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Adventure Preview: What Winter Park / Fraser Valley Offers This Summer

I look out my window and the snow on the high peaks in the Winter Park / Fraser Valley is starting to melt. Colorado made national news at the beginning of June when Trail Ridge Road still wasn’t open after Memorial Day weekend. I have biked into the park from the west side in Grand Lake, and there is still plenty of snow at the highest point. If you get a chance to bike it, wear warm clothes. Mountain bikers are finally able to get on the trails in the high country of Colorado. Mistalynn Lee, communications manager at Winter Park Resort reports that “the snow has been incredible this year and will certainly benefit the Fraser River watershed." Resort activities include Colorado’s longest Alpine Slide, mini golf, gem-panning, scenic chairlift rides and much more. Trestle Bike Park opened for the season on June 18. Also at Winter Park Resort this season: Epic Singletrack Series.

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The 2010-11 Ski Season: Great Powder and Even Better Memories

Living in a ski resort town, my family vacation stories are beach stories, so I like to hear the other point of view. Then I met Scott Oldham. Scott grew up in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver. His parents , Mike and Sara, took him and his brother, Kirk, on ski vacations in Grand County. They would ski at what in the '80s was called the Silvercreek Ski Area. Scott was 10 and Kirk was 12 when they started. Scott recalls winter weekends skiing as many runs as possible, hitting bumps and jumps all day long. Their parents skied too, and the boys remember distinctly how their dad was a great skier. They would come up for a weekend and stay at Snow Mountain Ranch (YMCA) or the Silvercreek Inn. They also brought along family friends who had boys the same ages; I can imagine the trouble these teenage boys would get into.

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Seeing Snowy North-Central Colorado Another Way: Via Machine

In an old, rustic building on the edge of national forest land is Trailblazer Snowmobile Tours, a Fraser, Colorado, company owned by Greg Foley. At the start of a ride with Foley, he tells us what we are getting into. Trailblazer has a permit to ride on 120 miles in the St Louis Creek/Arapaho National Forest, the largest track of land permitted to a local business. The permits issued in the 1980s allow access into rolling hills in this north-central area of Colorado open up deep forests and wide valleys. This is closest snowmobiling outfit to the Denver area. On a bluebird, Colorado afternoon a group of Winter Park and Fraser locals head out on a two-hour tour. Trailblazer's fleet of new Arctic Cat and Yamaha 4-stroke snowmobiles are perfect for this ride, but Foley lets us ride his new fleet of Phazers, powerful high-performance machines.

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Babes in the Backcountry: An Introduction

Leslie Ross' job bringing together active women who have limited or no backcountry experience makes her the head babe at Babes in the Backcountry, a company she founded in 1996. Recently, Babes sponsored an introduction to the backcountry at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. A group of five women spent the first day indoors, reviewing what would happen over the weekend, including information about weather, terrain and avalanche awareness. In the afternoon, they went outside to practice. On day two, after a morning of more planning and prep, they headed out to Loveland Pass. Everyone was equipped with beacons, shovels, probes and some ski gear. Leslie says, “We do not take women into avalanche terrain. We are very conservative. We try to minimize any possible hazards, but just like any type of outdoor activity, there are the basic risks of injury, altitude issues and exposure to weather. ... We do our utmost to ensure that everyone is safe and enjoying themselves. We create a supportive non threatening environment conducive to all learning styles. Plus, it’s fun.”

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Slopestyle Star Hana Beaman and Winter X Games Heading to Aspen

New West: What is so special about these winter games and what attracts people to participate and to come see them in person? Hana Beaman: The X Games are special to me because I grew up in Big Bear Lake, where the first games where held. Back then, it was a whole different thing, just a small event with some crazy people who would hurl themselves down the mountain. There were a lot of other sports in them then that haven't been for years now. For me, to be able to be a part of something that I grew up watching and got the chance to see firsthand in the beginning is kinda nuts. It has become the premier event for our sport and seeing all the riders who I looked up to when I was younger competing... Now I’m going into my 10th year of X Games and it's really something that I never imagined happening.

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Feature Maker: The Man Behind the Terrain Park at Keystone

This may be one of the most creative jobs in the ski industry. Davis agrees. “I am able to be creative, solve problems and operate a snowcat: the sweetest machine ever made." "I like to watch people throw down on the features you made and it just gives me a great feeling. It’s like I’m a kid in a giant sandbox with a Tonka truck and I get to build anything I want as long as it’s safe. We have pro riders that train here regularly so it’s really sweet to watch them. This is my dream job,” he says. He works four days a week in 10-hour shifts beginning at 2 p.m. Among the benefits of the job: “I get to snowboard every day before work and have weekends off; unless it’s a powder day.”

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In Pursuit of the Ultimate Base Layer at Winter Park

“I’m writing a story about base layers and I am wondering if you’d talk to me about what your favorites are.” They laugh to themselves as I try to predict their story. I don’t know them and they all have helmet hair. Obviously, they pay attention to protecting themselves, so I figure I might have a shot at getting some good information. “Sure, have a seat we’ll tell you what we like” says Sandy from Arvada. I order a beer and they tell me like it is. “I grew up out East and I really liked EMS long underwear but ever since I moved to Colorado, I only wear Patagonia,” says Sandy, the spokeswoman of the group. The others prefer to keep their underwear a secret.

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Among Those Ready for Opening Day at Steamboat: Coach Nate Bird

Bird has coached several U.S. Ski Team members, including Mike Morse, Jeremy Cota and Eliza Outrim. He’s coached alongside Olympians Nelson Carmichael and Bobby Aldigheri. “I’ve had the great privilege to have been coached by and to learn from some legends of the sport," he said. Nate Bird is among the legends, at least in Steamboat. Ask anyone in town about him and a big smile typically results. He’s one of the most passionate people I know here: passionate about mountain biking, skiing –- life.

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Reports From the Early Season: Sleeping in Cars, Tailgating, Trying the Stash

To get folks on the slopes in the early season, resorts are resorting to one-dollar burritos, chainsaw art, deals that benefit a good cause and, well, praying. At Jackson Hole, the Rockies got its first Stash park, a concept from Burton snowboards to use natural elements to build terrain. The JH Stash, only the sixth of its kind, includes four runs and 50 total features. Among them: the wooden "dance floor," a "tent," a "spinning stump," Casper quarterpipe rock, and a "gong" that riders can jump up to tap with their boards. Chainsaw artist Bob King created 20 unique carvings located in and around the Stash, including, of course, a moose. Over in Vail, the season will start on Nov. 19 with $1 breakfast burritos, hot cocoa and a free concert by Big Gigantic at the base of the gondola. On the 24th, Steamboat has Scholarship Day, where all lift tickets benefit the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Scholarship Fund. Whitefish Mountain Resort will host one of the early season's best events, a Pray for Snow Party on the 27th. But the praying's not expected to open the slopes by that day. Die-hards, however, don't need new runs, deals or gimmicks.

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A Warren Miller Moment

I didn’t know what to expect at my first Warren Miller ski film, but a bunch of friends were going and I decided that if I was going to live in Steamboat, Colo., I should know about the popular ski films. "Off the Grid," which I saw in 2006, pretty much changed my life, starting with the shot of a snowplow blowing across the screen to reveal the “Steamboat City Limits" sign. At that moment, at that screening, the crowd roared. Amid the clapping, I got goosebumps from the electricity in the room. I left the Steamboat Grand that night knowing I was in the right place, choosing the right life, living in one of the best ski towns.

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