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

Once he arrived, he got a job at the Inn at Silver Creek ("It's much less expensive than anything in Winter Park, and you can get a free shuttle," he says) and joined the Alpine Masters Program. "That's where you pay more than double in lift fees," he says, "and you have to be over 24. Then, four days a week, you get to ski a run they've closed off to do drills and train for the races. It really keeps you in shape."

When he goes out on his own, though, Cathcart tends to do the more challenging runs first. "I'll usually start with Hughes," he says, "while I've still got the energy. If I'm feeling real good, sometimes I'll just stay on one run all day, and that's a toughie, steep and fast." He adds that it's the only cruiser run "where ski patrol won't pull you over for speeding." A gentler cruise is on Cranmer, he says, and "Bradley's Bash is good if you're "with someone who wants to do bumps and you want to cruise, because it's half-groomed all the time." But if you really want to be alone, he suggests Vasquez Ridge. "When it gets crowded, there's not as many people there," he says. Stashes can be found in the trees at Retta's Run, Cathcart claims, and he hits Over 'n' Underwood "a couple times every day to keep in bump shape."

Over on Mary Jane, Cathcart makes tracks for Deailer to hit the bumps, and for cruising, he's always up for the Sunnyside area, such as Blue Bell. "I go to the Jane more for the scenery," he says. "If there's an untracked or uncrowded run there ever, I haven't found it yet."

Cathcart usually goes skiing before work, so he's likely to need lunch on the way. That's why Hernando's Pizza [78199 U.S. Highway 40] gets his vote: quick pizza, cheap and tasty. If he skis all day, he says the Eastern European fare at The Gasthaus Eichler (U.S. Highway 40) is "good refueling food," and he also spends a lot of time at the New Hong Kong (Copper Creek Square), because "Chinese is something I don't cook at home," he says. Mexican is the main thing on the menu at The Last Waltz (78336 U.S. Highway 40 South), which Cathcart says is "a bit upscale," and "Deno's Mountain Bistro [78911 U.S. Highway 40] seems to be the place for burgers." Other types of sandwiches, "huge, stuffed ones," can be found at Rudi's Deli (78699 U.S. Highway 40), but as Cathcart adds, "Safeway isn't a bad idea, either."

General information: 1-970-726-5514 or 1-303-892-0961
Snow report: 1-303-572-SNOW
Location: 67 miles northwest of Denver via I-70 west (exit 232) to U.S. Hwy. 40.

Opening and closing dates: November 13 to April 20.
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays; 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
Terrain: 19% beginner, 38% intermediate, 23% advanced, 20% expert. 1,414 skiable acres with a 3,060' vertical drop. Base: 9,000'; top: 12,060'; longest run: 5.1 miles.

Lifts: 7 high-speed quads, 8 double chairs, 5 triple chairs.
Lift rates: Adult full-day TBA, half-day $28; child (6-13) full-day $18; senior (62-69) full-day $22; 5 and under/70 and over ski free. Early/late-season discounted tickets available.

Lessons: Group lessons: Beginners $15 half-day; intermediate-advanced $35 half-day. Private lessons (ski and snowboard): 1.5 hours $85, 3 hours $165. For more information call 1-970-726-1551.

Rentals: Available at resort. Adult $16; child $10.
Snowboarding: Welcome. Rentals $15. Lessons available.
Cross-country: Devil's Thumb Ranch: 10 miles from Winter Park, 105 km of groomed trails. Call 1-970-726-5632 for information.

Special events: Ice skating, sleigh rides, snowmobiling, tubing; Thanksgiving Dinner, Nov. 28; Kids Winter Ski Karnival, Dec. 15; Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade and Services, Dec. 24; New Year's Eve Gala-The Lodge at Sunspot, Dec. 31; National Women's Ski and Snowboard Week, Jan. 20-26; 22nd Annual Wells Fargo Bank Cup, Jan. 31-Feb. 2; Mary Jane Bump JAMboree, Feb. 2 and Mar. 1; Freestyle Snowboard Camp, Feb. 22; Golden Bunny Race and Egg Hunt/Easter Sunrise Service, Mar. 30; Pepsi Snowboard Challenge, Apr. 19; Spring Splash, Apr. 20.

Wolf Creek
"Put two boards on my feet and go down a mountain? I thought, 'My God, you people are crazy,'" says Martha Schreck. "Well, a shot of Peachtree Schnapps later, I didn't think it was such a bad idea after all."

Of course, Schreck hastens to add, she's not advocating drinking and skiing. "I'm just telling you what it took to get me out there," the 35-year-old from Illinois says. "My husband had been skiing since he was little, and we met at CSU in Fort Collins fifteen years ago. It took him five years to talk me into it."

Now that the couple resides in Center, 45 minutes from Wolf Creek, Martha tries to ski every chance she gets, averaging about fifty days a season. "Last year we didn't have any snow, though," she says. "So I only got in thirty. When she did go, she went straight for moon hollow, her selection for best run on the mountain. "It's incredible," she says. "Steep and deep, and it's hidden." She also gets deep into Boundary Bowl, where "you have to earn your turns," she says. "You have to hike to it about ten minutes, but there are some beautiful fall lines. It's steep and long and graceful." And while Wolf Creek isn't known for its bump runs, Schreck votes upper windjammer as most likely to get bumped up. She thinks the trees in holy moses are heavenly, "very steep, with some stashes here and there," but when she wants an open cruiser, she takes what the locals call "Tranquilizer," adding that it's really tranquility. "You can just arc the big old turns there," she explains. "It's steep where it needs to be."

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