Skiing

Colorado Escapist: Spring backcountry skiing in powder magnet Montezuma

April 28, 2016 — 

Springtime is here and what does that mean? Backcountry skiing! Who says it’s time to put away your skis just yet? Colorado mountain weather is unpredictable, and snow in May is always a possibility (There’s a storm rolling in as we speak), so why not get some last-minute runs before it all melts off?

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What to know before skinning Breckenridge, Copper and A-Basin

April 27, 2016 — 

It’s that time of year again, when the lifts shut down and the only way anyone gets turns at the resort is by earning them. And those turns are more than worth it. After plenty of snow earlier this April — not to mention predictions for another foot over the weekend — touring at local resorts is a must for anyone who didn’t get enough of Springmeier or Claimjumper in the past five months.

That said, every resort in Summit County has rules and regulations for on-mountain access after the season comes to a close. True, Breckenridge and the rest are on public U.S. Forest Service property, but the ski area lease terms let management lay out a set of rules to keep uphill skiers and splitboarders safe while snowcats, snowmobiles and the rest are busy cleaning up the slopes for summer operations.

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Sights from the first Breckenridge pond-skimming challenge (photos)

April 27, 2016 — 

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Dear Drewbie: Skiing, biking and traumatic brain injuries in the Colorado High Country

April 25, 2016 — 

As mountain people, we often expose our heads to situations when injury seems not only possible, but also likely. Take a poll of your friends and see how many of them have had a concussion, traumatic brain injury (TBI) or knocked their melon so hard they stars. Chances are it’s just about everyone.

In Summit County, it seems that well over 50 percent of us have knowingly had a head injury (This stat from random classroom and friend polls — very scientific stuff here). Many people also often realize that they likely had a TBI at some point that went undiagnosed and untreated.

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Proposed legislation could ease budget crunch in White River National Forest

April 24, 2016 — 

Legislation recently introduced in Congress may pave the way for the cash-strapped White River National Forest to retain some of the funds that ski resort operators pay to use public lands.

The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act introduced by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, both Democrats from Oregon, takes a broad look at expanding outdoor recreation use of public lands. It would force federal agencies to place a priority on recreation, and it proposes ways to maintain public lands.

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Scenes from the 2016 Imperial Challenge at Breck (photo and video)

April 23, 2016 — 

The wind was blowing, the sun was shining and race organizers were cranking Christmas tunes for the 25th running of the Imperial Challenge, an annual end-of-season ski mountaineering race from the Breckenridge Recreation Center to the summit of Peak 8.

Here’s how it went: Beginning at 9:15 a.m., more than 140 athletes between 12 and 70 years old biked 6.2 miles from the rec center to Peak 8 base, skinned or hiked past the T-Bar and Imperial Chair to the top of Peak 8, then turned around for a whip-fast descent on spring corn to the finish line back at the bottom. There were folks in tie-dye, others in spandex and still others in cut-off jean shorts, plus local celebrities like outgoing Breckenridge mayor John Warner, elite triathlete Jaime Brede and longtime local Doc PJ, the sort of guy who travels the Imperial route almost daily during winter.

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On The Hill: Pow turns at Fowler-Hilliard Hut to last laps at Park Lane with no expiration date (snow video)

April 24, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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Backcountry clubs pop up across the country, but are unlikely in Summit

April 22, 2016 — 

For the past six decades, skiing in Colorado has nearly mirrored the beer industry. It’s dominated by the biggest names with the deepest roots — Vail Resorts, Powdr Corporation, Aspen Skiing Company — and small-time mountains tend to either get bought out by the big guys or fizzle out completely, like the short-lived Echo Mountain outside of Evergreen.

But the industry is changing. Again, like the beer industry with the rise of craft breweries, independent and private backcountry resorts are now gaining traction across the U.S. As Vail Resorts and Powdr Corporation start to partner with resorts across the world, small pockets of investors with a thirst for powder are getting away from the resort mentality to build backcountry clubs for a select few.

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On The Hill: Spring corn, 14er finding and Pyramid cliffs on top of sunny Breckenridge (snow video)

April 22, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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On The Hill: 2-for-1 riding Quandary on 4/20 and park laps with Ripperoo

April 21, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

VIDEO: Z Griff is coming up on the end of the On The Hill season and you'd better believe he's going to make the most of it. For a special two-for-one on Thursday, Z Griff heads to Quandary with buddy Lawson Yow for his first ride down a 14er and then makes his way to Breck for park laps with Ripperoo.

