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     Have you seen it? It's that futuristic movie which revolves
around a technology that alters the mind. There is a company that
specializes in memory implants. They have an ad that goes something
like this:

               Why go through all the hassle of taking a vacation?
Delayed flights, lost luggage expensive hotels, poor service and bad
weather are just some of the things that leave you with unpleasant
memories of a trip that could have been better. Come on in and see us
for the perfect memories of the ideal experience for you. It can be
anything you want, and will be personalized to your every desire.
Need a vacation, but don't have the time? YOU DO NOW. You can come by
on your lunch break and get wonderful memories implanted of your
dreams come true. They will seem just as real as your actual memories
and they will last a lifetime.

                Guaranteed.


     So, what would YOU do? I would do many things, but to keep this
skiing related, I would want the memory of a place with unbelievable
terrain. Sick steeps. Big, wide-open bowls of powder and rock-walled
chutes that hover high above the best tree-skiing I have ever seen.
There would be big rocks, cliffs, cornices and maybe even a terrain
park for making those throat-gulping leaps. There would be more of
this outrageously untamed terrain than I could see in a day, or even
two. The snow would be plentiful, maybe 500 inches per year. It would
be a small time operation with cheap lift tickets. There wouldn't
ever be a line at this uncrowded fantasy resort. The skiers and
employees alike would be friendly, sociable and likeable. Customer
service would be outstanding.

     Until a couple of weeks ago, I would have said that finding all
of this in one place would be impossible. Well, it wasn't long ago
that I found such a place. I was there. I indulged. I am still oozing
with delight. If you like the things I described above, GO THERE. You
owe it to yourself.



Berthoud Pass Ski Area, Colorado  4/7 & 4/8/99

Lift Tickets - $36 ($18 per day)


     On Wednesday morning, I made the drive up a steep, winding road
that snaked around many 180 degree turns. I noticed a few pull-offs
with countless, telling tracks coming out of the woods to an end at
the edge of the snowbanks. I thought: "Hmph…, they must walk back,
I'll have to try and find that run once or twice". I pulled into an
empty parking lot at 8:30am and wondered what the heck was going on.
Not even one other car. The place looked puny. There were just two
lifts, one on each side of the road. They didn't even go up all that
high. The few runs that I could see looked really good, but there
were just a few of them. I found that the base lodge was locked and
the place was deserted. There was a big, orange sign at the edge of
the parking lot that said: W A R N I N G  BACK COUNTRY SKIERS
AVALANCHE BLASTING AT ANY TIME USING LONG RANGE WEAPONRY

     Whoa! I didn't know what to make of that. Then I saw a sign at
the other end of the lodge with trail names on it. I went over to
take a look before leaving this apparently closed ski area and head
to nearby Mary Jane.

     To my astonishment, there were 65 named runs, most of them black
or double black. There were names like Top Secret, The Choke, Highway
to Hell, Skull Bite, The Fingers, Vigilante, Outlaw, Orem's Leap and
Hell's Half Acre to list some of the more interesting ones. As I was
about to walk away, a car pulled into the lot. A small woman got out
with keys in hand and she started to approach me. She was smiley &
friendly looking and reminded me of Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith
Show. I was greeted with a warm "Good Morning! It's a beautiful day
isn't it?" I agreed, it was very sunny, a carbon copy of Tuesday. I
asked "Are you open today?" She said: "Yes, we are now running our
spring hours. The base lodge opens at 9 and the lifts run from 10 to
5. It's a little early, but you can come in and look around if you
want. We'll be serving breakfast soon if you're hungry dear."

     I went in and poked around, grabbing a trail map and a small
breakfast that was very reasonable. While eating, I studied the map
carefully and found that this was not a puny place at all. It was
huge. Recently expanded, the map is an overview of a ski area that
covers over 1,000 acres of in-bounds terrain. I did a double take
when I saw the average annual snowfall - 500 inches. Five Hundred!
The 65 runs are separated into 5 main areas, accessed by 19 different
gates. Then I read that most of the runs come out far down the pass,
away from the lifts in either direction and shuttle bus service is
provided to take you back. Lift-served back country skiing. Yeah!

     My first run was on the east side; it was a run called High
Trail Trees. It connected to Highway to Hell and then down to the
road. It was pretty steep with clusters of evergreens and had some of
that slightly compressed drypow. I started of at a medium pace, but
before long I was darting through the trees like an excited little
kid. There were so many different lines to choose from. Steep chute
after steep chute, I thought this could be called about 8 different
runs instead of one or two. It all looked good, so I didn't pick and
choose; I just had the pedal to the metal and shrewdly bombed down
through the woods in a frenzy. When I got to the bottom, out of
breath, I had a grin from ear to ear and I had the urge to giggle.
While waiting for the bus, I started feeling a little light headed
and short of breath. In the warmth of the bus, I really started
feeling nauseaus and realized that being a low-lander, I had done too
much, too soon at this high altitude. After I got off the bus, I lost
my breakfast and sat in my car for a while.

