Mountain Lessons: Summer Skiing Slide for Life

I looked down at Diamond Lake below. Then I looked ahead. Boy this snow is slippery, I thought to myself. I looked down at the snow that led almost all the way to the lake below. At least if I fall, I have a clean run-out.

One, two, three, maybe four steps later…. Woosh! One foot slipped, then the other. I tried to use my ice axe to self arrest but by the time I even had a chance to think about it I was flying down the snow on my back, with my backpack weighing me down. I could not flip over to use my ice axe to self-arrest.

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TBT: Dragons Tail Couloir Ski (April 2006)

Rocky Mountain National Park harbors some great backcountry skiing. Many of the lines are not easily accessible until Trail Ridge Road becomes plowed around Memorial Day weekend. But, thankfully the Bear Lake trailhead remains open all year and offers great skiing for those who are looking. Perhaps the most popular crown jewel of the area is Dragons Tail Couloir.

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Guest TR: Pyramid Peak Ski Attempt (19 March 2017)

Hitting the ridge is the moment of truth. There is only one way off the summit on skis – descending east on 60° snow above an enormous cliff. If you fall anywhere between the summit and the point where we were standing, you go in the ground. That’s really all there is to it. There’s no real escape route – your only options are to downclimb what you came up (arguably more dangerous than just skiing it) or downclimb the NW ridge, where routefinding is tricky especially since it’s not the route you came up. Once you begin the final push to the summit, you are committed.

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TBT: Skiing Fletcher Mountain Northeast Couloirs (24 June 2016)

The calendar read that it had recently turned to summer, but there was still some good skiing to be had, especially if you looked in the right places. The Fletcher Mountain Northeast Couloirs are one of those places that hold snow late into the year, along with its neighboring Atlantic Peak. Although I have skied Fletcher from the west side, I had never skied it from the east, though it had been on my list for quite some time. I was able to rally my friend Natalie into joining me, as well as my friend Jess, who invited her friend Chad. We were a foursome that started early in the morning from McCullough Gulch Road.

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5 Things I’d Wished I’d Known Before I Started Backcountry Skiing

Backcountry skiing can be a difficult sport for a beginner to understand, as there are multiple levels of complexities. And once they dive in, beginners quickly realize the deep dimensionality of this sport. I remember easing my way into backcountry skiing over a decade ago – something I dabbled in for years before actually taking the full plunge. I remember being a beginner and being in awe of nearly everything. But there are certain things that beginner backcountry skiers should know that will help make their transition into the sport a little easier. Here’s a list of five things I’d wished I’d known before I started backcountry skiing:

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TBT: Skiing Tenmile Canyon (Feb 2006)

I’ll be honest, it was one of my first true ski mountaineering lines. This line in Tenmile Canyon – a line I don’t even know the name of and still have trouble trying to find exactly which one it was as I pass by it on I-70 – it was this line that gave me the thirst. This line gave me the craving. It was this line that started love for ski mountaineering. It was this line that brought me to where I am today.

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TBT: Loveland Pass – Widow Maker & Hippie Trees (1 May 2016)

From across the way at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, the Widow Maker is easy to spot. It’s ominous avalanche path swoops across the mountain and calls to backcountry skiers who dare. But, it’s an avalanche path, which means it does slide. Skiing the Widow Maker on a pow-day in the heart of winter would certainly lead to grave outcomes. Yet, our day was in spring. Late spring really – the day after a cement-like snow fell and bonded quickly to the stable snowpack beneath it. The Widow Maker was a good choice for the day.

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