2008 Snow Sportacular
Get ready to snowkite, ice fish or hit the slopes on a snowmobile. We give the lowdown on the nation's best off-beat winter sports, plus highlights from the X Games and your guide to Colorado's best après-ski options.
20 Best Winter Adventures Snow
Snow can make just about anywhere a playground, and people have figured out all kinds of ways to have fun with the white stuff. So, with the idea that we pretty much know about regular, lift-served skiing, we present here the 20 Best Winter Adventures to take you beyond the ordinary. Do a little research, find something you think will suit you, then bundle up and get ready to play outside the box!
By Alex Miller
LAKE DILLON, CO
(68 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Snowkiting is a way to ski or snowboard using wind instead of gravity. Kiters hang onto a parachute-like device while being tugged ac ross the snowy terrain. The guys at Colorado Kite Force near Breckenridge have a blast kiting on the frozen surface of Lake Dillon, and they offer day-long lessons for about $300. Anton Rainold at Colorado Kite Force says kids as young as seven can give snowkiting a whirl.
“You don’t need a high level of experience, and you can learn how to kite in one day,” he says. “It’s an absolute blast.” Compared to traditional skiing, Rainold says kiting is a thrill that doesn’t end at the bottom. “It
’s the same sense of freedom as skiing, only you never reach the bottom of the mountain—and you can go up or down the mountain,” he says. You’ll find everything you need to get started at the Colorado Kite Force shop in Silverthorne, CO.
(17 MILES WEST OF BOSTON)
Skinny-skiing is a sport everyone should try. It’s a great break from the busy world of the alpine ski area, it’s even better exercise, and it’s not too difficult to pick up. Take a half-day lesson to get started and enjoy the quiet swoosh of the skis as the wind whispers through the pines. At the Weston Ski Track, there’s a network of groomed trails with snowmaking as well as night skiing.
BACKCOUNTRY SNOWCAT SKI
(100 MILES SOUTHWEST OF DENVER)
Veteran powderhounds will tell you the best place to find deep snow caches isn’t at the ski areas—it’s in the backcountry. Chicago Ridge Snowcat Tours will take you up over 12,000 feet to ski atop the Continental Divide. This terrain is typically for expert skiers or boarders only, but it can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience that rivals heli-skiing for a fraction of the cost.
SUMMIT COUNTY, CO
(70 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Winter’s greatest guilty pleasure, snowmobiling enables you to get to places in the backcountry only the hardiest winter hikers and skiers ever see. Yes, they’re loud, but they’re easy to use and a ton of fun. High Country Tours, based in Summit County (home of Breckenridge, Dillon, Keystone and other winter destinations), has a two-hour tour that will take you more than 12,700 feet above sea level through some of the most extraordinary winter scenery you’ve ever seen.
ANYWHERE WITH SNOW!
Similar to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing is an all-natural, quiet way to get into the woods while getting a great workout. Most cross-country centers also rent snowshoes, and some even have dedicated trails. But the real beauty of snowshoes is their ability to let you do the sport pretty much wherever there’s snow. Tubbs, a snowshoe manufacturer, has an excellent website for finding trails all over the US.
NEWRY, MAINE (75 MILES NORTHWEST OF PORTLAND)
Less than two hours north of Portland, Mahoosuc Guide Service will get you into some of the wildest areas of Maine via dogsled. The barking, yipping dogs get quiet the second they start running, and although it’s not nearly as fast as snow-mobiling, the winter quiet broken only by the panting critters makes for an awesome experience.
“It’s very hands-on,” says guide and owner Polly Mahoney. “It’s a great experience if you like dogs and being out in the winter—and kids really love it.” Mahoosuc Guide Service does full-day sled trips for kids four and older, as well as overnights trips. On day trips, guides stop for lunch and build a fir e to warm up homemade soup and toasted bagels. “It’s very exciting; the dogs lo ve to pull and be out there,” Mahoney says. “It really is great for people nowadays to get out there and slow down with the dogs.”
