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The Start of the Season 9 November 2011

Posted by magicdufflepud in Colorado, Skiing, Travel.
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Of course we were wearing onesies. Of course. 

I think we can consider the season officially started, so long as you ignored the opening of Wolf Creek, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland, but no one really counts those since they’re not real mountains. The ski season hasn’t truly begun until some mountain owned by a publicly traded company or a private equity firm gets into the game. Those are the folks who know what skiing’s all about, so I’ve decided to write a season-opening haiku in their honor.

Keystone and Copper:

keeping investors happy.

How? More yard sales, please.

I spent too long on that.  In any case, Copper mountain and Keystone have both opened their white ribbons of death, so if you still haven’t bought a pass and want to base your decision purely on on the one run that’s open right now, get the five mountain from Vail Resorts. Keystone’s top-to-bottom runs, serviced by two lifts, will make it worth your while. After that, well, I don’t know. This is the first year I’ve held the Copper/Winter Park pass, so it’s tough to say where you’ll get the most value down the road. But you’re concerned about skiing Right Now, right?

In other news, it looks like Winter Park’s opening early; they say it’s because so many folks were asking them for it at, of all places, Denver’s Ski Expo last weekend. Plan on heading there this Saturday, Nov. 12 if you prefer crossing Berthoud, rather than Loveland, Pass to get to some mediocre skiing. On the other hand, maybe you ought to check out Wolf Creek, which received almost three feet of snow over the weekend.

And in still other news, if you haven’t bought a pass already or if you do have a pass and simply oodles of money to spend too, you should check out the Monarch season pass. Even if you’re not planning on skiing there, the $339 you’ll pay for it gets you three free days at a gaggle of ski resorts including… Revelstoke, Powderhorn, Sunlight, Loveland, Red River, Angel Fire and several more. You’ll also get a free unguided day at Silverton as well as half price skiing at Taos and Alta, two of the best mountains in America. The rep at the ski expo suggested that next year will feature even more deals, so check Monarch’s website in late spring/early summer next year to get the best deals.

That’s all for now, but if any of you have experience writing profile pieces for magazines, let me know. I’ve told Powder that’s the plan for Tuesday, but I’m not sure I have any idea what I’m doing.

Ski Review! Liberty LTE, Salomon Twenty Twelve, Icelantic Shaman 15 December 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Skiing.
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Reviews are better than commentary, so if you’re impatient, scroll down to skip this first part. I also review the Icelantic Keeper and Nomad here

How’s the weather in your neck of the woods? From the reports rolling into Colorado, it appears the Midwest is experiencing Snowmageddon 2010, in an attempted repeat of Snowmageddon: Washington, DC edition. 30″ in Minnesota? It’s a shame to see so much powder wasted on folks who’ll do nothing more than wreck their cars in it. But here in Denver, it’s 65 and sunny—not bad given that a foot and a half of snow blanketed the mountains in the days leading up to the weekend.

And of course, a foot and a half of snow means one thing: skiing must occur. Lots and lots of skiing. I won’t bore you with story after story of fresh tracks at Vail, so instead, let’s discuss new skis. With the advent calendar (and the regular calendar, too, I guess) indicating that only 10 gift-buying days remain, the Winter Park demo days this weekend arrived at just the right time: late enough keep memories strong and early enough to get everything shipping from Amazon.com (or Level9) before Christmas. We got the chance to check out a few pairs, so let’s take a look here.

Skier Specs

Male, 5′ 10″ 145 lbs. Advanced/expert.

Currently skis on

- Dynastar Huge Trouble 185cm

- Head Monster i.M. 88 175cm

- Rossignol Phantom SC 80 165cm

Skis reviewed: Liberty LTE, Salomon 2012, Icelantic Shaman

Terrain/Conditions

Although other terrain exists, Winter Park is known almost exclusively for its bumps, and to a lesser degree, for its trees. When we skied on Dec. 12, a couple inches had fallen overnight on top of five from the day before and temperatures had risen to the upper twenties. Snow in the trees was still fairly soft and untracked in places. Bumps skied soft for the most part. No open bowl skiing to testcrud/chop performance.

