Mount Sopris Powder Farming

Post by blogger | March 9, 2009      

When gale winds blow like a sandblaster on the high peaks, you can still summit. If you want. But you might choose some powder farming instead, or perhaps a classic point-to-point tour. A bit of weekend stoke from such decisions. Check it out.

Backcountry skiing on Mount Sopris.

Photos from Sunday, since it was prettier (Saturday we did the ‘Little Haute Route’ from Snowmass Resort to Buttermilk). That’s yours truly skiing just below timberline on Mount Sopris, famed fourteener Capitol Peak in the background. We drove Mr. Tippy up the Mount Sopris access trail and parked at the boundary of the non-motorized area. No poacher tracks. Good. As illegal sledders used to track this area up so heavily you couldn’t find any skiing. Wind and poor snow quality in the alpine obviated a summit ski descent, so we found a pow field to till. Yikes, I’m turning into a powder snob and I haven’t skied the Wasatch since last winter! Click image to enlarge.

Lisa on the way home.

Lisa headed from the field back to the barn. Click image to enlarge.
Backcountry Skiing

Lou again, lap number?

Backcountry Skiing

Parking areas are well signed.

Backcountry Skiing

And...Mr. Tippy did quite well on this trip so I gave him a kiss. He doubles as a ski drying rack when he's not raging.


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17 Responses to “Mount Sopris Powder Farming”

  1. Cory March 9th, 2009 10:42 am

    You should have invited Koch. Have could have put a few rounds in that sign on his way to the top. Then, he could plant a flag of civil disobedience on the summit and apologize for it all later.

  2. Lou March 9th, 2009 10:49 am

    Hmmm, I’ll pass on that one Cory (grin), though that sign would look better with a few slug holes in it, as does any sign in the backcountry. In all seriousness, yesterday I found to be a truly good example of divided use. I’m still not the biggest fan of such, but when it works it works — even if it’s just for a day. The legal sled trail we used is quite appropriate as a mechanized route, yet provides perfect access for the high quality climbing and skiing. Works great, unless the skiing area gets poached by the sledders. I do feel like the sledders gave up (or were basically forced to leave) a lot of non-wilderness terrain on Sopris that they enjoyed for years and was rarely visited by skiers, so anyone on their case should actually be saying thanks. Just think about it, when was the last time a skier was asked to give up good terrain for a snowmobiler? I supposed it’s probably happened, but I can’t think of an example.

  3. Dostie March 9th, 2009 11:34 am

    Just lead a tour over the weekend for, California’s human powered advocate and organization for limiting the spaces where ‘biles can roam. The rhetorical question of the day was, “how do we kill snowmobilers with kindness so we don’t have use conflicts in the backcountry?”

    There were no good answers. The reigning school of thought seems to be to limit them through legal maneuvers. My problem with that is two fold. First, it creates an acrimonious relationship immediately. I’ll admit I’m not too fond of snowmobiles, but mostly due to the minority who let the throttle get to their head. Secondly, once this becomes the default way of dealing with conflicts, you can practically guarantee that confilict issues will never cease.

    It would be nice to see a resolution that both sides agreed to outside of a court room. I like Lou’s approach of showing responsible use of a sled in the backcountry, in partnership with backcountry skiing.

  4. Dostie March 9th, 2009 11:36 am

    BTW, that’s some pretty thin POW compared to the Sierra Cement we’ve been blessed with recently. 😉

  5. mike suitter March 9th, 2009 1:30 pm

    20 years ago the snowmobiles couldn’t access what we’ve been skiing all along so we have given up a lot to the high powered machines.

  6. Lou March 9th, 2009 1:12 pm

    Hey, pow is pow even if it’s boot top, thank you very much (g).

  7. Lou March 9th, 2009 1:33 pm

    Dostie, one of the reasons I’m mostly opposed to Snowlands and other “anti” organizations is that they’ve gone so far to the ban ban ban approach. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record I know, but why in tarnation do they not see that they’re opening the door to all user groups being banned when there are conflicts? I just see this coming clear as day, as many environmentalists see humans as the problem, period, mechanized or not. Just watch what happens with Lynx habitat… the skiers ban the snowmobiles then the Lynx ban the skiers (as has already happened with at least one hut). Just wonderful.

    I just wonder what’ll happen when the Lynx start eating an endangered mouse. Will the mouse ban the Lynx (grin)?

    Sure, some bans are necessary in any part of life, and some legal Wilderness is a good thing. But how far do we go with this?

    Also, for those of you in Europe who feel so high and mighty about not allowing much or any snowmobile use, please continue to ignore the web of cable cars and industrial ski resorts that take their place in many (if not most) parts of the Alps. Assuming we continue with legal Wilderness and user group control here in the United States, I’ll go out on a limb and say our way is better. In other words, I’d rather see a snowmobile trail skirting Mount Sopris than a permanent cable car installation dumping thousands of people an hour on the summit. And let’s not forget that placing a gate on a road is a lot easier than tearing down a ski resort, if we decide a place needs more preservation.

  8. Seth March 9th, 2009 2:04 pm

    Corn Farming….

