Mayflower Gulch

This is an image of Mayflower Gulch from just below the mine. On the left of center is Fletcher Mountain with "Drift Peak" the prominent one on the right .


Definitely Spring

Ahh yes, Spring in the mountains, probably one of the most inconsistent times of year weather-wise. I guess its the same anywhere, but here it can really play havoc on snow conditions. One day its soft, the next day its ice. Take this weekend for example.

Saturday my friend Drew and I decided it would be a good day for a nice snowshoe hike. I suggested going to Mayflower Gulch, an area he had never been and one I wanted to check out for some potential spring skiing. The day was pretty warm and definitely sunny. After about 20 minutes of hiking (without hats and gloves) we decided we were still warm and ditched the jackets too. It was probably in the mid to upper 40's with a bright warm sun. Glad I had the sunscreen on or I would be a lobster right now! It took about an hour and a half to hike up the road to the old abandon mine camp. There were several old buildings here, some in reasonably good shape. The one even still had an intact roof, that was covered in a thick blanket of snow. Above us in the basin below Villa Ridge were several snowmobile and skier track, definitely a place I want to come back to with my skis some time. It looks like a lot of fun. After our hike we headed to Frisco for some barbeque for lunch, that place will definitely be added to my "have to eat there again" list! Back home the thermometer read 55 degrees, a beautiful spring day for sure!

Sunday was another story, I awoke to it snowing sideways out side, in fact my car was plastered with snow on one side, and snow free on the other! It was a very windy day as a powerful cold front came through (you got it today) dropping temps by 20 degrees and accompanied with 25 mph winds, sometimes gusting to more. In some parts of the front range the winds were over 50! Despite the wind I still headed over to Vail for some skiing. At Vail the winds were wrecking havoc on the mountain and several chairs were closed for the day due to the winds, particularly in the Back Bowls and Blue Sky Basin. I stuck pretty much to the front side all day, and primarily skied runs that were narrow or in the trees to try and stay out of the wind. The one "open" run I took down Faro was brutal! I think i got some windburn from it as my cheeks and chin are still red today. The snow conditions were also tough, as parts of the mountain were very icy, others were getting the benefit of wind deposited snow, and the parts that had not been previously sun-baked the day before (mostly the trees) were still soft and fluffy. It was still a fun day, but definitely one in which greater care needed to be taken skiing, especially in the parts that were icy. Ahh, spring in the mountains!


Skiing Double Feature

Originally we were supposed to have a group of us climb Mt Antero to try and sneak another 14er into the calendar winter. That didn't work out due to snow. The good news is, snow means good skiing! Saturday I went up to Beaver Creek, where I started the day on a few of my favorite runs and then decided to go exploring a few places that I hadn't yet tried. Both areas are backcountry areas that are just beyond the border of the ski resort and technically are located in the Holy Cross Wilderness area. They filter directly back into the resort via a creek bed though, so getting lost is not a worry, just keep going down hill! The runs turned out to be really nice, and the creek bed is wide enough to comfortably make turns. In spring when the snow starts to melt it could be a problem though, even Saturday there were a few places where I could see the creek, but they were easily avoidable.

Sunday I headed to Vail where Saturday's snow had been kind enough to deposit 7 inches of powder. A good portion of the snow fell after the evening's grooming so even the groomers had a nice coating of about 4 inches of snow for all to enjoy. After those started to get tracked out I headed to a few tree runs and mogul runs that had good snow, and then went over to the Back Bowls. The main parts of the bowls were tracked out, but there was a few good runs in Skree Field at Blue Sky Basin to be had. As usual runs with cliff bands at the top scared people off and held the good snow later in the day. Some of the afternoon sun had baked a couple of the runs and the snow on those runs was crusty, but sticking to more north facing runs that stay in the shadows worked out nicely. Even as the afternoon hours rolled in I was able to get some fresh tracks by hiking about the lifts in the Mongolia Bowl. It was now only 1.30 and I had already had a good 15 runs for the day. Surprisingly the lift lines weren't bad, and I was in the single line whcih had virtually nobody. Usually people cheat and split up and ride the single line to get up faster, but it seemed yesterday most of the people in groups stuck with the regular line. I hardly had a wait all weekend! The last run of the day I tried a new run, Mudslide. Its one of the frontside chutes that are under the Vista Bahn and is one of the steeper runs on Vail. The top of the run is an old washout with exposed roots and a bit of a cornice. You have to jump off a 2-6 foot drop to get in, and the entire run seems like its an old landslide. In fact you can see it from town, and in the summer its just a gully of dirt in an otherwise tree covered slope.

Its snowing again today, and hopefully we will build back up to our earlier season depths as we enter the home stretch. While you back home are thinking Spring (especially with the official start right around the corner), we still have 5 more weeks of ski season to enjoy!


Back to Winter

After a warm spell in the mountains that started to reduce our snowpack back below our "record" pace, it was a return to winter the end of this week. We got some new snow from Wednesday through Sunday, that may even linger into Monday. It wasn't all one storm though, and was mostly scattered snow showers. The snow underneath was pretty hard packed though, and Saturday was more of an East-Coast style powder day... "Dust on Crust". The inbounds runds a Beaver Creek were icy underneath, so even though there was 4-6 inches of fresh snow, turning was interesting! If you hit the spots that hadn't been tracked out it was nice, but then the parts where the tracks were ended up being icy. You had to be on your toes to avoid going "over the handlebars" when you went from ice back to soft again! The stuff in the tree runs was a little better as the sun hadn't baked the snow underneath as much during the warm spell. The backcountry over Beaver Lake was nice, there the weeks snow had piled up without seeing much other traffic and I was able to ski some fresh runs on more like a foot of new snow. The best run was one of the chutes back there where I was standing atop a 40 degree pitch looking down on the frozen lake below with no previous skier track below me.

Today I spend the day just taking care of things that have fallen by the wayside with being out of town and being busy during the week. Otherwise this weekend was all about college basketball and watching as Syracuse went from shaky bubble team, to winning 4 straight nail-biters to claim the Big East Tournament title and the automatic bid for their conference. Who needs the bubble? We're going automatic! The seeds just came out, and the "miracle" run in the tournament rewarded Syracuse with a 5 seed, where they get former bubble-mate Texas A&M in the first rounds. 12's seem to beat 5's every year, hopefully we are not the victim of that streak and one of our fellow 5's is the one who gets bumped off. Actually I think this year is going to be the "Year of the 11 Seed" as some of the best Mid-Majors are 11 seeds, including Wisconsin-Milwauke who was in the Sweet 16 last year as a 12! As usual it will be fun to see how it all plays out, hopefully my team can keep some of their Big East Tournament momentum as they move foward!


Whirlwind Visit Home

I just got back from a little weekend trip back home. I got in Thursday, had some Giordano’s and then got to see one of the worst college basketball performances in Syracuse’s history first hand. It was the worst loss (by point margin) under coach Boeheim, and 4th worst ever. Friday my mom and I hung out downtown, had some Johnny Rockets for lunch and wandered the Mag Mile. We went to the Lindt store over in Water Tower Place and were delighted to find a whole lot of varieties for their truffle balls not usually found in stores, the orange and raspberry are really good! Then we met up with my sister at my nephew’s school when he got out and headed back to their place to hang out for a little while. Evan and I built one of his Lego sets from Christmas that hadn’t been done yet, the TIE fighter from Star Wars, complete with mini Lego Darth Vader. Later that evening, I met up with some friends for dinner at Silver Cloud and then the requisite live band karaoke at Pontiac. As usual, I sang Waiting Room by Fugazi. It has become my signature song, and usually is quite a crowd pleaser. It is so much more fun to sing in front of a band that a TV monitor! I stayed that night at my friend Mike’s house and Saturday we met up with Pete and Mike 3 (AKA Vendiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Mike Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Mike) for a sushi lunch. It is nice to get sushi at a reasonable price for once; in the mountains it is easily twice as expensive as Chicago. Afterwards we checked the used CDs/DVDs at Reckless and wandered by the Wrigley Box office (wishful thinking) to see if they had ANY summer weekend seats, but all they had was obstructed view singles scattered around the park. I sure am glad the Cubs come to Colorado! Then it was back off to the suburbs for dinner with my family, some then some more Legos with my nephew before heading to bed for my morning flight on Sunday. As usual it was a fun trip, too quick, too short, and of course there were several people I wanted to see that I didn’t get to see. To all of you I saw, it was a great time and to those I didn’t, I apologize and hope all of our schedules work out better next time. Oh and if you are wondering, ski season goes until April 23rd this year so you still have a good 6 or 7 weeks to come visit (hint).



Okay, so first I apologize for not posting an entry last week. I had a few things distracting me early in the week and didn't realize I had missed it. Now this one is late, you probably thought I either forgot about you all or something. So what have I been up to? Well the previous weekend I met up with Wells, Chris, Chad and Chad's family at Breckenridge for some skiing and riding. I actually made it up there early that day and got to enjoy some of the fresh snow, albeit just 3 inches. Even took a hike up to the summit of Peak 7 from the T-Bar. I was fortunate to be only the 4th person to do so that day, and had the entire face of Peak 7 to myself in fresh snow! After meeting up with my friends we went exploring some of the other parts of the mountain, including a few runs at peaks 9 and 10. I even dragged Chris back out to the T-Bar for another run above the trees. Then we hung out at the base for a little while before all heading home. That Sunday I hit the nordic course and did the 10K loop. I used to race nordic in high school and 10K was the standard length of the boys' races. I didn't go at race pace, and probably wouldn't be able to match my old times right now anyway, but it was a lot of fun. I usually go at night by headlamp, so it was nice to be able to see the course for once!

This past weekend I headed up to Beaver Creek for a half day, with no new snow and my "good" skis in the shop it was more just to get out and get some exercise. I did a few of the mogul runs on Grouse and also explored the trees and chutes off of Royal Elk and Black Bear again. Those make for a pretty full day, even when its just a half day! Sunday I met up with my friends Tracy, Kevin and Jody to make another winter attempt at Mt Elbert. We met up at the trailhead around 7.30 and were talked into giving the road a try. The road was snowpacked, however, and we really should have just hiked it. Especially seeing as Kevin got his truck stuck. He has an Expedition, which weighs a lot more than my XTerra and there was no way I would be able to pull him out. We tried putting rocks under the tires and "rocking" the car forwards and back but all that managed to do was cause him to slide backwards and more off the road. He ended up having to call a tow truck, which ended up taking the rest of the morning and a good portion of the afternoon to get there and get him out. They actually got him out quick, mostly we were just waiting for them. They had a winch, tied the lines around a tree for leverage and pulled him out sideways back onto the road where he was able to drive out following the tow truck back to the paved parking area. After this we didn't have enough time to go for the summit (11 miles round trip) so we just hiked up the road and turned around. All total we did 4 miles round trip, and a lot of digging snow and waiting. After that we still felt we deserved a steak dinner. Oh well, at least all of that time together got us to see how well we work together in crisis, which is good seeing as we are all planning a trip to Rainier together!