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Echo Mountain — It’s a Place You Can Ski? 6 February 2012

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado, Reviews, Skiing.
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Echo Mountain‘s new tagline is “Let Traditions Begin.” This can only mean that the good folks who do Echo’s marketing have never actually experienced a tradition. Or maybe they’ve never been to Echo. Whatever the case, this is a hill best experienced for several hours. So why even give it a shot? Powder… powder in a snow-starved season.

This weekend’s storm dumped a foot and a half on Denver, maybe more on the plains. From six p.m. on Thursday through noon on Saturday, it took up residence over the Front Range. Grocery shelves emptied. People parked their cars halfway into intersections. And we’re in Denver. We’re supposed to be good at this sort of thing. But across the Continental Divide, another story was unfolding: only a few stray flakes had made it over the top. For Breck, Copper and the rest, it had been a shut out.

Figures. That’s been the story of the season.

Back on the Denver side of the divide, though, the storm had dropped an almost incomprehensible mount of snow. More than four feet in Coal Creek Canyon—and at Echo, nearly 60″. On Saturday, the folks at Eldora, the only other mountain east of the divide, were beside themselves. By 10:30, the place had sold out. You might think that it’s impossible for a ski resort to “sell out,” but Eldora proved otherwise. Turns out you can only sell lift tickets if you have enough room for people to park.

So, anyway, that’s a long way of saying the conditions I’m about to describe in my review of Echo are, um, rare—and phenomenal. In my ongoing, but not very serious, quest to ski all the Colorado resorts, I’d always imagined Echo would be last since I’d heard it was nothing more than a glorified terrain park. For the most part, that’s what it is: 85 acres, consisting of three “runs.” There’s a groomer, the park, and the glades. You don’t need to worry about anything other than the glades, which when visited offered a decent pitch and thigh-deep snow. Technically, I think they were closed, but in true Echo fashion, a patroller told us on the lift, “Sure, I think it’s closed but go in there. It’s good. If anyone asks you, just say someone from patrol told you to pack it down.” We obliged.

So for the next four hours, we lapped an empty chair and empty glades. Maybe a dozen other folks took turns through the trees that day, maybe. How was this even possible? 45 minutes from Denver we were experiencing some of the deepest powder we’d ever seen, sometimes so deep we couldn’t get the speed to ski it. After tracking out one area, we traversed and cut a new path, leading to more pristine snow and more perfectly-spaced trees. Except at Silverton, could another 30-something acres be so empty, or so fun?

Probably not. And that’s also why you’re not likely to start any traditions at Echo either, which is sorta too bad since it’s likable enough. We experienced near perfection, in the middle of a season that has been seriously unkind to the state’s major resorts, and it’s for that reason alone that we stopped by Echo. The novelty of night skiing can’t possibly add much. The terrain park pales in comparison to the nationally-ranked competition at Keystone and Breck. Weirdly, the mountain requires folks to sign a waiver just to buy a lift ticket. In the Midwest, all that might make Echo the envy of the region, but here, it’s overshadowed by nearly every other resort in the state.

That’s not to say we didn’t have fun this weekend—it was a blast–but if you’re thinking about Echo, sure, go for the 55″. Just don’t stick around for the traditions.

 

Where’s the Snow? 12 December 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado, Skiing.
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So, you’re probably wondering where those three posts a week are. So am I. Rest assured, though, that’s it’s not my fault—you can blame it on the weather. Since December 1st, it’s snowed precisely four inches at Copper. Four inches. Now, granted, I shouldn’t be complaining that much because even with that meager amount of snow, the good folks on the snowmaking crews have opened up enough skiable terrain to make copper larger than all but the biggest eastern resorts. But I am; this is Colorado and we came here for the snow. Vermonters on the other hand, never left. No one moves to Vermont for the skiing unless he’s from New Hampshire.

At least we’re in better shape than Europe, where just a week ago, these intrepid young men had taken to skiing on rocks:

Note the reporter’s enthusiasm as he intones, “shredding some serious stone.” He must be a skier disappointed with this season, too.

All hope is not lost, though. Colorado powder guru Joel Gratz suggests that the current weather pattern may be coming to a close, which could mean the start of a snowier few weeks—if the weather cooperates of course. And even if it doesn’t Wolf Creek remains its usual snowy self, where 163″ have already fallen this season and all 1600 acres have opened for the year. At 4.5 hours from Denver, it’s a reasonable price to pay in travel time if you absolutely need your powder fix. And if you can wait a little longer then the storms will come as they always do. We’re still hungover from the endless untracked lines of 2010/11, unwilling to admit that this year might not compare.

It doesn’t have to. We’ll still be skiing.

Posting will resume shortly… 17 November 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Skiing, Writing.
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Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last week or so. I’ve been working on another article for Powder and it’s consumed much of my writing time outside work. That doesn’t really excuse going to trivia last night instead of blogging, but you’ll understand that a social life is important, too, won’t you?

Anyway, the wild and crazy world of ski journalism is actually more structured than I’d imagined it might be. On the one hand, I’d just been getting in touch with editors willy nilly, telling them I’d like to write stories for them. This has worked 100 percent of the time so far, but an e-mail arrived in my inbox the other day explaining to all Powder’s contributors that there is a process to be followed. And that if we fail to do so, they’ll print off our work in Comic Sans, call it all sorts of bad names and then send it to Self. Or they’ll just refuse it.

At any rate, in an industry where’d you expect everyone to play fast and loose, flouting the rules and doing shot-skis with ski bunnies, it’s actually kinda buttoned up. Who knew. But then there’s the actual skiing and writing about skiing, which makes up for any red tape. I could get used to that.

 

The best 5 minutes of skiing you’ll see for a while 11 November 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Skiing.
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Whoa.