Loveland Basin    4/6/99

Lift Ticket - $22

     I passed this very impressive place on Monday, on the way to A-
Basin. It was a difficult thing to do. The only thing that made it
possible was the promise I made while cruising up the Divide - "I'll
be there tomorrow."  The ski area looks like a giant, snow-capped
asymmetrical horseshoe. It wraps around I-70, which passes straight
through the heart of the mountain via the Eisenhower Tunnel. The sky
was nearly cloudless with a bright radiant sun on this crisp,
beautiful morning. I was in for a gorgeous day.

     While taking things out of my car, I noticed that I had left
something behind at Arapahoe. It was a sizeable chunk of P-tex. My
guess is that it's new home is Rock Garden. I brought the boards into
the shop for a quick fix where I met Jon, a ski repair man who
recently transplanted from Maine. He appreciated the duct tape fix on
one of my caps and we hit it off. He fixed my p-tex problem for next-
to-nothing and threw in a quick tune to boot. I spoke of looking for
some inspiration and he told me to come back in a couple hours when
he could escape for some runs.

     I got on Lift # 2 which brings you up to the Ptarmigan Roost.
It's a neat cabin about 1,000' feet below the 13,010' Summit Ridge.
From here I captured several images on film. I now am looking at many
pictures of the widespread tree-less terrain and out of this world
views. I looked all around at the millions of ripples in the snow and
had the feeling of being in a great desert. The overnight winds had
compressed the powder everywhere and the moisture content was very
low. This was the dominating surface, and it was very fun to turn in,
especially on the steeps.

     After wasting some time (not!) taking in this pleasant imagery,
I took a long run, which gravitated left across a casino tour (North
Blackjack, Roulette, Straight Flush, Royal Flush and Deuces Wild),
and a few other trails until I came to Zip Trail. It is a scenic
traverse that connects to West Ropes - the first black diamond of the
run. (some of them could arguably be rated black) It was a pleasing,
typical western tree run with big evergreens and no scrub. It
connected to East Ropes, which had all the same qualities, just
steeper. The run wasn't over yet! I came to The Face, which started
out gently enough, until the first corner where it drops very
abruptly down to I-70. I was wondering how I would get across the
road to the lifts until I reached an access tunnel, which passes
under the highway and takes you there. Cool!

     I got on Lift # 1 for some double diamond challenge. At the top
there was an open gate with a nameless traverse that accesses 5 runs.
I wanted the far one, mostly because of the name. I followed the
yellow brick road to somewhere, way up high. It's called Over The
Rainbow, a huge snowfield that is exceedingly vertical. Judging by
all the tracks that were on it, it seems to be very popular. The last
5-600' of it is below tree-line. It's of the same pitch, only gladed.
It comes out to a traverse just above the parking lot, back to Lift #
1. It was a loop that I would take about 6 different times throughout
the day. I stayed to the sides above the trees, where I was able to
make tracks in the untouched. The reward was terrific. Normally,
untouched powder on a pitch like this would result in a spray of face
shots. That would have been great, but certainly nothing I've never
experienced before. Instead, I was treated to something new. This
dry, wind treated powder would explode into pieces with each turn. It
did not come up into my face, but was kicking up high behind me and
showering the back of my head, neck and shoulders every time I
turned. It all was happening in slow motion - plant… turn… shower…
plant… turn… and little chunks of snow would come raining down on me
from above. It was AMAZING!

     I did several other runs that were ho-hum in comparison, but one
that was really nice was off of Lift # 9. This is a brand new quad
that rises all the way up to Straight Creek Ridge. From here, I
traversed over to the Summit Ridge. I dropped down over a cornice
into an untouched swath and yahooed all the way down. I later did a
variation of this one.

     Jon didn't end up getting out on his board until about 2:30. He
took me down one of his favorite tree runs that ends just above a
public cabin on Forest Meadow, where he had a 6-pack stored for
convenient refreshment. We swilled a reeb on the sun deck while
people watching and waited for his friend Barry. Barry works in the
rental shop and is very funny. He told entertaining stories and is
the local source of "inspiration" for most of the Loveland employees.
I would stay inspired for the rest of the week.

     They took me through another tree run (I can't remember where)
before one last pass on Over The Rainbow. They affectionately refer
to it as "OTR". I was really glad to meet these guys and offered to
give them my own little tour should they ever, for some bizarre
reason, come to Vermont in the winter.

     I joined them at the bar and was introduced to a patroller named
Pip, the wizard who made OTR what it is today. A few years back,
after a big storm, he threw an avi bomb that set off a far bigger
slide than was anticipated. It took out an entire stand of trees and
dumped into the parking lot, crushing several employees' cars. No one
was hurt and this grand run was born.

     It was another remarkable day and is very hard to compare with
the previous one. I'd have to say that my day at A-Basin was just a
hair better, but the next two elswhere would be the best, by far.

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