Independence Pass Opening 2011

Post by blogger | May 27, 2011      

You know those machines that spurt out perfectly whirled ice cream? That’s what Independence Pass, Colorado looks like this spring. They’re saying 300% of normal and of that I have no doubt. We of course had to go do a taste test. Weather a bit funky, windy chilly, but man oh man, things are filled in and ready to rock. More, the snowpack is so thick and solid that you could do all sorts of lengthy tours, even perhaps staying out all day so long as you were off the steeps by the time the snow gets heated. Check it out.

View west from near pass summit, Friday evening. Just caked.

We got in a couple of laps today, dodging the wind by stripping skins a bit lower than normal. Used our pickup camper as a portahut. Sweet. At the trailhead we backed into the snowpack so we had ski-in access to our digs. Doesn’t get any better.

Backcountry skiing Independence Pass, Colorado

The famous Geisslers, one of the most popular touring areas up there. But with about 100 square miles of alpine to play with (and more, with different access), a year like this can be one you'll remember for the rest of your life.

Backcountry skiing Independence Pass, Colorado

This morning on Blue (Twining) Peak, the classic view of Grizzly that's caused many a couloir to be skied.

Backcountry skiing Independence Pass, Colorado

CDOT RULES! They got the Pass open on time with tools like this, a Volvo model L150F monster loader. Every guy that looked at this thing wanted to drive it. CDOT needs to have an appreciation day at the county fair, and give rides.

Backcountry skiing Independence Pass, Colorado

The famous sign at the Pass summit. On days like today you wait in line for a photo.

For info on skiing Inde, check out the Independence Pass guidebook website we’re working on. It’s really really hard work, especially the field research.


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13 Responses to “Independence Pass Opening 2011”

  1. Jason Gregg May 28th, 2011 9:16 am

    Imagine a perfect skate park that’s hundreds of thousands of acres and smoothed to babybutt perfection by God’s inifinite angels. Powder’s great for making bomb holes and all but what they did up at the pass is something you can’t get with a lift ticket. Look at these old photo’s of Tomoka Moon Forrest you’ll see what I mean.

  2. Scott May 28th, 2011 11:44 am

    Great to see you and Lisa up there yesterday Lou! After surviving the frozen windtunnel-esque climb/descent of Blue Peak, hitting Geissler east in good booting condition, and nearly getting blown off the ridge of middle Geissler (which corned up around 12:30 or so) we finally stopped about 1:30pm. Weird to be up there that late. Not exactly a corn harvest, but its coming. All in all just great to be out there.

  3. Tom W May 28th, 2011 12:22 pm

    Can you give me some specifics on your sat phone? What company, use plan and cost and anything else that would be helpful in deciding on carrying one. Thank you,


  4. Christoph May 28th, 2011 1:45 pm

    Fine pictures, Lou! Spring and summer skiing is great! Here in Northern-Norway, at the northern edge of Europe we´re still skiing from about 100 meter above sea-level! Yesterday there was pow all the way down!

  5. naginalf May 28th, 2011 3:57 pm

    Speaking of sat phones, I was just doing some research today and found this plan for only $20/mo:

    And this isn’t available for average consumers (site says biz and gov only) but combines a smartphone AND satphone in one package:

    Hopefully all phones will eventually become sat phones, when roaming and bad reception will become a thing of the past.

  6. ellen May 29th, 2011 2:28 pm

    Did anyone ski the pass today, sunday? Wondering if it froze at all up there….Sure was warm the last two nights in Breckenridge.

  7. Lou May 29th, 2011 7:24 pm

    No problem above timberline, and dense enough below for the exit routes to be fine, just stay off anything steep later in the morning. Froze above timberline. Remember radiation cooling during a clear night is a huge factor. Literally hundreds of skiers up there today. It was great.

  8. Lou May 29th, 2011 7:29 pm

    Naginalf, unless that Globastar plan has some hidden gotchas, it’s a great deal if you want full backcountry comm. Reason I didn’t go with them is it doesn’t work in Europe, and Iridium was also said to work better in AK… Iridium also has a monthly plan, but it’s a lot more expensive. I just buy minutes every year, but I do need to use the phone more as I’m getting quite a few minutes built up.

    Indeed, having satphone in your smartphone would be pretty cool. Especially if your smartphone also had maps and guidebook. But carry spare battery for that option!

  9. Mark W May 29th, 2011 9:45 pm

    Amazing snow depth! I had a similar experience on May 28 at Bridger Bowl. Skied from below the Jim Bridger Lodge and the temp never got above 45 degrees. We skied nice snow and never had to worry about bare spots or sticky, wet spring snow. Guess the season’s peak settled snow depth was 142.9 inches. Truly unheard of!

  10. ellen May 30th, 2011 12:09 pm

    The elusive radiation cooling theory worked today up on Hoosier Pass. A small window of opportunity, but still fun to ski. Now let’s just hope the dust hasn’t arrived because the wind was INTENSE out of the south.

  11. Lou May 30th, 2011 5:03 pm

    Tom, I just carry an Iridium model 9555, “nine triple five” which cost over $1,000 bucks. Ridiculously expensive in my opinion, and I feel very blessed to have it. Probably would not have bought if it wasn’t for Denali trip, but I needed it for an extended period before trip to learn how to do data transfer for blogging, so I bought instead of rented. I now find it quite useful, have even used it to get help with a dead truck at a trailhead with no cell service.

    The plan I use is to buy the minimum minutes a year, there are other ways. I wouldn’t want to price quote that as you can get various use deals.

    In one sense this is expensive, but when you consider what some folks spend on their smart phones and associated data plans, it’s really right in there with other stuff some of us spend such amounts of money on. Best alternative in my view is a Spot messenger.

    I don’t have a smart phone or a phone data plan, so that compensates for quite a bit if not all of my yearly cost.

    IMPORTANT: After extensive use and testing, I can tell you that Iridium is useless for extended voice conversations when you’re located in a mountain valley, canyon, or heavy forest cover. Texting is the key in those situations, but if you got a call back from say a county emergency dispatch and you were located in such a place, it could be frustrating trying to communicate much in the way of detail. One you’re up on the high ground, carrying on extended conversations works fine. You don’t have to be at the top of a ridge or mountain, just where the horizon is at a reasonable angle instead of blocking most of the sky. The reason for this is that the Irididium satellite cluster moves fast, each one 8 minutes from horizon to horizon, and they are separated in such as way to be optimized for a somewhat level horizon. Thus, once you have a smaller chunk of sky to work with, you can end up at times with no satellite to connect to. Orientation of your canyon or valley can change this factor somewhat, but in my experience you’d have to have the perfectly oriented valley to make much of a difference. It’s really too bad the Iridium sats are not a bit closer together and thus better at handling smaller chunks of sky.

    Hope that helps. Lou

  12. Cameron Millard May 30th, 2011 9:03 pm

    Hi Lou,

    It was nice to meet you in the flesh yesterday. Thanks for all you do to better the ski mountaineering community. We had a funky day around Giesler; cold and crusty up high but too wet down low. Any day out is good day though (I’m a new dad).

    All the best,

    Leadville, CO

  13. naginalf May 31st, 2011 12:56 pm

    Apparently, I was wrong about the Terrastart AT&T plan being only available to business and government (website must be out of date). I just went most of the way through amazon checkout with one and included a sat plan (extra $25/mo) for 65¢/min (seems kinda high). Total for the plan was $90/mo plus $900 for the phone. Pricey, but convenient:

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