Tag Archives: Keystone Resort

Keystone in Summertime


It’s a place I had only seen in wintertime, covered in snow, often packed with skiiers.

Summertime shows the place in a whole new light….

Water from the top of the mountain, ether from frequent afternoon thunderstorms or residual snowmelt channels through creeks emptying into the Snake River.


Mountain bikers are the primary users of the mountain, loading their bikes on the ski lift and riding down trails that wind through the trees.


While the trails are different, they actually use the same rating system as is used for skiers and snowboarders in the winter.


And, of course there are the hills, rocks and trees, a lot of which is altered or even covered up by the snow in the wintertime.


It was a whole new perspective on a place I had been to hundreds of times, showing trails, rocks, and even small bushes I had been unaware of due to winter snowpack.

Perhaps the most breathtaking view of all was the one overlooking Dillon Reservoir at the start of what in the winter is the Schoolmarm trail.


This overlook, at this moment in time, in an abnormally wet year where the ground appears greener then normal with greater than average residual snowpack at the top of the mountains, felt even more serene than it does in wintertime.


And, of course, there are the other activities.


Summertime presents an interesting challenge for ski resorts. Obviously, there are no snow sports. Resorts can either shut down for the season (as some do) or try to bring in visitors for summer activities. The ones that chose to operate in summertime often put on other kinds of events and festivals to try to attract more people.


The music at the wine and jazz festival was quite impressive. I really enjoyed some of the acts. People pay one flat fee for unlimited wine. Unsurprisingly, much of the crowd was drunk by late afternoon.

One draw to coming up to places like Keystone at this time of year is the weather. Colorado’s most populated cities can get quite hot in the summer.


The mountains are significantly cooler. Advertisements for summer activities at ski resorts often highlight pleasant average summertime temperatures. However, summertime weather in the mountains can also be chaotic. In complex terrain like this, thunderstorms often form in the afternoon. Where they form changes from day to day based on some fairly small scale aspects of the wind patterns in the mid levels of the atmosphere.


Therefore, whether or not a specific location in the mountains gets a thunderstorm on a summer afternoon, although there is a scientific reason for it, can feel like luck. Adventurers generally just prepare for the possibility through some combination of monitoring the clouds and planning to summit mountains in the morning and return to tree line shortly after noon.

If recent traffic patterns on I-70 is any indication, despite the fact that the ski resorts themselves are far less crowded, Coloradans are headed up to the mountains to cool off and take part in summer activities.


They are mostly headed to different places, sometimes out in the true wilderness of the Central Rocky Mountains.


This is one place where it becomes undeniable that conflicts exist between corporate and human concerns. People choosing to go to different places in the summer, where they can have different experiences and often make a deeper connection with nature and themselves is a good thing for humanity overall. However, there are definitely those that stand to earn more money by getting more people to the resorts.

In theory organizations, including corporations exist to serve a purpose. I believe this is generally true in real life as well. Those that operate resorts like Keystone play a major part in encouraging people to get outdoors and seek adventure, most definitely improving human happiness. All ski resorts have a purpose, but one that is far greater in wintertime than any other time of year.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Keystone in the summer. Seeing how the place looks in the summer was also amazing. However, I will likely visit other places with what remains of the summer of 2019. The size of the crowds at Keystone Resort in mid-July, to me, don’t feel like a number that needs to be improved upon. To me, it just feels like the right size for what humanity needs at this part of the seasonal cycle of life.


Early Season Skiing


Winter is on its way!  And, unlike in many other parts of the country, here in Colorado, the arrival of winter is highly anticipated by those who love snow and snow related sports.  At the highest elevations in the mountains of Central Colorado, snow is possible at any time of year.  However, it is not until November when consistent snowpack can be expected at elevations between 8,000 and 12,000 feet, where most of the major ski resorts reside.

