One of my favorite things about living in Colorado is going skiing. I’m one of the transplants to the state who didn’t learn to ski until an older age. I was 24 and fortunate enough to be dating a private ski instructor in gorgeous Telluride, Colorado. Needless to say, years of free private instruction was one of the best things I gained from that relationship. I can see now how beneficial it is for anyone to invest the money and time into ski lessons, whether they be group or private, it really pays off.
This past week I went to Keystone for a nice weekday of skiing. Being able to go on the weekdays versus the weekend is my favorite part of my schedule right now – you don’t encounter the traffic there and back or the crowds and lift lines on the slopes. My dear friend and old roommate Diane Wood was my ski buddy for the day. The woman has already raked in over 15 days of skiing this season which is pretty good for someone living in downtown Denver versus directly in one of the ski towns. We drove up around 9am, making it to the Keystone free parking lot in less than an hour and a half. The day was starting out promising, with scattered wispy clouds in the blue sky and a bright sun warming up the air.
Now, Diane and I have not frequented Keystone more than a couple of times each so we were starting out not knowing the mountain that well. But we grabbed our trail maps on the way in and made conversation with the older gentleman who rode the gondola up to the peak with us. He was a business consultant from Minneapolis who was taking two months off to ski Colorado and then visiting his daughter in Spain for two weeks. Now that’s the life! We all agreed that Colorado attracted a lot of people who wanted priorities in their life that allowed them to travel more and to have a more relaxed work schedule. After discussing our inspirational approaches to life, he recommended the runs on the mountain that were good to ski. So there we go…we had a head start on where the best skiing was for the day.
Taking off down our first couple runs, we quickly rejoiced in how warm the weather was. The pit vents in my jacket came open and I adjusted the inner layer I had on to let some cool air in on my neck. As most of us in Colorado know, the snow conditions this season thus far are not as good as last season. For that matter, they’re not good compared to the last decade. Our poor mountains and ski areas just haven’t been getting the snow we need for a better base. The bottom of our skis came face-to-face with this reality as we did a run that ventured deeper and deeper into the trees. Know what it’s like to ski trees and moguls with rock exposure? Well, the bottom of my skis now know what its like.
It was still so much fun. There’s something about navigating through the trees as they become sparse in areas and then dense again a few feet later. The mounds of snow forming into bumps cascade like a waterfall down the steeper terrain and then flow along where the terrain levels out. An obstacle course is what it’s like and a fun one. It reminds me of playgrounds when I was kid and the momentum one gets when you’re having fun at something.
Here is where it started…from deep inside and without any effort…as I was skiing along and avoiding trees and flying over bumps, a hoot and then a holler arose. And it was from within me! This was the natural and joyous response of not only my body, but my mind as well. If I were a scientist, I have no doubt that I would have been fascinated by the response of endorphins and chemical releases in my body that were flooding my mind. The result…an amazing release of excitement and happiness in the audible form of hoot’in and holler’in. Now this is fun! This is life!
After the thrill of the trees, we found our favorite lift – the Outback Express. With the majority of runs being black diamonds and then a few great blues, it had fun terrain that included traditional downhill and then great moguls along-side the trees. We stuck more to the blue runs since the snow wasn’t the best and we wanted to avoid the rocks. Bighorn was our run of the day where we mainly stuck along the right side (skier’s right that is) and practiced our mogul skiing. Some of the bumps were a bit sloppy starting at the top, but mid-way down they were pretty decent and we had a blast. Before the day wrapped up we found the Porcupine run to the left of Bighorn. At first we started in on Pika, a black run which opened up nicely into the blue level run of Porcupine. The slope afforded us beautiful open vistas the whole way down and the glade of trees was sparse versus the trees we had skied in earlier in the day. The moguls were larger too and more spread out until further down where they became smaller and more compact. The diversity of them kept us on our toes and we properly wore ourselves out by the end of the day.
The hoot’in and holler’in only increased as we did more and more moguls throughout the day. Even though it takes more out of you and the pole planting can wear out the arms, there is something about the exertion that is invigorating. It’s downright contagious and we found ourselves going back for more and more moguls! What I found to be a great technique, since I consider myself to still be learning mogul skiing, is to ski with music. Finding a song that has a beat you’re comfortable with can really set the pace and helps you establish a rhythm. Having a rhythm, I’ve come to learn, is crucial to successfully skiing moguls. Once you have your tunes of choice cranking you set your eyes ahead, navigating in your head the upcoming route over and in between bumps, keep your knees bent and juicy, and make sure your body is kept facing forward down the mountain. I like to think of it as similar to salsa dancing…it’s all in the movement of the body from the hips down and following the rhythm. Oh, and of course don’t forget to use your poles effectively. Making sure to keep your hands out in front of you 1) keeps them out of your way and 2) helps you pole plant as you need to, which keeps you aggressively leaning down-mountain and therefore more in control of your speed…believe it or not.
As I rested at the top of the blue run Procupine, I gazed out at the vista and took in the amazing feeling of freedom and joy…to be in the outdoors under these Colorado blue skies and sailing down dazzling snow-covered mountains…the exhilaration can only be expressed by hoot’in and holler’in. And this was skiing less-than-great snow conditions…imagine how I hoot and holler when its fresh powder and great snow! This was a good warm-up. So next time you get to enjoy skiing the moguls or experience something that thrills you, don’t you dare hold back…make sure to hoot and holler.