Loveland: January 8, 2010

We’d been watching the weather all week, and this first week of January brought unusually cruel and cold weather: negatives and single digits. Low Denver temps usually means even lower temps in the high-country, but B and I had been planning all week to take advantage of Colorado Gems’ two-for-one discount at Loveland. We’d sent email and face-to-face feelers out to possibly interested parties. I’m not sure if the possibility of biting cold skiing conditions kept any takers from taking, but in the end it was just me, B, and her graduate school colleague, Nick.

Nick was pretending to work from home, a common form of Colorado hooky. As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, B and I are graced with unorthodox schedules, making weekday mountain play no problem.

I decided to overdress and overpack for the trip. Hereditarily speaking I have poor circulation, and I am almost always the first person to get cold on the mountain, especially my little piggies. Four layers on the top and three layers on the bottom would do the trick, I figured.

For the bottom bottom layer I donned an old pair of Patagonia tights, which I also wear under my riding skorts for late fall and early spring mountain biking. I went against all layering principles and donned a pair of trusty cotton underwear (the kind with patterned flowers) for layer number two. The thing with cotton is, once it’s wet, you’re cold. I knew there wouldn’t be much powder left, as it hadn’t snowed in almost a week. Little powder means little risk of wet undieswear. I topped off the bottom layers with my flashy new(ish) Patagonia snowboarding pants, which I love for their zippers up the side and hate for their lack of usable pockets.

For the top, I donned a Patagonia camisole and ditched the close-fitting wool cycling jersey for a more loose-fitting purple polyester baselayer. Loose layers are key in keeping warm. Next I donned one of those fleece shirts that one sees in all the skiing magazines – the layer just under the parka, which completed the quad.

I added a helmet and a under-the-helmet beanie, liner gloves and snowboarding gloves, my thickest wool socks, and a neck warmer. And goggles. Always goggles.

We got a bit of a late start as I was the one driving and had not exactly finished unloading (or washing) my car from my Christmas surfing trip to Baja. Plus, B had indicated she was in no rush to hit first chair in single digits.

We hit the lifts two hours after opening, and the bitter cold we had so feared had charitably warmed up to the teens. We started our day on Chair 1, which is how I usually start my days at Loveland.

As with any sport, I like to warm up slowly. In mountain biking, I’d rather start the ride with a forty-minute non-stop climb so my legs and lungs have time to adjust. In snowboarding, I like to ease the thighs into the day. Although I am an intermediate snowboarder, I only am so because I muscle my way down to the mountain. My thighs hate me for it.

So going slowly, I headed for extreme skier’s left at the top of Chair 1, ambling my way down the Cat Walk and taking my last blue option at Richard’s Run. The corduroy was scratched up a bit, but groomed trails hold little attraction for me anyway. I hadn’t been on a hill since our Thanksgiving weekend outing at Wolf Creek, so I was a little nervous.

I handled the blue well and waited for B and Nick, who took the steeper Waterfall trail down. After more than a few minutes, B arrived, shaking her head at our miscommunication. Nick was already up the mountain. And so we headed up Chair 2, the only chairlift I know of where one can load mid-mountain. The ride up is a bit long, and we carved our way to the warming hut where our chairmate Ben had started a fire hours earlier. We wended our way down the Drifter run, which drops you off almost directly at Chair 6.

Chair 6’s runs take their cue possibly from the nearby gambling towns of Central City and Blackhawk with runs named Keno, North, South, and (regular) Blackjack, and Roulette. There were patches of powder in the Blackjacks, and we kept returning for more.

We made a one-time trip to Chair 4, which serves steeper terrain. Because it is early season and snowfall has been tapering off, the edges of the bowls were roped off and there was nothing left but moguls.

Moguls are not my thing. One run and I’m done. Which I was.

Lift ticket $29.50 with the Colorado Gems Card

Two grilled cheese sandwiches and a day old brownie: $9.00

Parking: FREE

Gotta love Loveland.