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Skiing at Eldora (Saturday, March 2, 2013)

One of the driving factors in my decision to move to Colorado, is the proximity to snow and mountains and their beautiful child: skiing. I accepted the job here in December, but I didn't actually manage to move here until February, and now here it is March before I managed to make it out onto the slopes here for the first time.

But it was worth the wait! Today, I drove from Boulder, at 5,430 feet above sea level, west to Nederland, at 8,228 feet, and then a tad further west to Eldora Mountain Resort with a base elevation of 9,200 feet, and a top elevation of 10,800 feet. I was able to climb that mile in elevation over the course of twenty miles and about 45 minutes. Yeah, I'm that close to a ski area. Granted, this is a pretty tiny ski resort, as far as Colorado goes. Only 680 acres. But then, you consider that what I'm used to for "big" ski areas are Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia with 244 acres, and Seven Springs in Pennsylvania with 285 acres. Now granted, the vertical at Eldora is only 1,600 feet — barely more than the 1,500 feet at Snowshoe. But Snowshoe was a four hour drive from the house in Virginia!

So needless to say, I was very excited about the ease of getting there, the vast size of the resort (as small as it is, by Colorado standards — Vail has a 3,450 foot vertical and over 5,000 skiable acres), and the overall quality of the snow. While it was 60 degrees in Boulder, today, up on the mountain, it may have reached 40, and the sun was bright, and the snow powdery.

I arrived at the ski area shortly before their opening time of 9:00, and learned that I probably should have left Boulder a half hour earlier than I had. The traffic getting up the mountain was fairly light, but there was traffic. I was able to park fairly close to the Indian Peaks Lodge, where lift tickets and ski rentals are procured. And as "late" as I was, there really wasn't that long of a line or that big of a crowd to get started for the day. If I had to guess, I'd say most of the skiers in the area own their own equipment and have season passes. By next season, I will probably have those as well. Then you just get there, and head up to the lifts.

Speaking of which, from the lodge where you get the rental equipment, you really only have access to the "family zone" of the resort. I took the Sundance lift to the top of that area, and had a couple of warm-up runs, and found the lone blue square run, which shares the name and path of the lift. The conditions were good, and the crowds light, and I was itching to find my way up to the higher peaks. But it turns out, you basically have to hike up to the Challenge Mountain lifts - it doesn't seem like there is any traverse from the top of the beginner area that will drop you off by the upper mountain lifts. So I hiked up, and caught the Challenge lift to the top of the main part of the mountain.

At the bottom of the Challenge lift and it's parallel, Cannonball, there's a big sign that says "No Beginner Terrain". They aren't kidding. From the top of Challenge, you have your choice of blues and blacks. I had been hoping to take La Belle Dame down the top half, and then catch International back to the Challenge lift. But the pretty lady was otherwise engaged with the ski team's race competition. So instead, I found the other blue, Powderhorn, and picked up Sunset to get back to the Challenge lift. I actually skipped the Challenge lift, and took Cannonball, because it seemed to be running a bit faster, and it was.

Shortly after that, I decided to give the other blue slope a try, Windmill, but I took a wrong turn, and ended up skiing down Klondike, a black diamond, and then apparently catching Corona Road, because at the end of a very long run, I found myself at the Corona lift, which services the expert terrain of the Corona Bowl. So this is only my second time skiing this season, and my first time since early December. I'm really out of shape. So when I saw that my wrong turn had dumped me at the base of the expert bowl, I had a brief panic attack. But no sweat. I can ski.

So I took the Corona lift up to the top. The lift follows the ski run of the same name, which is a black diamond, but aside from being really long, it didn't appear that hard. It was groomed. It was at a 45 degree angle, which isn't particularly steep. And it's really wide. No sweat.

It turns out that Corona actually is a pretty easy run. It's just a very long run that doesn't give you a break anywhere... it's the same steep-but-not-too-steep pitch, the whole way down. So about a third of the way, I started to remember that not only am I out of shape, but that I'd added an extra five thousand feet of elevation. I stopped for a break and drank about half my bottle of water. Then I went and did another third. And stopped for another break.

I was carving the mountain fairly aggressively, and I think I was pretty successful. I didn't attempt any of the glades or the trails with bumps. But I did ski from the top to the bottom on some of the steeper terrain throughout the afternoon. I think once I'm back to my regular level of fitness, I'll be able to really have a good time on the trickier terrain.

Did I mention how glad I am to be here?

—Brian (3/2/2013 11:14 PM)
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