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Breckenridge, Copper Mountain shut lifts and runs before closing weekend

April 20, 2016 — 

Last weekend’s freak snowstorm couldn’t have come at a better time — for the most part. After a winter of above-average snowfall, Keystone Resort closed on a bittersweet note less than a week before Summit County was blanketed in two-plus feet of wet, heavy, manky April powder.

But hey, at least Keystone didn’t pull a politician and waffle back and forth before extending the season. That’s what Vail Mountain did — the resort hosted official closing weekend concerts on April 9-10 and yet stayed open an extra week until April 17 — and so did Copper Mountain, which held the annual Eenie Weenie Bikini contest and other closing weekend festivities April 16-17 only to stay open for one last weekend, April 22-24.

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Take 5: Mud season training with Kim Orr

April 19, 2016 — 

There’s still snow on the ground but Kim Orr’s mind is already on that other type of skiing.

Come the dog days of summer, the longtime Summit County local takes at least a few trips to Green Mountain Reservoir for water skiing. It’s slightly different than its winter cousin, but both sports have at least one thing in common: You enjoy them so much more when you’re strong.

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On The Hill: April backcountry at A-Basin with the boys (snow video)

April 19, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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On The Hill: Ode to an April snowstorm with 15" at Breckenridge (snow video)

April 18, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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Imperial Challenge returns to closing weekend with heavy metal division on April 23

April 15, 2016 — 

The Imperial Challenge is getting back to its roots.

For its 25th anniversary, the annual bike-skin-ski race is back on the Saturday of closing weekend after several years bouncing from March to April. This season also brings the debut of a heavy metal division for folks with alpine touring skis, splitboards, snowshoes and just about anything other than an ultra-lightweight ski mountaineering setup that’s all the rage these days. The division replaces the short-course option by giving competitors a 45-minute head start on the open division.

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On The Hill: Farewell to stellar season at Keystone on closing day (snow video)

April 17, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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On The Hill: 15in powder day for the godfather, Noah Salasnek (snow video)

April 16, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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On The Hill: At the USASA Nationals ski halfpipe with young Axl Bonenberger (snow video)

April 15, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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Wounded heroes brought together by a week in Breckenridge

April 14, 2016 — 

William Garibaldi watched his children turn circles around the ice rink. Nearby, a mom guided her daughter across the ice, while two siblings high fived as they sped past each other.

Garibaldi, an Oklahoma resident, came to Breckenridge with nine other families for Family Ski Week, an annual event organized by Wounded Heroes Family Adventures. The former marine and army sergeant found out about the weeklong camp in 2012 at a Warrior Transition Unit.

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Pond skimming meets rail jam at 2016 Red Bull SlopeSoakers in Copper April 16

April 14, 2016 — 

Plain old pond skimming is for sissies.

This Saturday, the traditional end-of-season pool party for skiers and snowboarders gets a facelift, Red Bull-style, with the fifth running of the SlopeSoakers rail jam.

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On The Hill: Lipslides, pretzels and hot dogs at Breck's Spring Fever Park Jam (snow video)

April 14, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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Results from Loveland Derby Slalom, Colorado Ski Cup Championships and

April 13, 2016 — 

ASPEN SUREFOOT SPRING SERIES DOWNHILL, APRIL 1

One of the final club downhill races of the season, hosted at the Aspen Highlands Stapleton Training Center downhill course from March 31 to April 4 in conjunction with super-G.

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On the snow at 2016 USASA National Championships for skiing at Copper (photos and video)

April 13, 2016 — 

There’s something inspirational about watching young-and-hungry skiers compete on the biggest stage of their burgeoning careers — even if they still have a long, long way to go before reaching the absolute top.

From April 9-12, nearly 300 freeskiers from across North America, New Zealand and Australia came to Copper Mountain for the 2016 USASA National Championships. The youth and adult athletes competed in four disciplines — slopestyle, halfpipe, skiercross and rail jam — to crown the next generation of up-and-coming freeskiers. There was Breck’s Axl Bonenberger, the 10-year-old phenom who placed sixth in halfpipe and 10th in slopestyle to claim the boy’s overall freeski title for the second year in a row. Then there were Ethan Swadburg of Dillon and Benjamin Smith of Frisco, two open-class competitors who dominated on the slope course and at the after-dark rail jam. All three might have a long way to go, but one thing is for sure: The future of the sport was on full display right here in Summit County.

