Thursday, November 30, 2006

The helmet mentality

I've suggested. I've threatened. I've bribed. But all my threats and even my best bribes never really convinced my daughter that she would be better off wearing a helmet when she snowboarded. She said, and I quote, "it makes me look weird." And it's true - the first time we handed her a helmet years ago, they were still an oddity on the slopes.

But she came home from boarding at Arapahoe Basin last week with a different attitude. "Everybody was wearing helmets," she said. "Especially in the terrain park. I felt weird because I wasn't wearing one."

Don't fight it, it's the Brazil Nut Effect

A friend who's a ski patroller shared the new theory of the Brazil nut with me. Now Lou Dawson is blogging about it, so there must be something to it.

It has to do with avalanches... and nuts.

Basically, the Brazil Nut Effect is the phenomenon in which the biggest particles end up on the surface when a granular material containing a mixture of objects of different sizes is shaken. In a jar of nuts it means the big ones eventually find their way to the top, which is why nasty old Brazil nuts are always getting in the way of cashews.

In an avalanche, it means you are probably going to end up near the surface. There is no need to swim, no need to struggle. The die is cast. Avalanche experts suggest you just cover your face and try to make an air space.

There is no guarantee a body will stay on or near the surface. Avalanches often are fatal, nut effect or no nut effect.

Europeans have come up with an air-bag device that will make a skier into an even bigger nut, helping to keep him or her on the surface. I have yet to talk to anyone who has tried it.

(In the meantime, Dave will simply try to become a bigger nut. -- editor Dena)

Maybe you don't want to know.... but...

The human performance lab at UCCS is offering VO2 max and lactate threshold testing. The cost is $75 for individuals and $50 each for groups of 2. The results of these tests will help you to train smarter and not just harder. It is a great opportunity to get testing usually reserved for elite athletes at a fraction of the cost offered by most labs. All proceeds will go toward funding future research into performance at altitude. Call 719-262-3938 or e-mail for more information.

Storm pushes some resorts over 100-inch mark!

Wow, The latest dump in the Rockies pushed Aspen, Wolf Creek, and Silverton over the 100 inches of snow mark for the year. Here are some of the latest counts:

Arapahoe Basin: 8”
Aspen Mountain: 21”
Beaver Creek: 14”
Breckenridge: 10”
Copper Mountain: 10”
Crested Butte: 17”
Keystone: 9”
Loveland: 15”
Monarch Mountain: 10”
Silverton: 18”
Snowmass: 24”
Steamboat: 23”
Telluride: 15”
Vail: 17”
Winter Park/Mary Jane: 11”
Wolf Creek: 34”

If you're going to enjoy it, bring extra layers. It was -8 at Breck this morning with windchill at one point getting up to -48.
On a hardly related note, but something that warrants discussion, The Gazette ran a story from Salt Lake today detailing how our carbon-loving lifestyle will slowly carve away at the ski season. The spring melt is coming a week earlier than it did 50 years ago. Click here to read more.
The take home message is two-fold. 1. Push for a global climate treaty. 2. Enjoy the skiing while you can.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Snow, beautiful snow!

Photo Credit: Art Burrows, Aspen/Snowmass
Photo Credit: skier and snowboarder – Jeremy Swanson, Aspen/Snowmass

This is what Aspen looked like Tuesday.
The scene out the window of The Gazette doesn't look so different right now.
Of course regular urbanites on the Front Range are grousing right now about traffic snarls caused by the latest storm, but for those of us who love skiing, this is a day for celebration. New snow is dearly needed after a reletively dry November.
And just look at the number piling up.
Vail: 9 inches
Beaver Creek: 8 inches
Monarch: 8 inches
Loveland: 8 inches
Aspen Mountain: 12 inches
Wolf Creek: 18 INCHES!

There's more to come, but seriously cold arctic air will follow it, so if you're going to try to go skiing Thursday, follow the advice of Rob Gilbert, the man who taught me the art of mountaineering, and "bring your woolies."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

View from the summit

We'll post pix as soon as we can. Just got off the phone with Dave. Success!!

Seems everyone made it up - and, more importantly, made it down.

No doubt they were warmed by hot cocoa at the Summit House and maybe a celebratory doughnut or two.

Dave'll be here to begin regaling us with tales in an hour or so. I'll ask him to post a hello.

Check tomorrow's Gazette for the full tale and photos from Christian.

Can't see the peak?

If you're holed up in a windowless office (worked in one of those once - in the basement no less - at the foot of Mt. San Antonio in SoCal - it was agony!) log onto the cam to see Pikes Peak as the weather shifts this afternoon. Should be interesting!

Yowza, that's cold

No word yet from the summit. I was just outside basking in the sunshine, thinking of the crew up there in the cold. According to the National Weather Service link off the Barr Camp site - where you can click on the forecast for anything above treeline - our climbers should just get off the peak before becoming freezsicles. 50% chance of snow tonight and -9 degrees (wind chill? feels like I'm gonna die!) and 100% chance tomorrow. Temp? Brrrrrfreezing.

Snow's a blowin'

I tried to post this yesterday and it just wouldn't take. Now that the weather is, indeed, turning, it works!

This is a shot from awhile ago of the peak, with a bit of snow like today, with the wind blowing like today.

I awoke with a start when the wind blew the windows open at my house in Manitou early this morning. And I immediately thought of Dave and Christian and the gang up on mountain. Brrrrrr!

And then I thought of poor sockless Zeb Pike. Yipes! No wonder he turned around. No Popsicle Pike for him.

The gang should be zeroing in on the summit as I write. I'll pass along the news as soon as I hear.

In the meantime, get your gear ready for a - ahem - sick day later this week. I feel a day of riding coming on!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Wrath of the peak

Well, reporter Dave Philipps and photographer Christian Murdock should be hiking away from the summit of Mount Rosa toward Pikes Peak as I write. I'm not sure how much they know about the storm that is supposed to be headed their way. I'm sure they know it was chillier last night than in recent evenings.

