Westword's Guide to teh '96-'97 ski and snowboard season

The good news is that the avalanche that killed Baehler's car opened a whole new area of skiing off Avalanche Bowl for Loveland. "There were 250-year-old trees in there," he says. "Thousands of trees got taken out by the avalanche, but what was left there had never been seen before. It's incredible." Loveland is opening the new terrain this year as Over the Rainbow, a nice birthday present as the resort celebrates its sixtieth year. Meanwhile, the 35-year-old Baehler, who grew up in Georgetown, plans to keep his eyes on it. "I think the stuff in there is going to become my new favorite," he says. "There are four different pitch changes, with a rolling sensation, and depending how the snow lays, there'll be a few faces. My perspective, from standing above this thing after the avalanche, is that there will be some great tree shots and some good glade skiing."

Until he can get in there, though, he'll keep hitting the ones he's been skiing for years. Busy Gully is one of those. "It's kind of like a giant half-pipe," Baehler says. "Good roller-coaster turns, and you can go high-speed and carve out big turns." For trees, he always checks out the East Ropes--"You don't have a designated route down," he says. "You just keep diving into the next opening"--along with the horseshoe area between Cat's Meow and Nix Nox. His bump choices are not as clear-cut, however. "My opinion of bumps is that they need to be flat," he says. "There's this huge rivalry up here between the locals and the other skiers, because there's people that like them flat and there's people that aren't carving turns, they're slapping holes." He adds that when the locals do get in there and flatten out the bumps, "you're looking at making eight or ten turns in a thousand vertical feet--you're going very fast. It's life on the edge." When he wants to live it that way, he heads to the aforementioned Busy Gully, or he grabs Tiger's Tail or Avalanche Bowl.

But when he's looking for something untracked, Baehler slips into The Tickler. "It's between No. 4 Lift and No. 5 Lift," he explains. "You hike about ten or fifteen minutes, and you get a big reward. It could have snowed three days ago, but it'll still have powder on it, because it's on a ridgeline where the wind blows constantly." A few of Baehler's other favorite runs are: Fire Cut, Drifter and Keno. And while he's not a snowboarder himself, being on ski patrol means he knows what the 'boarders want. "The natural stuff they seem to enjoy is Creek Trail, off No. 2 Lift in the South Chutes area," he says. "And a lot of them find good stuff off the No. 8 Lift."

Skiers and 'boarders alike are bringing the Red Ram (606 Sixth) back to life in Georgetown. "It was a lot more fun years ago," Baehler says. "I used to be a busboy there, and it was a wild and crazy place. Then some other people bought it and tried to go the family route, but some new folks bought it a year ago, and they're getting it going again. It's got music and good, cheap drinks." He adds that he relishes their burger, although his favorite is the half-pounder at The Plume Saloon & Restaurant (776 Main Street) in Silver Plume, where he lives. "Plume is great," he says. "There are 200 residents and 150 dogs. This place is full of crazy people." He's crazy about the Plume's wings, too, which they offer on special, and he's nuts about the food at the KP Cafe (429 Main Street). "You're gonna get full there, that's for sure," he says. "They've got great Mexican, burritos, black beans." Another ethnic cuisine available is, unbelievably, Czechoslovakian, at The Renaissance (1025 Rose). And for breakfast, Baehler is pleased with The Happy Cooker (412 Sixth). "Hey, great name," he says. "And they've got beautiful Belgian waffles."

General information: 1-303-569-3203, 1-800-736-3SKI or 1-303-571-5580
Snow report: 1-303-569-3203
Location: 56 miles west of Denver on I-70, exit 216, 12 miles east of Summit County.

Opening and closing dates: Mid-October to mid-May.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends.
Terrain: 22% beginner, 55% intermediate, 23% advanced. 836 skiable acres with a 1,680' vertical drop. Base: 10,600'; top: 12,280'; longest run: 1.5 miles. Additional 550 ungroomed acres for experts.

Lifts: 2 quad chairs, 2 triple chairs, 4 double chairs, 1 Poma lift, 1 Mighty Mite.

Lift rates: Adult full-day $33, half-day $25; senior (60-69) $23; child (6-12) $15. Early/late season prices available.

Lessons: Group lessons: 2.5 hours with a lift ticket and rental $46; children (3-12) 5-hour lesson with lunch, lift ticket and rental $52. Snowboard: 2.5-hour lesson with all-area lift ticket and rental $55. For more information call 1-800-736-3754.

Rentals: Adult $14; child $10. Snowboard and boots $23.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Snowboard park. Lessons and rentals available.
Cross-country: Call 1-970-569-3202 for information.

Special events: Ski Expo, Nov. 7-10; Friday the 13th Fox Promo, Dec. 13; KTCL Sam Adams Race, Dec. 14; Ski KBCO Weekend, Jan. 11-12; KTCL 4th Annual

Basket Balls Finals, Jan. 25; Dannon WinterFest, Feb. 1; Subaru Weekend, Mar. 22-23; The Loveland Derby, Apr. 19-20; 2nd Annual Snowboard Derby, Apr. 20.

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