Sunday, February 11, 2018

Skiing Down the Mountain

The view from atop Hyland ski area in Bloomington, MN
Compared to the last few years, this Minnesota winter has been hard. The persistently cold temperatures with only one small warm streak in January, mixed with weekly snowfalls has left the state frozen and white. Probably too cold for many of the out-of-town folks who were here for Superbowl LII on Sunday. Indeed I've been struck with a small case of cabin fever as well. However, it should be a time to embrace the winterness and partake in outdoor activities.

Early in January I took a trip to Utah. That officially kicked-off my ski season. Utah was awesome. The ski areas are vast and varied. We (gf and I) skied Deer Valley on the Park City side of the mountains and Brighton on the Salt Lake City side of the mountain.

I came home ready for more. Fortunately, my kids are now of the age where they are capable skiers. As an added bonus the Minnesota Ski Areas Association has a program this year where fourth graders ski for free at Minnesota hills. With my daughter being a fourth grader, the program saves me anywhere between $20 to $50 per time taking the kids out. Thus, we've been exploring the area ski hills more than I have in a long time. We are four ski areas into the season: Hyland, Buck Hill, Welch Village and Afton Alps (now a Vail "resort").

Of these, Afton was my favorite as a kid. There's lots to explore and is great for an intermediate younger skier. There are also lots of side paths and the place felt huge with four chalets and collections of hills dubbed "Alps", "Highlands", "Alpine" and "Meadows". The Highlands area was typically my favorite with remote chairlifts and more wooded area.

Last night I brought my kids to ski Afton. Drew had been there previously this season on a school trip, bu this was Norah's first time. Both found the place very fun, although Norah fell a couple more times than normal. Despite that, the snow was in great shape and the hills were quiet enough that it felt as though we had much of the place to ourselves. I started feeling confident enough to take on a few moguls here and there and my kids have developed the skiing confidence and skill to take on about any hill that comes their way.

One nice aspect of Minnesota skiing is that most of the areas have lights and are good for night skiing. Indeed, I don't think I ever recall skiing Afton during the day. It was a little weird to get a couple hours of daylight yesterday. I think it had the effect of making the place feel smaller. It probably also has to do with the fact that I've been doing more mountain skiing the last few years so there is a size contrast. Also, though I think people tend to remember things as being bigger than they are.

Skiing in February in Minnesota does have one drawback: the cold. I must admit I think we were a little under layered for yesterday's adventure. My daughter in particular was wearing a new shell/parka but had neglected to wear anything but a tee shirt under neath. I ended up getting her a neck buff at the ski shop too. This follows a ski trip where she forgot to bring socks!  A couple more outings and I'm sure she'll be completely outfitted or I'll have a complete checklist of things for her to bring along.

By the last hour of skiing things had gotten rather frigid. After one last trip to the chalet and a few more runs the cold began to take over. We called it an evening around 9:15 when I began to question my ability to feel my fingertips. Fortunately, my car was close and started like a champ. After a few minutes of driving and a stop for some hot chocolate (and gas) we were feeling warmer.

Skiing is a great way to get out and enjoy winter. I just need to remember an extra layer and some hand warmers on February nights!

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