By Jim Kenney
Colonel Colorado, March 21, 2015
My friend “The Colonel” as he is known in the DCSki forum joined me in Summit County, Colorado for about a week recently in mid-March. We had a great time during an exceptionally mild and beautiful stretch of weather and he earned the title of Colonel Colorado by skiing all five areas associated with Vail Resorts in the Centennial state in this order: Beaver Creek, Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Vail, and Keystone. We not only enjoyed classic Colorado blue sky weather and soft spring skiing conditions, but we also got around for some fun non-skiing activities with my wife Kathy.
At Beaver Creek we started at the lowest lift on the mountain (Arrowhead) at the elevation of 7400’ and made it all the way to the summit of the mountain at 11,440' and back in just one dizzying afternoon. We skied Arapahoe Basin in superb spring conditions skiing the front, back, and bumpy sides of the mountain. The day we skied Breckenridge we caught a four inch snow squall and when the skies cleared at 3PM we spent a final golden hour cruising groomers in magnificent velvety conditions. We put in a huge day at Vail ranging from Game Creek and China Bowls including a picnic outside the impressive Two Elk mountaintop lodge, to Blue Sky Basin and back to the front of the mountain via mid-Vail and Lionshead. At Keystone we rode the tandem gondolas and followed the spring sunshine to North Peak and The Outback. Both of us held season passes to these mountains making it very stress-free to arrive and depart as snow conditions and our personal bio-clocks dictated.
We were also joined by my wife Kathy for some very cool non-skiing activities. We drove from our base in Summit County to Aspen one day just to stroll around the town. That 130 mile trip (each way) included driving out and back through beautiful Glenwood Canyon where we saw grazing bighorn sheep, an Amtrak passenger train chugging upwards in the easterly direction, kayakers on a dammed portion of the Colorado River, all compressed in the steep walled canyon as we traveled via the spectacularly engineered bi-level Interstate 70. We also picnicked one gloriously windless day on Loveland Pass at 11,990’ amidst dozens of backcountry skiers and boarders setting off into the wilds. Most spectacularly for Kathy we took a thirty-something-dollar scenic snowcat ride to Independence Mountain (elevation 12600’) above Keystone Ski Resort. It was another gorgeous day and afterwards the three of us went for an alfresco lunch at Keystone’s mountaintop Outpost Restaurant. Kathy got an unforgettable taste of the scenic high alpine environment that The Colonel and I had been enjoying all week.
I conclude with a salute to The Colonel. He’s 74 years young and remains active at and immensely curious about this sport we all love so much. Immediately before joining me in Colorado he’d spent five days in Park City, Utah. When he isn’t off exploring the ski world on his own he’s Mr. Skiing Sugar Daddy for his clan of children and grandchildren sponsoring family trips to Snowshoe, the Alps, and other ski destinations far and wide. Colonel Colorado is my geezer skiing hero!
Photos from my time with The Colonel in Colorado. All photos by Jim Kenney
The Colonel cruising at Beaver Creek.
The Colonel and I at Aspen.
Montezuma Bowl at Arapahoe Basin.
Breckenridge in good form.
Checking out Loveland Pass.
Fun terrain in Blue Sky Basin at Vail.
Riding the Cadillac of snowcats at Keystone. That's Breckenridge out the window.
Ski buddies at Keystone on a warm St. Paddy's Day 2015. We were totally overdressed, but festive.
Yay outstanding! Hi Colonel ! It looks great there - it has been warm here in Park City but I have been enjoying all the sun and Spring skiing. I hope you guys had a great time - looks like you did! Sorry we could not join you in Tahoe but thanks again for the invite!
Good to see Colonel. Keep on skiing! There is an old saying that days spent fishing are not subracted from your lifespan. Same for skiing, in my opinion!
Checking out Loveland Pass. (Unable to copy picture, but look above)
Loveland pass offers a fun backcountry run. Starting from the very top, traverse out, away from the road, about 200 yards maximum, then head down. Any line you pick will funnel you into a small stream drainage that soon empties onto Hwy. 6 at a big sweeping curve with a large pullout that can accommodate several dozen cars. (There will always be a few there.) park here at the start of the day, stand at the side of the road and hitch a ride to the top of the pass. Almost all locals will give you a ride, they regard it as building up good karma for when they want to do the same. Morning is the best time because that is when skiers are traveling from I-70 to A Basin. Its an easy, safe, fun way to get a taste of CO backcountry.
Just stay well short of the huge overhanging cornice, known as 'idiots cornice' for good reason. Thats avalanche terrain and does not lead down into the right drainage. Short of that you will never be on anything over 30 degrees and not in avi danger. The other side of Hwy. 6, the Loveland Basin side, had a huge slide with deaths a couple of years ago. The A Basin side of the pass is also avalanche prone. You'll see tracks on all this stuff, so dont be lured into danger.
when working I made frequent business trips to Boulder and Lakeland and would often ski a day at Loveland Pass. Its usually good into June. Prime season is now until snow melts out.
Oops, make that Lakewood, CO.