Your Colorado Zone Too Crowded? Try Road 505

Post by blogger | May 1, 2008      

After seeing six cars parked at the Cleaver last weekend, I do realize the power of the blog and promise Walt to try and spread the love out farther afield, though I don’t think I’ll be bareback riding any elk to disguise my ski tracks. Thus, I’d heard a few weeks ago that Road 505 was plowed, so yesterday was our day to head up to an alternate zone.

Road 505 is one of many “water roads” that the Fryingpan/Arkansas diversion project built some years ago for system maintenance. For some unknown and greatly appreciated reason, they plow their roads early in the spring but generally do not gate them. What a treat for backcountry skiing! (For route details, see

Colorado backcountry skiing.
I love shooting photos of Dave’s dynamic ski style. We did a northerly line up high on Peak 505, then wrapped around to this easterly corn.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Peak 505 as seen from parking at plow turnaround, it’s the easiest peak to get. Left dotted route is a stupendous shot you can get from summit to valley, shorter line is fun north face you can play on. This and Mount Boddington (all names informal) are about 3,000 vertical, for something bigger you can climb North Mount Massive and get a bonus 14er.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Nick Thompson brought a real camera, and knows how to use it. Mount Boddington above Dave, North Massive peaking into the photo at upper left. Oh, almost forgot to mention Dave is on Black Diamond Method boots, planks are Kilowatts with Freeride Plus, pack is a BCA Alp 40 which I think he’s growing fond of for carrying more than a toothbrush.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Myself, not quite a fluid as Dave but having just as much fun, thank you very much.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Our tracks on the north side. I lobbied for simply dropping the bountiful corn shot from the summit east, but was outvoted by the youngsters. What is is about kids these days? They’d rather ski rocks and breakable crust than corn snow? What has the world come to!

Colorado backcountry skiing.
BJ on the corn I finally manipulated the crew into skiing.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Every time I get up here in the spring this large cornice is falling or has cut loose big. It’s one of the most unstable cornices I’ve seen in Colorado, so beware.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
BJ beats his Soobie on yet another Colorado dirt road. I was wondering out loud if they make lift kits for these, turns out they do. All you need is about 3 inches more underneath and you’d be able to drive most roads for climbs or skiing trailheads. But then, I think I’d prefer one of the new diesel Cherokees coming out this year. One of those would be better for towing my snowmobile.

505 if highly recommended for spring corn skiing, and is also accessible via snowmobile in winter. It’s an especially good location if you live in Basalt, the town at the base of the Fryingpan Valley road that gets you up there. If you go, park with care so as not to block the road or take up too much parking space. Wouldn’t want that thing gated, now would we?


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20 Responses to “Your Colorado Zone Too Crowded? Try Road 505”

  1. Dan May 1st, 2008 9:13 am


    I noticed you were on the Mt. Baker SLs. I am especially interested in how they performed in the “crust” you were forced to ski. Is an update coming?


  2. Lou May 1st, 2008 9:26 am


    I’ve come to the conclusion that for Colorado spring skiing a wider ski is almost always better, and by wider I mean something around 90 cm under the foot. In the past, I’d used narrower skis to save a bit of weight, on the assumption I’d be on compacted spring snow. That was wishful thinking of course, since Colorado tends to have conditions that vary quite a bit on into May, when you finally get a few weeks where nearly all exposures and elevations have compacted snow.

    That said, you can go too wide and heavy for human powered skiing. Everything in moderation (including ski width). Hear that Dave?

    I still like the Dynafit Manaslu best for powder, mank, and breakable, but the Baker is better for me on hardpack and still works in the soft stuff just fine. So I use Baker for most spring trips instead of the Manaslu. Baker is 86 under the foot, Manaslu is 95. Both are similar in weight (very light), though the extra length of the Manaslu makes it slightly more awkward when carried on pack, another reason I like the Bakers for springtime when we do more booting. I’ll end up this season having spent most backcountry days on the Manaslu, but I always have several pairs of skis in my active quiver, and the Baker SL is definitely active.

  3. dave downing May 1st, 2008 9:40 am

    So, to add to a few of Lou’s comments:

    1) Most of the upper snow barely classified as “breakable”. I like to call it “winter” snow….hmmmm, so nice.

    2) my skis are only 94mm wide thank-you-very-much. Smaller than the Manaslu’s Lou has! Ha!

    3) Nick and I did witness Lou go over a snow feature, and we think his skis left the ground, at the same time:) Bring new school to the BC?

  4. Tracy wilson May 1st, 2008 9:53 am

    Poor Soobie! Now come on, you all call my car the “death monkey”! I think BJ’s car wins that title!

  5. Lou May 1st, 2008 9:55 am

    Death Monkey? Is it time for a guest blog?

    As for BJ’s Soobie, the mummified banana peel on the back floor did give me pause, but looked better when I returned hungry.

