Day 1, Afton:
I began my Ski Sojourn December 16, 2018 using my Vail Epic pass at our local area, Afton Alps. For those skiers who have never skied the Midwest, I’ll describe Afton for you.
Unlike the soaring mountains of the east coast or west coast, our ski areas in the Midwest are often the inverse. Instead of soaring mountains that rise to the sky, some of our areas drop into valleys.
Approaching Afton, there are no mountains. In fact, if you didn’t know the ski area was in front of you, you’d never know it was there. As you drive into the resort, the tops of the chair lifts are the first things you see. The TOPS. Because in fact you drop down into the valley to the ski chalet, parking, rental. I skied Afton almost 40 years ago, and it was so strange to drive down to the ski area.
Afton is one of the larger areas close to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro. From my home in Hopkins, it takes me about 45 minutes to get there with light traffic. My “home” hill is Hyland Hills, now about five miles from my condo. Hyland is where I taught for over twenty years. And even though there are no mountains in Minnesota (to speak of), I have skied more here than when I lived in Montana or Colorado. Go figure.
With the Epic Local Pass there’s an app for tracking your ski day. My day at Afton racked up 3221 vertical feet on 13 lift rides. For the Sojourn I have the Epic pass and the Mountain Collective. I’ve used Ski Tracker for years—it’s an app that tracks vertical, but also tracks maximum speed, ski distance, number of runs, max altitude and duration. It’s much more comprehensive, but because it uses the phone’s GPS it sucks battery life. So for those days that I use the Mountain Collective pass I’ll use Ski Tracker to monitor my progress.
My goal at Afton was to try out my new J Skis—I bought these cool designer, custom made powder skis. The skin is Hiroshige’s “The Wave”, an iconic Japanese image. That’s the main reason I bought them. Unfortunately, yesterday wasn’t a power day at Afton, and worse yet it was midafternoon, the hills had been skied off, and there were icy patches here and there. But the skis were fine, and I look forward to “real” pow to play in out west.
I switched to my K2 LoveStruck skis and they performed much better on the typical midwestern icy conditions. It was a beautiful sunny, abnormally warm day for Minnesota. Usually we brave freezing cold, but it was a low 40’s afternoon. We gotta take it when we get it here.
I’m still feel like a hacker skier—I know I don’t look like those effortless, graceful, flowing, willowy women who go flashing by. I was self-taught and even though I was a ski instructor, I still picture myself as I looked in the late 70’s, wearing a Nutrena feed quilted promotional jacket that I had gotten at work over a sweatshirt and three layers of jeans to protect against the cold.
So Afton Alps was the first day of my ski journey. I plan on taking January and February to ski. Big Sky, Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, Sun Valley, Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, Summit County, Park City, Alta, Snowbird, Heavenly, Squaw, Mammoth…I don’t think there’s enough time in the winter for it all, but I’m going to try.
Wish me luck, and you can join me anytime😉