Category Archives: Video

Spicing up the season with racing and night skiing

I can’t say boredom is a problem for me when it comes to skiing and snowboarding. What’s great about these sports is that every run is different, snow conditions change by the hour, and I can spend a couple days at a large resort without coming close to covering all the terrain.

Burnout is a bigger issue for me with bicycling, but variety is the spice of life, so during a February visit to Steamboat, I tried NASTAR racing for the first time and also skied at night.

NASTAR (NAtional STAndard Race) is described as “the largest public grassroots ski race program in the world” and is available at 115 resorts. You pay a small fee ($12 for unlimited runs at Steamboat) and then get to pretend you’re in the Olympics. Below are some of my video highlights.

Steamboat NASTAR from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

The Steamboat NASTAR course is on a mellow, smooth run, but it was surprisingly tough to negotiate the turns. You really have to anticipate the gates, and it was easy to see how one false move can doom your time in a sport measured by the hundredths of seconds. You’re assigned a number and handicap, based on your age, and your results are available online.

I’d be excited to do this more next season, not only because I’m a competitive person, but also because it’s great for honing your technique.

Racing NASTAR at Steamboat. Photo by Mitch Tobin.
Racing NASTAR at Steamboat. Photo by Mitch Tobin.

Night skiing was another fun diversion. I’d done it once before at Squaw Valley, but that was seven years ago. At Steamboat, they’ve recently installed a low-glare lighting system that uses about 30 percent as much energy as the metal halide bulbs that most resorts use.

There were only a handful of runs open at night, but it was still a thrill to fly down the slopes with dark skies above. Although they groom the runs before re-opening for the night session, it got pretty icy as soon as the sun went down. Great practice for edging.

Below is a video diary of my experience. Before the lifts opened, I took a spin on the gondola so I could film the sunset, and looking back on the season, that was definitely a highlight.

Night skiing at Steamboat from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

After it got dark, It was actually a little creepy to be on a chair lift alone, passing through a dense forest. Seemed like grist for a Jon Krakauer story about a snowboarder spending the night in sub-zero temperatures, trapped in a tree well.

I enjoyed night skiing, but the few resorts that offer it only make a small fraction of their terrain available, so I’d imagine it would get old quickly if you were doing it repeatedly on the same mountain. Still, I’d love to ski at night while it was dumping, and the chance to be on the mountain when the sun went down and the stars came out was worth the price of admission.

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Night skiing at Steamboat. Photo by Mitch Tobin.
Night skiing at Steamboat. Photo by Mitch Tobin.

Prepartum pedaling video: mountain biking on the due date

Our due date was Monday, May 5, but with Ginette showing no signs of going into labor, I managed to sneak in one more mountain bike ride at Centennial Cone Park.

Below is a video of some highlights of my ride in the mountains west of Golden.

Prepartum pedaling from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

I had fun playing around with different camera angles and especially like the rear-view perspective. I feel like the video exaggerates my speed and makes it seem like the ride is more dangerous than it really is. Conversely, GoPro videos of skiing sometimes understate my speed and the steepness of the terrain. I think this is because snow usually looks more uniform than a mountain bike trail, especially to a wide-angle lens placed near the ground.
Centennial Cone Park

Centennial Cone Park has become a favorite because it offers lots of smooth singletrack relatively close to Denver. The nearest of the three trailheads is only a 30-35 minute drive from my house, but the park has a surprisingly wild, backcountry feel.

My route involved climbing up from Clear Creek and U.S. 6 on the Mayhem Gulch trail, then riding the main loop clockwise on the Juniper, Elk Range, and Travois trails. There’s a double-track section on Elk Range Trail, but otherwise it’s all well-maintained singletrack that never gets too rocky.

This ride features several sets of switchbacks and some taxing climbs (nearly 3,000 feet over the 17.4-mile route), but the rolling nature of the elevation profile prevents the uphills from seeming interminable.
Centennial Cone switchback
The route offers some impressive views of Clear Creek Canyon and the Front Range. I saw some of the first wildflowers of the season and also plenty of prickly pear. Even at nearly 8,000 feet, it’s still fairly dry on the lee side of the Continental Divide, so the vegetation tends to be sparse.

Centennial Cone prickly pear
Centennial Cone is popular enough that mountain biking on weekends is restricted to even-numbered days (hikers are only allowed on odd-numbered weekend days). This loop ride covers nearly the entire trail network of the 3,369-acre park, so we’re not talking about a huge area that you can endlessly explore. But compared to some other nearby mountain bike rides in the Front Range, Centennial Cone’s trails are less rocky, technical, and difficult.

With a baby about to arrive, it may be a while until I’m back at Centennial Cone, but I’m glad my next ride there won’t be too far away, in time or distance.

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Face shots galore on an epic powder day

Yesterday was the greatest powder day of my life. I’m still smiling about the experience, more than 24 hours after leaving the slopes. Here are some video highlights:

All powder, all the time from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

I worked all weekend to meet a deadline and was grouchy by Sunday evening, but I held out hope that a much-advertised storm would deliver salvation.

