(Last Updated On: January 14, 2012)
While the 2011-12 ski season here in Colorado may be one of the worst in many years, old-timers are saying that this is one of the best years ever to skate Blue Mesa, Colorado’s largest body of water just outside of Gunnison. This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, since snow is the enemy of good skating ice and there hasn’t been much snow to speak of this season. The few inches that fell last weekend up in Crested Butte only added up to a trace on Blue Mesa. While the trace of snow didn’t slow us down, it was a little disappointing that we missed out on the clear black ice that everyone had been raving about before the snow. Andy Eflin, Pete Sowar and I laced them up at the Elk Creek marina, which was a little surreal frozen in the ice:
I’ve skated on many ponds over the years, but this was my first time on such a large lake (20 miles long and 96 miles of shoreline). I was in for a surprise, as pond skating has as much in common with large lake skating as a one-run bunny hill has with a mega resort in the Alps. Pond ice doesn’t talk- Blue Mesa does.
When I say that Blue Mesa talks, I’m referring to the ice creaking, groaning, and straining as we skated on it. Imagine a snowpack that constantly whoomphed, and you’ll have an idea of what skating on Blue Mesa is like. It was disconcerting to put it mildly.
Then there’s the big cracks, know as pressure ridges, also something you don’t see on a pond. Kind of crazy, and a scary obstacle to cross.
Experienced skaters actually seek out thin ice, as it tends to be the fastest and can sometimes even forms a wave of ice for extra speed. Yes, this sounds crazy, and no, I don’t think I’ll try it. But we did have a great time and I’ll probably head back down there if the snow doesn’t start falling. I might even make some lag bolt bracelets to claw my way out if I fall in, as Andy is sporting here, along with his rope: