Tag Archives: snowboarding

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.

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.