It’s 91 degrees and July. Feels just about right for a 2015/2016 winter recap :)
This was a beautiful winter. I took two trips out to Colorado: my usual Breckenridge trip in February — joined this time by my friend Jennifer — and a second late-season trip to Steamboat Springs.
Breckenridge has become familiar over the past three years. This season made it feel completely fresh and new though as Jennifer (a righteous and experienced skier), helped me challenge myself and take on harder terrain. Whenever I go to Colorado, I’m always pretty deliberate about working my way up to increasingly more difficult runs. This year, I realized that prudence has been holding me back.
Growing up partly in Utah, Jennifer has no trouble bombing down double blacks and then turning back to remind me that this run would be a single black in Utah. I had no choice but to follow and follow I did. I couldn’t believe that I was handling double blacks in Colorado (granted, Breckenridge’s blacks can be considered a little soft). I don’t know if it was my switch riding that helped me balance my muscles or just the basic lesson I learned on YouTube over the summer about moguls (i.e. it’s ok to ride your edge over the top and you don’t, don’t, don’t have to stay in the valleys), but I felt balanced, in control, if a little tired by my quads adjusting to the altitude and having tons of work to do.
I was beyond excited. Over the past seasons, I’ve focused on my carving and switch riding, doing it on 200 feet of icy love that we call mounts in the Midwest. All that work has paid off. Moguls no longer buck and throw me like a bronco. I look at them with goosebump anticipation instead of crippling fear. It feels incredible to look down at fields of moguls, under the chair lift, and say to yourself, “I am taking this line!”
And that leads me to Steamboat Springs. With several days of Steamboat tree-riding behind me, I was feeling good as I headed up one of my last chairlifts with my friend Robert. Underneath the lift laid a line of moguls the entire way and tons of elevation to manage. I couldn’t wait to get to the top of the chairlift. This was going to be my best line of the trip. I was ready.
And I made it, in control the entire way, traversing down steep moguls sections interrupted by crossing paths before dropping into the next patch of moguls and making my steady decent to the beginning of the chairlift. I still can’t get over the feeling. Looking down at all this terrain that used to terrify me and now, bump by bump, I was carving my way down, planning my path, and before I knew it, I was greedily taking my last turns around the moguls, not wanting it to be over.
At the bottom, I took off Robert’s GoPro, looked into the camera, and let out a “WHHEW!” (not characteristic of the steady calm me). Later that night, we found out that the lens was fogged over and you couldn’t make out any of my ride. Oh well. The memory and, more importantly, the feeling is in my head. My arms pucker with goosebumps as I replay the line in my mind during these warmer months.
So, it was an unexpectedly successful season. I moved way beyond the point where I thought I would be. I’m so thankful that Jennifer, with her nonchalant Utah attitude, insisted on heading down some double blacks early in Breckenridge. By the end of the trip, she was probably sick of what she set off in me as I carved off trail and into steep wooded paths (she’s not a fan of that kind of cramped riding, but I’m finding that I am). As excited as I was about the riding, I enjoyed even more seeing her ahead of me, making her turns and tearing it up.
Next season is only 4 or 5 short months away. So what’s up next?
- Continue working on moguls, of course. Some of the really steep and tight trees in Steamboat still destroyed my quads. I either couldn’t hold up against them because I didn’t have enough strength, or I was not riding them as efficiently as I can. I’ll have to figure that out.
- Keep working on my switch riding and introduce some switch riding in the trees. :)
- I’d love to get into some freestyle, but again, me being deliberate and safe, I don’t want to risk my body to get there. I’ve been telling myself I’ll hire an instructor to help me get the basics down for taking airs. All I want is to feel stable on jumps and then mix in grabs and maybe some 180s and 360s.
I already have my tickets booked for a Utah trip in February and I’ll be shifting my March trip to Breckenridge.
What a season. :) I’ll enjoy this sunlight and warm weather now, but I’d be lying if I don’t admit that I think about what’s in store this winter.