Ant’s in your Pants — Yule Creek, Colorado

Post by blogger | May 17, 2008      

Once you learn the Hidden Passage to Yule Creek from the Marble Quarry Road in western Colorado, it’s like you’ve learned the secret handshake of the West Elk Mountains . You break through the scraggy trees of the “Passage,” and stacked before you is a “Lineup” that strings a half dozen perfectly skiable peaks just like a set of waves tempting a surfer — only there’s no gang of locals ready to jump you for taking their turf.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
BJ Sbarra near the Ant Peak summit. Weather reports had indicated we’d have a nearly perfect bluebird day. Instead, fairly dense clouds were pumping in from the east, making for interesting photography. Check out BJ’s Euro style tiny backpack. He’s using the same ancient Lafuma Active Light I’m still carrying for my springtime superlight pack. They don’t make these things anymore, and they’re really the ticket. Just a top loader made with lightweight fabric, big enough for a 2 liter water bladder, shovel, small repair/first-aid kit, and not much else. I’ve still never found a pack as lightweight and functional, though I’d imagine there is something out there somewhere — probably in Europe.

Hardcores have strung most of these peaks together in one big day. Being mere mortals we opted for Ant Peak, thinking we could at least nail the obvious northeasterly line that drops steep from the summit. We were denied that prize by clouds that kept an ice glaze from softening enough to be safe, but our consolation prize was a southerly line that was equally stunning and even included a few steep turns near the summit.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
The Lineup, AKA Little Alaska, AKA Yule Creek, Colorado. Crested Butte is just over the hill.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Heading up the northly reaches of Ant.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Crew for the day. Me in the middle, BJ Sbarra to right, David Rasmussen to left. I’m still trying to figure out why rock climbing activist BJ is doing so much backcountry skiing. How could he leave his warm and sunny sport climbs for 4:00 AM alarms? Is this a trend? Perhaps backcountry skiing is the new sport climbing, after all, it does involve power tools — at least when you’re mounting bindings.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
On the lower reaches of our line, the snow was a semi-corn that was silky smooth to ski. Some of the best spring snow we’ve had yet.

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
The snowpack up here is massive. Check out this beautiful formation down lower on our line, below where cornices usually form.


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33 Responses to “Ant’s in your Pants — Yule Creek, Colorado”

  1. Mike May 18th, 2008 7:46 am


    BJ’s wearing that lightweight pack to try to make up for the massive weight he carries underfoot (Fritschi & Kilowatts). I tried to get BJ to borrow my Dynafit skis for Sopris today but to no avail. I love making fun of him for the fact that my two skis weigh less than one of his. Of course, he thinks he’s actually faster than all of us Dynafit-ers if it wasn’t for his gear. LOL.

  2. BJ Sbarra May 18th, 2008 2:08 pm

    You just wait my friend, next year it’s on. Me with dynafits and you on real skis.

  3. Lou May 18th, 2008 8:32 pm

    BJ climbs pretty fast. Dynafits are for old guys so they can keep up with the young lords. Thus, BJ is not allowed on Dynafits till another decade or so of hauling Fritschis is under his wings.

    So BJ, hands off my Dynafit mounting jig!

  4. dave downing May 18th, 2008 11:00 pm

    does the tubby kid still get dynafits even though he’s not old yet? please….

    @Mike: remember, it’s not about the uphill, it’s about the chinese downhill. and bj always loses that still 🙂

  5. Lou May 19th, 2008 3:36 am

    We’re making an exception for Dave.

  6. Mike May 19th, 2008 10:20 am

    BJ: Oh, here we go again, making fun of my “skinny” skis. So, if it’s on for next year, does that mean we’ll see you in some rando races? Hmmm.

    Dave: But I really like the uphill part about it! Or, at least that’s my excuse until I get “real” skis and learn how to “really” ski. Although I still think the masochist in me will still just want to go out and see how much vert I can climb in a certain amount of time.

    By the way, BJ, when are you going to post that video from the Sopris Sprint of everyone survival skiing on their skinny Dynafit skis. That’s real comedy!

