Inside Line: Mary Jane & Winter Park

Mary Jane—named for a mining-era lady of the night—and its sister area, Winter Park, offer plenty of prospects for good skiing, including bumps and powder-filled bowls. Forming one of the closest major resorts to Denver, the two areas spread across five mountains and 3,078 acres. Add 3,060 feet of vertical, 30 feet of snowfall, and a direct train from Denver and it’s no wonder why the Front Range packs the place on Saturdays.
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Contrary to popular belief, even on a completely bluebird day in January atop the highest lift in Vail, you’re not getting vitamin D from the sun. Vail, or any other ski hill in North America for that matter, is too far above the equator to receive the type of direct sunlight needed to create vitamin D during the winter months. Which is a bummer because this recently popular “sunshine vitamin” plays a key role in boosting the immune system. In particular, it triggers and arms the body's T cells, the cells in the body that seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses. Last year, scientists at the University of Copenhagen discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses, and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. Vitamin D can be obtained through the diet, though very few foods naturally contain it. The foods that do include fatty fish, fish liver oil, and eggs. Smaller amounts are found in meat and cheese. A person’s vitamin D status is determined by measuring the level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in blood serum.  Current lab ranges are 30-80 ng/mL, though most functional healthcare practitioners recommend levels be at least 50 ng/mL - even higher in some cases. Though the RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU/day of vitamin D, most health experts are suggesting closer to 5,000 IU/day for optimal immune function. So to up your chances of not getting sidelined by a cold or flu this ski season, be sure to follow these three guidelines. That way you can spend your “sick days” skiing.  

Contrary to popular belief, even on a completely bluebird day in January atop the highest lift in Vail, you’re not getting vitamin D from the sun. Vail, or any other ski hill in North America for that matter, is too far above the equator to receive the type of direct sunlight needed to create vitamin D during the winter months. Which is a bummer because this recently popular “sunshine vitamin” plays a key role in boosting the immune system. In particular, it triggers and arms the body's T cells, the cells in the body that seek out and destroy any invading bacteria and viruses. Last year, scientists at the University of Copenhagen discovered that Vitamin D is crucial to activating our immune defenses, and that without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system will not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. Vitamin D can be obtained through the diet, though very few foods naturally contain it. The foods that do include fatty fish, fish liver oil, and eggs. Smaller amounts are found in meat and cheese. A person’s vitamin D status is determined by measuring the level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in blood serum.  Current lab ranges are 30-80 ng/mL, though most functional healthcare practitioners recommend levels be at least 50 ng/mL - even higher in some cases. Though the RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU/day of vitamin D, most health experts are suggesting closer to 5,000 IU/day for optimal immune function.

So to up your chances of not getting sidelined by a cold or flu this ski season, be sure to follow these three guidelines. That way you can spend your “sick days” skiing.

 

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Powder Day: From Winter Park, ride the Zephyr Express straight to the often deep Outhouse trees. Next, lap the Super Gauge chair for tight glades and small cliffs. Crowded? Head to the Challenger lift for more trees and more bumps. Later, hit the gladed, powder-filled back side of Parsenn Bowl.

Three Days Later: The upside to the pine-beetle epidemic: It has thinned out MJ’s coin-slot-tight trees. Try the pines between Golden Spike and Sterling Way and the chutes off the Challenger lift. Then hit the Eagle Wind chair, which hides powder stashes all year long.

Park and Pipe: Five progressive parks in Winter Park let you build your skills. Begin at the starter area, move on to the Dogpatch park, and eventually land in Dark Territory, a limited-access (you have to watch a video and pay $15 extra) rail-and-jump fest.

Backcountry Access: Two gates access the backcountry, a lower one from Vasquez Cirque and an upper one off Parry’s Peak. Both lead to U.S. Highway 40, so drop a car or hitch back. The lower gate accesses trees, while the upper takes you to the big lines of Zero, First, and Second Creek. Check avalanche conditions at avalanche.state.co.us.

Weather: It’s called Winter Park for a reason. The resort often sees single-digit temps, with winds careening off the Continental Divide. March can bring either more storms or a bad sunburn.