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Take 5: A-Basin enduro vet Linsey Hempel talks 10 hours of skiing Pali Chair

April 12, 2016 — 

Some skiers never get to know Pallavicini Lift, the fabled two-chair leading to Arapahoe Basin’s finest black and double-black terrain. Others manage to get first chair at 7 a.m., take more than 60 runs in 10 hours, and, finally, sit down for a beer on the Continental Divide at sunset, all in the name of raising cash for a local in need.

Welcome to the Arapahoe Basin Enduro, an annual event that pits 35 teams of two skiers or snowboarders against 20 of the ski area’s most devious terrain: Grizzly, The Face, Main St. and, of course, the Pallavicini trail itself. Now in its 27th year, the Enduro is nothing short of a love letter to one of the last true local’s chairs.

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On The Hill: Chris Corning takes 1st at USASA Nationals slope with triple 1440 (snow video)

April 12, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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US Paralympic Ski Team parties on Vail

April 11, 2016 — 

VAIL — It’s the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team’s biggest fundraiser and also doubles as one of the best networking opportunities that telecommunications industry professionals enjoy each year.

And in 2016, Adaptive Spirit celebrated 21 years in Vail.

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On The Hill: Talking with pipe groms and adaptive X Gamer Zach Elder at USASA Nationals (snow video)

April 11, 2016 — 

On The Hill is brought to you by The Steadman Clinic and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.

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Paralyzed skier returns as spectator one year after devastating crash

April 10, 2016 — 

Kailyn Forsberg is nervous.

“We are breaking new ground here,” her dad, Mitch, says. “I think you should go switch.”

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Ski jumping's rich Colorado history

April 9, 2016 — 

It took Anders Haugen 50 years to receive his Olympic medal. A two-time Olympic ski jumper and captain of the first U.S. ski team, Haugen had his best showing during the 1924 Olympics in Chamonix, France, where he jumped 49 meters.

After the jump, Haugen waited to see where he landed in the standings, only to come up fourth and off the podium. This was later revealed to be a scoring error, and in 1974 Haugen was finally awarded the bronze medal he had rightfully earned in the roaring ‘20s to become the first American to win a medal in ski jumping.

SUMMIT TIES

Before Haugen found fame and glory in the Olympic spotlight, however, he was already very well-known in Summit County. Originally from Telemark, Norway, Haugen claimed Dillon as his home after moving in 1908. In 1919, he set the world record for a ski jump with a distance of 213 feet, or 64.92 meters. This record-setting jump took place on Lake Hill where there was once a long ski jump that screamed towards the former town of Dillon, now the location of Lake Dillon. A year later, Haugen came back to Lake Hill and bested his own world record by jumping 214 feet. The record then stood until 1932.

In 1978, Haugen was elected into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, and he remained active in the sport as the club director for the Lake Tahoe Ski Club well into his 70s. Haugen passed away in April 1984 at the age of 95.

SKI JUMPING FEVER

Though Anders and his younger brother Lars were two of the better known ski jumpers to come out of Summit, they were far from the only enthusiasts in the county, as make-shift jumps were set up throughout the area. Much like today’s backcountry adventurers, these jumpers were in uncharted territory. Not only were they setting records for distance, they were doing it on hand-made jumps and creating world-class competitions. In fact, Haugen, along with Peter Prestrud and Eyvin Flood, built the massive ski jump in Dillon with competition in mind; the Lake Hill jump was used for two competitions in March of 1919.

Lake Hill was not the only game in town for serious jumpers, though. Hoosier Pass and Shock Hill near Breckenridge — where you can still see remnants of the old jump — each had their own ski jumps, and Colorado soon became a mecca for anyone looking to catch serious air. Ski jumping largely got started in Colorado after a blizzard in 1913 rendered Denver an isolated island, allowing only skiers to easily navigate the city.

After that, the sporting folk of Denver created the Denver Rocky Mountain Ski Club and attempted to hold the first tournament at Inspiration Point in 1914. Unfortunately, low snow totals left the event lacking, and the group went on the hunt for a new home. The result of their search turned up the Genesee jump; an astounding 700-foot drop located just west of Denver, which remained in use through the mid-1950s. Both the 1921 and 1927 National Junior Championships were held at Genesee Mountain, according to the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum and Hall of Fame.

Currently, these areas have either been repurposed or left abandoned. To get an idea of what may have gone through Haugens’ head, try standing at the top of Lake Hill above Dillon and imagine hurling yourself to the lake below on skis longer than anything you’ll find on the mountains nowadays. Whether it took courage, stupidity or ambition, these men helped to establish Summit as a skiers’ delight long before the first lifts started turning.

