4/6-?/2017 Summit county, Colorado -- Spring skiing

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  1. #1

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    4/6-?/2017 Summit county, Colorado -- Spring skiing

    I'm finally back at Silverthrone, Colorado. Unfortunately, I will have relatively limited internet connection for a while because the cabin I'm crashing in is in a remote part of the village. And since my cell phone's data plan had been exhausted by my posting pictures, and also viewing other people's trip report that contains lots of photos. I'm at a big handicap in posting pictures in my trip report. Ironically, this is the time of year when sunshine is abundant and pictures would be good.

    Give the limited internet access. I'll keep my reports short. Also, we've been here before. It's familiar ground. And there's no much exciting new snow in the forecast either (I unfortunately missed the Monday/Tuesday storm).

    4/6, A-basin, Sunshine1

    A-basin is a mountain I only go to when the sky is clear. Due to its high elevation, a lot of its terrain are above tree line. Very difficult to ski when visibility is limited. Today is one such sunshine day. Me and my host went for it.

    We started late since there's no new snow anyway. We figure we also need to wait for the sun to soften some of the off-piste areas. Being a mid-week day in April with no powder, there's no crowd to speak of. We parked right at the front row despite the late start.

    We lapped the groomers for a bit. They were slow to soften. So we went over to Metazuma Bowl in hope the south facing part soften up sooner than the front side. We had decent soft condition in the groomers, but the off piste really wasn't worth doing just yet.

    Back to the front side and to Black Mountain lodge for an early lunch (my host has to go to work at this point). I was hungry for some reason even though I hadn't skied that much yet. So I pigged out with a smoke 1/4 chicken. Boy that was good!

    Fortified with the big lunch, I went back up and explored the East Wall. It's facing west so it's soften by now. But the traverse was a bit scary because some of the exposed rocks. The condition of the snow wasn't quite worth it either.



    At this point of the day, I would have normally head over to Pali and get myself work up on them bumps. But because I was in lower elevation for much of the previous weeks, I was out of breath just skiing along the groomer. So bump bashing in this state of my physical condition wasn't terribly appealing.

    At a lose of what to do but too early to quit, I had a flash of an idea. I skied back to my car, which was parked only steps from the lift, and changed into my tele boot. I only started half-heartedly trying tele the previous season. Didn't get that many runs in last season. For this season long road trip, I thought I would get a lot of time on my tele setup in addition of regular skiing on my alpine gear. But there were so many powder days (or days when condition were really quite good), I didn't want to waste them on putting around at the green groomers. So today is actually the first day I put on my tele setup this season!

    Condition on the groomer were actually quite soft and smooth. Perfect for practicing new skills. And the total lack of crowds means I was able to make slow lazy turns taking up half of the trail. I had fun and got reasonably comfortable on my tele setup. I ventured on some blue groomers also, was surprised at how little trouble I encountered. (whenever I'm scared, I can always switch back to parallel alpine turns) By then, it's already 3 o'clock and the lower mountain groomers were turning a bit slushy, which is much more hazardous on free heel setup (a sudden slow down when encountering slush can easily sent a freeheeler over the tip). I contemplated about doing some blue off-piste, but decided prudence demands not risk any potential injury. Besides, I really would like to end on a good note also.
    Last edited by abc; Apr 8, 2017 at 12:53 AM.

  2. #2

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    Day 2 (4/7/2017) Breckenridge – windy, sun and clouds

    Since A-basin wasn’t all that soft yesterday, I decided I need not get up early to do first chair…anywhere. But reality is, today is warmer than yesterday. Furthermore, Breckenridge has these ridiculously flat run outs at the bottom of every peak…

    Moreover, I also forgot how long it takes to get from parking to actual skiing at Breck: instead of stepping off the car and step on to the lift, there’s shuttle bus + gondola to negotiate, which takes a good part of an hr!

    So, instead of being on the mountain about 10, I got to the top of Peak 8 at 11 One run down peak 7 was a miserable big slush-fest. "Stay high", as my friend suggested earlier. Since the Imperial chair wasn't running but the t-bar was. That made for the highest accessible lift. It was just soften up just perfect. So I lapped it a few times.

    But, there're only so many runs I could do without being able to rest my legs in between runs. So I moved to Peak 10 which has some steeper runs. But it too, had gotten a bit too soft due to facing more east than north. So a couple runs was enough. It's time for lunch...

