The simple joy of snowboarding on Fourth of July
July 14, 2015
The celebration of Independence Day means that summer is in full swing. Most people are at the beach or pool or enjoying the sun at a barbecue.
That is what makes skiing or riding on this day so special. It's a tradition for some in the High Country to take a run down the Fourth of July bowl on America's birthday. We had camped on Peak 9 at Breckenridge the night of July 3, with plans to summit the Fourth of July bowl on Peak 10 the next morning. There were at least 10 different parties camping Independence Eve, and we were graced by an amazing sunset and equally-amazing moonrise.
It is 6:02 in the morning when I wake up next to the campfire. The sun is coming up, and it is going to be a beautiful day. At 6:30, I see the first person heading for the hike up, which will take about two hours from where we have camped.
We enjoy breakfast over coffee, then break camp and prepare our packs for the hike. We watch as group after group arrive for the mission. The excitement is high, and some people arrive dressed in red, white and blue or carrying an American flag. Many flock from all around for the hike — a celebration of the high country and its incredible year-round snowpack.
As we go up the road, we pass through fields of wildflowers and enjoy the temperature and incredible views of Summit County. After about one hour, we round the bend that gives us full view of the bowl. We can see people riding down to hoots and hollers from the crowd of hikers and spectators.
We climb up the switchbacks leading to the last push for the Peak 10 summit. From this vantage point on the ridge, you can see Crystal Peak and Crystal Lake. To the east, you see Baldy and Guyot, and to the south is Park County. To the north, you see the Gore Range, as well as the Tenmile Range, Buffalo Mountain, Mt. Evans, Mt. Bierstadt, Lake Dillon, Grays and Torreys and almost all of Summit County.
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The snowy ridge to the top is filled with a rowdy bunch of skiers, snowboarders and hikers who've all made the journey. People drop one after the other like lemmings, over the edge and down the sizable snow patch that remains on the side of the mountain. Dogs go barreling after their owners and look to be having the most fun any dog could ever have.
We climb up the last rocky stretch to the summit, where we see someone has already placed a small American flag. Looking off to the west are Copper Mountain and Vail Pass, and way off in the far distance, far in the haze, is Mount of the Holy Cross.
We take a few commemorative photos at the top, then down-climb to our drop-in point. The sun is out when we strap in, and the snow has softened up. I make some jump turns then open it up.
Getting up to speed, I then make big, arcing turns and carve a fat toe-side slash before coming to a stop and turning around to see my friends carving down the face. When we reconnect at the bottom of the snowpack, everyone is all smiles.
We sit in the grass and watch a few groups come down, taking in the views. The number of people who come out to ride Fourth of July bowl is quite a sight to behold: A mix of young and old, big and small, guy and girl as well as good and bad. People come dressed in suits, in shorts, in bikinis and bathing suits and some ride down wearing nothing at all.
The feeling is much like a religious celebration — a pilgrimage mixed with the feeling of ascending the giant waterslide at the fun park. For the die-hards and fanatics, the excitement is hard to contain. Maybe it's because the Fourth also means that ski season is just about 100 days away.
But, who's counting, right?
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