You don't have to look very far to see an Aztec Tiger sticker in the Durango Mountain Resort parking lot on winter weekends.
Purgatory and Wolf Creek are filled with high school kids from Colorado and New Mexico. Plenty of student-athletes are among them.
“Don't tell coach,” they say when recognized on chair lifts.
From star pitchers to state champion wrestlers, many athletes flock to the snow whenever they can sneak away to the mountain.
Risking injury on the mountain as a high school varsity athlete comes with plenty of scrutiny from coaches, parents and even teammates, but that is a risk many are willing to take.
“I went to the slopes to get away from all the stress,” said 2012 Bloomfield graduate Mikey Loy, a three-sport athlete who won a 4A state wrestling championship his senior season. “It was a dangerous risk going during the season, but it was worth it to get a few days in during the sport seasons because it benefitted me by relieving stress.”
Most avid skiers or snowboarders admit one good run through powder snow is enough to melt away the worries of every day life.
But, when caught hitting the slopes against the wishes of parents and coaches, going to the hill may result in more headaches during the school week.
I asked local athletes via Twitter if skiing and snowboarding in high school was worth risking injury and what the penalties might look like if they get caught.
“We would be threatened with running if we went during basketball season,” said Cheyanne Corley, a 2012 graduate of Farmington High and daughter of Farmington boys' basketball coach Paul Corley.
Those “threats” are enough to keep many would-be shredders in the high school gym through the winter.
“My whole wrestling career I never set foot out there. Why risk a state championship doing that when you can do all that later on,” said 2011 Piedra Vista graduate and wrestling state champion Jhett Gomez. “I couldn't tell you (what the penalty would be). No one did it. We were scared to try it.”
There is also social pressure from teammates to stay away from enticing terrain parks and black runs.
“Why risk all that for one day on the mountain,” asked 2011 Aztec graduate Cory Saxon, who won a football state championship. “You only have four years, five in some cases, to win a title.”
PV wrestling coach Levi Stout hopes to keep his wrestlers in the mat room and off the ski hill until after the state tournament in late February.
“Even worse than the penalty from coaches is letting your team down and possibly costing your team a state title,” Stout said.
The risk of injury to these athletes is undeniable. Even the slightest mistake can cause your body to twist and turn in ways it shouldn't.
“My wife, Melanie, says ATV's in the summer and skiers and boarders in the winter keep her in her job as a pediatric nurse,” Stout said.
But Loy has advice for any athlete heading up the mountain: stay safe and ride inside your comfort zone.
“I knew not to do anything crazy that would risk the chance of me getting injured,” Loy said. “I believe other athletes could do the same thing.”
Still, just going out for one day on the hill can leave you catching grief from teammates who are dedicating their time to their high school sport.
“You have people who claim to be ‘hurt' when practice comes around and they are really out there,” said Farmington High baseball star Austin Davis.
A few hours on the slopes appears to be worth a few disgruntled teammates.
Powder stashes are waiting to get ripped up this weekend after a big storm dumped over three feet of snow in the last week at nearby ski areas.
That is a scary thought for spring sports coaches who begin tryouts and practices Monday.
You can bet at least a few of those athletes with state championship dreams will be shredding a slope somewhere this weekend.