I woke up at 5:45 am, expecting maybe 4″ of snow, but I was giddy to see nearly 11″ had already fallen at Loveland Ski Area. I could tell that it was still coming down hard along the Continental Divide when I looked at web cams from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

My companion on the ski lift
My companion on the ski lift

You can never leave Denver too early on a powder day, and I was at Loveland by 7:30 am. I parked in the first row, grabbed a bagel sandwich in the cafeteria, and did a solid hour of work to assuage my guilt and clear my head. I’m usually super-productive in that cafeteria before the lifts open because I’m always in a good mood.

By the time the lifts opened, there was around 15″ on the mountain. I was expecting the snow to be rather heavy since it’s already spring, but lots of people on the chair lifts were remarking about how light and fluffy the powder felt (“blower snow” in the alpine argot).

This type of powder is unbeatable because it’s easy to turn in, unlike the thick “Sierra cement” that’s common in California. When you hit a deep pocket just right, snow blows right over your head. It’s a rare, exhilarating treat that powder hounds will drive hundreds of miles to experience.

Face shot at Loveland
This is what I call fun

It’s almost always windy at Loveland, so there was huge drifting going on, including some spots I measured at 30″ deep. Conversely, I still hit a couple of hard patches, and even after 417″ of snow have fallen this season, you’ll still see bare spots at Loveland (and other resorts) that just won’t hold any snow. Weird.

Although we’re well into April, it felt like the middle of winter, with wind chills well below zero and whiteout conditions that induced a little vertigo.

It’s been an incredible season, and I feel so fortunate that Colorado has been as snowy as California has been dry. This year, it looks like the pending arrival of our baby will cut short the ski season before mother nature does.
Westwide snowpackSubscribe to updates via RSS and email. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Pineapple Express ski videos

Over the past two months, Colorado has been slammed by three waves of warm, wet storms that dumped snow measured in feet across the state’s northern and central mountains. These atmospheric rivers are nicknamed the Pineapple Express because they transport subtropical moisture from around Hawaii to the Western United States, as shown in this National Weather Service graphic:

Pineapple Express
Source: National Weather Service

The animation below illustrates the last of the atmospheric river events. The map doesn’t show what happens on land, but this depiction of water vapor gives you a sense of what’s transpiring.

Atmospheric river
Animation of atmospheric river event, February 2014. (Source: NOAA/ESRL Physical Sciences Division)

Good things happen, from my perspective, when the jet stream taps the Pacific Ocean and plows it into the Continental Divide. A couple of weeks ago, I skied at Monarch Mountain after 118 inches–nearly 10 feet–had fallen in the prior 14 days. In the shot below (click to enlarge), I would guesstimate the snow drift was 15 feet tall right along the Divide.

Snow drifts atop Continental Divide at Monarch Mountain. Photo by Mitch Tobin.
Snow drift atop Continental Divide at Monarch Mountain. Photo by Mitch Tobin.

Here’s a video I filmed during my day at Monarch, where I’ve been able to ski for free this year in abundance thanks to the perks of annual passes at Loveland and Copper/Winter Park.

118″ at Monarch from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

The atmospheric rivers haven’t been enough to overcome California’s epic drought. In Colorado, the San Juan Mountains have been bypassed by some of this moisture. But most of Colorado’s ski areas are enjoying one of their best seasons in years.

Here’s a video I shot with my buddy Forrest at Loveland Ski Area, which includes some of my best impressions of farm animals during the walk under the I-70 tunnel.

Loveland Jan 30 2014 from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

I had fun with these two videos, but there’s no story, so I decided to create a clip with some narration and a narrative. The video below, filmed at Copper and Winter Park, includes cameos by friends Pat and Diane.

Rocky Mountain Way from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

I flexed some new video muscles with this last piece, though it did require a fair bit of time to record and time the narration. My goal was to create a 90-second video with about 30 clips averaging 3 seconds each.

In addition to skiing/snowboarding as much as I can before becoming a father, I’m trying to improve my video skills (see more clips here). I’ve found the only way to do all of this while maintaining a full-time job is to combine the alpine exploits with the filming. It’s the editing that takes forever, and it’s not nearly as fun as pushing the start button on the GoPro camera and then carving turns down the mountain.

Time-lapse video: assembling the crib

Instead of skiing last weekend, I assembled a crib for my daughter to-be. She’s scheduled to arrive around May 5.  I still couldn’t put down my video cameras, so rather than film a mogul run, I did a time-lapse of the furniture assembly.

Crib assembly time lapse from Mitch Tobin on Vimeo.

The video above took about 2 hours to capture. I used an iPhone app called TimeLapse, which I typically employ for sunsets and cloud formations.

I’ve come to expect maddening directions (or lack thereof) when it comes to assembling products, but aside from having three different sizes of screws that were nearly indistinguishable, the crib was relatively straightforward to construct.

I suppose this is one of my first acts of parenting!