For those who truly love skiing or snowboarding, November often becomes somewhat of a waiting game.  This year, the snow was late to arrive in the mountains of Colorado.  The image below shows the snow pack in the Central Rocky Mountains on November 1st, 10th and 22nd (left, center, and right).  As indicated by this image, the month started with virtually no snow in the mountains, as October was quite warm.  However, a major shift in the weather pattern around Veterans day (Nov. 11) brought with it much colder weather for most of the Nation, and significant snowfalls to the Central Rockies.  The mountain snowpack in Colorado is now closer to the average for this time of year, and the ski resorts have finally been able to open up some of their trails.


It wasn’t 100% my decision to begin my ski season this past Saturday.  When is comes to activities like this, decisions on when and where to go very rarely truly rest in the hands of one individual.  Functionally, the decision to ski, or take part in any kind of activity in the mountains, is always partially dependent on the schedules of all of the people involved, and partially dependent on the weather.

Saturday’s conditions at Keystone were not too terribly uncommon for early season skiing.  As previously mentioned, snowpacks are now close to the typical amounts for mid to late November.  However, more recently, the weather warmed up.  And, as is not too terribly uncommon for those who try to ski prior to Thanksgiving, temperatures were above freezing by mid-morning on all parts of the mountain, and reached well into the 40s at the base.

One of the biggest issues with skiing this early in the year is that typically not all of the trails have opened yet.  On Saturday, most of the trails on the main part of the mountain, Dercum Mountain, were open.  However, most of the rest of the mountain remained closed.  The result was that a higher volume of skiers and boarders were concentrated on the part of the resort that is open.


The lines for the ski lifts were quite long all day long.  At the start of the day, snow conditions were quite good.  However, they would deteriorate quite quickly.  Despite the fact that the mountain’s overall patronage was just over half what one would expect on a typical weekend day in January or February, by early afternoon much of the opened parts of the resort had become both crowded and “skied off”.


“Skied off” refers to the conditions that occur after thousands of skiers and boarders have already gone down the trail, and moved the snow around as they make their turns.  On more powdery days, the snow will often clump up at various portions of the mountain.  On a warmer day like Saturday, after this large of a volume of skiers have traversed the mountain, it is pretty common for parts of the mountain to become icy- especially in the steeper areas where more turns are being made and more snow is being pushed down the mountain.

In either circumstance, the conditions become less favorable.  In fact, there is somewhat of a divide amongst skiers in the area, with some electing to wait for more enjoyable conditions, and others still believing the trip up to the mountains to be worthwhile.

It has frequently been pointed out to me that although these conditions are far from optimal compared to what can typically be found in Colorado, many other parts of the country cannot be so choosy.  Those that have skied a significant amount in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic will often describe a day like Saturday as a “typical day in New England”.  Some have even said that despite the iciness and crowds, these conditions are better than what they typically see in that part of the country.

In the evening, I returned to Denver to see Warren Miller’s film No Turning Back screened at the Paramount Theater.  The film featured extreme skiing and snowboarding adventures in various parts of the world.  They included incredibly steep terrain, major jumps, and tricks that are undoubtedly life threatening.  The people featured in this film were definitely amongst the craziest and most daring in the sport.  These are the skiers that would generally not be able to enjoy skiing at a resort on a day like Saturday.  Their experience and appetite mandates more; better conditions, more challenging terrain, and, much more significantly, more effort to reach their ideal venues.

I can see some parallels in some of the skiers and boarders I have encountered in Colorado.  I have heard people say that they can only truly enjoy skiing if it is a powder day.  And, others that stick to back country skiing and hike-to-terrain, both of which require a much greater effort than simply riding on the ski lift or gondola.  Maybe this just comes with experience, and improving at something.  But, although the moves seem quite bad-ass (for lack of a better way to put it), and I know that the skiing I do will never be something that warrants viewership by an audience, I can’t help but feel like the people in this film are more limited in some ways.  These extremely experienced skiers and boarders have overcome limits regarding challenge, but in turn, have new limits, as they are now limited by finding ideal conditions, and ideal locations.  These are limitations I still live without, and being able to enjoy skiing Keystone on Saturday November 22nd is a clear demonstration.