We always ski Christmas Day. It’s a tradition. Get out early, blow off the previous evening’s overindulgences and work up an appetite for the festivities ahead. At most, we’re out for an hour, two at a push.
But this year was different. On top of the previous day’s 9 inches, Mother Nature dumped 18 inches in Winter Park, CO. We were skiing all day.
Our first ride up the Zephyr gave us a hint of what was to come. Patrol were just dropping the rope on the infamous Outhouse. As much as I love that run, I love my skis more. There’ll be plenty of time to shred Outhouse once the holidaymakers have packed it down and returned their trashed rental skis.
We made a beeline for Jabberwocky, a gentle blue on the Winter Park side. It’s been a while since we skied this much snow so we thought we’d get our feet under us first. We quickly realized that so much snow required a greater pitch, so abandoned Jabberwocky for the steeper Cheshire Cat instead. As we approached the top of the run I came to a standstill in powder up to my knees… a couple of pole pushes later and we were making turns, hugging the treeline skiers left, whooping and taking face shots. Best. Christmas. Ever. Launching off the cat-track and floating left and right, as the pitch increased. The powder wasn’t the super light blower pow that Colorado’s famous for, maybe a little wet and heavy, but it was easy enough to move around. We then had White Rabbit to ourselves, and skier’s left of Cranmer was just unbeatable.
No lift lines, helped by the fact that Berthoud Pass was closed for the second time in three days, meaning no one from Denver could get to us, meant our legs only got the minimum rest between runs. We headed to the famous Mary Jane side via the brand new, and controversial, Sober Englishman and dropped into Gandy Dancer. Mary Jane is world famous for her bump runs, and Gandy Dancer is one of the shorter ones. We were floating between and over newly formed moguls in almost bottomless powder, smiles on our faces. We then headed down Mary Jane trail and I kept thinking ‘When is she going to stop, I need a break?!’ as my quads burned and my partner just kept on making turns.
Arrowhead Loop and Rainbow Cut were just as awesome, and although the trails were starting to get tracked out and cut up, there were plenty of fresh lines to be had at the sides. And the snow was still falling. All over the mountain Patrol were dropping ropes as the storm made up for the so far dry December, covering all the junk poking up through the base. Riflesight Notch, open. Gambler and Aces & Eights. Open. Engledive. Over & Underwood, Sluice Box, Pine Cliffs, all opened.
From the Super Gauge chair, the sounds of whooping and yelling could be heard across the mountain. A female snowboarder, who’d poached under a rope, shouted ‘Don’t do this!’ up to chairs of laughing riders as she tried to dig herself out of the snow above her waist. And still no lift lines.
Sleeper was epic, needing a couple of stops on the way down to rest burning quads. We finished the day by taking Switchyard to Lonesome Whistle, still finding knee high untracked powder, and watching out for people popping out of the trees unannounced in front of us.
Winter has finally arrived in Colorado, and this week Winter Park was one of the winners. Much needed snowfall gave resorts the opportunity to immediately open more terrain for the holiday crowds, and the on-mountain crews more to work with to get even more open in the next few days.
What’s for certain is that the out-of-staters here for the holidays had a Christmas Day they’ll talk about for years. ‘Remember that year we were at Winter Park and they had 18 inches of snow?’
Christmas dinner and present swapping can wait. No friends on a powder day, right. Stoked.