I'm certain Dave knows because he had to hike BACK UP to the cave on the side of Mount Rosa last night.

Yep. The peak threw a wrench into our well-oiled gears, much as it did Zeb 200 years ago. Though I'm not sure how well-oiled Zeb's plans were. He was pretty much winging it.

Anyway, as we wrote last week, Dave tested transmission from the cave. It was a cold and windy day up there, but I got his e-mail, no worries. As the team snuggled in after sunset Sunday, however, the battery on Dave's laptop went dead. He'd written his story for today's paper but couldn't send it.

Curses! Historian and lawyer John Murphy had already bopped down the mountain. Fortunately, a friend of the climbing team had driven up Gold Camp Road and hiked up to the cave to meet them. Dave hiked down from the cave, borrowed the friend's car, drove downtown to The Gazette, dumped his story into our computer system here, then drove back up Gold Camp, parked and hiked BACK to the cave. In the dark. After already spending about 10 hours on the trail bushwhacking up the side of Rosa.

I've been hoping for "weather" - the better to test our crew's mettle against Pike's gang - but I was also hoping for smooth transmissions of stories and photos. Ah well, Pike had no socks and we have a bad battery. Something was bound to happen!

Hope you're enjoying the tale so far. Dave and Christian should transmit from Barr Camp this evening - before Teresa and Neal kick them out into the wilderness for the night.

If you've got a powerful telescope, train it between Rosa and the peak - you might see the ants as they march along.

(Thanks to Steve Garufi -see the Gold Camp Road link - for all your fun work in the area!)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Monarch not a turkey!

(photo courtesy of Monarch Mountain)

I didn't make it to Monarch on Thanksgiving (had trouble getting through to the ski/ride school Wednesday - I hope that's a good sign for them), but business editor Joanna Bean and her kids did. Here's her report:

We passed up turkey dinner on Thanksgiving to ski Monarch. Coverage was decent - there were plenty of green and blue runs for the kids to choose from, and patches of dirt were easy to spot and avoid. Frankly, I've skiied on worse conditions in January and February. And the price was right. Tickets were $27 - for an adult and two kids (thanks to early season rates and a Gems card).

The first day out always comes with its own, um, challenges. The binding on one of my daughter's skis wasn't right, so the guys in the rental shop fixed it. We forgot sunscreen and discovered that last year's mittens were a wee bit tight. Helmets, thankfully, still fit, at least until spring skiing.

Consider the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center after a day on the slopes. If you show them your ski ticket, it's a buck off admission to the pool.

The enemy of wilderness?

Regular blog readers and ski fanatics may recall that world-class Aspen skier and all-around badass Chris Davenport is trying to ski all Colorado's fourteeners in one calendar year. He's been climbing them all via his own power (no helicopters) and filming each descent with the help of various buddies.

He is putting the footage together for a commercial movie about skiing the fourteeners. (Hey, even a pro skier has to put food on the table, right?)

But there's a problem. According to a post on Lou Dawson's blog,,
U.S. Forest Service does not allow video footage in wilderness areas, where many of the peaks lie. It breaks the wilderness rules of not bringing mechanical devices into a federal wilderness. Read Dawson's Rant here.

The rules are somewhat inconsistent. Still photos are fine. GPS and cell phones are permitted (just look around any 14er summit on a summer afternoon) but apparently video is not.

Obviously, the rules are set up to protect the sanctity of wilderness. Allowing wilderness areas to become the sets of big movie productions would be a mistake, but it's hard to see what harm a few human-powered backcountry skiers with hand-held camcorders pose.

Dawson says lawyers are talking with lawyers, and the outcome of the footage is uncertain, but for now it can only be shown privately.

Meanwhile, Davenport is still skiing. He has less than 10 peaks to go. Check out his progress here.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

It's all downhill from here

Gerald Ford and other wealthy homeowners at Beaver Creek lost. Lovers of alpine slides won. Eagle County commissioners have ruled that Vail Resorts can build an alpine slide in Beaver Creek.
Residents are worried it isn't worthy of the high-end neighborhood. Vail Resorts says the company's slide will be "state of the art." What does that mean? Polished granite instead of concrete, perhaps?

Don't try this at home (or on the mountain, either)

Only James Bond can ski through bomb blasts, rocket down a snowy mountainside on a cello case, and shoot an evil enemy with a ski pole-turned-gun. features photos from the best Bond ski moments, and there were lots of them: that skiing-on-one-leg thing in "Her Majesty's Secret Service"; a wicked switch misty in "The Spy Who Loved Me"; a perfectly timed kick to knock the gun out of his enemy's hand and a turn on skis down a bobsled course in "For Your Eyes Only"; getting huge air on a snowmobile ski in "A View to a Kill," and more. Watch and learn.

Boarders, give thanks

From Palmer Snowboards, the top five reasons to be thankful you're a snowboarder:
5. It's way cooler than cross-country skiing - no spandex.
4. No purple toenails - Snowboard boots are way comfier than ski boots and don't result in lost toenails in the spring.
3. Cameron Diaz is a snowboarder.
2. Less gear means you can hold your snowboard in one hand and a beer in the other.
1. We get to wear saggy, baggy pants, so no matter how much turkey we eat on Thanksgiving, no one will ever know!

Another gem opens

Anyone spending opening day at Monarch? Send us a report! I'd really like to hit it tomorrow instead of lounging with turkey and football. Dave headed out this morning, but I'm not sure what mountain. I'll ask him for a report tonight. Deb and I are holding down the fort.

If you've been up in the last day or two, send us a report. Also, you can log onto our new Web site,, and post comments there.

(Photo courtesy of Monarch Mountain.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Where have all the frogs gone?

