I went down to visit Santa Fe and Taos for the inaugural New Mexico Cup which is part of the COSMIC ski mountaineering series. Both Santa Fe Ski Area and Taos Ski Valley offered up events in 2 consecutive days. In short it was an awesome adventure as I got to climb and ski two ski areas I used to frequent many years ago when I lived - and still skied in New Mexico.
The events were really challenging with a lot of climbing. But the host resorts put on perfect races with volunteers and ski patrollers out on course to make sure we did not get lost. You could tell that they were proud of their ski areas and they very happy to be part of the series.
For a race like this, the camera was tucked away back in the auto so I have no photos of the resorts, or the courses. But on the way home from Taos I did take some photos of the beautiful Northern NM country side.
I hope the ski areas want to continue to host these 2 fine events. I will be back next year for sure if they do.
I had to go to Denver for work and on the way back I stopped in Aspen for a few days. My timing was perfect as they had an epic snow dump - the most snow in 2 days since the 1930's according to the local paper. My goal was to take advantage of the uphill skiing rules - ski for free at resorts. To summarize there are 4 ski areas in Aspen: Aspen Mountain, Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. The uphill policies vary, but in a nutshell it is this - both Ajax and Highlands allow it before and after operating hours, Buttermilk offers it on 2 dedicated routes during operating hours, and Snowmass - the king of them all - allows it where ever and when ever you want with some rules to stay to the side for safety. Throw in a similar policy at Sunlight Mountain and that is 5 places you can ski for free within the Roaring Fork Valley. That means the money you save on lift tickets can be spent toward better lodging, food, or whatever floats you boat.
Unfortunately I got in late to Aspen - around 2AM Sat morning due to some horrible traffic on I-70 headed west from Denver. I don't know how those Front Range people do it - I just could never live there. But I got a few hours sleep and headed to Buttermilk. It's a little over a 2k climb to the top, so I started at the base, climbed to the top then skied down Tiehack and took that route back up to the top again - two runs, ~4k climbing.
Sunday was the planned "big day" and I walked over to Ajax from the Tyrolean Lodge where I was staying. It was a 3400-ft climb up to the top and there were about 10 others out there, including local flyer Max Taam who caught me on the way up. Max was flying so fast but he still chatted up everyone he passed. impressive. I got to the top and shared a coffee at the lodge up top with a local guy who climbs this every AM. He started before me but clued me into the fact that the start was -4F. I knew it was cold, but not THAT cold. It was mid 20's though soon enough. The climb takes about an hour, but these photos here are the only ones I took for the weekend because you get sweaty skiing uphill and I didn't like getting my fingers cold fishing for a camera. I had skied AJAX downhill before once in last years Grand Traverse so this was great to check it out even more.
After AJAX I headed to Snowmass for an afternoon climb of 4400-ft. This was the highlight as I caught a local lady early on and she clued me into a good route. I veered off it to go up a steep powder field that was forming into primitive moguls and on the way down a Snowmass Ski Patroller stopped and we chatted. I spoke with patrollers from all the resorts and everyone of them loved the ski uphilling concept. So supportive and really awesome people. One of them shared his feeling on Purgatory here in Durango and needless to say that was the only negative comment I heard all weekend. I'll skip my comments here because I agree with everything he said.... Why they don't allow uphilling there is beyond me.
At the top of Snowmass there is a Poma Chair all above treeline. You can see for miles, but the cold wind and snow kept me from grabbing the camera. Ripping skins and stopping for downhill clothing got me cold enough.
It was a great trip and I enjoyed my time. I got to ski one of America's primo ski destinations and didn't spend 1 nickel on a ski lift pass. The cool thing is Aspen has no problem with that - they encourage it even. I'll be back for sure. I skied Sunlight for the Heathen Race and enjoyed the area there as well. Next on this list is Highlands, so I'll be back for sure.
Raiders Ridge open in January? Well that is now the case as the skis collect dust and the running shoes get more wear and tear. Skyline is an icy muddy mess, so it means access to Raiders is from the west, or in town.
It also means you have to do an out and back - or drop down and return on Horse Gulch Road. I chose the out and back so I go to enjoy the views and the single track.
I broke out the Ay-Up running lights during the week and got treated to this view.
I finished my first Skimo race this last weekend up at Sunlight Mountain Resort. The course was awesome with some long climbs including some boot packs and some tough descents. I finished just ahead of last place so that lets you know how tough this was for me. I got one foot in the door though for the COSMIC races and hope to keep working for better results in the future. Whew there were some fast skiers out there!