  7. Tim May 19th, 2008 10:40 am

    Lou, glad to hear the “qualifications” for who gets to ski on a Dynafit set-up! I actually skied up Sopris yesterday with BJ- I on my Dynafits and he on his fatties! At the ripe old age of 48 I was glad (at least on the up-hill to have the Dynafits and my MX 11’s -that I had intended to use in the 24hrs of Sunlight!) . We summited way to late – 9:30…the descent was miserable for me (embarrassing showing since I had just met BJ and Lenny[?]) in my light weight gear-I would have preferred 6 inches less slush! BJ seemed to do a bit better on his heavyweights. quick question for you to dispell …again. One of the guys in the group said he thought the reason I had such a hard time was “those little bindings” have a lot more “play” than his big Fritchies. As I recall, you looked at this some time ago and dispelled that myth isn’t that right? My problem was skinny flimsy skis..and I’m better on a tele set up that on alpine skis… for now. 😉

  8. dave downing May 19th, 2008 10:42 am

    @Lou: Alright. Let’s mod some boots today for the dynafit setup.

    @Mike: if you are truely a masochist then you should be getting a reverse camber/early rise ski set up (e.g. – K2 Coombas, BD Megawatts, Line EP Pros) with Marker Dukes. And skin up in regular alpine boots. Otherwise you’re all talk 🙂 BRING THE PAIN!

  9. Lou May 19th, 2008 11:01 am

    All, the Dynafit binding has MUCH less play than a Fritschi. Anyone who thinks different is sadly misinformed. You can even see it on the workbench if you compare them side to side. Tim, if you were having trouble skiing, I’d say look at technique first (if you’re better at tele, then you’re better at tele), then skis, then boots. Also, unlike telemark skiing, the AT binding you choose has little influence on how you ski once you get used to it.

  10. BJ Sbarra May 19th, 2008 11:15 am

    That’s what I’m saying Dave. All these guys that think they are so fast are all on the lightest gear possible! If you really want a good workout/training, slap on some big fatties and have at it.

    Next year, it’s Zealots and dynafits, a match made in heaven.

  11. dave downing May 19th, 2008 11:20 am

    Lou. In funky snow (anything less than hero pow or consistent hard pack) i would put the boots up higher on the list of things that can give you trouble skiing. MOST boots are fine, but IF you have a bad pair (which i have had), no binding, ski or improvement in technique will help you. in my opinion…..

  12. Mike May 19th, 2008 12:12 pm

    You know Dave, you’re probably right. I’ll bring my old BD skis (200cm and 65? underfoot) out of retirement. Only problem is I turned one of them into a shot ski. Guess it will be a fun thing to have on a hut trip. And, speaking of boots, does that mean you’ll let me have your painful things?

  13. Tim May 19th, 2008 1:04 pm

    Thanks Lou,
    My points were really only 2
    1. As BJ noted – It was the lightweight set up that had me moving alone so comfortably- thank GOD. I actually was in the super light weight Scarpa F-1’s!
    2. I have NO doubt that technique was to blame- I’ve been on “three-pins” for the last 23 years and only now am considering going back to alpine! Actually I’ve only been on this set up 2 or 3 times this year.

  14. Lou May 19th, 2008 1:15 pm

    Good point Dave.

  15. Lynn May 19th, 2008 2:37 pm


    Lynn here, you cruised on your lightweight stuff yesterday. As I shared with you on the summit, you should be on to new descents. I thought you handled yourself well on the downhills. With skis that skinny I would have been in a lot of trouble.

    Don’t ever call me Lenny again:) Maybe you have watched too much Laverne and Shirley.

  16. James C. May 19th, 2008 4:00 pm

    Man, i was excited to get my kilowatts, are they really that heavy? also would you guys (not just lou, cus i know his answer already) suggest tele bindings on kilowatts or fritchi’s?