A recent review of hundreds of research studies shows that animal and plant species are dying off or changing sooner than predicted because of global warming. At least 70 species of frogs, mostly mountain-dwellers that couldn't cope with the heat, have gone extinct, and between 100 and 200 other cold-dependent animal species, such as penguins and polar bears, are in deep trouble, reports the AP.

"We are finally seeing species going extinct," said University of Texas biologist Camille Parmesan, author of the study. "Now we've got the evidence. It's here. It's real. This is not just biologists' intuition. It's what's happening."
Her review of 866 scientific studies is summed up in the journal Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics.

Parmesan reports seeing trends of animal populations moving northward if they can, of species adapting slightly because of climate change, of plants blooming earlier, and of an increase in pests and parasites.
Parmesan and others have been predicting such changes for years, but even she was surprised to find evidence that it's already happening; she figured it would be another decade away.

The most noticeable changes in plants and animals have to do with earlier springs, Parmesan said. The best example can be seen in earlier cherry blossoms and grape harvests and in 65 British bird species that in general are laying their first eggs nearly nine days earlier than 35 years ago.

Parmesan said she worries most about the cold-adapted species, such as emperor penguins that have dropped from 300 breeding pairs to just nine in the western Antarctic Peninsula, or polar bears, which are dropping in numbers and weight in the Arctic.

Lynx reward now up to $7,500

The pile of cash for information on who killed two endangered lynx in southwestern Colorado keeps growing. First it was $500 offered by the state. Then conservation groups kicked in $4,500 more. Now they've added another $2,500.

Would you sell out a friend for $7,500? Of course you would if you were the type of guy who has friends who shoot lynx. Cops rely on the old addage: Dirty, underhanded people have dirty underhanded friends.
It may only be a matter of time before someone gets fingered.

Backcountry skiing leads New York Times Travel ski section

Sunday's NYT travel section was devoted to skiing and the lead story, Finding Bliss in Avalanche Country, British Columbia was all about the backcountry in the Canadian Rockies. Talk about a shift. A few years ago, backcountry skiing was way too fringe to ever land on the pages of the Times. If elite readers were going to plan a ski vacation around the undeveloped north, it would have to include helicopters and snowcats. No more.

Though numbers are hard to come by, because there are no lift tickets to count, backcountry skiing is booming, driven by lighter, better gear and crowds at ski resorts.

Of course, the downside came out in New York Times story. The writer and his friend arrived at their destination only to discover the avalanche danger was too high to ski. They had to stay in a hotel, drinking beer in the hot tub instead. It's the backcountry equivalent of waiting in a lift line... and sometimes you have to wait for days.

Goin' mobile

Are you part of the snowmobile crowd? We hear more skiers and riders are using snowmobiles to get to fresh backcountry powder. Kinda like monster surfers getting a tow-in off the North Shore.

Check out today's business section in The Gazette for a look at local snowmobile sales. Comment below if you're a believer, or otherwise.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Have to wait for Cooper

If yiou've got your Gems card and were planning on using it this weekend at Ski Cooper, think again. The little resort near Leadville won't be open for Thanksgiving weekend. Cooper doesn't have snow-making equipment, and there's not enough of the natural stuff on the ground there for a proper opening.

But these Gems resorts are open: Loveland, A-Basin and Monarch.

If you don't have a Gems card, get one. It gives you free days or discounts at eight ski resorts. Go to and click on Gems.

Tight budgets close campgrounds

Hundreds of Forest Service campgrounds may be closing, according to a story in the Denver Post Sunday (and also a Forest Service report we blogged about some months ago).

Budget shortfalls have forced the Forest Service to reduce the number of camping sites and the service is in the process of evaluating which will close. Forest Service spokesmen in Colorado said almost a third of their facilities could close, even as the number of people who camp is steadily increasing.

We're working on discovering what would close in the Pike National Forest. I can think of a few, such as Y Campground on Gold Camp Road, that have been neglected for years.

My concern is that closing campgrounds may actually cost more. On Gold Camp Road, lots of people camp in unimproved areas, scattering trash, driving off-road, and generally making a mess of things. Having improved campgrounds, and people to monitor them, seems to make campers behave better, which saves on clean-up. It's that whole ounce of prevention thing.

A perfect ski weekend

This is Vail...

photo courtesy Jen Brown
Why oh why wasn't I there. Great snow, blue bird skies this weekend. Lots of terrain open. I'm in mourning.

It's the perfect time to go skiing. And it looks like we have warm sunny days coming for most of the week.
By the end of this week, new terrain will be opening all over.

The ski resorts are usually quite coy about when they open what, but we have a rumor from a local in Breckenridge that this week the resort will open the top of Peak 8, allowing people to ski a quiver of blacks on the Imperial Express and Chair 6. That's the first time these runs have opened so early. With their south-facing lines, they usually aren't ideal until late winter.
Must be a good year.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Snow is back on 14ers, and so is Chris Davenport

On Monday pro-skier Chris Davenport clicked into his skis again in an attempt to be the first dude on the planet to ski all of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks in one calendar year. Last June he quit with 10 to go.
After bagging
Mount Bross, Monday, he now has nine, but some of them, such as Longs Peak, are serious hair balls.

Fortunately Davenport is barely mortal. You want to see hairball,
check out what he has already skied. He manages to have fun skiing things that would give most people a one-way ticket to the afterlife.

Here's what he said about Bross: "The wind was howling and blowing us around like flags on the summit. Fortunately the air temperature was warm so the wind chill was manageable. At the edge of the summit plateau we clicked into out skis and had some really nice turns down the bowl at the top of Moose Gulch. The wind had loaded some soft snow in here, and we managed a few hundred feet of quality turns before running into the wind blown sastrugi snow that makes even the best skiers look like beginners."

Real men eat...

