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Looking back on skiing in Colorado

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Sam Bauman

It’s a delightful surprise, but we’re already into spring skiing and riding. That means hit the slopes early in the morning, follow the sun around as it softens the icy trails and quit before things get too sloppy.

Looking back on the five days of skiing Colorado, A-Basin was a special, unspoiled treat – steep mountain on the Continental Divide, all fixed lifts and demanding trails. Beaver Creek was ultra plush but fine skiing, despite the three escalators to the base.

Thursday David Rittenhouse and I tried Breckenridge, where one parks in town (free) and catches a bus to the Berghof base. Two high-speed quads start there and take riders to either Vista Haus or to a catwalk that leads to a collection of blues served by the Independence sixpack. Eight blue trails spread out from there, all of which were nicely groomed and fast. David took the T-bar to the foot route on Peak 8 but the wind almost blew him off the trail so he didn’t hike to the peak.

We worked our way across Peak 8 to Peak 9 via the Upper Peak 8 transfer chair. Lots of blues and blueblack runs there, which keep us going the rest of the day. Verdict on Breckenridge: Fine skiing, lousy access and much double blacks we never got to.

Friday it was time for Vail, largely regarded as the Mecca of Colorado skiing. No parking in Vail Village so we wound up at Lionshead, were it was $16 to park. A walk through the village brings one to a gondola and a detachable quad. From there we crossed over to the Avanti and from there to the Mountaintop Express and on to the China Bowl via a long, long cat track. The Orient Express lifted us to 11,375 feet for skiing on chopped but fine snow. On to the new Blue Sky basin, a nice mix chiefly of blacks but with enough blue escapes to make it easy.

Plenty of snowsporters on the runs, but trails were all spread out enough to make for sparse crowds. To fully explore Vail would take at least three days but after one we had to move on. Fine skiing, pain-in-the-neck to get to the base.

Our last day had to be short so we could check out of our Keystone hotel. The resort is built around three mountains. We walked from the hotel to the base of the Peru lift, rode that up to the Outpost below North Peak (11,600 feet). Snow was short by Tahoe standards, about 50 inches, but the grooming made up for it. We worked our way over to Summit House, tried just about every run there before it was 12:15 and we were to be out of our hotel by 12:30. We fumbled out way down about a third of the way before asking a guide how to get to the Peru base.

“Easy,” he said. “Just take Schoolmarm run, it’s about 3 1/2 miles to the base. Fast and fun.”

He was right, well-groomed, fast tracks that got us down in time to at least get to the hotel by checkout time.

To sum it all up, Colorado is not Tahoe. It wasn’t as cold as we expected and the snow was thin. Access is a constant problem but the runs are long and exciting. Vail’s Blue Sky basin was something that needed more exploring. And management seems to think that splitting bump runs in half, groomed and ungroomed, is a good idea. I agree, opens up more trails for those not ready for bumps (such as those with knee problems).

But all in all, it was fine to be back to Heavenly and Mount Rose an all the rest.

• As part of a national tour, Family Fest 2004 will be stopping at Diamond Peak Ski Resort Saturday. Family Fest features tons of product demonstrations and giveaways. Call (775) 832-1177 or visit diamondpeak.com.

The Village Ski Loft Demo Day comes to Diamond Peak Sunday. This will be the biggest demo day at Diamond Peak. Numerous ski manufactures will be at Diamond Peak to show off their equipment. Demos will be available throughout most of the day and are free to check out with the purchase of a lift ticket. Those interested in purchasing equipment will be able to reserve equipment. A small deposit is required. Call the Village Ski Loft at (775) 831-3537.

North Lake Tahoe erupts with a fusion of music, motion and fashion March 26-April 4 as SpringBlast returns. The spring festival has expanded to 10 days with events to be held at Alpine Meadows, Northstar, Sugar Bowl and Squaw Valley USA.

Among the highlighted activities are the opening night SpringBlast Fashion Show and Concert with Tea Leaf Green at Sierra Vista on March 26, the SpringBlast Sports & Techno Expo in the Village at Squaw Valley March 27, the Miss SpringBlast Beachwear Contest at Pierce Street Annex on March 31, the SpringBlast Concert with Albino at the Olympic Village Grand Lodge on April 3 and the World’s Highest Elevation Pool Party at the High Camp Complex at Squaw April 4.

