Bridge of Heaven Winter Camp

MSR Twin Sisters tent

I just got back from an overnight spring-winter camping trip on the Bridge of Heaven, a high ridgeline 2600 feet above Ouray with a killer view of the town and the surrounding San Juan Mountains.


I’ve been wanting to winter camp up there for almost two years now, but have not had a good opportunity to do it yet. With heavy snows the last two days, and a forecast of clear skies for today, I knew the timing was right to get the shot of Ouray smothered in snow. The fact that I sacrificed two surely epic snowboarding pow days to do this trip shows how much I’ve been wanting to get up there to take these photos. But of course it’s always fun to get out and live in the elements every once in a while too.

Dust Invasion

Last spring I wrote a post about the snowpack dust pollution that is becoming so common every year in Colorado. As far as I can tell, it’s getting worse and worse. In the last few weeks, we’ve had a good set of storms coming through, bringing much welcome snow to the mountains. Unfortunately, along with the snow has come wave after wave of dust.

Dust clouds

Today I noticed an eerie orangish glow from outside, and looking out the window I saw what could easily be mistaken for wildfire smoke. Brown dust-filled clouds are currently streaming in over the mountains. I have never seen anything like this before. It is utterly disgusting. The photo above was taken around 4pm today; the brown color is the color of the clouds – not sunset, not smoke, just clouds full of dirt.

Yet again we can kiss goodbye any chance of a prolonged spring skiing season, as the dust will surely wreak havoc on the late-season sun-baked snowpack.

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More Spring Powder

Yesterday was a blizzard most of the day in Ouray, so today my friend Paul and I headed out for a morning powder lap. Today was a beautiful calm bluebird day, and the powder was oh so delightful.

Backcountry skiing colorado
Skier: Paul McElrea.

Lots of fun hits and features in this long gully. Here’s a helmet cam of my ride:
Snowboard helmet cam video
Click here to watch the Quicktime video.

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Two More Big Lines

On Saturday we headed out for another incredible day of backcountry skiing and snowboarding. This day was just as epic as the previous day, with two equally long and awesome untracked descents. These past two days have ranked among my best backcountry days in memory.

Backcountry Skiing
Ann Driggers skis down the premier north face descent of this prominent 13er in the San Juans.

The wide open powdery faces provided ample opportunity to haul some serious ass, as seen in my helmet cam video below.
Snowboard Helmet Cam Video
Click here to watch the Quicktime video. (Minus the music here).


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Double Whammy

Today was the best day of riding of the entire winter so far. We got two massive untracked lines, with a good foot of fresh snow on top, for a total of 5,000 vertical feet up, and 5,000 down. The perfect bluebird skies, cool temps, and calm wind didn’t hurt one bit.

Ski and snowboard descent routes
Our two descent routes of the day.

Skiing untracked powder
Paul McElrea hauling ass on his new fat powder skis.


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Had to Go Again

Skiing powder
Skier: Dan Chehayl.

It has been so great to have winter back again… I had to go track up some more powder this morning. The weather was mostly socked in and snowing today, unlike the glorious lifting clouds of yesterday. But, another four inches of pow didn’t hurt at all.

Below is a helmet cam video from the first lap of the day. Excuse the video quality… my video editing skills suck almost as bad as the helmet cam itself. I didn’t even include the second line because the video was full of awful blinking-black frames.

Snowboard helmet cam
Click here to watch the Quicktime video.

Box Canyon

Box Canyon and Ouray

Today two things got me excited… first, a return of winter with cold temps and snow outside! Woohoo! Secondly, I got to try out my new Olympus Zuiko 7-14mm ultra wideangle lens. This thing is an awesome hunk of glass, with a big bulbous front element and a huge angle of view. I shot this photo above from the bridge over Box Canyon, and you can see all the way from the depths of the canyon, to Ouray and the mountains above town. Pretty sweet. It’s a heavy lens, and I imagine I’ll probably use it less than 25% of the time, but it will be a nice option to have for really big landscape scenes with big foreground.