Peanut butter sandwiches. The current issue of Field and Stream chooses the PBJ as the perfect "power lunch."
But what makes it even better for hunters out in the field? PBBB, of course - peanut butter, banana and bacon, offering "even more fat and protein."

The risk of luxury

The Sky Hotel, one of the hipper places to stay in Aspen, is looking for a few adventuresome (and wealthy) guests. The hotel offers several lodging packages, but its most over-the-top one features: a one-bedroom suite, valet parking, two three-day lift tickets, breakfast buffet each day, champagne in room on arrival, a four-course dinner at Pinon's, two Kimpton signature bathrobes, complimentary use of a Cadillac SRX, a nightcap each night, and with all that luxury, a little risk - a day of skiing with extreme skier Chris Davenport, skiing Highlands Bowl (at right) with the Marolt brothers as they train for Mt. Everest, or ice climbing with Aron Ralson and Aspen Expeditions.

That's the part that's interesting - to really enjoy this package ($1,999.75 per day with a minimum four-night stay), you'd better be a darn good skier or boarder.

Pikes Peak area trail report

This weekend is shaping up to be a nice one. A few clouds, but mild temperatures in the 50s. It's great weather for hiking and biking.

I road several miles of trail on Cheyenne Canon Thursday and can report they are free of ice. Same is true of Section 16, Red Rock, and trails in Rampart Range.

One of our photographers, recently returned from a trip to Barr Camp, said Barr Trail gets icy at about No Name Creek (about 9,000 feet). If you're hiking that high, we recommend screws in the shoes. For an explanation, see the post below.

Bottom line: It's a good weekend for either skiing, hiking or biking. Like my grandmother always says: Follow your bliss.

90% of comments favor roadless areas in Colorado

For almost two years, a task force appointed by Gov. Bill Owens has been mulling over how to manage 4.1 million acres of federal land that was designated by the Clinton administration as "roadless," then undesignated by the Bush administration. After scores of public comments and meetings, over 90 percent of people involved said they favored keeping them roadless. So that, apparently, is what the governor will recommend to the Feds.

According to the Rocky Mountain News, "Owens on Monday asked for federal protection of more than 4.1 million roadless acres in Colorado, following a state task force's advice."

There are still some loop holes that allow mining roads to already existing claims, but, all in all, this is a fairly progressive bill that paves the way to protecting undeveloped land.

Owens told the press, "The scenic landscapes, abundant wildlife and mountain vistas make Colorado such a wonderful place to live and raise a family. I applaud the task force for their commitment to this important process."

Kinda makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over.

Vail opens today!... Don't go to Vail

We can understand the excitement of America's largest, and consistently best-ranked ski area firing up the lifts on a bluebird Colorado morning, but this may not be the best day to go to Vail.

First, everyone else will be at Vail.

Second, almost every other ski area that's open has more snow. Copper Mountain has more than twice the base (31 inches) and is a half hour closer. That means more skiing and fewer rocks.

Breck's base isn't so bad either, and it's an hour closer.

Bottom line, there are lots of options for skiing, either today or this weekend. Check out for more info.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Our sympathies to Vermonters

Colorado's ski areas are rejoicing at recent storms and opening before their scheduled dates. Out East? Not so much.
Here's a picture of the slopes at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vt., Wednesday. Ski areas there are hoping for a really big dump before the Thanksgiving holiday.

When lions attack

Sea lions, that is. We can be thankful that we only have to deal with mountain lions here. In California, a rogue sea lion has bitten at least 14 people and chased 10 others out of the water this week at a public park's lagoon.

Celeste McMullin, who was bitten Monday, said she saw the animal lurking nearby but didn’t think much of it. “I was swimming along, and I felt a brush under my feet. And I thought, 'These feel like whiskers.’ So I stopped, and the animal popped up. He/she looked at me.”

McMullin then tried to swim away, but the sea lion followed, biting and bumping her continuously until she made it back to shore. She ended up with six bites: two puncture wounds and fourcuts.
(photo from USA Today)

Poetry for a fall day... culture, you barbarians

OK, OK. I know these days, when pics of Paris Hilton's skirt accidentally riding up are considered high entertainment, poetry isn't exactly hot stuff, and dottering old bards like Robert Frost especially.

But this morning, as I was considering the copper-colored oak leaves still clinging to their branches in my front yard, I was reminded of a favorite Frost poem. I used to live not far from his cabin in the Vermont woods, and his work has a special place on my shelf. So here is one for fall.


By Robert Frost

Out through the fields and woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.

The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.

And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Whither?"

Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Aspen fans rejoice

After this week's snowstorm, Aspen Skiing Company has bumped up its opening day to Saturday.
Peter King, mountain manager for Aspen Mountain, said all there is to say: "It would be criminal not to open this mountain."
The upper slopes on Aspen Mountain will open with about 150 acres of terrain served by the Ajax Express Quad and the Gent’s Ridge quad chairs.

Just in time for ski season... mountain biking

For anyone who has been eagerly awaiting the opening of the freeride park in Red Rock Canyon Open Space, the first phase of work is done. City inspectors will do a walk-through next Tuesday, and the park should open shortly after, if there are no problems.

