Adventures On And Off Skis by Alpine Alice
Adventures On And Off Skis,
by Alpine Alice
After years in Montana, I moved to Durango in October. I found a job downtown and ski whenever I get a chance. I’m a ski bum at heart, and will call in sick to work if a huge storm comes through and dumps snow everywhere. Join me on my blog as I explore Durango – on and off skis.
View Articles: 2014 New Year's Res-ski-lutions | Trail of the Week: Peace | The Halo Moment | McCormack's Maze | Yoga Does a Body Good | Trail of the Week: The Bank | Tricks and Terrain Parks are not just for Kids | Winter Wildlife | Trail of the Week: Snag |
You’ll need some grit to get down Snag, but it’s worth it. Snag is an expert level run off of Lift 3 and accessible from Lift 5. Snag is certainly a solid challenge, but I love a good ski challenge, and Snag offers enough variety to keep it fun for several runs. It has some moguls in spots, and a few places where you can catch air if you’re going fast enough.
Make sure to do a few warm up runs before you attempt Snag. The moguls and slope are a leg workout, and your muscles will thank you if you’ve warmed up a bit before tearing down this one. Also, Snag is a fairly long run, and there aren’t many options to jump trail if you find it too difficult to handle. Closer to the bottom, you can head to skier’s right and cut over to the tamer intermediate level Harris Hill Run, or wait until you reach Hermosa Parkway, a green trail, and take that to Lift 5.
I vote you stick it out all the way down. The mogul sections alternate with good cruising spots, so you get a bit of a rest from the hard stuff. The muscle burn you may feel is overshadowed by the adrenalin rush and the beauty of this section of the mountain. Plus, after getting a substantial workout, you can eat an entire pizza later in the evening and not feel guilty about doing so.
DMR is located in the wilds of the San Juan Mountains and the National Forest. All year long, animals live here, although some of them are in hibernation or otherwise hunkered down for the winter. Even during the cold months, fox and coyote tracks can be found across my favorite trails. Over the weekend I found fox tracks on Sally’s Run. Foxes venture out into the snow to hunt, and their tracks are similar to a domestic dog’s tracks. If you see dog tracks in the snow at DMR, there’s a good chance it belongs to a fox, or possibly a coyote.
While riding up Lift 8, keep a close eye on any snacks you may be trying to eat. There is a band of Gray Jays, also known as Camp Robbers, that nest near the lift and they certainly aren’t shy. I’ve seen them land on the chairs of the lift, with people on them, to nab a bit of a food out of a hungry skier’s hand. The DMR area is also home to home to a few bald eagles, Cooper’s Hawks, and red tail hawks. Keep your eyes on the skies for these hunters, especially earlier in the morning.
On Angel’s Thread, I nearly skied into a snowshoe hare. Although it was huge, I didn’t see it until the last minute due to its white fur camouflage. Luckily, that rabbit was fast and managed to dodge my skis and rush under a log. I stopped and stayed still and quiet, trying to get another look at it. Sure enough, after a few minutes I got to see the hare peek out from under the log and dash off into the woods. Again the hare was too fast, and I only managed to get a picture of the tracks it left behind.
When you are skiing or riding, or relaxing on a chairlift, be sure to observe the world around you. It is filled with animal life and perhaps if you are lucky enough, you may see something amazing.
OK, OK – maybe Terrain Parks aren’t exclusively for kids, but they are for those who are experienced tricksters, or maybe for people made of rubber. I was a late bloomer in terms of Terrain Parks, and I only started trying rails and tricks four years ago. After achieving my Terrain Park career highlight of successfully cleaning a C Rail – twice, I now stay bruise-free and stick to the beginner features.
Watching the Olympics these past few weeks has left me in awe of how easy athletes like Sage Kotsenburg make extreme riding look. It takes massive amounts of practice before a skier or rider is capable of grinding a rail or landing a straight air jump, let alone the fancy stuff like triple corks and the backside 1620 Japan.
