More trip reporting from TC's Colorado adventure.
Friday night, after the Boat Yard dinner broke up, I went to Breckenridge to see the International Snow Sculpture Competition. That made for a great final activity of the day, so I slept well in preparation for day two...
Saturday - Keystone:
I pulled into the River Run carpark at 8:00 am after a lovely drive from Frisco, over the Dillon Dam. I changed into my boots and made my way to the double lift queue (gondola and high-speed quad) at the River run base.
I was in the queue for the chair at 8:24 am. The lift opened at 9:00 am.
Thus, I was on the second char up the mountain that morning - score!
Having spent many late-autumn weekends at Keystone as a teenage ski racer, I gravitated toward the terrain with which I was familiar: North Peak. I also checked out The Outback, and between the two, I made five high-speed cruising runs on freshly-groomed corduroy before the meetup time of 10:00 am at Summit House on the main mountain. At this point, there wasn't any crowd to speak of: queues for the lifts were short, and the runs weren't crowded.
I met up with a bunch of Bears at the Summit House at 10. Cgeib left me a voice mail, saying that much of the group had been slowed down making their way up the lifts from the main base area, which saw big crowds combined with ski racers. So DonDenver, Betsy, Paul-who-shall-not-be-named, Mad Mike, jagage and I enjoyed a cup of coffee as Team Michigan, cgeib, Bud and Buddha made their way to the summit.
The group then made its way down to North Peak, where the crowds had materialized as if Hollywood had made the call for extras to populate the area. We got creative with getting into the queues, which worked to some extent (note for next time: hire an instructor under the guise of a group lesson to get access to the express lanes), but as mentioned earlier: Bears adapt!
The group skipped straight to The Outback to try and outwit the crowds. We started our Outback adventure in Badger, a lovely glade that is in the shade for most of the day, so the snow stays soft. We all found our unique ways through the trees - my line involved aiming my skis straight down the fall line for 20 yards or so in order to thread a particularly tight stand of pines, and other Bears found their own unique ways down the hill. We reconvened at the bottom and decided to try out The Outback, the group splitting up a bit, with the speed demons (Bud, Buddha, Cgeib, DonDenver, Betsy, Mad Mike, Paul and me) tending to stick with each other.
The next run we tried was a hike into North Bowl, which is also served by a snowcat at $5 a pop. Being Bears, we decided to do all of the ascent under our own power, with Bud, Buddha and me taking the lead and starting up in a sidestep, to not race ahead of the rest of the group.
After hiking around 2/3 of a mile, we snapped into our skis and waited for the rest of the group to arrive - about 6 minutes. We then launched into North Bowl (around the Conquest section, for those keeping score), enjoying the first 120 yards which was soft, knee-deep powder. After that, we descended into the trees, which weren't as good as those on Badger, and had a long run-out which was disappointing (though tree skiing is almost always fun, even if it's short-lived).
So our next run in The Outback was on Elk Run, a groomed cruiser which allowed us to carve big arcs. At the base of the lift, we decided to work our way to a meeting point: the Outpost Lodge. After taking the s-l-o-w Wayback quad, we made our way to the lodge for a well-earned lunch. The rest of the Bears managed to find us, despite the topographic challenges that tried to silence our cell phones.
After lunch, we made our way back to North Peak chair, where were decided to hit some moguls (which I was starting to like at this point - the differences between soft western moguls and hard-as-rocks eastern moguls being quite drastic). Cgeib led the faster group of Bears down Powder Cap, through Bullet Glades, to Bullet: a great combination, which set up some sweet lines through the bumps. We liked this combination so much, we did it twice.
By this point, it was getting late, and North Peak was closing. so we made our way to the main mountain, where we finished up with some fast cruisers that included some edging drills, sick carves, and lots of smiles as we made a couple of laps on the Montezuma lift, then parted ways for the day as the night skiing lights were just beginning to overpower the waning sunlight.