Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Storm over the Rockies

Snow is falling over much of the northern mountains in Colorado. Our managing editor, Jeff Thomas, just passed me in the newsroom and said, "So is it one of those work-skipping days yet?"

Well, not yet, but maybe soon.

Summit County and Vail County mountains are all reporting about six inches and are still socked in.
Winter Park has about 5 inches and it's still snowing.

Steamboat Springs has 36 inches in the last two days! If only it wasn't 4.5 hours away.

Snow is expected to taper off tonight. - Dave

Mud wrestling

You might not even know you need this product, but just in case your four-wheel-drive monster is looking a little two can buy spray-on mud. A company in Great Britain came up with the idea. It's called, of course, Spray on Mud (,
and it comes in a handy can. The company's slogan? "It's dirt cheap!" No word on whether it will cover the fake bullet holes on your Jeep.
If you prefer to get muddy on the trail, check out the info and photos on - Deb

The fuzz is fussing about big groups of bikers

The Colorado State Patrol has announced a new policy this month banning the biggest bicycle events in Colorado! The policy limits bicycle and triathlon events to 2,500 riders on state roads. Bicycle tours, races, charity rides, group rides, and triathlons are all affected.

So what gives? The Patrol says the new rules are for safety, but these big rides are remarkably injury free, more so than small, unofficial group rides. One might think it's the cost of policing these huge events and closing down roads, but the events hire off-duty officers at around $15 an hour, so the cost to the government is nil.

Bicycle Colorado has spoken with the Patrol, pointing out that these rules don't make sense and they should have been involved with making the rules, but gotten no response.
So instead, they have turned to the media. And to the public.
If you enjoy large group rides like the MS 150 and Elephant Rock, let your voice be heard by signing a petition at


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Imperial Express lift open!

Finally, after rumor and misinformation, Breck's new Imperial Express lift to the 12,840-summit of Peak 8 opened quietly today. Officially, it doesn't open until Monday, December 5.
Someone at the mountain told me conditions are spotty and the lift will not be running consistantly for about a week, but they are letting people on.
Access it from the top of Chair Six.
And if you go, either this week or this weekend, let us know how it is.

Reality of winter

Winter camping is one of those outdoor activities that, when planned on a sunny winter afternoon, seems like a good idea, and then, when experienced after that sun goes down, seems like a gigantic mistake. But after talking with former big-mountain climber Greg Mortensen, I have a whole different take on it. Imagine winter camping if you didn't have a choice.
Mortensen lives in Montana, where he runs the Central Asia Institute, a non-profit group that builds schools and helps with education and other services for people in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. The area served by the CAI was among those devastated by the October earthquake, and since then, Mortensen has been helping people prepare for winter. Villages sit at an elevation of about 10,000 feet, about the same as Barr Camp or the Crags. The people who lost their homes are living in tents. With donations, CAI is buying heavy-duty winterized canvas tents with windows. Each one can hold 20 people, and costs between $120 and $150, depending on size. For information on the Institute, go to
(Above, photo of Greg with Korphe village children in the Karakoram Mountains) - Deb

Colorado Gifts

A story in today's Gazette by Carol McGraw got me thinking about the many unmentioned outdoor goodies that are manufactured in Colorado and would make great Christmas gifts.

Here's a few. Let us know about your other favorites.

Melanzana is a cool Leadville-based company that makes great fleece clothing.

Unity makes some of the best snowboards in the world in Silverthorne.

In Breckenridge, Fatypuss makes the fattest skis in the world (above) guaranteed to float on powder like froth on a cappuccino.

Right here in Colorado Springs, Monument Cycles makes sweet mountain and road bikes described as "the working man's boutique bike."


Monday, November 28, 2005

Skiing all the 14ers in one winter

Yep, rumor has it Aspen free skier Chris Davenport is going to try to make turns down all 54 of Colorado's highest peaks before March 21.
Wow, what a feat that would be. It took Lou Dawson, who is advising him, ten years.
Read more at Dawson's blog,

All about the gear

Finallly, a rescue story that doesn't profile the dumb and the clueless. Two cross-country skiers missing overnight near the Mount Zirkel Wilderness 25 miles north of Steamboat Springs were found Sunday morning in good condition. (See the area on map at left.) The Associated Press reported that Randy Oehme and Bill Wetherby, both 42, were removing their skis at their car when they were located by members of Routt County Search and Rescue, that was just about to launch a search. The two men, both experienced in the outdoors, admitted they got lost by making a wrong turn, but when they got back on course, they were too tired to head back. It was 20 degrees and snowing, but the men had fire starters, thermal space bags and water. They didn't sleep much, because they both worked to keep their fire going. - Deb

The New York Times had a intriguing treatise of the benefits and pitfalls of G.P.S. on Sunday by Ian Fisher, the paper's Rome correspondent.
The busy reporter added a global positioning system to his scooter so he could find his way through the labyrinth of Roman roads. Sounds like a good idea, right?
Here's the thing...
All of his friends in Rome argued that knowing exactly where you are isn't necessarily helpful. In fact, knowing where you are may, ironically, send you down the path to knowing a place less.
Here's why, according to Fisher:

"With my G.P.S., I can - and do - navigate blindly, simply turning when the reassuring voice tells me, in English, over the geeky get-up of earphones that snakes out of my helmet, to "Turn right in 400 meters." I do not need to see street signs. I trust the satellites overhead. It is a faith the Vatican, which I whiz by often, might respect for its strength, if not its source.
"As a result, you can't really get lost, which is also an argument against someone like me having G.P.S. in Italy.
Mr. Venturini talks about the enchantment of the "surprise" in Italy, a wine-glass-half-full way of saying that when you get lost, and you will, you can still enjoy yourself."The G.P.S. is also a technological subversion of Italian culture: Knowing full well that even they will get lost, Italians are always asking each other for directions, and giving them with great pleasure."
"With a G.P.S. you see things perfectly," Mr. Nicoletti, the radio personality, said. "But it's like a sphere that isolates you from the world. You take your world with you. If that's your aim, it's perfect. But the G.P.S., like all technical instruments, detaches you from human contact."

This isn't just a phenomena of ancient European cities. It's just as true in the Rockies. You want to get to know a place? Wander. Get lost. Leave the map and guide book at home. I think some of my best hiking experiences are those where I didn't know where I was going.


When to skip work:

At what point is there so much snow that work must take a back seat? Last night the mountains got anywhere from 2.5 to 5 inches of snow. Clearly if they're measuring in half-inch intervals, the snow is not deep enough to justify calling in sick. And just as clearly, if they're are measuring in feet, there is nothing to do but pack up the car and practice your best fake cough.
But where is the in between?
I lived for a while after college just down valley from Aspen and had a boss who had a "10-inch rule." If 10 inches of snow had fallen, we didn't have to show up to work until noon.
Is 10 inches the magic number? Or does the fact that people in the Pikes Peak Region have to drive at least two hours to reach the closest hill bump up the amount to 14 inches?
Last time I skipped work was an epic 20-inch day at Mary Jane, but often, I get to ski on the clock, so I'm not the right person to suggest a level.
Where do we draw the line? How deep does it have to be for everyday life to wait?


Friday, November 25, 2005

Browns Canyon Wilderness moves forward...

After nearly 15 years of study, stumping, and compromises, Browns Canyon Wilderness Area may be on its way to becoming official.
I've only looked into this area. I know very little about it, except that it lies in a tremendous rain shadow, which means it could provide great hiking year round.
Has anyone been here? Post a comment and tell us what it is like.
I'm thinking I may have to check Browns out in the next few weeks.


So much for rumors...

The official word from Breckenridge is that they will not open the Imperial Express until December 5.
Too bad. I drove by yesterday and the snow, despite a lot of crowds, looked pretty sweet.
How are Thanksgiving conditions? Let us know.


Up and running

Ski Cooper opened with little warning on Turkey Day. They're expecting this weekend's storm to dump fresh snow, and they're taking reservations for the Chicago Ridge snowcat tours.

Did anyone give their legs and lungs a workout on Thanksgiving? What are conditions? Send word or photos from the mountain and we'll post them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

New lift rumor alert!

An inside source says Breck's new Imperial Express lift to the 12,840-summit of Peak 8 will quietly open this Sunday. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is traditionally slow, so opening the lift that day will give the locals a day to enjoy it (and uncover any snafus) before the next big weekend.
It will also give the year's first access to hundreds of acres of above-treeline bowls that could be epic.

Might be worth checking out.
Bring your rock skis.


Coming Friday in Out There

We get cozy with Barr Camp's new care-takers, Neal and Teresa Taylor, and find out how two yuppies in their 40s sold their business and moved to a two-room cabin miles from a road.
We'll also give you the latest on snow-proof running shoes and what's going on in the outdoors this week.

I need more cow bell...

Generally Jeremy Bloom, above, has ski clothes on. And Bode Miller, below, has a medal around his neck. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself. In the next few weeks, you'll have a chance to catch some of the top skiers in the world doing what they do best first hand. First, Beaver Creek is hosting World Cup Races November 30 through December 4 with downhill, slalom, and Super G races on the mountain's famous Birds of Prey run. No tickets are needed for a slope-side view as skiers shoot down the hill.
Gold medalist Bode Miller will be there, along with top skiers from around the world.
Bring your cow bell.
Breckenridge is playing host to the US Freestyle Mogul team now through Dec. 4. Skiers can slide over to Peak 9's Peerless run to catch these bump-devouring maniacs tune up before heading to the Olympics in Torino in February.
Colorado native Jeremy Bloom will be there. I assume with more clothes on.
By the way, this guy has the most amazing Web site ever. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

If you like your skiing all natural....

Monarch, our favorite ski area in the Saguache Mountains, opens Wednesday with a 23-inch base and approximately 40% of the lift-served terrain open. The expanded skiing in Mirkwood basin is still a few weeks away.
Early season, full-day lift ticket rates are in effect through December 16th:

# Adult - $27
# Young Adult (13-15) - $20
# Junior (7-12) - $15
# Senior (62-69) - $18

Green Grades for ski areas announced

The always inflammatory, not exactly objective, Ski Area Environmental Scorecard just came out.
The annual report card put together by a coalition of environmental non-profit organizations is used as a way to get press for otherwise overlooked environmental offenses.
Every year the media runs what resorts scored an A and what resorts scored an F, and every year the resorts say they don't pay attention to the grades because, according to a Vail spokesman, the scorecard is "non-scientific and originates from an organization whose members exhibit bias in their view of and actions toward the ski industry and, in particular, resorts."
But, people tend to pay attention. Newspapers certainly do.
In a way, it's a brilliant way to bring attention to things like snowmaking and resort expansion that directly impact the public land but rarely get scrutiny in the press from a conservation standpoint.
One can argue that the way the resorts are scored is flawed or biased, but it's hard to argue that putting pressure on the industry to be more friendly to our air, water, wildlife, and public lands isn't a good thing.
Anyway, here is how some local ski areas scored:

Wolf Creek: A
Aspen/Aspen Highlands: A
Steamboat: D
Vail: D
Winter Park: B
Snowmass: B
Telluride: C
Monarch: B
Copper Mountain: F
Breckenridge: F

Monday, November 21, 2005

The lost snowboarder at Keystone

People around the newsroom have been buzzing about this guy who ducked a rope at Keystone and got stuck down in Jones Gulch. Rescuers hauled him out after three days.

He said he didn't know how to get back to the resort, but it seems he could have followed his trail. He wasn't hurt, except for a little frost bite on his toes. Seems he was too out of shape to get back up to the run through what he described as waist- and chest-deep snow.

I don't think this guy's story is going to end up in Reader's Digest.

Please, if anyone wants to defend him, chime in, but I think they should pull his pass for being such a buffoon.

By the way, for buffoons out there who plan something similar, this might be helpful advice: Provide the local media with a flattering portrait, so when you go missing they don't have to run a photo of you flushed and red eyed at a bar.


Pretty in pink

You did the Old School thing and the New School thing. Now, there's Color School. Burton, the snowboard pioneer, not only outfits you on its Web site, but also makes sure you look suitably cool on the mountain with its Color School service that mixes and matches your outfits and your gear for you. Our favorite color? Pink, of course. But this isn't tea rose pink or even Barbie Doll pink. It's called "Hyper." Check it out at - Deb

A question many have asked

This came to me from a reader yesterday...

"I am new to the Colorado Springs area and I really looked forward to your section of the paper on Happy Trails. Being new...I find myself wondering just where these place are for hiking. It would be nice if you added a small inset map of these places or directions and miles away from Colorado Springs. I do appreciate the boots showing the difficulty of the hike. Can you tell me where I can find a good book or map showing the hiking areas and names and locations of the parks in the Colorado Springs area so I can familiarize myself with the area? "

The best thing for every area hiker, mtn. biker, birder, skier, whatever to have is the Pikes Peak Atlas . This $13 map has all the best hiking trails as well as some elusive game paths and lots of obscure suggestions. That will get you started. Later, if you are looking for more choices, check out "Trails Guide to Denver and Pikes Peak" by Zoltan Malocsay. The layout is a bit confusing, but has lots of great trails. Also, check out our collected, pocket-sized books of Happy Trails, available at most area bookstores and outdoor shops.

As for the map inset, I agree something is needed. In the 1990s we had maps along with the hikes, but they were so inconsistent and willy nilly that we did away with them. However, now that there are so many easy mapping programs for the state that can generate a nice-looking map in minutes, we may start producing maps next year.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Zippety Do Dah!

Skiing isn't your only option in Colorado in November. Jim Schwerin sent us this shot of Zippety Do Dah in the Road 18 area near Fruita taken the weekend of Nov. 5-6. Schwerin reminds riders that they don't have to go all the way to Moab for this kind of experience; some of these trails will hold up through the winter if it stays dry out there. Check conditions ahead of time at the Over the Edge Bike Shop, or .
Schwerin is a member of Medicine Wheel, a local bike trail advocacy group that does good work throughout the region (wait until you see the trail they built at Cheyenne Mountain State Park). Check out their activities at

Snow for Waldo

We love snow, but we don't love snow as much as Waldo, our yellow lab. Through the years, he could sense snow before it happened and when it did, he would beg to go out and play in it. There, he would bound through drifts, bury his face up to his neck, and chase snowballs until we were worn out from throwing them. Waldo's 16 now, and he's deaf and blind, but when it snowed 3 inches yesterday, he knew. Outside at night, standing in the new snow lit by the nearly full moon, Waldo put his nose in the air and checked out the scene. He stood there, a look of bliss on his face, welcoming his favorite season. - Deb

Another place to forage for gear

We haven't checked it out yet, but there's another new outdoor equipment store in town. Sportsman's Warehouse is located at 555 N. Chelton Road (behind Krispy Kreme) and, according to its phone message, will open Nov. 23. You might have visited its locations in Denver. Its ads say it has gear for hunting, fishing, camping and reloading, as well as outerwear and footwear.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

We told you so

You're at work. This guy isn't. Here's a picture from Wolf Creek on Thursday afternoon.

Catching a plane

This gives "frequent flyer miles" a whole new meaning. Telluride Ski Resort is offering skiers who participate in a new program one air mile for every 100 vertical feet skied using GPS technology. The Telluride Mountain Miles Program is a partnership among Continental Airlines, SlopeTracker and the resort. I can see it now: "Let's stop for lunch." "NO, I need 10 more air miles to get to New York!" Learn more at

Here's how you do it

You've got it figured out. You know all the secrets for a successful ski day. You know where to park, where to eat, where to ride. Or do you? Check out our insider tips for the best day ever, in Friday's Out There section in the Gazette, (including where to find the escalators, in photo above). - Deb

Howling Good Time

Did you get the message: WOLF CREEK IS OPEN!
Those of you who checked the site yesterday saw the announcement. The Nova Beginner Lift and Treasure Chairlift are up and runnin' 8:30-4. The Bonanza Lift is set to open at 10.
They say 40% of the mountain -600+ acres- is open and powder rules.
If you check it out, send us a report of conditions. We'll share them with other desk-bound saps.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What can you do in 36 hours?

Some people like to ease into another ski season. If that's not you, check out Keystone's 36 Hours of Keystone. The resort will stay open for 36 hours, from 9 a.m. Friday to 9 p.m. Saturday.
To give you an extra boost, the festivities include a punk rock pancake breakfast Saturday morning, live bands, DJs, a red-carpet premiere of Level One's new ski film, "Shanghai Six," street parties and skiing/riding until your legs fall off.

Check for more info.


Get your head out of your gear and nominate yourself for our Greatest Gearhead contest. Out There is looking for the Greatest Gearhead in the region. The winner will be featured in a story in Out There and win prizes. Entry deadline is Friday; send nominations to

Magic Carpet ride

We love last-minute decisions. Management at the Wolf Creek Ski Area decided at the last minute to open the resort last Saturday with Nova Lift. Then, a weekend storm brought more snow and Treasure Lift opened Sunday. Bonanza is scheduled to open Thursday. For more information on Wolf Creek, check
Hankering for Vail? It opens Friday with 1,015 acres and 11 lifts. Check
More of a Crested Butte fan? That resort will open Saturday. The mountain got more than 25 inches earlier in the week. Red Lady Express will be running, and the adult and kidsÂ’ Magic Carpets will also be open for personalized instruction from the pros at CB Mountain Schools. For more information, visit Steamboat alsobenefitedd from recent storms, and will open Nov. 23. For information, visit

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

No Job? Can't afford a ski pass?

Greg Ralph, marketing and sales director at Monarch, is looking for people to boot pack the steeper runs. Work 5 days in exchange for a Season Pass! The packing will start in late November and run for about two weeks. The work is on Monarch's newest terrain, Mirkwood Basin, and those who volunteer must be expert skiers or riders. Call 719-530-5040 for more info.

So this is how they did it!

I think I've figured out the explorer mentality - it requires determination and a lot of imagination.
On Monday, I covered 400 miles in southeastern Colorado, searching for the exact point at which Zebulon Pike first focused his spy glass on the mountain that would be named after him. I knew that historians had determined the location near the John Martin Reservoir so I started there. And an hour later, I was standing on the exact spot. Pike had camped with his men on the bank of the Arkansas River and as he scanned the horizon, he spotted what looked like a "small blue cloud" to the northwest. The weather on Monday was nearly perfect for mountain-finding, but a storm was moving in, so the sky was pretty much a collection of shades of blues and cirrus and cumulus clouds. Nevertheless, I trained my zoom camera lens (no spy glass for me, although I have to admit I wished I had one) on the horizon and squinted. Was that the small blue cloud? (See photo above) Or was it over there? Hard to say. But even if I didn't really duplicate Pike's experience, for a moment I felt like an explorer. The shortgrass prairie obliged. You really can see for miles here and what you see is unobstructed by cell towers, telephone poles or structures. The wind blows, the sky dominates. Maybe I'll go back with a spy glass. - Deb

Don't think I'll be subscribing....

The Gazette's TV writer, Andy, handed me a press release trumpeting the start of Snowshoe Magazine, the "world's first and only magazine devoted to the sport of snowshoeing."
We're thinking this might be too miniscule of a niche to really take off. After all, even if you are "like, so stoked" about snowshoeing, do you really want to read about it? Every month? Year after year?
That would get old even if you lived in an igloo.
But if you do decide to subscribe, here's what you can look forward to in the first issue, no joke:

* Snowshoeing in an Austrian Winter Wonderland
* The Atlas Trans-Sierra Snowshoe Trek
* Interviewing "The String Cheese Incident"
* Snowshoe Thompson's Legacy Lives On
* Snowshoeing Yoga
* Professor Jim Joque provides some first-timer advice
* A selection of destinations, a calendar of races/competitions, and much more

By the way, take those snowshoes to Vail. They've had 48 inches in the last seven days!


Monday, November 14, 2005

OK, maybe you should skip work

That foot of fresh snow stuff is so last night. Now Summit County is reporting closer to two feet or more! And it's still snowing!

Reported snowfall over the weekend from mid-mountain reporting sites:
Vail: 29 inches
Beaver Creek: 17 inches
Breckenridge: 24 inches
Keystone: 23 inches
Copper: 17 inches

Storm settles over central Rockies

Summit County is socked in. I was up there this weekend and watched the snow build up. Both Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel were closed by the storm. Breck, A Basin, Keystone, and Copper are all reporting over 8 inches and it is still dumping.
Skip work tomorrow?
Better wait a while until more is open. 12 inches of powder are only so much fun on two or three green runs.


Grande dame of nature writing has stroke!

Ann Zwinger, naturalist, prolific author, Newberry Medal-winner, and one of the most constant and clear voices for wild places in the west had a stroke late last week. Zwinger, who is 80, is recovering at her Colorado Springs home.
Until last week she led a remarkably active lifestyle. For years she has rafted down the Grand Canyon at least once a year, and taught countless outdoor nature-writing classes, sleeping in a tent, eating lunch in the shade of junipers, and savoring clarity of being away from "that darn e-mail" and other modern conveniences she always tolerated with exasperated politeness.
I've been a friend of Ann for years. It wasn't unusual to invite her over for a cup of coffee only to hear back weeks later that she had been off somewhere in the Utah desert or cataloguing rare plants on Greek islands.
I wish her the best.

Her family asks that no visitors come by until she has had more time to recover a bit.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Tux and tucks

Some skiers are so literal. When Keystone Resort announced its formal opening this morning would be, well, formal, some folks showed up wearing clothes fit for a prom, albeit a 1980s prom. The resort had put out the word ahead of time, asking people to go with the formal theme. Some complied, and the men had an easier time than the women who had to haul around a bunch of satin and netting. Keystone opened with an 18-inch base. Breck opened this morning, too, also on a thin 18-inch base. For complete reports, go to or - Deb

Let me throw this out there...

Avalanche safety classes don't make you any safer
If you take a look at the statistics, those caught in an avalanche often have had classes, even high-level classes. They are wearing all the safety gear much of the time.
So what gives?
Does the knowledge make them feel more secure? Do they get into more trouble because they think they know how to get out of more trouble?
Lou Dawson, backcountry blogger and ski hall-of-famer, says the knowledge in most classes is focused on rescue and survival. Not avoidance.

I once heard a backcountry guide joke that the best avalanche safety tool to have along is a woman.
"A lot of avoiding an avalanche comes down to seeing something that might slide, and deciding not to ski it. Women are naturally more cautious," he said.

Maybe so. Check out the deaths from last year: none involve women. Most involved male pattern stupidity.


Might want a guide anyway

Last month Silverton Mountain finally got what it's been looking for since it opened: official status. The steeper than steep expert nutbag ski area in the San Juans was granted a 40-year permit by the BLM, which opens up unguided skiing starting in April.
Until then, the old system of a guide and six customers applies. But thankfully, with only double black diamond runs with some going through narrow rock chutes and into serious avalanche terrain, the guide service will be around after April too.
I've never been to Silverton and hope to get down there this year. I think I'll stick with the guide.
But for all those guys who don't flinch at a 100-centimeter-wide couloir descent, and know how to dig a buddy out from under 8 feet of snow, good news: unguided tickets should be a lot cheaper than the $130 per day lift ticket price in place now.
Has anyone checked out Silverton? What shouldn't be missed?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Stay Safe 101

Leave it to Mountain Chalet to make us smarter. The downtown outdoor shop is starting up its series of free classes again. Up first: "Avalanche Awareness 101," at 7 p.m. Thursday at the shop, 226 N. Tejon St., in Colorado Springs. SFC Shawn Connor, a master trainer with the 10th Special Forces at Fort Carson, will offer advice on gear and equipment for the backcountry, along with tips on recognizing terrain traps and wind loading, and safe route selection. Watch The Gazette's Out There section ( for previews.


The big resorts are starting to open. Keystone and Breckenridge both fire up the lifts Friday Morning. Their coverage is, shall we say, less than inspiring, but what can you expect when it's 70 degrees and sunny on the Front Range. But there's a chance of snow tomorrow and Saturday, so things can only get better.
If you have a season pass, hit Breck first for their pancake breakfast. Ski a few runs, then zoom over to Keystone, where the gimmick this year is wearing prom tuxes and dresses for the inaugural run.
Check out the slopes here:

Now what do we do about the Texas tuck?

A ski instructor in Canada has come up with a device that gives learning skiers an auditory warning if they're using improper form. The Ski Coach is worn like a Camelbak. Ball bearings in the backpack make a satisfying "clink" if the skier is taking the turns right, but make no noise if the skier is leaning too much into a curve.
The Ski Coach, $49.95, is sold exclusively on

This doesn't correct the "sit-against-the-back-of-the-boot-oh-my-god-y'all" Texas tuck. For that, I think Ski Coach should make a new product.
It should include a shock collar.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

If the shoe fits...

Timberland, the unlikely ghetto fabulous/lumberjack boot company just bought Colorado's SmartWool for $82 million.
I'm not sheepish about how much I love itch-free, stink-free, cozy SmartWool, and only hope the new deal doesn't change the quality of the product. That would be Ba-a-a-a-ad.

Welcome to the Jungle

Friday in Out There we'll tell you how to bust up the algae party going on in your Camelbak tube, plus give you other easy gear fixes for the end of the warm weather season.

Speaking of the end of warm weather, I talked to a guy from Breck ski patrol yesterday about the avalanche that killed one man up near Winter Park Sunday. He said the central mountains are covered with slides right now. Here's what happened: We got that big dump of snow in October. Then it got nice and warm for a few weeks and the snow would melt every day and freeze again at night until in became as solid as the grille on an Abrams Tank. Then a foot of new snow fell on that slick, solid surface. The outcome: instant slab avalanches at the slightest touch.
So what do we do? Wait. Slowly the snow will start to bond together. Although Avi-techs will tell you, a weak layer like that can persist until the spring thaw, so be careful.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Get your gear on

OK, we know you probably don't take the kitchen sink when you head out for an adventure. But if you understand the concept of gear for all occasions, you might be the Greatest Gearhead. If you think you deserve that title, we want to know. After all, we understand the importance of gear - lots and lots of gear. So we're looking for the Gearhead to top all Gearheads. You can nominate yourself or a friend or family member for this title. The winner will be featured in a story in the Out There section of The Gazette and will receive prizes. To enter, send the Gearhead's name, address and telephone numbers along with 100 words or fewer that tell us why he or she should win, to: Greatest Gearhead, Out There/Newsroom, The Gazette, P.O. Box 1779 Colorado Springs, CO 80901, or e-mail Entry deadline is Nov. 18. - Deb

The people have spoken...

and basically, Colorado ski resorts rule.
SKI Magazine's readers ranked Vail no. 1
Snowmass no. 3 and Beaver Creek no. 4.

Personally, I don't think "the people" know what the hell they're talking about, because they rank Aspen Mountain, perhaps the most poorly planned resort in the Rockies, as no. 7, while glorious Copper Mountain doesn't even break the top 20.

I'm always asked and always dodge the question, but for the rest of you, what's the best mountain in Colorado? - Dave

Monday, November 07, 2005

Wet Mountains road trip

While I was looking for what has been promised to be the state's newest ski area, I discovered a great road trip that's my favorite kind - a loop (way more interesting than out-and-back). From Colorado Springs, take Colorado 115 to Penrose, then right on U.S. Highway 50 west toward Canon City. Turn left onto Colorado Highway 67 and drive through Florence; at Wetmore, take Colorado 95 to McKenzie Junction. Turn left on Colorado 165 and head south, turn left on Colorado 78 (unpaved but OK for a passenger car) through Beulah all the way to Pueblo, where you can pick up I-25 and head back home.
This is a great tour of the Wet Mountains, with roads that twist and turn, dozens of trailheads just off the road and an obligatory stop at the bizarre Bishop's Castle. Note: In the winter, that little leg from 165 to Beulah isn't plowed, so save this trip for a sunny, snow-free day. - Deb

(Above, a trail at Pueblo Mountain Park in the Wet Mountains)

Looking for Aspen Country

The opening of a new ski resort in Colorado is a rare event. When I heard of just such a rarity in the Wet Mountains, I had to check it out.
News reports have said that Terry Cook, a Wetmore-area resident, was turning a 57-acre parcel of land into the area that he calls Aspen Country Mountain Park. It will have a double chairlift, a snow groomer and eight or nine runs for beginners and intermediates.
For weeks, I've been trying to contact Cook, and last weekend, I even set out to find this phantom ski area. I did find the road - a forest road off Colorado Highway 165 just north of Bishop's Castle - and I found what looked like a disassembled ski lift, but I've had no luck finding Cook. An Associated Press story said the area was set to open in December. Here's what it looks like now. - Deb

A quick snow...

If you slept in on Saturday, you missed a very hard, very brief snow. I had gone to volunteer for some trail work at Garden of the Gods. The snow cancelled the volunteer day, so I spent a few hours strolling through the abandoned, snow covered park. How glorious!
And up in the high country, places like Summit County got a foot of snow. That should help Keystone and Breck when they open in the next few weeks.

Year's first avalanche death

Sam Teetzen was snowboarding just east of Berthoud Pass Sunday when he set off a large snow slide that buried and killed him and his dog. Seems pretty early for avalanches. The NFL isn't even to the playoffs yet, but this early season snow can be very tricky. It has no base to attach to. Often, it slides all the way down to the dirt.

Here's the take from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center from yesterday afternoon:
"This morning, there were several sizable avalanches on Berthoud Pass, in the Mines Paths. At least one person was caught and killed. The second slide was triggered by a group responding to the first. The slides were three feet deep and ran about 1500 vertical feet. The paths are north and several forecasters are on the Pass, and will provide details as soon as possible.

"Westerly winds have turned yesterday's powder into an avalanche problem. The snow has been loaded onto a shallow, weak snowpack. It's like stacking 2 x 4s on top of Dixie cups?you can do it, carefully, but it doesn't take much to topple your stack. Compounding the problem is that these stacks may be the only place to ski or ride, and an early season thought pattern. The wind and sun has stripped snow off many places, reducing choices of places to go. Really pay attention to the terrain, because if there is enough snow to keep you off the ground, there is enough snow to slide. Do not your early season eagerness, and the thought "there's not much snow," short circuit your avalanche awareness. Poke, prod, and test the snow frequently. Avoid being on or below steep slopes and wind pillows. Use your inclinometer. It is good to re-calibrate your eye at the beginning of every season. Travel safely, exposing only one member of your party at a time."


Friday, November 04, 2005

Rampart Range Trails

Reader Jason D. wrote in to say: I recently moved to the area and just yesterday took Rampart Range Road from Garden of the Gods to Rampart Reservoir. Upon arriving and discovering the kayak sitting on top of my Jeep was worthless due to the closing of the reservoir to boat in Oct. I decided to find some trails running off the road. I was very disappointed to not find any. With the amazing views from the north side of the range it is truly a shame there are not more (or any) trails running in this area. Am I wrong? Did I miss them?

Well, sorry, yes.
Rampart Res. has a classic running trail going around the shore. It's also a good mountain bike ride.
Rampart doesn't have many great trails, but you can also tap into Waldo Canyon from above if you know where to look. (On this map they call it the RRR.)
Finally, if you don't mind walking right by the shooting range, you can drop down into Williams Canyon for an awesome hike.

Anyone new to the area should pick up a copy of the Pikes Peak Atlas. It's got enough trails to keep you busy for years. -Dave

Oh deer,

Apparently, this is the time of year when most deer/car collisions happen. And those deer rarely go under the tires, they go into the windshield. Somethimes through the windshield. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 200 people die annually in deer/vehicle crashes.
So, according to the Humane Society, here is what you can do to not kill Bambi or his mom.
1. Slow down: it gives you and the deer more time to react. The magic number seems to be 45 mph or below.
2. Pay attention: deer cross the road in pretty much the same place every day. You saw them there yesterday, you'll see them there again tomorrow. Be ready.

