Friday, February 29, 2008

Looking for inspiration?

How about a meeting of top athletes?
You should be able to find it this weekend at Copper Mountain.

Copper's hosting the Special Olympics Colorado Winter Games for the 20th consecutive year.

Competition begins at 10 a.m. Sunday with alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The Opening Ceremony is 7:15 to 8 p.m. in the Burning Stones Plaza. They'll light the Flame of Hope and there'll be a Snow Cat parade followed by fireworks. The Games continue Monday.
Copper's snow forecast is a possible 3-6 inches late Saturday and another 2-4 Sunday.
If you go, stop by Zizzo Ski Bar, where they're matching dollar for dollar for Special Olympics.
Want to help out? Click here for volunteer opportunities, or call Mandi DeWitt at (720) 359-3117.

Lacing for different feet

Yes, you can tie your shoes differently depending on foot shape to prevent injuries. According to the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society, HERE is how you can tie for heel slipping, high arches, etc.

via The Goat

Gear up

From our gear review files:

Nikwax Down Proof

Nothing beats puffy down for lightweight warmth in jackets and
sleeping bags, but get the feathers wet and they’ll collapse like Superman after a kryptonite martini, losing all insulating ability.
To protect your down, and yourself, nothing works better than Nikwax Down Proof. It even staves off humidity and dew that can sap down’s insulating power.
Just pour the waterproofer in the washing machine, add your sleeping bag or jacket, and set on gentle. Directions suggest using a front-load washer, but we threw a 12-year-old down bag into a home top-load washer with no problems. It came out with renewed puffy loft and more waterproof than the day it was made.
Bonus: It’s fun to watch water droplets bead on the nylon shell.
Bummer: Nikwax recommends you use its down cleaner ($7.50) before waterproofing.
Price: $9-$11
Where to get it: Mountain Chalet, REI
See something you think we should try? E-mail your ideas to

Wolf Creek extends season

With tons and tons of snow, Wolf Creek will stay open through April 13th and reopen for two additional weekends: April 19th & 20th and April 26th & 27th, 2008. A special rate of $27 for adults and $16.00 for children will be available on Wednesday, April 9th, and also on the the last 2 weekends.

For more information call 970-264-5639 or visit

Mountain Film Fest this weekend!

Don't miss the Banff Mountain Film Fest Saturday. Not only is this bundle of short outdoor films always a good time, but 100 % of proceeds go to local trail stewards Rocky Mountain Field Institute!

When: Saturday, March 1st, 2008 @ 7:00pm

Where: The Lloyd Shaw Auditorium @ Cheyenne Mountain High School, 1200 Cresta Rd.

Cost: $12.00 General Admission

More on Taos Ski Valley history

In Out There Friday the Gazette has a story on Taos Ski Valley allowing snowboarders. In addition, I wanted to include more about the history of the family-owned mountain. You can read more here.
And here's a cool video of granddaughter Adriana Blake talking about her grandfather who started the mountain. Click here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Close encounter of the cetacean kind

Local writer Kate Keeley spent two months in Antarctica on a National Science Foundation grant for writers and artists. She worked side-by-side with scientists and researchers, studying penguins and seals, and spent a few days sifting 65-million-year-old dirt for mammal bones.

A highlight of her trip was a close encounter with a humpback whale, which she wrote about for Out There.

Here are a few more photos that show how close she and others got to the whale, which can weigh 45 tons.

The researchers found "a lot of ancient sharks' teeth, a mummified seal, and possibly a bone from a prehistoric, 6-foot tall penguin," she said.

Way cool. I'm ready to go. I think Dave is, too.

Bill would OK Leadville cleanup

From the AP:

Colorado congressmen Doug Lamborn and Mark Udall introduced legislation today that makes the Bureau of Reclamation responsible for removing up to 1 billion gallons of contaminated water trapped in a Leadville drainage tunnel.

The legislation comes two weeks after Lake County officials declared a state of emergency, saying water pressure in the tunnel could cause a blowout and flood the town.

The tunnel drains water from hundreds of abandoned mine shafts. A collapse inside the tunnel, detected in 1995, caused the water to back up inside the shafts.

