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Imminent season triggers nostalgia attack

Bob Berwyn

Watching the snow guns spray their white magic around Summit County in recent days has unleashed some serious ski fever among locals and triggered stimulating discussions about greatest-ever runs and favorite trails. Without much ado or introduction, I’d like to present my own list, not as a definitive document on the subject, but merely as a little riff on what makes skiing so cool. I’m not putting these down in any particular order or according to a well-organized system to the contrary, this is more of an exercise in free association. I hope it elicits some reverie of your own.In Summit County, I have only one favorite, and that’s the steep tree skiing on the Pali side of A-Basin. I’ve been exploring this little patch of old growth timber for years now, and every season I seem to find new lines a little traverse that leads to an untouched patch of snow, or a sphincter-tightening gully on the lower fall-away pitch that’s hemmed in by jagged rocks. This area is a true skiing playground, where the snow settles naturally and stays crispy and fresh all season long, protected from the ravages of sun and wind by big trees and a steep northern exposure.From my childhood, chock-a-block with great skiing memories, a couple of places really stand out. Army brats out there may remember the cogwheel train that climbed from the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen to the Zugspitzplatt, a snowfield near the summit of Germany’s highest peak. For the last several miles, the train ran inside the rocky guts of the mountain, making an intermediate stop at a place called Tunnelfenster (translated literally as tunnel window). Unloading at that stop, skiers could hike out through a tiny slot in the rock to the top of an ungroomed run that ended up back down near the Eibsee, a spectacular alpine lake at the base of the mountain. I don’t remember if this run had an official name, but we always called it by the name of the train stop: Tunnelfenster Abfahrt. The top pitch was intimidating, even into my teen years, but my dad made it fun, even when the snow was manky spring glop or frozen zipper crust. It was a long run, too, wending its way through the terrain via the scenic route, with little side-stepping detours to overlook points.I also remember the gentle bunny slope where I made my first turns ever, the Kirchenwiese (literally, church meadow) in Saalbach, Austria. This was nothing more than a gently tilted field with a long, flat run-out, perfect for developing confidence. It’s not so much the terrain that is memorable, but the setting, right in the middle of a quaint Austrian village, within sight of the church, the post office, the butcher shop and the bakery. As we skied, the villagers went about their daily business on all sides. Looking back, it seems such a harmonious integration of skiing and life, probably contributing to my hopelessly unrealistic expectation of what modern skiing should be like.I’ll always remember my Sierra Nevada home, the Hilton Creek Hostel at Crowley Lake, just a few miles outside Mammoth Lakes. The hostel was perched at the foot of a giant moraine, covered with typical eastside scrub vegetation. But in those oh-so-grand El Nino years, the snow piled up six, eight, 10-feet deep all around the house, and the moraine became a private powder playground, with about 1,000 feet of perfectly pitched vertical right outside the kitchen door. I named every gully and each lone pinon pine, leaving tracks that lingered for days, finally filling in when the next Pacific storm swirled across the crest of the range.It seems I’ve run out of room and barely even dented my list. Oh well, I guess you’ll just have to start your own!Bob Berwyn is a freelance writer in Silverthorne looking forward to discovering another favorite run in his 42d season on skis.


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