My knee-jerk reaction almost every time I ride the mountain is to immediately head up to the top. That’s usually where the best snow is. My favorite runs are all up there. It just seems like the place to be. However, there is a sect of people around town that forego the extra lift rides and vertical.

On powder days, they are the lonely flashes of color you see through the clouds making the first tracks down Heavenly Daze and Valley View. While I’m not sure I will ever have it in me to stay down low when there is a foot of snow up top, this morning I decided to remind myself what the lower mountain has to offer.

The plan: to hit all the runs off the Daze.

Halfpipe

I started with a high speed trip down the upper portion of the Daze to the entrance to Vertigo. From the top, it didn’t look very good, but I saw a ski patroller picking through the tiny treetops near the bottom, so I figured why not. Sometimes days with no new snow offer the chance to hone your skills in tough conditions. Two turns in, I immediately regretted my decision. The bumps where still soft on the top, but the grooves between them where rock hard. Now, I’m not one of those snowboarders who shies away from the bumps. In fact, I really enjoy them (when they are good, that is).

So, fresh off a lesson learned about the bumps on the lower mountain, I got on Thunderhead and headed back up to try something a little different. This time, I made the right choice and found myself all alone on Ted’s Ridge. It wasn’t groomed last night, but Ted’s was nice and smooth the whole way down making for a great run with lots of fun rollers to pop off of. The added benefit of taking Ted’s is that you can still make it back to the terrain park lift if you like. So I stopped off at the NASTAR course in Bashor Bowl to watch a few people carve through the gates then dropped into the super pipe to see just how brave I was feeling this morning.

Full disclosure: I’m over 30. I will probably never be good at the half pipe at this point, but it is still fun to surf the walls and get a little air here and there.

So far, I was one for two. 

Half pipe

The third time was the charm. I abandoned the Daze and my plan, then started down Vagabond. With barely anyone on the run and corduroy as far as the eye can see, this one was sublime. The light through the trees made for a pretty run and the view to the north was beautiful.

Finally, with several trips back up Thunderhead under my belt, it was time to head down. So just as the sun kissed the flanks of Valley View, I dropped in and was treated to one of the steepest groomed runs on the mountain with almost no one around. On a day like today, I suggest doing your best super G impression on this one and carving hard all the way across the run. The runout at the bottom allows for some pretty fast turns up top if you can set your edge hard enough.

Nastar race course

After a great morning on the lower mountain, I guess I can see why people might want to stay down low on a powder day. But don’t worry “lower mountain” people, I probably won’t be snaking any of your lines next time we get a big dump.

Dan Tullos, snowboarder

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