Early Season Bumping at Winter Park

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When out-of-staters talk about big-time Colorado ski venues, Winter Park Resort is unlikely to be the topic of much conversation. But when hard-core mogul skiers get together for a day of bumping, the informed few of them know that Winter Park¿along with its sister section Mary Jane¿is truly the place to be. And when I made my way to Winter Park the day after opening day, the mogul lover in me was not to be disappointed.

Named the number one bump spot in North America in SKIING's November 2000 issue, Winter Park opened for the 2000-2001 season on November 11 after a series of major storms blanketed the area. Still, despite an offering of 20 runs and ten lifts, a decent portion of the mountain was still closed. "Just need another week or so," I was told. "They'll be opening soon."

"Fair enough." I thought. "It is still the middle of November."

That morning, the snow on the Winter Park side was quite good for so early in the season: crusty in places thanks to the l3-degree-high temperatures, but generally well covered. For a Sunday, it wasn't even that crowded. I braved the cold as I zipped up and down some fun intermediate cruisers.

After a few runs, my guide mentioned that the near side of Mary Jane, including the bump-fan favorite Gandy Dancer, was also open and had gotten rave reviews from some mogulers. Though it seemed early in the season for there to be enough snow to make skiing Gandy worthwhile (not to mention putting my then-virgin quads and knees to the test for the first time in this young season), I figured it was worth a shot. Screw the potentially painful consequences!

Boy, was it worth it. The moguls on Gandy Dancer were unlike any I had seen all of the previous season, save for one day on that same run. I bounced from bump to bump like it was mid March. The powder was remarkable for so early in the season, and I had to try it twice more to convince myself. I was finally persuaded when both of my quads nearly gave out after a particularly tiring line through the not-too-steep bumps.

After a few hours, I was ready to call it a day and did so with the satisfaction I usually feel after a full day of midseason riding. I'm still not sure if that was the result of the great conditions and terrain I encountered that day or the sorrowful state that my body was in, but you can bet I'll be back to Winter Park to figure it out for certain.

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