    Post lunch, I had to make my way back to the t-bar, which wasn't the easiest for someone who doesn't ski it day in and day out. So, after one or two false starts and some extra chairs rides and runs in the slush, I finally made it to the t-bar at 3:10 (t-bar closes at 3:15). Along the way, I saw people coming off Horseshoe bowl and it looked kind of nice. But on the ride up, I saw the wind had thrown some loose snow on the groomer Pika, which looked like quite nice. So I decided I'd take the bird in hand instead of the run on other side of Horseshoe bowl. That was a very good run. And, as I was nearing the bottom of the run, I saw a bunch of patrollers riding up on the bar. I thought to myself, well, that must be the sweep party after the closing of the t-bar. But, as I cruised to the entrance of the t-bar, I saw there's nothing to indicate it was closed. So I slid my way into the staging line, saw the liftie still there ready for service. So I continued forward and a bar was handed to me. There I go for one more run! This time, I came down Horseshoe bowl, which turn out to be a bit manky and not quite as nice as the wind refreshed groomer. So at the bottom of the bowl, I decided I didn't want to bother to see if the t-bar was by any mystery still running.

    The run down to the gondola was really slow and no fun at all. But I expected that anyway.

    It was a decent day. Wish there's a way to lap part of the mountain that's not entirely slush-fest, WITH CHAIR rather than t-bar.

  3. #3

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    Day 3 (4/7/2017) Breckenridge – windy, sun and clouds AGAIN! AND many stopped lifts too

    Weather today was pretty similar to yesterday. So since it worked out reasonably well, we tried to duplicate yesterday’s strategy.

    First thing, we headed for Peak 10, though not without enjoying a couple of nice soft groomers along our way. The steeper black groomers on Peak 10 was in perfect shape. Not many people over there either. So we didn’t hurry. Just taking our time making gazillion turns and enjoying carving into the soft cream cheese surface.

    Unfortunately, our lassie fare journey was cut short when the Falcon chair stopped. We were told it’s a minor mechanical and would be 10-15 minutes before it’ll be operational again. We figured that’s enough time to take a lap at Peak 9. We did a lap, on our way back up, we saw the Falcon chair was turning again. So we headed back, jump on the chair with a few hundred other skier anxious to harvest the cream cheese.We got one more run before it too, turned slushy. The 20 min delay in the lift op cost us an extra run.

    Next up, t-bar.

    Since the Imperial chair wasn’t running, nor was Peak 6, there were not much option for top-to-bottom slopes that are steep enough to keep us moving in the slush. Practically all the trails end with a flat run out that’s so slow it crawls instead of “run”.

    T-bar was “it”.

    But to our grave disappointment, when we hauled out butt all the way from Peak 10 to the t-bar, it was not spinning! There weren’t even a soul nearby to give us some information whether the stoppage was temporary or for the rest of the day.

    It’s approaching 11:30. So we made our way through the sludge pool at the bottom of Peak 8 and parked our disappointed butts in the cafeteria for an early lunch. My grilled Mahi-Mahi bacon sandwich hit the spot alright since we weren’t in a hurry to go back out prompto anyway. My friend polished off the mountain of fries that came with it (it's not cheap at $15, but the portion was big enough to feed 2, so not too bad after all)

    After lunch, my friend had to leave to go to work. So I went back outside intending to head back up high towards the t-bar to see if it's spinning. As I boarded the Rocky Mountain Superchair, I saw a helicopter heading towards the same direction… “hmmm… that doesn’t bode well”.

    A few minutes later, we saw it landed on the snow, and a sled was nearby while a big group of people in various color of the ski area’s different uniform crowded over the sled. Clearly, something had gone terribly wrong with whoever it was on the sled to require a helicopter. And the mystery of all the stopped lift were solved. The lefties were drafted to form a security perimeter line around the heli.

    Without any option, I elected to just lap a couple runs. Fortunately, I found a short section of bumps and slashed away. I didn’t exactly want to do bumps today, not yet fully acclimatized. But beggar can’t afford to be chooser…So I did that to occupy the time.

    Fortunately, the EMT and resort medical people were efficient and the helicopter flew away shortly. And with it gone, the several stopped lifts started spinning again.

    So, back on the t-bar!