    Lenny suits you lynn, i think im gonna start calling you that. haha

  17. Lynn May 19th, 2008 4:05 pm

    Is this James “I climb 10d” C? What are Fritschi’s? You need to forget that type of binding if you truly are going to come out from the darkness and into the free heeling light.

    BD O1’s man we already discussed this:)


  18. Lynn May 19th, 2008 4:10 pm

    So much math just to post Lou, glad I have a calculator handy.

    Dave did you put together your gimmick “bike to ski on the Pass” outing yet?

    Let me know, I have the BOB trailer just waiting for you.

  19. James C. May 19th, 2008 4:10 pm

    Don’t start that again Lenny, i was just wondering cus i heard some bad stuff about tele bindings in the comments above. I’m still looking into the tele thing, im not completely converted yet, i have all summer to think about it.

  20. Lynn May 19th, 2008 4:26 pm

    James, this is a highly biased blog, you should realize this. While it has become more tele friendly, we free-heelers are still on the outside looking in at Wildsnow. Give it time and dream big on free heels!

  21. James C. May 19th, 2008 4:44 pm

    yea i did notice that louie is the one that showed me the “darkside of backcountry skiing” video. I will strongly consider free-heeling, but first i need a job 🙂

    about what lenny said, i could just sit here and post comments to get ready for my math final haha.

  22. Lou May 19th, 2008 5:00 pm

    Our biased take on tele: In the human population, a certain number of individuals are genetically endowed with the physiology to pitch major league baseball. Likewise, a percentage are endowed with the genes to ski telemark well enough to match the efficiency and power of fixed heel skiing. If you’ve got the DNA, enjoy! Otherwise, WildSnow is here to help you mount your Dynafits!

  23. Lynn May 19th, 2008 6:19 pm

    wow cut to the DNA core, ouch. adding single digits is not going to help with Algebra James!

  24. Lou May 19th, 2008 6:22 pm


  25. James C. May 19th, 2008 6:29 pm

    yea but im still havin trouble with the basic 2+2=22 thing you know. i always think it is 3 but i memorized that it is 22. don’t make fun of my arithmatic skillz

  26. James C. May 19th, 2008 6:29 pm

    yea but im still havin trouble with the basic 2+2=22 thing you know. i always think it is 3 but i memorized that it is 22. don’t make fun of my arithmatic skillz

  27. Lou May 19th, 2008 6:41 pm

    James, just hit the submit button once, otherwise you end up with duplicate comments. Give it some time if it’s slow. Thanks, Lou

  28. James C. May 19th, 2008 7:36 pm

    sorry about that, my computer froze so i pressed refresh and 3 comments popped up.

  29. Lou May 19th, 2008 7:46 pm

    No worries, happens…

  30. dave downing May 20th, 2008 11:38 am

    hey LENNY. still thinking about the pass. but i just heard a rumor that for the Indy Pass bike ride last weekend, it was only actually opened up to lincoln creek. can anyone confirm this? if so, that’s a shorter ride with easy access to NY Peak. I know BJ wants in on that 🙂

  31. Joel May 20th, 2008 1:28 pm

    I’ve got no beta for you on the indy pass bike ride, but I am familiar with New York peak……there is no such thing as “easy access” to New York Peak. It’s a HUGE day, but well worth your troubles. Just know that it is a freaking long, steep bushwack from hell – from any origination in the Lincoln creek drainage.

  32. Lynn May 20th, 2008 2:32 pm

    Dave, If I was Lenny that day then BJ would have to be Squiggy. I am out until middle of next week. Busy at work and then out of town for the weekend. Let me know.


  33. dave downing May 20th, 2008 3:33 pm

    Bj has always been Squiggy b/c of his little turns 🙂 If a Euro gives him a turn, he can make change… ( for reference)

    @Lynn, i’ll consider riding to Lincoln creek with a BOB trailer if it freezes below treeline soon, or once the snow consolidates again (fingers crossed).

    And while we’re at it … rumor has it (so says the Forest Service guy on the other end of the line) that the road to Savage Lakes has NOT been plowed. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

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