Posts Tagged ‘avalanche’

HELL (frozen over) — Splitboarding on Vail Pass, Colorado

Friday, January 9th, 2009

I’ve got an unreal story to tell about yesterday’s adventure, but this dude does such a good job of spinning the yarn…

(While reading look for the photo with the dog in it.  Compare the height of the trench to the top of his ears!)

Recent Splitboarding Sessions

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Arg!  Enough of the political blogs.  Although I like to publish my opinion on all the crazyness in the world, I was quickly reminded by my estranged heterosexual life partner: “I don’t give a damn about your political beliefs!  I want to see some mountains and powder.”

Well here you go, fans.  I present to you my first turns, all earned without the use of mechanical power and rewarded by the splitboard.


Sunday, November 23rd — Aspen Mountain

Aspen was not yet open for business at this time, but snowmaking crews crews had been working day and night to build the racecourse for the annual opening event of the Women’s World Cup competition.  Naturally, I just had to get up extra early before the crews started and skinned up the course for some fresh corduroy…my first ride of the year.

Looking past the snowmaking machines towards the upper racecourse.

I started skinning up the course just after dawn, passing many snowmaking machines that had been running all night long.


View of the jobsite from up on Aspen Mountain

As the sun began to rise, I had a great view of the town below.  In the middle of the photo, with plastic on the roof, is the building that I’ve been working on all year long.  It is almost to completion and looks amazing.


About to head down

Having climbed nearly 1,000 feet up, I decided to put the snowboard on and make some turns.  Here, right before the descent.  It was an incredibly fast racecourse, and I had a little taste of what the professionals were about to compete on in a few days.

Sunday, Dec 21, 2008 — Backcountry near Ashcroft, CO

This weekend I took an AIARE Level 1 Certification Course.  On the final day of class, my group of 7 were charged with putting together a short tour, where we evaluated the terrain and snowpack and practice safe decision making.

The avy class crew heading up the skin track

I met some cool people in the class. Here, the whole crew is heading up the mountain.

Across the valley, we observed the crown of a large avalanche that had occured a few days earlier.  (The crown is visible in the shady area in the middle of the photo)

Lunch in view of the elk range

After hiking a few miles and a few 1,000 feet up Devaney Creek, we stopped for lunch.  To our south, the Castle Creek valley spreads out across the horizon.

snow pitcompression testcompression testcompression test compression testcompression test

After lunch, we found a safe spot to dig a pit and analyze the snowpack.  Here, Brian demonstrates a compression test.  It took over 20 taps for the column to fail, but it failed all the way down to the lowest layer of depth hoar.  Not a good sign for avalanche safety in the area.

Paul\'s first runIanDave

Having made a collective decision on the danger level, we agreed to play it safe and ski in the low-angled trees.  The payoff was some incredible untracked powder, and well worth the work.


Saturday, January 3, 2009 — Mt. Evans

Today Vanessa and I took a very short trip from Denver to a “secret stash” near the Mt. Evans road.  I’ve had some good conditions in years past, when the front range saw above-average snowfall.  This year, prospects were not as good.

Vanessa heading up

Vanessa hiking up through the trees south of the road.  We could see rocks and deadfall.  This caused us to be discouraged of actually snowboarding down.

Mt. Evans road

Usually, if conditions in the trees are not ready, we could snowboard down the road.  Unfortunately, too little snow in the front range left us hiking all the way back down.


looking down the route

I did a little scouting to find a good descent line, but after just having spent $100 on repairs to my splitboard, I didn’t think it was worth it to try to ride down with such little snowcover.


Sunday, January 4, 2008 — Berthoud Pass

Discouraged but not defeated, V and I paired up with a Josh, a bud from, and headed up to the ever-popular Berthoud Pass.  We had an early start, and it was a sunny, blue-sky day.

a train of skiers heading up Berthoud Pass is easily one of the most popular backcountry ski areas in the state.  An alliance of enthusiasts has done an excellent job in making improvements to the old ski area.  While all the chairlifts are gone, there is an expanded parking lot and hut complete with multiple composting toilets.  Here, a train of skiers heads up the established skin track to the west of Highway 40.


view from the west side of the pass

From the top of the west side of the pass, we had an excellent view of the surrounding terrain.  Avalanche danger was considerable near treeline today, so we took some very conservative lines.  Still, my mind wandered in awe at the extreme couloirs at the headwall across the valley.


Vanessa Vanessa Vanessa On the descent, we found a few inches of powder over some hard crust.  Still, we made some good turns.  Here, Vanessa shows how it is done.


JoshJoshJoshJosh is rocking the custom splitboard.


Vanessa Another great pic of my stellar girlfriend!


JoshJosh got some great blasts of front-range pow.


Vanessa taking a coffee breakAfter a good 2000′ of vertical, we rode right to the highway and stuck our thumbs out.  Hitchiking is the standard practice on Berthoud Pass, and anyone with an empty truck bed would be wise to pick up skiers.  With multiple slide paths the threaten highway travellers here, good karma  is well respected.

It was a cold day up there (my thermometer was reading single digits).  Fortunately, we took a coffee break before heading out for a second run.


That’s all for now!

The first month of splitboarding has had its ups and downs.  January looks promising, and I have some trips to Vail Pass and Rocky Mountain National Park in the works…. STAY TUNED!