Three Big Days — Central Colorado


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 21, 2008      

The alpine of the Aspen and Crested Butte area has been in prime backcountry skiing condition for days now, and it’s getting hit big. Pyramid Peak has been skied by two groups (one from the summit), Capitol Peak was skied yesterday by Ted Mahon and Al Beyer — and the less serious “fun” lines are getting their share as well. To join the fun, I got out the last three days. Story in pictures.

Day 1 – Ski Hayden Peak

Colorado backcountry skiing.
First stop, Ski Hayden Peak southwest of Aspen. We got in a fine day up here by doing an extra lap on the upper face, then skiing Stammberger face and finishing with the left Devo Chute, for about 5,000 vert of quality turns. In photo above, that’s true Hayden to left, Cathedral Peak to right. Check out the imprinted skins from Climbing Skins Direct.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
View of Hayden from top of Devo Chutes, Stammberger Face to left.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Hayden uptrack, looking northerly.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Anthony “Tony” Nitti on the upper face.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Stammberger Face.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Dave in the Devo Chutes.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Louie, Tony and Dave at the bottom of Devo Chutes. Photo is foreshortened, actually about 2,000 vertical feet of quality glisse.

Day 2 – Maroon Bowl from Aspen Highlands

Big news to spring skiers in Colorado is the late weekend openings of Aspen Highlands ski area. Highlands is located at the north end of a 9 mile long ridge studded with 13,000 foot peaks. You simply hike out on the ridge from the resort summit, and literally hundreds of 3,000 vertical foot backcountry skiing descents are there for the plucking. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s almost too much to comprehend. With a nod to tradition we opted for the classic Maroon Bowl shot, the first drop just past the ski lift summit. After a winter of mostly human powered skiing, it was novel and fun to ride high-speed chairlifts for most of the vert. I was hoping for perfect corn skiing, and figured being there at 10:00 A.M. would be good timing. Funny thing, even that was early and most of the corn surface was still frozen. So we knocked off our first run, skated out to pre-stashed car shuttle, then did it again. Second time we got silky corn on the skier’s right side of the bowl. You could tell it was still April. While we arced corn, other groups were making powder turns on the north facing flanks. Adam and Alex nailed a beautiful line, and we saw quite a few others dropping in as well.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Jessica enjoys white velvet on our second Maroon Bowl lap.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Coming in for a landing.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Jess points Maroon Bowl. Highlands Bowl is to the left, note stains from patrol carpet bombing the day before. The amount of explosives they throw on this snow over the winter is reminiscent of a battlefield. One thinks they might need to find an alternative some day… Terrific they opened up the area for these weekends! If the ski industry made less artificial snow for skiing on rocks and grass over Christmas, and kept more areas open in the spring (especially high altitude zones), wouldn’t that be more green? But then, they’d need skiers to come buy lift tickets, and most North American resort skiers never get how wonderful spring skiing can be.

Day 3 – Elk Mountain

Enough CO2 emitting vertical on ski lifts, back to muscle power. If you drive up the Marble road off HWY 133 in central Colorado, on your left is Elk Mountain. After looking over here from private huts we visit to the west, I’d always wanted to stand on this summit. At the least, I figured the view would be incredible as it’s offset from the main Elk Mountains, thus giving the effect of a low angled fly-by in a light plane. I wasn’t disappointed with the skiing or the views, though the 3,500 vertical foot slog felt kinda long since much was in low angled timber.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Elk Mountain viewed form west, ski route marked.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Yours truly on the down, that’s Chair Mountain to the right. Scenic, to say the least.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Check this view out of the popular Marble backcountry skiing area.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Lisa on the corn fields off Elk Mountain summit. By the way, we did see dozens of elk.



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Comments

7 Responses to “Three Big Days — Central Colorado”

  1. Frank April 21st, 2008 11:44 am

    “Capitol is getting attempts”

    This line might need editing, Lou 😉

  2. Dongshow April 21st, 2008 11:59 am

    Totally agree with your spring skiing vs snow making comment Lou. It seems most people suffer from winter burn out and quit skiing before the spring, but maybe they’d still be a bit hungrier if they hadn’t skied and paid so much in the early fall.

    Looks like an awsome couple of days. It’s been the same up here, sunny, warm and gorgeous. Snows a bit wind hammered and hasn’t corned up yet but should be getting there soon. Skied out of Whittier for the first time yesterday, absolutely amazing.

  3. Njord April 22nd, 2008 2:14 am

    Does Dave actually have a job?

    Njord 🙂

  4. ChaceD April 22nd, 2008 1:44 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Hayden looks great! About how long does it takes to get to the top if you are in reasonably good shape? Thanks!

  5. Lou April 22nd, 2008 2:09 pm

    ChaceD, about 3 hours if you’re in top shape and have a good skin track, less if you’re in super shape. For average shape, I’d plan on 4 1/2 or 5 1/2, somewhere in there.

  6. Lou April 22nd, 2008 2:20 pm

    Njord, Dave claims he has a job (grin).

  7. dave downing April 22nd, 2008 3:37 pm

    come on guys, i have a job, it just doesn’t pay, so i skip it a lot.

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