As the snow finally starts losing the battle with summer, I find myself less and less inclined to ski. Not because I don’t enjoy it- I still do. And summer snow can be really fun. But hiking for miles and miles just to reach the snow starts to lose a lot of allure for me. Brittany, on the other hand, will keep going until the snow gets really bad. With this in mind, we chose something with virtually no approach- Sundance Mountain.
When it comes to summer skiing, it can be really nice to ski somewhere with great access and high elevation, like Independence Pass, Mount Evans, and Trail Ridge road. Strangely, I’d only skied Trail Ridge once, back in college, while Brittany hadn’t even been on that road before. In classic summer skiing style, we had a big posse of 6 skiers and snowboarders. Summer skiing should be a party! The 5 minute approach was comical- “No really, there’s snow back there!”
I was probably a little bit more excited than normal to ski since I had a brand new pair of Blizzard ZeroG 108’s. Thanks Kelly at The Alpineer for the summertime mount!
The top half of the run was brutal, with the flat terrain severely runnelled and suncupped and surprisingly icy. The straight part of every turn was a death-rattling experience, but it wasn’t too bad going across the hill. At least we could party ski:
Skiing in late spring can be incredibly fun – especially because access can become much easier. Suddenly, a peak that is tucked miles and miles away up valley during winter might become nearly effortless to access as dirt roads melt out. Once such example is Emma Burr Mountain.
Yep, that’s right Emma Burr Mountain. Most of you have probably never heard of it. No, it’s not this huge ski mountaineering destination. But, tucked away in the middle of the Sawatch Range, Emma Burr Mountain can hold its own. We certainly had some fun skiing there. And admittedly, it bears the same first name as one of my grandmothers, so I took an instant liking to it.
Emma Burr Mountain has some great options for backcountry skiers!
Natalie and I met the night before and camped up the road past Cottonwood Lake. We went for a moderate alpine start.
Yep. Me with Emma Burr behind. And, oh yeah, a toad crossing sign!
It didn’t take long for us to reach the head of the valley and begin ascending the slopes of Emma Burr. Natalie.
Please enjoy this guest blog post brought to you from Alaska by our friend Mike Records! – Brittany
Marcus Baker is scary. Rising 13,000 feet straight out of the Prince William Sound, it turns benign southerly winds into storms, storms into blizzards, and blizzards into monsters. There are so many stories: 11 days in a snow cave, snow caves filling in too fast to dig out, time to dig mansions underground. So, when forecast run after forecast run showed a strong high pressure window forming, the destination seemed obvious. Next up was putting together a last minute team with the requisite rope, glacier, skiing, and avalanche experience for a smash and grab mission. Mary and Sarah were available, and as usual, up for anything. After a frantic night of packing we pulled into Mike Meekin’s Sheep Mountain air strip 8 AM on Friday. First, Mike would take me out with the gear, then the ladies would follow. Lifting off the gravel airstrip above budding trees it was hard to believe it could be winter anywhere. 5 minutes later, the cracked surface of the Matanuska Glacier was below us.
Melt ponds already forming on the glacier surface:
Mike briefly distracted me from the scenery because he had just returned from a packraft/SuperCub brown bear hunt that he had to show me pictures of. Looking up from his phone, the glacier started to curve away to the south.
In early June, the snow was transitioning from a spring snowpack to a summer snowpack. East and south aspects were shedding, while north and west were holding snow quite nicely. Still, warmer temperatures were sometimes doing unpredictable things to the snowpack. Longer days were getting hard as they required a very early alpine start. So, my friend Larry and I looked for something north-facing and short. Polaris Couloir on North Star Mountain proved to be the perfect choice!
The views from Blue Lakes in the morning were gorgeous.
As we headed up the valley, we passed many potential ski lines off the ridge that forms North Star Mountain. But, we were after one of the steepest ones – Polaris Couloir.
Booting is fun. Larry.