Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm trapped in Summit County, and the skiing is great

Actually, the road just opened about an hour ago, but I-70 and Highway 9 were closed all day due to blowing snow and avalanche danger.  I have a friend who patrols at Breck who said they recorded a gust of 104 mph.  Yikes. That and temperatures hovering around 0 degrees helped keep what should have been a crazy busy day on the slopes somewhat sane, or even sparse.
On a run at Breckenridge in the afternoon, I found myself totally alone on an untracked (if wind loaded) slope.  It was awesome, but I think I may lose a bit of skin off my nose from the cold temps.
Oh, by the way, happy new year. 

Friday, December 28, 2007

Surviving peak ski

Holiday week is the perfect storm of skiing -- a mix of out-of-state vacationers, returning Colorado expats and locals. It will be a mad house. You will wait on line. But there are a few things that make it (a little) better.

1. Get up early. You need to be on the first chair. That will give you at least an hour of calm as the hordes are trying to get their equipment in order. You'll also get the best conditions of the day.

2. Don't eat lunch. A holiday pattern forms that's different from weekends where you're mostly skiing with Front Rangers: everyone goes in for a long lunch just after noon. The lines will cut by at least half.

3. Ask a patroller. Every mountain has its quiet spots, and they can change from day to day. Get patrol to tell you where they are.

4. Stay away from the big resorts. This time of year it may be better to hit Monarch, Wolf Creek, or another little independent ski area that doesn't heavily market out of state.

5. Ski clear of anyone who has attached a giant Texas flag tied to their back. You think I'm kidding, but I've seen this multiple times.

6. Don't use the quickpod to take a picture. Just ask someone. You idiot.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I also got primarily socks

Pretty much everyone -- even my cat -- gave me socks for Christmas. The cat got a box. He was happy.

Cat comes off the mountain

Apparently, when his last tooth fell out, it was time to retire. Nin, the latest in a long line of cats at the Mount Washington Observatory, in New Hampshire's White Mountains, retired recently, and came down the mountain to spend her dotage at a ranger's house. There's a story here.

This, and a recent New York Times story on the pervasive, and welcome presence of shop cats, makes me think, "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a cat living in the summit house on Pikes Peak?" Sure, it would have to come down at some points when the summit house is closed, but tourists and locals would both love it. One of the many, many things that could improve the summit experience on Pikes Peak. Unless you hate cats.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Anybody get good gear gifts?

So, whaddya get?

I scored some new Black Diamond flick-lok poles. They're cheap Traverse model, but they're sturdy and work well. The only bad thing is that my wife has the same model, as do Dave and his wife and about half of the rest of the state. I'll have to tie-dye them or something.

And, I got a new GPS unit - the Garmin Legend HCx. This is important because our old GPS unit (the cheapest eTrex model) had a 100-percent perfect record of failing to work whenever we were actually lost - during blizzards en route to backcountry huts with the light fading fast.

So that's good - although it annoys me no end that Garmin doesn't include any decent map software with their units. I wanted to trade the Legend in on the Delorme Earthmate PN-20, which comes with hi-res topo maps for the entire country, gratis (and Delorme's topos are actually better quality than the ones you have to buy from Garmin), but my wife wants a GPS that we can get maps for Europe on - which exludes the Earthmate. Terrible name for a product, anyway, isn't it?

I also got socks!

Any skiing is good skiing

A good friend from Maine (who now lives in Montana) does a Christmas ski tour every year, no matter how bad the New England winter is. He has sent pictures before of skiing on grass using spray cooking oil as lube. This year was not a whole lot better.
An inch and a half of rain on the snow froze hard. He says "the snow was as soft as scrap iron. But we were sliding downhill on skis, getting another New England lesson that "any skiing is good skiing. See videos of the prime conditions here:

By the way, ski conditions are looking up, if you can stand the crowds. See a ski report for Colorado at

Monday, December 24, 2007

Oh, and by the way...

