Loveland Pass, the skiing, the vibe, the culture
May 23, 2008
I have a business meeting in Lakewood, CO this week which is in the Denver suburbs, the one where Columbine HS resides. Left Baltimore on Sun., arrived in Denver, left airport in a rental car at 1 PM, arrived in Loveland Pass 2 hrs. + a bit later. I skied the pass last year, checking off one of the must-ski destinations on my list. You park at the bottom, at a sharp turn in the road where a tiny stream crosses the road, leave your car, take your skis, and thumb a ride to the top, Loveland Pass on the continental divide, 11990 feet. The pass is flanked by 2 ski areas, Loveland on the Atlantic side and Arapahoe Basin on the Pacific side. I've skied them both in winter. Both are great. Loveland is closed for the season and A-basin will be open until June 8 at least. I skied the pass last year in late May in a low snow year. It is 2 weeks earlier now and it snowed 6" on Fri.
I quickly learned while standing in a small group with thumbs out that when Loveland is closed and A-basin open, you want to park and ski on the Loveland side in the AM and on the A-basin side in the PM because the A-basin skiers all come from Denver & suburbs. It was 3:45 and in 1/2 hr no more than a dozen cars went by heading up while hundreds came down in the opposite direction. I decided to drive up myself, giving a ride to a young boarder couple and figuring I'd skin up a bit higher and ski there. On the way the guy said he'd drive down and give me a ride back up; his g f could have this run. He promised me a ride too. Great, without pausing to think and make sure, I put on my skis and headed down filled with enthusiasm, breaking the most important rule of pass hitching to ski - never leave your car at the top. You guessed it, I got to the bottom and they never showed up. I wound up waiting with 3 boarders, 2 young locals and one mid 40s deeply tanned Hawaiian Aloha-bro-brah who talked and probably was very good and very crazy. We waited a long time. I considered giving a sob story to one of the groups packing up their cars and heading back to Denver, "Hey guys, could I ask you a favor. I hate to do this but I am stuck due to my own stupidity. I am 66 and have had a triple bypass, and would be really pushing it to try to walk back to the top in ski boots." I could have walked of course, wouldn't have gone down if I thought it beyond my abilities, but it would have been a suffer fest. Fortunately I didn't have to. A young girl in a beat to lleh subaru with a windshield like a cracked egg coming down did a U turn and picked up the 4 of us plus the bro-brah's dog and took us to the top. I thanked her profusely and in the spirit of the moment said I was finished for the day anyway but would drive to the bottom and give the other 3 a ride back up. What difference would it make if it took me 2.5 hrs. or 2 hrs. to get back to Denver, and I'd put some good karma in the tank for next time. So, I did.
The skiing? A lot of fun over too soon. The top was almost powder from friday's new snow blown in pretty deep in pockets. This part is quite gentle, then it rolls over into a wide chute into the trees gradually narrowing, after a second rollover, then mellowing out as all the nearby terrain feeds into the drainage. By then it was pretty heavy, well perhaps very heavy. You can't get lost because everything feeds into the same drainage unless you traverse way out under a huge cornice, which nobody with any sense ought to do on a warm spring day although there were tracks there.
At noon today in Lakewood it was 75. When the meeting finally ended at 6:30 it was 45 and raining. Tonight it may snow even here at 6000 ft. and Loveland Pass is supposed to get a foot. Furthermore it is going to flurry up there thru Thurs. My meeting will break up in early PM on Fri., hopefully very early. I'll be in Loveland Pass ASAP thereafter. Sat. & Sun. maybe A-basin or maybe the pass again. Opportunistic skiing on business trips. It's great!
Here's an image to go with Denis' story: http://www.snowjournal.com/page.php?cid=galimg26014
IIRC the "view" in this shot is in the A-basin direction. Denis didn't mention it, but his suffering associated with the climb back up to his car would have been greatly enhanced by the very serious altitude issues for a flatlander making a half day visit to 12,000 feet.
It sure sounds like him. He had a beat to hell split tail board and said he had gone 100 mph on it and that it was totally stable at that speed. Interesting indeed. I enjoyed that everybody is equal and everybody is open at the pass.
Rich K wrote:
I read your recent post about your adventures at Loveland Pass. It was so funny because a few years ago me and two buddies skied Vail, Keystone & A-basin early April. After skiing A-basin I took them up to the top of the pass because they had never been there before. We were taking pictures and video of the stunning sunset when we began talking to this crazy, Hawaiian snowboarding dude and his dog. He was a trip and we spent a fair about of time talking to him and video taping him. The moment he began to strap into his bindings his dog went nuts! He knew what was about to happen. We bid each other farewell and I video taped him straightline1500-2000vft with his dog tearing down after him! He made a single shallow turn and disappeared out of sight down into the darkening valley.
I am sure it's the same guy! Small world indeed. I forwarded your post to my two buddies - I know they will get a kick out of it. That guy was one of life's memorable characters.
Thanks for the post,
Nice story. Sounds like a good trip.
Hey Denis how did the rest of the trip go? Did you get to A-Basin?