Retrofitted: Peter Dunn's bionic limbs and Marker 'blowout' bindings

April 9, 2016 — 

Call Peter Dunn the Bionic Man.

Over the past two decades or so, the longtime Frisco local and former Montezuma resident has been pieced back together, bit by synthetic bit, after 63 years of a life well lived. Oddly enough, only one of his orthopedic fixer uppers — a rebuilt shoulder from 2005 — was the side effect of skiing too hard on closing day at Loveland, one of his local favorites. There’s the right hip replacement from 1998 (ladder fall), a reconstructed ankle from 2003 (another ladder fall) and then a fracture in his left hip, that one the lesser of two injuries from landing in a pile of boulders at Loveland. He let the fracture heal and opted for surgery on the shoulder instead. Oh, he also had knee surgery in 2014 when an MRI showed the joint in his left leg was crunching, bone on bone, but he waited until May (as in the end of the ski season) to get that one taken care of, and then he was back on his Volkl Mantras just five months later for opening weekend.

“I’ve been rebuilt by this point,” Dunn told me on a warm yet overcast day in mid-April, one of those spring mornings when something akin to summer thunderclouds hung heavy over Mount Royal and Frisco far below. He’s lived with his wife, Alicia, in the same home for nearly 35 years, found just outside of town on unincorporated land within eyeshot of Interstate 70. For more than 20 years, Alicia worked as a nurse at Vail Valley Medical Center — home to renowned surgeons with The Steadman Clinic and Vail-Summit Orthopaedics — and so he had a direct line to the best bone docs in the country. World, even.

“I’m an orthopedic nightmare: hips, knees, everything,” Dunn says, although he hardly walks any different than he did in 1977, when he first moved from Los Angeles to a one-room cabin in Montezuma with a pair of Hexcel Super Comp honeycomb skis and little else. He might be a little slower now, just a touch, but there’s nothing like a noticeable limp or hitch or wobble.

The Bionic Man’s collection of orthopedic hardware is impressive, but it’s not quite as impressive as the collection of skiing hardware stored in the attic above his electrical shop next to the house. It’s where he keeps the Hexcels, circa 1976, with Marker M4-15 spring-loaded bindings, what he dubs “Marker blowouts.” Why? Because the burly release mechanism would literally pop on hard impact, propelling the ski from the skier in the most dynamic (aka violent) way possible. At least they come with a din setting — a luxury in the late ’70s.

The M4-15 blowouts are the same model found on one of his favorite pairs of vintage skis, the bee-yellow Volkl Renn Tigers from 1979. He got the skis in the U.S. shortly before flitting off to Europe, where he roamed the Alps as a ski bum between shifts as a bartender at a NATO joint in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a Bavarian resort area home to Dutch, Austrian and German alpine military units.

The blowouts on the Renn Tigers hold a special place in the Bionic Man’s heart (not yet bionic, at least that I know of). While working and living in Bavaria, he met the founder and owner of Marker bindings, Hannes Marker, who supplied the local military outfits with equipment. The steel bindings with red springs and black plastic accents came “straight from Mr. Marker himself,” Dunn says. They even work still: A few seasons back, he stepped into them with his modern boots and the setup worked just fine, boots and bindings and all.

Inside, spread across a kitchen table beneath vaulted ceilings, Dunn shows me a box of faded ski maps and photos from his pre-bionic days: Arapahoe Basin in the late ’70s, just a season before Pallavicini Chair was installed; Austria’s Lech Zürs am Arlberg, also from the late ’70s, a massive, sprawling map with a guide to the peak-to-peak gondola system; his cabin in Montezuma, found smack in the middle of town near the old firehouse; scenes of naked hot-tubbing with friends from the NATO bar, with the skin to prove it.

As we walk and talk back outside for photos, the Bionic Man starts rattling off a list of the other old-timers living on his street and elsewhere nearby. He’s been skiing in Summit most of his life, and he still gets 70 to 80 days every season, bionic limbs be damned. Telemarking is hard these days — the reconstructed ankle doesn’t mix well with his black-leather Asolo Sport Extreme boots — and there’s no way in hell he’d deal with Jet Stix again, the early-’70s boot attachments made to provide more calf support in a time when most boots stopped just above the ankle.

“Powder is powder and I love that,” Dunn says before also saying he’ll probably go skiing later that afternoon, in the spring slush beneath spring thunderclouds. “Being rebuilt you have your limits, but I get out and ski it all.”

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