Guest Blog — Starting My Backcountry Skiing Season – by Jason Caudill


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | November 18, 2006      

Jason Caudill

Editor’s note: A few weeks ago my teenage son and his friend Jason were my partners on a Colorado backcountry skiing mission near Aspen. We headed out to enjoy some of our amazing early season goods, and returned with large smiles. I filed a ski touring trip report back then, but this came through the mail slot recently from Jason and looked like a fun article to share.

We pull up in the truck about 9 a.m. All of us get out our packs and end up checking our gear a few times. On the first day of skiing, that deep gut feeling that you have forgotten something important is always there. As we finish pack checks Lou pulls out hunter’s orange for us to put on the packs. This reminds me, it’s only mid October. Getting off to an early start this year. Gonna go P-tex scrape our way down the mountain on the first thin snow of the season, at least that’s what passes through my mind.

We hike up the road past Pearl Pass turnoff and on up into Montezuma Basin. The switchbacks get me breathing pretty good. It’s tough to start out up at 12,000 – 13,000 feet this early in the year. We get to where we can see the Montezuma face and it’s completely virgin. I think I feel some drooling starting… As I salivate over this beautiful sight, my mind is gone; here we are in the middle of October and we are headed up to ski virgin snow… probably rocky but hey, it’s virgin snow. I had forgotten what that looked like.

Louie and I stop to grab a quick bite at the base of the slope and have to catch up to Lou who is already cruising up and isn’t even thinking about his knee surgery this summer. All that’s passing through his mind is getting the first tracks of the season. We head up to the top and the skins are whipped off and we’re ready to go. Standing at the top of something that beautiful gets anyone’s heart going. Looking across at the peaks freshly dusted in whiteness and fading down into the green valley is breathtaking.

Backcountry skiing.
First turns of the season. Montezuma basin, Colorado.

Lou skis down and slices across the fresh powder and across the lip. Nothing budges. No sound of skis hitting rocks. I forgot, this is a permanent summer snowfield that’s been getting coated with new snow for the last few weeks. No chance of rocks being here. Louie takes off. From the top all I see is his trail of powder dust. I’m shaking now. All I hear the whole way down is “YEAH!, WOOOHOOO”. I see him at the bottom and so it’s my turn. Shaking a little I head on down over the roll and make my first tracks of the season in knee deep powder. Lou comes down; some more whooping and hollering, and we skin up for one more run to finish off the day. Six sets of tracks are left as we head out. Beautiful way to start out the season, couldn’t have gone any better.



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Comments

7 Responses to “Guest Blog — Starting My Backcountry Skiing Season – by Jason Caudill”

  1. Mark Worley November 18th, 2006 7:43 am

    Nice guest blog. Any thoughts of untracked that early make the skier drool–and daydream. I climbed a peak with a buddy back about ten years ago and it was October. We had no idea we’d be post-holing in deep, dry snow. It was beautiful, but we’d rather have skinned and skied that peak instead. Hope the winter progresses with a safe snowpack–and a deep one.

  2. TeleTim November 19th, 2006 6:40 am

    You put orange on to skin up into Montezuma Basin?

    That is quite paranoid.

  3. Lou November 19th, 2006 7:04 am

    Tim, not paranoid at all. We started low in timber during a rifle season, and there were still quite a few hunters around. In fact, as we drove to parking we passed a group headed out. We’re all elk hunters and consider it a common courtesy to wear orange when doing backcountry activities in hunting territory as it’s much easier for someone glassing from a distance to immediately ID you as human, and it could add an element of safety in certain situations. Indeed, we didn’t need orange when we got up higher, and once we had our helmets on the orange hats were off.

    What’s paranoid and weird is when people put orange on their dogs and not themselves when they’re out jogging. What elk hunter ever shot a dog !?

  4. Joel November 20th, 2006 7:52 am

    Possibly it’s because I don’t hunt – but doesn’t it seem that it would make more sense to cloak a dog (4 legged creature) in orange than yourself (2 legged creature)? It scares the crap out of me to think that a hunter would potentially squeeze a shot off at a tall, 2 legged human without taking the time to realize it looks nothing like a deer or elk. Am I missing something? I guess it seems to me that it’s much easier to mistake a big husky for a wolf (that shouldn’t be shot anyway) or a smaller dog for a Canadian lynx (that is being shot illegally in southern Colorado currently).

  5. Lou November 20th, 2006 8:25 pm

    It’s not always that easy. When the light isn’t good or there are trees and brush, it’s tough sometimes to figure out what you’re looking at. Prime rule is to totally ID target before shooting, and most hunters are good about that which is why you don’t get elk hunters shooting other elk hunters that often. So what I’m talking about is more courtesy then anything else I guess, as having some orange on means you don’t have some guy across the valley spending time trying to figure out what you actually are when the light is in his eyes and he’s looking through a screen of trees.

  6. Teletim November 21st, 2006 5:19 am

    Anyone ever heard of a hunter shooting a hiker, or BC skier, for that matter? I never have.

    In fact, 99% of all hunting accidents are either hunter on hunter, or the hunter shooting himself (rarely herself for reason).

    I think it is pretty funny to see people hiking the Ute Trail in the middle of the day while wearing an orange vest, hat, and waving a hunter’s orange flag.

    I wonder if the general non-hunting public thinks hunters are using AK-47s and they just blast the woods until they find something that is brown and down.

    I hunted the Castle Creek valley during the first rifle, elk only season.

    The reason I say it is paranoid is that to get up into Montezuma you basically drive out of any good hunting before you even skin up.

    Anyway, it is kind of an interesting time when I am glassing a hillside, and I can see cars going buy with skis on the roof.

  7. Lou November 21st, 2006 9:15 am

    Teletim, I agree. Like I said, we mostly wear the orange for courtesy, and for the rare but remotely possible occurrence that someone might be confused as to our identity in early morning or evening hours, or with poor visibility. We elk hunt, so we know you are right about people on the hiking trail looking like fools waving their red flags around. When I see that, I think they’re either ignorant or trying to make an anti hunting statement. On the other hand, like I said, having a bit of orange on is simply a nice thing and makes it easier for everyone.

    Also, I say again about Montezuma Basin, we began our hike fairly low in the timber and there were hunters around, though it looked like the elk had already migrated to lower elevations.

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