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  • Whitetail Ridge

    If you are one of the 2,200 people that live in Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin. You may know about your local ski mountain, Whitetail Ridge. On the outside the humble little slopes appear to be the perfect place to take the family for a day of fun. You can ski, snowboard and tube, and with a price of $40 for one day, it’s about as budget friendly as you can find in the expensive world of skiing.

    Ft. McCoy is a town located adjacent to a military fort called, you guessed it, Fort McCoy. I’m not entirely sure about the technicalities of towns in relation to military outposts. Maybe the town is just an extension of the fort and it is all one continuous area or maybe the town and the fort have a mutualistic relationship like a shark and a remora. Because of this relationship the ski resort offers very generous military discounts. Getting posted to a Fort 1 minute from a place where you can practically ski for free seems like a pretty good gig to me. Either way it does not really matter to this blog post about the ski resort that is located 1 minute from downtown. That’s right, you can get to the park entrance in a 1 minute drive from the bustling downtown. That’s some Aspen level convenience. Except this place will have no lines and you won’t need to sell a kidney to afford a burger at lunch.

    The resort offers some nice wide open runs that are gonna be great to practice your wide swooping turns without the worry of taking someone out or someone taking you out. It appears to be 3 different areas for you to ski on. From the top of the lift, facing down the mountain, you can go straight down the mountain next to the tow rope, which is going to be your wide open main run to hit some speedy laps all day long. Connected to the main run, there is a nice park set up. A couple small jumps with a box and a couple rails. Its the perfect size of park for this mountain. No stressful big jumps that you will stare at all day and get too nervous once you get to the top of them. No mean park rats that will laugh at your rail work. It would be a great place to clean up your small tricks and perfect your ollies and what not. If you go to the left of the lift you will find a steeper tree run to test your control and nerves.

    As for amenities, this is where Whitetail Ridge does well, but also very poorly. There is a nice bar that has a very good selection of beer on tap if you are of age and that is your thing. Its beer selection is spoken very highly of amongst google reviewers. But then the grill area of the bar grill is frankly disappointing. What is one of the best things to order after some quad-burning skiing? A patty melt. The perfect patty melt will fill your esophagus with warm oozing cheese and some tender meat that will bring warmth to the body, and if done perfectly, warmth to your heart. Every skier craves the crunch of a big slice of rye and the umami flavor that fills your mouth from the caraway seeds. A perfect patty melt will instantly rejuvenate you and get you ready for the awesome night skiing you can do at Whitetail Ridge. So when Zac Dalton, ordered a patty melt he was shocked to see what he received. After waiting over an hour, he was expecting to be blessed by that perfect patty melt that he needed. It’s hard to imagine the sorrow that pulsed through his veins after opening the styrofoam box and seeing this:

    Unfortunately this blemish overshadows all the good that is going for Whitetail Ridge. Whenever I think of taking a trip to Whitetail Ridge, all I can think about is Zac’s patty melt.

  • Night skiing

    (Sundown Mountain)

    Real mountains in the Rockies are big and have a massive area of slopes to explore and ski on. Even if the sun breaks the horizon early in the morning it may take an extra hour to peak over the mountains and shine light on the slopes. Massive shadows cast over the mountains most of the day. People say the sun rises later and set earlier in the mountains, which is definitely true. The problem with this is that visibility is very important while skiing. When different shades in snow show different textures and shadows can be used to see the steepness of the trail, it is important that you keep a sharp eye on the slopes. The massive shadows created by the giant mountains can cause problems. Because of this, massive mountains have small windows where you can ski. The typical hours of a mountain are 9-4. In a sport where a typical 1-day lift ticket is averaging at $143 for the big resorts, you don’t get very much bang for your buck.

