By Mark Reaman
It doesn’t seem possible, but we are hitting the homestretch of the ski season. It is hard to believe it is already March. With a relatively early April closing, the snow should last well beyond when the ski lifts stop spinning in less than a month. But before that happens, there is a season to close out. March can be a fantastic ski and event month and we are in it.
Spring Break up at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is always a crapshoot as the school breaks in Texas, Oklahoma and the Front Range either stack up or spread out the spring visitors. Kids at the CB Community School are used to spring breaking after the lifts close in April, but the rest of the world takes their break in March and we get the flood of happy people here to enjoy snow and sun that closes out the season. Get ready for lines.
Based on in-depth analytics— riding the bus with the dude from the ski shop who prepares the rental fleet—it appears this coming week will be one of the busiest in the valley for March. Given our fantastic snow, it is expected that the entire month will stay pretty busy this year. But if we do indeed hit a spring peak this weekend, you may want to double-think your choice to catch the Red Lady Lift about 10 o’clock this Saturday. One fun alternative might be to sip a cup of coffee and tune into the online mountain cams at that time instead.
On top of thousands of spring breakers arriving soon, I see the Prater Cup is coming to the mountain this week. Without even looking at the forecast, I would take the bet we’ll get some snow this weekend. I swear that in the past three decades, no matter how much of the donut hole we were experiencing, whenever the Prater Cup was held we could count on at least a day or two of powder that slowed down the race but made the all-mountain skiing soft and fun. The parents of racers loved it.
The Prater storms really helped in years when the pow was lean, but it’s not so much needed this season. I get the feeling now that some locals are getting tired of the clouds and snow and would prefer to see some high-altitude sunshine. Fair enough. I’ve gone through a couple of big snow shovels in the last four months, so I get it, but the skiing is fantastic.
I will note that the Prater used to take place in February, and aside from snow, it always brought a mid-season emotional pop to the resort. The race has always been a fun event with local flavor organized by Steph Prater that ended in smiles and socializing from all the young skiers from across the region.
Racers and their families attended Garcia BBQs, were assigned teams based on various countries, donned the colors of the team’s country and competed with other young racers who wanted to have a good time on the mountain. This year’s Prater is geared to an older ski competitor that is likely to be more serious about winning and probably cares less about carrying flags and decorating the slopes in the colors of Japan or France. The racing will likely be faster, and I have no idea if there will be fun activities on top of the competition. I do know that with the event in March, we can all expect some more shoveling.
We are moving into the crescendo of a good 2022-23 ski season. All sorts of events like the Al Johnson, Flauschink, Disco Inferno, the Grand Traverse, film presentations, Town League hockey finals, Ski Town Breakdown, concerts and dance parties will fill the remaining calendar. As tired as you might be, take that extra breath and grab the end of a sweet season. Live the life that is presented as a gift at 9,000 feet.
One March reminder on a more sober note. Last Monday, March 6, was the 33rd anniversary of one of the harder days in Crested Butte’s modern history. That was the day in 1990 that the Crested Butte State Bank exploded, killing three of our locals and injuring many others. Three Ladies Park is named in honor of the women, Jade Woelk, Donna Smith and Monica Henning, who lost their lives that tragic morning. No one knew the reason for the explosion when it happened, and thoughts of a terrorist bomb were rampant. As it turned out, it was caused by a propane gas leak. The bank was rebuilt, the community scarred but united. It is a day that is part of modern CB and one that many people experienced and carry with them to this day.
It is a reminder that while we live in a place geared toward adventure and fun, life is precious, and one never truly knows when it might change. So, embrace the mountain life when you have the chance. March offers that chance. Take the end of the season breath and enjoy a pretty good finale in the mountains. Oh, and don’t put away that shovel just yet.