The Edge

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

Lifts: 4 chairs, 2 surface lifts.
Lift Rates: Adult full-day $29.95; child full-day $19.95; child under 6 and senior over 65 free.

Rentals: Adult full package $13; child full package $10.
Snowboarding/Cross-Country: Snowboarding welcome. Cross-country call 1-888-282-4272 for information.

Special Events: Call resort for information.

Eldora Mountain Resort
When Chris Pappas used to travel around the country with his snowboard in the early Eighties, there were so few snowboarders that they all knew each other. "I'd be in, like, Texas, and see someone with a 'board on their car, and I'd be able to call them by name," he remembers. Pappas, who grew up in Boulder with his eleven brothers and sisters, says he started snowboarding because it seemed like a natural progression from skateboarding. "With eleven kids, skiing wasn't going to happen, you know," he says. "So when snowboards were invented, it was a cheaper way to get on the mountain."

Pappas, 34, still lives in Boulder, and he says he hits Eldora the most for two reasons: its awesome back side and the fact that, once he's put in a day of 'boarding, he's a half hour away from his couch. "I just don't understand people who say they want to be the best snowboarders ever and then spend half their day sitting in traffic," he says. "And I get so sick of people who say Eldora sucks. I ask them, 'Have you been on the back?' and they always say no. So then they haven't been to Eldora."

When he isn't 'boarding on Eldora, Pappas is teaching 'boarding at Eldora. "I paint in the off-season," he explains. "And then I go back to the mountain." And Pappas should know how good Eldora is: He's competed in the snowboarding world competitions since 1986--he learned on Berthoud Pass, the first ski area in Colorado that allowed 'boards--and he spent five years teaching at Jackson Hole. Since he's had a kid, he's slowed down the competitions, but he's never let up 'boarding at Eldora since 1983.

And he thinks it's gotten better since then. "There's that new chair on the back, where the runs don't get quite as wind-pounded," he explains. "There's definitely some windy days, and the front gets ice. It's so popular, the snow just gets packed. That doesn't happen on the back, 'cause there's not as much traffic." He does, however, like to do loops on the front. "Carving and ripping," he says. "There are a couple of good moguls on the front, like Jolly Jug Glades. It loops around, and then there's Windmill. We whip down and practice our turns; they're so wide open."

There is one spot on the front that Pappas avoids, though. It's the one next to the chair lift on the lower part, a shaded tree area that stays really icy. Pappas broke his legs there after he slid off the run and clipped a tree. "That's the same gully where a guy died last year," Pappas says. "People seem to think snowboarding's safer than skiing or something, and I'm here to tell you that anytime you move your body over the surface of the earth at high speeds, surrounded by objects, there's potential to get hurt."

But that didn't change his feelings about Eldora. "I just love it," he says. "Like, I love the beginner area, love to teach there. They have the most awesome beginner area, perfect fall line, great run, smooth, perfect steepness. And there's all kinds of terrain there, so it's not like you're doing all smooth, flat stuff and then you get a shock when you go on something with bumps."

The back, however, is his favorite. "There's Salto Glades and Moose Glades," he says. "Moose has loopy-loos and kickers--we call it the motocross run. Killer wind lifts, up and down on these ridge lines, you get all these hits. It's just like a gnarly run at any huge ski area." He adds that Moose and Salto are double blacks that don't get hit much on weekdays. "When there's no people and there's powder, it's crazy good there," he says.

Salto has wide-open trees that funnel into tight trees with mogul lines between them, "like extreme-type riding," he says, and Bryan Glades are the "real tight trees." And Moose is also the best air. "Not very many rocks, but there are a couple of fifteen-footers to jump off there, lots of good rollers--wheeeeeeee. I'm always there."

He also tries not to miss Corona, the groomed run under the chair, especially early in the morning. "You can cut real big GS downhill turns--it's one of the widest I've ever seen," he explains. "Really steep. They actually call it a black run, but it's groomed, so it's more like a solid blue-black."

For those unfamiliar with Eldora, Pappas suggests a progression. "Okay, start with Windmill at the top; it's got a long and consistent fall line that doesn't change. Then do La Belle Dame. You go right at the top of the chair, and you can see the whole run out in front of you. Then, if you can do those, go around to the back and ride down the runs back there. You don't have to go down the steeper runs. Maybe work your way over to Corona. If you feel comfortable there, venture off to the off-trail stuff, all the little short cutoffs."

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