Shoes with screws help grip on slick winter trails

Shoes with screws help runners get grip on slick winter trails
By DAVE PHILIPPS THE GAZETTE Winter trails can get so slick and solid that only a pair of mountaineering crampons or a luge sled seem adequate. Several kinds of instep crampons, such as Yaktrax, slip on to normal shoes, but many are expensive, don’t stay on well and wear out fast. Local trail runners have found a better solution: screws. Attach a dozen No. 4 or No. 6 halfinch sheet-metal screws to the bottom of an old pair of running or hiking shoes for instant grip. The ridged, hexagonal metal heads protruding from the sole provide great grip, don’t fall off and cost about a dime each. You can find these modern-day hobnails at any hardware store. Here’s how to install them: - Find areas of the sole that show the most wear. These are the best places to insert screws. - Screws should be placed to the sides of the sole, not directly under weight-bearing spots such as the ball, toe, or heel. A popular pattern is to place four screws in a rectangle that boxes the ball of the foot and two just in front of the heel. - Using an electric drill and an 1/8-inch bit, drill holes for the screws. - Twist the screws into the foot bed. Make sure the points don’t poke into the inner shoe, where your foot goes. The soles of some ultralight running shoes may be too thin. - Test the shoes before going for a long hike or run. If the screws don’t feel right, move them to a better spot and try again. Just don’t wear them in the house.

Eye on Everest

Climbing Mount Everest has been romanticized and Hollywood-ized over and over again. A new six-week series on the Discovery Channel does neither. "Everest: Beyond the Limit," that debuted last night, shows the world's highest mountain at its best and the climbers who strive to reach its summit at their best and worst. The series features a strange cast of characters - a strapping, 6'5" former Hells Angel whose accident-ravaged body is held together by plates and screws; an asthmatic teacher from Denmark who is climbing without supplemental oxygen, a Los Angeles firefighter back after a failed climbing attempt last year; and a guy with no legs - Mark Inglis (above), a New Zealander who lost his limbs to frostbite in a climbing accident more than two decades ago.
Each of these climbers has something to prove, and they've chosen the most inhospitable arena in the world as the place they will do it. Their quest is covered with an unsympathetic eye, with camera shots of a climber whose brain has swelled and caused his eyes to bulge, to another suffering cerebral edema on the route at 21,000 feet.... and these guys aren't even half-way up the mountain yet.

Imagine there's no driving

It's easy if you try.
A newly created Rocky Mountain Rail Authority has announced a plan to seek statewide voter approval for a railroad plan. The plan would offer rail service along I-25 from Wyoming to New Mexico and along I-70 with service to all ski resorts along the way.
Authors of the plan hope to have the study completed for voter approval in 2008. If the railway is approved, you can start leaving your car at home when you ski in 2018.

Get thee to Loveland

Photo from yesterday's storm, courtesy Keystone
The latest snow storm to hit Colorado was wide ranging, but not nececarily even-handed. Some places got rocks, some just got a lot of wind. Click here for the count. Keystone is reporting 5 inches. Breck 7, but just over the Continental Divide, Loveland clocked in at 22 inches. That's what I call some snow!
It must have all blown over from A Basin, just next door, which only got 11.

Only 11 inches. I love saying that. Some years we would sell our own mothers for 11 inches. Makes me want to put on my happy hat.

Winter Park opens today, with 8 trails.
Vail will open Friday. Crested Butte, Saturday.
Monarch opens next week with all natural powder. Shows you it must be a good snow year.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Backcountry blogging with four bars

I've spend much of today scouting out cell phone reception in various parts of the Pikes Peak region. It's all part of the planning for an upcoming re-creation of Zeb Pike's unsuccessful attempt to climb Pikes Peak. This time, we hope we'll have some success. We plan on taking three days, and I want to write a story each day. Fortunately, I can just beam the stories down to the city via a broadband modem -- but only if I have a signal. Rather than leave it to chance, I went out to make sure.

And I was impressed with what I found. The south ridge of Mount Rosa, a place known as Pike's Patio, because it is just in front of the cave where he spent the night, gets four full bars of coverage. The summit gets three bars. As soon as you drop out of sight of the city, reception disappears, but near Barr Camp it comes back. Reception on the Pikes Peak Summit is fairly good.

So... we have enough coverage to pull off this story. Now I just have to hope it will be warm enough in two weeks for my fingers to actually type!

Oh, BTW, the photo above is the south ridge of Pikes Peak, where we hope to finish the hike on November 28.

Colorado Avalanche forecasts start season with HIGH

Both the statewide Colorado Avalanche Information Center and the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center in Aspen started publishing avalanche forecasts this week, and both agree: early fall storms left a layer of snow that froze and melted until it had a hard, slippery crust. New snow falling on that crust in the last few days has created an unstable pack with a good potential for slab avalanches, especially above treeline. Translation: the danger is HIGH.

The centers track and document each storm (We're up to number eight for this winter), then discuss how the different snow layers left by successive blizzards effect the stability on the ground to give the growing number of backcountry skiers a good idea of the risk level out in the mountains.

Chances are, as temperatures warm, the newest layer will bond to relatively solid layers below and make for epic skiing.

Backcountry skiing god father
Lou Dawson predicted on his blog this morning that if weather patterns continue, this could be an epic year. "While things are dangerous at the moment, we do have a solid base in many areas so when things settle and bond we might be looking at the best snowpack in years, if not this century. If this keeps up big lines will fall."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Packing heat on 14ers....

Whoa, you think you know people.

A hilarious, and a little unnerving, thread on has hundreds of people chiming in about whether one needs to hike with a side arm. A surprising number of people apparently do.
In all our nights in the wilderness, we've never been confronted by a bear or lion, though we've seen a few. I'd be more worried about a twisted ankle than a wild beastie. Or, I guess, now I'm worried about accidental discharge of fire arms too.

Aspen's smoking, Vail's left behind

It isn't a great news day for the big boys of Colorado ski resorts.

First, a state health study said the air quality in Aspen last year was worse than some of the biggest cities in Colorado because of dirt roads, wood burning and restaurant grills. The study by the Colorado Department of Public Health rated Aspen worse than Boulder, Brighton, Fort Collins and Greeley. The study reported that certain areas in heavily populated Denver even scored better.

