Backcountry Heaven In Steamboat

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Despite very little fresh snow fall this week, I can still tell you that the backcountry is holding onto it’s powder, and if you know where to look, there are ample amounts of it!

This week was a quiet weekend; no 10 mile trekking in search of powder like last weekend. Normally, my ‘crew’ is a group of 4; including two girls and two guys, which makes for a well balanced group that both pushes each other to excel but also keeps the group tempered with better decision making skills. Sunday, it was just two of us as our other two members are out of the country.

We found a great place to ski off of Rabbit Ears pass that we affectionately named “Walton’s Wedgie” due to the closest landmark being Walton’s Creek and the steep chutes we were skiing that twice had me wedged between two rocks or a rock and a tree. (It’s always slightly embarrassing to have a new backcountry run named after you.)

We started our morning by tying a 40 meter climbing rope (cut down for skiing) around my waist, and anchoring me to my ski partner, who braced himself on the other side of an incline and a tree. I then proceeded to hesitantly walk out onto a cornice. Why, you ask? Because if you can safely release a couple hundred pound cornice, you get an idea about two things; 1- how easily it released gives you an idea as to the layers of dangerous snow underneath, and 2, if it falls and doesn’t cause the slope below to slide, chances are its a safe ski since the cornice outweighs any fall you would take.  Luckily, I had to struggle quite a bit to get anything to move. (Part of me is very glad; I have never been the “tester” before and I don’t think I would have enjoyed falling 15 feet and getting bruised ribs out of it). The slopes we found were pretty darn stable, which is a great thing!

We had an amazing day, and I was able to push myself quite a bit. I’m getting back into skiing (I’ve been a snowboarder for ten some years, so I’m trying to get my feet back under me for skis.) Here’s something you can laugh at. First you will see my ski partner Dalton hucking a pretty big rock that stood around 15-20 feet high, and then you can see me be quite a pansy and nicely rolling off of a small, 8 foot rock (you can’t see the landing for either, in fact, you can’t even see the rock Dalton is jumping off of there is so much snow):

©Rory B. Clow and roryclow.com

Pretty amusing, but I’ll eventually get a little more skill (and air) under my feet!

Remember to always check the avalanche snow report provided by CAIC and test the snow before you go out. Sadly, Meeker lost a snowmobiler on Sunday to a very large 300’wx400′ L x25′ deep slide that buried both rider and sled. It is a scary reminder about the risks we take to have fun out there.

Rory Clow

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