(Please note, this TR covers our Monday adventure, but publication got delayed because of a snafu and another ski expedition. Take my word for it, the snow in Marble is now baked down mank. Don’t go. Ski Aspen Mountain instead.)
Yeah, I know, day five was going to be Eagle bindings. Shucks, that got delayed (look for it in a few days). Instead…
This past Sunday was a crazy thaw day that most avalanche prognosticators rated “considerable” on into Monday, since a rowdy winter storm on the horizon was figured to drop a boatload of snow on top of a thawing and unstable midpack. They were correct about the new precip, but somehow the dishrag mank held steady, and the new snow stuck to the old surface like epoxy on cardboard. Thus, with our son Louie still home from Pacific Northwest college and jonesing for more backcountry two planking, pursuit of smokey COLORADO powder was our destiny.
So, after checking the avy reports Monday morning I surfed over to some local snow reports. Six to eight inches here and there -- not exceptional for our resorts -- but up in the 'powder triangle' I knew we'd find twice that. So we headed for the Marble, Colorado area. With the 'Considerable' rating in the back of my mind, I wondered if even driving the Quarry Road was wise, but I figured the drop in temperature would prevent any huge climax slides that could reach the road, and the amount of new snow wasn't enough to make for huge slabs, so good. Even so, we did turn our beacons on for the drive (as usual, and note, everyone, please do turn on the beepers when you drive the quarry road. You're crossing under at least fourteen avalanche paths.) Photo above: Louie finds the Colorado white room.
We stuck to totally safe zones for our first lap. But our snowpit revealed a bomber midpack with the new snow glued to a dirty ice lens from a mud/rain start to the storm. From our pit and general observations after cutting some test slopes, we rated avy hazard as low to moderate, and would have gone for a low if it hadn't been storming hard (it was snowing about an inch an hour). We got slightly more agro on our second lap, but still kept out of the main avalanche path as I simply do not ski that thing during storms, as danger can increase to deadly levels from one lap to the next, and the powder frenzy can make you stupid. Visibility was crumby anyway, so by sticking to our favorite tree runs we had good visibility and super safe fun. (During our first climb we noticed another group gang skiing the avalanche path. What's up with that? Darwin Award auditions?)
OK, 5 Days of Black Diamond. That's Louie with his original model Verdicts and his Alias Avalung backpack. The young man is skiing well, it's so fun taking photos I'm thinking of leaving my point-and-shoot at home next time and bringing the SLR. (But then, do I really want to lug that thing around when the Canon A720 does this well?)
I always try to get a grab shot as the skier comes by me. Shutter speed was a bit low on this one, but I like it anyway. Oh, and those are indeed Black Diamond ski poles. Flicklock, to be exact. One thing Louie does that I really like is he doesn't use pole straps. One you get in the habit of that, you're eliminating the possibility of shoulder injury from a trapped pole, as well as upping your odds if you do get caught in a slide.
Ah, yes. The ubiquitous lifestyle shot? Or too posed? Either way, yeah, those are original model Black Diamond Verdicts, probably one of the two best Colorado human powered powder ski models ever made (the other is Dynafit Manaslu). They're light for their width (foam core), with an interestingly subdued sidecut that provides a somewhat unique but reliable ride that's not so hot on hardpack but great in anything soft. Louie says they're a cult ski on Mount Baker, and he's been offered good money for his, no questions asked. I'm not sure what Black Diamond's present equivalent is to the early Verdict. Though a bit heavy, Kilowatt perhaps comes closest in downhill performance.That's the Dynafit Comfort binding, and of course the Alias Avalung backpack is providing stowage. Good trip. More tomorrow.
Kilowatt ski review.
Shop for BD Verdict and Dynafit Manaslu here.