In the Green Zone — Western Colorado Avy Danger Goes to a Low

Post by blogger | March 14, 2011      

Backcountry skiing in Western Colorado.

This past weekend, Green rated avalanche danger allowed us to ski just about anywhere we felt like going. A long day of skiing resulted, with a few photos snapped in the beautiful late day light. Click image to enlarge.

Here in Colorado, backcountry skiing news is a snowpack in some places that’s stabilized to the unusual point of being rated “Green” in terms of avalanche danger. It’s been like that in the Crested Butte area, as well as the western Elk Mountains. Key with enjoying such conditions is finding areas that still have quality snow rather than breakable crust. This past Saturday we got in another descent on Mount Sopris (our signature mountain near Carbondale, Colorado), but were not impressed with the snow surface. So yesterday we headed farther west and found everything with a northerly tilt to still have a coating of boot-top powder. Along with the above, few more photos from the weekend:

Backcountry skiing in western Colorado.

Backcountry skiing in western Colorado. Click image to enlarge.

In the green zone.

In the green zone. Click image to enlarge.

A quick gear note: I’m on about day 20 for the Dynafit TLT5P boots. My cuff lean mod is holding up and I’m loving my fine tuned forward angle. I swapped my original pair of Intuition Pro Tour liners back into the boots as I’d gotten a better mold with these then the pair I’d aggressively heated to try and reduce forward lean (by making the cuff thinner) before I modded the boot shell. I’ve been doing all this skiing without the TLT5 detachable tongue, and find that the reinforced tongue of the Intuition Pro Tour seems to provide just enough beef to make this configuration viable — though I do feel the need for a bit more forward beef in the boot when I’m on hardpack. Again, the elegantly engineered OEM liner for these boots is desirable if they fit you, but mine simply did not fill enough volume so instead of endless mods to compensate for that, I simply went to the the thicker aftermarket Intuition. Tradeoff is a bit less cuff articulation during the uphill, but for the type of skiing I do that’s not a big deal. Main advantage I’m still noticing with TLT5 is the lack of weight combined with surprisingly good downhill performance. It’s still hard for me to believe, but I’ve dropped about ONE POUND per foot by using these boots. You might not notice it when you save 5 grams by fiddling with your tech bindings. But drop a pound of boot on each foot, and believe me, it can change your life.


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12 Responses to “In the Green Zone — Western Colorado Avy Danger Goes to a Low”

  1. Frank K March 14th, 2011 11:43 am

    The remote-triggered, 6′ crown, full-track slide on Park Cone yesterday doesn’t exactly scream “green”. But yeah, we’re heading that way…

  2. Lou March 14th, 2011 12:07 pm

    I’d agree. But some locations were green, some were not. I alluded to that in the writing. The rose for Crested Butte had some moderate in it as well as low…

    But, I still think the avy ratings are too crude. For example, there needs to be a rating between Low and Moderate. Low should be for when everything is for example locked up tight on a spring morning. Yesterday and today should be something above that, but not quite to the moderate level…

  3. Frank K March 14th, 2011 12:15 pm

    Yeah, just referenced that slide because I found it surprising/interesting

  4. Adam R March 14th, 2011 12:40 pm

    Lou, we did your classic descent of the Silver Couloir on Buffalo Mountain on Saturday and found excellent powder conditions. All other aspects were corn. It seems odd this early in the year to have such a low avy danger.

  5. Ryan March 14th, 2011 1:30 pm

    Love your site. Both the gear and TR related stuff are great. You do a great job of digging into the gear, often literally and we appreciate it. I am curious though if you could total up the retail value of your TLT 5 setup. I understand you have a relationship with Dynafit and lots of old boots and sizes to work with but I think you may have lost many of us long ago with the latest mods.

    I know that usually when I get new boots it means selling off some old boots to help pay for them. Doing the Frankenboot thing is cool and it’s empowering to know it’s possible and to hear of the benefits but you’re putting together parts from how many different boots and what would this setup actually cost the average Joe?

    Just curious and wanting to give you a little good natured ribbing. Thanks.

  6. Lou March 14th, 2011 2:05 pm

    Hi Ryan, well, point taken and humor as well.

    What I did with the TLT 5 was (other than changing the lean lock) normal stuff for any good boot fitter. Here is the list:

    – relocated instep buckle on one side
    – grind small mount of plastic off shoe near ankle bone
    – source and mold aftermarket liner
    – build custom lean lock.

    Interestingly, I didn’t do custom footbeds, which can equal the cost of an aftermarket liner and are perhaps even more common.

    As for the lean lock mod, next year Dynafit will be providing an option similar to what I did, so thus I’ve not created a frankenboot, instead I’m only been a few months ahead of the curve. As for retail value of things I do, just Google the stuff, look at the prices, and add it up.

    Again, I use the bicycle analogy. Most core mountain bikers I know have bikes with dozens or more mods and upgrades, some quite expensive. Why doing this with ski gear should be anything but normal is beyond me. This especially true in my opinion when one is hiking for hours for sometimes one special run.

    Now, if you’re on a tight budget that’s understandable as well. To that end, you can always find tons of deals and we try to address that on occasion in our budget category. But just like bikes, those on a budget shouldn’t begrudge those who make mods, instead, they can just be amused or even do some of the stuff so that-one-special-run they take after 8 hours of sweat and toil is indeed special.

  7. Lou March 14th, 2011 2:09 pm

    Adam, yeah, it happens but only on special years. What’s made it work is the strong midpack from that gigantic storm way back when… Nice to see everyone nailing the big lines when appropriate. On the other hand, beware those pockets as Frank mentioned.

  8. Jason March 14th, 2011 4:53 pm

    Snow is beautiful. Slopes with snow and tracks on them is breath taking! :)!

  9. AndyC March 14th, 2011 7:17 pm

    We’re having just the opposite here in WA near Mt. Rainier; more High Danger days this year than I can remember in any other year. The Park is closing regularly (closed yesterday, the day before, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they close tomorrow and the next day from the weather reports). Very rarely have they closed in the past (more commonly in the last couple of years).

    In response to Ryan: my TLT5s have been great from the git-go, didn’t even therm the liners. Did develop a mod (cost $0.00) for the lean:I like the forward lean for steep descents, but not for traverses and mild descents. So I tried a new mod today after Big Steve gave us something to think about with credit cards. I too the skin-save plastic mesh from my 55 mm Glidelite skins and cut it to a length 2 inches loner than the boot cuff. When I want to ski with the uppers buckled firmly but lightly and [i][b]without[/b][/i] any forward lean, I just slip the plastic mesh down between the outer upper cuff and the inner cuff with the catch for the clasp. Worked well. If the upper buckle is tightened too much it will eventually wear out the web; but keeping the upper just lightly/firmly buckled has little impact on the web. Makes for very decent ski control and good skating.

  10. Paul March 14th, 2011 8:16 pm

    We haven’t seen green in some time here in Oregon. Mt. Hood Meadows experienced a massive avalanche on Thursday, triggered before opening hours by ski patrol using their howitzer. Patrol has posted a nice writeup with photos. Fascinating. Humbling.

  11. Mark W March 14th, 2011 10:15 pm

    I skied up Flattop Mountain today and descended Tydall Glacier and Tyndall Gorge. Almost all of it was so utterly wind scoured that there were no problems to be seen. Used my ski crampons for a good bit of the ascent.

  12. 14er Sports March 20th, 2011 4:31 pm

    I wish I was in Crested Butte skiing right now instead of on the computer in Denver.

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