On-snow events include the Red Bull Skiercross Championships at Sugar Bowl March 26-28, the Alpine Meadows Dummy Huck March 28, the SpringBlast Rail Contest at Northstar on April 3 and the Swimsuit Slalom at Squaw April 4.

• Northstar-at-Tahoe presents the return of the Great Chef Relay Race, a contest that challenges the culinary skills and snowsport abilities of local restaurateurs and their employees March 16.

This event consists of two parts – racing and cooking. Each team will consist of four people with at least one female member or a man in drag.

Three of the racers must ski or snowboard and one must ride a snowbike down a slalom race course. To add to the challenge, one competitor must carry a full tray of shots and each spill will result in penalizing the team’s score.

For part two of the challenge, it’s off to the Lodge at Big Springs’ deck for the chef cook-off. Each team is allowed to carry two backpacks with any items needed to prepare/present their dishes. Spices and oils are allowed, but no food items. Mystery ingredients will be provided by Northstar at the beginning of the contest – what the chefs do with those ingredients is entirely up to them.

Northstar will provide each team with a sheet pan of mystery ingredients, one six-foot table, an outlet, cutting board, sanitizer water, three 10-inch plates, 12 bread and butter plates, forks/spoons for the judges end wine glasses. Teams are allowed to bring cooking utensils, as long as they fit inside the two backpacks.

The downhill race will begin at 10 a.m. and the cook-off will begin at 1 p.m. The entry fee is $75 per team, which includes lift tickets, race fees, food and beverage costs, drink coupons, prizes and the end of the day party at the Lodge at Big Springs, featuring a keg tapping. Spectators are encouraged to enjoy this entertaining event and can purchase a $15 ticket. Contact Nicole Belt at (530) 543-3132.

• The Salomon Oasis Project is coming to Northstar-at-Tahoe Mountain Resort for its final tour stop of the year, March 19-21. The Oasis Project is an event that combines free demos and give-aways with a weekend-long party. The free “test fest” allows snow sports enthusiasts to try out everything from high-tech to high-style products from Oasis’s partners and over 200 skis and 80 snowboards from Salomon.

To register to win free gear from Salomon and Sony Electronics, log on to http://www.salomonoasis.com/registration.jsp.

• At Heavenly Mountain Resort (www.skiheavenly.com) events on tap Include:

April 8: The Dummy Gelande tests the speed and gravity of flying dummies.

Entries must be of the stuffed variety.

April 10 and 11: College Weekend après ski parties from 2 to 4 p. m. in the Lakeview lodge.

April 10: Join Ski-E-O Glen Plake for a ski marathon down Gunbarrel. This is for the average skier. Complete 25 or more laps down the moguls in the designated time and you will be rewarded you for your efforts.

April 11: An Easter Egg Hunt for the entire family, with prize-packed eggs hidden at Adventure Peak. There will also be snowshoe races and a tubing derby.

April 13: Bartender Cup is for those who make your favorite libations to pour the best drink after carrying them through an obstacle course in ski boots; April 17: The pond-skimming competition tests your ability to slide across Lake Heavenly without getting wet; April 19-23 and April 26-30: Snow and sand meet for the Lake Heavenly Beach Party. Music, snow volleyball, tubing and snow bikes will be on hand; April 21: There will be slalom competitions on snow bikes; April 24-28: The East Peak Deck will be jumping during the Reggae Fest, complete with Jamaican barbecue.

•Also on Highway 50, but a bit higher up in elevation, those visiting Sierra at-

Tahoe (www.sierratahoe.com) during spring break may participate in:

April 3: Boarding for Breast Cancer, where there will be live music, a drawing, health fair and a booth to donate to the cause; April 5-9: All students with a valid college ID ride for $35; April 11: The Easter Bunny will be on hand for an Easter Egg Hunt on the tubing hill. One lucky child will win a season pass for 2004-05.

n At Kirkwood Mountain Resort, spring break thrill-seekers will find:

April 1-3: The North American Free Skiing/Riding Championships; April 9: Jamin’ 11 – where there is big air, pond skimming, superpipe contests, a spring party and a disc jockey spinning tunes; April 11: A non-denominational Easter service at 9 a.m. at the Wall Bar. The Easter Egg Hunt begins at 10 a.m. at the ice rink; April 17-18: There will freestyle contests both days in the Chair 5 park. Registration is at 9 a.m. Cost is $25. Blue Turtle Seduction will play Sunday from noon-4 p.m.

Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal Diversions Editor. Contact him at sbauman@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1236.