Spring Skiing Adventures

Ski the Peak In Your Own Backyard

Rick Langenberg

Alright, you have heard enough about ski jaunts in the High Country in the last few months and reports about our bonanza, record-breaking season, which is still ongoing at a few select mountains. Yes, the snow is still pounding away at the last symbolic survivors of our stellar year on the slopes.

So, it may not be time quite yet to fully dust off the golf clubs or unload the fishing gear or acquire new hiking boots.  Even though those activities are right around the corner.

Believe it or not, the best time of the year for skiing is right now with Spring Thrills awaiting your tired alpine legs. With warmer conditions arriving, oddly enough, the last days of snow paradise have arrived. Nope, you don’t have many choices for resort snow hills, with only a handful of remaining slopes still open. And forget about grandiose perks at this time of year.

But the ones still open offer some great choices; and better yet, no crowds and warm temperatures. However, you must act fast as the lion’s share of these remaining mountains of joy are shutting down soon for the season.

On the upside, the folks 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, Breckenridge and Winter Park.  Following this weekend, the list even gets smaller.

Vail, Aspen and the big boys have all closed, as did Copper Mountain last weekend.

Out of the last ski slopes open, I would suggest the Basin for your final trek, which is slated to stay open until early June. 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, the Basin is an ideal spring adventure, especially if you want to try to conquer some of their triple-rated black runs, or their ambling blue cruisers.

As for spring skiing, just be sure to take plenty of sunscreen as your skin can get torched beyond your normal perception. And if you don’t want to hassle with the resort hills, we can’t blame you.

Skiing Down Pikes Peak

We got one of the nation’s prime mountains in our own 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. Skiing 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 raincoat. 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 Charlie and I should have been used as examples of what not to do and used as pawns for avalanche training.

If you opt for this grand adventure, it is quite simple. 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. Whatever the case, a driver of the vehicle should 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 next to the highway. Or you can cruise around the end for an extended period and consider a variety of options. If you try Little Italy and some of her sister slopes, take it slow, very slow, as a few of these hills have extremely narrow turn alleys and mini-cliff drop-offs. The main Peak ski excursion many alpine and telemark “Slopesters” enjoy is from the Devil’s Playground to the Glen Cove junction, the mid-mountain spot just above an area, nestled in the trees, that once bustled as an active commercial ski mountain.

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, or even the Wines Of Colorado in Cascade or up the Pass in a variety of ski-friendly bar hubs in Woodand Park.  Yes, you can elaborate. Just so the stories resemble the truth slightly.  The 19th hole of skiing is always my favorite outing.