2013-14 Ski Season Opens!

Following the floods, it's been a snowy autumn, so we've taken advantage and gotten some skiing in. Most of it was very marginal, but today, day four of the season for us actually had some decently deep snow and we hit a lot less rocks than we had on the previous three. Truth is, there is more snow now than there was at the end of December last year. 

Day one and the first skin of the year was up Butler Gulch. This is a popular Front Range backcountry area about an hour-fifteen from home. Elaine and I usually go here a few times early season to get our skinning legs under us. It's a solid 1,800 foot climb to the top of a minor peak along a ridgeline. It's a great place to start the year, made moreso by the splendid light of the setting sun.

Elaine making her way to the summit of the no-name peak. The first skin of the year always hurts, but we were at least able to keep it moving non-stop, albeit slowly. 

As the sky rages to the west, Elaine does her first skin rip of the season on October 17, 2013. I've got no shots from the descent because it was lousy. We were punching through and hitting rocks on nearly every turn. The rule of thumb in those conditions – lean way back and have a pair of rock skis. A long, good season requires reliable rock skis. For me, it's my 156 Icelantic Nomads that I've had since 2005. They do the job well, and while my quivver has grown significantly since then, they still have a definite niche in the early season.

Obligatory summit pose. Skiing feels so good. You get to the bottom, you've got the freshly cleaned lungs feel, slight ache in the legs, wind burn on the face and just overall goodness. 

OK, I lied. There is a downhill photo. Looks not bad, eh? Don't be fooled. Elaine smacked a rock on the next turn, and this was probably the deepest section of the whole route. Still, just being up in these mountains, on skis, in mid-October is a blessing.

The next ski came two days later, on October 19, literally right behind our house. Elaine and I are fortunate to live in a place where it's possible to get in turns anyday you have a free 50 minute chunk. Since the dog needs walking everyday, and we both need copious amounts of exercise for sanity sake, we'll be taking advantage of that 50 minute special a lot. It's always a better day when, at work, you can say, "yup, I went skiing today." It wasn't nearly ready today, but again, rock skis open big horizons. It was a nice skin up and precarious high wire act over rocks back down. The yellow leaves on the snow added a beauty to the morning adventure.

After the first couple of days, Indian Summer returned, house work beckoned and work got busy. Our third day was just two days ago, up at the local backcountry area. It was possibly the worst backcountry ski conditions I've ever encountered. The ski up was marginal on the road, but once we passed the cabin it was literally skinning over grass and rocks intersperced with snow. At the top we took our skis off and walked back down with our skis strapped to our packs. This place is definitely not ready, but it was still good to get out.

We decided we needed a real ski today, so it was back to Butler. Totally different ballgame from last time. Much more snow, and more blustery and cold. Here's Elaine near the summit bundled to the gills as a 40 mph crosswind rips off the divide. Lots of scary windloading at treeline, and we heard many a whoomph. If it can be skied, it can also slide.

A quick snapshot today at the summit as it was freezing. The first few turns were windscoured…

…and the very bottom ones near treeline were thigh deep. This is what happens when all the snow from the summits peak blows down the mountain. We skied mellow terrain with the funkiness in the snowpack, but managed to sneak in a few solid powder turns. 

It's always a great day when you get out on skis. Looking forward to a bit of skiing rampage next week! In the meantime, happy turns everybody. Stay safe and have fun!

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