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Snoooooooowww! 25 October 2011

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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.

 

Still not summer 26 April 2010

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Titling a post “Never Summer” a while back probably makes this one redundant, but hey, it’s been snowing for I think five days straight now. And although just about every mountain around here is closed and you’re probably golfing, that doesn’t mean the Coloradans aren’t still heading for the hills. In droves. In bunches and bunches.

Nearly three feet of snow had fallen by Sunday, and the eleven inches that settled on Arapahoe Basin’s angry pitches only buried another ten from the two days before. “Where,” Coloradans collectively asked, “had this been the entirety of the season?” Then they skied it for a few hours–until the sun came out and the powder piled into clumps and bumps–and wished that winter would get it over with already. They drank bloody marys(ies?) out of plastic cups and chatted about the possibility of mountain biking the next weekend.

I won’t say this is Colorado distilled yet it represents the ennui that has set in at the end of the season. And after so little snow has fallen there’s, this sense that despite the obligations of lawn mowing and hedge trimming and flower cutting in the Front Range that, well, 21 inches has fallen in the mountains. Time to dust off the skis. Put the cover back on the Lawn-Boy. Fight the crowds. Everyone on the lifts hadn’t skied in weeks. It was a last hurrah. One guy wished for kayaking season to begin, and I’d agree, but kayakers are certifiably crazy. Just YouTube some of it.

Thinking about it, I guess it’s my last hurrah as well. I leave my position at Vail Resorts just a few days from now. My storage locker is secure. My unwanted clothes are now at the thrift store. And now I’m left with the task of picking up my life and moving it somewhere. Not to Missouri of course, but perhaps back to this state in a different, more challenging capacity; perhaps to Seattle to discover the possibilities of the northwest. Five more days.

Never Summer 9 April 2010

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Vail reported its largest dump of the year two days ago, and even though the state’s avalanche crew disputed the 19″ figure, it amounted to a whole lot of snow–nearly three feet by the time the storm left town. Back in Williamsburg, temperatures hovered in the low 90s. What gives? Where’s spring? 9000′ lower, I’d imagine.

Sometime in November, the year-round folks her pointed out that winter tends to drag on, and that around the end of March Coloradans once again long for green shoots and a few buds on the trees. Not really believing them, I discounted that idea. Who wouldn’t want ski season to extend forever? It’s now April. And I don’t. The ski season can end.

Sure, it’s still possible to tool around on the mountain big grin plastered across the face, but it’s high time for some other outdoorsy pursuits to begin, like roadbiking and hiking and looking at anything green. Really. An Apple II E featured a broader palette than does wintertime Colorado. It is a land of brown and white laid out under a cobalt sky. The lodgepole pines have long since succumbed to the advancing beetle, and what ever-greenery remains will perish in the next few years as well. But lest you think it’s a desolate landscape from Fargo, nine months of winter in Colorado will always beat the grinding rain of Williamsburg’s coldest season. There’s a bra tree, after all.

Still. Summer. A humid languor in the river bottom air. The sun’s setting. A silo in the distance, and the bike speeds along in the wind. The bat cracks. A little league cheer and the sound of a shifting gear. A lone oak in a cornfield, the cliche. Headlights on and highschoolers on their way to a house party. A bonfire in the woods and empty lawn chairs circled around a cooler. A can of Budweiser at the side of the road. Tap on the brakes. Jack calls. He’s on his way to Main Street. Too soon to turn around.

No. No Snow. Well, not at Keystone anyway. 19 March 2010

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I am at a loss. The Summit Daily bannered “Storm to Drop 1-2 Feet of Snow on Summit” this morning and NOAA, the most conservative bunch of meteorologists around here, posted a 100% chance for 10-14 inches. Eleven o’clock rolled around. Nothing. NOAA had revised estimates downward: 90% for 8-12. Then one o’clock 70% and 3-7. But no. Nothing. It’s as though a force field exists around this place. The airborne assault cannot touch Keystone, Summit County misses yet another storm, and for the first time, I’m genuinely upset. Not miffed. Not agitated. Upset.

Yes, people are starving in Mali. Yes, more than one billion people around the world live on less than one dollar a day. Yes, my complaint is petty, insignificant, but there it is. What’s the point?

On the bright side, the snow fell in heaps on the other face of the Continental Divide, and that meant Michael and I got to play one of my favorite winter driving games (that I just invented): Guess the Next Wreck! The game is simple. The players propose the conditions of the next accident–car/SUV, in a ditch/into the median, head lights on/off and so forth–and then delight in discovering just how right or wrong they were. What fun!

This afternoon, for instance, we chanced upon the whole slate of interstate catastrophe: the mid-highway with collision requiring fire trucks and all; the sideways-slipping Honda CRV whose driver jumped out in the middle of the lane to inspect his predicament, and then a medley of cars and trucks ditched in the median, most gathering snow and awaiting the eventual (springtime?) return of an owner.

Best of all, we played audience to Audi driver’s expert performance just outside the airport. Tearing away from an intersection intent on playing bumper bowl with the sides of a bridge, his determination paid off in a vehicular pirouette on the slush. Bounce! Into the left wall with terrific force. Then, reverse, and in an effort to outdo himself, another hard acceleration. Bounce! Into the right wall before speeding off, surely to fulfill a rather more important engagement with a lamppost or a trashcan. I should hope he doesn’t disappoint.