Udall has said some of the water could be pumped to a nearby well the EPA owns. But longer-term, Udall and Lamborn want Reclamation to build another well and transfer the water to its treatment facility.

Far Out ski fashions

Dave's out skiing today. Probably testing out gear he'll break out at Saturday's Retro Ski Day at Eldora.
Check this ensemble:

That could be Dave as a boy - he's prone to Day-Glo outfits, even now - but I can't see his mom ever pulling on that getup.

Head on up to Eldora Saturday and rock it old school - '70s and '80s - all day. There's a kids costume contest at 12:30 -- grooviest, most far out and coolest.

There's an adult apres ski costume contest at 3:30 with "live, funky music." A little Parliament, anyone?

If you've got pix of yourself in great old ski gear, send 'em in. We'll have a little contest of our own.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Crazy Summer

So after a few personal break downs and serious doubt about our decision we got to work trying to make a normal and structured life for Tali. We had lots of walks, stood, for what felt like hours, at the far side of our local park watching other dogs. We exposed her to as much as possible in a supportive and safe environment. As the summer went on we made some big and not so big break-throughs. We took off her gentle-leader, started leaving her training treats at home, and no longer ducked and ran when we saw another dog. She began playing with other dogs, she would listen to basic commands, and started to live a happy life. Not to say that she is now the perfect dog, but we can walk her without a leash, and know how she will respond in certain situations, and her basic obedience is now better than some other dogs we come across.
Because of her breed, which we now believe to be a mix of English Setter and Border Collie, Tali needs lots of exercise. We got her a Frisbee, which we doubted would draw any interest but thought it was worth a try. After a throw or two she became obsessed. Her drive to get the Frisbee, find the Frisbee, and never leave the Frisbee was almost alarming. As fall started we began to notice traits that might make her a good avalanche dog. What we saw was first and foremost a strong work ethic, a desire to please, loyalty, and a love to play. As the winter started my wife and I discussed the thought about seeing if she could make it as a working avalanche dog.
I talked to everyone in the dog program at work and they were all very encouraging and supportive about her starting the training. With that she was on her way to a potential new career.

Denver TV story on Pikes Peak ski area

A fairly bad Denver TV story on the proposed ski area. The reporter seems to have limited her research to reading Dave's story and looking up a ski shop in the yellow pages.

The average skier

According to 2007 Snow Sports Industry data, the average skier...

is between 27 and 31 years old

has a college degree an an average household income of more than $100k

skis an averae of 13 days a season

skis on gear purchased in 1997

Snowboarding quarter

When I lived in Vermont, you always used to have to watch for other Vermonters trying to slip you Canadian change. Sure, it was sort of the same, but it wouldn't work in vending machines or parking meters (Vermont has three) and, more than that, was just a sign that you were too much of a dolt to spot the lame coin. No more. Never mind that 25 Canadian cents are now worth as much as an American quarter, they have these fresh new graphics released for 2008. Canada is cool. Who knew?

Iditarod Trail invitational

Regular reader and local blogger Ultra Rob rightly pointed out that before the Iditarod starts next week, we have the running and biking/hike version of this suffer fest. The Website is not quite as high-tech, but you can see occasional updates and really cool photos here.

Great films for a great cause

This Saturday you can catch the local showing of the Banff Mountain Film Festival at Cheyenne Mountain High School. 100% of proceeds go to Rocky Mountain Field Institute.

When: Saturday, March 1st, 2008 @ 7:00pm

Where: The Lloyd Shaw Auditorium @ Cheyenne Mountain High School

1200 Cresta Rd. Colorado Springs, CO 80906

Cost: $12.00 General Admission

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Race the Iditarod

OK, maybe we won't keep as close tabs on this year's Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race (starts Sunday) as last year's. Then again, maybe we will.
Clarke Lachlan of Buena Vista is competing again this year.

It'll be much easier for all of us to follow the race because 20 veteran mushers in the 36th running of the 1,100-mile race will be outfitted with technology used to track oil-pipeline inspection tools. We can watch their progress online.

“Basically, it winds up looking like a video game but it’s a way to watch a representation of an event that’s happening many thousands of miles away — in real time,” Jerry Miller with IonEarth, a satellite race tracking company based in Traverse City, Mich., told the Associated Press.

