What do you picture when you picture a ski resorts closing day? I’ll tell you, I would generally expect very little snow, very few runs, and a lot of mud and puddles. Winter Park‘s closing day, May 21st, wasn’t exactly that, and I was there to witness it.
Now, while most people were complaining about the upcoming drastic change in weather in Colorado, I (and based on the lift line sizes, plenty more than just me) was making plans for a Saturday ski trip. Sure, I may have been enjoying the 80 degree and often higher weather, the ability to sit outside all day, and the fact that my Teva tan is already going hard, but there will be plenty of that throughout the rest of the summer! No, I wasn’t complaining about the snow, I was getting excited.
Like I stated a bit earlier, it seems as if a fair number of other people were also getting excited for the snow. Obviously, in hindsight, there are only two resorts still open in Colorado (Winter Park and Arapahoe Basin), and both of those resorts only have one or two lifts open at this point, so a large snowfall is bound to bring some long lines to both resorts. But, I’m a silly minded individual, and for some reason thought I’d be able to lap the lift with little trouble, so I was a bit disappointed to find out my dreams would fail to come true.
Unfortunately, lift lines weren’t the only troubling thing on the mountain for closing day. Despite the fresh sixteen inches that had fallen on the mountain overnight, the conditions remained a little whacky. Fun fact, if you cover rocks, dirt, and a tiny bit of snow with a fluffy sixteen inches of powder, you end up skiing on rocks, dirt, and a tiny bit of snow that you can’t exactly see because of sixteen inches of powder! Now to clarify, I’m not complaining. I had an awesome time and was totally able to enjoy the conditions, but I think a lot of people on the mountain seemed to forget that it was still EXTREMELY late spring skiing, and thus pretty much completely expert terrain only. There were A LOT of people who seemed like they were struggling, and unfortunately, with the very limited number of trails open, that led to some major traffic jams on the mountain.
Now, I’m not saying people with less skiing experience shouldn’t have been there… well, I am saying some of the people with less skiing experience shouldn’t have been there. Specifically, I’m saying the people who believe skiing is about getting drunk and going down the mountain as fast as possible should not have been there, and there were plenty there. I’m 22 and I feel like I’m spitting out the words of an old man, but when there’s only a few trails open and the terrain is already incredibly rough, drunk morons just manage to really tick me off.
BESIDES THE DRUNKS, the vibes on mountain were incredible. I managed to have a brief conversation with a ski patroller who explained to me that a majority of the remaining patrol staff was volunteers, so they were simply there because they really enjoy the sport. He gave me some tips on where to find some less touched locations with powder pockets. Other patrollers dotted the mountain, ensuring people weren’t being stupid and trying to go down stuff that they in no way should be going down, but also just acting as fantastic guides for everyone on the mountain. The few lifties that remained were blaring music at the base (a ton of Led Zeppelin, so, like, hell yeah) and just seemed to be enjoying their last day of work.
I will note, it’s quite surprising how out of shape you manage to get after only a month off from skiing. I began to make the transition from the mountain to the bouldering gyms in early April, and skiing on closing day really showed me that I need to be doing more squats. Thus, with a lack of athletic ability, long lift lines, and pretty tough conditions, I wasn’t able to actually get a boat load of runs in, but I got what I needed out of the day.
Huge thank you to Winter Park Resort for an incredible season. I know it’s your business, and I know you’re just doing your job, but all of the staff on that mountain have always managed to make it feel like home, and Saturday was absolutely no different.
Winter Park Resort received a total of 347 inches of snow throughout the season, and was open for skiing and snowboarding for 186 days. Summer season begins June 16th, with scenic gondola rides, an alpine slide, mountain biking, and more making up the different available activities.
Image Credit: Nolan Deck