Good will toward men

With snow on the way, Beaver Creek opens Stone Chutes

Beaver Creek is a pretty gnarly mountain to begin with (despite its well-deserved rep as a shee=shee hideaway for the ultra-wealthy) but the Stone Creek Chutes are really gnarly -- narrow, steep and just overall committing. They just opened. If you're in the neighborhood, check them out. Then go get a fresh warm chocolate chip cookie and nurse your wounds.

Ever feel like a hampster in a wheel?

At least you're not involved in the wacky world of Japanese treadmill racing.

Watch it HERE.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Park Lane Terrain Park opens at Breck

Breckenridge opened the first of its new "Park Progression System," Park Lane Terrain Park. Check out Breck's interactive park maps here.

It's an intermediate park on Peak 8, with 6 medium-sized jumps including a double and triple line. Rails and boxes will be added.
Next up are Trygve’s Terrain Park (beginners) and Freeway Terrain Park. (That's Freeway in the photo, by Aaron Dodds of Vail Resorts.)

The idea is you can progress park to park as you gain experience, and watch the pros at the same time.
Breck also has beginner and intermediate parks Country Boy and Eldorado on Peak 9. They're already oepn.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sledding Sunday

(That's my son, Mack, at Meadow Wood Park in Woodland Park last Christmas Eve.)

Out There ran a "sled test" story inside today's section. If you're interested in being part of a local test, let us know!

With snow predicted for tonight and early Saturday, this could be a good sledding weekend. You don't need to be a kid to enjoy a quick run down a good sledding hill.

Here's a list of some of the region's best sledding areas. If you've got a great place you're willing to share, post it in the comments below.

Colorado Springs Parks

Cottonwood Creek (near Dublin Boulevard and Rangewood Drive just south of Woodmen Road)
Quail Lake (East Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard, west of the World Arena)
Kathleen Marriage
Broadmoor Bluffs
Van Diest
Mountain Shadows
Village Green
Monument Valley (end of Fontanero Street at Boddington Field)
Middle Shooks Run (near El Paso Street and Willamette Avenue)
Bear Creek (21st Street and Argus Road)
Howbert Elementary School (30th and Water streets)
Jenkins Middle School (Austin Bluffs Parkway near Dublin Boulevard)
Timberview Middle School (Squirreltail Road, north of Research Parkway near Powers Boulevard)

Take exit 161 off I-25, drive east on State Highway 105 to Fairplay Drive

Manitou Springs
Behind the Iron Springs Chateau (Ruxton Avenue)
Library hill - good for younger kids - just make sure you don't get going so fast you fly off onto Manitou Ave.!

Woodland Park
Meadow Wood Park
Off Rampart Range Road

Snow on the horizon

Out There ran a story on skiing powder today, despite the fact that (unless you're backcountry) there's no powder left in the state. But new snow is on the way. It's currently snowing at every Colorado resort, and place in the north, like Steamboat, seem to be getting hit pretty hard. But the storm is going to sweep south, bringing more snow to all. Summit County is calling for 4 to 8 inches. Not exactly over the head, but at least maybe over the boots.

Free if you're flexible

From Silverton Mountain's email list: Looking for a Few Heli Skiers- We would like to bring in the heli for avalanche control on a more regular (but still limited) basis. It is the best tool for quickly opening new terrain, so if you would like to be added to our heli ski list let us know. The heli drops are usually on short notice as we don't know exactly when we will want to conduct heli control work. The heli drops are obviously lots of fun and the least expensive way you will heli ski in the lower 48 at only $150 per drop.

As far as we know there are no other places in the lower 48 where you can pay by the run. Most drops occur across the valley from the lift in Zone 4, and occasionally when all the stars line up we also drop the lines off of Storm Peak in Zones 5 & 6. Please email the best number to reach you on short notice (evening number). Helicopter services provided for Silverton Mountain by independent contractors.

If you have your own group and want to book a private ship for just your crew we can also do that at a fixed hourly rate and can usually try to book that in advance. The heli holds 4-5 people, so making a group in multiples of 4 is a good way to go.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My best Ski Broadmoor

Hope your happy, mom.