You can see where teams are along the trail, along with speed, direction, altitude and temperature. And you can choose views - three-dimensional, aerial - that show past images of the actual terrain.

Not all mushers are happy about it, though. Some fear such instant information can ruin their race strategies.

Bill Pinkham of Glenwood Springs and Kurt Reich of Divide already have withdrawn from the race.

Say goodbye to Claus

NOAA climatologist Klaus Wolter said this fall that this was going to be an exceptionally dry snow year for the mountains. He must have been hanging out with the same guys this fall who predicted John McCain was broke and done because snow continues to hammperthe Colorado Rockies making the 2007-08 season one for the record books. The first of a two part storm swept across the western region of the state yesterday leaving mounds of snow in its wake. The second wave of the storm further steeped the state in snow last night and today resorts are enjoying the 60th powder day of the season (calculated as at least one resort receiving 5 or more inches of new snow).

The southwest portion of the state leads by the sheer volume of snow they’ve received this winter. As of this morning, Wolf Creek Ski Area has had nearly 41 feet of snow this season to date and neighboring Silverton Mountain is reporting 37.5 feet for the season.

The incline

Hmmm... I hear from my Manitou Incline sources that The Independent is calling the city to do a story on the history of the area's favorite masochistic workout, The Incline. A better place to start might be Matt Carpenter's thorough series about the railroad, or even my regular updates and story about it turning 100.

Digitizing the past

Just got a note from my good friend John Murphy, pointing me to some recently digitized manuscripts at Colorado College written by George Hapgood Stone. Stone was a resident of Colorado Springs from 1881 until his death at age 75 in 1917. He gained a firm reputation as one of the best local authorities on the historical, scenic and geological facts of the Pikes Peak region. He was also the first guy to explore the route Zebulon Pike took when he tried to climb Pikes Peak. The route is in dispute. Stone put Pike on Black Mountain. Murphy, with hiking help of me and others, thinks it was Mount Rosa. You can read the yellowing manuscripts of Stone's excursions here.

A great burrito shop

In my quest to document good, fast food (but not "fast food") places across the Western Slope, I bring you this week's edition: Durango's Cocina Linda. This little, family run joint next to the Albertson's downtown (311 W. College Dr.) specializes in what I would call college hippie Oaxacan cuisine. It's mole sauces and amazingly good poblano rellenos from the southwestern mountain coast of Mexico, with local hippie ingredients such as organic, grass fed Taylor Ranch beef. The grass give the beef almost a venison taste, and it's great on a taco with cotija cheese. If you're on the go, the place also has big burritos with excellent beans and rice.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Great avalanche footage

This is from Ophir in 2004, but pretty amazing. Judging by the number of cameras they had set up, I think they knew this slide was going to go big. Watch it here.

Big snow in high country

Summit County, Aspen area, Monarch, Southern Mountains all reporting around a foot in the past 24 hours.

New record for ascending

Eric Sullivan, a.k.a. Sully, a Team Salomon Crested Butte Adventure Racer (among other things) set a new world record for human-powered vertical feet climbed on skis in a day Sunday when he topped 51,000 feet during the 24 hours of Sunlight Race. Then he went up for yet another lap.
Damn, son.

A real problem, but is it real poison?

Came across this sign Sunday at the start of the Red Rock Canyon Trail in Red Rock Canyon Open Space. No doubt there are scores of off-leash dogs in the park. Even worse, there is an endless amount of un-scooped dog poop. Perhaps to battle this, the sign was put up. But is there actually poison bait that is bad for dogs but somehow OK for wildlife? Most visitors, if you can judge by whether they leashed their dogs, didn't seem convinced. I suspect this was put up by a well meaning park regular, and is not a city program. We'll find out.

