WildSnow Austrian Invasion – Part 1

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 4, 2011      

After years of tempting these guys with tales of Colorado cold smoke and American hamburgers, we finally got a visit from Fritz Barthel (inventor of the tech binding) and his friend Riki Leitner. They flew in from Austria and stayed for about ten days. We got in eight full days of backcountry skiing, capped by a beautiful climb and descent of Mount Sopris, our signature mountain out of WildSnow HQ in Colorado (12,953 feet, 3,948 meters). Here is the Sopris report (photos by Fritz and Lou).

Backcountry skiing Mount Sopris, Colorado.

Riki lays down an Austrian arc. Backcountry skiing Mount Sopris, Colorado. Click image to enlarge.

Mount Sopris backcountry skiing route

Best winter route for Sopris follows a skiable ridge line that climbs the farther east and lower false summit. You can simply return from there, or continue along the ridge to the eastern main summit. Connecting the two involves a small amount of walking, but almost always results in a satisfying ski descent that includes making turns from the summit down a long corniced ridge, then skiing down from the far east lower summit. The idea is to avoid avy danger in the big bowls. Problem with this route is a huge amount of walking to access the east ridge base. It's legal to snowmobile to a good starting point. I tried, but the sled tipped over near the beginning so we walked most of the route anyway, rather than spending an hour and a zillion calories getting the snowmobile up the trail.

Starting out with snowmobile to Mount Sopris.

Starting out with snowmobile to Mount Sopris. Nice to knock of a few miles of slogging, but we were soon on foot.

Alas, the petroleum powered component of the trip was short and sweet.

Alas, the petroleum powered component of the trip was short and sweet. Mr Tippy (otherwise known as our !!&&****$$$Yamaha Nytro, dug a ski into some depth hoar, rolled me off, and had to be rescued with rope pulley. My personal rule is after one or two of those little events I leave the thing and walk. So we did. Result was quite a long slog to where we normally sled to, which I of course described to Fritz and Riki as a 'nice walk.' After a few hours they knew I'd lied and Fritz explained to me that next time I visit them in Austria, he too would take me on a 'nice walk.' Ouch.

Nearing completion of the 'nice walk,' we're finally at the base of the climb.

Nearing completion of the 'nice walk,' we're finally at the base of the climb.

Fully Dynafitted Austrians on American soil. Elk Mountains and Capitol Peak in background.

Fully Dynafitted Austrians on American soil, Sopris East Ridge. Elk Mountains and Capitol Peak in background. Click image to enlarge.

Myself and Riki at summit. A windy day, but the skiing was still quite good.

Myself and Riki at summit, looking north. A windy day, but the skiing was still quite good and this is the ideal place to take guests new to the area as they can see how everything is laid out. With lightweight gear and skins with good glide, the walk to east Sopris is really not that bad. I'm surprised it's not done more frequently. Nonetheless, snowmobile access makes the trip much more pleasant in my opinion. Click image to enlarge.

The classic image of skiing off Sopris summit. Looking east at Capitol Peak.

The classic image of skiing off Sopris summit. Looking east at Capitol Peak. Click image to enlarge.

Lower reaches of the East Ridge yield nice pitches for backcountry skiing.

Lower reaches of the East Ridge yield nice pitches for backcountry skiing. The snow here was wind blown and a bit crusty, but modern skis could still carve pleasantly. Fluffy pow is of course the best, but I've come to enjoy this winded stuff when I can get my skis close together and make classic arcs. Austrian inspiration helps.

Gonzo mountain.

We of course had to take our Euro guests to the Woody Creek Tavern downvalley from Aspen, where the late Hunter Thompson held his Gonzo reign. This photo hangs on the wall of the Tavern, and seemed somehow apropos to Fritz and Riki's visit.

Fritz and Riki are now safely back in Austria, and I’m editing the photos of our other seven days of powder. More of those soon. Meanwhile, nice to honor Mount Sopris!



16 Responses to “WildSnow Austrian Invasion – Part 1”

  1. Joe R March 4th, 2011 11:04 am

    I guess you Coloradans are all snow leopards but us Beast coasters can only be known as “Ghost Cats” from now on…

    Time to move westward it seams…


  2. Dostie March 4th, 2011 11:13 am

    Nice view off Sopris. That’s worth an overdue trip to Colorado….soon as gas prices settle down. I was almost jealous of the sled approach until you pointed out how far away it failed to overcome overturning. 😉

    Reminds me of my early days with 4×4’s thinking I might save time with petro-power extending the trailhead boundary but ended up spending more time cleaning up what my macho attitude created behind the wheel of too much horsepower and not enough brains. Ha!

