I'm wearing a white T-shirt and bright orange Polartec pants as I stuff skis and gear into my sedan. It's a balmy 57 degrees in Boulder Valley, but in 47 minutes flat, I am up the canyon and boot-clomping across the parking lot at Eldora Mountain Resort (eldora.com), suited up for cold and wind at over 9,000 feet.
As always, there's no line at the main lift — not even on this sunny day during a holiday! — and the Challenge triple chairlift scoops me up less than an hour after I left my home. The view of the Indian Peaks Wilderness is stunning, reminding me once again that, yes, I live in the Rocky Mountains.
I don't know why I keep forgetting how easy and close Eldora, our own little backyard resort, is. Just don't call it "little." Sure, Eldora's skiable acres are measured in the hundreds (680, to be exact) rather than the thousands, like most of its ski resort neighbors across the Divide — but there's the rub. Crossing the Divide means squeezing onto Interstate 70 with the rest of humanity.
Not only is Eldora the closest resort to the Front Range (so close, they have a ski run named City Lights because you can see Denver from the top of the trail in the evenings), driving there and back does not involve sitting in your fellow winter recreationists' exhaust for five hours on a Sunday evening.
To make it even easier, there's an RTD bus connection ("N" route for Nederland) that shuttles riders between the Boulder Transit Center and the base of Eldora Mountain in 50 minutes, five times a day, stopping 40 feet from the lift entrance.
A powerful gust of freezing wind practically knocks me over as I slide off the chair and around to the run, but I prefer to view the wind as an invigorating out-breath from the mountain itself. A firm believer in the no-such-thing-as-bad-weather-only-improper-clothing school of thought, I think it's fun to ski into the wind-generated snow devils that dance across the slopes.
I build up speed on one of the cruiser trails leading to the Indian Peaks quad lift and blast through another little snow tornado, savoring the icy rush before skidding to a stop at the lift. This is where the expansion is going in, pending Forest Service approval. Skiers will be able to continue past the base of Indian Peaks lift, through the trees, then ride a new lift into a 100-acre expanded area. It's part of Eldora's 2011 master plan to modernize, expand and windproof the resort. That is, open more protected trails at lower elevations and install newer, heavier chairlifts that can operate in moderate winds.
In the meantime, I cinch my hood a little tighter, hit a few more delicious blue cruisers, and call it a day before I get too tired or sore. The temperature rises as I twist back down Boulder Canyon, and I'm home in time for lunch.
Joshua Berman is the author of "Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon." He can be found on the Web at JoshuaBerman.net and on Twitter @tranquilotravel.