A POTPOURRI OF SKI BITES
| By Snowsports Journalist Daniel Gibson |
There is no theme to this week’s column, rather a potpourri of shorter items. We’ll see what the national media is saying about our skiing and snowboarding, visit a few more skiing videos recently released, catch up on a smoking deal from Angel Fire Resort, and check in on conditions from Ski Apache to Crested Butte.
It’s always interesting to see what the national media is reporting about our region’s snowsports scene. Here are notes on some of it this season.
Ski Magazine’s December issue had a huge spread on Telluride, as the Editor’s Choice resort for 2020–21. It devoted 18 pages to the subject, with separate articles on the skiing and snowboarding terrain, the helicopter operation Telluride Helitrax, the endless backcountry options, the historic town, the contemporary Mountain Village, things to do other than skiing (a lot of choices), and suggestions on places to eat and stay.
Its opening lines sum it up nicely. “A place that has captivated visitors since long before it even had a post office, Telluride is one of the those rare domestic bucket-list trips that’s up there with the Swiss Alps or even Japan. The place just has an aura about it. Maybe it’s the incredible scenery, unrivaled by pretty much anywhere in ski country. Perhaps it’s the laidback, pretty much anything-goes vibes of the place that makes people just want to spend time here. It certainly could be the next-level amenities on offer, or the great skiing at the resort that’s connected to town by a scenic gondola ride. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s all of these things that mesh together to serve up one of the best all-around ski destinations in the world.”
The in-depth text is matched with a batch of mouth-watering photos, from sunlit snowfields to the delectable delights of the restaurant 221 South Oak.
Taos Ski Valley was highlighted in a 10-page article in Ski Magazine’s December 2020 issue. The story, “Fear and Loathing in Taos,” focuses on a pair of friends competing in a Freeride World Tour qualifying competition on the steep chutes off West Basin Ridge during a warm cycle when the snow was “like set-up concrete,” notes author Kimberly Beekman.
She goes on to perceptively report, “Yesterday we drove up the winding two-lane road through the charmingly ramshackle town of Arroyo Seco to the little snowy pocket of Taos Ski Valley. Rounding the last bend, I caught my first sight of Al’s Run, towering straight up, with huge moguls stacked like oranges in a fruit cart. The steep road ended abruptly, and the sidewalk skirted a stream that gurgled underneath the wooden walkway and the now-shuttered Stray Dog Cantina, outside of which lounged a few of its friendly namesakes.
“We pulled up at the Blake Hotel, a charming gem that somehow pulls off being both luxurious and relaxed. In fact, Taos Ski Valley, as a whole was even cooler than I expected — a purist’s resort. Funky, quaint, unapologetically steep, with one place to buy beer and Cheetos, and zero places to buy a purse.”
Ski Video Inspiration
Last week’s column about the video on ghostly former resort of Ski Rio got me looking deeper into the avalanche of skiing and snowboarding content on YouTube. With the pandemic putting a bit of a brake on actually going skiing, I’ve found myself watching more of this eye candy, and I uncovered some diamonds in the fluff.
A series of subscription-based videos, Abandoned picks up where The Ghost Ski Resorts: Ski Rio left off, with a series of short videos about former ski areas. A free teaser zooms in on Geneva Basin, off Loveland Pass, which opened in the early 1960s as Indian Head. It closed decades ago, but is freely available to anyone willing to skin up, as a group, we discover, does regularly. Colorado used to have some 200 ski areas but only 30 are still active, so this series has legs! See it at this link.
Turns All Year follows a year in the skiing life of 59-year-old Coloradan Carl Zimmer, who has skied every month for 32 years. It has some amazing scenes of high alpine treks and descents in vast bowls above tree-line, including one in the Yankee Boy area near Ouray, where he grew up. There are also miserable slogs in September to ski steep, narrow slivers of snow bounded by boulders. The quest basically runs his life, but he has found a brotherhood of like-minded souls and has a saint for a wife. Watch it here.
The Fifty Peak Obsession is a series of 45–60 minute videos that document professional skier Cody Townsend’s ambitious goal of hiking up and skiing down all featured runs in the acclaimed 2010 book by Chris Davenport, Art Burrows, and Penn Newhard titled The Fifty: Classic Ski Descents of North America. A free 33-minute “teaser” captures the sufferfest to bag Meteor Peak in Alaska —which included a 14-mile hike and 6,000-foot ascent that took the party 18 hours — and the relatively easy up but harrowing down on Alaska’s Pontoon Peak. Check it out here.
Angel Fire Rocks!
Angel Fire Resort is trying to relieve a bit of COVID cabin fever by offering families a way to get out and enjoy social distancing in the snow, with a smoking deal of two free lift tickets to kids 12 and under in February with the purchase of one adult lift ticket (except for February 12 – 15).
“We know this has been a trying year for many families both economically and emotionally. We would love to offer them a mini-break in the Rocky Mountains enjoying the abundance of snow up here,” explains Greg Ralph, AFR’s marketing director.
The resort has a 32-inch base and has received 10 feet of natural snow so far this year. All of it skiing terrain has been opened — the first ski area in the state to do so. All seven lifts and 81 runs are available daily, and the state’s best terrain playground, Liberation Park. It is scheduled to close March 21, but will probably go beyond that depending on snowfall and the pandemic.
Ski Santa Fe was brushed by another front last Friday, taking its base to 43 inches, with 79 of 87 runs open. The ropes have yet to drop on Easter Bowl, Sunset Bowl, Chile Glades, Big Rock Chutes, and Upper Parachute, and its Boneyard Terrain Park remains closed. The latter is hard to figure; with a bit of effort and direction this could be a big asset and draw for the ski area.
Taos Ski Valley has a 52-inch base, with almost all lift-served runs open, including Ernie’s and North American. Off Highline about half are open, and off West Basin all but Thunderbird. The Kachina Peak chair has yet to spin.
Wolf Creek has a phat 101-inch base, with every run, nook, and cranny open. But their complimentary snowcat shuttle to Horseshoe Bowl has been turned off. Management notes, “The Horseshoe Bowl Snowcat is closed at this time due to season pass holders’ non-compliance with the mask mandate and refusing to social distance.” Come on snow lovers — do the right things: mask up and stay apart so we can all continue to enjoy the great outdoors!
Pajarito, with a slim but functional 13-inch base, has opened lots more terrain, with the Mother, Spruce, and Aspen chairs all running. Check its web site for announcements of operational days.
Sandia Peak reports an 18-inch base and with careful grooming, all runs are open. It is functioning on a Friday to Sunday basis, and requires online ticket sales.
Red River rests on a 30-inch base, with 60 of 63 runs open.
Sipapu has a 31-inch base, and has opened its upper lift, bumping its skiable runs to 43.
Purgatory has the third-most snow in Colorado — after our two other regional ski areas, Wolf Creek and Silverton Mountain — with a base of four feet at mid-mountain and all 105 runs open. It is hosting Demo Day on February 6, with daylong tryouts of boards or skis running $20.
Arizona Snowbowl has an enviable 56-inch base with all runs open, including its double black hike-to terrain.
Crested Butte has a 42-inch base, but just 62 percent of its terrain open, with the North Face and High Lift yet to crank.