Over at Vail, the hipness factor went down a few points, as MHD, MTV's high-definition network, moves out of its studio on Vail Mountain for new digs in New York. Last year, Lt. Gov. Jane Norton joined Olympic skier Jeremy Bloom in announcing the opening of the studio atop Eagle’s Nest, a restaurant complex at 10,350 feet, in what Vail Mountain officials said would help market the channel to the coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic.

“We had a one-year contract with MTV to host the studio at the top of the mountain and had a very successful partnership with MTV last year,” said Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain. Mariana Agathoklis, MHD spokeswoman, said the network might return for a special concert.

A lost trail on Pikes Peak rediscovered

Local Colorado Mountain Club member and avid hiker Dan Anderson set out recently to see what remained of the old Cree Toll Road -- a mule trail that climbed the southeast shoulder of Pikes Peak.

It hadn't been used for decades, but he still managed to find the old tread, along with some surprising artifacts. To see an interactive map with photos, click here.

Mountain Chalet expanding?

It's not certain, but there's talk.
We were walking down Tejon Street on Sunday, noticing all the empty shops (the former Chinook Book Shop, Hathaway's, etc.) when we walked into Mountain Chalet. One of the long-time employees mentioned they are thinking of expanding into Hathaway's old space to sell tents and other gear they now barely have room for.

I couldn't believe it. I've been a fan of Chalet since I bought my first water bottle there back in the '80s, but I've long thought it wouldn't be too many years before the quirky mom-and-pop went the way of just about every other quirky mom-and-pop. It's hard to compete with giants like R.E.I. -- not that R.E.I. is a bad place.

But, maybe Chalet is different. Maybe it can carve out a niche among the chain stores of the world. It certainly appears to be trying. We'll keep our fleece-lined fingers crossed.

Big snow coming...

A winter weather advisory is on for the mountains tonight. According to the Gazette, up to 20 inches is possible. Snow has already arrived in Wolf Creek, according to a ski report e-mail that arrived this morning:

Summit Base Depth : 33 Inches
Midway Base Depth : 29 Inches
New Snowfall : 8
Inches Latest Storm : 12 Inches
Year To Date : 83 inches

If you want to get Wolf Creeks snow alert e-mails, click here.

For a broader survey of what's going on, ski-wise, check out our new Snow and Ride Guide, which gives you conditions, links to live cams, a digest of ski news, and tips on discounts.

For those of you who can sneak out of work tomorrow, A Basin, Breck, Copper, Loveland and Wolf Creek are all open.

Personally, I'm in no hurry to get started. I love, love, love to ski, but I try to push the mountain biking season as far as I can. Saturday, friends and I did what I call the Cheyenne Canyon Big Loop. Park at the dirt lot at the top of the canyon, ride up Buckhorn (I cleaned it for the first time) then down Captain Jacks (didn't clean it this time). Hit lower Gold Camp Road, ride down to Stratton Open Space, bomb down the Chutes, then climb up the long, hairy switchbacks of Columbine Trail back to the parking lot. Total time, about three hours.

Here's the amazing thing: The whole time we only saw four other bikers and two hikers, even though it was a gorgeous day in a city of 400,000. Skiing can wait a few more weeks.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wheeling and dealing

Hope you checked out today's OT section and you've dropped by our new snow site, Our ski and ride stories will appear there, and we'll also post additional photos and info that we can't fit into the newspaper. There's a section for comments, too, so if you have an epic day in the backcountry, share the news!

A few more deals around the state:

A-Basin has some of the best ski deals for beginners, so if you're new to the sport or you're introducing friends or family members to the slopes check it out. Kids and adults ski or board for only $10 on the Molly Hogan beginner hill and lift all season long. Also, you can get a free ticket for anyone age 6-14 when you buy a full-price adult ticket.

And there's a new beginner terrain area - S3 - off Larkspur at Buttermilk. Get inspired at the Aspen/Snowmass Open slopeside and superpipe competition and then hit it a S3.

Kids 6-18 can win a season pass at Purgatory (Durango) by writing a poem describing why they're "Dreaming of Purgatory." There are three age categories: 6-9, 10-13, and 14-18. Entries are due Dec. 8.

Get an Eldora four-pack for $99. But do it now, the offer ends Sunday. Head to Front Range King Soopers (call ahead to see if they're carrying the pass) or Eldora Mountain Sports at 2775 Canyon Blvd. (28th & Canyon) in Boulder.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Dust off the tux. You'll want it for this weekend. Keystone is opening more terrain, and its weekend "Formal Opening" is black-tie optional.

Portions of five more trails will open, making a total of 160 acres for riding. Skiers and riders are encouraged to dress in formal wear; in the afternoon, those properly attired can enter a raffle with prizes including a season pass, iPod and overnight packages.

If you're more a pancake breakfast kind of person than a formal-wear kind of person, you might want to head to Breckenridge.A complimentary pancake breakfast will celebrate the opening of Breck Friday morning. Live music and give-aways are also planned. Five runs, three high-speed lifts and a terrain park will be open.

Get to know Red Rock

Due to increased interest from the locals who live in and around Colorado Springs, the free guided tours of Red Rock Canyon are being offered through the winter. There is a new day and time. Saturdays at 9 a.m. To book a tour call Floyd at the Manitou Springs Chamber at 685-5089 or stop by the office at 354 Manitou Ave.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bad week for lynx

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is offering a reward for information on the second lynx killing in a week. A lynx was found Nov. 1 near a road north of Silverton. It had been killed by a shotgun blast.
The cat, captured in Canada as part of the DOW’s lynx reintroduction effort, was released in southwest Colorado in 2005. Another lynx was found, shot twice by a rifle, Nov. 2 north of Durango. Anyone with information about either shooting should call Operation Game Thief at 1-877-265-6648. Information can be given anonymously. The DOW is offering a $500 reward for information that leads to an arrest in any of these cases. For more news about Division of Wildlife go to:

Sick hucks, mad rails in the Mile High City

Here's something cool we'd love to see in C. Springs.

