Braunholtz: Winter’s last hurrahs inspire outdoor activity | VailDaily.com
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Braunholtz: Winter’s last hurrahs inspire outdoor activity

Alan Braunholtz
Vail, CO Colorado

March is a honeymoon period if you cycle to work. The roads are mainly ice free (underpasses excepted), frostbite isn’t inevitable and it’s light enough to see and more importantly be seen.

Drivers’ attitudes are also great as they slow down, give a wide berth and are generally very nice. Not sure why? They could be worried that you’ll fall at any second and mess up their wheel wells. A friend thinks it’s either respect, as any winter cyclist is dangerously nuts, or sympathy ” as you must have a DUI or other affliction that prevents you from driving.

Unfortunately, this will start to change in April as our attention turns from winter to summer sports. Recreational cyclists swarm onto the roads and motorists start to see me less as a novelty and more as an irritant. Selfishly I’d prefer if we all waited till the mountain has closed before morphing into summer mode.

It’s amazing how fickle we are, always wanting what we can’t have. This fits right in with our “marketing for more” culture. If someone feels pretty satisfied with what they’ve got, then somewhere a marketing team has let their “side” of consumerism down.

The mountain is a small case in point. A couple of warm and sunny days and attention shifts to the next cycle in our sporting lives. Anticipation is great for planning purposes and the seasonality of our lives here plays a large part in keeping us all fresh.

The seasons are also a reminder of how powerless and powerful we are where nature is concerned. We can no more stop the seasons than King Canute could halt the tides, but our technology, infrastructure and wealth allow us to live here well-fed, warm and comfortable year-round. Nature affects our view and sports but not much else – we still eat strawberries whenever we want.

We’ve had the best snow in years and the mountain will provide brilliant spring skiing for the next two weeks. This is the time to channel all that hunger for skiing you’ll feel next October. Ride it now. November typically provides a few man-made ribbons of death while April gives you a whole mountain of any snow condition you may want to sample.

Why spend the time and money to drive west to mountain bike, kayak etc when the mountain is right here right now? OK so there’s not so much powder and you’ve got bored with straight lining everything in bounds. Why not learn to turn a little better as it looks to be the forgotten skill in this era of “extreme” air, speed and tricks. Falling off a cliff gives you a maximum acceleration of one G (until you land and experience all sorts of decelerating forces). Arcing a turn ” if you’re good enough ” can give you two or three times that and a thrill many people never experience.

Our mountain closes April 13, and my heart is with those who eke out every last turn. For true addicts, Highlands bowl in Aspen provides an alternative to the beach at A-Basin for the last two weekends in April. That should be a bit of a festival in steep terrain usage. Anticipation usefully keeps me grounded though. Getting hurt on the last weekend is an annoying irony. Safety is often little more than looking ahead. Mud and summer seasons are definitely worth planning for, physically and financially.

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


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