Après: Hit the Club Car deck at MJ’s base for a pitcher of Mary Jane Ale. At the park, listen for the Derailer Bar’s train whistle, signaling 3 p.m. happy hour.

Fuel: Down a breakfast burrito at Carver’s or a raspberry-cheese croissant from the Coffee and Tea Market at WP’s Balcony House. For lunch, have a salmon BLT at Sunspot. Finish the day with steak Mazatlán at the Untamed Steakhouse or shrimp tacos at Mirasol.

Up All Night: The Winter Park Pub serves great food and drink specials, including dollar tacos on Tuesdays. Afterward, hit Smokin’ Moe’s for live blues before a nightcap at the nearby Sushi Bar.

Digs: Stay at the ski-in, ski-out Zephyr Mountain Lodge at Winter Park ($168 to $497; zmlwp.com), or rack with your brahs at the Rocky Mountain Inn, a youth hostel and B&B with a communal kitchen, bunkbeds, and internet. (Dorm beds from $19; private rooms from $53; therockymountaininn.com.)

Elevation: 12,060 feet

Vertical Drop: 3,060 feet

Snowfall: 355 inches

Acres: 3,078

Info: winterparkresort.com

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15. Winter Park, CO

Winter Park

Mary Jane—named for a mining-era lady of the night—and its sister area, Winter Park, offer plenty of prospects for good skiing, including bumps and powder-filled bowls. Forming one of the closest major resorts to Denver, the two areas spread across five mountains and 3,078 acres. Add 3,060 feet of vertical, 30 feet of snowfall, and a direct train from Denver and it’s no wonder why the Front Range packs the place on Saturdays.

Emily Johnson at Sugarbush

Inside Line: Sugarbush, VT

A new base village and a growing emphasis on steep, powder-stuffed glades have made Sugarbush one of Vermont’s top resorts. The ski area offers 111 trails, served by 16 lifts, spread across three peaks, each with its own distinct flavor. For manicured steeps and fat bumps, hit Lincoln Peak. For no-bullshit, rowdy terrain, schralp Castlerock. For underutilized glades and meandering cruisers, there’s always Mount Ellen. Here’s how to make the most of all three.

Snowbird Will be Open Until July 4th

Inside Line: Snowbird, UT

Tucked in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon on the road to Alta, Snowbird is known for hanging bowls, 50-foot cliffs, and over-the-head powder. Pros like Jenn Berg, Jeremy Nobis, and Sage Cattabriga-Alosa schralp the high-alpine cirques along with equally talented nobodies—humble locals on K2 Pontoons. With more than 3,200 vertical feet of steeps, tree-lined chutes, and roughly 500 inches of snow a year, this isn’t a place you want to drive by.

Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.

Inside Line: Blackcomb, BC

With the 2010 Winter Olympics around the corner, all eyes are on Whistler Blackcomb. The masses will descend on Whistler Mountain, where the official events will take place. Which means Blackcomb will be the place to ski. Locals know that Blackcomb outperforms its better-known neighbor when it comes to off-piste terrain and jibbing. Plus, Blackcomb’s lift lines are shorter, its park and pipe bigger, and its backcountry steeper. And with the new Peak-to-Peak gondola—a record-setting 2.73-mile-long feat of engineering—now connecting the two mountains, you can easily zip over to the big W. But with Blackcomb’s terrain, why bother?

The Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships were held at Kirkwood, California on Sunday, Feb 27th and Monday, Feb 28th—two beautiful bluebird days after a storm

Inside Line: Kirkwood, CA

Kirkwood is off the grid in more ways than one. The whole place runs on generators. Lift lines are six people deep on a powder day. Sierra storms fill the ski-porn-worthy terrain, closing roads and shutting down lifts for days. But with inbounds runs slanted up to 42 degrees, the most reliable snow in the area, and chutes that make big-mountain skiers queasy, it’s hard to believe the resort stays so low-key. Thank the hourlong drive from South Lake Tahoe’s packed casinos and resorts, which ensures Kirkwood remains unsullied by the masses. Just the way skiers there like it.