On the hill: A New Year’s ski trifecta
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
After a pathetic start to the ski season – I’d been on skis of some sort all of twice – the three-day New Year’s weekend offered me a chance to rectify the situation.
Friday found me on the backcountry trails next to Sunlight Mountain Resort outside of Glenwood Springs. It was New Year’s Day and the ski crowd must have been sleeping one off, because the Sunlight parking area was still mostly empty after 10 a.m. So were the trails that wind though the woods and meadows just beyond the ski area.
In the past, Sunlight has rolled these trails, creating a wide swath of corduroy, but on Friday, none of them were wider than a snowmobile. And as we climbed the mountain, they dwindled to twin parallel tracks through the fresh snow left by other skiers.
If you’ve never skied here, it’s worth the trip. Climbing skins on touring skis are my choice of gear. Full-fledged tele skis would be too much, and skinny, edgeless cross-country skis are, well, a mistake I made here on my first visit. A collection of trails meanders mostly upward, alongside the ski area, but they aren’t nearly as steep as the ski runs. Still, the downhill return was enough to put a terrified look on my face in certain stretches.
Saturday found me plying the nordic trails behind the Aspen schools campus in a blinding snow squall. The falling snow encased me in muffled silence but for the soft poke of my poles in the snow and my steady huffing and puffing as I climbed Raoul’s Revenge. My sunglasses were caked in snow, so I took them off for Raoul’s screaming downhill. The snow pelted me relentlessly in the face and I descended in near blindness, but somehow managed to avoid skiing off the trail and into a tree.
I retreated to the safer terrain of the golf course for a more pleasant loop.
On Sunday, it was corduroy at Snowmass. The lower mountain on the Two Creeks side could use some more snow. In fact, so could the mid-reaches of the mountain, but we found some sublime runs beneath the Alpine Springs lift, where we lingered after one somewhat icy run under the High Alpine lift.
All in all, a good start to 2010.
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Basalt High School’s “small but mighty” track and field team is ready to save the day. Well, the Longhorns will train hard and probably break a few school records at least, although coach Allyson Decatur does liken the athletes to superheroes from time to time.