    How to fix this problem? Lights. The problem with putting lights on giant mountains, like Copper Mountain or Winter Park is that they have such a grand footprint that it would cost an absurd amount of money to do. There are only a couple resorts in the Rockies that offer night skiing, and when they do, it’s only 1 or 2 runs that you can go on. So when the entire resort is shoved into 1/20th the size of the resort before it closes its unlit slopes, things get extremely crowded. Meanwhile, on smaller mountains in the Midwest, night skiing is the norm. You’d be hard pressed to find a mountain that doesn’t offer night skiing around here. The smaller surface area makes it very easy for mountains to set up some lights, and have everything lit up. Typically these resorts will have hours from 9-9, so 12 hours of skiing for the price of around $50, which is $100 cheaper than the average Colorado lift ticket, and you get 5 more hours of skiing.

    Now, I know, the skiing that you would be doing for those 5 less hours in Colorado would be so much better than anything you can do in Iowa. Night skiing is still a special feeling that you don’t really get to experience in other places. At least at Sundown Mountain, where I frequent, all of the families leave before dinner time, so the slopes really open up and you don’t need to worry about long lines and running into people. It has a whole different vibe when the lights turn on. The park quickly gets filled with people taking turns and trying new features. It’s very common to see people whipping out their beers. Being illuminated by bright LEDs while everything else around is pitch black makes it all so much more exciting.

  • Alta’s snowboard ban

    The ski resort in the United States that is often considered to have the best snow in the lower 48 does not allow snowboarding to take place on their slopes. Why? Is this good for the sport?

    Alta is located 45 minutes away from Salt Lake City, nestled in Little Cottonwood Canyon. This resort is widely considered one of the best ski resorts in all of North America and is known for it’s amazing snow for much of the year. That is all thanks to the strange weather patterns that take place in the legendary Little Cottonwood Cannon, which is home to many other resorts, but Alta has the best location right in the middle. It is protected from harsh winds that blow snow off rocks, creating exposed areas. It is at the very end of interstate 210 so it is a little less busy than some of the resorts closer to Salt Lake City. It has some of the best lift-accessible bowl terrain so there is no need to get sweaty hiking your heavy skis up a mountain. The one problem (or another pro, depending on who you are) is they have a strict ban on snowboards.

    Now this might seem just rude and selfish, but the executives at Alta have good reasons for this ban. When you are skiing down a mountain you will always be facing where your skis are pointed, it’s just how it works. You will have a full use of the human’s extremely precise predatory eyesight. You can focus on specific things downhill, as well as be warned of any obstacles or obstructions with your 100 degrees of peripheral vision. All of this leads to skiers being able to react to changes in terrain and surprises in front of them very well. Now with snowboarding, you are situated sideways while speeding down the mountain, so you are facing perpendicular to the slope, this means that you will have less time to react to anything downhill from you, and completely blind to anything happening behind you. A skier’s blindspot is back up the mountain, where it doesn’t matter that they can’t see up there and a snowboarders blindspot is nearly 80 degrees downhill. So the main reason Alta has a ban on snowboarders is safety.

    Another reason is simply the culture behind each sport. Now this where things might get controversial, but it is more common for snowboards to ripping down mountains with little regard to other people. This mixed with the major blindspot a snowboarder has, can cause major problems. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the snowboarder style of going down slopes. I am a fan of it too, I will often find myself going down a slope, barely on the edge of control, but the difference is, I can react to my surroundings much easier than a snowboarder. It is not their fault, and there isn’t much they can do about it, it is just simply the way a snowboard works.

    Now is this ban on Snowboarding really worth the division it creates in the sport? There is already a big enough problem of snowboarders and skiers feuding with eachother just because a very different version of the same thing. I think no, it’s not worth it. One of my bestfriends snowboards, and it would suck to not be able to ski with him because of a dumb rule. Thankfully Alta is the only resort in the US that has this ban so I probably won’t have to ever worry about that situation. I think all this ban does is create a wall between the two parties that use the slopes and it takes the sport in the opposite direction.

  • Winter park’s crowd problem.

    Winter Park is one of the most popular mountains in Colorado. It’s very easy access from Denver with I-70 and the Loveland Pass leading right to it. There is even a train station in Fraser where you can be dropped off by the California Zephyr, an Amtrack train that runs between Emersville and Chicago with many stops inbetween. The town of Fraser offers tons of affordable lodging with extremely easy access to the slopes, so Winter Park always draws a very large crowd. With all of the people flocking to the slopes you would think that they would have everything figure out, and for the most part they do, but there are few problems with their lift systems.

