20 April 2015

Stardate 2015.301

The Gore Range of Colorado is going into spring mode.  Normally, there is a lot of snow remaining this time of year.  March is our snowiest month.  But not this year.  This is not good!

Spring Skiing

I should be counting hours on a bike, getting ready for a passel of fast approaching events. Instead, I spend a day skiing at Copper Mountain, Colorado. Snowcatcher was wise. She brought a bike and got in some altitude riding.

I've kind of rekindled my love for lift-served skiing (downhill skiing). My parents put me in ski school around age 6. My lessons were with an outfit called the Winter Fun Ski School, back in the 60s. I think I still have a patch buried somewhere. Time creeps along, and by the time I started college, I was bored with lift-skiing. Moreover, it didn't really matter; I couldn't afford skiing and school. I chose University and entered a 20+ year hiatus from lift-served skiing. On the other hand, I still loved winter. I continued to enjoy Nordic skiing (cross-country) and the occasional backcountry trip on alpine touring (AT) gear. To make a short story shorter, I can use AT gear at a ski area. The ski equipment is similar. I had done this only on a couple occasions. So this past winter, I purchased several days of skiing, and I discovered a renewed interest in lift-skiing. It's been a hoot!

I officially declare my ski area hiatus kaput! Bring on the chairlift! Hopefully, this has nothing to do with getting close to having one foot in the coffin.

Gore Range, Colorado

No matter what type of slats you're strapped to, the views can be exceptional.

Left: Point 12,267 (note that Points are designated by their elevation)Right: Torreys Peak, 14,267 feet, Colorado's 11th highest

Copper Mountain is about a 1.5-hour drive from the Denver metro area along Interstate 70. One of the perks is passing below stately 14,267-foot Torreys Peak, Colorado's 11th tallest peak, and a fine hike I might add. The peak on the left is Point 12,267. It's actually the termination of a long ridge. Unnamed mountain points are identified by their elevation.

Mount Sniktau, 13,234 feet, Colorado's 448th highest peak

Another I-70 peak is Mount Sniktau. This is a fun little peak to hike on days short of time because you can access it from an elevation of 12,000 feet. Sniktau rises to 13,234 feet and is the 448th highest peak in Colorado.

The back bowls at Copper Mountain Ski Area, Colorado, are closed for the season due to wet slide (wet avalanche) potential.  Spring is here.

Snowcatcher and I parted ways. I caught a lift and headed up the mountain while she took off on her bike. I enjoy spring skiing, but it's a mixed bag. Diurnal heating results in super icy and rough morning snow, followed by ponds of slush in the afternoon. Ideally, you need two different types of ski in your quiver, one for icy hardpack, and one for soft, slushy crud. The steep back bowl areas are now closed due to wet slide potential as the day warms. I'll save avalanche discussion for another blog because it's a fascinating subject.

Tenmile Range, Colorado, left to right:Crystal Peak, 13,852 feet, Colorado's 82nd highest peakPacific Peak, 13,950 feet, 61st tallest  peak in ColoradoAtlantic Peak, 13,841 feet, Colorado's 86th highest peakFletcher Mountain, 13,951 feet, the 59th tallest peak in ColoradoDrift Peak, 13,900 feet, not ranked because there is less than a 300 foot drop in the saddle between Drift Peak and Fletcher Mountain

The views of the southern portion of the Tenmile Range never disappoint. The peaks are listed below, left to right, with state elevation rank in parenthesis.

Crystal Peak, 13,852 feet, (82)
Pacific Peak, 13,950 feet, (61)
Atlantic Peak, 13,841 feet, (86)
Fletcher Mountain, 13,951 feet, (59)
Drift Peak, 13,900 feet, (na)

According to "rules" outlined by old groups of Colorado Mountaineers, Drift Peak does not hold a formal ranking because its saddle with Fletcher Mountain does not exceed 300 feet in elevation difference. Drift Peak is considered a soft rank peak. The Tenmile Range is actually a northern sub-range of a linear string of mountains running south from Frisco, Colorado, to Trout Creek Pass, east of Buena Vista, Colorado. The southern sub-range is called the Mosquito Range. The two ranges have a natural, yet invisible divider — the Continental Divide. The Tenmile Range drains toward the Pacific Ocean whereas the Mosquito Range drains toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Continental Divide splits the range between 14,286-foot Mount Lincoln (8) and 14,265-foot Quandary Peak (13), just south of Breckenridge, Colorado. You can drive over it here at Hoosier Pass.

Looking north from high up Copper Mountain Ski Area at the I-70 corridor, Colorado.

Normally, these hillslopes would be covered in snow this time of year, even though they are southern aspects catching a lot of sun. In fact, March is Colorado's snowiest month. Yet, we didn't have much of a March from a snow standpoint. Hopefully, next year will be better.

Arranging snow for Copper Mountains closing weekend festivities.

This year, Copper Mountain will shut down all their lifts on April 19th. The snow cats are positioning snow for an event to take place during closing weekend.

Spring skiing is a mixed bag.  The mornings are icy hardpack, and the afternoons are slushy.  You have to be careful, it's easy to get hurt in these conditions.

By mid-afternoon, the Center Village area was one big slush field.

The base area of Copper mountain.  There should be more snow; hopefully next year will be more normal.

I caught a shuttle back to the parking area and hooked back up with Snowcatcher. Changing into shorts and a sweatshirt, we enjoyed the high altitude sun, and cruised home.

The Apple of My Eye

Up next? Leaky fork seals on the Black Pearl.


1 comment:

  1. A bit chilly, but what a bluebird day! So glad I got to enjoy it with you! Our lunch date that day was awesome!


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