Ditching work on a sunny Wednesday afternoon and bombing up to Keystone is my favorite way to get over the hump. Getting on I-70 around two-ish, there’s nothing but God and grimy pavement in the passing lane as I gun past the busy citizens and semi trucks.
Heading up to make some turns in the middle of the week is possible thanks to Keystone keeping the lights on until 8:30pm Wed.–Sat. and until 6pm on Sun. For less than a two hour drive, I can get four or five hours of good skiing in without getting brutalized by weekend rush hour.
Driving up to ski on a weeknight is stress free and fast. No red break lights mar the view. The jagged peaks rimming the pass are beautiful, stark and snow dusted as I weave down into the valley past Arapahoe Basin and crack a Rockstar energy drink to the tune of “Kickstand” by Soundgarden. When the song is over, I play it again. Loud. Now I’m pumped.
Pulling in, I line up a thin skin of Swix liquid glide wax across my Völkl Gotamas and I’m ready for business.
Night skiing is the coolest. You feel like you’re going faster than you are, you depend less on your eyes and more on your combined sensory package as you kind of feel your way down the slopes. The snow is white directly under the lights and a soft shadowy grey everywhere else, like some kind of space fantasy moonscape. The sky is black, the snow soft and forgiving, the vibe spectacular and invigorating.
Keystone offers several forks and branches of long, winding groomed runs lit from top to bottom as well as the terrific Area 51 terrain park, serviced by its own lift. There is the usual collection of rails and fun boxes as well as a massive half-pipe for those so inclined. On Saturday nights, during peak season, they blow off a full compliment of holiday fireworks from the base. There is absolutely nothing in my experience that compares to screaming for vengeance across a groomer in a low crouch, skis chattering and helmet whistling from a 40-mph face-wind and looking up at the night sky exploding in a fantastic kaleidoscopic burst.
When I finally tear myself off the slopes, I unbuckle and make my way across the quaint wooden footbridge to the Kickapoo Tavern at the base. They make a mean white Russian and have excellent bar food and TVs everywhere. It makes the drive back down to Denver worthwhile. Door-to-door drive time: just under four hours. Time spent night skiing at Keystone: five hours. Forget the weekend traffic madness; I can’t wait for next Wednesday.