The Edge

Westword's guide to the 1997-98 ski and snowboard season

Surprise! Colorado is a primo place to ski and snowboard. Oh, you knew that? Well, did you know there's a secret stash on Aspen Mountain that only the locals have found? Did you know there's a place near Vail that offers six tacos for $2 during happy hour? Or that not all the best bumps at Winter Park are on Mary Jane? These are the tips you should be taking to the mountains with the rest of your gear.

The 1997-98 season is upon us, and once again Westword has gone
to residents of every Colorado resort to glean the information only insiders could have: the smoothest cruisers, the untracked powder, the bargain meals. So instead of the same old stuff you already know about the

mountains--or the stuff any resort PR person could tell you--we're
giving you a local's-eye view of the primo place to ski and snowboard.
We're giving you The Edge.

Arapahoe Basin Resort
Professional mogul skier Chris Carson skis all over the world, but he calls Arapahoe Basin home.

Carson, age thirty, has been one of the national top-ten mogul skiers for the past six years, and he's competed as far away as Japan. The Montezuma resident grew up in Evergreen and started skiing A-Basin when he was seven. "It's where my heart is," Carson says. "I ski Keystone, too, but I can live without that. I can't do that with A-Basin."

When he's not competing or filming with Warren Miller, Carson serves as the hard-goods supervisor for Christy Sports, and he's a flame-throwing bartender at the Snake River Saloon, at the bottom of Loveland Pass. "I do what I love," says Carson, who's been competing since 1987 and started doing the tour full-time in 1991. "How many people can say that?"

Carson says he skis about 150 days each season, and most of those are at A-Basin. "I love the fact that it's high-alpine terrain, all natural conditions," he explains. "Although they do a lot of avalanche control, there's still a backcountry gate. And the mountain just has a wilder feel to it, with beautiful open bowls and tree skiing--and since it's not as regulated and they don't mark all the obstacles, that makes it kind of a gnarlier mountain." He adds that he also appreciates that A-Basin is usually the last mountain to close each season, often in July.

And because of its height--A-Basin is the highest resort in North America--the mountain offers some of the best views around. "One of my favorites is from the West Wall," Carson says. "You ski down along King Cornice line, and from either side you can see west toward Gore Range and you can see the Fourteeners." He also likes the views from the hiking areas, such as up at the Upper East Wall, where he can get the steep, free skiing he likes.

When he needs to get in shape for a competition, though, he heads over to Slalom Slope, one of the steepest runs at A-Basin, with "a real direct fall line," Carson says. "It gets great sun exposure, too. And, of course, there's Palivacinni, which is a classic for moguls." But for cruising, Carson does the Sundance. "It's actually a green run, but it's got perfect pitch and a couple of rollers," he says. "It's fun to carve, and it's always quiet."

Carson looks for the runs that haven't been touched by the "powder eradicators," as he calls them. He offers up Gauthier, a little-known run that's part of the Alleys, as a good place to find stashes. "It's the farthest run in-bounds--real steep, with a craggy line," he says. "It has a little bit of a secret entrance, which keeps people away. It does have a sign, but it's in such an unusual spot, where you wouldn't expect there to be a run. It's so steep, it looks like you're going to ski down onto the road."

Carson also finds that two double blacks on the upper east wall, Snorklenose and Corner Shoot, are off the beaten path enough to stay relatively untouched. He likes the Nose, too, for its "neat terrain, a couple of jumps and a cornice," but he takes his trees from The Timber Glades, which has a lot of "tight lines that hold the powder and a double fall line so people don't track it up quick." He adds that everybody already knows about the alleys, but unless you're a local, you wouldn't know that The Spine, on Palivacinni, is "the standby run for any A-Basin local." The Spine, he says, stays smooth. "The groomers don't go there, and it's fun to cruise on its flat, steep stuff."

And since Carson lives in Montezuma, he especially likes the backcountry access to town from A-Basin. "You can ski pretty much there from the mountain," he says. "It goes to Montezuma Road, which is real near the town."

That's where he sends people looking for the "ultimate fine dining": the Ski Tip Lodge (Montezuma Rd. and Alpenrose, a half-mile east of the gondola). "It's a real old building that used to be a stage stop," he explains. "There's a real experienced chef, fancy sauces and killer wild game." On the other end of the dining spectrum, Carson recommends Mitch's Deli (in the Mountview Shopping Plaza Center) for "cheap, good sandwiches and pizza and the most awesome Philly cheesesteaks." Another good pizza, he adds, can be had at Antonia's (817 U.S. Hwy. 6 in Dillon), and one of the best burgers is at The Kickapoo Tavern (129 River Run Rd. in Keystone). "It's kind of an apres-ski spot at the base of the gondola," Carson says.

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