Last week I had an awesome opportunity to spend a few days snowboarding, relaxing, and getting beat up by trees in Winter Park, Colorado. Having spent most of my time here on the East Coast it was amazing to witness the breathtaking scenery and culture out in Winter Park. If you like snow and want to get away, I definitely recommend visiting! The Mountains are Huge… Like Really Huge
Growing up I’ve frequently visited the local mountains within a few hours of Northern Virginia, and they now seem like mole hills in comparison to the mountains out west. In the handful of days that I was there I did my best to explore as much of the mountain as I could, but despite my efforts the last day of my trip came and I realized I only hit a tiny fraction of the skiable terrain (which turned out to be over 3,000 acres).
Altitude is No Joke
I’m by no means an elite level athlete, but I feel like I’m in decent shape. So when I began walking up a flight of stairs and started breathing heavy I couldn’t help but think… “HUH!?”
The base of Winter Park is about 9,000ft above sea level, with the highest peak being 12,060ft. Compare this to Northern VA’s ~500ish ft above sea level.
I could almost FEEL the decreased oxygen levels in the air, which is a big reason for some endurance athletes using altitude training to improve performance when competing at lower elevations. The idea is that the body will start to acclimatize to the thin air and adaptations will occur, such as naturally increased erythropoietin (leading to increased red blood cells), increased number of blood vessels, and increased buffering capacity. In other words, improving the body’s oxygen delivery system. It is still a controversial training method and I cannot say from dedicated experience that it “works” (I was there for five days and I doubt my mile time improved).
If you’re planning a trip to a location of high altitude I’ll pass along the advice that the locals told me: “Drink a ton of water and don’t overexert yourself.”
Elbow Dislocations are a Rare but Awful Injury
Like other sports and activities, injuries are just an unfortunate slice of the snowboarding pie. A friend of mine took a hard fall while bombing down a hill at probably 45 mph, and didn’t get up as quickly as I’d hoped. During the tumble his shoulder ended up locked into internal rotation with his forearm trapped between his back and the ground, all while skidding across the snow.
This resulted in the bones in his elbow (humerus, radius, and ulna) separating from eachother. Despite the severe pain and gross looking elbow he handled it like a champ and we were able to get him to ski patrol.
According to a veteran in the ski patrol department, an elbow dislocation is one of the highest ranked injuries purely from a pain scale perspective. Apparently it is a very rare injury as well, at least on the slopes. With close to 40 years of ski patrolling under his belt, he has only seen two elbow dislocations during his career.
Pizza and Honey is a Match Made in Heaven
After a hard day of riding we went to get some food and ended up at the resort’s pizza parlor. When I walked inside I noticed something strange: there was a bottle of honey at the tables.
Confused and afraid, I demanded answers. The response was simply “Um… to put on your pizza? Duh.” I drizzled some honey on my pizza and was very pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was. It was even better with honey+sriracha.
My friend’s injury was a bummer, but otherwise I had a great time in Winter Park. The community is extremely friendly (no one locks their doors!), the food is great, the mountain is amazing, and the scenery is really out of this world. I definitely cannot wait to visit again!