Love is blind, they say. And so it was as my love affair with powder blinded me from the fact that my four-wheel drive wasn’t activated, sending my SUV swerving along I-70 and into the center guard rail.
I wasn’t driving irresponsibly–the roads didn’t look that bad. But I was fixated on the sweet curves I could track through eight new inches of powder at Steamboat Springs (that was as of 5:00 am; it was still dumping though) and not necessarily on actually getting there to enjoy it.
I spent the next hour in Silverthorne having my car assessed for damage, heartbroken that every minute here was a minute lost getting to Steamboat in time for opening lift. While the front fender was being chopped off in the shop, I looked around for closer options–Vail, A Basin and Powderhorn received five new inches each…ok, but not great. Aspen/Snowmass had six, but certainly not worth the drive with a limping vehicle.
But Copper, it got seven and I could clearly see in the distance that it was coming down heavily all morning. Done!
As it turns out, ski reports can be fickle. A 24-hour report doesn’t necessarily reflect current conditions. It helps to know when the snow came (afternoon or overnight), how much fell after the morning report (which often comes around 5:00 or 6:00 am, leaving plenty of room for more), is the wind blowing, etc.
Sometimes that leads to a disappointing day on the mountain. But sometimes the blind loves pays off to the tune of a foot-plus of fresh snow that everyone else thinks is seven inches (it helped that it was a Monday).
The light crowds had their way with the mountain. As the sun started to emerge, it revealed a winter playground with snow-covered trees, misty mountains in the distance trying to shake the clouds and, most importantly, a landscape draped in soft white linen.
Resolution Bowl was skiing deep. I spent the better part of a morning on the backside hitting the untracked tree lines and finding virgin stashes in the open terrain. It was exhausting, with occasional moguls hidden underneath from the day before stressing the legs.
Heading up Storm King lift.
When Storm King’s t-bar opened, I headed to the open tundra of Spaulding Bowl for one of my finest runs ever. Awaiting me was deep, soft, glistening powder with only a few lines traced before. I picked up some solid speed, but it felt like I was in slow motion. Have you ever been “in the zone” in basketball or hit a golf ball in the sweet spot? That’s what this was for skiing.
Then a surprise: the weather report called for a bluebird day, but the storm came back. And it came hard. With near white-out conditions at the top around lunch, I took a breather. And hour later, it was as if no one had skied in the morning. Tracks were mostly covered and at least another few inches fell to the ground.
With winds gusting near 30 miles an hour, I stayed on the front side and hit the trees below the Excelerator lift. It was odd–no one was skiing here, nor had they all day. I found only a few lines carved by others. 17 Glad was a virtual ghost town, leaving knee-deep bliss for me alone.
By mid-afternoon, I knew I had to head back to Denver, especially with road conditions getting scarier. But like leaving a loved one for a few days, there was pain in the decision. I didn’t want to go; there was still so much to do, so many good times to share.
The only comfort in leaving it all behind was the knowledge that it was better to have loved than to not have loved at all.
Know Before You Go: Copper is sometimes overlooked because it’s not on the Epic Pass. Don’t let that distract you; it’s an outstanding mountain with open terrain, steep runs and pain-inducing vertical. Also, just fill 10 gallons in your car at Shell and get a buy-one, get-one-free coupon. Even if you go solo, someone in line will team up with you for the reduced cost.