The original seed was planted by my Uncle Bernie over 30 years ago when I moved from Ohio to Colorado to work for him. I was intrigued when Bernie first mentioned that it is very possible to ski 12 months in a row here. While I knew that ski areas often opened in October, and might stay open until July, Bernie reminded me that one could hike and ski on St. Mary’s Glacier during the summer months, and thus complete the cycle of year-round snow sliding. Although I’d skied from Halloween to Memorial Day, I never actually took it to the next level…not until my son proposed THE QUEST.
My son Jordy (age 12) has become quite a skier, sharing my passion and joining me on many of my favorite runs, including some that I’ve already chronicled here at AdventureDad.org. And he must’ve heard me mention Uncle Bernie’s notion of a year-round ski season, because one day last spring Jordy said to me “Dad we need to do that, we need to ski 12 months in a row!” Twist my arm was the first thought I had, and I soon began to consider what it would take for us to successfully complete this quest. As I noted in a couple of earlier postings, our ski season began with some amazing early snow in November and December, along with a special Christmas Day slope-side picnic at Loveland Basin. The new year began with an artic cold day at Winter Park/Mary Jane, and then found us at Copper Mountain every weekend for Choppers (group ski lessons), plus some fun with friends at Vail. In February we ventured north to explore Steamboat Springs, where we also returned for a couple of days in March, after an awesome backcountry ski and hut adventure. And in April we celebrated the month that most major areas close by skiing back at Copper and Loveland.
To keep our quest alive, Jordy and I made a point of sampling the spring and summer snow at Arapahoe Basin in May and June. While the terrain was limited at that point, the spirit of the snow riders was jovial, including those who dared to try pond skimming. While neither of us wanted to risk a dunk in the icy waters, we laughed aloud watching skiers and snowboarders attempt to stay dry going from snow- to water-skiing across a makeshift pond located in a flat area halfway down the mountain.
A-Basin closed on July 4, and we were already on vacation on the west coast, but with some advance planning – I shipped my telemark boots and our helmets, gloves, and layers ahead – and the support of friends in Portland, Oregon, who loaned me some tele skis and gave us directions, Jordy and I ventured to Mt. Hood for some rare and wonderful turns at the famous Timberline Ski Area. What a kick to see racing and snowboard camps in full swing during mid-summer, and to mix with tourists staying at the massive timber and rock lodge built by Federal Works Progress Administration in 1937. And that’s where Maggie, the Adventure Mom of our family, awaited us after we checked off the July date of our quest.
Back home to a blistering Colorado summer, where temperatures reached 90 degrees for more than 45 consecutive days, August found us without an actual lift-serviced ski area, and thus taking our quest to the next level. We ventured to St. Mary’s Glacier near Idaho Springs, Colorado, where a short hike to a year-round snowfield offered us the best way to keep our string of consecutive months on skis alive. Joined by our friends, Adventure Dad and Copper Mountain Ski Patroller Jamie, and his daughter Sasha (age 16), fresh off of a 30-day NOLS course, we enjoyed bluebird skies, and light winds on our hike past St. Mary’s Lake, and up the Glacier. With skis lashed to our packs, and our ski boots packed inside, our load and the slick surface made for slow going. At a level area near the névé (top) of the glacier, we pulled over to the edge, put on our ski boots, and carefully made our turns down the crusty brownish snow that was cut with strange, undulating ridges for most of the way down. Not the prettiest skiing we’d done all season, but each of whooped with the joy of midsummer’s day fun at a typically winter time activity. Jamie, Jordy, and I repeated our sojourn to St. Mary’s again in September and hoped that a Colorado ski area would open the next month and permit us to come full-circle and complete our quest.
When October commenced with unseasonably warm temperatures, I became just a little worried, but soon learned that cold nights at altitude were permitting snowmaking at two front-range ski areas. Arapahoe Basin was the first to open for skiers on Thursday, October 13, with Loveland following the next day. And just one day later, Jordy and I were aboard Chairlift #1 for a few quick runs on “Mambo,” our quest complete, having skied 12 months in a row.
Our friends Jamie and Sasha are now aiming for the same goal, and Jordy and I plan to join them, wondering how many more consecutive ski months we might be able to tally.