Braunholtz: Enjoy Vail’s powder days while they last |

Braunholtz: Enjoy Vail’s powder days while they last

Alan Braunholtz
Vail CO, Colorado

It doesn’t take many days of snow, wind and cold before the “will it never end” grumbles start to sneak out. I even heard myself muttering to some weather deity “just a few days of sun” before I could stop myself. I should know better; this is winter and it’s supposed to be snowy and cold.

I’m sure if you talk to some of the long time locals ” usually people riding on skis that have a traditional front and back end with the bindings mounted so they can even drive forward with the turn ” they’ll tell you how much colder and snowier Vail used to be.

This is one of the best skiing winters in the past decade or so. Terrain and trees that never open or are marginal at best now beckon with coverage so deep that even the side slippers can’t scrape it off. It’s a a great season to break away from the habitual routes and try some new stuff. At worst, you can go back to the tried-and-true the next day.

The cold temperatures are keeping the south-facing slopes crust- and crud-free. Of course the absence of sun for about a month helps out here. That old maxim of “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” applies this season. A quick glance at the people ripping it up on chair 5 as they emerge from the gusts of spindrift reveals that function does trump fashion after all.

The yang to the skiing’s phenomenal ying is the shoveling. Every epic day on the snow is followed by a less epic night of shoveling decks, lots and roofs. Property ownership has its downside, one of which is keeping your investment above ground. Keeping above snow seems impossible right now, and out in East Vail ground-floor apartments are virtual igloos.

Like Sylvester in Rocky III, tested by nature, I’ve finally worked myself into shoveling shape and am now ready to face “Drago” or the traditionally snowier months of February and March. Actually I think I’m resigned to it and fondly remember those older ski-bum days in crowded rental apartments when shoveling was something that older dudes wheezed and groaned away at while we partied. Luckily, our decks and stairs didn’t collapse and we never discovered that the inconvenience of finding a new place to live might trump the pain of handling a snow shovel. Now I’m one of those older dudes out there along with all of the other owner-occupiers shoveling and snow blowing away. It’s almost a Zen thing and gets therapeutic after awhile.

Big snow years also give the streets an exciting bobsled feel with high sides and a narrow icy track. This makes walking two senile and deaf dogs quite exciting. The trick is to remember that bobsleds don’t really have many directional options and to get out of the way. Legal rights and responsibilities are likely to become technicalities for the coroner to argue about.

I was just recalling how much vision I had after scraping off a postcard-sized square of frozen grime with an old broken CD cover (I knew that Lionel Ritchie CD kicking around the passenger seat floor was there for a reason!) when driving to work, late, with the defroster fan playing up. I wouldn’t assume that any driver can see anything.

Luckily the cold, combined with the dogs’ age, makes the walks shorter. The akita Numu has a hair-loss problem and is no longer temperature immune. She’s ceased dawdling on sub-zero mornings. She’s tough and still wants to go on “her” loop but now moves at a high-speed trot, which is fine by me. Calvin “the wimpy poodle mix ” isn’t so fine with this, trailing along with some goofy quick-quick-slow exaggerated gait designed to keep all of his feet off the snow for as long as possible. As yet he can’t levitate but lying down on his side with his feet in the air and a “why-the-hell-did-we-leave-a-perfectly-good-house” expression on his face has the same effect. I get to carry him home.

The snow will end. Models for climate change predict more intense but shorter winters for us. Get your turns in while you can. People will reminisce about this winter and it’ll be good to be one of them.

Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a column for the Daily. Send comments or questions to

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