    There are many pinch points on the mountain where giant crowds will form at one lift because it is really the only one that works. One of them is with the Olympia Express. There are many popular trails that lead down to this lift and it is also very easy to be accidentally funneled into this lift because if you take a wrong turn trying to get to the Prospector Lift you will be forced into the Olympia Express and be forced to wait in a long line to get back up and try again. Later in the day when people are trying to get to the other side of the mountain for a quick exit to their cars the Olympia can mellow down and you will not longer have to wait 15+ minutes to get back on and make your way back up.

    Another insanely busy lift is the Panoramic Express. This is the lift that takes you to the top of the mountain. This is the only lift that you can access above treeline skiing besides taking the Cirque Sled, but that isn’t a lift so it doesn’t count. The Panoramic Express probably has the longest lines on the mountain, but at least here they are somewhat justified. The Panoramic Express goes to the top so everyone needs to do it at least once a day. If you don’t go back down to The Panoramic you will need to go nearly to the bottom of the mountain, or go to Eagle Wind, which is all steep ungroomed blacks. (I’ve never seen the lift there not be a walk-on.) The problem with the Panoramic is that there is pretty much no solution to cutting the line besides making a faster lift, or building another, which just isn’t practical.

    And finally the final problematic lift, is the Prospector Express. This is a very short lift, used mostly to access other parts of the mountain, so you need to take it. It is located right outside of the Snoasis, a very popular lunch spot, and the basecamp for ski school. The fact that there is always a ski school group in this area is one of the reasons that this lift is so crowded. Ski school groups are allowed to cut the line, and there is nothing more frustrating than getting to the front of the line and then being forced to let some little brats go in front of you. I really can’t complain, because I was once in that group cutting everyone, and I’m happy to see sport continuing to grow.

  • Review of the Faction Candide 2.0s


    f you are unaware of who Candide Thovex is, he is arguably one of the best free skiers there is, and he is known for his insane stunts. He does wild things like skiing along the great wall of China, skiing down sand dunes and doing backflips over helicopters. With all his success and fame from his insane stunts, he partnered with Faction, his long time sponsor, to create his own line of skies. These skis are named after him with a number. Each number is a different type of ski. There are stiff carving skis, flexible park skis, and then fat powder skis, with some nice hybrids in between. I have the 2.0s, which is all-mountain ski, designed to be able to do everything from carving to powder.

    Obviously when something is designed to do it all, it won’t be perfect at everything (unless it’s the Specialized Crux), but the 2.0s are pretty good at everything I want to do. Firstly, rippin’ groomers. Groomers are ski slang for wide open groomed runs. Typically if you stick to groomers you would want some skis with a large radius (the curvature of the edges of the ski) that could easily dig into the turns and leave some perfect train tracks. With the 2.0s, their radius is not that big, because they are designed to do more than just carve. Because of this, you really need to lean into those skis in order to activate the edges and get a clean turn. This is also due to my skill level, but I have to really focus in order to do this. But on the other hand of the spectrum for doing jump turns on a steep moguly run, they are excellent. The flex of them is great for pivoting around moguls and the edges will stay connected on uneven terrain. The weight of them is also great doing jump turns because they are very easy to take weight off and switch edges.

    Candide Thovex is a free ride skier, so that is what these skis are really good at. Free ride is off-piste skiing that consists of lots of jumps off natural terrain, lots of weaving throw trees and bouncing around moguls. This is the area I feel they perform best. The weight and flex is all designed to ski through trees and pop off natural rollers. You have a wide margin of failure. I have landed deep in the back seat before, and if I was in different skis I would most likely be unable to stay in control and I would fall on my butt. Tree runs can’t be groomed, so they feel great in the ankle deep powder you will find on these runs. The edges don’t typically catch on things they shouldn’t.

    So overall these skis are great. I don’t feel qualified to give them a numerical rating but I can recommend them to a specific type of skier. These skis would be great for anyone who wants to have fun anywhere on the mountain and just ski wherever they want to. You can speed down groomers, play in woods, and pop through moguls. The mountain is your playground with Candide 2.0s strapped to your feet.

