“So when do you think Pano will open?’ Bryon asked.
The question that had been on everyone’s mind since last weekend’s big dump of snow. Winter Park received over 30 inches of fresh snow last weekend, and many trails opened last weekend and since. But one our favorite places to ski is up top off Parsenn Bowl, where you get a little bit of everything on the ski down.
The first part is a bowl above timberline, then it dips in to the trees, where you have the option to go left into the trees or head down the bumps towards the bottom of the lift. Finally, it filters on out onto a mellow blue groomed run.
I’d been keeping an eye on the trail reports, but no Panoramic lift running. I went skiing on Friday, thinking that might be the day.
Sure enough, as I got off the lift, I saw the sign with those magical words, “Panoramic – Open”.
As I headed towards the lift, I always saw the results of those magical words. A humongous lift line. You know, the kind that overflows the corral. The kind that you’re not sure it’s all that worthwhile to wait 25 minutes on a Friday.
All because of untracked powder at 12,000 feet.
Or as a fellow ski instructor called it, “Mad Pow Disease.”
The lure of first tracks is strong in Colorado, so strong that people will do just about anything for it, including spending most of a day climbing a mountain in skins, just to claim some untracked powder.
The great irony though over the stampede for powder off Panoramic was the result of that rush. Judging from the carnage I viewed from the lift, most of the people trying to ski in the powder, had no idea how to do it. While skiing powder makes for a great photo, it’s not without challenges.
Contrary to popular opinion, you do not want to sit back. You do need to still pressure the front of your boots with a balanced stance. But you have to ski a very direct line to push through all that deep snow. As my friend says, “In powder, speed is your friend.” The average skier is not used to that type of skiing and instead tried to make the usual loopy turns and gets tossed around like a rag doll.
At a ski resort, to sample some fresh “pow”, you mostly have to be lucky. You have to be lucky to live close enough to head over the morning after a big dump. You have to be lucky enough to be standing next to the rope, when the ski patrol drops it. You have to be lucky enough to be skiing on a day when it is dumping and the roads close and no one else can get there.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to have all three. I lived in ski towns for many years, where I could go skiing at a moment’s notice with just a quick 10-minute drive.
Six years ago, during a quiet Wednesday afternoon in December, I was standing on Mary Jane Trail, when the ski patrol dropped the rope for access to the terrain off the Challenger lift.
Four years ago, Bryon and I had the good fortune to ski one day when it snowed 18 inches from the time the lifts opened until they closed. Berthoud Pass closed due to avalanches and Mary Jane was deserted. Every run down provided fresh powder, because the snow fell so hard.
It is a sweet feeling, to whoop and holler as snow sprays up into my face. Something about an epic powder run brings out the kid in me.
Maybe I’ll be lucky again soon.