The beauty of slow lifts

I took a day off Tuesday and hit Monarch. The hill hadn't seen significant snow for days, and yet, we were able to get fresh tracks in a few spots.
There's something nice about skiing at a place where you don't feel like you have to rush to get the skiing before all the good snow is gone. Even been in Vail's China Bowl on a weekend powder day. The freshies are devoured in minutes.
At Monarch, apparently, they stay for days.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Taos opening to snowboarders

Yes, it's true. Starting in March.
Here's the story.

Compton makes it four national titles in a row

Local racer Katie Compton won a snowy cyclocross national championship in Kansas City Sunday. Next, she is bound for the World Champs in Italy, where she hopes she has a good chance of winning. Here's how the cyclecross nationals official page summed up her win:

Can Anyone Beat Compton at Nationals?

Compton finished off her North American cyclocross season by clinching her fourth consecutive national title. Since earning her first title in 2004, rivals have gotten fitter and faster, but Compton has upped her game to sustain her stunning dominance.

"I just went to the front and rode.," said Compton. "I could hear people cheering behind me so I kind of knew where the other riders were. Then I was hearing slight gaps, so I just kept on the gas."

Compton opened a 15-second gap between her and Gould by the end of the first lap with Maureen Bruno Roy (Independent Fabrication-Wheelworks) and Rachel Lloyd (Proman-Paradigm) in tow. In what would prove to be her best race of the season, Lloyd passed Bruno Roy and closed down a slight gap to reach Gould.

Lloyd managed to get by Gould on lap two and then matched pace with Compton by the middle of the race. But by then, Compton had stretched her lead to 40 seconds and was out of reach.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Coloradan No. 1

(photo courtesy of US Ski Team)

Coloradan Gretchen Bleiler took top honors in the women's contest today, at the US Snowboarding Grand Prix in Breckenridge. Gold medalists Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter came in second and third.

Shaun White took the men's competition, just ahead of Coloradan Steve Fisher. Elijah Teter took third place.

You can watch the Grand Prix on Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. on NBC.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Crags: the good the bad and the ugly

This just in from hiker Bill Brown:

I've been up to the Crags a couple times this week. In
case you haven't been, here's what's going on:
The Good - About 6-8" of white fluffy stuff in the area of the campground. About 10-14" higher up. More's coming.
The Good - The road has been plowed, seemingly after every snowfall. I believe Harvey Carter has been doing this, at least above the Mennonite Camp. Last year the road didn't get plowed above the Mennonite Camp because Harvey's truck/snowplow was broken. Now it's plowed all the way to his property, and even the next 1/4 mile to the Ring the Peak trailhead. Let's hope Harvey keeps it up!
The Ugly - The campground is "Closed", supposedly for hazard tree removal. Obviously they started cutting some trees last summer and the job is not
finished. But why the heck they would gate off the campground, with all its parking, for an operation that's not taking place over the winter is beyond me!
The campground parking lot normally has dozens of vehicles on prime weekends for skiers and snowshoers.
People are going to have to get very creative about parking around the campground this winter.


In Out There today we have a story exploring the feeling of "flow." That sense of timelessness and total integration you get when you are fully engaged in an enjoyable and challenging task. I talked about it in terms of skiing, biking and running, but just as many people enter flow playing music or even writing software code.

Personally, I slip into the state occasionally while writing, more often when drawing the periodic comics I do for the Gazette, and most often when I'm mountain biking.

On certain trails on certain days, flying downhill, I don't notice the bike. I don't notice thinking about steering or avoiding obstacles or balance. I feel invincible, like I can do no wrong.

I don't get the same feeling running. Here and there, when I'm well trained and doing well, I'll get what I might call a "runner's high" where I can sort of step outside myself, see how well I'm doing, and enjoy it, but it's not the same seamless feeling of being one with the bike.

Anyone else? What makes you enter flow?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The local favorite

Local cyclocross racer Katie Compton competes Sunday in the cyclocross national championships. She's already won nationals three times, and this year, she made history as the first American ever to be ranked at the top of the world cyclocross rankings. Not exactly cheering for the underdog, but you go Katie!