What's with this wind

85 mph gusts on Thursday. Trucks, trees, and trash cans knocked over all around the city. Slate tiles flying off roofs. And here's the thing: The oak in my yard has not lost a single leaf. Very, very strange.
Welcome to those of you checking out our blog for the first time. We'll have regular updates of what's coming up in Out There, and what's going on in the outdoor world.
On this beautiful and crisp fall day, I'm sneaking out of the newsroom to track down the next Happy Trails: Puma Peak near Wilkerson Pass. Check back Monday for photos of the trip. - Dave

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Copper opens Friday

Copper Mountain has a 20-inch base and two runs, Rhapsody and Main Vein, open and ready to go. Tickets aren't cheap, $48 until Dec. 16 when they go up to $76, but I know a lot of you cashed in on the bargain Copper Mountain season pass, so you might as well get your money's worth.
Check out the slopes on the Copper Mountain cam and the resort cam.
- Dave

On off-road

The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday that local managers would now decide where visitors can use off-road vehicles. That was nothing new for the Pikes Peak District, which has been operating on that kind of plan since 1990. Among its most popular off-road areas: trail 717, a behemoth that crisscrosses the forest for more than 60 miles west of Divide and north of Woodland Park (see rock towers from there at left). What do you think about the current management of trails like this one? Is it working? Are there enough trails for off-roaders and enough for those who explore the forest on bikes or on foot? If you're a hiker, do you avoid off-road areas like 717? E-mail your comments to
- Deb

Gold Camp Road opening? Not so fast...

I guess it was only a matter of time before the decision by the U.S. Forest Service to open Upper Gold Camp Road would be appealed. The Gazette reported today that a group of property owners and non-profits moved to stop the opening of the 8.5-mile road that has been closed since 1988.

No one opposed to opening the road will come out and say it, but I think they are afraid the move would attract what I once heard a long-time outdoor guy in town refer to as "bad hombres."
The "bad hombre," he said, is a peripheral member of society who uses the region's mountain roads for drunk driving, target shooting, and major appliance abandonment. The best of these guys are able to combine all three elements in one outing. He said you can already find these guys on Old Stage Road and Rampart Range Road, and occasionally on Lower Gold Camp. And the amount of old washers and bullet-riddled signs on these roads certainly backs up his observations.
Would the Bad Hombres ply their trades on Upper G. C. as well? Maybe so.
But right now the opposition is talking about "safety" and "cost" and no one has uttered the B.H. words. Maybe they're concerned it would make them look like bigots.
Strangely, at the same time talk is swirling about opening Upper G. C. the folks at the Pike National Forest are busy erecting burly steel gates to block off other roads in areas trashed by the B. H. such as Emerald Valley.
Rangers in the Pike National Forest have told me they are blocking off these areas because they don't have the staff to patrol them and without ranger super vision, the areas are being ruined.
Why open a long swath of road at the same time you are closing off several others? Well, it doesn't seem like Pike National Forest really plans to open Upper G.C. Rangers have said the area doesn't have the money. So this whole plan may just be a way to follow regulations while not doing anything.
Good news for hikers. Not so good for the Bad Hombres, if they really exist. - Dave

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Wild west side.

Bob Gelow, a reader who lives near Bear Creek Park, sent in scenes from jousting bucks that are squaring off in his yard.He wrote to say "I have lived in this house for the past 5 years, and during that time we have had daily visits from the deer spring through fall. I believe they tend to stay higher up in the foothills during winter. Two years ago a doe gave birth to triplets in our back yard where our property meets the pasture along Bear Creek Park (attached below). They were very comfortable around us and stayed there until late summer when the fawns were ready to head out into the world. When we saw the three bucks this year in the yard at different times, we hoped it was the three fawns coming back to visit"
I've noticed the deer are getting a bit complacent in that area of town. Maybe they don't know suburban mountain lions are also prowling the 'hood. Although, it seems, those cats appear to prefer to dine on doggies.

Speaking of the wild west side, I was mountain biking with photographer Christian Murdock in Stratton Open Space yesterday afternoon and came around a corner in the oak brush to see a large house cat sitting in the middle of the trail. Then I noticed the tufts on the ears and realized it was a bob cat! After years on the trails, it's the first time I've ever seen the little bob-tailed critter. In a few seconds, he was gone. How long will I have to wait before I cross paths with one again? - Dave

Can you hear me now?

The National Park Service recently released new policy guidelines that would increase cell phone coverage in its 388 parks and monuments, as well as let in Segways.

The plan has caught a lot of flak from senators on both sides of the aisle, but really, what difference does it make? Yellowstone already has several cell towers, and with the amount of huge RVs on the road, is a Segway really that big of a deal?

More troubling are provisions to ease restrictions on noise and air pollution.

Sen. Ken Salazar told the press, ''Frankly, we don't understand what the true motivation was," suggesting he thinks small exceptions for the Segway might be a Trojan horse for more sensitive issues like letting snowmobiles and ATVs into some parks.

The cell phone crowd, or course, is tickled. I found a press release from June gushing about how more coverage would make the backcountry safer. Maybe so, but I can't help thinking something will be lost. - Dave