    Anyone in blog land have any recommendations for an Eastern Sierra Corn trip? I’m headed down 1st week in May. I have some things on the tick list already, but wondering if anyone out there might have any suggestions or “must do” tours.



  9. Colin March 9th, 2009 4:25 pm


    Buy this book if you haven’t yet:

    Go over to TTips and post up closer to the time you’re heading out and monitor the “Sierra Conditions Thread.”

    The usual advice is: Twin Lakes, Tioga Pass (the road may open from the East at that point, depends on the year), Mosquito Flat, Mammoth Crest, etc. It’s highly condition- and road-opening dependent.


    Thanks for the photos Lou!

  10. Colin March 9th, 2009 4:27 pm

    Also Seth…

    This is updated sporadically:

    And you’ll want to check this:

    If you search around on TelemarkTips, there’ve been at least two recent inquiries about May on the Eastside.

  11. Jack March 9th, 2009 9:51 pm

    That’s right, Lou! Pow is pow and it’s like sex. When it’s good it’s great ,and when it’s bad it’s still pretty good.

    Did you say you need more Lynx? AK sent a bunch to CO a few years ago. I share my Backdoor Trail with at least one; he often uses my ski track.

  12. Pete March 9th, 2009 10:56 pm

    After boot packing up concrete on a South-facing slope @ the East Portal of Moffat tunnel, I’ve got my eyes set on some spring skiing. This got me thinking about some experiences skiing last summer: If I took a bad step while boot packing up during some day trips last year, I would’ve had a long, painful trip sliding down. Anyway, I’m thinking of buying either a Whippet or ice axe. I’ve consulted Freedom of the Hills about proper ice axe use (and hope that I never need to actually use one), but I couldn’t find anything good about a Whippet, but I assume you could use it in a similar manner.

    Anyway–what would you recommend? A whippet or ice axe for the ascent? Is there a good source of info on proper whippet techniques?

  13. Lou March 10th, 2009 6:41 am

    Pete, I use Whippets quite a bit as do many folks I know (thanks Andrew, who designed them). They’re problematic however, as they are much less effective than an ice axe in a real self arrest situation, and may give you a false sense of security on the up. What’s more, they’re not appropriate if you fall much while skiing as they (obviously) can cause injury in a tumble. On the upside, they’re a terrific climbing aid and do offer a measure of security on steep slopes. They also double as a useful tool for a variety of purposes, all the way from latching Dynafit bindings to an easy way to attach your ski poles to the snow while taking photos.

    An ice axe is MUCH more effective for self arrest, but neither axe nor Whippets work once you’re really falling down something steep. On steeper slopes they only work if the arrest is performed in the same instant as you begin falling — a problematic conjecture in skiing, since you’re already moving, somtimes at a good clip.

    Learning how to use an ice axe for self arrest requires practice, and if you really want to get the most out of it, such practice should be coached and done on more than one day. For example, knowing the theory of what you do in a headfirst fall on your back down steep snow is one thing, but reacting instinctively in the correct fashion is quite another. It’s not a bad idea to practice with Whippets as well, though their use in a fall is much more instinctive than how an ice axe is used.

    So, what to use and when? One approach I use is to carry Whippets, but also a super lightweight ice axe. I then try to mix and match which tools I’m using for a given section of a climb. Other times I’ll leave the Whippets at home and just bring the axe (sometimes a beefier one), especially if the skiing is not that radical but the climbing involves some exposure. Still other times I’ll leave the axe at home and bring the Whippets, especially if the climbing isn’t that radical. For summer hiking, I’d venture to say you’d definitely want an axe instead of Whippets, as summer snow is frequently dense and hard, and arresting on anything steep by using a Whippet would not be nearly as effective as an axe.

    But it all comes down to judgment (as they mention in Freedom of the Hills). You have to know your tools and your goals, then adjust accordingly both when packing for a trip and while on the climb, or trail.

    As for a hiking axe, if you’re light packing a good approach is to leave the trekking poles at home and just use an axe with an adjustable length shaft, which doubles as a walking stick. See this example.

  14. Seth March 12th, 2009 4:41 pm


    Thanks for the links, I’m looking forward to checking that area out. Just ordered up some crampons from B&D, psyched to put them into action.

    Lou- on a different note- Is there an obvious way to post a question to you and those viewing your blog without taking a thread off topic?

  15. Lou March 12th, 2009 5:19 pm

    Hi Colin, to ask questions first just type it or something similar in the search box and see what posts come up, then just leave the question on the most appropriate post. With more than 1,300 blog posts you’re bound to find one that fits your question. And our amazing group of commenters may give you all sorts of excellent info! If comments are disabled for the post you find, fire me an email and I’ll turn them back on. If it’s something way off any topic, let me know and I’ll start that “Random Questions” post I’ve been meaning to do forever. Also, if I ever get more than 10 people wanting us to install some web forums, I’d be game to give that a go at this point now that we’ve upgraded our server yet again.

  16. MJ Hall March 12th, 2009 9:48 pm

    Lou, your explanation on the whippet and the ice ax is helpful. Do you carry your crampons with you all the time?

  17. Lou March 13th, 2009 5:43 am

    No need to carry crampons all the time, at least for the skiing we usually do.

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