COLORADO’S BACKCOUNTRY (100 MILES SOUTHWEST OF DENVER)
A fantastic experience, a hut trip requires a great deal of planning as well as physical stamina and cross-country skiing ability, which you’ll need to get five to 10 miles into the backcountry.
Most people go with a small group of friends and have the time of their lives—but this is not an experience for couch potatoes. The Colorado 10th Mountain Division Hut Association manages a network of 29 huts in the state and has a website jammed with information on hut-tripping.
ESTES PARK, CO (71 MILES NORTHWEST OF DENVER)
Most people think of horseback riding as a summer activity, but those horses need exercise in the winter, too. A great way to escape from the busy resort and find some peace and quiet in the woods is a trip to Sombrero Ranch, which offers a variety of trail rides. The one through magnificent Estes Park is the best to try. Horseback riders don’t alarm wildlife as much as snowmobilers do, so the chance of seeing a variety of animals is high.
NEW YORK, NY
Instead of fighting the crowds at Rockefeller Plaza, head to the equally fun Wollman Rink in Central Park. Open seven days a week all season long with on-site rentals available, the rink is a two-minute walk into Central Park from the 59th Street and Sixth Avenue entrance.
KEYSTONE, CO (77 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Extend your ski day or just take a few after-dinner runs for the fun of it at Keystone, which has the most extensive night ski offerings in the state. Take in the sunset from your skis on a freshly groomed green or blue run—you don’t want to be tackling bumps at night! The lifts stay open until 9pm on varying nights. One bit of advice: Save happy hour for after skiing.
EAGLE COUNTY, CO (115 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Here’s a way to combine cross-country skiing or snowshoeing with a bird- or wildlife-watching expedition.
Check in with Tom Wiesen at Trailwise Guides in the Vail area. He’ll take you into the woods and tell you who liv es there: the birds, hares, weasels and elk, all of whom are more out in the open in wintertime. Wiesen and his guides are also knowledgeable about the area’s ecosystem, so ask about the tr ees, rivers and fish—and anything else that springs to mind.
“It’s nice; it adds richness to life,” Wiesen says of wildlife watching. “Who are we surrounded by? It doesn’t jus t end with us.” While in the woods, the guides will point out not just the critters, but also their tracks. You’ll be amaz ed to see what a busy place the winter woods are, and a skilled guide will alert you to things you may not have otherwise noticed.
NEW PALTZ, NY (20 MILES NORTH OF NEWBURGH)
Not for the faint of heart, ice climbing is something for which you’ll need expert instruction to do. Just 90 minutes north of New York City is one of the East Coast’s premier climbing areas: the Shawangunk Mountains, or “The Gunks,” for short. You can climb these cliffs year round, and Eastern Mountain Sports has a great climbing school to help get you started.
VAIL, CO (97 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Skiers and boarders may scoff at these contraptions, but here’s a bit of trivia for you: Earl Eaton, one of the founders of Vail who’s now in his 80s, still hits the hill using only a snowbike. Take the Eagle Bahn Gondola up to Vail’s Adventure Ridge, which rents snowbikes for adults and kids 14 and older.
WOODBURY, CT (60 MILES NORTHEAST OF WHITE PLAINS, NY)
A step up from old-fashioned sledding, tubing is an activity that a family or group with varying abilities can do together. Just about two hours north of New York City is the Woodbury Ski Area, which has a tubing hill with eight runs served by four lifts. Woodbury is even lit, so you can tube at night.
VAIL, CO (97 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Ride mini-snowmobiles Vail’s Adventure Ridge has a number of attractions, including a tubing hill and bungee trampolines. But one distinctive thing is the fleet of tiny snowmobiles they have for kids between six and 12. They get the thrill of trying a snowmobile and controlling it themselves while parents can rest assured they won’t go too fast or jump off the track.
