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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
|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.|
|View of Hayden from top of Devo Chutes, Stammberger Face to left.|
|Hayden uptrack, looking northerly.|
|Anthony “Tony” Nitti on the upper face.|
|Dave in the Devo Chutes.|
|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.
|Jessica enjoys white velvet on our second Maroon Bowl lap.|
|Coming in for a landing.|
|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.
|Elk Mountain viewed form west, ski route marked.|
|Yours truly on the down, that’s Chair Mountain to the right. Scenic, to say the least.|
|Check this view out of the popular Marble backcountry skiing area.|
|Lisa on the corn fields off Elk Mountain summit. By the way, we did see dozens of elk.|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.