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|Louie skiing Kairns Chute down from Snowmass Resort. Saturday was last day open for Snowmass. This time of year the key to backcountry fun is access to the alpine. Snowmass provides good high elevation terrain, both backcountry and inbounds. We caught the lift when it opened then skinned a short distance up Baldy Mountain, where we could access a chute known as Kairns. We dropped Kairns (about 1,500 vert) into the East Snowmass Creek drain. We then toured up the drainage to the base of a beautiful mountain known as Willoughby.|
|At the Kairns entrance you get a good view of Willoughby. Turned out we might have done better by skinning farther up Baldy and descending a different chute into East Snowmass Creek, but we didn’t know which chutes were in and Kairns was a sure bet.|
|Lisa gets the summit of Willoughby. One of the best things about this peak is you’re in the middle of Colorado’s stunning Elk Mountains. That is indeed 14er Pyramid Peak in the background.|
|Our view of Baldy Ridge west face — click image for huge enlargement. These backcountry skiing couloirs and goat lines are popular descents accessed from Snowmass Resort. Longer drops are about 2,000 vertical feet. Return is accomplished by skiing a tricky route down the valley then taking a traverse on an irrigation ditch and road back to the ski area, or else simply climbing back up the peak. Quite a few people were skiing the Baldy lines while we were on Willoughby. While working our way down the valley we met one guy named Will who reminded me how the valley exit route worked, as I hadn’t been here in years. Thanks Will!|
|Louie skiing off Willoughby. Snow conditions were interesting. The snow was wintry rather than spring corn, so we took a conservative line as we figured the day’s warmth might weaken the pack. The day stayed fairly cool, however, so conditions remained quite safe and we saw no natural avalanches.|
|The eye burning Star Lite boots get their first taste of Colorado spring backcountry “skiing” and now have a more earth toned look.|
|Group portrait with lots of backcountry Zeal.|
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.