Snowpack now way above average

I skied Monarch yesterday and was blown away by the snow. It has snowed and snowed and snowed. My relatively skinny tele sticks were no match for the bottomless powder in the deepest spot. Even the Arkasas Valley around Buena Vista got slammed.
The result. The snowpack, which was basically 0' a week ago is now 134% of average in the Arkansas Basin, 134% average in the Gunnison Basin, and 111% average in the Colorado Basin.
Ski on!

Adaman club lives up to its name

Every year the Adaman club climbs Pikes Peak to set of fireworks on New Year's Eve. And every year, since ounders of the group, known affectionately as the “Frozen Five”, made their first New Year’s trek up Pikes Peak in 1922, they have added a member.

This year it's Mark Szabo, 48. As the new member, Szabo will have the honor of breaking trail over the icy slopes of Barr Trail to the summit of Pikes Peak. Weather permitting, the Club’s members and guests will greet the New Year at midnight, December 31st with a spectacular fireworks display at the 14,110-foot summit. Szabo is a Colorado native and has climbed with the Club as a guest for 9 years. He has extensive mountaineering experience and has climbed several 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado. Szabo is owner of Baseline Computer Service in Colorado Springs.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Silverton mountain has new snowfall record

10 inches of snow fell overnight at Silverton Mountain, bringing the upper mountain base to 110 inches. The total for the week is 90 inches. The only larger storm to hit Silverton Mountain was during the record setting winter of 2005 which dropped 117” in one long storm cycle that lasted 13 days. Pretty good early season conditioins.

Just like that, a 60-inch base

Monarch Mountain was so dry a week ago that I had an editor leaning on me to do a story on the lack of snow. I balked because Murphy's law of journalism says as soon as the story is about to run, it will snow like crazy. Well... Monarch, which was closed due to lack of snow as of Thursday, had two 30+ inch days in a row. Now almost everything is open on the mountain. Every other ski area got hit this weekend too. Summit County got the least, with a few measly 7-inch days. Everything in the south got rocked.
I've got my fingers crossed for a two-foot dump in Colorado Springs Tuesday. That'll slow down the gunmen.

Future of the Incline

I wrote this story on the 100th anniversary of the Manitou Incline this weekend. The big news: I have no specifics but cog management hints that it's working toward a deal.

Thoughts on whether the Incline should be open or not?

Friday, December 07, 2007

Here fluffy fluffy!

Monarch Pass 24"
Beaver Creek 13" 0F
Copper 10"

Snow, snow snow

Breck's peak 8 opens today with 8 inches fresh powder. Winter Park's Mary Jane opens with 10 inches.

Here's some other reports
Crested Butte 20"
Snowmass 14"
Vail 10"
Arapahoe Basin 9" 21F
Keystone 9" 25F

A visit to the elders

Today in the Out There section of the Gazette we have a cool story on the little-known vault where Colorado's rarest skis are kept. Read it here.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Free trail guide

Looking for THE BEST trail descriptions in the Pikes PEak region, with up-to-date photos and printable maps? Nothing even comes close to the free, searchable database we have at


Monarch Mountain will open on Saturday December 8, for the season! The area will have at least 3 chairlifts; Panorama, Pioneer & Tumbelina in operation. The mid-mountain base depth is currently 20 inches. With continued snowfall more of the mountain could be open soon, stay in touch for more information.

Early season lift ticket rates will be in effect through December 14. Adult all day lift tickets are $27.00,

Time to open new terrain

Because this is what the lines at Breckenridge looked like last weekend. Too many passses, not enough runs. Fortunately, the weather seems to be cooperating. Breck is reporting 7 inches today, with more on the way. Loveland is reporting 11. The chance of snow continues through Saturday. Make room!

Super strong, super light

Did I mention super expensive? We'll get to that. The new Arantix bike frame is made from interwoven strands of Kevlar and carbon fiber, making one of the strongest and lightest hard-tail mountain bikes in the world that weighs approximately 2.75 pounds. Better living through chemistry. Sounds cool huh?
It also takes 300 man hours to make, giving the frame a retail price of $6,995. Add all the latest components and we're talkin' $12,000, which, I would like to point out, is significantly more than the value of my car.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Burton says "Thou shalt poach."

There are only four ski resorts in the United States that still don't allow snowboarding, Mad River, VT, Deer Valley, UT, Alta, UT and Taos, NM.
Jake Burton, one of the founders of snowboarding and owner of one of the largest board manufacturers is offering $5,000 for the best video of boarders "poaching" these ski-only slopes.

Only one video is posted so far, but it's pretty darn funny, watch to the end. You get to see patrollers at Taos tackle a dude. Then they interrogate the group saying, "If we don't get all your names, you're never going to ski here again."
Don't think that threat's going to work.

See the video here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Really, really cool

You gotta watch this!

Obesity rates leveling off?

After a quarter century of increases, U.S. adult obesity rates have not measurably increased in the past few years, but levels are still high, according to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

About 33 percent of adult men and 35 percent of U.S. women -- more than 72 million people -- were obese in 2005/06, according to a new, comprehensive survey that includes physical examinations.
The new rates were slightly higher than the 31 percent and 33 percent reported in the 2003/04 survey, the CDC said, but the increases were not considered statistically significant.

So... maybe we're hovering at just one and three. But we're not heading in the right direction.

I went to show slides of some of my misadventures to a suburban middle school class last week. Afterwards, all the kids wanted to come up and ask if I liked to ski, or liked to snowboard (both) and if I had ever been roller blading, and surfing, and if I liked to ride my bike, etc. Then one kid, who probably had me by 40 pounds, I mean a big, big kid, asked if I liked to quad.
At first I didn't know what he meant. Then he explained that he, his mom, his dad, and his brother all like to go quadding up in the mountains every weekend. It really bummed me out, not just because I don't like quads, but because here was a kid who obviously needed some physical exercise, and instead he was being taught by his parents (who I'm assuming may be in the same boat) to spend the day sitting on his already ample rear end.

Maybe the leveling off in rates is only temporary.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Speak of the devil...

Lou Dawson has a new hut site,

Good directions, pretty good maps and - what I find especially useful - good descriptions of ski touring around the huts.

Wish I would have seen it last week - you've got a few possible choices for the first mile or so to 10th Mountain and the mess of cross country trails back there is confusing. I think our route was fine (leaving from the gravel pit at the end of the road in Crane Park), but the Wurt's Ditch route may have been even easier.

Even better, Dawson is promising to add GPS waypoints for each route. That'd be sweet, although my GPS has a long history of not working in the snow (which is to say, every time I've actually needed it).

You tell me, though, if you remove route-finding from the hut trip experience, have you made it too easy? Breaking trail through a foot of fresh snow on Saturday would argue for "no." But there's also that point on nearly every new hut I've been to, where I'm thinking, "We must have taken a wrong turn." And that tinge of despair and exhaustion inevitably makes it all the sweeter when we finally get to our destination.

10th Mountain Hut last weekend

My wife and I headed up to 10th Mountain Hut near Leadville just in time to catch the first taste of winter. We headed up to Leadville Friday night to stay ahead of the storm. The flakes started falling at about BV, but things didn't get wintry until we passed the Twin Lakes turnoff. Spent the night at the Super 8 (yay!), had dinner at Rosie's and were at the trailhead by 9 Saturday morning.

The weather was pretty decent early Saturday - sunbreaks and snow showers and temps in the upper 20's, so we couldn't complain. We broke trail the whole way through eight to 12 inches of fresh powder. The wind started to kick up just as we arrived at the hut.

A pair of telemarkers from Boulder were just getting ready to leave. They said they'd hiked nearly the whole way in on Friday -- there was that little snow before Saturday's dump. They thanked us for breaking trail, but with the wind howling, I'm sure our tracks were gone within 20 minutes. A group of snowshoers arrived a couple hours later, exhausted, and said they'd been breaking trail the whole way.

