April 26, 2016

I’m talking about a little place called Aspen

Andrea is stoked after skiing the north face of Castle Peak!

We bought Mountain Collective passes for the '15-16 season, figuring that if we used the 3 local days at Alta/Snowbird and then made long weekend trips to the other destinations within driving distance, it was a killer deal and good excuse to visit some new places and ski outside of Utah.

In January we headed up to Sun Valley (loved it!) and in March made a trip to Jackson Hole (even more awesome!). There was only once place left within a reasonable drive and with the days getting longer and warmer, we were running out of time to head East on I-70 to Colorado.

The destination?

Some place warm, a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Aspen.

We tried to go to Aspen while all four of their ski areas were still open over the first couple weekends of April, but it kept snowing in Utah and the skiing was just too good 25 minutes from home to justify a 6 hour drive (Exhibit A - Exhibit B). Fortunately Aspen Highlands was open for an extended weekend over April 23-24 so we finally just got in the car and make the trip. Utah got hammered by another nice snowstorm while we were in Colorado... of course!

The town was dead (mud season), which suits our style. We stayed at the Molly Gibson Lodge - a very nice lodge right in the heart of Aspen within walking / leisure strolling distance to everything. In terms of the skiing  - we skinned up Aspen Mountain a few times, hiked the Highlands Bowl a couple times during two days of lift-skiing at Highlands, and capped the long weekend in style by skiing Castle Peak. The final day was easily the apex, as you'll see in the photos below...

Friday April 22

Broke up the drive with a run from the Kokopelli TH in Loma, CO. We highly recommend running here if you are driving along I-70.

Saturday April 23

Skinned AJAX followed by some lift-skiing at Aspen Highlands.

Hike Fast, Ski Slow is a motto that suits my style!
Sunday April 24

Lift-skiing at Aspen Highlands followed by a skin up AJAX. 

Monday April 25

We needed something sensational to cap the trip and decided to take a stab at Castle Peak. At 14,265 feet, Castle is the highest peak in the Elk Range and serves up some of the best views around.

I skied Castle in 2009 after a failed attempt in 2008.

We didn't know what the conditions would be like up high (sometimes the north couloir can get wind-blasted and doesn't hold snow) but from what we saw looking towards that zone from AJAX over the previous two days, my guess was that the north face would be filled in. Luckily, I was right. The other thing we weren't sure of was how far down the snow line would be relative to where we would park the car at the end of the Castle Creek road. Luckily, again, the snow extended all the way down to the gate at Ashcroft. That meant a LONG approach, but continuous snow is always better than the alternative. We skinned about 5 miles up the road before turning towards Montezuma Basin, then after another ~2 miles up through the headwalls in the basin, reached the summit via kicking a booter up the last 900 feet.

It was a really fun outing. Skiing 14ers is typically not about skiing hero snow (that's what lapping ridge lines in the Wasatch is for!). You typically have long approaches, variable snow conditions, blasting wind, and some skating/skinning on the way out. But there is always a sense of accomplishment when you look back up at a 14,000 foot peak after skiing off the top. Its always worth it.

And in the spirit of posting videos... here's a classic:

April 17, 2016

Spring Powder Weekend (!!!)

Andrea scoping our next run in Wolverine Cirque - Sunday April 17th

We almost went to Aspen this weekend (Mountain Collective passes burning holes in our pockets) but with snow in the forecast locally, decided to push the Colorado trip back a week and see what the weather gods had in store for Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Colorado got hammered (and is still getting hammered) over the past few days, but the first snowstorm of April delivered in Utah as well. We got 10-14" towards the end of the week and that set up an amazing 48 hour window of powder skiing - from the time we left work on Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. It felt like winter - a nice change after skiing Brighton laps in shorts earlier in the week!

It doesn't get better than spring powder weekends! And we may not get any/many more of them this year (although we are hoping for a few more) so we took full advantage...

Friday April 15

The usual after-work tour: Patsy Marley's north bowl, a couple laps off towards the East (Heaven's Gate area), then finished with Freeland and the Grizzly gully. Four laps - all aspects had great powder.

Saturday April 16

We guessed that Cardiff would be the place and we were right. After skiing down the north side of Cardiff Peak (Power Outage) we skied two east-facing laps off Cardiac Ridge, then four laps in Cardiac Bowl, then another quick shot off Powerline and back to the Alta via Cardiff Pass. It was quite a big day - 9 laps is probably our record for a backcountry ski day. It was hero snow, all day.

Sunday April 17

We didn't think today would be much of an outing - it couldn't be as good as yesterday, right? Wrong!!! The NE/N/NW aspects were still holding dry, cold snow. We ended up skiing 5 more powder runs, including 3 fun chutes - Stupid, Tuna, and Grannys - and spent a little time at the Church of Sunday Bookpack.

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