Sunday, February 12, 2006

Steamboat snowboarding

As you've probably noticed, I pretty much unplugged from the blogging world somewhere around New Years. Not that New Years had anything to do with it - I had a fabulous time on New Years Eve hanging with Kat and her family, and '06 has been treating me plenty fine so far!

I guess I got a little overwhelmed being out of town (or at least not home) for many many weekends in a row ... Xmas, New Years, visited my friend BS in Wisconsin, went winter camping up near Ely another weekend, the list goes on and on. But I've been around home a lot recently, getting a lot of work done around the place, so it's time for me to get back on the blogging wagon.

After being away for so long, it's tempting to try to write a ton and catch up, but instead I'm just going to write off January and jump in with my snowboarding trip from a week ago or so ...

Headed out to Steamboat with high school friends JK, BS, and his brother MS. I'd really been looking forward to this trip - my first opportunity to snowboard out West, and to do so on the cheap (mucho thanks to MS for hooking us up with his friend's condo!)

I flew out a day early to hang w/pwef on Sunday. We had a pretty laid back time ... weather was sunny, but there was still a cold bite to the air. Flew kites at a park within walking distance of their apartment, checked out Union Station (where the Ski Train will deliver you to/from a day of skiing at Winter Park for not too much money), dinner at Wynkoop Brewery (ok, but really nothing special).

The following day, Monday, we biked around a bit, up along the Cherry Creek bike path and back through downtown. The creek flows through a small valley/trench, maybe 10 feet below street level, and the trail runs alongside it. I suppose it compares to the trail along Minnehaha Creek, minus the trees, and with more homeless people and shopping carts - not particularily inviting, but better than nothing. The street along the creek is not bike friendly, and all bikes are expected to ride the trail - kind of sucky to be shunted to a below-street-level trail.

Later that afternoon MS picked me up, we met up with the guys at the airport, and we were off to Steamboat in our big rental SUV. That's right, SUV. I do hate them, but must confess that in this case it was a necessity - 4 dudes, all with ski/snowboard gear and several days' worth of junk. That vehicle was pretty packed.

The ground clearance also came in handy when we ran over a frozen deer carcass at highway speed - had we been in a vehicle with less ground clearance, we would have been toast! Arriving at the condo, it took us a while to realize that the rancid smell in the parking area was coming from us - apparently little bits of frozen deer had caught on the undercarriage and were thawing out. Gotta love that "new car-cass smell".

JK and BS had never been in the mountains before, and they were blown away - stunned - by the scenery along I-70 on the ride up. Impressive stuff.

Tuesday, we hit the hill mid-morning, 'round 10am or so. It had snowed plenty overnight, but the hills were already fairly bumpy from all the skiers by the time we hit them. Kind of a bummer. We found some relatively untouched snow on the runs under the lifts, and to the extreme sides of some runs, which was rad - hitting the powder delivered an instantaneous switch to silent, smooth carving - awesome.

But the wind and snow picked up again, resulting in near whiteout conditions on the upper reaches of the mountain. Made for difficult runs, not being able to see more than a few dozen feet in front of your face.

BS and JK were riding K2 Fatty "skiboards" which are really short and gave them some problems in the powdery conditions. Leaning back a bit more than usual seemed to be the key. JK was also having some issues with his ski boots being too tight, or having too much clothing tucked into them, or something, so he and MS called it quits while BS got in a few more runs. The weather cleared up a bit, and we were able to take in the view of the town and surrounding terrain from the top of the mountain. We ended up on quite a few black diamond runs as we made our way all the way down the mountain, and my legs were totally cashed by the time we made it down.

Wednesday, we took it easy. There was lots of fog on the mountain in the morning, and lift tickets are just too expensive unless you're going to board for the whole day. None of us had a full day's worth of energy in us anyway. So we busted out the Super Nintendo (old school) and later drove just outside town and hiked a short distance up to a frozen waterfall. Getting up was easier than getting down, and we had to glissade down on our butts for short distances. Fun.

Also did a little sledding on the hill alongside our condo - three was a sidewalk at the bottom, and it was pretty steep, but the snow was soft and wet, so we couldn't get going fast enough to hurt ourselves.

Hung out in the outdoor hottub later that night, and BS joined me in a "cleansing" ritual of jumping in a snowbank in swimming trunks before returning to the hottub. I missed the polar bear swim again this year, so I suppose this is the next best thing!

The sleeping arrangements were such that brothers BS and MS ended up sharing a king-size bed in the master bedroom. Sometime Wed night, MS awoke when he felt BS cuddling him and KISSING HIS BACK in his sleep. MS shared this with the rest of us in the morning, we ridiculed him terribly (what are friends for?) and MS emailed both their wives so they could share in the fun. Too crazy.

Thursday, the weather was more agreeable, it had stopped snowing, and we hit the slopes again, this time getting an early start in hopes of getting better snow. A middle aged guy with a season pass tried to jump in front of us (and the hundred-or-so people behind us) in the gondola line, and BS confronted him. He replied "Hey, I'm just going skiing, man." To which BS responded "Hey, it's your world man, we're just living in it!" He dropped into line behind us. Too funny.

Snow was excellent (at least by midwest standards) and I was having a great time carving it up. We took an early lunch, and that's when the trouble began. By the time we made it back to the top of the mountain, it was storming like crazy again - the worst so far - blowing, stinging snow and ice with poor visibility. Luckily we all had facemasks along, so we just toughed it out. They don't call that particulary peak "Storm Peak" for nothing!

Thankfully it subsided after an hour or so, by which time a lot of people had left the hill. The sun came out shortly thereafter, and there were many inches of fresh snow from the storm that just passed - it was go time.

JK was having a much better time with his boots today, and we all started getting a little more adventurous, heading into the woods along the side of the run. First the evergreen trees (spaced far apart) then the aspen grove (spaced *much* closer together). A total blast of a time - skiing in the trees has always been a fav of mine, and this afternoon in the trees totally made the trip. I love the feeling of throwing the board around, whipping around the trunks.

An incredible day, and a great way to end the trip!