Geiger's Culture Counter: Pray for snow
It’s 10 days into 2018 and I have yet to go skiing. I don’t mean just abstaining from the slopes in the new year, but I mean in this entire season so far. Part of the reason is due to a recent minor foot injury preventing me from strapping on my ski boots. Yet even before then, the weather hasn’t made it worth it.
As of this writing Breckenridge has a 33-inch base depth, with 92 out of 187 trails and 32 out of 35 lifts open. Keystone has 30 inches, 83 trails and 19 out of 20 lifts. With 29 inches of snow, 154 trails and 14 lifts, Steamboat has also seen better days. Meanwhile Wolf Creek, which historically gets the most snow in the entire state, is 90 percent open but has only a midway depth of 18 inches.
I’m not one to usually cite articles in my columns, preferring to write from the heart rather than the mind, but a recent Outside Magazine piece said that this has been the West’s worst winter in 60 years. Aspen Skiing Company had to open up a soup kitchen for their unemployed workers due to dry conditions.
To focus just on Colorado, the Denver Post said last week that the snowpack is the worst it has been in 30 years. The upper Colorado River Basin is at 65 percent of normal snow depths, the Arkansas River Basin is at 49 percent, the Gunnison River Basin is at 35 percent and southwestern Colorado is at 22 percent. I looked at last week’s bomb cyclone with envy.
It’s comforting—but in a disturbing way—to know that it’s not rose-tinted glasses tricking me into believing that this is abnormal. And I know I don’t need to tell the native farmers living in an alpine desert that snow, and therefore the spring runoff, is the life that drives the state’s economy and wellbeing. But.
This. Is. Not. Good.
This year I could have gone before Halloween and skied in October for the first time ever and now I regret it. Sure, it would have been early season conditions with rocks and logs, but that would have been expected and more understandable then instead of now.
Those purple majestic spines bisecting Colorado are the main reason why my family and I moved here almost 12 years ago. When my parents decided to uproot themselves from Pennsylvania and find better jobs my mom floated the idea of Delaware. My dad’s response?
“Delaware doesn’t have mountains.”
He grew up skiing all over the old Appalachian range and passed on the passion of the sport to us. One day on a date my mom realized she would have to learn how to ski if they were to get married.
I’ve been making French fries and pizzas with my skis since I could walk. My weekends were spent at the 600 vertical foot “mountain” called Roundtop that was barely a half-hour away. Their main run, “Minuteman,” was named in honor of militia in the Revolutionary War but it also aptly described how long it took to reach the bottom. The chair ride back to the summit was immensely slower.
Roundtop gave me my love of speed when I joined their racing team. In elementary and middle school I would slalom my way down “Exhibition” in approximately 30 seconds. And though my brother turned on family tradition by being the first snowboarder of the Geigers, he did it to be on Roundtop’s alpine team. The family decided to not disown him since he chose the gates over the half-pipe.
The runs may not be as lengthy or the snow as deep, yet learning how to parallel turn on actual blue ice and not the hard pack people call icy here prepared me to handle anything The Rockies offered.
We would take long Presidents’ Day weekend trips to Park City, Utah annually—which gave me my first taste of the West—and eventually Colorado. I’m not a goose that flies south for the winter and the only beach I want to spend my spring break at is Arapahoe Basin’s parking lot.
Now, I do realize I am doing a Chicken Little impersonation. There’s a moderate storm forecasted for the rest of the week. In March we could see major snowfall to save us from fire-filled summer and drought. But I doubt it’ll make up for the deficit we’re already experiencing.
I’ve skied on Black Friday. I’ve skied on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve skied on Father’s Day and as late as the Fourth of July weekend. It’ll be a minor miracle for the season to last that long if this keeps up. Pray for snow.