds and sub-zero temperatures that frostbit at least one camera man.
Then on Thursday, Jan. 11, they had a grand opening for the Vail CEO and other high potentates.
Somehow, I got a pass to the shindig and ended up in a hut above treeline where Breck served up the most amazing spread ever: crab legs, caviar (real +$100 an ounce, not farmed), champagne, French cheeses, live music.
Media types are notorious for buffet mooching. Usually we all fight each other for a place at the best food. But this time I was the only media type there. The only buffet shark was a real, three-foot shart (above) laid out on ice with a shrimp in his mouth.Wow, never seen one of those above treeline.
But is champagne and caviar good ski food? One toastette and I was satisfied. I spent the rest of the reception in a back corner with a few blokes from ski patrol who were plotting to steal the shark, slip it in a jacket when no one was looking, then strap it onto the hood of the ski patrol snowmobile.
By the way, for the third grand opening, the weather was terrible. Zero visibility, high winds. Maybe they'll have a fourth.


Forget smoking, what about getting piste?

You may have read in the Gazette about how Eagle County, home to Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts, has decided to ban smoking on ski lifts. Of course, the Gazette's opinion page editorialized against it (this could be predicted purely on ideological grounds) and others wrote in to defend it.

But all is quiet on the skiing drunk front. Every resort in Colorado serves beer. Many serve wine. And this isn't just a end-of-the-day apres-ski. This is during-ski. This is on the mountain. Crested Butte has a mid-mountain bar made out of ice where attractive young women will serve you vodka shooters. You don't have to work hard to get wasted in a spot where you still have to ski down.

American ski resorts don't track how many "Ski U. I.'s" they have, or how many injuries they lead to. But a British study showed a third of all accident victims on U.K. slopes had been drinking.
O.K. sure, gentle British slopes might demand a little booze to make them more challenging, and the country has no shortage of drunken yobs. But this all begs the question: what are we thinking serving alcohol on the mountain?

Seems like a very bad idea. Almost akin to drive-thru daquari joints. We blogged on this a week or so ago and it was a snoozer. No one else seemed to care. We got exactly zero responses.

So, does anyone care? Am I just being a big baby about all of this?


Thursday, January 12, 2006

And a question...

My wife and I were at Steamboat last weekend for the first time. Good snow in the trees, but they don't make it easy to get back to those double diamonds at the top, do they?

The one run we didn't get to was DeSoto's Descent, a wicked steep chute off of the already pretty steep Chute 1. We didn't take that gate until the end of the day and our legs were not up for that thing.

My question: Anyone know why it's called DeSoto's? And what's the angle on that thing -- looked to be more than 45 degrees from the top, but that's always deceiving.


A call for help

Dave phoned in over a fading cell phone from somewhere deep in the mountains. He was at an avalanche training at Oh-Dark-Thirty this morning and evidently is still struggling to return to his beloved Springs.

Don't cry for our missing outdoors reporter, though: He's spending the weekend at Silverton. Cry for those of us who aren't going to Double Diamond land if you feel our pain.

Speaking of skiing, my first trip to the A-Basin beach will be Monday. Sure, not Silverton, but a day on Pallavicini will have the same effect on your quads.


Bode, Bode, Bode

So, Bode Miller says he's sorry. Did you expect anything else?

Miller apologized today for his comments about the difficulty of skiing wasted. International Ski Federation prez Gian Franco Kasper told The Associated Press he was "happy," adding "It's a good thing and a clever move."


Miller says he didn't realize how the comments might be interpreted and doesn't want people to think he doesn't take skiing seriously.

Seriously, are people making too big a deal out of this? Let us know. You can read more about his statements and others' reactions in the Sports section of Friday's Gazette.
-Dena (that editor-type person)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Eat a taco, win a board

Don't know about you, but when I think fish tacos, I think boards, as in snowboards. So does Palmer. The snowboard company that outfits Lindsay Jacobellis, Shaun Palmer and other pros is giving away a Palmer board at each of the 10 Colorado Wahoo's locations in Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs during February. Stop by any Wahoo's to register. - Deb

Bode going downhill

There's plenty of buzz in the blogasphere about U.S. ski champ Bode Miller's comments on 60 Minutes about skiing drunk. Most of it is defending him.

In a nation in which most sports fans still think slalom is a Yiddish greeting, Bode Miller is a gift from God one blogger wrote.

The upcoming winter Olympics were lacking any Kerrigan/Harding type soap opera/controversy until Bode decided 60 Minutes was a good forum to admit "being wasted" while skiing in World Cup races of the past, another wrote.

