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Snoooooooowww! 25 October 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado, Skiing.
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So, uh, everything you thought about Denver was correct. That is, for all you folks who like to think we’re a perpetually snowed-in city of igloos and sled dogs (Rockies baseball notwithstanding), this is your moment to readjust your t-shirt, sip an autumn drink on the veranda and say “told you so.” That is your right. We set a record high of 80 yesterday, and by tomorrow evening the temperature will have dropped, get this, 62 degrees. There’s potentially a foot of snow involved, too, and after a weekend spent in Seattle, this comes as a shock to the system,

But of course, living in Denver, we’re okay with all that, or at least a lot of us are. We’re perhaps the only big city in America that looks forward to the start of winter weather because it also heralds the start of ski season, which for those of us on the Copper/WP pass, lies a little more than a week away. So now’s the time to finish all the waxing and sharpening in preparation for the white ribbon on death, that single run into which every soul from Denver is cheerily packed.

Some friends from work have suggested a climbing trip that weekend instead. Any sane person would choose amazing climbing over a crappy ski day. But then again, skiers aren’t exactly sane people. I’ll let you know how it works out.



A Toll for the Slopes 17 October 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado, Skiing, Travel.
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I just love when skiing intersects with policy, particularly since most of the time, nobody wants to hear wonkishness about Pigovian taxes and internalizing externalities. But when you’re stuck in a car on a Saturday morning waiting, praying for ski traffic to start moving, it’s high time to pull out the ole policy gun and fire off a round or two. At least you have a captive, and interested, audience. Pretty much everyone who skis in Colorado hopes for a solution to the traffic nightmare that is a weekend morning or evening. For those of you not familiar with Colorado’s unique predicament, here’s a primer from Slateon that stretch of highway between Denver and Vail:

The I-70 mountain corridor is a rather unusual piece of highway. As Ken Wissel, a transportation engineer with the Denver firm Stantec…describes it, I-70 has two of the highest peaks in the entire Interstate Highway system within 25 miles of each other. There are four major ascents, a two-mile-long tunnel that dips under the Continental Divide, a terrifying descent that features one of the country’s most-used emergency truck ramps, and a number of merge zones where traffic must jockey as the highway goes from three to two lanes before entering the tunnels. To complicate matters there’s snow, a lot of snow (“We had 600 inches last year,” Wissel says); and traffic, a lot of traffic.  “We end up with some real long queues,” Wissel says. Backups as long as 30 miles have been reported.

A good summary, but the problem isn’t all about the geography; it involves people too. The ski day begins and ends at particular times, meaning that traffic all arrives from Denver at around the same hour and departs on a similarly scheduled basis: roughly 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. All those cars at once, intermingled with the inexperienced throngs of Midwestern vacationers and their white-knuckle driving creates a mess of volume and accident-related slowdowns or stops. Dealing with traffic is a necessary part of skiing in Colorado. A rite of passage almost.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Slate article above describes the problem to tell a larger story about CDOT’s attempts to “harmonize” traffic at certain speeds. Once volume hits a certain point, a cop pulls onto the highway, lights flashing, and leads the mass of cars at 55 mph. Think pace car in an Indy or NASCAR race. That keeps drivers from engaging the the sort of speed up/slow down behavior that results accidents that cause even more delays. Two tests so far this year seem to indicate that it will be an effective strategy, but it only addresses a symptom, not the underlying problem of volume.

The real issue of course is volume: too many cars on a road only designed to handle so much. And look, before you say it, I know that semi trucks are a curse too, but they only become relevant once traffic reaches a certain point anyway. If there aren’t already 10 bajillion cars on the road, whatever dumb behavior you attribute to 18-wheelers doesn’t matter. At any rate, when the problem is volume, you can have only two solutions: increase capacity or decrease the number of cars.

No one’s going to widen I-70 anytime soon, nor are they going to build that monorail, so you can nix solution one right out of the gates. So the second option is the only realistic one, and since you can’t arbitrarily ban, say, cars with license plates ending in odd numbers from heading up to the mountains, the leaves the sensible solution of making the whole thing a toll road—at least part of the time. Congestion pricing is nothing new—London does it—but it will definitely piss people off. It will also keep them off the road because traveling around peak times will get annoyingly expensive.

Under the system, traveling at peak hours would incur higher tolls, while off peak travel could be essentially free, encouraging drivers to travel at off times or to pile more people into their cars to diffuse the cost of the toll. In turn the money could go toward expanded capacity. Or a monorail. I mean, why not? I’m not as interested in the particulars as I am in forcing drivers to confront the real costs they’re incurring when they all show up at the same hour because the interstate is free, creating slowdowns that waste everyone’s time. Time really is money, and we shouldn’t be wasting either when it comes to skiing. If it takes toll roads to get us to and from the slopes faster, then toll roads we shall have.

