Loveland: Thursday, January 14
Conditions at Loveland today were cold and icy. Not Vermont icy, mind you, but there hasn’t been any new snow at Loveland or anywhere else in Colorado for that matter, in 11 days. Hence the terrain has been hard-packed by thousands of skis and boards for over ten days. We spoiled Coloradoans are usually the kind to wait for good snow, the good powder. Ego snow, this wunder-snow is called, because it boosts the ego of anyone who rides it.
Loveland and all the other Colorado resorts were suffering from a marked lack of ego snow. But prima donna ways are directly at odds with the vibe at Loveland. I write this from the cafeteria, which I earlier had incorrectly referred to as the lodge. Ski lodges conjure up images of roaring fires, bulky wood furniture, and the heads of large game or at least Bambi. But this was a cafeteria with its large windows overlooking the slopes and chair lifts and huddled masses around; with its tray-grabbing and condiment areas; with its no-nonsense and affordable menu; and with its myriad of small round tables with a dark wood veneer finish.
I sat there in the cafeteria, sipping my home-brought tea from my trusty REI thermos and eating my cottage cheese, cantelope, and kiwi combination.
I was there among kin in the cafeteria, other Coloradoans, who, even though it was cold enough to make one’s fingers numb and even though snow conditions were less than ideal, we silently but collectively thought, “Even the worst day on the hill is better than the best day at the office.”
All chairs were open that day at Loveland, including the famed high altitude, high-speed quad, Chair 9. I’ve only braved Chair 9 a few times in the few dozen times I’ve been to Loveland, but I really love the bowl skiing. Chair 8, also one of the last to open, was also taking lucky folks up to the top of Zip Basin Street and Awesome, which has some fantastic intermediate tree skiing toward the bottom.
But today I would frolic about no bowls and amidst no trees. Today I was suffering from exhaustion and dehydration and only lasted two runs at Loveland, which has some of the shortest runs of anywhere in Colorado. We had arrived around 11AM, having filled our bellies, gassed up, and driven the 42 miles to the parking lot at the base of Loveland, which was, surprisingly, filling up.
We started, as has become my usual, at Chair 1. The fire inside the warming hut at the top was radiating burning wood, and the usual cluster of inconsiderate snowboarders were sitting wherever they wanted, strapping in and generally getting in the way. It burns my thighs to watch idiot snowboarders like these folks living up to the stereotype as self-centered speed demons who are constantly on the verge of getting out of control and proudly unaware of their surroundings.
I situated myself off to the side, cast a scornful glance at my inconsiderate knuckle-dragging peers, clicked in, and glided down the Mambo Run.
It is always my hope, when I have the rare opportunity to board two days in a row, that the muscle memory from the prior day’s activities will kick in and remind me that I know how to board. It is further always my hope that the initial feeling of awkwardness as I cinch down the ratcheting system on my bindings to the point where my toes are being squeezed, that awkwardness will lead to grace and I will swish and swoosh down the mountain.
Alas, Grace was not boarding with me that day. I meandered somewhat timidly down the run, trying to avoid wayward snowboarders and trying to use the gentle slope of the left wall for turning. I took the high ground around the hairpin turn and continued using the ski wall to turn, or ollie, in Tony Hawk terms.
I took my left onto the familiar Richard’s Run, a gentle blue, just short of wide enough to be called a bowl. I used the entire width of the run, avoiding newbie snowboarders practicing the falling leaf technique that is critical to snowboarding. After bombing down the run, I glided, quite confidently and while resting on my back (left foot), over to Chair 2.
Chair 2 is a long ride up – at least ten minutes. Not a problem in pleasant weather. At the top we headed down runs located to the skier’s right: I to Fire Cut and B to Drifter. Drifter is a little wider and a might easier, and Fire Cut was bumpy, almost mogul-esque if moguls were the size of Mini Coopers. Fire Cut is too steep and undulous to groom, so I was left to my own defenses to carve my way where thousands of skis and boards had gone before, and just in the last week.
Moguls, even low-lying seemingly innocuous ones, ring the death knell for my knees and thighs. This time the amount of energy exerted just to navigate this misshapen area was too much for an already wearied body. Dehydration, anemia, and general fatigue from physical activity took over. I began seeing spots.
Yesterday’s amazing day at Eldora had turned today’s outing at Loveland into a bust. No one to blame but me, and maybe the altitude (base elevation 10,600 ft).
Spots and dizziness had plagued me years earlier, and I combat them both with sleep, water, food, and physical fitness. But sleep, water, food, etc. are preventative measures, not band-aids. The only band aid for floating circles in one’s field of vision and imbalance is to call it a day and sit down.
Apparently I had not fully recovered with my bout of sicknausea from my surfing trip to Mexico two weeks prior.
So I sat down and sipped tea and nibbled on my cottage cheese and fruit while B tele-skied the runs off Chairs 2 and 6. And I wrote.
Lift ticket $29.50 with the Colorado Gems Card