Ski season 2018-2019

PRE-SEASON: November 1st to early/mid-December

I started my season on November 1, 2018 and ended the season earlier than usual on March 23, 2019.  First to open and ski was at Arapahoe Basin with two runs open: Ramrod and High Noon.

With tremendous-contrast to the previous ski season – the 2018-2019 ski season was ushered in with record snowfall from the very beginning:

At 284% of average snowfall, Breckenridge opened less than a week later on Wednesday, November 7th with a 38-inch base on, starting the morning with 13 runs open. By the end of the day on Friday, November 9th, the Breckenridge Ski Patrol had opened a historical record number of 30 ski runs open. This was after Breck had received 47-inches of fresh snow in the previous seven days, bringing their year-to-date snow fall to 76-inches so-far for the 2018-2019 ski season. Breckridge had a larger snowpack base on their opening day, than by mid-December of the previous season. Breckenridge continued to set early opening records all season.

I tried out my new Volkl Mantra dragon skis and later met Joel Gratz, founder and CEO of Open Snow at Breck’s winter kickoff event on November 9th.

Always enthusiastic to start the ski season, my enthusiasm turned into giddy exuberance as nearly every single pre-season day was a powder day – and I seemed to have nearly all of Breckenridge to myself – with still-inexpensive hotel prices to boot. All the early snow caught everyone off-guard and almost no one had yet arrived at the ski resorts. It was still a ghost town at ski resorts until mid-December.

First tracks, last tracks, and no other tracks except my own to be found anywhere amidst vast open fields of fresh powder snow – as if Breckenridge, for one fleeting moment, was my own private ski resort all to myself. After 6-inches of fresh snow on November 29th, I  looked down Peak 9’s ski runs E-Chair Lift Line and Devil’s Crotch and found no one else except untracked fresh snow and solitude.

The same occurred after 3-inches of fresh powder on December 6th, as I looked down Peak 7’s Wirepatch and saw a perplexing, surreal and mystifying experience.

These experiences quickly gave way to enchantment, as the sparkle of fresh snowflakes and the and magic of a white winter wonderland was blissfully everywhere the eye could see – the only sound that could be heard was the distant steady hum of empty chairlifts far away and the schuss of my skis through the freshly-fallen snow. It was peacefully-quiet and all was good in the world.

I was just awestruck as I was re-acquainted with “pre-season skiing” with a whole new embrace – the most underrated time to ski, at least when early snow conditions are unprecedentedly-favorable. There was simply no downside: the best snow, the best hotel prices, no traffic, no lift lines and fresh tracks all-day.

On November 15, 2019 I met up with my new-found friends from my social media posts: I met for the first time, the legendary Colorado Mountain Man himself, Ken Scott, Lane Weintraub and many other great folks just as I was unwittingly waltzing into the Vista House to grab a bite.

I think somehow my ski helmet gave me away 😉

Lane skis SO FAST – OMG!  I followed (or attempted to) down Breck’s back bowls, and I did not see him make a single turn – he just launched and straightlined through trees, over moguls and all the way back to Chair 6. Lane is an AMAZING SKIER!

Couple of weeks later on November 26, 2019, I ran into Lane Weintraub at Breckenridge Chair 6 and we skied several runs together – and boy was I ever humbled!

On December 8th, my friend Vincent and I hiked most of the 782-foot elevation gain of Aspen Highland’s Highland Bowl, and after two hours, dropped into an ocean of fresh powder all the way down.

Later that same day, we had front row seats when Ski Patrol did a rope drop and opened Kesslers, to an an exuberant wooing, hooting and hollering crowd, skiing into Deep Temerity…

December 13: Unfortunately, a massive core was sustained by my skis the weekend before while skiing down Highland Bowl – which caused my skiing to become very unstable a week later at Breckenridge, and my skis later went to the ski doctor for a super thick layer of P-Tex.

December 13: Back at Breckenridge, and once again, front row seats as Breck Ski Patrol rope dropped Breckenridge Whale’s Tail at the top of the Imperial Lift.

On December 17, 2019, my ski buddy Vincent and I made it back to Canada to ski the Canadian Rockies once again:

I have been skiing with my professor friend Vincent from Washington DC since 2011

Back in 2011 when Vincent and I first started skiing together, both of us discovered fat-skis on the same day, when on a 15-inch powder day, we had made the decision to ditch our skinny skis and rent some Icelantic Nomads at Vista Haus in Idaho Springs and go ski Breckenridge Peak 10. Little did we know at the time that our skiing would take us to places that we would have not only dreamt possible, but to places in the ski universe that we did not even know existed.

