Skiing in Telluride a ‘heavenly’ experience

Skiing into Revelation Bowl at Telluride. Photo by Brett Schreckengost

By Richard Irwin, Savvy Skier
“To hell you ride!” At least, that’s one popular explanation of how the town of Telluride got its name. But a skier or snowboarder riding the snowy slopes this winter will find them heavenly. (Apologies to our California resort.)
We returned to the Colorado ski resort last month for a winter vacation. And we discovered why it ranks among the best snowboarding destinations in the country.
Telluride averages more than 300 inches of snow every year, as well as 300 days of glorious sunshine. An important element for Los Angelinos who are used to seeing the golden rays every day.
And so it was on our February adventure. The mountain had received nearly two feet of new snow the weekend before, and we enjoyed sunny skies for the next four days.
The only weather bump we had was on our last morning, when high winds roared up the box canyon, nearly blowing us off the top of the mountain. So we stayed on the lower slopes, buffered by the towering peaks above.
Telluride is huge, it has more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. Galloping Goose, the longest run is more than 4 miles long, though there were a few flat spots that requires some poling.
We found the 125 perfectly groomed every morning, which is quite an accomplishment for a resort this big. This runs ranged from refined groomed runs to some challenging moguls.

Nightly grooming offers perfect corduroy slopes in the morning. Photo by Gus Gusciora

I liked it because many of the trails were wide open boulevards that left plenty of room for everyone. No crowding and squeezing here like you might find at Bear Mountain or Mountain High.
In fact, during the second week of February, we often found ourselves skiing by ourselves. There were literally no other snowboarders within sight or sound.
Telluride has a lift capacity of more than 22,000 per hour. That includes two high-speed gondolas, seven high-speed quads, one fixed quad, two triples, two doubles, two surface lifts and a couple magic carpets.
We never stood in line for more than a few minutes. Most of the time we jumped right on the next available chair.
The popular resort has a nice variety of terrain. The breakdown is approximately a quarter beginner, a third intermediate and 40 percent advanced.
After warming up on the easy stuff, we advanced to the the bright blue runs. There’s so many trails that Telluride even breaks the runs down into double green for advanced beginners and double blue for the harder intermediate trails.
Of course, there were also the diamond runs for the advanced skier and the double diamond trails for the cliffs, chutes and cornices for experts only.
The ski resort has even installed a bridge and steel staircase between Gold Hill Chute 8 and 9 to provide better access to Palmyra Basin. Experts can test themselves on the Gold Hill Stairs, climbing to the tip top of the mountain and the extreme terrain in the Gold Hill Chutes.
The mountain sports a vertical drop of 4,425 feet, with a lift served vertical drop of 3,845 feet.
Snowboarders will find a great range of freestyle terrain parks on the mountain. Beginners will like Ute Park, which features a mini snow-cross, small jumps and ride-on boxes.

Skier hikes Gold Hill Stairs at Telluride. Photo by Ben Eng

Misty Maiden Park was designed for intermediate to high intermediate riders. It has medium jumps, rails and boxes. Advanced riders will like Hoot Brown Park with its large jumps, as well as a wide variety of rails and boxes.
Skiers come from around the world to ski at Telluride. One gentleman from Mexico brought his many children and grandchildren.
Der Sitzmark Ski Club from Pittsburgh was certainly having a grand time. The club has more than 300 members, who enjoy weeklong ski trips throughout the country including an upcoming one to Crested Butte.
“Telluride is one of our favorites, we always have some great skiing here,” said the club president and one of its founders.
So if you’re looking for a “helluva” good place to ski this winter give Telluride a look. “To hell you ride!”<QA0>

Airbags prove a useful training tool for X Games competitors

Bobby Brown slides down the hill after wiping out in the men’s ski big air finals at the Winter X Games. The use of an airbag in training can help develop the body mechanics needed for big tricks, but it also increases the risk for athletes striving for glory in action sports now defined by increasingly technical and dangerous tricks. (Photo by Daniel Petty/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Backflips are taking over skiing and snowboarding. Spinning double and triple-corked trickery was the golden ticket in every competition at last weekend’s X Games in Aspen.

The sketchy-to-learn tricks have expanded the training toolbox for athletes to include massive airbags.

Superstar Shaun White honed his triple-cork on a private airbag at Breckenridge. His airbag training at a private pipe at Silverton Mountain in 2010 greased his way to Olympic halfpipe gold that year. Today, the massive bags aren’t just for the pros but also the young aspirants nipping at their heels.

“It’s just changed everything. It’s so valuable and such a great in-between step, that difficult step between imagining a new trick and actually doing it. Now we can have the luxury of taking that step and not get hurt,” said Aspen’s Gretchen Bleiler, who sessioned an airbag at Mammoth Mountain ski area two weeks ago as she regained her snowboarding pipe form after suffering an eye injury while training on a trampoline.

