Now that the piles of dirty snow from the massive January D.C. snowstorm have finally melted (it only took a month) and meteorologists have reclassified our winter as just "average" and not the predicted "severe," I thought I'd do my winter recap - even though technically there's still a month left in what I consider the winter season. This recap covers four  winter S's: Skiing, Slopestyle, Sledding, and Silliness.

Skiing

Once again, Mother Nature did not disappoint during her colder months this winter.  Unlike last year where the snow coverage was abysmal in the Pacific Northwest over the Christmas holidays, this year it dumped 8 feet in one week, which perfectly coincided with the time I happened to be out there.  See ya Santa, I'm off to hit the slopes!  Colorado continued to have their early season snow making operations dialed in, allowing some lifts to start operating as early as late October.  Of course, true mountain snow coverage really doesn't start to build until December.  And finally, Sundance Film Festival ski conditions at Park City Mountain Resort were fantastic, with nice groomers and sunny 40 degree weather - a relief since the town festival scene and films the first weekend were not that great this year compared to previous years. It was so dead at Sundance, I couldn't even scrape together enough to make up a separate festival recap post.  Very strange experience!

If you've been a reader since around this time a year ago, late March actually, you may remember that last year's ski season, for me, did not end favorably.  Severing my ACL was definitely not fun, though after hearing other knee injury stories, I feel I got away with a relatively easy fix.  This year, I was a little bit nervous to take the new knee in its brace out for a spin.  Admittedly, I slacked off on the rehab activities after my insurance stopped covering the treatments, and my contributing muscles are remarkably different, mostly weaker, than before the accident.  Residual minor knee stiffness is my new norm too, apparently. Thankfully, my confidence returned quickly after my first few runs of the season and remained, though I stuck to groomers as much as possible and did not test my limits for quantity of runs.  Also, I quickly learned skiing in powder this year was a mental disaster! Fortunately, winter is ending with a relatively injury-free status.  I only had my lovely Christmas morning present to contend with: a sprained ankle that I proceeded to then ski on that day, which has continued to be a big a pain because ankles take forever to heal, but at least it didn't require doctor visits.

Slopestyle

Since its debut in the 2014 Winter Olympics, I am still amazed and intrigued by the increasingly popular freeski slopestyle competitions.  Dew Tour in Breckenridge is the first major event of the year, and I jumped the opportunity to check out both men's freeski slopestyle and super halfpipe events over the weekend!  All of the top level competitors, most of whom were at Sochi, come to Dew Tour because it has not only better prize money but they earn more ranking points for the season at a Platinum level event.  I would suspect only XGames is held in higher esteem by the athletes than Dew Tour - not surprisingly considering it's been around longer and has greater TV coverage and sponsorship exposure.






Slopestyle is a tough event to watch.  I equate it to going to a Formula 1 event, where all you see is the one track corner where you are sitting - or in this case the one jump.  The other option is to stay at the bottom and watch the runs on the projection screens, but what is the difference between that and watching it on your T.V. or computer?  Only the most dedicated hiked up to the top of the course for the rail sections, and I was not one of those.  Everything I shot was on my iPhone, so considering the speed at which these guys come flying down the mountain, I was impressed with some of the photos I captured.  I even did some burst mode photos and later combined them to create a multi-shot image like the one below of Jesper Tjader (pronounced yesper chahtter). And, of course I had to grab a shot of two of the top American competitors: Bobby Brown and Gus Kenworthy!





Later in the day, the Men's Freeski Super Halfpipe finals went down during some light snowfall.  I love watching halfpipe, since in contrast to slopestyle, you see the run from start to finish.  While I did run into snowboarding's Shaun White earlier at lunch, I am 100% interested only in the skiers when it comes to pipe.  Their tricks look (and maybe are) more complicated because there is more to do with two skis rather than a board, and I love that there's always a chance that a run may somehow be timed such that the skier executes one of his hits right in front of you.  The amplitude of these guys coming out of the pipe is incredible too!  Again, all shot on my iPhone.









Sledding (Technically Tubing)

I was trying to think if I have ever been tubing before, and I can't recall that I have!  While out visiting family in Seattle, I took the kids up to Snoqualmie Pass to hit the tubing lanes.  The tubes really got up there in speed, especially on the steeper lanes!  And it was quite a workout hauling everything back to the top if you opted to not wait for the tow rope.  



Silliness


Finally, it wouldn't be winter in Colorado without a bit of the ridiculous.  I happened to be out there the same weekend as the Ullr Festival in Breckenridge.  Your guess is as good as mine as to why a Colorado town is celebrating the Viking god of winter! Also why pirates would be involved in the celebration.  The main events of the weekend are the record breaking shot ski attempt, the parade down main street, and the ex-Christmas tree bonfire.  This year, locals and visitors alike tied or screwed together some shot skis (old skis with circle cutouts to hold a few shot glasses) to create one giant shot ski made out of 277 skis and completed with 831 shots of liquor provided by the Breckenridge Distillery.




The shot ski is immediately followed by a parade, or what I may call a "kitchen sink parade" because there was a little bit of everything thrown in there.  There were some floats, some quasi floats, various questionable sleds being pulled by trucks, a bike being pulled by dogs, and then there was the random port-a-potty disposal truck.  My favorite float was one where, between two consecutive trailers, a ski hill had been made with real snow and two skiers raced from the first trailer to the bottom on the second trailer.  In addition to the pirates and vikings, there was also a solid representation of Star Wars characters, and the finale float recreated the Ferris Bueller parade scene. The best and most disturbing Star Wars float had to be the one with dancing Princess Leias and very creepy Chewbaccas.












And to end a great celebration of a Viking god in the middle of Colorado, of course you need some Viking helmets and a giant pile of fire, with the slopes of Breck in the background.



All in, a pretty weird and fun winter I'd say!
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