Both us us learned and improved our level of skiing together: we discovered skiing glades, hike-to terrain, snowcat skiing, helicopter skiing and Vincent convinced me to leave my Colorado comfort-zone and take my first out-of-state ski trip to Big Sky, Montana. Ever since, I have been banking my frequent flier miles.

In the past decade, we have taken countless ski trips to Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, Canada, Washington State, Nevada/California (Tahoe) and of course, all throughout Colorado.

Skiing at Whitefish, Montana overlooking Whitefish Lake through and the Snow Ghosts of Whitefish Mountain is one more of my Snow Dreams realized.

January 3, 2019, I climbed Breckenridge Peak 6 twice, skied the hike to terrain (Beyond Bowl and Six Senses), and then skied over to Peak 8, hiked to the top and revisited my old past nemsis: Lake Chutes – which was the stage of my earlier 2013 Oscar Award winner less-than-graceful performance, courtesy of the Breckeridge Ski Patrol to save my bacon, and the made-for-tv movie was the end result that bore a happy ending. This time I skied Nine Lives into Zero Chute to Easy Street. Previously I had made the near-fateful decision to ski Jabba’s Elevator to Zoot Chute and subsequently nearly experienced a misadventure after getting cliffed-out back in 2013. This time, things ended well, without the fear of misadventure.

The following day on January 4, 2019, I was one of the first 100 (or 1,000 or so) skiers to ski down the newly-minted Arapahoe Basin Steep Gullies, skiing down the rock garden of SG #1 and the long hike-out. While SG #1 was, at this time, core-shot central – I somehow managed to spare my newly-revitalized skis any more core-shots by making the most carefully-executed jump turns.

After complete four hike-to-terrain skiing within 24 hours, it was time for a break at the brand-new Snow Plume Refuge…

The 2018-2019 season was the first season for Arapahoe Basin’s new Il Rifugio at Snowplume resturant to open at the top of the 12,500 foot summit.

In 2016, I had skied at Telluride and stopped-in at the Alpino Vino restaurant – which at the time was the ‘the highest elevation fine-dining restaurant in North America at 11,966 feet…’.

Talking with the owner of the new restaurant at Arapahoe Basin, I made the comparison between his new restaurant and Telluride’s Alpino Vino – to which the new owner escalaimed with pride that Telluride’s Alpino Vino was his inspiration to build his new restaurant at the summit of Arapahoe Basin. Nearly 600 feet higher in elevation, Arapahoe Basin can now claim the official title of being ‘the highest elevation fine-dining restaurant in North America at 12,500 feet…’.

Different days-off & work schedule mean that sometimes my only skiing companion is “Wilson”. Here are some pictures of Wilson and I.

On January 18th & 19th, Vincent and I skied at Snowmass and Hanging Valley Ladders was amazing with 8-inches of fresh powder snow.  Hiked Burnt Mountain Glades (mountain map left) for the first time), and while it was okay, I can just say that I am glad that I did it once. Later, we ventured over to a ski run called “Possible”, and between a narrow chute and sketchy rock-exposed conditions, we were both humbled.

January 21 & 22nd, Vincent and I skiied at Deer Valley for the first time. The weather on the roads was snow hurricane central as we dodged multiple pop-up highway blizzard closures. The second day of our skiing adventure at Deer Valley, the weather subsided and we had a much more regular-good ski day that the constant white-out conditions the day before.

See an older senior skiing mid-week at Deer Valley, and it is a good chance that they are a former ski racer or Olympic champion. Deer Valley is the place where may ski legends live out their sunset years.

I skied three more days in Utah: I skied one more day at Deer Valley, and dined at the Stein Eriksen Lodge and the Goldener Hirsch Inn, for breakfast and lunch, respectfully. I enjoyed myself in some of the finest on-mountain ski dining restaurants. Here is Wilson and I enjoying the high-life…

January 24th and Snowbird was digging out of a fresh SIX FEET of snow in the past 72 hours, causing the ski patrol to be working overtime with Avy mitigation. I was able to fulfill another dream, skiing Snowbird’s Great Scott and it’s gnarly jagged rock-garden entrance as I dropped into a roaring moving river of deep powder and rode the wild whitesnake down.

January 25th and at Snowbird’s next door cousin, Alta (which is really the best place to park, and then ski from Alta to Snowbird). While the Snowbird Tram is cool, the long lift line is a testament to the same too. For expediency purposes: park at Alta in the lot by the Wildcat lift, ski over to Snowbird’s Mineral Basin (which is where some of the best skiing is anyway).

Alta: High Traverse adventure and drop-into open fields of untracked fresh powder run.

