Playing Nice – Weekend TR and Broomstick Pack Test

Post by blogger | January 7, 2009      
Backcountry Skiing

Deep instability. Wind Slab. Depth Hoar. I avoid these elements like brussels sprouts at a Keanu Reeves flick. This weekend was no exception – though I still had a run in with a bad movie. As we roll into 2009 and the first storm of the New Year, we’re all to aware that both backcountry and in-bounds areas have witnessed deadly avalanches. All the while, our Siren Song continues to call with significant snow fall in the forecast. My goal? Get out there, have fun…but play nice.

Saturday looked to be the perfect day to sleep in, grab some new gear and ski the long awaited pow. After missing out on the Christmas week storms in the Aspen area, and distrusting the current snowpack, I was anxious to hike the Bowl with some new snow. Given the unfortunate events of the season – including inbounds avalanches at Vail, Jackson Hole and Snowbird to name a few – I definitely had a heightened sense of the general risk that comes with skiing in any terrain. So our crew decided we’d practice safe resort skiing with beacons, probes and shovels. To carry my avy gear, I was psyched to finally ski with my new Mystery Ranch Broomstick that I gave an initial overview of last November.

After a Carbondale alpine start we rolled into the parking lot at Highlands around eleven thirty. A few warmup runs later we headed for the Bowl, caught the snowcat-ride, and loaded our packs for the hike. We enjoyed one of the warmest snow-day hikes I’ve experienced at Highlands (read: no frostbite) and casually arrived at the top to see more patrollers than day skiers. The fluff-on-crust in Steeplechase must have scared the crowds off.

After a meet-and-greet around the prayer flags we dropped into the trees to be welcomed by knee-deep and deeper. Super fluff. Face shots all around. Hero snow. Exhausted at the bottom, we headed in for fries and cocoa — Bowl was now closed for the day after all.

Backcountry Skiing

Dropping into Highlands Bowl with full avy gear and no visible pack. I swear it's because it is small and not invisible due to a camera phone and near pea soup conditions!

As for the Broomstick backpack, I’m convinced that this is one of the best options if you want to hike, carry skis on your back, potentially exit the area, and overall keep your avy gear on you in-bounds. I have never liked riding lifts or skiing the resort with a pack if I don’t need to. I prefer to stash my stuff in some location with questionable security and grab it when needed. (Ideally, at the end of the day I don’t find myself at the car sans pack and keys!) The Broomstick was plenty slim on the lifts so no need to remove, and it carried my skis well. Plus the option to keep my beacon in the zippered pocket contoured into the shovel blade when not needed (bump runs?) was a blessing. I was glad to have a helmet on with my longer handled shovel, as I think there may have been some head-to-handle contact, but my shorter shovel would have eliminated that issue as well.

Shop for the Mystery Ranch Broomstick pack here.

Backcountry Skiing

A small package with skis, probe, shovel and beacon.

After a day of riding the lifts, I headed out to Williams Peak for a little low-risk BC. We had a blue bird day without the typical wind that forms the always breakable cornices on the skin up. Being only the second hike of the season for most of us, we took it slow and enjoyed the calm, cold weather.

Backcountry Skiing

Mt. Sopris, seemingly always above you no matter your vantage point.

From the summit we watched as the next storm seemed to boil and roll around Mount Sopris across the Crystal River Valley. Back up for another lap and we set off in search of foot-deep surface hoar. A classic skip through the main meadow and we called it a day. Despite being super tracked out, Willy’s still provided plenty of untracked on the margins, and was a great safe day.

Backcountry Skiing

I ran a short, quick lap of 13 turns to the East while brownies were enjoyed by Jess and Todd.

Backcountry Skiing

Jess leaving nothing but tracks and smoke in her wake! She's getting her first taste of the BD Shiva and seems to be enjoying herself.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


9 Responses to “Playing Nice – Weekend TR and Broomstick Pack Test”

  1. bc bob January 8th, 2009 8:36 am

    Thought this site was a backcountry site. I read your whole blog hoping you were going to duck a rope and ski a closed area or at least go O B .Can’t wait to read your trip report on skiing the buttermilk halfpipe with your beacon. SKI RESORTS ARE THE LAST RESORT.

  2. Lou January 8th, 2009 8:45 am

    Shew… sometimes the backcountry blends with the frontcountry…especially at Aspen Highlands, and especially when anything steep and uncontrolled is almost certain death. That said, I think Dave already did the pipe with his beacon and shovel, perhaps he’s got a trip report coming (grin)?

    And you didn’t read the whole blog post! The second part is a nice backcountry trip, totally human powered and totally out of ski resort!

  3. brian January 8th, 2009 9:08 am

    Okay, here’s a couple of rules: 1) never play poker with a guy who’s name begins with a city, and 2) never blog about resort skiing with a guy who refers to himself with the letters “bc”.

  4. dave downing January 8th, 2009 9:53 am

    hi Bob. For the record, I will NEVER risk my life ducking a rope for a blog post…it’s a skiing website, not an episode of JackAss.

    as for the buttermilk pipe…you’ve given me some new ideas.

  5. Lou January 8th, 2009 10:00 am

    The way things are going, we’ll have an in-bounds at the pipe next thing you know!

  6. ScottN January 8th, 2009 10:39 am

    If you’re willing to duck a rope around here, then I guess you’re ready to meet your maker…. besides, the fines if caught are too steep for me.

    Thanks for the write up on the new pack Dave. With the way things are, carrying a shovel and beacon seem pretty smart in the Bowl this winter, well, probably always.

  7. Michael Carver January 10th, 2009 12:04 pm


    Did you ever do a follow up to this mod? Why are the comments not available to be seen?

    I was wondering if anyone has ever tried to put a similar shaped piece of metal on the end of a ski pole?


  8. Lou January 10th, 2009 12:15 pm

    Michael, there were no comments on that because it was blogged before we started accepting comments in our second year of operation (or something like that, anyway). I keep the comments closed on many old posts to guard against spam attacks. Since you asked, I opened up the comments so comment at will on that post.

    It was a fun mod, but I don’t find it to be that important to our style of ski touring so I never went farther with it. Besides, it adds weight, and that’s of course the ultimate Dynafit sin. And, when Dynafit’s don’t have brakes it’s easy to switch modes on the fly by inserting pole handle between riser post and boot heel, and rotating while lifting ski up off snow.

  9. Brian February 6th, 2009 2:10 pm

    How big would you say the pocket is on the Broomstick? Could I fit a typical one liter Nalgene in there, or would that be too big? Thanks,

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