Can It Get Any Better? A Sweet day of the Sweetest Winter

Post by blogger | March 12, 2008      

Yesterday was one of those backcountry ski trips that you wait all year for. New zone. Perfect weather. Fantastic snow. Super stable avalanche conditions. Even our late start due to Louie’s school schedule worked out great, as we got terrific light for photos during our late day turns.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
So what could make such a day even more special? Yeah, it’s the people that really make a good adventure. Being with my son was a treat as always. But also, spending the day with old friend Michael Kennedy just felt so right.

As many of you know, “MK” is the former publisher of Climbing Magazine. Up through the 1980s and into the 90s he and his wife Julie took the magazine from small time publication to an internationally respected book. Michael and I were core climbing partners back in the 1970s. We had some wild experiences together back in our “day,” so ever since then we’ve had a place in our hearts for each other.

Yesterday I could really feel the brotherhood. Michael and I were so on the same page when it came to safety decisions, pace and just general love of the mountain environment we were immersed in yet again. Adding to that, having the next generation out there breaking trail (especially that), skiing well, and making good decisions added liters of sugar to what was already a sweet day. That’s Michael skiing in the photo above, in the Raspberry Peak bowl. (Dave, please know those nice big modern tracks are mine.)

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Our mission: Climb and Marble Peak, then continue west to the summit of Raspberry peak. Plan was to find a new layer of high altitude backcountry skiing powder that would provide something like a classic heli-ski run down the big lower angled bowls of Raspberry. But not to wimp out, we also got some steeper powder on the way in, and enjoyed and excellent descent of Mud Gulch and Ally during our return in the late afternoon.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
From the summit of Marble, we got in a nice run into Raspberry Creek. This area provides quite a bit of manageable glade skiing you could lap all day if so inclined. I’d been over here a few times before, but so infrequently I’d forgotten how much potential it has. Louie cranks out a turn (note his start, our more adult tracks to left.)

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Near the summit of Raspberry, MK in foreground, Louie coming up behind. That’s the Yule Creek area in the background, town of Crested Butte just beyond horizon. This is fairly mellow terrain with some good avy safer lines formed by wind and terrain variations. You wouldn’t want to be up here on a day you assessed the hazard at anything greater than moderate. Even so, I don’t go to this type of terrain if there is any possibility of big slab avalanches running to the ground. Today that wasn’t going to happen. People all over the Elk Mountains have been digging snow pits that are becoming a running joke because they’re so solid. Thus, little worry about the mid and lower snowpack — all we had to concern us was a thin layer of new snow (well bonded according to hand checks and ongoing observations), and the possibility of wind slab pillows.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Our tracks on Raspberry. The most aesthetic line is to lookers left of where we skied, but it started with what did look like a possible wind slab. So we gave that some room and stuck more with our ascent route for the down.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Heading out, Louie up there breaking trail.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Day’s end, heading down Ally to the Marble road. Mount Daly area in the sun. Indeed, we were blessed.

Oh, I should mention that indeed my Dynafit Manaslu skis were a terrific choice yesterday. We had quite a bit of snow that almost any ski would be fun on, but did hit some situations with light powder over breakable, as well as full-on breakable crust down low.


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17 Responses to “Can It Get Any Better? A Sweet day of the Sweetest Winter”

  1. BJ Sbarra March 12th, 2008 12:11 pm

    Great pics Lou! East face of Treasure got skied yesterday as well, people are going for it!

  2. Chase Harrison March 12th, 2008 2:02 pm

    Hey Lou,
    Must be nice to have young bodies to break trail for you. My cohorts and I here at the Aspen Club are drooling over those turns. I shouldn’t complain, as I have gotten multi powder days myself. The skiing is only going to get better and safer as we get deeper into the spring.

  3. Lou March 12th, 2008 4:44 pm

    Chase, it’s sort of like how a farmer raises kids to turn out as labor on the fields. But don’t tell Louie that.

  4. Michael Kennedy March 12th, 2008 5:40 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Lou – it was a special day.

    Regarding the “old-school” tracks in the first photo, I like to get the maximum number of turns for each foot of uphill slog…

  5. dave downing March 12th, 2008 5:44 pm

    wow lou. even bigger turns than louie’s. that kid better stop slackin:)

    we should have a big turn contest tomorrow!


  6. tony March 12th, 2008 7:07 pm

    Lou, hear me out… with Louie gone next winter, there could be a nasty case of empty-nest syndrome in the Dawson house. How about legally adopting me for the four next years? I’m 32, a non-smoker, reasonably fit for trail-breaking duties…only baggage is a wife and puppy. Let me know if this works and I’ll get my attorneys started on the paperwork.

  7. Lou March 12th, 2008 7:53 pm

    Tony, that’s definitly something to consider!

  8. tony March 12th, 2008 7:54 pm

    one more thing…when will the Manaslu be available for purchase? or are they already?

  9. George T March 12th, 2008 8:07 pm

    Great pictures and lines. You are inspiring us 8-5ers dreaming for the weekend. Thanks, George
    P.S. Let the bidding start for the Manaslus…I am all in.

  10. Lou March 12th, 2008 8:20 pm

    Tony, the Manaslu will be stocked this coming fall.

  11. Bdc March 12th, 2008 8:45 pm

    Hey Lou:

    I’ve pre-ordered the Manaslu’s for next year, but please keep your opinions of them coming! Thanks.

  12. DB March 13th, 2008 7:55 am

    Looks like a great zone! Beautiful day to be out and about in the Elks. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Skiin' Ian March 13th, 2008 1:02 pm

    Looks like you guys had an awesome day in the CO high country! It was like a walk, or tour, down memory lane. My wife and i lived in the CB area for five seasons and are now in North Eastern WA. I guess we decided to move a year early as the CO backcountry has been outrageous this year from what we hear! The skiing in the southern selkirks has been great as well so i am not complaining. Keep up the good work and keep the pics coming, i sure do miss the CO high country!

  14. Geof March 13th, 2008 11:25 pm


    Those are some seriously kick ass pictures!!! I think it’s time to think about the Carbondale/Redstone area for my wife’s and my downsizing in a few years. I’m not sure Aspen direct will be in the budget!!! Most excellent. Put me on the list for “trail-breaker” duty next season!

  15. Adam L. Reiner March 14th, 2008 8:47 am

    Nice TR, Lou. I especially like the route diagram. I’ve lived in the Valley for almost 3 months now and haven’t really explored much. Your trip beta always comes in handy.

  16. John Eaton March 14th, 2008 10:05 pm

    Nice job, great shots, great story. Reading it, I felt like I was there.

  17. Lou March 15th, 2008 7:28 am

    Thanks for the comments everyone!

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