On February 1, 2019 spent the day on the bunny hill and taught two 5-year-olds how to ski for their first time at the Molly Hogan Magic Carpet at Arapahoe Basin: My neighbor Bob & Anna’s boy Bobby and his friend David.

Six years ago, I taught Anna (Bobby’s Mom shown here) and two of here friends how to ski. Today marked the 9th person I have taught to ski. The two kids did great and had fun and it was a great sunny Colorado day.

February 17th at Beaver Creek with Colorado Mountain Man, his cousin Ian, and Ken & Karren

I had a great time skiing with Colorado Mountain Man, his cousin Ian, and Ken & Karren at Beaver Creek – we got a chance to ski Stone Creek Chutes and the snow conditions were awesome!

February 28 Arapahoe Basin: Got cliffed-out in Steep Gully #2 (highly NOT recommended). Had to make less-than-graceful maneuver over to Steep Gully #1, but at least scored the hidden traverse out and was able to successfully bypass the dreaded hike-out.

Took refuge and much-needed rest at the Snow Plume Refuge before hiking-up Upper East Wall

Climbed to the top of Arapahoe Basin mountain and repelled down a fixed rope and skied Upper East Wall 2nd Notch:

Upper East Wall’s 2nd Notch opened as the 138th of 145th ski run to open at Arapahoe Basin for the season on Thursday, January 24, 2019 with a 52″ base. Skied a 62″ base on Thursday, February 28th. Snowpack is currently 109% of average for the season.

After ~ one hour hike up the bootpack, yet another incredible ski run down making the grueling hike carrying my skis, hiking in ski boots – all of a sudden, all-worth it.

March 9, 2019: Ski Day #37 of the 2018-2019 Ski Season: Mary Jane’s “Awe Chute” and “Hole In The Wall” rarely open; sometimes several seasons go by before Winter Park has the 62-inches of snowpack necessary (or about 181-inches year-to-date snow) to be able open this extreme terrain, and only under the exact right conditions. Too little snow, or too much snow or wind – and these chutes are among the first to quickly close – so it was a very special rare-treat for my ski buddy Vincent and I, to be granted the privilege be able to ski these gnarly-lines today. This is the most extreme technical ski terrain of Winter Park’s 167 ski runs.

Undaunted with the typical ski day ending at 4:00 pm, I kept skiing until 8:00 pm for three days of night skiing at Keystone throughout the season.

On March 7, 2019: My full lighted ski suit, lighted skis and lighted poles made their official debut at Keystone in time for Night Skiing. I built this myself:

March 17, 2019 Skiing Revelstoke’s “Kill The Banker” with Vincent extremely-icy snow conditions. Challenging, but got it done. 🙂

Skiing Whistler-Blackcomb: Spanky’s Ladder:

Skiing at Revelstoke’s North Bowl:

Last day of the 2nd Trip to Canada for the season: at Washington State’s Crystal Mountain:

March 23: The dawn of Springtime and my last day of the ski season. Visited Jerry Garcia’s ski-to shrine in the woods of Aspen Mountain, which is the most-famous shrine. Was unable to find Jimmy Hendrix’s shrine. There are no less than two dozen ski-to shrines in the Aspen/Snowmass area dedicated to Aspen’s heroes and residents.

Days on resort mountains: 44
Number of different resorts: 20

Number of Overnight Lodging: 31
Hotels: 23
Condos: 3
Friend’s Place: 5

During my 44 day ski season, I skied at 20 different ski resorts this season, having skied at 51 different ski resorts total:

(Colorado) Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Winter Park;

(Montana) Big Sky, Whitefish (47th);

(Utah) Snowbird, Alta, Deer Valley (48th);

(Washington State) Cypress (49th);

(Canada) Lake Louise, Kicking Horse, Fernie; Whistler Blackcomb (50th) , Revelstoke; Crystal Mountain (51st) .


Total span of season in months: 5

Number of states skied in: 4 States plus 3 Canadian providences

Hours in the car: Montana and Canada have wide-open expanses to drive across with limited airports and flight availability. A typical drive after skiing was 6 to 8 hours of driving to get to the hotel near the next ski resort to ski at the next day. Locally in Colorado, the typical drive for me is about just over 2 hours from my house to arrive at any Summit county ski resort.

Depending on how a powder day is defined (i.e., 3” of fresh snow vs 6” vs a foot or more the night before…or just the ability to find untracked powder somewhere in the trees) between 1/3 to ½ of my ski days were defined as “powder days”. During some previous seasons, I saw less than 10% of my ski days as powder days.

The 2018-2019 ski season will go down in my record books as the winter of endless powder.

Thank you for reading and I hope that I get to ski with YOU!

Mark

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