I think La Niña must be a 12 year-old girl. Last year, we were BFFs and she shared her snow with skiers in Colorado and Utah. This year, I don’t know what happened. Was it something we said? Maybe she didn’t like the way we took her for granted, skiing right on through the summer and expecting her to return in October. Maybe we didn’t wear the right clothes, or worse yet, she suspects we might have feelings for El Niño (we don’t, really!). Whatever happened, she’s dumped us and gone up north to play in Oregon and Wyoming. She’s cutting us, and it hurts.
Still, we’re resilient. Over the past month, I’ve skied three resorts in Utah and two resorts in Colorado. While the snow was lighter than normal at each of these resorts, we still had a great time. So, before you hang up your skis, or cancel your trip to the Rockies or the Wasatch, consider the following:
1. Gun snow is still snow. I know, I know. Man made snow is no one’s first preference. But it’s been really cold in December and resorts have been making snow like crazy. They’ve been covering trails and supplementing terrain parks and guess what? It’s skiing pretty good.
2. Early storms provided a good base. October was a huge snow month in 2011 with unexpected resorts, like Wolf Creek, Colorado opening early. November wasn’t bad either. So even without consistent storms in December, there was already cover.
3. Any day skiing is better than…..Well, I usually say “cleaning the garage” but you should fill in the blank as you see fit. We’re skiing, and skiing a lot, despite the lack of daily fresh powder. Most resorts are expert at managing the snow they’ve got and doing a great job. And, when the storms come we’ve found some great pow at both Powderhorn and Aspen. These storms may be sporadic, but in between systems we’ve had some awesome bluebird days.
Still not convinced? Here are a few ideas for enjoying winter at a ski resort, with or without La Niña.
1. Try something new. So you always ski, but have thought about snowboarding (or vice versa)? This season might give you the perfect opportunity to take some lessons and take up a new sport. If your favorite steeps aren’t open, why not sign up for ski or ride school? The instructors will keep you busy and you’ll learn a lot. I guarantee you’ll be exhausted at the end of the day — in a good way.
2. Switch gear. While the lack of snowstorms is on everyone’s mind this season, it’s nothing new. Two seasons ago, we were at Crested Butte between Christmas and New Year’s and the snow was light. Our favorite runs weren’t open, so we put on our tele skis and hit the blue slopes. There was plenty of groomed snow on these runs and we explored a part of the mountain we normally ignore. Plus, we have to work a lot harder and concentrate a lot more when we tele. It’s a totally different experience. If you’ve got gear for two different snowsports, mix it up.
3. Cross-country ski. Groomed cross-country trails are found at many resorts, for both classic and freestyle skiers. Put on the skinny skis and get your endorphins pumping. If you’ve never nordic skied, see above point number 1. Take a lesson. You’ll be glad you did. Then sign up for a moonlight tour or dinner and ski combo. You’ll love it.
4. Climb every mountain. If you’ve got the gear, and your resort allows uphill travel, skin up and ski down. Skinning takes a lot longer than a chairlift ride and rewards you with a great workout, more endorphins (which make everything look so rosy and great!), and an excuse to eat a hearty lunch. Oh, yeah, and you get to ski back down too. One trip up and down wears me out. Two trips? That’s a full day.
5. Become a park rat. I’m not here yet, but my kids are. The terrain parks are rocking and have great snow, because much of it is blown for the express purpose of creating jumps and other features. Go in, if you dare, and butter a box. Then, go big (but don’t go home)!
Those are just a few of my ideas about how to make the most of your ski trip, weekend, or just a day on the slopes this season. Mix it up, have fun and remember, any day on skis is better than a day cleaning the garage.
Note to La Niña: While we miss you and we’d take you back in a moment, we don’t need you. We’re still having fun and loving winter. But, if you do decide to come back, I’ll be your BFF.
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