Good lord, governing bodies -- calm yourselves down! Alpine skiing's international governing body (FIS) and now the U.S. federation (USSA) are reading Bode the riot act. They're having a hissy fit about Bode's remarks... or more accurately, a hissy fit about the fact that Bode's remarks are garnering so much publicity. Methinks they doth protest too much... another concluded.

Looks like Bode Miller suckered us all with his SUI (skiing under the influence) story from last week. Now that we're past stage one, we're well into the second stage of scandal stories: Mandatory manufactured outrage:
another predicted.

Well, we'll see how the skier handles all this hubbub.


Not just a record year for snow

Colorado Ski Country USA reported today that 2005-2006 has so far also been a record year for skier numbers.
Collectively, Colorado resorts hosted more than three million skier visits from opening day, Oct. 15, through Dec. 31, a 5.6 percent increase over the same time period last season and 10.9 percent ahead the state’s five-year, period-one average.

What's driving it? Well, 20 feet of snow helps. The big winners are Front Range destination resorts (read Summit County and Vail). Other destination resorts, such as Telluride and Steamboat, are actually down slightly. Maybe charging over $900 for a season pass doesn't pay off.

The pick of the weekend

One of the coolest and coldest competitions in the state kicks off this week in Ouray.
The Ouray ice festival attracts some of the best competitive ice climbers from around the world to compete on crazy sick overhanging mixed climbs. The iced-up setting in a narrow gorge just outside town makes for excellent viewing. Grab a rim-side seat and prepare to cringe as these climbers somehow clamber up impossible ice falls.
Better yet: Sign on to one of the clinics for beginners taught by world-class mountaineers. There is no better time to visit Ouray, because even after the climbing stops, these guys really know how to party.
Check out schedules here.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006


An Associated Press story today says U.S. ski coach Phil McNichol is questioning whether Bode Miller should remain on the team after his comments on racing and drinking. Miller (at right, at Beaver Creek) , the overall World Cup champion known for his wild and crazy ways, told a "60 Minutes" interviewer that it's not easy "to ski when you're wasted." That's not the first time Miller has talked about drinking and skiing, and he has said that his statements don't mean that it will be the last time he does. I'm not in the same skiing universe as Miller, but I don't think being drunk would enhance my performance. Still, I see plenty of skiers relaxing at lunchtime with two or three (or more) beers, so it must work for some people. Let me know - do you think drinking and skiing mix? Do you do it? - Deb

A granular day

Here's a snow term you don't hear very often in Colorado: "frozen granular." To find that undesireable snow, you need to visit Seven Oaks ski area, a 15-minute drive west of Ames, Iowa. As of today, Seven Oaks had a base of 12-18 inches of that frozen granular, snow-like stuff (formed when snow crystals melt then freeze again). But hey, it's cool that Iowa has ski resorts, don't you think? If you can ski the ice-covered hills there, you'll be a super-skier in Colorado. - Deb

Back in the glory days, when sewage ran free

The Gazette's letters page is usually good for a chuckle, but once in a while someone writes in with such a zinger that you just have to share it. That happened this morning when J T Fanning of Woodland Park wrote in to say

I kind of get a kick out of the screaming headlines that appear over and over again about sewage running into Fountain Creek (“44,400 gallons of sewage flows into creeks,” Metro, Jan. 6).

I was ready for a real anti-government diatribe using words like "nanny state" and suggesting a free market solution where if Pueblo didn't like sewage coming down the creek, it could pay to stop it. But then J T got all wistful:

When I was young, my friends and I would raft or tube in the Arkansas River (this was in the late 50s and 60s, there wasn't such a thing as a rafting business). The raft or tube of choice was usually a truck- or tractor-size inner tube. A trip through Pueblo on the Arkansas (before construction of the Pueblo Dam) was a sundrenched and very leisurely affair; no white water, but it did have a hazard that one had to keep very alert for. Every so often one would encounter a massive steel pipe jutting out of the bank, and just as often one would find oneself arching over one's tube so as not to make contact with what was actually a sea of sewage that ran for hundreds of yards, bank to bank, as Pueblo sent its residents' waste down the river to its neighbors, intentionally and regularly. That was normal and acceptable. My how times change.

True, things have changed. In 1972 the clean water act was passed, making spills and sludge pipes punishable by law, and allocating grants to smaller towns to pay for treatment plants. Both Pueblo and Colorado Springs benefited from these and now all of the Arkansas is "swimmable and fishable."
You'd think a guy who used to arch his back to not touch the water would be a champion of these laws. Instead, with a sort of Norman Rockwell "those were the good ol' days" sigh, he says it's no big deal.

Today's tubers (and kayakers) who frequent downtown Pueblo might not want to swallow that argument.