  6. Tucker May 1st, 2008 10:32 am

    Wow. Amazing snow. Thanks for torturing all us desk-bound folks back east… 🙂

  7. cory May 1st, 2008 11:08 am

    After a move this winter, I’m in a new valley with tons of skiing and relatively light crowds. I’ve been psyched about all the “new” to me skiing, but I’ve withheld spewing about it on the net to honor the locals. I was just wondering, when someone posts on your site about their favorite area how many folks see it? What’s the vibe like in europe? Are they as protective as us Colo snobs?
    p.s. I’m glad you’re still out there gettin’ it done. It seems funny to talk about being protective of our “stashes” especially when spring is on us and all you have to do is find the white, get to to the top and there is fun to be had. (Usually by yourself if you spend a half second looking.)

  8. pete anzalone May 1st, 2008 11:12 am


    In 2010, Subaru is planning on selling an Outback Diesel – 150 HP and 50 MPG!!

    Google “First Drive: 2008 Subaru Legacy Diesel” for the article in Motor Trend.

    Lastly, every thing in moderation including moderation.


  9. BJ Sbarra May 1st, 2008 11:32 am

    Diesel outback with a lift!?!?! I predict the next hot trend in Colorado…Sign me up!

  10. Lou May 1st, 2008 11:48 am

    Cory, my job is to share information about backcountry skiing, and I don’t see much if any downside. Route info spreads people out and helps with trailhead pressure, and there really are not all that many backcountry skiers. Our backcountry is incredibly crowded — with elk.

    The exception is when there are private property issues. I’ve refrained from reporting on quite a bit of backcountry skiing that has limited access because of private land. When it comes to that, no need to rile up the mountain folk — some have shotguns.

    As for how many folks see the route info here? Thousands.

    As for Europe, there are so many tours there and so many people, sharing about routes is not much of an issue.

  11. dave downing May 1st, 2008 3:10 pm

    Diesel Outback = An acceptable 1 car solution for my house finally.

    Bj, might be time to replace the death monkey in 2 years!

  12. Scott May 1st, 2008 4:30 pm

    Lou, I usually just read but have some thoughts today. Don’t worry, the folks in all those cars last weekend knew about the cleaver prior to your post. Has anyone driven up the crystal river without noticing that line? I didn’t know however that 505 was plowed so thanks for that. Time to get some “Massive” turns perhaps. Cory, I have skied alot of the local mtns and would share any beta. I always laugh when I hear of “secret” stashes – in this country we all have access to maps(not true elsewhere). Personally I think any “locals only” attitude should be left to the Surfers in SoCal. The mountains should be climbed and enjoyed by all who care to do it – especially on skis when the evidence of our passage simply melts away. I would be willing to bet that most of the mountain folk with shotguns are not up before dawn anyhow…and they are probably good and drunk by the afternoon.

  13. George T May 1st, 2008 7:23 pm

    We skied 505 with 4-8 fresh last Friday…niccce.
    The North Road to Savage Peak/Lakes road is also plowed. Savage was good last week and should be prime this week. This may be the second easiest climb from upper Fryingpan, next to Pk 505. Recommend driving to highest gaging station and cut thru woods to Savage Creek and follow up to Savage Lakes, per the Dawson guidebook.

  14. Walt May 1st, 2008 9:54 pm

    Ha ha! What a spring !
    Heard people refer to peak 505 as johnsons knob or the knob.
    Never summer

  15. Nick May 2nd, 2008 8:29 am

    Lou- That was a great day with you guys, hope we can do it again sometime. As Dave says, that upper snow was pretty fun. Will have to go back for the east shot sometime. (wouldn’t it have been a little frozen on that windy day anyway? 😉 )

    George T- I think we followed your tracks, nice.

    and with the gas prices as they are- I’m definitely interested in that diesel suby!

  16. cory May 2nd, 2008 8:39 am

    I was just curious. I’ve kind of adopted the face to face beta. I’m always willing to share. Come over, have a beer and I’ll tell you some of my favs. Don’t worry, my shotgun is safe in the closet. I’ve found that alot of the more weathered locals kind of operate on the same principal. They’ll share, as long as they are sure I won’t be dragging out a busload of boot packers to make moguls in the b/c. I’m sure everyone can agree that some of the best ski trips are the ones you sniff out yourself. A little map reading, a little terrain reading…
    I’m sure there are folks all over the place on this one. This is just my thoughts.

  17. dave downing May 2nd, 2008 11:39 am

    cory…funny you should mention moguls. I was just telling lou that the lower pitch of the Cleaver would be a perfect mogul line. Anyone want to help me move fill about 100 25 gallon trash bins? (1 bin = 1 mogul?)


  18. Lou May 2nd, 2008 2:35 pm

    And Cory, your thoughts are appreciated.

  19. Walt May 2nd, 2008 5:08 pm

    Oh no! This is getting worse all the time. As far as the face to face beta is concerned, I befriended a weathered local by the name of Marblehead. Eveything was cool (including the beer) until I mentioned the “C” word. I am still pulling buckshot out of my rear. If you don’t believe me, I would be happy to show you.

  20. Lou May 2nd, 2008 6:14 pm


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