  • Lutsen Mountain Review

    Lutsen is located way up North in Lutsen, Minnesota. It is about 3 hours North of Duluth and an hour south of Grand Marais. It is one of the largest ski resorts in the Midwest. It is situated right next to Lake Superior so you have some amazing views of water. It is almost like skiing next to lake Tahoe. There are runs for almost everyone, it is somewhat lacking extreme steep terrain, but go to Colorado if you want that. At Lutsen there are 4 different mountains to choose from. Lutsen offers the best ski in ski out lodging I have ever been at or seen.

    When I went to Lutsen it was early in the season, so I didn’t quite get to experience everything the mountain had to offer. Ski resorts tend to open all their green runs first, then blues, and so on, until they finish at the double black runs. So when I was there, right after Christmas, they didn’t have much technical runs open, and the steep runs that were open, were not that challenging because there wasn’t a chance for moguls to be formed on them yet. So I’m sure if you go in the late season there will be plenty of runs to challenge yourself with.

    There are 4 different mountains for you to ski at. You have Eagle mountain, the place where the lodges and the chalet are located. Eagle mountain has a good mixture of green and blue runs, with a couple blacks and double blacks on the far side that I heard get very big moguls late in the season. Eagle mountain has a very fun run that takes you over the road. It is not very often you get to ski over cars so it is fun even for the most advanced skier. Another fun gem at Eagle mountain is a very fun glade of trees. This glade is nice and flat and the trees are far apart, so it is great for your first tree run, to get comfortable weaving in and out of trees.

    There is also Ullr Mountain. Ullr Mountain is the beginner oriented mountain. With mellow runs, a slow lift, and a long cat walk at the bottom, I got bored very quickly. It was fun a couple times but then I was ready to move on. I can see how it would be a great place to learn, though. When I went Mystery Mountain wasn’t quite open yet, so I can’t speak on it’s behalf. The final one is Moose Mountain. Moose mountain only had it’s blue groomers open when I went. It is the largest mountain and it has an expansive choice, there are lots of steep blacks and wide blue groomers that you can lap all day off the high-speed quad. I wish I could have experienced it when it was all the way open but because only a couple runs were open it was very crowded and not very fun.

    The lodging at Lutsen was amazing. We stayed in one of the ski in ski out townhouses on Eagle Mountain and it was literally ski in ski out. The run was connected to the patio so you can click into your skis on the front porch, and not take them off until you are back there when the lifts close. A lot of ski resorts say ski in ski out and really they mean you have a five minute uncomfortable walk with your skis but Lutsen really means it.

  • Snowstar Review

    Snowstar is located in Andalucia, Illinois. It is on a hill near the Mississippi river, but it faces the opposite direction. If you want a feel for a typical Midwest ski area with great vibes come here. They have a great park, some nice groomers, and one section with some surprising freeride terrain.

    Getting there is pretty easy. It is near Davenport, so there are many major interstates and highways to get you there. You then have to go on a nice back road to climb up and away from the Mississippi. They have plenty of parking so you will never have to do a long walk from the parking lot to the start of the runs. You will never have to take a shuttle from one end of the parking lot to the base like big resorts in Colorado. Just like most resorts in the Midwest, where the hills are formed by glaciers digging through the land, it is much easier to have the lodge and whatnot situated at the top of the mountain.

    When you first get there you will need to enter the lodge to pickup your lift ticket. If you need to rent gear, they have an easy queue system with stations to get everything you need. My dad got rentals when we went there and they appeared to be high quality (for rental gear). They have a pretty typical ski resort lodge with ski resort food, over priced food you would find in a cafeteria. But that’s okay, because you don’t go skiing to eat food and judge the cuisine.

    The resort is situated in 3 main parts. There is the top with the lodges, tubing hill, and bunny hill. This area has the only two green runs on the mountain, and is serviced by a tow rope. These two runs are extremely short, and you will only find it interesting if you are very new to skiing. Also, on this part of the mountain is the smallest terrain park, serviced by the same toe rope. This terrain park isn’t very exciting, but it is right next to the lodge, so it is fun to do a couple tiny jumps while waiting for your family to get into their skis. The terrain park is also right next to the tow rope so you can do it many times, in just a couple minutes.