    But unfortunately, the cloud came in while we were gone (inside, having lunch). With relatively low contrast, I was a bit worried that it’s too easy to get disoriented and wander down some side ravine with no way out. So I stuck to the runs I've done before.

    After a couple runs, the visibility got to me. Not able to see the terrain. And after all, the snow was only ok, not exactly premium powder. I called it a day.

    Inside of me, I was really hoping the forecast of snow for Saturday night would over-perform (forecast was only for a few inches).
    Last edited by abc; Apr 9, 2017 at 8:39 PM.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by abc View Post
    Day 2 (4/7/2017) Breckenridge – windy, sun and clouds

    (not sure if it's my slow internet connection or slow forum software. Sometimes I have to type the same letter twice or 3 times for it to appear, which really cuts my motivation to post)
    Sounds like a broken computer or typists. I typed this whole post without internet with no problems. Just can't submit the post till i turn the internet back on.

  5. #5

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    I typed the previous post (day 2) alright without problem a few hours ago.

    But now, letters aremissn...
    Last edited by abc; Apr 9, 2017 at 8:41 PM.

  6. #6

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    Well, it's not me or my computer.

    A wait of a day got the post "stick" (see above on the result of the edited version for day 3)
    Last edited by abc; Apr 9, 2017 at 8:50 PM.

  7. #7

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    Day 4 (4/9/2017, Sunday) Keystone --Boring scratchy groomer

    This trip report is going to get real boring pretty soon (if it isn't already)

    The storm expected for this weekend fizzled out. Most mountains only got an inch, on top of re-frozen coral reef. Vail and Beaver Creek did get 6" over the night. That should be just about enough to cover up all the old, refrozen coral reef we've got the last couple days. So I was all ready to go "get it" until my host, who's a transport specialist, reminded me to check the road condition over Vail pass. Well, it was closed in both direction at 8 o'clock!

    Although it was open not too long after, there's obvious traffic back up. There's also the worry that, this being a Sunday, coming back would be another bottle neck on the pass at the end of the day. Suddenly, 6" doesn't seem all that great to risk getting stuck in I-70 traffic for a couple hours either way. I resigned myself to some left overs tomorrow (Monday) sans traffic and road condition worries.

    Granted, I wasn't super motivated because, after a season long of many similar or bigger powder, one does get kind of jaded and doesn't feel like risking on the snowy pass for mere 6"!

    So to pass the day, I got on to my tele rig and went cruising the groomer at Keystone for a few hours. Without new snow, the groomer were firm and boring. Some snow came during the day, but it just got pushed away without sticking. For me, it felt good to use a different set of muscle for a change.

    Tomorrow, I'll probably head over to Beaver Creek ($5 parking instead of the $25 at Vail) to see if I could find any left over powder.

    The rest of the week (and next week), it'll be really warm. I don't relish dealing with the slush-fest at the bottom of either Breck or Keystone. So I'll most likely focus on A-basin which has a higher base and hopefully less slush. This is a bit of a shame. As much as I enjoy AB, I was hoping to get a chance to explore Breck a lot more this season with my Epic pass. But they had such a poor 2nd half of their season that it just wasn't all that appealing. Now that we're in spring mode, but the weather doesn't seem to cooperate to produce corn either (corn production needs cold nights, which they're not getting). As for Keystone, I just got to know it a little better from my last stay in February. I would have loved to explore it a bit more too. But sadly, it looks like it's not in the cards this year.

    Like I said, this trip report is getting boring fast...
    Last edited by abc; Apr 9, 2017 at 8:50 PM.

  8. #8
    We were at Breck on Saturday and you described it pretty well. We got there around 9:30 and went from Peak 8 over to Peak 10 more or less right form the get go visa application Frosty’s Freeway and E Chair. From Peak 10 we did a few runs and while the snow was heavy it skied well - pretty wet corn. Going lower than the Falcon Chair was a sticky mess. We did a couple runs front the murder url Chair and while the higher sections skied well, eight before the lift was sticky. We then headed to Peak 8.then skied to the T-bar and also skied Pikachu and then Four O'clock. They skied well and were probably were the best runs of the day but the T-bar was kicking our asses. Ended up calling it a day around 3.



