Monday, January 30, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Drive I-70

Well, at least they don't on the last Sunday afternoon of January.

The regular heavy Sunday afternoon skier traffic from Summit County to the Denver area combined with extra traffic from the XGames in Aspen yesterday to create a parking lot on the two lanes of Eastbound I-70. The @ColoradoDOT twitter feed was buzzing yesterday afternoon as traffic pacing operations failed due to excessive traffic volume and traffic metering was required at the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels.

If you were stuck in that traffic yesterday, I feel your pain. Been there. Done that.

I spent the afternoon at Eldora Mountain Resort instead. Good times skiing with my 3-year-old boy and my 69-year-old dad (yesterday was his birthday...Happy Birthday Dad!).

Friday, January 20, 2012

Your Life is More Important than Skiing.

After numerous deaths this season, Rocky Mountain Ski Culture needs a reality check.


  1. On November 18th, 20-year-old Evan Massini died after hitting a tree on the edge of the Northstar trail at Breckenridge.
  2. On January 15th, 25-year-old Sydney Elizabeth Owens died after falling and sliding about 1500 feet on Silverton Mountain.
  3. On January 18th, a skier was killed in a sidecountry avalanche near Snowmass Village.
  4. On January 19th, Canadian Freestyle Skier & Olympic Medalist Sarah Burke died after she hit her head on the icy sidewall of a half-pipe on a training run.
  5. And there are numerous others...
Too many of us in Rocky Mountain Ski Culture take way too much risk in this sport we love. We justify our self-destructive and often-deadly behavior by lying to ourselves in countless ways:
  • "I feel more alive when skiing like this."
  • "This kind of skiing is what life is all about."
  • "I know what I'm doing and I've accurately assessed the risk in this situation."
  • "I need this run/this trick/this shot/this footage so that I can get the approval I need from others in order to feel good about myself."
  • And there are numerous others...

So, my ski-loving friend, start repeating this mantra: "My life IS more important than skiing."

Repeat this mantra because this mantra is true. Your life is more important than skiing. Regardless of how you might feel at the top, in the middle or at the end of a run, your life is more important than skiing. You are more than your experiences. Your life has meaning and purpose apart from skiing. There are other things worth living for.

Sure, people are saying nice things about Sarah Burke all over the internet this week. But not everything being said is true. Her death is a tragedy. She did not have to die the way that she died. Neither did any of the other skiers we've lost this year.

I may be obsessive about skiing, but more importantly, I am alive. I want you to be alive too.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 should see this.

The Obsessive Skier is extremely near-sighted. So, he can see small things very easily. For instance, he can see the details of one flake of snow that falls on the sleeve of his jacket. (Cool, huh?)

He is also obsessive. Particularly about skiing. And thus-ly, the snow conditions at any given time. Here is a helpful graphic for analyzing the wide variety of snow a skier might experience in Colorado:

As Mark Williams of INSTAAR at The University of Colorado at Boulder writes: "Snow on the ground is a dynamic medium. The properties and characteristics of fallen snow change constantly as a function of energy fluxes, wind, moisture, water vapor, and pressure. For example, the time window for good skiing in mid-winter may last several days after a fresh snowfall in cold continental climates. During spring conditions the time window may be only an hour or two as rock-hard boilerplate turns to ideal corn conditions before additional energy inputs turns the snowpack to unskiable slush. Physical properties of snow change over time. Furthermore, snow properties can vary widely over small distances, both vertically within a snowpack and horizontally over space."

For obvious reasons, therefore, you should see this. And study it. The quality of your next ski run is determined by what you see going on with snow crystals like these.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Where are you, la nina?

Yesterday was my second day of skiing this season.

This photo of Peaks 7 & 8 at Breckenridge shows how little snow has fallen so far this year.

If you like cruising on the blues (intermediate runs), conditions are fine. But if you like the high alpine terrain (like me), conditions stink.

Where are you, la nina?