Jump on bungee trampolines No mountain resort, it seems, is complete these days without a few bungee trampo-lines. Kids love them since they can practice big tricks without fear of falling. While the equipment doesn’t vary much fr om area to area, the ones in Vail are located at the top of the gondola, providing amazing views as kids get launched into the air.
MILLE LACS LAKE, MN (ABOUT 87 MILES NORTH OF MINNEAPOLIS)
The second-largest lake in Minnesota, Mille Lacs Lake spans more than 200 square miles—plenty of space to do some ice fishing. Whether you rent an ice fish house—ranging from barely furnished to hotel-like accommodations with televisions and fully equipped kitchens—or hire a guide, there’s no doubt the walleyes and perch will be biting.
Ivan Burandt of Ivan’s Guide Service provides it all. He will take groups of two to six out on the lake, from the shallow reefs to the mud flats, where you’ll fish through a two-foot-by-four-foot hole. And not only does Burandt stay with you all day and supply all of the equipment, he’ll even fillet your catch for you.
TRUCKEE AND TWIN BRIDGES, CA (180 MILES EAST OF SAN FRANCISCO)
If you thought skateboarding was just meant for concrete, think again. Snowskates, which are essentially slightly wider and longer skateboards with an attached base that resembles a snowboard, make for a thrilling ride.
At Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort in Twin Bridges and Northstar Resort in Truckee, adventurous types can hop on the lower mountain lifts for a chance at snowskate action. The resorts don’t rent snowskates, and they do require that all riders wear a retention device so the board doesn’t slip away from you.
DILLON, CO (68 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Think about it: Camping in winter eliminates many of the things people don’t like about summer camping, like heat, mosquitoes and bears. This activity requires a fair amount of planning, a lot of gear and some expert advice, so don’t just traipse off into the woods with a cheap tent. Check with a local outfitter like WildernesSports.
BRECKENRIDGE, CO (80 MILES WEST OF DENVER)
Looking for something a little beyond the norm? Plan a spring trip to Breckenridge for the 27th annual Bump Buffet on April 27. Telemark skiers tackle the bumps in outrageous costumes, competing in teams or as individuals. It’s a fun event that lets telemarkers show their stuff, not to mention entertaining to watch.
YOUR ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO WINTER X GAMES
JANUARY 24–27, 2008
BUTTERMILK MOUNTAIN AT ASPEN/SNOWMASS
Whether you have spent time on the slopes or are just fascinated by the feats of daring-do, the Winter X Games have delivered some amazing sights for the past 11 years. Just in time to gear up for the 12th annual action-packed weekend, these pages promise to get you pumped up for the various challenges competitors will face. Also, check out this year’s major rivalries and learn important lingo that will help you stay on top of the game.
360 A single rotation, or “heli.” 720 Two complete rotations. 900 Two and a half rotations. 1080 Three rotations. 1260 Three and a half rotations. BACK SCRATCHER Old-school freestyle move where the legs are bent, and skis are tucked behind the back. BACK 180 Backflip with a half rotation. BIO A semi-inverted spin, spinning off the front shoulder. CORK A semi-inverted spin, spinning off the back shoulder. D-SPIN Corked 360 into a “back full” (backflip 360). Named for new-school pioneer Mike Douglas. DAFFY Splitting the legs in mid-air, like taking a step. FLAIR Blackflip 180 in the pipe. Named after the BMX vert trick (combo of “flip” and “air”). GRAB Grabbing any part of the ski. HELI Short for helicopter. Skier-specific term for a 360. JAPAN GRAB Grabbing the ski with the opposite hand. LAWN DART Jumping headfirst with the body horizontal, ending in a front flip. LINCOLN LOOP A sideways roll. Named for freestyle great Eddie Lincoln. MOBIUS A fully inverted 360. MISTY FLIP Off-axis spin with a front flip. PHIL GRAB Same hand, same ski. Named for Philippe Belanger. RODEO Off-axis spin with a backflip. SWITCH Any trick where the take off or landing is backwards. SKODEO Switch Rodeo 540 (off the jump backwards, semi-inverted backflip with one and a half rotations). Named for Skogen Sprang. SPREAD EAGLE Spreading the legs in mid air. SWITCH BACK 180 backflip with a half rotation, started backwards.