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  9. #9

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    Day 5, Tell it to the Beavers (Beaver Creek) -- a resort of escalator, cookies & $10 full price parking to ski half the mountain.
    Weather: sunny, 40's
    Condition: sweet leftover powder & corn

    A day that one must choose between one more soft bump run vs warm cookies

    Beaver Creek got 10" over the last 24 hours (Vail got 8") while the rest of the mountains got 2"! But since Vail pass was closed for a while due to accident yesterday morning, I didn't go over DURING the storm. So it's only natural I'm hoping to get some leftovers today.

    With Vail's parking cost $25, the $10 at BV sounds like a bargain. Except, they decided to close half of their terrain on their last week of operation. Why? Just for ONE week? How much does it save them? At what expense to the guest experience? Well, I hope the bean counters got their yearly bonus.

    What they didn't change, was the $10 parking. But at reduced bus frequency. So, half the terrain, twice as long to wait for the parking lot shuttle bus, but same price to park! Well done!!!

    Anyway, it's still less than half the price of Vail. And 2 extra inches of snow. And there will be cookies.

    Last time I skied there, I was too buy skiing and missed the cookies. This time, I fully expect to partake fully in that bits of extra curriculum activities.

    I arrived at the parking a few minutes before 9, got a spot 3 space to the bus hut! I guess their strategy worked in discouraging people from driving in. People simply don't come to ski BV, I suspect.

    No line at the lift, no surprise.

    I consulted the ski host (with the big "I" on their back). Surprisingly, she suggested I head straight to the bumps!!! OK, I did ask where I could find soft snow. She reassured me "the 10" of snow filled in the space between the bumps"!

    On the way to the Rose Bowl chair, the blue groomer felt really smooth, if not exactly soft. I made a mental note of cruising some of the other pristine groomer too. On the chair up, I saw one skier scratching her way down the run below the chair. Not all ice, just at the bottom of the trough between the bumps. It's also clear there's quite a bit of powder on the top of the bump. It's a matter of technique then, to harvest the powder and avoiding the ice.

    On the other side of the trail, another skier was making nice smooth turns in the less pronounced bumps. So when I got off the chair, that's the side of the trail I aimed for. Before reaching that section, I managed to find a few short patches of smooth powder, albeit with slightly crunchy stuff I could barely feel underneath.

    Top of the bump field was full of smooth powder, the full 10" thickness! Very sweeeet...

    But as the trail steepens, the bumps started to show. And the trough between the bump were scratched off. Not exactly what I paid $10 park to find.

    I realized I need to give the bumps some time to soften up. So I executed my other plan of cruising the freshly groomed runs. They were just starting to soften now, which is much more enjoyable.

    Also alongside the groomed runs, were plenty of slightly undulating but not quite bumped up off-piste that has powders untouched by the few who were here yesterday. I took full advantage of those.

    IMG_1034.jpg

    More over, there were a few small glades with widely spaced trees that still have relatively untouched powder as well. So I busied myself with those for the next hour or so.
    Last edited by abc; Apr 12, 2017 at 1:25 PM.

  10. #10

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    Next up, the Birds of Prey and Grouse Mountain area.

    To get to that sector, I took Red Tail, which is a blue groomer. It's now close to lunch time(~12pm). The sun and the temperature was such this trail was creamy smooth! Needless to say, I repeated it a couple more times. The icing on the cake, there's a section of untouched leftover powder next to it (admittedly, requiring a careful traverse of 15 yard which has a few small rocks showing, I neverthe less managed it several times with my ski's base unscathed)

    After the picking of the low hanging fruit at Red Tail, it's time to attack the proper bumps at Grouse Mountain. The bumps were soften up, but unfortunately not uniformly. So on any one trail, there were good soft stretches followed by icy troughs in other stretches.

    All the while, the groomers were softening up and turning into sweet corn fast. I was like "wow, I want to repeat this one. But the next one is probably just as good. I should gp check it out!" Lunch hour came and went. I was compelled to kept on skiing, knowing the condition would change in a matter of minutes as the sun marches on west. Fortunately, I had my lunch in my pocket anyway, so I just much away on the chair.

    Soon, the clock turn 2:30, then 2:45. It was getting close to "cookie time" of 3 o'clock. The dilemma being, the Birds of Prey and Grouse Mountain chair both close at 3 (as does Rose Bowl). So, there's only time for 1 more run in my favorite trails before the chair close. And doing so would also means I miss the cookies!
    Last edited by abc; Apr 11, 2017 at 12:48 AM.

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