This was contributed to Colorado Ski Country by Pietro Simonetti of Good Ski Guide.
It’s rare to see a Colorado Front Range storm dumping several feet of snow on our local hills, leaving resorts west of the divide pretty much bone dry, but that’s exactly what happened on a recent weekend.
I assumed I wouldn’t be the only snow-starved soul to go after four feet of fresh powder at Eldora, and I anticipated a massive traffic jam on the Boulder Canyon Road to Nederland. But the temptation was too hard to resist. So with a full tank of gas, my 4-year-old daughter safely buckled in her car seat, Michael Jackson’s greatest hits serenading us and a 40-pack of hand warmers handy, we ventured forth.
The road was a tad d-icy, yet traffic moved at a steady 40 miles/hour. Not bad, considering. Maybe smooth sailing is how it’s going to be, I thought. Well, that gleam of hope crashed about a split second after it popped into my head. I soon saw—and joined—the snake of red brake lights in front of us. No escape. . . or explanation of the cause. Two cop cars bleed through. An accident? The sporadic downhill drivers with blank faces don’t give up any clues. After about an hour we eventually crawl to the culprit. A sideways bus unable to clear a corner just above Boulder Falls. No one hurt, thank the snow gods. One at a time we slalom around it and speed away to our four-feet-of-snow promised land.
Everything seemed fine until we finally arrive at Nederland. Stop and go all over again. Bad sign. When I spot cars with skis on their racks coming back the opposite way—not good for this prime, mid-morning ski time—that feeling turned from grey to black. As we inch away from Nederland, I’m able to flag down a descending skier who breaks the news: The parking lot at Eldora is full and they’re turning everyone around. Unbelievable. It’s not just my disappointment I have to deal with, it’s my 4-year-old in the back asking her 4-year-old questions—all beginning with “But why?”—during our retreat back to Nederland.
I need a break, my daughter needs a break, and I assume the multitude of other redirected drivers need a break. And we all get a great one in Nederland. Kids take over the town’s historic Carousel of Happiness, and parents take over the bar at Backcountry Pizza—moderately and responsibly, of course. I can’t speak for all my unmet co-travelers, but the laughter, smiles and warm talk floating around certainly rejuvenated me. (I have to admit, a beer or two—which I didn’t dare with my daughter in tow—looked pretty good. Some other time.)
It’s now early afternoon, but I decide to make a final push to Eldora anyway. I rejoin the crawling caravan, finally make it to Eldora and find that it’s still crowded but accepting vehicles. My daughter and I ski every last bit of daylight out of what’s left in this super Front Range snow day.
I’ll always remember the experience. And I won’t forget the vision of all those kids—my Isabella included—ultimately having a grand time despite all the trials in this frustrating go, no-go day. And their parents—myself in that bunch—savoring the moment as well.
What I see is perseverance. I see young skiers who simply didn’t give up. When at almost every stop, start, turn or turn around it would’ve been so easy to do so. I see kids who seem as driven to experience great skiing as are the parents who drive them to great ski resorts like Eldora. I see young, dedicated adventurers who could’ve cried to turn back hours ago, but didn’t.
Call it an epiphany of sorts—possibly brought on by the euphoria of finally skiing after three hours of exhaust fumes—but I felt I was seeing something special: The very beginnings of a life-long love of adventure and the outdoors being forged right in front of me. The cold, the wind, the bad roads, the delays, did nothing to discourage the new wave of little champions I see before me. Caught up in my reverie, I picture these pint-sized daredevils—my baby included—as one day doing incredible tricks at the X Games in 2020, or becoming the next Bode Miller, Lindsay Vonn, Julia Mancuso or whatever new name steals the spotlight in 2014.
If those future Olympians or X-Gamers have the strength, fortitude and perseverance—even in their small doses—to make it to Eldora on this day, against so many odds, I do believe they can do anything. I’m immensely proud of my daughter and the others of her ski size and skill set who made it to this top. And am extremely hopeful for the future of the sport we all love.