THE CONTEST TO WATCH...
“Simon Dumont won silver last year and goes head-to-head every year with Tanner Hall,” says Powder magazine editor Derek Taylor. “Those two have been sparring back and forth for the past few years, and it’s made an interesting story. Truth is, they are really good friends. If I had to give a nod to someone, it would be Simon. He’s more focused on the pipe right now.”
A sweep down the slope before taking to the sky for the craziest tricks possible.
A fast and furious course race that features racing over tabletop jumps, banked turns, rollers and gaps. It’s a fusion of motocross and downhill racing.
Skiers will showcase their freestyle skills on a course consisting of various features, such as bumps, rails and jumps.
Athletes do tricks using a 500-foot-long, 16-foot-deep “U-shaped” SuperPipe that stretches 54 feet from lip-tolip with a pitch of 16 degrees.
<<< MONO SKIER X
Like Skier X, this event features disabled sit-skiers navigating the tricky course in a high-speed race for X Games glory.
TERRAIN TERMINOLOGY: BASE A firm layer of hard-packed snow covering the bare ground. BACKCOUNTRY Out of a resort area. BOILER PLATE Very hard, rutted, frozen snow conditions with washboard-like grooves from the grooming equipment. BOOTER A large jump or kicker. BULLET PROOF Super hard or frozen snow. CEMENT Heavy snow found in coastal regions. Particularly common in the Sierra and the Northwest. CORN Spring snow that has frozen and started to thaw, resulting in a creamed-corn consistency. CRUD Varied and inconsistent snow. FACE SHOT Snow that flies up from the skis and hits the skier in the face. FIRST DESCENT When a line is skied for the first time ever. FLUTE A column of snow stacked on a terrain feature such as a rock or a on a near vertical slope. FRESHIES Turns in fresh powder. GROOMER a groomed run. GROOMING Flattening snow conditions with machinery. Rolling, packing, cutting down bumps, breaking up ice. HIGH ANGLE Steep. HIT A jump or terrain aspect that can send a skier airborne. KICKER A jump with a steep lip. MOGUL A snow bump formed by the action of skiers. Usually found on steeper slopes. POW Powder. ROLLER A hit or jump with a rounded top. SNOWCAT Machinery used for grooming snow and building courses. Over-snow tracked vehicles. TRANSITION A change in ski terrain, as when going from steep to a flat section.
THE CONTEST TO WATCH...
“One of the best events is always the women’s half-pipe; the talent at the top tier is world class,” says Pat Bridges, the editor of Snowboarder magazine. “You’ve got the technical ability of Gretchen Bleiler and the amplitude of Hannah Teter, and young Elena Hight bridges the gap between the two as a more well-rounded rider.”
Just like the ski version, this is a high-flying showstopper for the trickiest jump.
Always a highlight of the games, this event sees the boarders taking their turn in the 500-foot-long, 16-foot-deep SuperPipe. Expect big air and lots of inflight trickery.
This event is for anybody who has watched the Winter Olympics and wondered why they don’t just send all the downhill competitors off at the same time... with some jumps thrown in for good measure.
Snowboarders show off for the judges on a course of jumps, bumps and rails.
