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As I lay in the green grass next to the river under 80 degree “heat” on July 1st in Aspen, my roommate asks me “you think all the snow has melted?” We are about to raft the slaughter house section of the roaring fork river, but skiing is still on our minds. We kicked off our ski season on September 27th and our last day was my birthday- one week ago. We had plans to makle turns on the 4th of July, but we other activities got in the way. Perhaps that’s a gin we are #overit after all. On second thought, that’s definitely not the case.
It’s not the desire to be extreme or different, it’s the fact that the snow is out there, we get a workout, we have an adventure, we have a lot of fun, and it’s totally worth it. Since the lifts closed at the end of April, I have been on two hut trips, visited one private cabin, melted the ski’s on my snowmobile from too much pavement, dirtbiked past another closed gate to set up ski camp, and put plenty of adventure filled miles on my sized up, comfy AT boots.
The adventure alone is really enough to raise the stoke level, and the bonus of even ten turns linked on perfect corn with a small group of great friends is the cherry on top. And we looooove the cherry. The skiing has consisted of rad couloirs, smooth corn faces, puckering steep exposed faces, blower pow with no vis, settled pow with great vis, some serious snirt, and everything in-between. Snirt? Snirt is a recent spring phenomenon here in Colorado. The predominately western winds sweep over the giant Moab desert lying immediately to the west, and, voila, our sometimes dismal snowpack receives a coat of red dirt. It is something all local skiers and snowboarders cross our fingers and hope wont happen, but it seems that each year there will be a day when the sky turns red and people are in awe, while we are in tears. This year was one of the better snowpacks we had, and also one of the biggest dirt storms.
Luckily the months of May and June were cool and stormy enough to give us a smooth layer of white often enough to give us white objectives. This year we changed our approach to identifying our objectives. Contrary to popular methodology, we decided that names and elevations of peaks did not matter. Good snow, pretty tracks, cool features, and nice backdrops were more important. Early morning routines were filled with lots of coffee, jerky, and Voke tabs. High fives, flip flops, and cold beer back at the truck were part of the daily celebration.
I would count the pinnacle of our spring to be the days spent at our camp at Grizzly Reservoir. We shuttled loads of food and gear in on the closed but plowed road on our dirtbikes, and set up a multi tent camp at the desolate campground. The camp stood proud for over a week. We fished for dinner out of the reservoir, pulled drinking water out of the rivers, and put tracks down many rad couloirs.
The road is plowed and closed to allow the work crews to do maintenance to the yearly water project that shuttles water from a large pristine valley just east of Aspen to the other side of the divide. Denver and the other colonies on the eastern slope cannot survive on the precipitation/snowmelt that flows their way. They depend on tunnels sending water from our side of the mountains. It worked out great for us because we had the whole place to ourselves.
Every year I seem to hold on to ski season far too long, or maybe everyone else just doesn’t hold on long enough. People are so eager to ski come November, and “over it” by April 1st. Maybe its successful marketing, the holidays, and the fact that there is nothing else to do in the cold. However the reality is, the skiing is better in May than it is in November. There is plenty of snow, warm temps, and long days, and corn. Corn is second only to Powder to a diehard skiers favorite surface snow. It is better than chalk, better than firm, better than dust on crust, better than fresh corduroy. It is tricky to catch corn before it turns to mank (#cornoclock we call it), but thats part of the game. I think its time we start at magazine called CORN, it’s that good when you get it right.
As we put our raft in the river raging with runoff, we wear wet-suites, and don’t necessarily trust our guide who has only rafted this class IV rapid once before. To be honest, we hope we flip to really make it interesting and give us a good adventure. The rest of the day holds the promise of rock climbing, watching the world cup, and maybe some biking or SUPing. It is summer time after all, and we want to do it all. All these activities are a way to pass the time until we get back to the real thing- riding around on snow. We will never be over it.
-Colter and crew.
instagram: @colterjh and check out #notoverit for late year ski pics from around the globe