First Tracks

I feel reborn this time of year in Colorado. It’s not the rains and flowers of April that make me think reincarnation. I prefer the hush, the slowdown and the gusty chills of winter approaching; the long billowing clouds that hide the peaks; the early nightfall. This is a season when I can think, rediscover, reemerge.

I pull my boards out of the garage and run my fingers over the war scars—the edges covered in slight rust and burred from springtime rocks. I didn’t mean to neglect them; it’s just the last time I put them away, I didn’t think it was going to be the last time.

Record Breaker: October 7, 2009 at Loveland.

The snow can actually be decent in the early season. Sunny days soften it up without the slush of spring. There is a smeared-yet-crystalline quality to it. Sure, you can only ski one or maybe two green or blue groomers but that means you can focus solely on form, on those subtle transfers of weight and edge and foot that let you fly. This is skiing and snowboarding for purists. For those of us who care about the art of the turn.

Last year, I racked up my earliest day ever to ride the lifts, when Loveland opened on October 7. The experience felt so wonderfully out of place. The Rockies were playing game one of the NLDS. I was on a plane to the beaches of Southern France a week later. And, alas, the promise of the season was soon to fade when we ended up with a meager year after all that super-early snow.

Oh, and the skiing itself was good, damn good—at least as damn good as it gets on pre-Columbus Day.

Plus, it was a weekday, not one of those insane, early-season, white-ribbon-of death days, when you risk being beheaded by high schooler on snowboards. This was a day for the tribe. I ran into the dudes who rode first first chair, drinking PBRs and soaking up the fall day. I met Scott Summers a former Loveland employee who rides his bike from Empire to opening day and closing day every year. I rode the lift with people like me, those of us who live for the snow. For us, this was spring, when we awake, come out of our shells and start to live again.

Winter is coming. Embrace it.

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