Into the Frigid Storm

Tuesday morning dawn patrol, -19° wind chill.

Nederland, Colorado is not the best skiing location in the world. You know those perfect images of softly falling snow, deep powder runs, perfect aspen trees and blue skies? Yeah, those don't happen here so often.

Our skiing is much more raw. Snow does fall, and for maybe a 24 hour period during and slightly after the storm the skiing is quite good. But then, inevitably, the wind starts. And when I speak of wind, I mean close to hurricane force gusts. That big storm in the east earlier this fall? Those wind speeds are actually common place here in Nederland but it's just not national news. Homes creak at night on a regular basis, white-out conditions are the norm and the skiing here can be brutal as a result. No, Nederland is not the best skiing location in the world.

On the other hand, if you are preparing for some expedition where heinous conditions could be encountered, I can't really think of a better place to be. I once had a customer at Neptune tell me he spent countless hours on Longs Peak preparing for a winter trip to Patagonia, well known as the locale with perhaps the worst weather in the world. Upon returning, he determined that Patagonia was a decent place to prepare for Longs Peak. I've had ski patrollers tell me the weather here is worse than research stations in Antarctica.

If you can survive it, this place makes you tough. You learn to go out in the worst of the worst, or you might not go out at all. It's a handy thing, and because Elaine and I are preparing for a rather big adventure of our own this winter, I'm appreciating it more. The better we get at dealing with very adverse conditions, the better our chances of success are.

Today's ski was classic. It was a jaunt to the local backcountry ski stash, and it was brutal out. Upon breaking out of the trees, the single-digit temperatures were met by a 40 mph headwind. What to do? Pop the hood of our shell up, put the head down and start skinning straight the hell uphill. Stairmasters, Crossfit or other modern day fitness routines? Tough for sure, but try skinning up a 25 degree slope in a foot of powder, heart rate pegged, with a 40 mph wind blowing in your face and the wind chill in the negative-twenties.

It's all just part of the game here. If you want to ski, and want to ski a lot, these are the conditions you need to laugh at and charge into. It sends your senses into sensory overload, and when you get back to the heated car, away from the wind, you feel shelled. But it's a good shelled, a growth if you will, a toughness building.

This is something Elaine and I love to do. I think we've always loved the storm, both literal and figurative. Years ago we climbed up the overlook tower south of Rollinsville, with the wind raging, and gazed at the divide, white and stormy. It was a great moment, full of swirling energy and anticipation. Our whole relationship…heck it's been a head down into the storm around us determined charge. We like it, and while we don't necessarily intentionally seek out the storm, it doesn't really bother us.

Skiing perfect powder under blue skies? Sounds fun, but maybe a bit boring. For now, we'll take the frigid head winds, wind blown snow and the storms any day.


2 Replies to “Into the Frigid Storm”

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