    The next section of the park is the intermediate area, serviced by 2 fixed-grip quad lifts. This area has 2 blues and then a bunch of black runs. These runs are very much over ranked though, and they would all be greens anywhere else in the country. Because they are ranked higher than they actually should be they are very intimidating for new skiers. They can be fun to speed down and there can even be some tree skiing if they get enough snow. These runs all lead down to two quad lifts so there really isn’t any line you ever need to worry about.

    The other part of the mountain is the park side. Half the mountain is designated as park so there are obstacles scattered over this whole side. There are two blues and the rest of the runs are black. Once again, these runs are rated much more difficult than they actually are. There are some very good lines in this area and pretty much any ability level for park riding. One thing they do pretty well here are the jumps, other Midwest resorts are mostly just rails but they have a lot of jumps here that are really fun. They also have some unique boxes that roll up and down that you will struggle to see elsewhere. On the far side there is a run called Outer Limits that they typically leave half ungroomed, so you can unleash your inner Candide Thovex and bounce around on some good ‘ol Illinois moguls.

  • Winterpark Resort Review

    In Colorado I have only been to two resorts, Copper Mountain and Winterpark. Out of the two, I think Winterpark is better. I have been there twice, and it was the most recent one I’ve been to. It seems to be very popular among people not from Colorado, and people from Colorado will tend to go to resorts deeper in the mountains to get away from us tourists.

    The home village of Winterpark is massive. There is a whole town that is down in the valley below the base of the mountain with Walmarts, car dealerships, and anything else you could expect in a small city. The whole town surrounds skiing. Every car you see will have a ski rack on top and stuffed full of a family on their way to the mountain for a day of skiing. In the surrounding foothills there are hundreds of houses and cabins. Every bus stop will take you to the base of the mountain. The mountain truly is the heart of the town.

    At the base of the mountain is the Winterpark Village. The Village consists of hotels, stores, and activities all owned by Winterpark. Every building is matching. It really looks like you are in a snow globe. Snow is everywhere, and it seems like it is always falling. There are many activities to do at the base such as tubing and ice skating. The shops have any supplies for you in case you have left something at home (for an up charge of course). The restaurants at the base all have really good food. There are also many restaurants located on the slopes. The food served there is definitely far worse than anything you can get at the base of the mountain, but anything tastes good in the middle of a run. The waffle shacks have very good waffles.

    There are runs for everyone at Winterpark. Any ability level can find something fun to do. An amazing thing about Winterpark is that they have an easy run from the summit of the mountain. This is pretty rare as most mountains are at their steepest at the top. One of the best parts about skiing is being high above everything else and it is great that this opportunity is available for everyone. Winterpark has Mary Jane territory which is known for its endless fields of moguls. This draws many people to this resort and Mary Jane territory is one of the most popular places to ski there.

  • Midwest skiing for dummies

    So, you live in Iowa City and you wanna go skiing. Surprisingly, you have a couple options. Within two hours there are three places to choose from. Three Midwest “resorts” with little elevation change, lots of fake snow, and very crowded runs. Snowstar, Sundown Mountain, and Chestnut mountains. Snowstar is the closest, and the smallest. Midwest resorts are good at one thing though, and that is the terrain park. The place where all the moody teens with their vape pens and xxl sweatshirts hangout. Because there is only so much mountain to ski on, they pack it tightly with jumps, rails, barrels, and boxes. One ornery WWE wrestler once said, “it’s called the Midwest because everything about it is mid”. And for the most part, I’d have to agree, but when it comes to skiing, I only somewhat agree.

