Monday, January 30, 2012

A Colorado Weekend

The weekend before last I traveled to western Colorado to visit my friend and fellow blogger, the Brave Ski Mom (BSM for short).  Her blog, appropriately titled "The Brave Ski Mom," is one of my favorites.  The BSM offers lots of good info on family skiing, resort reviews, and occasional giveaways.  And there's plenty of great outdoor family-related posts in the off season.  You can check it out here.

X-county skiing the Grand Mesa!

My flight landed at noon on Friday.  BSM immediately whisked my away to the Grand Mesa for an afternoon of cross country skiing.  After sitting on airplanes all morning, a little exercise was just what my body needed!

Breathtaking view from the top of the Grand Mesa

The Grand Mesa lies 40 miles east of Grand Junction, Colorado.  It rises up from the Colorado River valley to an elevation of 11,000 feet.  That's not much lower than my beloved Mt. Hood, which tops out at around 11,240 feet.  It was a scenic drive up through a canyon lined by steep rocky cliffs, their sides artfully scoured by years of erosion.  As we climbed, the horizon opened up to reveal a wonderful panorama of the landforms below.  A bright blue sunny sky provided the finishing touch (which after a week-plus of torrential Oregon rains, was a most welcome sight!)

Brave Ski Mom points out a map of the extensive trail system

The top of the Grand Mesa has a large network of cross country ski trails.  They are well groomed and pass through beautiful wooded areas and ice-covered lakes.

Beautiful wooded trails

I hadn't xc skied in many years and was a little nervous about how I'd do.  But like riding a bike, my skiing skills came right back.  It helped the trails were pretty mellow - mostly flat with only a few small hills to conquer.  I started sliding backwards down the steeper ones, but my work-around was to gracefully sidestep up when that happened.  I'm proud to say I only fell once!

Cool snow patterns on a frozen lake

Between gliding on my skis, and trying to remain upright, I did manage to capture a few photos of the snow-covered beauty on the Mesa.

We had a beautiful blue-sky Colorado day

We ran into quite a few fellow skiers, all out enjoying a sunny Friday afternoon.  I learned the Grand Mesa is a popular place with the locals.

Scenery out the car window

The next morning, it was time for some alpine skiing.  BSM and her family took me to the Powderhorn Ski Resort, their local hill.  Powderhorn was also located on the Grand Mesa, so I got to see all that lovely scenery for a second time.

Awesome pow run

On Saturday, a storm was rolling in.  The forecast promised snow - and lots of it.  But when we arrived at Powderhorn that morning the only weather we encountered was high winds.  I hopped on the chair anyway, and endured a windy ride to the top.  Coming down a run, the snow was sparse and icy - just like at home on Mt. Hood.  Like the rest of the nation, CO is suffering from a lack of snow.  BSM and her husband were apologetic about the conditions, but I told them I was used to skiing in snow like this.  And besides, this was an improvement compared to last Thursday's miserable ski in the rain.

Ridin' the lift up to do it again

About mid-day the snow began in earnest.  The skies opened up and it was dumping!  Conditions on the slopes improved considerably.  It was wet, heavy snow at first, but again, skiing in the PNW, I'm used to that.  I laughed and told BSM and her husband this was what we called "Cascade Concrete" back home.

Lovely aspen grove

By early afternoon, winds and heavy snow brought the visibility down to near zero.  So we cut the day short.  But at the rate the snow was falling ("puking snow" as someone put it), it bode well for the following day.

Bare aspen branches reach skyward

And - oh yeah - Sunday was the day!  It was a classic Colorado ski dream come true.  The storm had dumped 11 inches of dry fluffy pow overnight.  And we awoke to brilliant blue skies.  It doesn't get any better than this!

Proof that I was at Powderhorn

Sunday morning, Powderhorn was a-hoppin'.  Lots of locals came to the mountain for a long-overdue powder fix.  But it was nowhere close to the crowds that Meadows gets on a powder day.  The lift lines were never very long - five minutes was the most I ever waited.  It was nice to ski at a small resort.  People were extremely friendly, and everyone seemed to know each other.  It was a great vibe.

Snow-flocked trees

For our first run, BSM and her husband took me down a narrow, steep run that was filled with deep, fluffy pow.  It was so much fun, we just had to go back for seconds.

Lots of nice glades for your skiing pleasure

I spent the rest of the day chasing BSM and her family through deep snowy glades, over soft moguls, and screaming down tree-lined trails.  As expected, the entire family were superb skiers, and it was all I could do to keep up.  Luckily, BSM and her husband were nice enough to wait for me, so I never got lost.  Of course, I discovered Colorado has "snow snakes" too, and upheld my reputation by finding them all.  (That and a close and personal encounter with a treewell had me wearing some snow)

Million-dollar views

Powderhorn might be a small ski area, but it boasts some mighty views.  From the top of the chair, the entire valley opens up before your eyes.  Smaller peaks and mesas dot the plains far below.  The Colorado River winds through the lowlands.  Slopeside, lovely aspen trees line the trails.  I felt lucky to be up here on a bluebird day, able to enjoy all of it.

I had a blast skiing with BSM

It was a wonderful weekend of skiing with the BSM and her family.  Sadly, time went by way too fast and before I knew it, I was boarding a plane back to cloudy, rainy Oregon.  Western Colorado is an amazing place, and I'd love to come back again with a full contingent of photography equipment to capture more of its scenic beauty.

Thanks to the Brave Ski Mom for showing this Oregon skier a good time!


  1. What a fab trip! Love those breathtaking views. I'd like to some day ski in Colorado. Looks like it was a wonderful get-away!

  2. It was our pleasure to show you a little corner of Western Colorado! So glad you had fun!


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