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Shaun White slides into X Games slopestyle and superpipe finals

Shaun White competes in men’s snowboard slopestyle at the X Games on Thursday in Aspen. White qualified for the finals by placing seventh. (Photo by Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

By David Krause
The Denver Post

ASPEN — With some of the more exciting qualifiers rolling through Thursday afternoon to open the X Games, crowds were looking to the skies on a regular basis.

With only one finals event Thursday at Buttermilk Mountain, the opening day for the X Games features plenty of qualifying runs down the superpipe and the slopestyle course for the men.

Shaun White squeezed into the slopestyle finals, advancing for the first time since 2009 when he won gold. White qualified seventh Thursday after two runs in the elimination round.

Later in the evening, White, who has won the past 11 superpipe events he’s entered, put down a basic first run and earned 87 points, which was tops for the round. However, he dropped to second overall after Iouri Podladchikov, know better as I-Pod, had an 87.33-point run in the second round.

White had a chance to best I-Pod, but White bottomed out on his first hit of the second run.

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Torin Yater-Wallace returns to X Games halfpipe as ‘veteran’

Torin Yater-Wallace has the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in his sights as he throws tricks that include the first-ever 1800 in competition. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Torin Yater-Wallace in 2011 was the youngest athlete to medal at the Winter X Games at age 15. Two years later the halfpipe phenom is a battle-scarred, heavy-medaled veteran.

After a momentous 2012 that included the first-ever 1800 thrown in competition and gold medals at both the Europe Winter X Games and the first World Cup contest of the 2012-13 season in New Zealand, the 17-year-old is still on track for an explosive performance in halfpipe skiing’s debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

This week Yater-Wallace will announce a sponsorship deal with Red Bull — but he keeps the Target lid — and returns to the halfpipe for his third X Games at Aspen after surgery to repair his shoulder.

Joining him in the halfpipe this show are his best pals, 18-year-old Aspen native Alex Ferreira and Crested Butte 16-year-old Aaron Blunck. The contest will highlight the newest-school halfpipe skiers and weathered patriarchs of pipe Simon Dumont and Tanner Hall.

“We have always skied together, and they have supported me so much in the last two years, and now seeing them get this opportunity, it’s just awesome,” Yater-Wallace said of his friends during a phone interview this week. “My first X Games was terribly nerve-wracking, so I kind of know what they’ll be feeling. I think it will definitely loosen it up, just to be hanging with good friends at the pipe. It could feel like just another day, you know.”

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Steamboat ski area celebrates a rich history during its 50th anniversary

This classic 1958 photo was taken atop Storm Mountain, which became Mount Werner in 1964 and now is the top of the Steamboat ski area. From left are Jon Elliott, Jim Temple, John Fetcher, Buddy Werner and Loris Werner. (Steamboat Ski Resort photo)

By John Meyer

The Denver Post

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — At first glance, perhaps it doesn’t look like such a special photo: five guys on skis posing at the summit of Storm Mountain in March 1958. But that shot taken by Merle Nash represents so much of what Ski Town USA and the Steamboat ski area — currently celebrating its 50th anniversary — are all about.

The men in the photo that day were exploring the mountain that would become a great ski destination known worldwide for “champagne powder.” It includes Jim Temple, the area’s founder, and John Fetcher, its other visionary. The others are Steamboat Olympians: Buddy Werner, the first great American ski racer, along with brother Loris, who made Olympic teams as a ski jumper and alpine racer, and jumper Jon Elliott.

It’s such a symbolic picture. Temple and Fetcher were ranchers in a town built on ranching. Both loved to ski and saw great potential in Storm Mountain, which would be renamed Mount Werner after Buddy was killed in a Swiss avalanche in 1964. The Werners and Elliott grew up competing at historic Howelsen Hill near downtown Steamboat Springs.

At a recent gala to celebrate the 50th anniversary, Loris Werner recalled how Temple fell and ripped the seat of his pants the day that photo was taken, near the bottom of what is now the Rainbow trail.

“So henceforth the saddle of Rainbow, we always referred to it as Temple’s Crotch,” Werner said.

Steamboat has to be America’s friendliest ski town, and I had a wonderful time at the party, catching up with so many longtime friends. Temple and Fetcher are dead, but their sons were there.

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Shaun White may have triple-cork down before Winter X Games in Aspen

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

As Shaun White ramps up for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, all eyes will be watching him in the slopestyle competition next week at Aspen’s Winter X Games.

He’s gunning to compete in both halfpipe and slopestyle in Sochi and is pretty much a lock for the halfpipe team. His push for slopestyle is less certain, despite his enthusiasm and a list of slopestyle win that eclipses his halfpipe tally.

“I love to compete in slopestyle,” he said last month in an interview before the Breckenridge Dew Tour, where he won the halfpipe competition and didn’t compete in the slopestyle event. “It’s definitely more exciting to me than halfpipe right now.”

After two seasons off from slopestyle competition to prepare for the 2010 Winter Olympics halfpipe, White’s return to the realm of money booters foundered. He failed to make the finals in the 2011 X Games and qualified last in the 2012 X Games. The next month he won the X Games slopestyle comp in Tignes, France with back-to-back double corks.