Liberty LTE

As tested dimensions: 171cm, 116/83/105 sidecut, 18.5m radius

Liberty’s based just up the road a ways in Avon, home of Beaver Creek, but if you think forging skis in the shadow of the state’s poshest resort would make them more luxurious, you’re in for a surprise. Liberty’s all about twin tips, bamboo cores and crazy topsheet graphics—not what you’d expect on the slopes where fresh cookies arrive every day at 3:00 p.m. The LTE fits into the Liberty line-up as the narrowest of the bunch, designed, as the rep told me, to be an “all-mountain ski that’s fun in the park.” I guess so.

It’s a floppy, forgettable ski. On groomers, it held an edge fairly well and easily snapped into turns, almost feeling hooky in the process. At speed, however, they gave out. I’m used to my Monsters which, when skied lackadaisically, flex about as well as I-beams, and when skied aggressively, feel like aiming a freight train. On the other hand, the LTEs twitch and chatter too much for their own good. I definitely sensed a speed limit—and that speed limit fell way short of the fun threshold.

In bumps, the performance improved. These skis are fairly narrow (83mm underfoot) and light, so they respond well in moguls, but there again, they felt like I was overpowering them. I’d rate the pow performance, but honestly, I doubt many folks will buy this ski with deeper snow in mind. The one tree run we explored confirmed that the LTE isn’t much of a floater, not that you’d expect that with dimensions like these. These simply don’t provide enough ski for all-mountain skiing. If I played around in the park more often, maybe I’d give the LTEs another look, but as it is, they can stay in Avon.

Salomon 2012

As tested dimensions: 179cm, 123/91/116 sidecut, 21.9m radius

Nearly everyone’s offering rocker this year, and I think K2 even went so far as to include some form of it on every ski in its lineup. Seems consumers really bought into the idea that reverse camber tips and tails are the best thing since sidecut. They might be right. I tested the 2012s after coming off the Liberty LTEs mostly because the line at the Salomon tent was shortest and this was the only available ski with rocker.

Turns out a lot of the marketing hype carries some truth. Taking the 2012′s through the trees on the first run, I skied with a fairly natural stance and couldn’t get the tips to dive. This is another soft ski, but the 2012 refuses to take itself too seriously. Salomon’s not shooting for the all-mountain market with this thing. Or at least I hope they’re not. It’s playful in the pow, and the rocker makes it ski much shorter than the listed 179cm, something I noticed in the easy turn linking in fairly shallow snow. It just takes less work.

In bumps, I felt like the ski was again doing a little of the work for me. The rockes and the soft flex (bordering on noodly) absorbed a lot of the impact that would have gone straight to my thighs, and with the center mount, they swung with relatively ease when I needed to change direction. Somewhere along the line, I recall thinking, “these are a lot of fun.” The 2012′s a fun ski, nothing too aggressive and nothing requiring too much precision. They forgive sloppy technique, although don’ t expect any sort of edge hold on groomers regardless of technique. Seems like the usable edge stretches about 30 of those 179 centimeters. I suspect this is the kind of ski you want if most of your day is spent poking around in the trees and finding little cliffs to stomp.

Icelantic Shaman

As tested dimensions: 173cm, 160/110/130 sidecut, 15m radius


I fell in love with these skis, although I can’t for the life of me figure out why the company spelled the name as they did. Did someone make a typo filling out a federal form? At any rate, these were, hands down, my favorite skis of the day. Once you get past the gaudy/artistic?topsheet graphics and the WTF shape of the Shamans, you realize you’ve found something special. How did did Icelantic get a ski like this to carve a 15m radius? How did they ensure that the same ski promises even more fun in powder? I don’t know. I wish I knew. The Shaman lays down railroad tracks, at speed even, and never feel chattery doing it. Edge to edge it transitions faster and surer than an 90+ mm ski I’ve tried, yet in reality it clocks in at 110mm.