     Soon, I regained my composure and crossed over the empty road to
the west side. At the top of the lift, I was studying a sign when a
helpful patroller came walking out of his hut. He offered up vivid
descriptions of many of the runs to make my choosing easier. I
pointed over to something heavenly and asked "How about that over
there?" It was a fiendish looking bowl off in the distance, bearing
an eerie resemblance to that of Tuckermans Ravine. "Oh, well…" he
hesitated "That's not really in bounds. If you're not in a group with
transceivers, you probably don't want to be going out there. You see
that big cornice hanging over the entire brim? It's much bigger than
it looks from here. That's an avalanche waiting to happen. Even if
you're with a group, I wouldn't suggest doing it from the top." So I
opted for a wimpy in-bounds run called Skull Bite instead. Insanely
steep and laden with orange rocks on the left side, this one was a
thriller. Like most of the runs here, it started above the trees and
finished with great, steep woods containing endless choices down to a
shuttle bus pick-up area.

     I shared the next bus with a Berthoud Bum named Ben, and Winter
Park instructor Alex. Ben was proudly giving Alex a little tour of
this big place, and asked if I would like to join. He took us on an
anticipation-filled traverse over to that spacious, life-sized model
of the Tucks Bowl. We came in from the side, about halfway up the
bowl and proceeded to cultivate deep, untouched powder on this
sssssteep, adrenalizing gem. We were still above the trees, far below
the bowl when Alex and I both agreed that this was too good to be
true. There were several audible "Ohmygods" and "Holysh*#s"
throughout the entire descent. Finally below the tree-line, we were
treated to breath-taking freshies and big, orange rock drops & cliffs
in an OB area that is shown on the map as "Future Expansion", coming
back in-bounds at the bottom to the shuttle bus.

     I stuck with these two guys for many more amazing treks until 5
o'clock came rolling around rather suddenly. Ben gave me his phone#,
saying that he would gladly show me around some more tomorrow.
Noticing my straight & narrow skinny boards, he also said he could
hook me up with freebie rentals with a little more width & sidecut if
I was interested.

     I called him the next morning, only to get an answering machine.
Bummer. I went back anyway, thinking I would most likely see him
sooner or later; and if not, who cares? I was going back, regardless.
That morning I arrived to a glorious situation. Overnight, the
heavens had blessed the mountain with 12" of fresh snow! I went into
the rental shop and asked around for Ben. I told tales of yesterday,
and found that he has a lot of pull at this place. I got a pair of
Volant Power Carves for the day, at NO CHARGE! It would have only
been 12 bucks had I paid anyway. This was just getting better and
better.

     First runs were solo and on the east side. Hanging Meadow -
steep and unbelievable. 1st tracks in the new snow, silently down
through the trees on a mountain all to myself. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh
- yeeeeeehaaaaaaaaaaaa! Sentinal Chute - I had done this one
yesterday at some point on a run where the 3 of us kind of went our
separate ways and met at the bottom. It is a really, really steep
gully that pours into a more relaxed, wide opening just above the
Highway to Hell exit. Today, it was covered in a sweet looking, brand
new white blanket. I had traversed over to it, stopping for a look at
the top. As I stood there looking down and drooling, I felt something
give underfoot. A fault line appeared just below my downhill ski,
halfway across the gully. I exclaimed "Holy S*#t!" out loud as I
shifted weight to the uphill ski. A massive slab appeared and slowly
started to give way and slide downward. It gained momentum quickly,
breaking up into many sub-slabs that moved with raging fluidity
against the contours of the terrain. I whipped out my camera and
snapped off several shots of the flow as it formed a pile at the
bottom.

     Afterwards, I caressed the intact side of the chute with those
loveable Volants and powered through the avi pile in a remarkable
powder explosion. It was awesome! While waiting for the bus at the
bottom, I met Berthoud Bums Scott and Paul. I hung with them and got
more great tours of some unbelievable terrain. We ended up crossing
paths with Ben and his friend Brian at a shuttle pick-up and had
great fun navigating the great White Sea of powder as a group. The
group broke up late in the day and Scott and I made a few screamers
in the 90's woods. He saw that I had a camera and offered to take
some pictures of me skiing. I am now psyched to have many photos of
myself in this wild frontier. For our last run, the lift attendant,
who is a friend of his, let us on despite the rope across the corral
and the time being 5:20. The lift stopped just as our chair got to
the top and we just sat there, hanging out with his patroller buddies
for awhile. It was like sitting on a couch at a small party on top of
the mountain.

Finally, we got up off of our butts and made one final run on Lift
Gully and The Plunge. There was still mucho-untracked powder, right
under the lift! There were several big, red rocks that we jumped off
in The Plunge and that was all she wrote.

     It was truly amazing to experience all of this. The beauty of it
is that it was all unplanned & spontaneous. I met some really good
people, purely by chance. Ben, Alex, Scott, Paul, and Brian were
really cool and I think they took great pleasure in seeing someone
revel in the Berthoud experience for the first time.  These guys all
were really proud of their mountain and treated me like I was their
guest. They kept on calling it things like "The best skiing in
Colorado" and "Colorado's best kept secret". Indeed, I had to agree.
Even with a foot of new snow, the parking lot never had more than 20
cars in it. They were curious as to how I had ever heard of it and
were glad to show me around this precious, sacred land that they love
so much. They are very blessed with opportunity to ski here every
day. I feel really lucky just to have gotten a two-day sample. It was
glorious!





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