But double corks, while the double-flipping winners in the pipe, are so 2011 in slopestyle. Teenager Mark McMorris and Canadian Sebastian Toots battled in last year’s X Games slopestyle contest with dueling backside triple-cork 1440s. (That’s four rotations and three flips — and pretty much ridiculous.)

So the question has been whether White would develop the triple cork in time for a slopestyle showdown on the X Games Buttermilk course. Videos posted Wednesday from White’s practice sessions in Breckenridge’s terrain park seem to indicate that he’s ready.

Early December snow floats resorts through holidays, but just barely

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

The holiday snow in the high country arrived too late to rescue lodgekeepers in December but boosted bookings for January and February.

The latest Mountain Travel Research Program — or MTRiP — survey of 160 property management companies in 16 western resort communities shows December 2012 lodging occupancy finished 7.9 percent behind the previous December. But the average daily room rate climbed for the 19th consecutive month, increasing 2.6 percent over December 2011.

Still, the late snow that followed a dismally dry November and early December helped. Reservations heading into December were down 12.3 percent.

“What a difference a month makes,” said Ralf Garrison, director of MTRiP, in a statement released Wednesday, Jan. 16. “Mother Nature finally delivered some much needed snow from coast to coast just in time for the Christmas holidays and the fresh powder really helped fill some December lodging vacancies at ski resorts as well as generating buzz and bookings for January and February.”

The snow also stirred bookings for the rest of the season, with December bookings through May up 10.4 percent over last season. January bookings climbed 3.5 percent and February is up 8.6 percent.

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New winter sports for the family to experience on snowy terrain

Riding bumper cars on ice — these are at Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs, Colo. — is one of a number of relatively new diversions being offered in winter recreation destinations, along with airboarding, snow bikes and snowkiting. (Photo by Karen Schwartz/Associated Press)

By Karen Schwartz

Associated Press

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. — After nearly 50 years of living in the Rocky Mountains, I thought I knew how to enjoy the winter. I’ve gone skiing, skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, tobogganing, sleigh riding, dog-sledding and more.

But until this winter, I’d never heard of bumper cars on a skating rink. And it wasn’t until recently that I had my first chance to carve turns down a ski hill on a snowbike.

It’s part of a trend to provide visitors to ski resorts and other snowy destinations with a wider variety of choices, said Troy Hawks, managing editor of the National Ski Areas Association Journal.

“What we’re seeing is a larger swath of the family — you’ve got the grandkids all the way to the grandparents — and all of them have their idea of how they want to spend their day,” he said.

Some activities are more popular in certain regions, and some aren’t well advertised, so for a different spin on a snow-destination vacation, here are some things to look for:

Air bags
These massive, inflatable air bags are placed at the bottom of jumps to allow skiers and boarders to try flips and spins. Nail the landing on your feet and you ride off down the hill. Fail, and you have a soft landing. or

A high-tech spin on winter tubing, these snow body boards are inflatable sleds with molded plastic runners on the bottom and handles on the top. The sleds can reach speeds of 60 mph or more (nearly 100 kilometers per hour), and users steer by shifting their body weight. They’re offered at some ski areas (though banned at others) as well as through some private operators. has a partial list of rental locations.

Bumper cars on ice
Just what it sounds like, these are turning up at skating rinks from coast to coast. The battery-operated “cars” are large rubber tubes with molded seats that can hold one adult or an adult and small child. Controlled by two joysticks, they are easy to steer or spin as they bump along on wheels with tiny cleats. Most rinks have age, height or weight restrictions.

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Video: Snowboarder Shaun White chops signature locks for worthy cause

The Denver Post

Shaun White left Breckenridge recently and went straight to the salon to have his red locks removed.

White, whose trademark long red hair has promoted “The Flying Tomato” nickname he picked up early in his career, posted video of getting his long ponytail cut off.

He said he has been thinking about it for a “long while” and wanted to donate it to Locks of Love.

“Somebody needs it more than I do,” he says during the car ride to a random salon. And after the final cut: “I did it for you, Locks of Love.”

The Locks of Love organization makes hairpieces for financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

White seemed a bit nervous during the 2-minute video as he arrived at the salon and as he gained the courage to sit in the chair.

“I haven’t had this short of hair in forever,” he says in the video.

Maybe he’ll be used to it by the time he comes to Aspen to defend his X Games title on Jan. 24-27.

It’s been a slow start to the ski season, but skiing Sunday was grand

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opens for it’s first day of skiing and snowboarding of the year on October 17, (2012 Mahala Gaylord, The Denver Post)

By John Meyer
The Denver Post

Like most avid skiers, I’ve been increasingly stir crazy waiting for an opportunity to get in some real skiing through what has been a very lean season for snow thus far.

Oh, I made a few turns on manmade snow when I had access to the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center one morning last month. I took a day when I made a run or two each at Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Copper Mountain — and then rode my bike from Copper to Vail Pass. I got so anxious for skiing that I went up to Loveland one afternoon, skiing the same two runs over and over again.

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