’16 inches’ says the Snow Goddess.
Did I hear that right? I call the WPR snow hotline again. It’s
usually a busy signal for a solid ½ hour after a 6-inch storm, yet here
sounds that familiar ring. Press 1, ’16 inches’ she cackles, mocking
my foggy cerebrum and the necessity to call twice.
I hit the
door running, but everyone else has already extricated themselves from
various positions; couch, recliners, there was even a guy sleeping
under the stairs on a dog’s bed.
“16 INCHES!!” I yell at the top
of my lungs as I take the steps down 3 at a time. I sound like the
poor soul calling “bring out your dead” in the days of the Bubonic
Plague, yet we are galaxies away from the 14th century Black Death,
staring at the beginnings of what may very well be the best ski day of
The emotions in the living room somehow ratchet up a
notch as I check the Colorado snow report. Vile Vail ends up with the
angry inch. Loveland is closest at 11 inches. Nobody else comes
within 10. Finally a winter, which had us all waiting, had delivered
in a big way.
We must have done something right; the Snow Gods
finally had our back with this storm – a Monday (sorry weekend
warriors), and completely missed by meteorologists (wish I could keep
my job with a below 50% success rate). The icing on the cake?
Berthoud Pass was closed, leaving ½ million skiers and riders stuck in
the Front Range metropolis.
No time to think about what went
right in the karma universe. Time to fuel up, gear up, and get after
it. First lap, ‘Do or Die Trees’, it’s the best it’s been all year and
nobody is here. Rock drop number 1 – soft and stomped.
the Super Gauge lift up from the base of Mary Jane. It stalls,
stranding us 5 lift towers from the top. 10 minutes pass, 15 minutes
pass. ‘What the heck is going on’ we all wonder? Clouds sock in the
upper portion of the mountain. The powder below remains unperturbed
with nobody unloading the 6-person lift. The serenity is enchanting,
but the grumbling from 2 chairs ahead and behind now speaks volumes of
the rapidly deteriorating powder day vibe.
I can’t take it
anymore, so I slip off the chairlift without as much as a goodbye. The
15-foot drop into the powder below leaves me grinning from ear to ear.
My partner in crime follows suit, yet doesn’t heed my advice about not
landing in my bomb hole. No worries, fat skis are reattached and we
ride off while all others sit, mouths agape. Bitter perhaps?
The next 6 hours are a blur of face shots and rock drops. We tag
everything in bounds with gusto. I meet up with a local snowboarder
who rides with poles and a backcountry pack, generally a good sign. We
take double stagers 1 at a time in the Rock Garden, cheering each other
There’s time for one more bus ride back from the Mary
Jane entrance / Highway 40 trees. It’s ½ full of tired riders and
skiers. It’s too late for a lift ride up the Super Gauge. There lies
a decision to make – take the easy green run down back to the Winter
Park base, or the challenging semi secret pillow drop line to the same
place. It’s not really a decision at all. There are only a few good
lines down really, certainly not enough for ½ a bus load of people.
The old ruse is employed – ‘driver, can you drop us off at my car right
here’, throwing the bro brahs off our scent. A few steps in the wrong
direction, a quick 180 and the uphill boot pack begins. The
aforementioned snowboarder with poles and I hit pillow after pillow
down the guts. Enormous chunks of snow fall off each as we land. He
stomps a 20-foot technical drop into little more than a 6x6 foot powder
landing to close out our epic day, and I get a photo just as he drops
in. It may very well be the only physical evidence that we gripped and
it ripped it on Monday, March 1st. “In like a lion” indeed.