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Essay: A mountain town Christmas

“It’s Christmas. Build community and invite your guests to be part of it. Be real. Hold on to your culture. Don’t be afraid to let your spiritual values shine through. Celebrate the mountains for the joy and comfort they give. Protect the forests and the streams. Nurture your children and give them hope.”

“Kohlmaisbahn” in Saalbach-Hinterglemm (Austria), background:The village and the Schattberg and Zwoelferkogel, the dominant ski peaks in the valley. Image via Wikipedia Creative Commons, Share-Alike attribution.

By Bob Berwyn

Christmas and skiing have been inextricably linked for me ever since I was an “army brat” growing up in Frankfurt, Germany. The classroom Christmas party on the last day of school (yes, we called it that back on the pre-politically correct days) wasn’t nearly as exciting as the thought that we’d soon be on starting our annual two-week ski vacation to Austria.

Sometimes there was snow on the ground; slushy, dirty city snow that splattered as the cars passed by. But more often than not, it was just gray and dreary, and my heart always skipped a beat when that finned, white 1960 Chevy Impala rolled up. Everything fit in the trunk of our classic American car, even our two-meter-plus skis, so there was plenty of room for my brother and I to sprawl in the back seat. No fast food stops for us — there was no McDonalds or Burger King along the way, so we ate well; cold schnitzels  my mom had made earlier that day, or open-faced sausage sandwiches with tangy pickles, carrot sticks and wedges of green bell peppers.

Sometimes we dozed, but more often than not, we were still awake when we slowed to a stop at the border, where customs officials in long, thick wool coats decorated with epaulets scanned our green U.S. passports, then waved us through with a friendly smile and a “Merry Christmas.”

The mountainous frontier south of Munich was the gateway to snow country.  By the glow of the headlights, we gauged the depth of the berm alongside the road to get an idea of how the skiing would be. Here the road narrowed and twisted through a river-carved canyon, mysterious and new each time we made the trip. Our destination was Saalbach, then a small, up and coming ski village that has since succumbed to the same development pressures that have afflicted so many mountain communities during the past few decades. Continue reading

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Colorado: Time for a snow dance!

Ski industry takes lighthearted approach to snow shortage

Skiers and riders at Sol Vista hope these fancy moves will please Ullr. PHOTO COURTESY SOL VISTA BASIN/CSCUSA.

Telluride residents and visitors hold a sacrificial bonfire in hopes of pleasing the snow gods. PHOTO COURTESY CSCUSA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s ski town residents and snow enthusiasts from around the country are joining forces to try and rally the snow gods for the second half of the 2011-2012 season.

With below-normal snowfall — in some cases less than half the seasonal average — mountain communities are hoping to get the attention of Ullr, Mother Nature and Old Man Winter with snow dances, sacrificial bonfires and other ceremonies aimed at eliciting at least a few flakes.

The build the vibe, Colorado Ski Country USA is inviting everyone to spread the word via social media channels by posting videos on a special snow dance website.

Despite the lack of snow, Colorado is in better shape than some other parts of the country, thanks in part to extensive snowmaking, high elevation and relatively cold temps that have helped maintain the meager snow cover.

All CSCUSA resorts are open for skiing and snowboarding, with mostly beginner and intermediate terrain, making it a perfect time to take advantage of special promotions resorts are offering for January Learn to Ski and Snowboard month.

Resorts continue to host skiers and riders who are taking advantage of the sunny weather and enjoying being outside, on the slopes, spending time with friends and family.

Check out some of the snow dance action on the Colorado Ski Country USA  YouTube channel, Facebook page and on the CSCUSA snow dance website.

 

Travel: New flights for Colorado ski areas

Flying to Colorado's slopes get eaiser every year. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

United ads Aspen gets direct flights from Texas and L.A.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —It will be easier than ever to get to some of Colorado’s best ski areas this winter, as several airlines have announced new flights, including daily nonstop service to Aspen from Dallas-Forth Worth and Los Angeles, starting Dec. 15 on American Airlines.

Daily jet service from Texas to Durango will resume for the first time more than a decade, serving Telluride and Wolf Creek, along with Durango Mountain Resort.