Snow? 19 March 2010

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Goodness gracious sakes alive! They’re calling for up to two feet of snow today and tonight. So far: nothing. But I can see a few flakes in the street lamps right now, and I’m hopeful, velly velly hopeful.

Real post to follow today so long as I can devote enough time at work between all the calls to cancel vacations.

Zamboni Fail 10 March 2010

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Effective Immediately: The Ice Skating Pond has Closed for the Remainder of the Season

Temperatures over the last week have hovered in the forties…

…meaning: Zamboni Fail.

Apologies to everyone I told about the free ice skating. May you enjoy tubing and fudge-making instead.

Skiing Utah: Brighton and Solitude 8 March 2010

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It's everything you'd ever wanted in a mountain.

For the last month or so, we’d intended to swing into Taos for a bit of southwestern skiing and gawking. I’d recalled visiting there, what, more half my life ago, now, and had looked forward to catching whatever it is that makes Taos a known place on the map. Back in 1997 I recall that my dad bought a hat there, and I think a belt. We ate at a restaurant with a poster of the Scoville Scale and the corresponding peppers, then wandered around some kitschy art galleries before retiring to a Comfort Inn and Suites. This is what I remember.

But evidently the skiing at Taos also attracts the winter sports types who enjoy steeps and bumps and hiking and all of that. Until Friday morning, we were in. Taos had gone for days without snow, though, and a peek at the highest points on Breck, which had received similarly little snow, indicated that the conditions in NM would prove downright upsetting. Even the best art galleries and the quaintest cafes wouldn’t offset atrocious snow.

We’d realized this earlier in the week, of course, and had wrung our hands. We thought of Aspen and Telluride, Crested Butte and even Silverton, and then on Friday morning, we saw that the Salt Lake City mountains had received nearly two feet of snow. Done. I cancelled my reservation at the Best Western Kachina Lodge and Meeting Center (Thanks, front-desk Kelly. Sorry, Taos.) and booked a highway hotel in Midvale, UT. We would ski “The Greatest Snow on Earth” if only because the state of Utah has trademarked that phrase.

The name leaves nothing to the imagination.

As it stands, I have skied a vanishingly small portion of the Earth’s snow, and so cannot say whether Utah’s deserves the superlative. I can, however, tell you that it rates as very, very good, based on quantity alone. Coloradans who worship Wolf Creek’s 400+ inches forget that even the lesser-known resorts in Utah receive a scant 500 inches annually. This is A Lot of Snow. Check out Big Cottonwood Canyon’s two gems, Solitude and Brighton: 2550 acres of fresh, light, and untracked powder.

No posts of interest 20 February 2010

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I’ve been downright irresponsible lately, what with not posting anything interesting and all. In part, that’s because I’ve been skiing — the most worthwhile excuse for a blog like this, I think — but also because I’ve been lazy, slacking from the chore of developing compelling reading. So I hope you’ll forgive me for the lapse while I work on getting back the gumption to write; I promise an entry of interest on Moab by Sunday. For the time being, I give you the following, exciting news:

WINTER STORM WATCH/WARNING FOR SUMMIT/EAGLE COUNTIES. UP TO A FOOT AND A HALF OF SNOW IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS.

Finally, winter.

Snoooooooowwwwww! At Keystone! 14 December 2009

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It’s finally snowing in Keystone! AAAAHHHHHH!!!! Traction control is finally useful. Almost-bald tires aren’t.  That’s all for now. Vail report (and photos) tomorrow.

Colorado Weather 30 November 2009

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If accurate predictions play any part in meteorologists’ job security around here, then the turnover has to be eye-popping. Maybe all the signs warning that this is a “High Alpine Environment: Conditions may change rapidly” offer some sort of insurance. Like, even if you get those snow forecasts entirely wrong, you can shrug your shoulders and say “Hey, who knows? Those conditions? Definitely changing to rapidly too predict. I just get paid to do this.” Whatever.

Eventually it will snow here — forming those enormous and lovely pillows of powder — regardless of whether it shows up in the weather report. But for the time being, stop tantalizing those of us in Summit County! 60% chance of snow? 2 to 5 inches? These are the things weekend plans are made of. You just can’t prop up those kind of hopes willy nilly, even if the stress level in Summit County comes in a few notches below “totally mellow, man.” No excuse in that for inspiring a little weather angst. It’s not right. We skiers are a simple people, euphoric at the mere thought of making some fresh tracks, of shredding the gnar gnar if you prefer the local vernacular.

Then again, we’re still following the season averages out here, and it’s all too easy to forget that we haven’t yet left November. And yes, the meteorologists do have it pretty hard. 13000′ mountains arranged every which way across the state make every forecast a gamble. Where storms on the plains sweep eastward so predictably that even an agoraphobic Omahan can give an ETA on the rain without a peek out the window, systems break and buck when they crash into the mountains. Even the surest cell dumping an inch an hour may dissolve into sunshine by the next valley. Curious.

So let’s look take a relative look at things: back in Williamsburg right now, everyone can look forward to another chilly day of rain. Given a choice, I’d take cold and clear (even without snow) every time. When the snow does come to Summit County, and it will, we’ll find only nice things to say about the weathermen. They deserve a raise, right?