Today as on many others, I skied with the Over The Hill Gang, a free service offered Sunday to Friday for skiers 50+ . This service offers a guided ski along program from 0900 until your legs give out.
As the regular plan, the OTHG met near the Covered Wagon at the Gondola Base @ 0900 and then boarded the Gondola. Those who have not skied with the Gang before need to sign a wavier of responsibility at the ski school desk at the top of the Gondy and attend to whatever else one needs to do before meeting on the snow @ 0930. If you miss the 0900 meeting or want to make a few runs prior to skiing with the Gang, you can join in at the 0930 start, or even after lunch at 1230.
Today's group was typical with several members of the Pentagon Ski Club From Washington DC, a couple of friends from Florida visiting some folks from Steamboat, a lady from OZ (Australia) and a couple of locals. Since there were about 15 skiers, I volunteered to assist with sweep duties and sometimes leading. As is the case with a larger group, we split into two separate groups, one more agressive and one more mellow. Both groups tend to ski the same trails with the more adventurous making fewer stops and sometimes venturing into the tress or moguls along the sides of the Blue and Groomed Black trails while the Mellow group sticking to the groomed parts of the same runs.
After a short run down Rudi's for some more self selection into the two groups, all headed down to Four Points Lift since the reports were Storm Peak was a trifle windy and definitely in the clouds. Usually, the Gang heads up Storm Peak Lift to make a run down Buddy's before the crowds get there or the pristine groomed snow gets too chewed up. Unloading at the top of Four Points, my group headed down Sunset where the snow was soft and the wind was more calm. Since the Sunshine Peak area was also socked in, after taking Moonlight to the base of Sunshine Express and Elkhead lifts, we went up Elkhead for a run down Lower Rainbow for another trip up Four Points for a short break at the Four Points Hut.
After some hot chocolate etc, we ventured out again, this time taking Upper Rainbow to Rainbow Saddle and across to Vagabond where again the visibility was much better and the snow still well manicured. A quick trip up Thunderhead Express found us at the top a little early for lunch so we took the entire length of Vagabond down to Thunderhead for a another loop back to the Thunderhead Building were we stopped for lunch.
Surprisingly the third floor food court was jammed packed, mostly with kids from ski school. Usually, they are pretty much limited to the second floor but there must have been some special days or something since both the second floor kids eating area and the third floor was swamped. We sort of split up and after lunch regrouped for the afternoon.
A number of folks dropped out as is normal, but the mellow group still consisted of six visitors, Erica the "official" guide and me the semi official helper. (Skiing with seven attractive ladies does the soul good.) Back down Rudi's and Lightning to the BC Lift for a trip over to the Sunshine Peak area aka Wally World via Sunny Side found us at the Sundown Express lift line. Taking Sundown Express to the top resulted in us being completely in the clouds, so much so, visibility was down less than 100 yards. Picking our way down to Flintlock, we emerged from the clouds near the start of the trail and found the wind had filled in almost all of the cut up snow for a smooth run down to South Peak Chair. The consensus of the group being that the visibility of the top of Sunshine Peak did not warrant another run, we rode South Peak chair where we divided into two groups, one taking Broadway, a Green and the others taking Westside, a "minor" Black. Erica reported that the sun broke through just as her group was hitting the steep part of Westside for a nice trip down where we met up for the short ski to Elkhead.
After the trip up Elkhead, two of the ladies decided to call it a day so I skied them to the Gondy for the ride down while Erica took the remaining for some additional runs.
Today was somewhat unusual with the wind and clouds so the "normal" sequence of runs was altered a bit but this blog entry should give you some ides of what to expect if you join the Gang for a day of guided skiing. Please come and join in for a day of relaxed skiing and also some description of various aspects of the Mountain and the Yampa Valley. I have met skiers from all over the country and the world skiing with the Gang and a number are real regulars, returning year after year, By way of an example, Gordon, a Scotsman who is a former RAF Fighter Pilot comes over the pond every year and skis almost every day with the Gang. If you happen to ski on Tuesdays, we have a Happy Hour at the Ptarmigan Inn @ 1530 (3:30 PM). That's the building you see from the Gondola with "Happy Hour" marked in the snow on the roof.