Ashley Muse: Winter sports tips
With winter rapidly approaching, do you want to get out into the elements and try something new? Snowboarding maybe? While buying your own gear may seem like the obvious solution, renting gear is cheaper and more effective. Buying gear can be around $500-$1,500 depending on what you purchase. Renting gear can be as cheap as $30. Plus, if you don’t know what you want or need, then how are you going to know what to buy? Lace-up snowboard boots are generally $100 less than Boa boots, but when renting, you might find that the $100 is worth it (lace-up boots are ridiculously hard to put on). If you’re only planning on hitting the slopes once or twice this year, it’s better if you spend your money on a lift ticket rather than new gear.
Tips to navigating Northstar like a pro
If you’re trying to escape the crazy Big Springs Lodge during lunchtime, head up to Zephyr Lodge for your hamburger and $7 hot chocolate. It’s advanced skiers only with blue and black terrain so catch a ride up if you can brave skiing down. Zephyr Lodge has high ceilings, gargantuan windows, and beautiful views from the top of the mountain. After a peaceful lunch, you can head down Drifter to the Backside and hit some of the steepest Black Diamonds at Northstar.
Some of the best powder stashes at Northstar are hidden off Comstock. Hop off the lift and head down East Ridge. Ski until you find a good looking patch of powder and trees and dive in for fresh tracks!
Northstar is a park rider’s paradise. The park is constantly making the list of top 10 terrain parks in North America. Northstar has everything from beginner parks with baby jumps and small rails to jumps with eight foot kickers. On years with plentiful snow Northstar creates a large halfpipe and a smaller one, which is perfect for beginners and kids. Northstar accommodates everybody with extra small, small, medium, and large obstacles.
Looking for an awesome spot to take your kids? Head up Comstock and down the first part of Powder Bowl. It may look intimidating because the short top section is a black diamond, but it is blue and fairly easy after that. If you want to skip the black diamond part, you can continue skiing to Rendezvous (a little black lift) and pop a 180 before it. It will take you to a cat track that will spit you out at the top of a trail through the trees with little bumps and jumps and mini half pipes. Great fun for kids and adults alike!
Never ever ski Cascades. It may seem the easy way to get to Comstock Lift from the top of the mountain but many runs converge into Cascades. It’s always overskiied and icy with way too many people on it for comfort. Instead cruise down Lumberjack; you can still get to Comstock.
If you can only make it up on the weekends, I’ve got the tried and true tricks to avoid the crowd. Down in the Village, if you can, ride Village Express up instead of the Big Springs Gondola. It usually has a shorter line and deposits you slightly above and to the left of where the gondola ends, making it easy to ski down to Vista Express. Which brings me to my next point: what to do when you get to mid mountain. If you are an advanced skier, and can do blacks, I’d recommend heading to the Backside. In order to get there, you can take a multitude of paths. First, if you hop on Village Express, taking Vista Express to Comstock then over to the Backside is your best bet. Plus, you get a little skiing in on your way. You can go that route if you ride the Gondola too. If you’re up for a walk, Zephyr Express and down Drifter, as mentioned before, is fast and gives you a chance to ski. If you’re feeling lazy, walk straight out of the Gondola and right onto Arrow, which dumps you at the bottom of Comstock Express. Ride up Comstock and then you are set to go! Once you make it to the backside and Backside Express has crazy lines, pop over to Promise Land for shorter lines but not as much terrain. You can still get some pretty good turns.On weekends, Promise Land is a pretty safe bet for low lines.
You woke up early, were one of the first people up the Gondola, had some awesome fresh tracks, and are chilling on the Backside, when it’s eleven o’clock, and you just got a hunger pang. Perfect timing! Everyone rushes to the Lodge between 11:30 and 12:30. If you want to stay ahead of the lunch rush, start heading to a lodge around 10:45-11ish. It will ensure you a spot and a table to yourself. “What’s the best way to get to Zephyr lodge from the Backside?” you may be asking yourself, but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Head on up Backside or Promise Land Express and ski down West Ridge. When you get towards the end, tuck (especially if you’re snowboarding) because when you turn left after the doward plunge, it’s flat. The tiny run will spit you out at the top of Zephyr Express.
Another almost lineless spot for busy weekends is Martis Camp. There is only one blue off Martis Express, so experience is necessary. Martis Camp offers an array of terrain from groomed, moguls, trees, and powder. Marits has tons of skiable fresh, untouched powder after a storm. The best, and most fun way (in my humble opinion) to get to Martis is to take Lookout Link off Zephyr. Lookout Link is a Poma Lift, an exciting and unusual way up the mountain for intermediate to advanced skiers. You can also take a cat track that begins below the start of Lookout Link.
Ashley Muse is a scout from Troop 911. She has been skiing and snowboarded on teams at Northstar for as long as she can remember
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