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.
No matter what type of slats you're strapped to, the views can be exceptional.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By mid-afternoon, the Center Village area was one big slush field.
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.
Up next? Leaky fork seals on the Black Pearl.