Gear up

Out there has been running gear reviews for years, but many readers have had trouble finding them online, so I'll begin posting them weekly. Here is the first:


Sigg Active Top aluminum water bottle

An old standby has a hip new look now that Sigg water bottles come decorated with stripes and swirls of every color.
The sturdy Swissmade bottles, which have an optional nipple top to replace the screw top, arrive at a time when the outdoor world is in a tizzy over whether Lexan
plastic bottles release toxic chemicals, pushing them to the front of the shelf. Plus, they look cool.
Bonus: 144 vibrant designs
Bummer: Paint scratches easily, aluminum conducts heat so water warms faster than in a plastic bottle.
Price: $20
Where to get it: Mountain Chalet, REI
See something you think we should try? E-mail your ideas to

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Two faces of Monarch

Just came back from another day at Monarch -- lots of folks from Denver, I must add. It snowed nearly the entire time, but wasn't too cold. Quite different conditions from two weeks ago, as the photos show.
Hope you had a great weekend, however you spent it. The weather here in the Springs was fab, wasn't it?

Friday, February 22, 2008

That's one expensive ski pole

A snowrider in Wyoming is about to pay a hefty price for fetching his ski pole.

Apparently he lost it while skiing on Tuesday and went back on his snowboard to fetch it Wednesday. He lowered himself down a cliff face on a rope, got the pole, then couldn't get back up. D'oh!

Eventually he called for a helicopter rescue. Yes, the sheriff says he'll get a bill.

Here's the full story in the Jackson Hole paper.

Another new ski area proposed

We mentioned this plan some time ago. Here's an update from the AP:

The Minturn Town Council has given preliminary approval to a private ski resort and 1,700 homes near the former railroad town.

The proposal includes annexing more than 4,300 acres owned by the Ginn Development Co. The proposed development also includes a golf course on and around Battle Mountain south of Minturn.

Left unresolved is how residents of the development would be taxed and how that money would be used to make improvements inMinturn, such as a recreation center and a bike path. The action came after 2½ years of planning and faces a second vote next week.

Read more here in the Vail Daily.

Local politicos say no to moto park

A story in Friday's Gazette notes that Sen. John Morse and Rep. Michael Merrifield (bothDemocrats) wrote letters to state natural resources director Harris Sherman (also a Dem) opposing the proposed Corral Bluffs motorcycle park.
Now, El Paso County commissioner Jim Bensberg is complaining that they didn't ask him first, saying “It is not right and it is not fair.”

Looking at this not from a pro and anti motorcycle point of view, but simply from a local politics angle, Bensberg has a lot of brass. His plan for a motorcycle park came out of nowhere, with no public comment process, and I would bet, no letters to local politicians.

His complaining may do little good. It looks increasingly like the local Republican will run into a blue Democratic wall of opposition. If he wanted to get this thing through, he should have tried to rush this through when Gov. Bill Owens and his less tree-hugger inclined Natural Resources Department were still in place. He might have had a chance.

I would guess that Sherman and the Parks board won't go out on a limb for a controversial project in a Republican commissioner's back yard.

This whole thing may be a lesson in knowing what your politicians' passtimes are before you vote. It obviously effects their policy.
Bensberg is a big motorcycle guy.
Merrifield is an avid mountain biker.
I'm not sure about Morse. Anyone?

Pikes Peak ski history

When we learned this week that an investor is seriously looking at developing a ski area just south of the crags on Pikes Peak, I thought it would be good to dig up some of the long history on the area.

Here's a story I wrote last year that looked at past ski areas, and talked to experts who said it was unlikely skiing would ever return. D'oh.Also, check out the excellent pages on Ski Broadmoor and Pikes Peak Ski Area put together by the folks at Both pages have memories posted by locals.

I am one of thousands of local "ski bees" who braved the icy tongue of Midway, Main and North (the only three runs) to learn to ski at Ski Broadmoor (pictured above) but I'm too young to have ever skied Pikes Peak before the lifts were pulled out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ski area would start small

I mentioned in a story in today's Gazette that the proposed Pikes Peak ski area could eventually include 300 condos, a hotel, restaurants and five lifts. Developer John Ball called to say this was a long-term "blue sky" estimate meant for investors, and the hill would start much smaller, with just 27 small condos and a single lift. That will probably strike most locals as more realistic.

Full Pikes Peak SKi Area story

To read about the proposed new Pikes Peak ski area which could eventually include five chairlifts, 33 ski trails, three restaurants, a 300-room hotel and 350 condos, click here.

On the right is an old brochure from the now-defunct Pikes Peak Ski Area. Click it to see it full-size.

Corral Bluffs shoot-out

The debate will continue over the future of Corral Bluffs Friday when the State Parks Board will meet. Not everyone will have a chance to speak, however, if you want to show up to voice your support or opposition to a motorcycle park, here are the gritty details:

February 22nd at 10 a.m., Embassy Suites, 7290 Commerce Center Drive, to the west of I-25 and Woodmen Road.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ambitious ski plan for Pikes Peak calls for 350 condos

The top of my story in tomorrow's Gazette:

By Dave Philipps

It has been 17 years since the last local ski area closed and many have predicted that ski lifts would never turn in the Pikes Peak region again. But Wednesday a local investor said he plans to open a small ski resort on the back of Pikes Peak.
John Ball, former C.E.O. of Eller Industries, a Boulder-based broadband company, has a contract with local climbing legend Harvey Carter to buy 320 acres of land just south of The Crags on the west side of Pikes Peak. He plans to build “The Resort at Pikes Peak,” a small, renewable energy-powered ski area with slopeside condos.
He envisions it as a community hill used mainly by people in El Paso and Teller Counties. It could eventually include five chairlifts, 33 ski trails,three restaurants, a 300 room hotel and 350 condos.
It is one of a growing trend in niche family hills that survive in the shadows of coporate giants like Vail by being closer and more convenient.
“It would be like Eldora, just above Boulder,” Ball said Wednesday. “People don’t necessarily come from out of state to ski it, but the community loves it because its so close. My kids can take the bus up to Eldora in 30 minutes.”
The Pikes Peak plan is still in its infancy. It needs approval from the Teller County Commissioners, who are not yet aware of the plan, including detailed plans for road access, water and sewer lines. Since the road would cross Pike National Forest, it will also need approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
The talk of a ski area on Carter’s land may have some longtime local skiers saying “not again.”
Harvey Carter, 77, who, among other things, worked for 22 years as an Aspen ski patroller and founded Climbing magazine, has been trying to build a ski area on the backside of Pikes Peak for the better part of 50 years.
“It’s the only place on the peak you could do it,” he said Wednesday. “It gets the most snow. It has private land right where it would need to be at the base. And it’s high enough.”
Carter’s long-term measurements on land, which is at 10,500 feet, show the area gets an average of 12 feet of snow — almost twice that of other slopes on Pikes Peak.
He has been courting investors since the 1960s,<>

Skiing on Pikes Peak

Keep your eyes on I've got information coming in on a proposed ski area on Pikes Peak. This looks like the real deal. Developing...

Little Bit About A Little Dog

Tali came to us from the Eagle County Humane Society. Like most mountain town humane societies Eagle is a no kill shelter. When they have room they take in animals for kill shelters around the state. Tali had been the youngest member of a feral pack in Mesa County when she was brought into the shelter. She and her brother were on the list to be put down when they got a free ride to Eagle. (Which I find ironic seeing as though the towns in Eagle County will buy a bus ticket for feral humans wandering their towns to ship them to other places.) We saw Tali’s picture on a web site and loaded up our older dog to make the drive to meet this little white puppy.
She was shy, timid, and quiet in clear opposition of her six-month-old puppy frame. She had been attacked by another dog and had a large bite wound on her muzzle. Because of this she spent her time in the shelter in quarantine. We took her out to play with our other dog Riddle and they got along, Riddle wasn’t quite sure what to do with her. My wife and I took Riddle on a long walk around the area, talked about this little white puppy, saw her one more time and that was that. We signed the paper work, loaded her into our car and we were now a two dog family.
We discussed names on the way home and Talus was our favorite. Our first night with her was a foreshadowing of the months to come. When it was time to take the dogs for their nightly walk it was snowing, (yes this was June) with 50mph winds and felt like total chaos. Tali was terrified and shook and refused to pee. So we made the decision that we would just have to clean up after her in the morning.
The weeks to come we learned what we were in for. Tali it turns out loves to talk, she barks at just about anything she can. She was terrified of any dog, car, person, tree, leaf, or shadow we came across on our walks. She was so petrified that she would hurl herself into the air in absolute hysterics anytime we came across another dog. Two full one on one dog training sessions later and weeks of constant obedience work, we weren’t sure if we could give this little puppy the home she needed. However, we made the commitment to take this dog in and we need to do what ever it took to make her happy.

