Locals dish on their perfect winter day
Living in a valley surrounded by snowy mountains, bisected by a Gold Medal trout stream and speckled with great restaurants has its advantages. These locals share their itinerary for a perfect winter’s day. Take advantage of these insider scoops for some fun of your own.
Carbondale’s Wick Moses has lived – and skied – in the Roaring Fork Valley for decades. “I got off the train as a sophomore at CRMS in 1963,” he said. Moses coached the Colorado Rocky Mountain School Nordic ski team in the 1970s and has served on the board of the Mount Sopris Nordic Council, which maintains the Spring Gulch Ski Area just outside Carbondale. The Spring Gulch trails are old friends for him, and he relishes the ability to leave work and head for the hills for an evening of touring. In December or January, two or three days before the full moon, he goes up to Spring Gulch just as the sun is starting to disappear. The moon has already risen, and by the time Moses has skied up to Paul’s Point and down Finlandia, he’s treated to one of those spectacular, salmon pink, Colorado winter sunsets, looking up toward Mount Sopris and Avalanche. Timing is truly everything. “The sunlight kind of evaporates and the moon takes over,” he explains, “and you get this effect of skiing in the light so much that you don’t need a headlamp.” Moses will soon retire from his position as underwriting salesperson (and station guru) at KDNK Community Radio, which means low-key aprs ski. “I stop by Dos Gringos Burritos in Carbondale for a Chicken Gringo to go,” he said. Then, it’s over to Main Street Spirits for a bottle of Clausthaler beer and home to an evening of jazz on the stereo and relishing the endorphin high. Create your own Wick Effect under the full moon on Jan. 9 or Feb. 7.
Picture a sunny morning in the Roaring Fork Valley after an all-night snowstorm. The snow sparkles white on the mountains and the sky is what Carbondale resident Heather Hopper calls “a full-on, lavender periwinkle blue.” The world is as fresh as the powder. In other words, it’s a perfect day for snowboarding anywhere in the valley. Hopper opts for Aspen Highlands, but only after a stop at Grana Bread, a bakery tucked away in an alley off Carbondale’s Main Street, for a Morning Bun and chai. “Highlands is my No. 1 choice because of the terrain and the views,” said Hopper. “You can find your own little world there.”Hopper moved here in 1998 from Maine just to snowboard. “I was really into it in my early 20s,” she remembers. She drifted away from the sport for a decade, taking up with a rock-climbing boyfriend, but came back to boarding two years ago. The long runs at Highlands are blissful, like surfing snow. “There’s such a freedom to it,” she said. “You’re not worrying about paying bills or getting the oil changed. You’re in the moment.” And, that makes her grateful for where she lives. “Riding is definitely a part of that for me.” After the bliss, dinner out in Carbondale could be Brooklyn falafel at Hestia, a slice at Peppino’s or fried pickles and a craft brew at the Beer Works pub.”I really like to snack on fried pickles,” Hopper said with a laugh. For Hopper, Carbondale is best for aprs-ski with friends. Once she’s home, she can walk everywhere. And, she adds, “It gives me a chance to check on the dog.”
Tim Burr is a lifetime alpine skier. “I started at 3 with plastic skis,” he said. Tim and his family moved to the Roaring Fork Valley five years ago from Oregon. He and his younger brother, Shane, joined the Buddy Werner ski program at Sunlight Mountain Resort. “It was a good way to learn to ski really well and to learn how to race,” he said.Now Tim is a junior at Glenwood Springs High School. When he isn’t skiing or in class, he works at the Sunlight Ski & Bike shop in downtown Glenwood Springs. If you stopped in at the shop and asked him about a perfect ski day, he might tell you that it starts with a foot of new snow at Sunlight. “I’d drive 10 minutes to Sunlight, put my boots on in the lodge where I know everybody,” he said, “and ski whatever run has the least amount of people.” On a powder day, that means the upper half of Joslin and down Blue Tango. “After a couple of runs,” he adds, “I’ll head down to the lodge, see what’s happening, and hang out with my brother and dad.”Lunch is a quick burger at Sunlight Lodge and the rest of the afternoon is all about the Snowmass Terrain Park. “I’m a firm believer in family Ski Sunlight, but Snowmass has some fun stuff,” he explains. There are three terrain parks for skiers and snowboarders in Snowmass. Low-Down Park at the Village Express is for beginners. Makaha Park at the Elk Camp Gondola is a little more challenging. But, Burr likes the Terrain Park, which features an advanced mix of man-made jumps and rails. “There’s a lift that goes from the bottom of the park to the top,” he said. “You can do laps all day.” On the bus ride back to Glenwood, Burr checks his style from videos of the day’s adventures, which also makes good aprs-ski at home with his friends later on. “We watch them and then talk about what we did and what we need to improve on.” And, if by chance he hasn’t had enough? “I’ll go to the Hot Springs Pool.”
