July is right around the corner. But should you hang up your skis and call it a season? Heck no! Lean into the weird with Paddy O’ during a summertime ski adventure in Telluride, Colorado.
I have never been excited to unzip my sleeping bag at 4 a.m., a warm, cozy place that’s harder to leave than a $5 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. But there is one thing that can get me out of the snug comfort before dawn… summer skiing.
Now, you may be thinking to buckle up ski boots before sunrise in July is foolish. You may even argue that it is not intelligent to substitute summertime outdoor exploits like climbing, boating, mountain biking, bocce ball, or Footloose-style dance fighting for an activity so easily pursued in the winter. Well, my flip-flopped, speedo wearing, Coppertone lotion-ing friend, you are correct. It is dumb. And that is precisely why it is great.
Being stupid has almost always served me well. My last college math class was a relaxing weekly 50-minute seminar that involved carpet squares, a nap at the halfway point, and multiple colored blocks. I took it pass/fail. Being born with a dunce cap on can serve you well in the mountains, especially when you know an adventure will mostly be terrible before it becomes fun.
Summer Skiing: The Good and Bad
Skiing in the summer mostly sucks and is harder to accomplish than making it through Flashdance without shedding a tear (seriously, if you don’t weep when “What A Feeling” plays, you don’t have a soul). You’ve got to be willing to suffer to get any worthwhile wiggles. However, the moment you feel the energetic whoomp of a flexed ski as you butter the muffin on creamy sun-baked snow in the middle of summer, every ounce of agony fades into distant memory. Skiing is fun, even when it’s stupid.
Take for example my most recent (idiotic) summer skiing mission, The Lightening Bolt. Every spring and summer, local neo-hippie skier bro-brahs salivate over the iconic-zigzagged stripe of white that looms above Telluride, Colorado. It has been on my “To Do” list for years, and so, with warm temps and an “ease” of accessibility my buddy Scott and I decided to give’r early this June.
There was almost nothing easy about the mission, including but not limited to a mid-hike, post-breakfast burrito bathroom break. To poo with a view is idyllic but it’s hard not making a mess when squatting at 12,000-feet in ski boots and half-bib ski pants.
In five hours we hiked, skinned, and skied a total of 7.6 miles, ascended 2,935 vertical feet, completed 5,830 total vert, maxed out at 13,075 feet… and we did not ski The Lightning Bolt. We deemed it a no-go; still in the shade when we got to it, too icy to boot up, and too impatient to wait for the sun to cook it into skiable corn.
Instead, we did what happens almost always during summer ski missions—we made a new plan. Our hollers of enjoyment and Jeff Spicoli impersonations echoed off the walls of the basin as we made velvety turns on mashed-taters down Tomboy Peak.
Into the Snow, In June
The predawn alarm, the sweaty and painful hike in ski boots on Tomboy Road, the slick skin on crunchy blue snow, the punching faceted layers on the bootpack, and even getting shutdown by the Bolt; it all washed away and became worth it. We enjoyed bro-tastic friendship turns while everyone else in town was just waking up.
Rather than helping your family break out the games for Backyard Olympics this 4th July, go ski something dumb. It’s the safer stupid option when compared to playing tag with M-80s or eating the potato salad that’s been sitting in the sun for hours. Summer skiing will hurt, no doubt, but it won’t make you crap your diaper.
Leave that to the hot dog eating contest and your Grandma’s Jello salad. Please, do yourself the favor. Celebrate our country’s independence by begrudgingly waking up before sunrise and walking an asinine distance to get to turns you would scoff at if it were January. Because even George Washington knows that feet crammed into ski boots feel a helluvalot better than taking a rusty lawn dart to the thigh.