SNOW SLANG: CHARGE To ski fast and aggressively. FLASH To ski a line fast and flawlessly, without stopping or hesitating. FOLD To crash big, most often used in past tense. HUCK To jump, usually without concern for the consequences. JUNK SHOW A gathering of people or equipment. MAD 1) Crazy. 2) A lot. PACK To wreck hard. POACH 1) To ski closed or out of bounds terrain. 2) To drop in on a line someone else had lined up. RAG DOLL A cartwheeling fall, usually when gear is lost. See also Starfish. RIP/RIPPING To ski really well. RIPPER A really good skier. SICK Big, crazy, cool, incredibly difficult. SPRAY To talk constantly about how good you are. SKETCHY/SKETCH Questionable terrain or conditions and/ or a nervous feeling. STEP UP To push abilities to the next level. To rise to a challenge. STICK To land a jump cleanly. STOMP Interchangeable with charge or stick. STRAIGHT-LINE To ski a steep face or line without turning. STARFISH A cartwheeling fall. Also Rag Doll. YARD SALE A big wreck where the equipment is scattered about the hill.
THE CONTEST TO WATCH...
The best bet is a showdown between defending X Games’ gold medalist Tucker Hibbert and five-time gold medal winner Blair Morgan.
A freestyle version of its skateboard derivative, this competition features 10 riders on 500-pound. snowmobiles taking individual runs to test their skills on jumps ranging from 45 feet to more than 100 feet long.
A race that combines high-flying aerial displays and technical skills in a wild matchup.
SPEED & STYLE
Playing the hybrid of Freestyle and Snocross, this competition pits some of the most daring do-ers against each other for points that come half from speed and half from tricks on the course.
APRÈS SKI SPECTACULAR
By Lori Midson
Colorado’s ski season is in full swing, but your cold-weather euphoria doesn’t need to end when the lift s close.
Not so long ago, après-ski, a French term that means “aft er-skiing,” meant a visit to a slopeside bar and a shot of peppermint schnapps. But with intimate candle-lit restaurants, spoiling spas, dinner theaters, live music venues and even mellow, mineral-rich hot spring pools popping up in Colorado’s ski towns, today’s powder-pushers are finding more ways than ever to recover aft er the last bumpy run of the day. Here’s our guide to the best ways to kick back aft er spending a hard day on the slopes.
Bedecked with stunning chandeliers and fashionable fabrics, this renovated old mining cabin-cum-restaurant, named after a tenant from the 1920s, lures snowbirds with its contemporary American menu with a European flair. Snag a seat at the bar to banter with the locals.
Aspen’s hottest spot for live music and sports coverage, this deliberately unpretentious watering hole features local and national musical acts, DJs and a smorgasbord of televised sports action, including the Super Bowl on February 3.
The Crystal Palace
Since 1957, this theatrical Aspen institution has enthralled audiences with its musical satires (politics is always fair game) and eclectic dinner menu served in an opulent room festooned with stained glass windows, shimmering chandeliers and vintage furnishings.
Allegria Spa at the
Park Hyatt Beaver
For post-slope pampering, head to this sensational spa. The Roman-influenced therapeutic water sanctuary peddles steamy soaking pools perfumed with aromatherapy scents coupled with rain showers, massage and body treatments, plus jaw-dropping mountain views.
There’s nothing more relaxing after a day on the slopes than canoodling in a sleigh under the moonlight while traversing through thicketed forests up to this candle-lit log cabin restaurant nesting high atop Beaver Creek Mountain.
Beaver Creek Ice Rink
Situated in the heart of Beaver Creek Village, this open-air alpine skating rink attracts everyone from teetering tots to bona fide pros, all of whom share space under twinkling star-lit skies. Skate and helmet rentals are available adjacent to the rink.
This intimate and cozy performing arts theater, smack-dab in the center of town, is the perfect ticket to take in a small stage production. January features Over the River and Through the Woods, a comedic production about a New Jersey boy and the ritualistic Sunday dinners he spends with his protective grandparents.
A locals’ haunt for inspired dining, this charming Victorian home, starched with white table linens and floor-to-ceiling windows affording scenic panoramas of the surrounding mountainscape, dishes out wild game dishes, juice-dribbling steaks and fresh seafood.
