First tracks are back in Grand County |

First tracks are back in Grand County

Charles Agar / Grandstanding
Grand County, Colorado

The ski season is on! And with the Winter Park Resort opening just five days away, there are plenty of ways to get out on the snow.

Saturday I joined my friend Jeff for a climb up the old Berthoud Pass ski area for the first run of the season. I brought my 1970s-era classic cross-country gear ” it’s bound to hang on the wall of a TGI Friday’s soon ” and it was somehow appropriate to make those first tracks in the kind of gear my grandfather used.

We had a good long climb up the switchbacks. We traversed some steeps across the main face, which didn’t have enough coverage yet, then followed a steep trail about as far as we could before running into hard, wind-blown crust. We paused to look out over Berthoud Falls and the town of Empire in the valley below before making our way down.

I envied Jeff his basic telemark setup as he threw some artful knee-dipping turns on the steeps. I keep telling myself that this is the year I’m going to learn to tele, but on Saturday I was more like Bambi on ice with my wobbly old skis and low-cut boots.

Once we reached the relatively flat switchbacks halfway down, however, it was smooth sailing ” just steep enough to get up some speed, but not too steep to get out of control ” and I bellowed my first “Yeehaw!” of the year kicking and gliding down the track.

With the first taste of winter still on my lips, and after a busy Monday, I played hooky.

Working as a freelancer, I make my own hours, but that means some days the callbacks just don’t come and things are slow. So on Tuesday I decided that instead of the diminishing returns on time spent worrying and slumped over the computer, I’d escape.

It’s something I learned from my dad, a hardworking businessman who wasn’t beyond calling in a sick day and pulling me out of elementary school for a day at Seven Springs on the outskirts of Pittsburgh where we lived.

Those mid-week escapes were all about sunshine and short liftlines, but it was the feeling of cheating a little bit that really made it so sweet.

And with those good old memories in mind, a little after noon on Tuesday I met my friend Nick at Copper Mountain (for the record, it was his day off), and in a driving snow the two of us had some great runs on the limited terrain that was open.

A Coloradoan might complain about the conditions, but Nick also grew up skiing the 200-vertical-foot ice sheets of Western Pennsylvania, and neither of us have lived in Colorado long enough to get snooty.

The hill was crowded and the bottlenecks even a bit icy, but there were clumps of good soft snow with a few mogul lines developing. It was just great to lay the old Volkls over and rip.

Huge flakes fell in a constant slant and after just a few runs my beard was covered with a familiar icy crust and my lips frozen into a wide grin.

Today it’s back to work, but I’m looking forward to Winter Park Resort opening up next week. For me, that means hooky is just two miles down the road.

” Charles Agar is a freelance writer and videographer in Fraser who says if he sees you skiing on a weekday afternoon he can keep it quiet if you can.

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