I’m what you call an “intermediate skier” and I’m not afraid to say it. I’ve been a competitive athlete my whole life, competing in almost every single sport that I have ever tried! Downhill skiing is the only sport that I actually have no desire to race. One day riding the lift, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is what it’s like to do something purely for recreation.” Of course, there is competitiveness from inside to be better, but standing in those gates waiting for the green light to bomb down a ski run at 90 mph is not in my future. Epic mountain bike races? Yes, please!
As a professional cyclist, my winters have traditionally been spent freezing on some road in the dead of winter for many hours at a time- the kind of rides where you get home and could be mistaken for a baboon getting in the shower (think red butt). Sound like fun? This year, I made an effort to ski more, pedal just a little bit less. It still is hard for me to comprehend that some people ski 3-4+ times a week! I was able to get 6 days on skis this year. Most typical Coloradans would balk and laugh at me, but that’s the most I’ve gone in a year so far!
I have heard rumors of this so called “spring skiing” where the sun is out, and you wear a tshirt. I was delighted at the prospect of skiing in April. Unfortunately, I should have consulted with the weather…both times! Perhaps mother nature knows I like a challenge, or maybe it’s so I ski even more next year, but I didn’t get one sunny day on skis this year. I skiied Beaver Creek for the first time about a week ago with a friend. “I’m ready for the sun!” Instead, we had icy wind and horizontally blowing snow! There are things I’m slowly learning about skiing, like how to keep your fingers warms on days like this, that pizza is the best thing ever for lunch on a ski day, and that a balaclava is worth twice its weight in gold! I also accidentally ventured onto a double black run int the trees, which was way out of my league! There was no way out but down. I probably looked like a stubborn donkey trying to pick his way down the Grand Canyon, but I made it eventually, elvis leg and all, minus the grace. This was actually ON April 1st, joke was on me that day. To make it even funnier and ironic, Vail Pass was closed due to a massive car wreck, meaning driving through Leadville on a 2 lane highway, with multiple stuck semi-trucks without chains in their tires (fail). Five hours later, ourselves and all the other brave souls on the highway that night made it back to the Front Range.
I returned to the mountains a few days later to cash in for my last day of “shredding the pow pow” at Loveland. My timing is impeccable as I always somehow ski one day too early – the day it’s freezing and snowing. I went skiing with a friend, who actually got frostbite on his face on the second lift ride up the mountain! I heard the voice inside, “Harden up, Looney. You’re here, you will ski, and you will enjoy it!” I also got to learn how to ski in a variety of snow conditions. 1)Ice. I was blissfully unaware that most ski race runs are pretty icy. 2) Crust – what a practice in balance. It’s amazing how the crust grabs your skis independently. 3) Powder…ah yes, powder… there was still some left in the trees! The adverse days are the ones that make you that much better. They make you appreciate the good when you have it, and make you stronger across the board.
Since I didn’t get to ski in the sunshine this year, bring on the sunshine and singletrack!