Ski Season Hits Grand Finale With Rare Adventure Down America’s Favorite Mountain

Rick Langenberg

Alright, you have heard enough about ski jaunts in the High Country in the last few months and reports about our bonanza season.

But believe it or not, the best time of the year for skiing is right now with Spring Thrills awaiting your tried alpine legs.

With warmer conditions arriving, oddly enough, the last days of snow paradise have come. Nope, you don’t have many choices for resort snow hills, with only a handful of remaining slopes still open.

But those are some great choices; and better yet, no crowds and warm temperatures. And the ones that ski this time of year are a fairly enthusiastic, friendly, passionate; and yes, crazy sort of breed.   The last remaining ski hills open nearby are Loveland, A-Basin and Breckenridge. Vail and Aspen closed, following last weekend. But what a combination of choices.

Out of these, I would suggest the Basin for your final trek. In fact, A-Basin is designed for spring skiing, with its open bowls and no tree protection, making it the ideal downhill paradise for this time of year. Try the Basin in January and February, and you are greeted by howling winds and frigid temperatures. For this time of the year, it is great, and there remains quite an assortment of choices throughout the next month.

As for spring skiing, just be sure to take plenty of sunscreen as your skin can get torched beyond your normal perception.

Don’t want to hassle with the resort hills. Fret not.

Skiing Down Pikes Peak

We got one of the  nation’s prime mountains in our backyard, Pikes Peak. Now, before proceeding further, this one is designed for those with advanced/intermediate skills at a minimum. If you don’t have that skill set, don’t read any further.

Ski the Peak has almost become a cult outing in recent years. The U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Springs Utilities’ authorities are not exactly keen about the situation, as an ongoing feud once persisted about who controls this area and trying to halt this grand adventure. The end result: Skiing is permitted, weather permitting, under a ski at your own risk mentality.

However, definite caution must be exhibited and I would suggest trying this activity with a larger group. I won’t lie. There have been a few highly publicized deaths and accidents, usually involving alpine experts who just crossed the edge a little too much. And there has been a number of avalanche warnings.

Also, don’t take any advice from TMJ staffers. We have stories of getting lost and losing poles for 45 minutes and all kinds of mini-disasters that sometimes occurred during the annual Hill Climb.  On the upside, none of us incurred any injuries on the Peak.

Then, there is our former webmaster and photo whiz, Charlie Chambers, and now a film star, who showed up during a winter photo shoot on the great mountain with sandals and an English rain coat. Needless to say, Charlie was escorted off the premises by a search and rescue crew practicing avalanche drills, and told never to come back. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t  mention any allegiance to TMJ when pursuing this activity. Based on the winter code of ethics, both myself and Charlie should have been used as examples of what not to do and used as pawns for avalanche training.

For skiing the Peak, just pay the highway toll and take the cruise almost to the top. Get off at the Devil’s Playground area. This is where a choice is required. Someone in your group must play the role as the designated driver, or you can take turns, and head back down to the Glen Cove area to greet your group of wayward adventurers or pseudo-idiots. The other option is for all of you to ski, and then just hitch a short ride back to the top, which usually isn’t a problem. Tourists usually will pick you up and definitely enjoy hearing a few ski stories. So, if you get picked up, don’t forget to exaggerate the tale a bit.

For the Peak skiers, the fun just starts at the Devil’s Playground pull-off. There are a few fairly manageable slopes, right nest to the highway, or you and cruise around the end for an extended period.

If you try Little Italy and some of her sister slopes,  take it slow, very slow, as a few of the slopes have extremely narrow turn alleys and mini-cliff drop-offs.

The main trip people take is from the Devil’s Playground to the Glen Cove, the mid-mountain spot just above the area that once bustled as an actual ski area.

The snow is usually great in late spring, especially in May and sometimes early June.  Just don’t try anything crazy, as there are no ski patrols.

Ski the Peak is a novelty adventure. Believe me, a couple of downhill jaunts will be enough.

The people who do this cult venture are quite a site, and almost worth the trip up the highway.  They are a combination of true mountain bohemians, thrill adventurers and Colorado tourists; and yes, maybe you will spot a normal couple at times.

The last time I went, a few hardcore telemark skiers even brought their dogs. It almost resembled a family affair.

This is a Colorado experience that you can tell your family for years.

When done, don’t forget to have a cold one down the road in Green Mountain Falls’ Blue Moose, where ski stories are more than welcome. Yes, you can elaborate, just so they resemble the truth slightly.