Winter on Winter: Coming Home - Ski Mag

Winter on Winter: Coming Home

Whoever said, “you can never go home again” clearly wasn’t a skier.
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Eldora Sunrise

Everyone knows that you can never go back in time. Those glowing summer days of school vacation aren’t going to be repeated now that you have a college degree and a corporate cubicle. The girl you had a crush on in kindergarten, she’s married with kids. And that powder day from last year. . . well, you’ll just have to hope for a better day next winter.

But just because you can’t turn the clock back on time, doesn’t mean that the past is totally lost. Last month, after a winter of travel and skis that had seen too many rocks in Europe, I returned to Colorado glad that I was staring into spring, with the season on the wane. 

The plan was clear: hang up the skis for a while and try to clear a desk littered with the debris of too much road time and not nearly enough office time. Unpaid bills, phone calls that needed to be returned, and a trip to the dentist all beckoned.

And then the snow hit.

To be honest, I’m not the greatest fan of skiing on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. I grew up in Boulder, and the local hill earned the moniker “The Rock” from our young posse due to the consistency of the snow. Hard, icy, and fast, Eldora was great for ski racers, less so for powder hounds.

But the ski area does have some good terrain, including a number of spicy shots on the backside in Corona Bowl, like one line, Salto that was a permanently closed avalanche zone back in the day. The scene of a “poach” where yours truly lost his pass at the tender age of 15, Salto is now open, along with many of the other stashes we used to call our own.

So, with the snow coming down and Eldora racking up a respectable 36 inches over three days, I decided to make the fast drive up from my house in Boulder to renew my acquaintance with the hill.

Tuesday broke clear and cold, with none of the wind that usually follows storms up at The Rock. While the mountain was, according to locals, “crowded for a weekday” (new snow and the tail end of spring break will do that), a mere ten people were lined up for first chair.

Best of all, as I dropped into Salto, a rush of memories came back along with the face shots. There were attempted back flips, and beers stashed in the woods. Epic nighttime powder skiing (which sadly doesn’t exist at Eldora any more), and hidden two-turn slots in the trees that held snow long after storms. There were the crusty lift ops and the University of Colorado ski team. And there were my friends, all of whom pushed me to be the skier I am today, and none of whom I’ve skied with since I moved on to bigger resorts in other places.

But most of all, there was the mountain. The trees and the steeps and the turns. It hadn’t changed much, this old friend of mine, but it had also changed a lot. I was no longer a local, and a new generation of kids had taken over the slopes. But I had come back home, on one of the best days of the season. And that was enough for me.

Read the Rest of Tom Winter's "Winter on Winter" columns here.

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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.