A fairly warm night in January, according to Tom Trowbridge, means temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Add to that a sunny morning and maybe 6 inches of fresh snow and you’ve got a good start on a great day of skiing and fly-fishing. That’s right … fly-fishing. Some people actually like to stand in cold water on a winter afternoon. Temperature is very important, said Trowbridge. “You want to be fishing at the warmest part of the day. If it was 10 degrees the night before, the river would be like a Slurpee all day.” He should know. He’s the manager of Roaring Fork Anglers in Glenwood Springs and an avid fly-fisherman. In fact, that’s why he moved to the area. But, that comes later. First, he’s off to Sunlight for some freshies in the untracked powder. Then, it’s back to town to grab his wife, Ruth, his fishing gear, and a torta at Taqueria El Nopal and heading for the Roaring Fork River.Trowbridge has been fishing since he was a youngster in Green Bay, Wisconsin. But, fishing up north lost its luster and he ventured west 11 years ago. “I got sick of sitting on a bucket and looking through a hole in the ice all winter long,” he said. He spent his first winter in Salida, working in a fly shop and fishing a lot. Like many mountain folks, he came for a season and ended up finding a life. And a wife. He met Ruth in the fly shop, of course. The shop’s owner was from Carbondale, a connection that led him to the Roaring Fork Valley and his current job. Roaring Fork Anglers is not far from the river, which brings him back to his idea of perfect winter fishing. “We’d find a deep, slow pool,” he said. “I’d set up my fly rod with two nymphs and a strike indicator, and I would fish from 1 to 4 in the afternoon.” By then, the sun dips below the ridge above Glenwood Springs, putting the river in chilly shade. “We would reel up our lines and for sure go to the pool,” he said. And after a hot springs warm-up, it’s a stop at the Pullman. “Ruth and I would split an appetizer and a carafe of wine and order whatever they have that’s local.” The Pullman was voted one of the best new restaurants of 2011 by Esquire Magazine. “They have odd stuff like rabbit or elk,” adds Trowbridge. “Most of it’s from Colorado except for the seafood.” Local skiing, local fishing and local eats. Not bad for a perfect winter’s day.
Local winter revelers love waking up in the morning after a huge snowfall. The Costanzo family of Rifle – Kyle, April, and 9-year old Tegan – is no different. New snow means it’s time to go boon-dockin’. It starts after breakfast with an early morning drive up to the Rifle Creek trailhead.”We head up Little Box Canyon to the Flat Tops,” he said. “And try to get up to the untracked, fresh powder.” The Flat Tops spread out north of the Colorado River, from Rifle east to Glenwood Canyon. More than 200,000 acres is designated wilderness, but snowmobiles have miles and miles of trails and play parks outside the wilderness boundaries. Snowmobiling is a big deal for locals, and Costanzo caters to enthusiasts at his business, Rifle Performance Motor Sports, where he sells snow machines and offers plenty of free advice.”I got into the business 18 years ago because I love the sport,” he said. “It’s kind of an addiction.”The Costanzo’s day-trip can take them as far as Meadow Lake, about 25 snowy miles north of Rifle at an elevation of 10,000 feet. “We get over there, eat lunch, play in the parks and the trees, and enjoy the sunshine and snow.” That’s boon-dockin’, Costanzo-style, so named because there aren’t many people or amenities in the backcountry and snowmobilers have to be self-sufficient. That’s perfect for Kyle. “I enjoy getting out, seeing the mountains, and getting away from it all,” he said. “I don’t like crowds or waiting in line.” So instead of going to a restaurant at day’s end, Kyle and April pick up some steaks for the grill from Outwest Meat & Processing, a butcher shop in Rifle. The Costanzos begin their backcountry treks right after Thanksgiving and don’t quit until March. Kyle might share some boon-dockin’ tips at the shop, but in case he’s out in the backcountry, more information about snowmobiling is available through the U.S. Forest Service at http://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/whiteriver/recreation/wintersports.
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