First Impressions: Winter Park

I just got back from an epic few days snowboarding in Colorado. Before this, Pennsylvania is probably the farthest west I’ve ever been to snowboard. Let me tell you, nothing on the east coast compares to the Rockies. Winter Park is actually made up of seven different areas, each about the size of an average east coast mountain. Each area has different terrain, from moguls to glades to bowls to chutes.

If you ask locals, they’ll all tell you different when it comes to the best time of year to ride or ski in Colorado. I’ve heard mid March is usually a great time to score some powder, but according to the locals this year was a little odd. Every local I spoke to mentioned the sub-par winter and meager snow conditions. They complained about the ice and suggested I sleep in (and drink some beers) to give everything enough time to soften up. I thought to myself, nothing out here in the west could be as bad as east coast ice.

Photo Mar 20, 3 12 01 PM
View from the top of Parsenns Bowl, Winter Park, CO

On the first morning, I woke up to about 4 inches of fresh. It snowed most of the day too. Above 10,000 feet, the sun hid itself behind the clouds all day which meant the ice I had been warned about stayed solid underneath the little bit of powder. That made many spots a bit hard and chundery. That said, the Parsenns Bowl area actually had a good bit of powder on this day, if you could find it. The center section of the bowl was incredible with all the powder mixed in with the trees. As you got farther down the bowl, the trees got tighter but the powder stayed the same. The right side (rider’s right) of the bowl had some sick tree sections also. Every run I found new, untouched lines through these sections right through the end of the day. By that time, everything below 10,000 feet had warmed up enough that there were spring conditions. I’d never experienced such a difference in conditions at one mountain during one day, but that’s how the weather works in the mountains.

Despite being a snowboarder, I like riding in tight trees and moguls, so I spent most of my time on the trip riding the Mary Jane area. On my second day riding, I did explore some other parts though. I immediately noticed conditions were better in general because there were no clouds at all. The sun had all day to soften things up. When I did get over to Mary Jane I was expecting softer snow, yet there were still lots of icy patches. Parsenns Bowl suffered from the same conditions. It sort of felt like an east coast day until I hit the trees. Somehow, conditions in there stayed pretty ice-free. Again, I spent most of my time at Mary Jane, bombing from powder pile to powder pile.

I had some unreal runs on both days, despite the wonky conditions. One local I spoke to was baffled by them, but I had to think he was just jaded after living and skiing there his whole life. I’m sure he had scored some insane powder days at Winter Park, but unfortunately I didn’t. I will definitely be back to Colorado with my snowboard, and hopefully a big dumping of powder follows me there.

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