Oenophiles will take pleasure in the expansive global wine list featuring many reasonably priced bottlings.
Both the high altitude and the New American food will take your breath away at this romantic rustic lodge atop the North Peak of Keystone, accessible only by gondola. Mountain-spanning panoramas and a blazing fireplace are all part of the magical experience.
If a full day of thigh burns on powdered slopes leaves you longing for more, take solace in the fact that you can continue twisting through the moguls well into the night. Keystone Mountain boasts 17 trails that stay open until 9pm, making it the state’s largest night-skiing destination.
Despite its name, there is nothing over-the-top about this lovely New American food temple, a romantic respite just steps from the slopes, that proffers a market-driven menu utilizing local foodstuffs. Savor the Colorado elk alongside a big and bold Cab from the well-chosen wine roster.
Framed by cascading waterfalls and snow-capped mountain vistas, this idyllic paradise lets you soak up the scenery while taking a dip in luxurious outdoor soaking tubs. It’s recommended to take a shuttle service, because the last two miles are unpaved roads of snow and ice.
Aria Spa & Club, Vail
Cascade Resort & Spa
Relaxation and rejuvenation comes via this high-mountain spa, a temple of tranquility that begins with a sauna or steam, followed by gratifying body treatments like the detoxifying cinnamon and paprika mud wrap or the tension-reducing hot stone massage.
Campo de Fiori
Tourists and locals alike gather at this wildly popular Italian trattoria for delectable housemade pastas slurped in a convivial dining room hued the color of fresh sunflowers. The impressive dishes pair beautifully with the wine list, which favors, not surprisingly, Italian bottlings.
Sleigh Ride at
Hot cocoa, cider and the smoky scent of roasting marshmallows greet those who embark on an after-dark horse-drawn sleigh ride through snow-blanketed meadows toward a crackling bonfire.
HOT BARS IN COLD CLIMES
By Lori Midson
Kicking back after a muscle-melting day on the slopes means libations, socializing and grazing. Luckily, Colorado’s hip après-ski bar scene rises to the occasion.
At Aspen’s 39 Degrees Lounge (www.theskyhotel.com; 970-925-6760), located in the swanky Sky Hotel, ski bunnies encounter a gorgeous clientele, small plates and expertly mixed cocktails.
The powder-mongers who frequent the more laidback town of Winter Park cozy up at Derailer Bar (www.skiwinterpark.com; 970-726-5587), where the rollicking happy hour begins promptly at 3pm when the steam whistle blows and continues with drink specials and pub fare until 6pm.
In Minturn, just west of Vail, the decades-old Minturn Saloon (www.minturnsaloon.com; 970-827-5954) pours potent margaritas to rollicking crowds. And in Vail Village, Los Amigos (970-476-5847) turns out Mexican fare at the bottom of the Vista Bahn quad, a prime people-watching spot for those who snag a deck seat.
Traditional snow swishers in Beaver Creek head to the Park Hyatt’s Antler Hall (www.beaver-creek.hyatt.com; 970-949-1234) for hot toddies near the stone fireplace.
For brick-oven pizzas, microbrews, and live entertainment that zigzags from jazz and blues to reggae, visit the always-mobbed Slopeside Grill (www.slopesidegrill.com; 970-879-2916).
Skiers hankering for Keystone’s top après-ski hangout should find their perch at Dos Locos (www.keystone.snow.com; 970-262-9185), where the discounted margaritas, chicken wings and tacos make up for the life savings you’ve just depleted on the slopes.
Over in Breckenridge, Gold Pan Saloon (970-453-5499), which boasts the longest continually running liquor license west of the Mississippi (yes, it was open during Prohibition), buzzes with locals who belly up to the antiquated mahogany bar to knock back cheap suds. If you’re still smarting from the fact that your skiing speeds were slow, there’s a foosball table and pool tables to redeem your competitive edge.