Addicted to skiing
May 1, 2011
VAIL – Local chairlifts might not be running, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t skiing.
A week after Vail Mountain called it a season, local skiers and snowboarders are riding down mountains the hard way.
Skinning into the backcountry might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for many locals, it’s the only way to go once the ski resorts close.
“That’s why we live in Vail, right? For skiing,” said Brian Rodine, of Vail.
Rodine is heading up to the Hidden Treasures yurts on New York Mountain this weekend for some spring skiing. It’s a six-mile trek in to the yurt, but Rodine and his buddies, who have been skinning up Vail Mountain over the past few days, are prepared for the workout.
“The snow’s been really good,” Rodine said.
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Local professional skier Drew Rouse has skied Beaver Creek a couple of times this week. He said he’ll get dropped off at the top of Bachelor’s Gulch and just skin up toward Strawberry Park and Larkspur Bowl. He had a good powder day just a couple of days ago, he said.
“I’m just taking advantage of a lot of snow. … I just really love skiing,” Rouse said. “Ninety percent of my friends are still (skiing and) riding.”
So while continuous snowfall kills the motivation to do just about anything for some people, skiers and riders such as Rouse and Eagle-Vail resident Mike Whitfield are super-charged with motivation to get more powder turns in this season.
Whitfield rode in the Gore Range on Friday morning with Will Spilo, an Alaska heli-snowboarding guide and Vail resident. For these big-mountain riders, this is the time of year when things start looking really good.
Whitfield said there’s a lot of work you have to put into riding big mountains in late April and May, but all the pain is worth it.
Whitfield just got back from a helicopter snowboarding trip in Alaska. You’d think he would have gotten his big-mountain fix up there, but he came back to Colorado a couple of days earlier than planned because of the conditions.
“Colorado is just coming into its epic time of the year for big-mountain skiing and snowboarding,” Whitfield said. “There’s not any other time you can ride steep, dangerous lines and have stable snow to do it in.”
Spilo, who has three months of big-mountain snowboarding behind him in conditions many of us only see in the movies, still isn’t sick of the sport, either.
“It’s so good that I’m still psyched to go skinning after three months on a helicopter,” Spilo said.
Thursday’s higher temperatures hurt conditions a bit, but Spilo said Friday’s storm is going to refresh the slopes with powder and make conditions really nice again.
Spilo enjoys local big-mountain spots, but there’s just so many “Colorado classics” that he said are dying to be ridden.
“This time of year, you can still ski powder and do it safely,” Spilo said. “Right now, you have that spring stability with fresh snow on top; it makes it ideal.”
Whitfield said the month of May in Colorado is typically great for big-mountain riding, but this year, the snow conditions are just adding to that greatness.
“We’re so lucky right now,” Whitfield said.
And when May is over, Spilo isn’t finished yet, either. He heads down to Chile around June so he can snowboard some more.
Turns out he’s human, though, as even Spilo is sick of seeing the snow falling down low in the valleys.
“I really would prefer if it stayed up high,” he said. “I’m looking for sunny weather down low. We’re Coloradans – we’re used to perfect conditions.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.