Stop & smell the pine cones

The snow's crunchy, the lines are long, and the terrain is limited. Now approaching mid December, looking out from one of the few open runs at any Colorado resort, you're likely to see a mass of brown instead of the familiar white. Coming off the warmest November on record (according to meteorologist Joel Gratz of Opensnow.com), the first two weeks of December have at times been colder, but still, the snow is lacking.
Every morning I start my day with the "daily snow" report on OpenSnow.com and everyday, it seems I'm disappointed. With holiday crowds soon to be pouring into the area, things are about to go from bad to worse. But rather than dwelling on the bad, and stressing about things I can't control, I've recently found ways to enjoy the mountain even in these subpar conditions.
You know that feeling when you're floating, silently down an empty trail of untouched powder? The one where you feel weightless, but in control, as you glide down the mountain at speeds upwards of 50 mphs. The whole mountain's open, and you can't wait to go check out the back bowls. With no time to spare, you bomb first tracks from open to close.
Well, those days are still  several weeks away, so why not stop and smell the... pine cones?

I know, you want to go fast, but flying down one of three open runs is a little like trying to max out a Ferrari in LA traffic. Not only are you putting yourself in danger, but you’re compromising the safety of the many skiers and boarders around you. Plus, with such little terrain open, you’re sure to get bored of lapping the same runs over and over.

This weekend I nearly gave up. The crowds were excessive, the snow had turned to ice, and I just wasn’t having a good time. Typically I would have thrown in the towel, waited for the crowds to die down on Monday, or even for the next fresh flakes. But, my friend Jayson was in town to snowboard, so that’s what we did.

After several icy laps, I had an idea. Rather than proceeding as usual, I suggested that we go try something new instead. First introduced to the idea during instructor training, I’d been looking for an opportunity to practice my switch riding, and this bluebird Sunday afternoon was it.

Still far from empty, several people dotted the learners hill, but with plenty of space in between. In the distance, the many slopes of Breckenridge baked in the fierce afternoon sun. Here the snow was crunchy, but better than the icy patches of the front side.

The first few laps were uncomfortable, but with each switch turn, it felt more natural. “I’ll try spins now” I thought.

Monday morning showed less crowds than the previous three days, and after a couple fresh tracks at Keystone, we hopped the shuttle to Breck. The bustling base area promised chaos, but a bit of exploration yielded more open pastures. Still in no hurry, I dedicated this day to control. Through a series of spins and switch riding, deep carves and wide turns, another great day ensued. And while I didn’t break any speed records, these past two days were some of my best yet.

The start of this ski season has been historically bad. And while I remain confident that the snow will eventually come, in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the freedom of snowboarding by focusing on progress and improving my control. Sometimes, when your mind is right, the snow turns silver.

Pray for snow.

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