According to the Denver Post:
The Denver Parks and Recreation Department is teaming up with Winter Park Resort to open a terrain-style rail park in central Denver this winter for urban skiers and snowboarders. The temporary terrain park, announced Friday, will be located at Ruby Hill Park, at South Platte River Drive and West Florida Avenue.
It is expected to be open for about six weeks beginning in mid-January, said Daniel Betts, deputy manager of recreation for the city.
"We wanted to do something in the Front Range to encourage our youth to get up into the mountains," Betts said. "And we think this is a great fit."
Admission will be free. Hours and days of operation have not been determined.
The terrain park will feature six rail structures that range in difficulty from beginner to advanced. It will be staffed by volunteers, who will be trained by Winter Park personnel. The ski resort is also donating a snowmaking gun to be used at the facility.

Denver already has one of the most killer city park systems in the country (because it includes Winter Park Ski Resort) and now this? We're jealous. In a dream world, here's how our own great parks department would one up D-town: lease the old Pikes Peak ski area land from the U.S. Forest Service, buy some secondhand snow-making equipment and lifts, and operate a bare bones ski area so C-Springers could have a place nearby to hit the slopes.

Doesn't have to be fancy. Look, the tiny town of Silverton has a city-funded ski area called Kendall Mountain that would be a perfect model. The city of Colorado Springs is already paying to keep the Pikes Peak Highway open year-round, might as well put it to good use.

Build it. They will come.
Then I could ski after work. And before work.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

And the award for deadliest goes to....

Not bears, not sharks, not alligators. What critter kills the most people every year? Outside Magazine says it's the mosquito, which takes out at least 2 million lives around the world every year. Next: snakes, which send between 50,000 and 125,000 to their graves every year, followed by crocodiles and tigers.

The deadliest-acting - bears, sharks and alligators - only kill in the single to low double digits.

We love mountain cams

Especially this one - the Tundra-Cam II. This webcam is placed at 11,600 feet on Niwot Ridge, 25 miles west of Boulder. It's live and interactive - you can control the mountaintop camera from your own computer. The cam is located in a Biosphere Preserve; research facilities on the ridge are operated by the University of Colorado's Mountain Research Station. A variety of research is conducted at the site, from alpine ecology to snow hydrology to atmospheric chemistry.

Do you have a favorite mountain cam? Send the link.

State Troopers say "cut 'em off at the pass."

Most ski areas have yet to open. Those that have opened, tend to be crowded and icy. So it's not surprising people are flocking to Loveland Pass. They ski, they shuttle up the road, they ski again. Best part is, it's free.

But not if you get towed.
The Summit Daily News reported this week that state patrol troopers are towing all cars parked illegally on the side of the road. The road is narrow, winding, and regularly traveled by tractor trailers hauling hazardous material. Police say it's a matter of safety to keep parked cars from clogging the road. They want to crack down early so the party atmosphere of the pass doesn't grow throughout the season.

Loveland Pass is pretty much a Denver thing. Want to park and ride in the Springs? Try Pikes Peak. But remember, avalanches are a real and deadly hazard on the mountain. Wear a beacon and know how to use it.

Thought biking season was over? Think again.

It's going to be 70 degrees today, and tomorrow, and Thursday, and generally really nice for the meteorologically foreseeable future. I rode the Buckhorn/Captain Jacks loop in Cheyenne Canyon on Saturday and only encountered a hint of snow. The trail is 99.5 percent clear.

The next day I rode the Falcon Trail at the Air Force Academy. It had a lot more snow, even though it's lower. Still, I'd say it was 85 percent clear, and melting fast.

So, in the interest of keeping fat-tire fanatics thinking about bikes, I throw this out there:'s top 10 mountain bike rides in Colorado

Telluride to Moab Hut to Hut, Telluride, CO
Buchanan Pass / Camp Dick Loop, Boulder, CO
Monarch Crest Trail, Salida, CO
Barr Trail, Manitou Springs, CO
Wise Mountain / The Colorado Trail, Frisco, CO
Buffalo Creek Big Ride, Pine, CO
Colorado Trail / Green Mountain Trail, Buffalo Creek, CO
Buck Gulch Trail Loop, Denver, CO
Chutes and Ladders, Fruita, CO
The Colorado Trail: Kenosha Pass to Goldhill Trailhead, Jefferson, CO

What do you think? OK, sure, any "top 10" list is going to come up short, but I can't think of a single person who would rate Barr Trail as a top bike ride in the area. And in all the times I've been to Fruita, I have never heard people rave about Chutes and Ladders. Good trail, sure, but nothing compared to Horse Thief Bench or Zippity Doo Dah. And holy-moly, nothing in Crested Butte?

So... I'm taking suggestions, what are really the top 10 bike trails in the state? Discuss.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Catamount isn't for the dogs

People are wondering if they can take their dogs to the new Teller County open space, Catamount Ranch Resource Protection Area. The answer - yes, and no. Actually, it's best to leave your dogs at home - they can only go a short distance to where the main trail intersects with a portal trail that in summer heads to the North Slope Recreation Area. And if you go, take hiking poles - the first stretch of this trail will be icy and slippery all winter.

Exporting mountain goats

Colorado has enough mountain goats that it can give them to other states. According to the Denver Post, Wildlife officials have transferred a dozen mountain goats from Leadville to the Black Hills in South Dakota in efforts to boost the goat population there.
The goats were taken from near 14,433-foot Mount Elbert by helicopter. Each was examined and then driven by truck to South Dakota, the Colorado Division of Wildlife said.
The goats were released beginning Friday.