    Before you start skiing you need some gear, if you ever plan to ski more than 2-3 times a year, or go to a Colorado resort for more than a couple days, I would recommend buying your gear. First of all, if you get new stuff, you won’t have to worry about it being beat up by many people using it before you. You can also then get used to getting accustomed to your skis which will help you improve. If you go to a big resort, out in the western world, you could also save money buying gear, even if you are only out there for a couple days. Renting skis and boots from Winter Park starts at $150 a day for the worst gear. A couple years ago I got some very lightly used skis from Play It Again sports for $200 dollars. So you instantly make your money back in 2 days. Getting comfortable boots might be the most important part. A good pair of boots is the difference between a fun day of skiing and getting blisters and wanting to leave at lunch. When renting boots there is a very good chance that they will be uncomfortable. Just from other people’s feet being in them every day, they will get beat up. If you go to Play It Again sports(not sponsored), you can try on the many different options and ensure you get ones that fit and will be comfortable. For poles, it doesn’t matter too much, they are cheap, and if it really comes down to it, most ski resorts just leave their rental poles outside, and you can just use them for the day and no one will care. And finally, please get a helmet, I promise you don’t look stupid wearing one.

    Now you have your gear and you are ready to pick somewhere to ski. I will start off with what I believe is the best of the 3 resorts nearby, Sundown. Sundown is my favorite, maybe because I go to it the most and it was what I have grown used to, but I have gone to it the most because it is the best. If you are just learning to ski, there is a great progression of steepness to build into. Starting off with the short and flat magic carpet run that I haven’t cared to learn the name of, you can build into going down Sunshine. Sunshine is a little steeper and much longer than the true bunny hill. There is a very slow lift at the bottom and you can take that up and go up down until you are ready for Sunbowl. Sunbowl is longer, steeper, and has some turns. It also tends to be the most crowded run. Next you can ride down turkey ridge, this run really only has one steep section that qualifies it as a blue, and then the rest is definitely green material. There is a small terrain park to the right of this run that has some small, risk-free jumps, that are easy to commit to. And then you are at the bottom. If it is later in the season, they might have gunbarrel open. The steepest run there. It is right under a lift, so you will always have an audience. I have seen many people get on it, realize they are in over their head and butt-scoot down.

    Hopefully with this new information your first ski adventure goes well.

  • Crux overview

    The Crux is a cyclocross bike designed and produced by California based company, Specialized. It is designed for closed circuit off road racing, more commonly known as cyclocross, a sport extremely popular in places like Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. The Crux accomplishes the goal of being the perfect cyclocross bike, and much more. This bike is an accumulation of 50 years of knowledge and research that breaks the barriers of what a cyclocross bike can be. The Crux has been around for many years and it has been loved every year. From my hours I’ve put in working at a bikeshop, I’ve heard people saying it is near perfect down to every detail. Specialized describes the bike as “lighter is faster” and the fans call it “one bike to rule all roads.”

    The geometry of the Crux is designed to be perfect for cyclocross racing. With a 286mm bottom bracket(bb) height, you can really dig into corners and be sure that you want to have a crank plant into the ground and stop you in your tracks. The taller bb height will make the bike feel more unstable, compared to the 270mm bb height of the Diverge (a more relaxed gravel bike), but you will have more control and finesse going around the tight corners of a cyclocross race. The Crux has an aggressive 388mm reach that will force you into an aero position that ensures you will be the most efficient you can be while tearing up at your local cyclocross race. The headtube angle of 71.5° gives you a little extra stability without lengthening the wheelbase too much and leaves a trail of 67mm.  As the price goes up you get lighter, and better components, but the geometry stays the same. Or in better words, the $4,200 Crux comp has the same speedy geometry that the $12,500 S-Work Crux has. So no matter what your budget is, you will be in the same position as the pros. 

    The Crux is also extremely versatile, it is a perfect cyclocross bike, a near perfect gravel bike, and an amazing road bike. All you need to do to turn the Crux into the lightest gravel bike in the world, is switch out your knobby cyclocross racing tires, for some smoother, faster gravel tires. Now you have the lightest and fastest gravel bike you can get. The only downside is that the aggressive geometry of the Crux is designed for 1 hour cyclocross races. Gravel riding is typically done over many hours of sitting in the same position. The Crux can get very uncomfortable during long hours. If you put some Continental GP5000s on the Crux you now have a very solid road bike. It won’t feel as stable at high speeds as a Tarmac, but the aggressive geometry will keep you in an aero position.