Arapaho Basin Opens Tomorrow 12 October 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado, Skiing.
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You heard that right. Arapahoe Basin opens tomorrow, Oct. 13. A-Basin doesn’t really seem like the sort of operation that would issue a press release—more like the kind that would call a reporter and say, “Um, we’re opening. How cool is that?”—but hey, here it is. You should check out their blog, too.


OCTOBER 13, 2011

Arapahoe Basin, Colorado – October 12, 2011 – After a great week of snowmaking and several fresh inches of snow, Arapahoe Basin ski area officials announce that opening day for the 2011-2012 ski season will be Thursday, October 13, 2011.  The ski area has only been closed 100 days since last season ended on July 4, 2011.

Black Mountain Express will open to the public at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday.  Skiers and riders can look forward to an 18-inch base on the intermediate High Noon run along with several features in the High Divide Terrain Park.  There will be no beginner skiing at this time.

A tribute to Arapahoe Basin founders Marnie Jump and Max Dercum who passed away this year will take place before the lifts open to the public.

Opening day adult lift tickets will be available for $59, youth tickets age 15 – 18 will be $49 and child tickets age 6-14 will be $30.  The ski and snowboard rental shop, tune shop, food and beverage service, the 6th Alley bar and retail shop will be open to the public.  Snowsports lessons will be available on a limited basis.

Local radio station, KYSL will be doing a live morning show and giving away lift tickets on-air.  KSMT will also be on site in the base area with a live remote, playing music and handing out give-aways.

A-Basin’s Bonus Passes are available while supplies last for $389.  The Bonus pass holder receives unlimited skiing or riding at A-Basin for the 2011-2012 ski season and five non-transferable ski days at Keystone or Breckenridge.  One of those days can be used at Vail or Beaver Creek (some restrictions apply).  A-Basin only passes are also available at great prices.  To purchase your pass or check snow conditions go to www.arapahoebasin.com.

Arapahoe Basin would like to invite any interested media to attend the opening day celebration.  Please contact Leigh Hierholzer to coordinate lift tickets and any other logistics.

Snow! And other stuff. 10 October 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado, Skiing.
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Okay, so it’s been a while. Consider this the omnibus post before winter begins in earnest. Just to get it out of the way, if you’re reading Powder this month, check out page 46. You might remember my article in there from a blog post last year. Too bad it’s not online or I’d shill for myself with a link. That said, here be a few things:

Wolf Creek opened

Ski season has already begun, in  a way that no one really expected. Normally there’s the slugfest between A-Basin and Loveland to see who can deliver the first white ribbon of death, but the lifts at Wolf Creek started spinning on… Saturday, and those folks don’t even use snowmaking equipment. The three foot dump the San Juans received evidently amounted to enough. That’s what the photos indicated anyway: all the Colorado resorts under a dusting of now, the aspens still showing through,then Wolf Creek, where a front-loader was pushing around what looked like a mid-season dump. Check out all the photos in OnTheSnow’s gallery. They more or less sum up every season at Wolf Creek, a  powder paradise (by Colorado standards) that delivers some moderate tree skiing and occasional short steeps.

The first ski films have hit the theaters

You’ll still have to wait on Warren Miller, if he, or Jonny Moseley, is your man, But Matchstick Productions has already come out with Attack of La Nina, and Colorado College grad Nick Waggoner released Solitaire last month, too. If you have to pick one or the other, then go with Matchstick for big mountain porn and Solitaire for cinematography and an interesting narrative that riffs on Heart of Darkness.

Last year’s The Way I See It is the better of the two recent Matchstick films, though, probably because Alaska experienced such a miserable year. But that still doesn’t pardon the sin of illustrating Silverton as a place purely to go backcountry jibbing or, worse, to try some urban assault stuff in town with a tether and a snowmobile. That’s why Minneapolis exists. There’s also the issue of Colby West who—we get it—is a Funny Guy who skis. The three minute rocker montage strikes me as contrived and gimmicky. Colby’s funny enough when left to his enough devices. Don’t force it.  And what about Ingrid Backstrom?

At any rate, there’s enough Cody Townsend to go around, and that makes up for most of it. And really, who can be that critical of ski porn? It’s good stuff.

You Should See Larry

Larry’s Boot Fitting in Boulder doesn’t pay me to say nice things about them on the internet. They didn’t even ask. But that’s the sign of a good company. If anything ailed your feet last season, see Larry. To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t met a foot he couldn’t fit, and within a few minutes he can identify pretty much any problem with your current rig. That, and if you’re in there for a fitting, there’s free beer and ski porn while you wait. If you’re going to to drop close to a grand on some boots, you might as well get an IPA and some 90s Glen Plake footage out of it too.

More posts

Expect more frequent posts this season, probably on the order of a few times a week. I’m still going to be working on longer posts about individual resorts and stuff like buying and selling skis on Craiglist, but I’ll also be on the lookout to send worthwhile content your way, so keep checking in. Posting was a little light this summer, and I’m sorry for that, but the ski focus for this winter should be on target.