Try the Train

by

Brent Cannon

I had quite the flashback the other day as I watched coverage of the big avalanche in Colorado. The massive slide swept cars off Highway 40 going over Berthoud Pass – en route to the Winter Park ski resort.

I skied Berthoud and Winter Park many times while
I lived in Denver. Berthoud was a small ski resort with just a couple of lifts. But locals came because it was cheap – at one time less than ten bucks – and for what is now called “back country skiing.” The lifts are now closed, and the lodge is being taken down. But people still come to ski. Skiers can drive to the top of the pass and park – ski down, eventually coming to the highway – then either have a friend take you back up – or, hitch a ride back up. There are several things I remember about Berthoud. First, the road is treacherous. It was a narrow, two lane road. At times you felt like if you opened your door you’d plummet over the edge. I suppose it’s like highway one along Big Sur – except with snow and ice added to the equation. Over the years, they widened the uphill lane where the terrain allowed – but it’s still steep and narrow. Secondly, you have to really know what you’re doing to ski up there these days. I skied when the resort was open. I remember one run – I think it was called “The Plunge.” The name says it all. It was a double black diamond. I took a deep breath – and took “the plunge.” On my right – a wall of rock. On my left – over the edge. In the middle – a narrow run with moguls the size of small Volkswagens. I was going pretty fast and lost control. I hit a mogul and shot up in the air – head over heels. In a fleeting moment, several things went through my mind. One – I hope I don’t break several bones. Two – I hope I don’t go over the edge. Somehow, as I flipped – I landed on my skis – used the next mogul to regain my balance – and kept going. People watching from the chairlift were hootin’ and hollerin’ – like it was a planned stunt or something. Believe me – I just wanted to survive.

A few years ago, I took Laura skiing in Colorado. We decided on Winter Park – but I knew in order to get there we had to travel over Berthoud Pass. But if you go to Winter Park, you can also take the ski train out of Denver. We took that option. What a great decision. We relaxed all the way up – no worries about that crazy pass. We also got lift tickets on the train at a discount. The train opens its doors, and you’re on the slopes. Plus, it was such a beautifully scenic ride. While we were skiing, a storm moved in and it began to snow. Many people were not able to make it back over Berthoud, and were stranded. But we got back on the nice warm train – and cruised back home. After the avalanche story – I think the ski train is really the way to go.

Brent Cannon
NBC11 Anchor

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