Here's Carrie gearing up for a dash to the outhouse.

Sunday morning was beautiful, if still occasionally windy with a total of about two feet of fresh on the ground. Some of the snowshoers left early, so we had a trough to ski in most of the way, breaking trail only the last half-mile. The powder was tempting, but with no base, you'd be hitting trees or rocks with every turn.

Leadville was positively buried, but almost all the snow had disappeared by the time we got down to BV.

Can you make it to Silverton by 3 today?

Had two e-mails waiting in my in box from Jen Brill at Silverton

No. 1 -

"Closed Sunday December 2, 2007 Due to Tree that may have fallen on lift after 48" of new snow."

No. 2 -

CASH ONLY since the power and phones are out.
$39 (Plus $1 road fee)…tree runs.
See you there!"

If for some bizarre reason you're reading this from Ouray, get in your car NOW.

Coming up as soon as I finish my donut, pix from my weekend trip to the 10th Mountain Hut near Tennessee Pass, where we got a measley two feet of snow.

Still below average

For anyone who hit the slopes this weekend, it was refreshing to have a powder day, and some ski areas in the south really got clobbered. Silverton was hit with 36 inches in 24 hours! Wolf Creek got 31. The fresh blanket of snow will help open a lot of new terrain, but the state is still way behind on snowfall. Even with the 31 inches that fell Saturday, the Associated Press says Wolf Creek is 99 inches below average for the year.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Looks like that precip is here

Just starting to mist/rain in Manitou. Very light.

Looks like a bus just slid out on Canon Ave., too, almost sliding into the Commonwheel Artists studio. Be careful out there, friends.

Monarch finally getting the white stuff

Doesn't look like the dumping at Silverton, but check out the webcams here:

(I'll hyperlink if I get into the office today. Can't do it from home on my Mac.)

Monarch relies on Mother Nature, and has had to delay opening. Same with Ski Cooper. Leadville is reporting 32 degrees and mist, with a couple of inches possible today and tonight. We'll keep checking in to see if these Gems look like they can open anytime soon.

Send us slope reports

I'm just getting over a bout of viral pneumonia - nasty stuff - so I won't be headed up with my board till at least next weekend.

But that shouldn't stop you. If you get up to the powder today, tomorrow, Monday instead of work... send us a report. Add a comment to a post here or e-mail me at or add a post to our other winter web site:

We talking inches or feet?

Well, I left Monument to head south at midnight and an arctic wind made me believe I'd wake up to a frosty, if not wintry white, Manitou Springs.

Barely a frost.

But what's happening elsewhere? Weather reports still say the high country will see snow all day. Almost every report reported snow overnight with snow continuing to fall. Hmm, something tells me I may not see Dave till Wednesday...

Larry Walrod, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service in Pueblo, told The Gazette: "As time went on with this system, it looked more and more like it was going to pound the mountains and less and less like it would hit the Eastern Plains."

Parts of the San Juan range above 10,000 feet have seen as much as three feet of snow and that total could rise to four feet by the time the storm ebbs Sunday, Walrod said. Western Chaffee and Lake counties have gotten a 1- to 2-foot dump around the Continental Divide, and Leadville has seen about 8 inches, he added.

Here's what ski areas and ski towns are reporting"

Silverton through Telluride: up to 9 inches today with 100% chance of snow today and 80% tonight.

Wolf Creek is reporting 4 inches in 24 hours. Aspen Mountain, 5. Snowmass: 10. Weather reports show another 5 inches or so falling in Aspen today and another 2-4 tonight.

Crested Butte, where it's been bare, got 9. Remember, free skiing at CB through Dec. 15.

Closer to us, Breck and A-Basin are reporting 1 inch. Copper, 4. Keystone, where more terrain and the terrain park are opening today, got 1 inch. The area is expecting 2-4 inches today and another 1-3 tonight. But be ready for blowing snow today.

Loveland's reporting 2.

For a full report, check:

For city by city weather forecasts: