Return of the Pow

Jack slashes some powder
[+] Rider: me. Photo by Jonathan Esper.

In my last post I was worried about the rain in Ouray. No matter. Up higher the mountains got smothered with snow, and today fellow photographer Jonathan Esper and I took our splitboards out to harvest some of the powder. After several weeks of clear warm weather, it felt great to ride ~20″ of fresh fluff.

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Raining in January

Today it’s been raining in Ouray. I know crazy weather is common in Colorado, but RAIN IN JANUARY? That’s just wrong. The good news is that the latest avy observers are reporting that it is snowing up high, and the wet snow is bonding well to the old surface. I hope it gets colder soon.

Hideout Cabin

mountain cabin

I had a great weekend with some friends at their backcountry cabin in the San Juan Mountains south of Telluride. The cabin’s a real gem, situated in a rugged San Juan setting surrounded by prime ski terrain. Cecily’s parents are avid skiiers and they built this cabin back in the 70’s when it was somewhat reasonable to do such a thing. Nowadays we can only dream of building a little cabin in the high country like this… there’s just no more places to do it, and too many regulations (though this is probably a good thing). But I digress…

It’s about five miles along a snowed-in road to the cabin, and we loaded up some sleds with all our gear and beverages to pull behind us on our way up. We left after dark on Friday, so it was a big surprise to wake up on Saturday to the magnificent vistas all around. We had incredibly warm and sunny weather the whole time, and the snow has become so stable that for the next few days we skiied/rode borderline springtime lines… a nice treat in January, though I do hope it snows again soon.

I’ve posted my best photos from the trip on my gallery site, but here are some more of the hiking and riding photos.

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A Slice of Heaven

Snowboarding the Powder

[+] Today we splitboarded up the same mountain for the third day in a row, but this time we dropped off the backside, went up a neighboring peak further up the valley, and slammed the best line of the year so far – very steep, and very deep. Here’s Parker McAbery blasting into a steep chute.

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Impromptu Rescue on Red Mountain Pass

Ouray Mountain Rescue Team

At 6:00am this morning, I met up with 12 friends in Ouray to head out for a day of cat-skiing in the mountains near Purgatory. Packed in four vehicles, we headed up Red Mountain Pass in the darkness and dumping snow. Several miles up the pass from Ouray, my friends in the lead truck noticed a set of tire tracks disappearing off the road into oblivion. Anybody who has ever driven the pass knows how scary steep and treacherous this road is – in places carved through sheer cliff mountainsides. A closer look down into the canyon revealed the dim glow of headlights in the bottom about 400 feet below.

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Sketchy Avy Conditions

Avalanche crown, Silverton

[+] Colorado’s avalanche danger has been high recently, due to a rotten lower snowpack topped by the recent snowfalls of the last few weeks. Today at Silverton Mountain, I snapped this photo of a good sized avalanche crown, most likely triggered by the ski patrol’s bombs. The largest part of the crown here is probably about 5 feet deep, in an obviously wind-loaded part of the slope (roped off of course).

The tender snowpack has drastically curtailed our backcountry possibilities. While last year at this time a thick, stable snowpack had everybody skiing huge lines all over the place, this season hardly anybody has been going out, and the mountains remain mostly unskiied while we wait patiently for more snow and hopefully a thicker, more cohesive snowpack.