Prepare for Colorado Spring Ski Touring — Sperry Guidebooks Essential

Post by blogger | March 15, 2018      

No secret, most of Colorado’s skiers live east of our mountains, and ski what’s known as the “Front Range” due to its facing the city of Denver. While many portions of the “Front” can be a bit thin on snow compared to the heart of the Colorado Rockies, the Front has hundreds (if not thousands) of ski touring options, much of which are best enjoyed during spring. This especially so after the snowpack turns to melt-freeze around April or May (depending on season, elevation and aspect). It is now a few days from being officially springtime here in the Centennial state, so to assist those who desire to partake in the warm and rewarding pursuit of springtime ski touring, let me present the excellent guidebooks written and published by prolific ski alpinist Fritz Sperry.

Making Turns in Colorado Front Range, volumes 1 and 2.

Making Turns in Colorado Front Range, volumes 1 and 2. Author Fritz Sperry is an artist as well as a ski mountaineer, he created the spirited cover paintings. I like the unique feel his art gives his books, rather than the predictable hero shots most guidebooks use for cover photos.

I’ve been stunned of late by the downright biblical details and route count of the backcountry guidebooks popping up over North America and western Europe. This two volume ~600 page set is no exception. Author Sperry does not hold back. Hundreds of well rendered color photos expose every route. Tight data blocks summarize, and got me smiling when I saw they included “sunhit” (e.g., Sunrise+4 hours), which is something I came up with for my early guidebooks, and thought nobody noticed.

A set of somewhat useful maps are included as the last group of pages in each volume, but as with most Colorado ski touring guidebooks the cartography here is minimal, though at least these maps are color printed and fully legible. I’m a fan of author-built detailed mapping, but pulling that off is a world of hurt (I’ll testify) so my take on Sperry’s maps is what you could call a “soft criticism.” Reality, with well written trailhead descriptions, plenty of photos, your smartphone GPS mapping — and the internet — paper guidebook maps have lessened in importance over the years.

The “Making Turns” volumes include fairly short but concise indices, and even a glossary for individuals who have recently seen the light of backcountry skiing. A chart of sunrise-sunset times for Colorado works with the sunhit concept I mentioned above. One glaring omission, especially for skiers seeking moderate routes, is an index of routes arranged according to difficulty. I feel inclined to ignore that as the otherwise stunning amount of information Sperry includes is pretty much all you need. But as one who now seeks out the finer things in life rather than the steepest couloirs, I wouldn’t mind a quick way to find the vintage wine for vintage legs.

Overall, an impressive effort by author Fritz Sperry, and a good example of taking a smaller area and doing highly detailed guidebook coverage. In sum: essential books if you’re ski touring Colorado, especially if you’re a “Front Ranger” looking to stay closer to home.


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12 Responses to “Prepare for Colorado Spring Ski Touring — Sperry Guidebooks Essential”

  1. kevin woolley March 15th, 2018 9:02 pm

    These are top notch guidebooks, and so is his Mosquito Range book. Many of the lines are way above my pay grade, but the ideas and information are detailed and the writing is concise. So glad for the resource.

  2. Rudi March 16th, 2018 9:45 am

    Yeah another vote for these guidebooks. Not only is there a plethora of excellent routes but there is some interesting historical info often thrown in at the beginning of the description.

  3. Crazy Horse March 16th, 2018 6:01 pm

    The next step in personal transportation is self-driving cars.

    With the amount of data being gathered, can virtual skiing be far behind? How great would it to be if every exercise club in the land had a simulator booth where you could experience every sensation of one of 300 runs in the Front Range while never leaving New York? I’m envisioning something like the Norwegian seed bank, where every ski run in the world could be preserved for the snow-less planetary future.

  4. Jim Milstein March 18th, 2018 2:21 pm

    That’s a crazy idea, Crazy Horse! I would like to front you $10M of venture capital to make this real.

  5. Crazy Horse March 19th, 2018 4:05 pm

    Hi Jim,
    I’ll gratefully accept your offer on one condition: That I don’t have to move away from the mountains to Silicone Valley. I wouldn’t do that for less than a billion $ in personal hardship compensation.

    I don’t know if you follow the world of Formula 1 racing, but the simulators in use already have all the necessary complexity for our project. According to Moore’s law they will be reduced to $25 wristwatch size within a decade.

    Prospective Formula 1 drivers are taken directly from the womb and placed in simulators where they are weaned by gradually increasing the amount of g force they can tolerate. By the time they are 17 like Max Verstapen they have driven every track in the world hundreds of times and are ready to be handed the responsibility of representing a team of 400 engineers, aerodynamics specialists and mechanics on behalf of a global multi-billion dollar corporation like Mercedes or Red Bull..

  6. Jim Milstein March 19th, 2018 5:25 pm

    That’s great, Crazy! So all you have to do is tweak a race car simulator to simulate backcountry skiing. Should be easy! They are almost the same.

  7. VT skier March 19th, 2018 5:40 pm

    Re: simulator
    You need one on hydraulic arms, like the airline simulators I spent time in for recurrent training. Just provide a pair of skis you clip into then the moving sim platform replicates the G forces as you ski down !

  8. Jim Milstein March 19th, 2018 6:35 pm

    But what about weather?

  9. Crazy Horse March 20th, 2018 6:39 am

    Weather and climate are both fake news. Just ask the Orange Tweeter! So we’ll just subcontract the weather out to the Washington Post.

  10. Crazy Horse March 20th, 2018 7:16 am

    You are confusing virtual reality with physical reality. In our simulator we don’t want to subject our customers to anything as stressful as actual muscular movement when all we have to do is transmit electrical stimuli to the nerves to make them feel as if they were skiing the Devil’s Thong or other death defying runs.

  11. Fritz Sperry March 20th, 2018 11:54 am

    I gotta say thanks Lou. Not sure my books would exist if I wasn’t so inspired by yours. I also gotta say that the Devils Thong needs to be used for a line name. As far as the simulator goes I know some people at Bally games that would back this I’d think. But instead of a physical simulator perhaps some sort of computer/brain interface a la the Matrix, so you could experience it all from the comfort of the couch. Instead of the blue or red pill it would be the double black or triple black pill 🙂

  12. Lou Dawson 2 March 20th, 2018 3:28 pm

    Thanks for dropping by Fritz! I have to say I’m impressed by you guys who can self publish these things. I was never able to pull that off. In any case, best wishes and be safe, am looking forward to seeing more of your work! Oh, and if I were you, I’d just name a line “Devils Thong” and be done with it, you can do that as a guidebook writer (smile). Lou

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