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A Ski Bum’s New Year’s Resolutions

It's been a great season so far at Wolf Creek. Photo by Eric Dietemeyer. It’s been a great season so far at Wolf Creek. Photo by Eric Dietemeyer.

Editor’s note: We grew alarmed when mountain correspondent R. Scott Rappold had not filed a blog post in quite a while. We tracked him down Tuesday in the lodge at his home mountain of Wolf Creek in southern Colorado, where it had been snowing heavily and nonstop for three days. He reluctantly took a break from skiing and sent in this hastily-written screed.

I haven’t seen the sun in four days.

At Wolf Creek, 2017 has come in like a lion, 42 inches as of this writing and something like 1 to 2 more feet expected by the weekend. It’s been snowing so hard that the morning tracks are filled in by lunchtime. How can a person be expected to work or write when such powder beckons?

But write I must, so for inspiration I thought back to less than two months ago. On Nov. 15 I climbed 12,400-foot Sheep Mountain, in the south San Juan Mountains (a.k.a. my backyard.). There was no snow. None. And it was the same story across Colorado, as an unusual dry spell had the snowpack at essentially 0 percent of average. Thanksgiving skiing was threatened. The prospects of Christmas skiing were abysmal.

As a dedicated ski bum who tends to clear his schedule from November through April, it was distressing. What would happen to ski season? Would I find myself doing the unthinkable and looking for a job?

Then, as they always do in Colorado, the snowstormscame. And came. As of this writing, Wolf Creek has received 101 inches and boasts an 94-inch base. That’s almost 8 feet of snow between your skis and the grass and rocks. Across Colorado, most resorts are 100 percent open or pretty darn close.

So rather than face 2017 as a year of uncertainty and anxiety, I embrace the new year and the many amazing days of skiing it should offer. Which brings me to my skiing new year’s resolutions. Resolutions can’t exist without hope for better things, and with ski season belatedly behaving as it’s supposed to, I am chock full of hope.

Photo by Scott Rappold while working on one of his resolutions. Photo by Scott Rappold while working on one of his resolutions.

I resolve to thank the liftie who brushes the snow off the chair lift for me. Theirs can seem a thankless job. Throw them a word of gratitude.

I resolve to buy new tires for my Honda Civic. Because you don’t necessarily need a Jeep or SUV to get to the slopes, but without decent traction you risk clogging up traffic, which can earn you a hefty fine from the Colorado State Patrol.

I resolve to be nicer to my snowboarder friends. Hating on snowboarders is soooo 1990s. There is plenty of snow to go around and different ways to enjoy it. Our sport could have grown crusty and old without the boarding innovation, so we skiers should embrace them. After all, I married one.

I resolve to keep my tips up. Because you really don’t want to fall face-first getting off the lift.

I resolve to finally ski Telluride and hike Palmyra Peak. With amazing mountain views and a daunting 13,320-foot mountain you can hike up, it’s some of the best in-bounds terrain in the industry.

I resolve to fight the temptation to sleep in. When the alarm goes off at zero-dark-thirty and you know it’s -5 degrees outside and there’s a quarter-inch layer of ice on your windshield, it’s easy to hit snooze. But the first hour of a powder day, when the mountain a fresh blanket of virgin snow just waiting to be shaped, is a special time. And the early bird gets the worm.

I resolve to return to Steamboat. It’s been too many years and their evenly-spaced tree runs and light, fluffy powder are too good to let another winter go by without a visit.

I resolve to take an expert-level lesson. Though I’ve been skiing for 10 years and feel like I have a good handle on it, there’s no substitute for the impartial advice of someone who knows what they’re talking about. You’d be amazed how one little change in mechanics can improve your skiing.

That is all. The mountains are calling and I must go.