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Mary Jane Without the Pain By Cindy Kleh

With a tagline like “No Pain No Jane,” it’s no wonder most skiers and riders avoid Mary Jane Mountain –named after a famed prostitute, but also a slang term for marijuana. The whole mountain seems to ooze FORBIDDEN like a red circle with a line through it. Who needs steep, relentless, Volkswagen-size bumps when sister resort, Winter Park, is right next door with all its nicely groomed cruisers and terrain parks?

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PANO

There are two main reasons: high-speed six-pack lifts and lack of crowds. Many get to a point in their skiing/riding where long lift lines and an over-saturation of idiots are no longer acceptable. They’re over being nearly killed by unskilled gapers flying down crowded slopes. Fake “villages?” Meh. Pay parking and shuttle busses? Screw that!

Some escape the Big Resort scene by hiking or snowmobiling the backcountry, or they trade their boards for Nordic gear. The rest quietly head to The Jane where they fall hopelessly in love with every curve and glade; they make passionate love to her again and again … each time unique and memorable; and they speak of her in reverence, as they fight to the death to keep her free parking lots and un-groomed territory the way it is.

These are the diehard Janers, who can ski or ride anything this mountain can dish out – in any weather. True Janers are admirable … and scary (safety tip: don’t get between a Janer and a chairlift on a powder day). They would prefer that the public not know that the Jane isn’t all steep bumps, so shhhh … keep these insider tips under your parka.

Mary Jane for the Rest of Us

Is there any way to enjoy Mary Jane’s favors if you have less than stellar knees, or you avoid bumps whenever possible? Believe it or not, you can ski all the way from her 12,600-foot summit to the parking lot without encountering a single mogul! In fact, Mary Jane has a beginner lift, Galloping Goose, with zero lift lines for only $10 a day! It’s not the ideal place for first-time snowboarders to learn, as the slope is somewhat slanted, but it’s not bad for the price and within walking distance from the parking lot.

After wasting only seven minutes on the Super Gauge six-pack lift to whisk you to the top of Mary Jane, Panoramic Lift (“Pano”) brings you above treeline in another seven and a half minutes. Like a cat, Pano offers its charms on its own terms. It can open or close at any time, and sometimes it stays closed for days due to high winds and whiteout conditions. The official snow stake is on the Park side, so whatever the resort reports for new snowfall, add another 2 to 3 inches to Parsenn Bowl.

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“Pano Heads” will sometimes ride on the slower-than-molasses-in-January Sunnyside Lift while waiting for ski patrol to finish avalanche control work. Sunnyside offers lots of blue terrain and glades, and some of the happiest lifters in the whole state (makes you wonder what they have for breakfast).

If Pano is open, go early. In the mountains, winds tend to increase as the day progresses. (Daily closing time for this lift is 3:00). You can descend entirely on groomed intermediate trails, or, if there’s fresh snow, dive into the fairly widely spaced trees. The views are incredible on Parry’s Peek, the farthest south of the Parsenn Bowl trails, leading to fun, not-so-gnar-gnar trees.

It’s steep in the middle of the bowl, but everything else is doable for an intermediate. If you lose your friends in the trees, you can find them again on Edelweiss Trail, which leads back to the base of Pano.

There’s no better place on earth to be on a huge pow day than doing laps on a high-speed six-pack lift above treeline, scoping out your next untracked line! No matter how depressing your finances are or how irritating your roommates or coworkers are … for this moment, you rule the universe!

Get Away from it All …

If you don’t love bumps and trees, usually together, then stay away from Eagle Wind. The trails there are somewhat slanted, but the snow in the trees is soft, and you’ll be sharing it with few other humans. You can enter this area from The Cirque, Parsenn Bowl, or Thunderbird Traverse near the top of Mary Jane. The best way to leave this area is to get on Eagle Wind Lift.

NOTE: If you take Lower Egress, you will end up in the middle of nowhere, at the bottom of Vasquez Ridge in Winter Park, in the opposite end of the resort. You will never make that mistake again! An egress is a fancy name for a narrow traverse – what locals refer to as Goob Boardercross. Don’t be that guy that stops in the middle of the trail!

Adrenaline Freaks

For those of you seeking to go right off the Sphincter Factor Scale, The Cirque is worth the extra time and effort to get out there and back. Turn on your Go Pro, because this is the place to take that cornice jump into powder! The Cirque cornices are well maintained by the resort ski patrol, but it’s still best to go with someone who knows this area. This terrain is some serious #*&@! Cell service is spotty and you’re a long way from medical attention out here!

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The Cirque requires a 20- to 30-minute skate/hike from the top of Pano Lift to a series of short, steep chutes that lead down to tight tree skiing. To avoid this hike, buy a Cirque Sled Pass (only $10 for the entire season, but you have to purchase it beforehand). That saved energy can be better spent on couloirs with names like “The Heart of Darkness” and “Disneyland.”

The sled leaves you off at West Headwall, where you can hike further to the Alphabet Chutes. This is Big Mountain skiing and riding with some fairly big rock drops – up to 30-footers into powder with outcroppings and rocks to navigate. The snow can be crusty and windblown up top but gets creamier in the trees below.

The Cirque traditionally opens mid- to late-January depending on snowpack. When the Cirque is open (which is not that often due to snowpack and avalanche danger), your best bet is to do laps from The Cirque down to the Eagle Wind lift, take it back up, ski down to the Pano, and catch the Cirque Sled again.

Mary Jane

A Few More Golden Jane Nuggets:
  • Avoid the Jane on holidays and weekends; if you must go on a weekend, make it a Sunday during football season.
  • Be there early, well before the lift opens, and get in like a Navy SEAL. Mid-morning is the height of parking chaos, but by then, you’re up riding Pano, smiling down on it all. By the time the masses get their asses in gear, you will have tracked it all up.
  • Be prepared for sticker shock if you plan on eating at the new Lunch Rock. The bar, however, is comparatively reasonable, with a great view of Parsenn Bowl. To save money, drink your lunch.
  • Buy a season pass in the fall (it’s a steal), and forget those long ticket lines.
  • Grab a cheap slice of pizza at Pepperoni’s, located downstairs in the base lodge. It’s kind of like a Man Cave at your favorite resort – does it get any better than pizza, beer, and sports after an epic pow day?

Mary Jane

About Author Cindy Kleh

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Cindy is a writer and photographer who has lived at the top of the Rockies for over three decades. She was the USASA Overall National Snowboarding Champion for many consecutive years with gold medals in Boardercross, Slopestyle, Superpipe, Giant Slalom and Slalom. Due to injuries collected over the years in terrain parks, she admits to not being a true “Janer” when it comes to loving bumps, but will attack them when necessary.
Read another article from VisitWinterPark Online Magazine, Snow tubing in Winter Park.

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