United Airlines has added a second daily non-stop from Houston along with a fourth daily non-stop from Los Angeles and a 12th daily flight from Denver on peak days. These new flights are in addition to that airport’s four daily non-stops from Chicago/O’Hare and two daily non-stops from San Francisco, and bring United’s total frequency up to 24 daily flights in and out of Aspen/Snowmass this winter. Continue reading

Colorado: USFS OKs new Copper Mountain master plan

A map showing proposed upgrades at Copper Mountain. Click on the image for a full-size version.

Long-range vision for resort includes new lifts, a summer mountain coaster and new on-mountain restaurants

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Copper Mountain’s new long-range master plan for addressing deficiencies in its aging lift network includes removing and replacing seven existing chairlifts and adding four new lifts, as well as new conveyors for the teaching area at the west end of the resort.

With one of the planned new lifts going up Tucker Mountain, Copper will also relocate and expand its popular snowcat skiing operation to 500 acres on the south side of the ridge running between Tucker Mountain to Jacques Peak.

The overall idea is to increase out-of-base lift capacity and dispersal across the mountain, according to the resort’s newest master plan, accepted by the U.S. Forest Service earlier this year. Full implementation of the master plan would increase the ski area’s comfortable carrying capacity from 11,870 to 15,630 skiers per day. The plan and related documents and maps are online at this Forest Service website. Continue reading

Weatherblog: Storm door still open!

The pineapple connection is transporting moisture from deep in the Pacific right to the Continental Divide. Click on the image to see it in motion.

Several more feet of snow could fall before it’s all said and done, but so far, Summit County snowfall is far from “epic,” as weather watchers report average snow totals for the season to-date

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The pipeline of moisture from deep in the Pacific continues to flow across Colorado, where winter storm warnings for most of the high country have been extended through Tuesday evening. Think of the storm as a giant hose that’s slowly undulating from north to south to help you understand how the snow totals are varying across the state from day to day.

And while it’s been snowy in Summit County, season snowfall to date is just about average to-date, with the official reading in Breckenridge at 77 inches for the season (starting Oct. 1). That’s running just a couple of inches ahead of 2007, and still well behind 1996, when weather watcher Rick Bly had tallied 101.4 inches by this date, and the big winter of 1983, when the season-to-date snowfall was almost double of what we’ve seen so far this winter. Continue reading

Colorado ski areas team up for multi-mountain deals

Early season ski pass deals in Colorado include some sweet multi-mountain arrangements.

Smaller areas like Monarch, which had a record season last winter, are making headway against the monopolistic practices of the big players by offering combo tickets

By Summit Voice

Some of Colorado’s friendliest and family oriented resorts have teamed up to offer multi-area passes this season.

The best prices are often available for people willing to buy early, including a $199 season pass for Ski Cooper with a Sept. 30 deadline. The Ski Cooper Pass also includes unrestricted days at Powderhorn, Sunlight, and several out-of-state resorts. The pass can be purchased by mail or online at www.skicooper.com.

In addition to unlimited skiing at Powderhorn, Powderhorn’s season pass provides three free ski days at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort, Monarch Mountain, and Ski Cooper; unlimited half-price lift tickets at Crested Butte, and a 10 percent discount on lessons, rentals, and merchandise at the resort. More information and lift ticket prices are available at www.powderhorn.com.

The rest of the deals after the break … Continue reading

Powder and politics in Colorado ski country

A telemark skier enjoys some late-season powder at Arapahoe Basin.

A telemark skier enjoys some late-season powder at Arapahoe Basin.

Annual ski trade group meeting features all of the major candidates running for governor

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — This year’s annual Colorado Ski Country USA meeting will have a political focus, as all the main candidates — John Hickenlooper, Scott McInnis, Jane Norton, Ken Buck and Andrew Romanoff — are  scheduled to speak at the June 9 – 10 confab at the Denver Convention Center.

The meeting also features a presentation by Rocky Mountain regional forester Rick Cables on the ongoing pine beetle issues that are affecting Colorado’s ski resorts, most of which operate on public national forest land, as well as a panel discussion on the airline industry and a talk on why loyalty matters, by Luke Williams, director of financial services for Ipsos Loyalty. The traditional awards dinner on June 10 will recognize Colorado’s top ski industry pros, including instructors, patrollers, groomers, snowmakers and athletes.

The trade group generally announce season skier visit totals at the meeting. Skier visits were up in the early season, then dropped by about 4 percent during January and February, according interim reports from the ski industry trade group. Continue reading

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