Seasons of a Ski Hill
One of my favorite things about living in a mountain town is the dramatic shifts we go through every season. I love the early autumn snowfalls, reminding me to get out my warm gear. Love the dark of December, the take-your-breath-away cold of midwinter inversion mornings. Love the lazy March afternoons when the sun starts to take its time, allowing for one more apres ski beer before the cold shade sends you home. Love the new green of May, the lazy river of midsummer Steamboat. I love it all, though it is not easy and requires a pretty constant adjustment of timing, clothing and attitude.
Same goes for this here ski hill. Mt. Werner and all her devoted employees go through a major undertaking every early season to get all systems in place to become a fully functioning ski resort. It is another right of passage for everyone who comes back to their winter job, and spirits are high on the slopes as we all return to our winter home.
Patrol is out running ropes to gradually open new terrain, marking obstacles, padding chairs. Snowmakers blaze around the hill in their Day-Glo orange, moving hoses and guns to get a solid base down on the main arteries that carry skiers from place to place. Ski school troops gather at the top of runs to ski drills, talking about form, learning techniques, ways to pace and motivate. Lifties smile and help, smile and help, smile and help. Everyone who works here takes so much pride in their jobs at this busy but not so crazy busy time of year. We’re turning this forest back into a resort, comfort, amenities, safety and fun included. It is a huge transition from the quiet fall days, when these mountains are largely empty save for the moose and bears.
For me, this time of year is about figuring out what I did with my poles on closing day last year. (Anyone found some old Black Diamond poles in their car that aren’t yours? Anyone?) Trying to remember to bring my neck warmer to keep my chin and cheeks protected from cold, dry Colorado groomer skiing breezes. Remembering to square my shoulders to the hill, look out far ahead, drive with my knees and bend at the ankles. It is about skiing out to High Noon to carve up the sunny corduroy, pretend I’m a racer (if you know me, you know I am definitely not a racer), challenge my thighs on the mini bumps and willow dodging on Two O’Clock, get into a skate ski groove as I rhythmically work my way back to Rainbow Saddle via Duster. It’s a long walk but it just feels good to be reintroduced to moving through space on my skis.
The mountain is quiet and there is room to cruise. Come take advantage of this busy but not so crazy time on the hill. Reconnect with your bundled up, winter loving, sore legged self. It’s one of my favorite rites of passage.
Happy Monday skier and riders.
Ali Givnish, Alpine skier
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