  3. naginalf March 4th, 2011 12:22 pm

    Lou, you should have gotten yourself a couple of these personal jet packs like this guy:
    Who needs a snowmobile or skins when you have a jetpack, lol!

  4. Lou March 4th, 2011 12:28 pm

    Nagin, where do I sign up? Do they take Visa?

  5. naginalf March 4th, 2011 1:33 pm

    Although, this 50 pounder doesn’t look nearly as small as the one on that skier’s back, and frankly, I think it may have been a hoax. None the less, it can be done, like on this 75mph jet bicycle:

  6. steveo March 4th, 2011 3:45 pm

    8 days of BC skiing? Is wildsnow.com hiring interns? Ha!

    I’ll bet it was an honor to entertain and ski with the Dynafit guru. Great report.

  7. sherryb March 4th, 2011 4:36 pm

    I like that…the “Mr. Tippy” thing. We have 2 of those on our SAR team and I will run and fight for the loud 2-strokes to avoid getting stuck with one of our Mr. Tippys. 😈 Most of our team members, who skin more than ride feel that way about those machines. Put a rescue pack on your back and you double the Mr. Tippy effect. Arghhh! 😯 I can totally identify with your problem. Maybe you should let one of the Austrians try to ride the “thing”. 😉

  8. patb March 4th, 2011 10:53 pm

    Nice pictures! Good to see you you representing Seattle’s Feathered Friends Lou!

  9. Scott Nelson March 5th, 2011 4:45 pm

    Looked like a great day up there. The Dynafit guru in our own backyard. Cool. Can’t wait to see what else you skied.

  10. Carl Pelletier March 6th, 2011 8:51 pm

    Great to host the Euro Exchange Lou. Glad that you and Lisa could be the ambassadors of the US bc. I do miss that Mt. Sopris. Thanks for the great pics. Did you have a nice bonfire in the parking lot?

  11. Dave March 8th, 2011 3:49 pm

    As much as it pains me to admit, I’ve taken time to practice “sledding only” in deep meadows and on hills to hone the skills needed to get where I want to go. Terms like “sidehilling, carving”, etc. have new meaning to me now and help immensely, when needed, during sled/ski trips. The “old school” methods of “flat turning” and “sit down” riding just don’t work on these maneuverable “mtn sleds” anymore. Take a day or two with a skilled “sledder” and practice some of the finer points. They will help you on the next access day! Good luck!


  12. Lou March 8th, 2011 4:00 pm

    Dave, I’m trying, I’m trying. Problem is, when the trail is eight feet wide with trees and cliffs to the side, fancy carving such as counter steering, while towing skiers, is a bit iffy to say the least. Take my word for it and other’s as well, the first generation Nytro is more tippy than other mountain sleds. Heavier and with a higher center of gravity, and with a certain position of the skis that cause it to tip over so easily it’s a joke. I can replicate in my garage. It is a fundamental design flaw in the suspension. Aftermarket skis might be a big help, so I’m looking at those. Already did a bar riser (essential, amazing it was sold without) and some suspension mods. Will probably sell the sled next winter and get a Skido Summit or something like that.

    Another known problem with the Nytro is the engine braking. You let off on the throttle, and rather than getting a nice smooth coasting effect, it’s like slamming on the brakes. This also causes handling problems as it loads the front end too abruptly to react to unless you’re a 19 year old sledneck, and even then I’ve not seen one 19 year old sledneck on a Yamaha Nytro…

  13. mc March 8th, 2011 6:00 pm

    The throttle is my friend, the throttle is my friend.

    And sitting down is bad, very bad.

    Have fun lads!

  14. Lou March 8th, 2011 6:21 pm

    I’m on it with the throttle. Sometimes nailing it is just dumb. And I wasn’t sitting down. Promise. But 155 lbs of skinny Lou doesn’t do the same thing as a 195 lb sledneck. Promise. More beer?

  15. mc March 8th, 2011 7:25 pm

    More beer has never hurt . :mrgreen:

  16. Lou March 8th, 2011 7:35 pm

    Perhaps I should be carrying a suitcase in a fanny pack. Now that would provide some ballast for those sidehills.

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