When first starting out in Terrain Parks - go small. Do the beginner elements and work your way up.
There are Terrain Parks and Terrain Features throughout DMR. For beginners, there is a small, three feature park at the top of Angel’s Tread, before you get to Lift 2. This park is labeled AT on the Trial Map. I love this little park because it’s a good one to learn the basics on, and because I don’t have to go out of my way to get there. I can practice on these easier features and then jump onto Lift 2 or ski down to the base.
The Paradise Terrain Park features large jumps. Take the chairlift (Lift 1) to check it out and cheer for skiers and riders attempting greatness below you. This park is certainly out of my league, but I love to watch the capable skiers and riders rip it up.
Having a few tricks in your repertoire and/or having a bit of knowledge about jibbing will make your experience on the mountain more enjoyable. At the very least, you will know what the commentators at the winter Olympic ski and snowboard events are talking about – and when they call a jib by the wrong name.
The Bank is my end of the day run for two reasons: it’s in the perfect location and it is fun. This trail is at the intermediate level and located off of Lift 1 and 2 and stays open until 4pm. After a long day of skiing or riding, and either my legs are a bit tired, or I want to cruise on a no-nonsense and fun trail – I make one last run, or two, on The Bank.
Follow it from the top all the way down and admire the pretty views. The Bank goes over several traverses, so it’s possible to link up to the The Bank from other runs. Because it’s a sectional cruiser that travels over a few traverses, be aware of other skiers and riders approaching from the sides. There is a steeper section near the bottom, which you can avoid by taking Angel’s Thread.
One aspect of The Bank that I really enjoy is the versatility. There are a couple of tree clusters to ski around near the top, and a few steep slopes. Each section has a bit of a different feel to, and that also keeps you on your toes. This is a fun cruiser: you can bank on that.
I love to ski. Sometimes I go on four day ski binges, and end up pretty sore by the end of it. Sometimes I am sore after one day of raging it. This winter, I have made an effort to stretch after skiing, and it has certainly helped with the soreness factor. Stretching is important in preventing not only soreness, but injuries too, and there is no better way to stretch than Yoga. If you can, check out a late afternoon or evening Yoga class after a day on the mountain.
There are several places to go for Yoga classes in Durango, but here are my favorites:
Yoga Grown at the Durango Mountain Institute, Durango Mountain Resort
Yoga instructor Rachii Ma is amazing, and her Saturday morning Vinyasa class welcomes all Yoga levels. Rachael focuses on building strength and flexibility, but also on breathing and grounding. Her class runs from 9:00–10:30am, and fees are $10, which is payable in class. On Wednesdays, Rachael also offers a Restorative Yoga class from 5- 6:15pm. This all-levels class is designed for skiers and riders after they finish on the mountain as the focus here is stretching and rejuvenation. Call Yoga Grown at (978) 500-8701 for more information or log on to www.yogagrown.com. For specific dates and times for the Yoga Grown classes, log on to www.skipurg.com/events
Yoga Durango at Florida Road
This Yoga studio has two locations, although I have only been to the one on Florida Road. Both locations offer many different types of Yoga, but I am a huge fan of Hot Yoga, which is only offered at the Florida Road studio. Hot Vinyasa is for intermediate or expert Yoga goers, and you will want to bring a towel and water. For those of you who have not experienced Hot Yoga before – it really is hot. They turn on the heater and it feels like a summer day in the desert. They also have a Yin Yoga class on Thursdays that I recommend. I tried it on a whim one day, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. All levels are welcome, and the instructor, Joy, is vibrant and fun. Classes cost $15 to drop in or $12 for students/seniors. Contact Yoga Durango at (970) 403-1133 for more information.
See you on the slopes or on a Yoga mat. Namaste.
This expert only trail is not for the timid or faint of heart. It is also, in my opinion, one of the premier runs at DMR. This is indeed expert only terrain: it’s steep, full of trees, and it’s difficult to get out of once you’re in it.
