Powder Daze – 3/1/10 Winter Park, CO

Comments by jh/

’16 inches’ says the Snow Goddess. Did I hear that right? I call the WPR snow hotline again. It’s usually a busy signal for a solid ½ hour after a 6-inch storm, yet here sounds that familiar ring. Press 1, ’16 inches’ she cackles, mocking my foggy cerebrum and the necessity to call twice.
I hit the door running, but everyone else has already extricated themselves from various positions; couch, recliners, there was even a guy sleeping under the stairs on a dog’s bed.
“16 INCHES!!” I yell at the top of my lungs as I take the steps down 3 at a time. I sound like the poor soul calling “bring out your dead” in the days of the Bubonic Plague, yet we are galaxies away from the 14th century Black Death, staring at the beginnings of what may very well be the best ski day of the winter.
The emotions in the living room somehow ratchet up a notch as I check the Colorado snow report. Vile Vail ends up with the angry inch. Loveland is closest at 11 inches. Nobody else comes within 10. Finally a winter, which had us all waiting, had delivered in a big way.
We must have done something right; the Snow Gods finally had our back with this storm – a Monday (sorry weekend warriors), and completely missed by meteorologists (wish I could keep my job with a below 50% success rate). The icing on the cake? Berthoud Pass was closed, leaving ½ million skiers and riders stuck in the Front Range metropolis.
No time to think about what went right in the karma universe. Time to fuel up, gear up, and get after it. First lap, ‘Do or Die Trees’, it’s the best it’s been all year and nobody is here. Rock drop number 1 – soft and stomped.
We catch the Super Gauge lift up from the base of Mary Jane. It stalls, stranding us 5 lift towers from the top. 10 minutes pass, 15 minutes pass. ‘What the heck is going on’ we all wonder? Clouds sock in the upper portion of the mountain. The powder below remains unperturbed with nobody unloading the 6-person lift. The serenity is enchanting, but the grumbling from 2 chairs ahead and behind now speaks volumes of the rapidly deteriorating powder day vibe.
I can’t take it anymore, so I slip off the chairlift without as much as a goodbye. The 15-foot drop into the powder below leaves me grinning from ear to ear. My partner in crime follows suit, yet doesn’t heed my advice about not landing in my bomb hole. No worries, fat skis are reattached and we ride off while all others sit, mouths agape. Bitter perhaps?
The next 6 hours are a blur of face shots and rock drops. We tag everything in bounds with gusto. I meet up with a local snowboarder who rides with poles and a backcountry pack, generally a good sign. We take double stagers 1 at a time in the Rock Garden, cheering each other on.
There’s time for one more bus ride back from the Mary Jane entrance / Highway 40 trees. It’s ½ full of tired riders and skiers. It’s too late for a lift ride up the Super Gauge. There lies a decision to make – take the easy green run down back to the Winter Park base, or the challenging semi secret pillow drop line to the same place. It’s not really a decision at all. There are only a few good lines down really, certainly not enough for ½ a bus load of people. The old ruse is employed – ‘driver, can you drop us off at my car right here’, throwing the bro brahs off our scent. A few steps in the wrong direction, a quick 180 and the uphill boot pack begins. The aforementioned snowboarder with poles and I hit pillow after pillow down the guts. Enormous chunks of snow fall off each as we land. He stomps a 20-foot technical drop into little more than a 6×6 foot powder landing to close out our epic day, and I get a photo just as he drops in. It may very well be the only physical evidence that we gripped and it ripped it on Monday, March 1st. “In like a lion” indeed.