Bike season may be here, but let’s save some room for a few warm thoughts about soft snow, happy Texans and cold beer.
Everybody remembers the ski (and snowboard) season in direct relation to their deepest powder day. Like anglers talking about their biggest catch, it seems the inches keep adding up every time they tell the story, especially if they have a cold-smoke explosion of a picture to back it up. You know? The kind where all you can see through the big puff of fluff is their glove or a rising pole.
But for me, the season isn’t complete until I get to arc my skis like hot knives into warm butter on a sun-baked slope of fresh corn snow.
That was especially the case this season, when after a promising few days at A-Basin beginning on Halloween, I found myself trail running after Thanksgiving, hiking and biking after Christmas, then finally getting back on the boards after the jetstream decided to crank back into action around St. Valentine’s Day. Now that winter has actually started, there’s no way I’m going to hang up my skis.
Making tracks long after the tulips bloom is kind of an annual spring rite in Colorado. The possibilities are endless here, whether it’s huffingup lap after lap on Independence Pass when the road opens, dropping into a bowl toward an impossibly blue lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, sweating up fourteeners with your skis in an A-frame on your pack or just making a quick trip up to St. Mary’s Glacier instead of mowing the lawn on a lazy Sunday.
In my family, one of our most oft-repeated adventure stories revolves around shuttling cars up and down Pike’s Peak to ski old snow in June, or maybe it was July. On one run, a tour bus full of Texans pulled over to take our pictures. Suddenly, one of them exclaimed, “They’re ski-un! Just like in the movies,” which of course, made us feel like stars.
It was a key moment in my own de-generalization of Texans, after a priveleged Colorado childhood of writing off the residents of the entire state as goggle-in-the-car wearing, Cadillac-swerving, hip-swiveling redneck rubes (who my brother and I would sometimes accidentally nudge snow onto from the upper deck at Winter Park). But I have overcome those old misguided epithets. Instead, I’ve found that (just as long as you steer the conversation away from politics), Texans are indeed some of the finest people in the world.
It seems to me they’re always up for an adventure, and never happier than when they meet someone else from Texas. That encounter often kicks off a loud, compared catalog of Lone Star State memories and laughs, almost always lubricated by several beers (#TonyRomoVille?!).
When I look back on it now, we were snobs. But anybody who grew up in Elwayville understands our history of poking gentle fun at “flatlanders.” You might remember those fake state tourism posters touting, “Ski Nebraska” or “Ski Missouri,” with some cowboy-hatted hayseed poling his way across a dry, flat field. In the case of “Ski Texas,” said pilgrim was gelanding his way past a small herd of mildly curious, long-horned Brahma bulls.
Look, I honestly have no problem with the Lone Star State. Texas openly advertises its steaks, sports and independent-mindedness. California and Florida show off pink and purple-tinted sunsets of empty beaches, Vegas wants us to believe any fool can get lucky at love and gambling as long he wears the right cowboy snap shirt. And even New York City wants you to get excited about the crushing, claustrophobic humanity of being smack dab in the center of a seething crowd. There’s nothing wrong with embracing some regional pride.
Maybe we can learn something from them. We too should promote, and even gloat, about exactly who we are—the high white-peaked, ocean blue-skied, late-skiing snow capital of the world. We should Instagram the heck out of the fact that we can still score powder days in April, and ski and golf in May. We should let the world know that we can still feel that arc of acceleration—and exhilaration—all the way into July.
Summer is long and hot. Maybe this year more than ever. By the time the meltdown starts its long slow cook from the cities up to the summits, everyone in every ski town will be wishing they took one more run while they could. Which is exactly what I plan to do right now—head up to Breck, or A-Basin, or Loveland, stare out over the world from a chairlift, carve some soft slush until the troughs in the moguls start to pool, then sit on the deck with some happy Texans (and Coloradans) and drink a cold beer.
See you there.
P.S. Learn how you can contribute to a sustainable future for skiing and snowboarding—and late spring shred days—at protectourwinters.org.