From the start of this run, you are warned about its dangers. There are a couple of bright yellow signs, warning skiers and riders about the dangers of tree wells and unmarked obstacles. Even more ominous is a ski patrol rescue sled propped up against the trail sign. For a split second, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. It’s not like I could have turned around at this point; at the top of McCormack’s turning back is impossible. The best you can do is ski out at the beginning of the run. Head skier’s right towards Elliott’s, which is a treeless black diamond run.
I was excited for McCormack’s: this is exactly the type of terrain I love. We just had a big snowstorm as well, so the conditions were great. I followed a line near the orange ski area border and stopped for a couple of breaks to admire the tranquility of the snow covered forest. Even though it was a busy day at DMR, I never saw or heard another person while I was in McCormack’s Maze.
This is a difficult trail, but this is tree skiing at its finest. If you are an expert level skier or rider, and you haven’t done McCormack’s Maze yet – put on your big kid pants and just do it.
Today, I got out of work early and headed up to the ski hill. I got some good runs in my pocket, and was having a fantastic time skiing by myself. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was skiing like Heather McPhee – at least, that’s what I was saying in my head. Around 2:15, I jumped on a chairlift and headed back up, contemplating what run I should hit next. As I scoured the mountain side scouting my next run, I suddenly realized how tranquil it was. I had the chairlift to myself, and I could hear nothing but songbirds: it was just us, the sun, and the mountain. Then a couple of minutes later, I experienced The Halo Moment.
There is a instant where the setting sun crests the top of the mountain, and the rays jut upwards and outwards, blanketing the moment in a blinding golden splendor. It’s beautiful. The effect only lasts for a few minutes, and it’s one of those points in time that make me appreciate nature and skiing, and realize how lucky I am to experience both. Due to the look of a golden halo crowning the mountain top, and the feeling of pure bliss that radiates from it – I’ve dubbed this juncture The Halo Moment.
The Halo Moment happens in the afternoon when the sky is clear, and it’s best visible from Lift 1: The Purgatory Village Express.
I encourage you to experience your own Halo Moment on Lift 1, and enjoy every second of it.
I love cruisers. No matter the conditions, cruisers are generally great skiing. So when a guy sharing the chairlift with me mentioned Peace is a good cruiser trail, I immediately headed over. He is right – Peace is fun.
Peace is an intermediate run that has some nice roller-coaster hills on it. Watch out for the drop just after you pass under the chairlift – it can catch you off-guard in the low-light. Also, be sure to get some speed at the bottom of the run. You’ll need that speed to carry you through the flat terrain before Lift 3 so you don’t end up having to paddle or skate in.
Near the top of Peace, there are a few picnic tables. When the weather is nice, it is a good place to stop for a break, or to take a few pictures. When I stopped there yesterday, the snow was coming down hard enough that I couldn’t see anything except white. Not that I am complaining about the massive influx of snow-producing clouds, mind you. I couldn’t have asked for a better view.
This year, I pledge to ski more. Every day that I have off work will be spent on the slopes. Additionally, I will call in sick on all powder days and not feel guilty about it. I can take pictures of myself on said powder days, but I cannot allow myself to post them on social media, but only because I don’t want my truancy to be found out by my boss or co-workers. You can never be too careful these days. I resolve to use stealth in 2014.
I also pledge to ski every run at Durango Mountain Resort. I am excited to be living in a town with a ski area that is new to me. I will track how long it takes me to ski the entire mountain and document my journey down these runs in blog posts. I will also stretch after skiing. I will be good to my body in 2014.
Lastly, I resolve to focus on fun and living life to the fullest. The corporate man will not prevent me from having a good time, taking vacations, and having the occasional late night out. I will also have more bonfires and bar-b-ques, and not nessassarlily at the same time. Fires are awesome. Think s’mores. Who doesn’t love s’mores?
Happy skiing and shredding, and see you on the slopes.
- Alpine Alice