The weather really warmed up here in Durango with highs in the upper 50's last week. I've been running more of late, and have hit the Hesperus Loop from town a couple of time. It's ridiculously long and a bit painful given the long pavement descent back into town, but this section of dirt road is pure solitude.
I also got some new skins in different sizes - the yellow one is for the race ski from Trab and I hope to use it on a fatter ski.
Planning the races for 2014, but the schedule gets tight. I also want to work on my 14er list. Maybe I should just subcontract out my job to a foreign worker then I would have more time. Some I will have to skip, but some will be done for sure! Check out the links to right.
I was in need of an expedition, and adventure, and something to occupy the greater part of a day. so I put together a back country ski trip I had mulled in the back of my mind for sometime - ski from Purgatory Resort over to Telluride.
The day started well, but about 9 miles in near the creekside camping at Hermosa Park I skied right up to a mountain lion that was coming the opposite way. He turned uphill and climbed as fast as he could - but that meant for the next 1.5 miles he would be up slope. I constantly had to look over my shoulders as I was not sure if he wanted to track me, which is usually not the case. This was a younger and smallish cat, perhaps 120-lbs. But since it was winter and the fact that I saw no hint of deer or elk in the area I assumed at some point this cat may wish to invite me into the food chain. The next section I was skin free and skated as much as I could with my heart rate a bit below maximum. I did that for a reason as I did NOT want to be gasping for air just in case this cat reappeared - I would need to be functional if he did appear. I got the the creek crossing on the way to Bolam/Hotel Draw and crossed. Once there things opened up and I was on my way.
The going turned out to be really slow due to snow the night prior. The cabin above is at Graysill Mine near Bolam Pass and once outside of Purgatory the snow covered snowmobile track was the best condition I would get for most of the day. By the time I hit the East Fork Trail I was breaking my own track and after a while it became too difficult to follow the trail itself. Snow was too deep and it covered any faint depression the trail had.
The thing about East Fork is that it follows a long drainage westward, but that drainage is mostly filled with pine trees, dead fall, and some steep smaller drainages. I have not looked too closely at the gps tracks but I'm sure it was something of a saw tooth profile as I would head up and down trying to find the trail all while moving westward.
I packed a lot of food and water, and my new Ay-Up! headlamps, which I eventually needed when it got dark. Then the snow came and the light did not help too much other than light up falling snowflakes. After a while I saw some head lights way down to my right on Highway 145 on the way to Lizard Head Pass. Then after a while they disappeared and I realized that I may have rounded a mountain top instead of continuing westward. I pulled out the iPhone compass and directed it due west (the Garmin compass was off by as much as 90 degrees at times). That saved me and eventually I found a snowmobile track from earlier in the day. That eventually gave way to a Snow Cat track which took my to the East Fork trailhead on 145. From there I made my way to Lizard Head Pass to the Galloping Goose. It was night now and I knew Jeni would be in Telluride waiting for me. My plan was to eventually take Alta Lakes Road up to the ski area and descend all the way into Telluride, but now I thought maybe just take Galloping Goose (~15 miles + a slog through the valley) into town.
I did the math and it looked like a midnight finish. I was out of water and would have to filter soon (amazing water was still running). Jeni and I did not make plans to stay the night - the plan way to do a dinner and drive home. So when I hit 145 again at the north end of Priest Lakes I stuck my thumb out and got a ride to Mount Village from a really nice vacationing family from Oakland, CA (they we still travelling to Mount Village when the picked me up). I got in 30 miles in less than 10 hours which is ridiculously slow for this. The trip from where I bailed would have been the easiest part, but next time I will plan ahead and make hotel arrangements in Telluride.
I took the gondola down into town and met Jeni and Jia Li for dinner at Brown Dog Pizza and then we went home. Whew what a big day!
I've been trying to do a marathon run once month and ran up to Hesperus again recently. The benefit of runs like this are the gas station stops where I can refuel with food that I normally do not eat. I don't go too crazy with the junk food, but usually buy a big chocolate and almond bar from Hershey.
This run is actually 29 miles if I run direct through town on the way back, and to save time I even headed up the town nature trail. I think if I stick to the better route is comes out a bit over 30 as I recall from the last time.
The snow is still in good shape up high but melting down around town. Hopefully we will get some more soon.