Well, I had an only-in-Colorado experience yesterday — skiing at Arapaho Basin the week after Memorial Day weekend is something I can definitely say I haven’t done before. I’m a pretty diehard skier, but even I was feeling a bit ambivalent about skiing in late May. But my sweet husband had given me a 3-pack to A-Basin as a gift for Christmas and I still had one more punch left on it, so felt compelled not to waste it. So even though it was fifty degrees here in Nederland when I got up at 7 a.m, I put on my ski pants, grabbed my gear and hit the road. I was convinced it would be fairly warm, so didn’t bother with my ski parka, instead opting for a thin base layer and Patagonia Nanopuff jacket.
As I drove over Loveland Pass, it was pretty obvious where the snow levels have been the last couple of weeks. At 10,000 feet and above, there were copious amounts of snow blanketing the mountains, and you could see several places near the road where avalanches had careened down. At first I got worried the ski area wasn’t open, as I didn’t see anyone skiing down the slope. But upon closer inspection, I could see the chairs moving, and a few ant-like creatures schussing down the slopes. As I pulled into the parking area, there were a smattering of cars perhaps around 60-70, and the temperature gauge read 38 degrees. As I pulled on my ski boots, I could feel the stiff breeze and the cold air, and thought that perhaps I should have dressed a bit warmer. I did change out my thinner base layer for a SmartWool top I had thrown in at the last minute.
I hauled my skies over to the lift loading zone, clipped into my skis and pushed myself towards the chair. I somehow left part of my pole behind in the lift maze — how’d that happen? My pole snapped in two as I was pushing off — well I guess it really is the last day of the ski season if my poles were done. I hadn’t brought my wallet, so didn’t have the money to rent another pair, so just went pole-less for the day — a very interesting experience in itself.
It’s curious the kind of people you meet on the lifts who are skiing this late in the season. As you might guess, some striking similarities emerged among the people I met. Everyone was a diehard skier, and loved skiing — bragged about how many days they skied during the season (everyone had 30 days or more). There were decidedly more men than women, many of the men skiing on their own. I seemed to be the exception, with all the other women skiing with guys. Everyone was from Colorado, and fairly local, with no one hailing from farther than Denver.
I heard some interesting stories — one guy was skiing because it was his birthday, and he loved skiing and had never been able to ski on his birthday before. I guess if your birthday is in late May, there are not many opportunities to go skiing in other parts of the country. I met another guy who recently relocated from Chicago and loved Colorado and the chance to ski so much. But perhaps the most interesting story I heard all day came from an older man who lived in Denver. He told me of a German man, Rainer Hertrich, who worked as a Snowcat Operator for Copper Mountain, who skied every continuously for eight years. He skied every day in Colorado until the resorts closed, then skied in Oregon, then flew to Chile and skied there. He’d probably still be doing it every day except that a serious heart condition forced him to hang his skis up on doctor’s orders.
Despite my reluctance at getting up and going skiing on May 27, in spite of snapping my pole, even in the midst of brisk winter-like temperatures, complete with grappel, I had a really fun time. The snow was much better than I had anticipated, and there’s something amazing to know you are skiing during a time when 99 percent of people are basking in hot temperatures. At the end of the day, I was even a little bit sad to know this was my last day skiing for this season. However, even having said all of that, you will not catch me flying to Chile anytime soon to continue my ski season – even I am not that crazy about skiing.