This may come as a surprise, but the mountain goat is not a native species in Colorado. According to the DOW, "The mountain goat, like the moose, was introduced deliberately to Colorado, to expand hunting opportunities. The first such introduction was in 1947, when 14 goats were imported from Montana and released in the Collegiate Range. Later, additional mountain goats were obtained from Idaho, South Dakota (from the introduced herd in the Black Hills), and British Columbia.
In 1993 the Colorado Wildlife Commission proclaimed the mountain goat a native species. However, most professional biologists doubt that the animals ever occurred in Colorado naturally. Some early travelers reported goats in Colorado, but none of those reports is absolutely reliable. Side-by-side, mountain goats and bighorn sheep look very different, but from a distance a person might mistake a bighorn female for a goat, because bighorn ewes have prominent, gently curved horns. Even today, visitors to Colorado’s high country often identify bighorn sheep as “mountain goats.” A bone from an extinct species of mountain goat was found in fossil deposits about 800,000 years old in Porcupine Cave, South Park"

Friday, November 03, 2006

Uplifting news

Given a choice between a T-bar, a rope tow and a chairlift, most people would take the chairlift. That's why the town of Silverton is so excited about its news: the town is going to repplace its T-bar with a chairlift on the town's Kendall Mountain Ski Area.

Kendall Mountain opened in 1963 with a homemade T-bar lift made from old mining equipment. In 1998, a rope tow that traveled 1,000 feet up the slope was added. The new lift will travel 2,000 feet.

The town is still raising money for this new piece of equipment. People who donate to the cause can own a lift tower or sponsor a chair. Sponsorship options range from $1 to $2,500. For more information, e-mail or call 1-800-752-4494.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Don't forget your mittens

You can see snow on the upper reaches of Pikes Peak, but there still seem to be a lot of rocks poking through. Don't be deceived by views from the Springs.

Teresa and Neal, the caretakers at Barr Camp, report the trail is a little icy, and that few people have made it to the summit since last week's snowstorm. "It is VERY WINTERY conditions above tree-line," Teresa wrote in an e-mail.

Last chance for Vail Resorts season passes

No, the other kind of pass...
This is it. You only have through Saturday, November 5, to purchase the Colorado Pass at $419 for adults, $319 for teens and $199 for children, and the Buddy Pass for $379.•

All 2005-2006 season pass holders have the convenient option of renewing online at For more information about pass sales, benefits and restrictions, contact the Colorado Sales Office at (303) 504-5870 or visit

For Frisco residents its deja vu all over again

One of the most contentious ballot issues for the small Summit County community of Frisco this year is whether the mountain town should allow development in it largest park, the Frisco Peninsula. And residents are saying, "What, again?"

The peninsula is a neck of low, forested hills jutting out into Lake Dillon. It hosts an extensive network of hiking and cross-country ski trails.

Four years ago, residents were asked whether a golf course should be built on the land. Arguments were made about how the city needed it economically, how there was no other place to build it, how it would be a huge asset to the community.

Voters overwhelmingly turned the offer down, perhaps largely because the town's wealthy golf-playing voter block are seasonal second-home owners who can't vote in local elections.

It looked like the peninsula was safe. Then the current election cycle rolled around with a proposal to build a Colorado Mountain College campus on the land. Arguments are being made about how the city needs it economically, how there is no other place to build it, how it would be a huge asset to the community.

Old allies who defeated the golf course quickly formed "Save Our Peninsula - Again!" to counter the proposal.
According a story in the Vail Daily , both pro and anti-development groups are pushing hard in the week before the election.

Summit County is made up almost entirely of federal land. The little private land that exists is almost all developed, making city-owned land like the peninsula particularly attractive. If "Save Our Peninsula - Again!" wins Tuesday, I think it better reserve the URL "www.what_are_you_kidding?_This_again?_Seriously, for 2006.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ski areas slowly going green

The AP reported today that an increasing number of ski areas are using renewable energy and other measures to limit their contribution to global warming.

DENVER — Visitors to many ski areas this winter will find cleaner air and better views of mountain landscapes. Not only are ski resorts pushing legislation in Washington to combat global warming, at least 45 resorts in 14 states from coast to coast are using clean energy for some of their operations. Sixteen are getting 100 percent of their power from green energy sources including wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass and geothermal.

“I think we’re a platform industry. We have a bully pulpit to operate from. When you think of global warming the first thing you think of is snowfall and wintertime and how that changes,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association.

Bear Mountain and Snow Summit will spend $6 million on emission controls, said Bob Roberts, executive director of the California Ski Industry Association.

The industry is trying to show individuals that they can make a difference, said Berry. Colorado, which set a record for skier visits last year with 12.53 million skier days, will offer two new gondolas this year.

Breckenridge, the nation’s second-busiest ski resort, has built a gondola connecting the town’s transportation center off Main Street to Peak 7 and Peak 8. The eight-passenger facility, which can carry 3,000 passengers per hour, means fewer people riding buses to the mountain. The resort also has added the highest lift in the nation, the high-speed Imperial Express, which goes to 12,840 feet on the summit of Peak 8.

“It has already raised our profile. The thing the gondola does is connect a great historic mining town with one of the great ski areas of the world. You don’t get to build too many of them in your career. The Imperial Express on the top and the gondola on the bottom are two great bookends,” said Roger McCarthy, Breckenridge chief executive officer.

Since these industries rely on climate, it makes sense they would try to lead the way toward curtailing greenhouse gasses.

Here's some other things that would help.

Lobby for the I-70 monorail: It failed with voters once. When the idea comes around again, backing from ski companies and their surrounding communities might push it over the top. If it passes, it could take thousands of cars off the road.

Biodiesel for all snowcats and buses.

Push the ski season back four weeks: Big ski resorts spend hundreds of thousands of dollars - and serious kilowats - making snow, which mother nature usually makes anyway. If everyone opened a few weeks later the energy savings would be huge. Don't think this one is going to happen - ski resorts rely too heavily on Thanksgiving traffic - but it would provide serious ecological benefits.