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February 26, 2013

Outdoors: Vail's soft powder slopes

Dick, Frank, Carolyn and I slipped off the Highline Express and turned left. The soft powder snow that had fallen on Vail all night continued to fill the air, piling new inches upon an already shin-deep blanket. The Blue Ox had been groomed the night before so we knew we would have a smooth run underneath the new powder for our first ride of the day.

This black diamond of delight located on the extreme left side of the front face is a long steady continuous drop that is a cruisers dream. We tightened our boots, gripped our poles and shoved off into the day. As with every first run it took a few turns to catch the rhythm. Not seeing your skis beneath the snow, getting onto the sweet spot, and just relaxing your upper body while your ankles do the work takes a bit of effort at first. But soon I was just cruising, whooping it up with friends as we dropped down the mountain.

With our warm-up over, Dick lead us back up the Highline Express, then a quick run down Tin Pants to get us up the Sourdough Express. Pushing across the ridgeline past the Two Elks Lodge we dropped over into the famous back bowls of Vail. The top half has no trees. Just a huge bowl of fresh snow awaited us. Pick a drop, wave to your friends, and go play. It is not really that steep, but is down and continuous. And, it gets you to the lift that takes you to a pleasure palace called the Shangri-La Glade.

Dick and Carolyn dropped into an open run called the Poppyfields while Frank and I headed into the trees. As with most high elevation woods in the west, the trees are relatively spread apart. There are plenty of avenues between them that just beg to be explored. Frank was not waiting for anyone. With graceful ease he simply melted into the greenery. What was I to do? I had to follow to make sure he was all right!

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