The huge tip refuses to dive in powder. This is a ski happy to float at an speed, and I’d like to get it out again to see out it performs in open bowl pow conditions. I’d expect a fairly surfy feel. In the trees at least, they came around with relative ease, never feeling like too much ski to handle despite the width.

No report from the bumps, unfortunately since I managed to squeeze in just two runs on these at the end of the day. We’d dropped in several times over the course of the afternoon only to find that everyone else wanted to try out the Shamans too. An accommodating rep gave us some extra time as he closed up shop.

I never thought I’d recommend anything over 100 as an all-mountain ski out west, but the Shaman may well be it. It’s that good.

Winter Park Impressions 5 April 2010

Posted by magicdufflepud in Uncategorized.
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More than a week ago, I posted photos from Winter Park on Facebook, and it’s obvious they never made it to the blog. Typically I try to do the opposite in the hopes that when you stop by for photos, you’ll browse the writing as well. Perhaps this is optimistic–but the stats say otherwise, you browsers, you. So quit looking at Facebook and drop by here instead.

To most folks in the Front Range, Winter Park sits alongside Keystone, Copper and Breck as a mountain worth a weekend visit. Vail and Beaver Creek are just too far (and too pricey), and no one stays the night to ski Loveland, A-Basin, or Ski Cooper–despite Leadville’s desperate marketing, which essentially pleads, “We were important… once. Try us again?” So for the Friday/Saturday night stay crowd, those four ski resorts round out the options, and although I haven’t skied Copper yet, I’d guess that it, too, will supersede Keystone in my growing rankings of resorts. Nearly everything has so far.

Winter Park falls somewhere in the middle: excellent terrain if snow has fallen recently. Otherwise, not much of a mountain. Of course, the same holds true for Keystone, which would benefit from additional snowfall, too–another 100″ a year might make its trees more palatable–but where Winter Park needs powder, it gets it, clocking in as one of the state’s snowiest resorts. I’ll hike thirty minutes for knee-deep steeps, and I’ll begrudge a new, slow triple chair to ski dappled glades. Winter Park makes that possible.

Divided into two or maybe three mountains, Mary Jane, Winter Park, and Vasquez Cirque, the resort more or less prevents beginners and intermediates from spending any time with experts, meaning few possibilities for the kids to ski blues while Mom and Dad ski the bumps. For anyone used to the dread of approaching one of Vail’s ten bajillion cat-tracks at mach speed, that division offers a relief.

But maybe you like ski with yours kids. Tough luck. And maybe you don’t like bumps. Again, tough luck. Winter Park’s 1975 Mary Jane expansion gave it a national reputation for moguls, so much so that finding anything else at first comes a pleasant surprise. “No pain, no Jane” go the bumper stickers around here. Of course, given the resort’s more than three thousand acres, Mary Jane isn’t the be all and end all of the Winter Park experience.

In fact, it’s rather a nice distraction from the more entertaining hike-to steeps off Vasquez Cirque (which isn’t at all a cirque, but hey). It’s impossible to avoid comparisons to Keystone, so I won’t try. The difference between the hike-to terrain at both resorts might best be summed as, “whether it’s worthwhile.” And Keystone’s typically isn’t. Hiking offers its own rewards, but the opportunity to ski a benign pitch on wind-effected crust isn’t one of them. Winter Park serves up the steep and deep on anything off the top of the Cirque. Granted, backcountry enthusiasts won’t much care for the caravan-style trek, but for everyone else, a doable hike to the steep stuff makes up for most of the money spent on the lift ticket.

The takeaway:

- Lots of snow and excellent hike-to terrain make Winter Park a good bet for the weekend crowd.

- Avoid Mary Jane unless you like bumps or trees.

- Boring groomers, so probably not much fun after five days without snow.

- Not the place to take your cousin who’s just learning to ski if you’re both looking for challenge and want to meet at the same lift each run.

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