October Surprise — Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | October 22, 2006      

The amount of snow in Montezuma Basin, Colorado is of historic proportions. Pack is easily 48 inches overall, with areas of six or more feet in the lee of the classic fetches that build the “glacier” we ski on in the summer. Up there yesterday with my son Louie and his buddy Jason from high school.

Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin, Colorado
Yours truly getting it done. I guess the knee surgery worked — after going through that last summer I figured all you blog readers would allow me a shameless brag shot.

Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin, Colorado
Louie Dawson gets away from his homework for a few hours. We got in two laps on the lower ‘Zuma headwall, kinda tired from the long slog up from below timberline. We skied all the way back down to our truck. Though most of the return on the jeep road was pure survival, we did get a few bonus turns here and there and only hit a couple of rocks.

Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin, Colorado
Jason Caudill (16 years old) gets his just reward for the big slog. He kept looking around in awe during the climbing, saying things like, “We’re blessed to live here.” Nice to see a kid who was born in the mountains not take them for granted.

Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin, Colorado
Obligatory trophy shot. Oh yeah!

Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin, Colorado
The 4-wheeling required for this trip was a gas (pun intended). We chained up the front wheels of the Silverado and went gonzo up the Pearl Pass road. Punching out the deeper snow required sawing the steering, turning the wheels rapidly left and right to make progress through deep drifts. Sort of like mudding, only white. Big rooster tails of snow fly up by the windows, and you whip the steering just in time to avoid going off a cliff or t-boning a spruce. The trick is to know when to quit and park, otherwise you get to spend the day digging instead of skiing (unless you’ve got a winch, and we don’t).

Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin, Colorado
Parking spot gives an idea of how plentiful the snow is. This location is down around 10,600 feet. A guy with chains on all four drove a bit farther.

Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin, Colorado
At timberline on the way up. Coverage is amazing, we were able to ski the road all the way back down to parking though the southerly facing areas lower down will require a bit of foot travel after a day or two more of sun. Mountain in the background is Mace peak.


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13 Responses to “October Surprise — Backcountry Skiing Montezuma Basin”

  1. Dave Bourassa October 22nd, 2006 4:37 pm

    Best October on record? At least in my life span.

  2. Scott October 22nd, 2006 4:49 pm

    Nice shots (pics and pow) Lou. Looked like an awesome day up there! Knew I should have headed up there too. Oh well. I just wonder when this global warming thing is supposed to hit ? And the “Death of snow” as skico put it a while back? Hmm…..

  3. Lou October 22nd, 2006 4:49 pm

    Mine too Dave, 55+ years and nothing comes close…

  4. Mark Worley October 22nd, 2006 8:02 pm

    Whew, that’s something! I’m just about to buy some skis that would be perfect for such conditions. Glad you guys can really enjoy it. Maybe that article in Powder Magazine from about 15 years ago that jokingly suggested that global warming (which was a luke warm topic at best then) could produce more snow was correct eh? Blessed indeed!

  5. Mike Marolt October 22nd, 2006 9:24 pm

    Lou: I agree; best dang skiing in a long time. M

  6. Derek October 22nd, 2006 10:26 pm

    I’m proposing a ban on all Colorado websites until the rest of North America has snow. You guys are killing everyone else with jealousy. Sound like a deal? Perhaps humanitarian in nature;)

  7. Lou October 23rd, 2006 5:23 am

    Mark, where in the world did they say that incredibly politically incorrect thing in Powder Magazine, which issue? We’d come up with that concept here on WildSnow.com (that of global warming producing more snowfall in continental climes), but I thought we might of been first. Shucks.

    Derek, law of averages will apply and you’ll get your revenge.

    In my view Colorado’s big fall and winter this time around has to be compensated for by a drier year. That’s when the global warming zealots will have their “see I told you so” moment of glory. Then we’ll have another wet year. Then another dry year. And so forth. Like it’s been doing for a couple million years. To give the zealots their due: Warmer atmosphere in the future will no doubt cause snow line to be higher in spring and fall, but we’ve got 14,000 feet of elevation to play with, so that’ll help. And a deeper snowpack compensates for warmer temps, as in the Northwest.

    Montezuma snowfield could quickly become a glacier again if we get huge winters — despite global warming or perhaps because of it. Law of unintended or unforeseen consequences…

  8. Walt Burger October 23rd, 2006 7:20 am

    Scott Mark and Lou,
    Guess you guys didn’t make it up to the basin about 6 years ago when a large bergshrund opened up on the upper snowfield .You guys make me think of someone smoking a lucky strike through a tracheotomy hole in their neck. I will burn something to please Ullr and ask for his forgiveness.

  9. Carl P October 23rd, 2006 7:29 am

    I’m going to have to go with Derek on this one….no more Colorado Updates…photos, blogs, thoughts….nothing, until the rest of us get snow. I’m sitting here in Jackson, WY and things are bare, bare, bare. We got about 4 inches up on the pass…I’m sure that there were folks up there this weekend…much to the joy of all the orthopedic docs in town. So Lou, for our sake, Just Say No!

  10. Scott Newman October 23rd, 2006 7:16 am

    Lou, We went up on Sunday but detoured over to Tagert hut. conditions above the huts were bony, at best. We were able to ski to within several hundred yards of the car (at Campsite 1) but it was pretty rocky. What a beautiful day in the mountains. I agree with Jason’s sentiments, we truly are blessed. I rode my mountain bike in Fruita on Saturday and skied on Sunday, how good is that?

  11. Sky October 23rd, 2006 9:05 am

    Now that’s a blog! Enough of this junk about stupid high mountains on other continents, gear distributors, snowmobiles, blah blah blah… Show us the goods!

    Happily, not too jealous here in Washington, since the glaciers should get the goods this week. We’ll see.

    Oh yeah, congratulations on your successful knee repair. Hope it works well for you.

  12. Mark Worley October 23rd, 2006 3:44 pm

    Wish I had even a single old issue of Powder. Dumped them all. Perhaps a little research will uncover when that article was published. It was at least 12 years ago, perhaps 15 or more.

  13. Lou October 23rd, 2006 5:28 pm

    Good memory there guy…

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