(more to come)

Outside magazine cuts annoying cards

Outside, America’s biggest active lifestyle magazine will discontinue the use of insert cards in all subscription copies starting in March, eliminating the printing of 20 million subscription cards this year alone. This step will save an estimated 1,500 trees.

Barr Trail report

I jogged the bottom three miles of Barr Trail Tuesday, Feb. 19. The trail was only perhaps 30 percent ice and snow packed, but because of freezing and thawing, several spots are as slick as river ice. I was clinging to the rails in many spots and still took a good biff. Yaktrax or other grippers are recommended. I definitely don't recommend carrying a backpack with an infant up the trail, like I saw one woman doing. She was also clinging to the rail. Yikes.

Lunar eclipse tonight

Finally, a cool celestial event that isn't in the middle of the night, though you will have to miss the second hour of American Idol. There will be a lunar eclipse over the whole U.S., including Colorado, tonight at 8:26 p.m. MST. Find out why an eclipse turns the moon red (and sometimes turquoise) here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

First scooter day of the year!

I'm out and about putting around. At least until I finish converting my old road racing bike to a townie commuting menace! I'm still looking for the right brake levers for my chop and flop.

Mutterings of a Fat Tire Fest

Locals are trying to organize an Old Colorado City Fat Tire Fest in June.
The plan would be much like Salida's fabled "Lap" -- a long, informal group ride up into the mountains, in this case climbing gold camp to Jones Downhill, and finishing at Stratton Open Space.
No races, just biking with apres beer.
In a town with so many bikers and no bike events, this sounds like a great idea.

Still lots of snow in the crags

I was in the Crags yesterday. Even though it was sunny and warm in town, and there's scarcely a speck of snow in my yard, the white stuff was piled about 3 feet deep in the woods there. It's still fairly powdery. Anyone who wants to ski or snowshoe still has plenty of time.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pueblo ready to ride

I rode Pueblo Reservoir's South Shore trails Saturday. The canyons were a bit icy and wet, but trails in the open were perfect. Don't try to go to Voodoo Loop is you go, rising lake levels have put about 40 feet of water in the trail.

Lynx spotted in Summit County

Colorado's lynx reintroduction program seems to be going well. Two of the cats were recently spotted in the 10 Mile range. I'm curious what if any effect this will have on Breckenridge's plan to expand into undeveloped forest on Peak Six.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Feral puppy finds work in the mountains

Today I would like to introduce you to my dog Talus.  Tali, as she is lovingly called, has just started in the Breckenridge Ski Patrol Avalanche Dog training program.  This journey will take Tali and me on a two to three year quest that will hopefully end in our certification as a Colorado Avalanche Rapid Deployment Team. 
In the coming days, weeks, months, and years I will bring you along with us in our extensive drills, games, ups, downs, and adventures.  My goal with this blog is to track and share the progress we make as a team.  I will share with you our training, the games we play, pictures, videos, and try to explain the process as we go through it.  
As I post this it has been a little under three weeks already that Tali and I have been working together on the mountain.  I will try to fill in the back story and keep up with our current events.  I look forward to the coming months and please write with your questions, or come to Breckenridge Ski Area and say hello.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Video of Telluride's Black Iron Bowl

We have a cool video of skiing Telluride's Black Iron Bowl to go along with today's story on the growing trend of hike-to expert terrain.

See the video here.

Springs roll

We're putting together a list of Gazette recommended blogs that we can feature on our Website. Send me suggestions.

Surf Leadville

This was the top story on Yahoo this morning:

More than 1 billion gallons of contaminated water — enough to fill 1,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools — is trapped in a tunnel in the mountains above the historic town of Leadville and threatening to blow.
Lake County Commissioners have declared a local state of emergency for fear that this winter's above-average snowpack will melt and cause a catastrophic tidal wave.
The water is backed up in abandoned mine shafts and a 2.1-mile drainage tunnel that is partially collapsed, creating the pooling of water contaminated with heavy metals.
County officials have been nervously monitoring the rising water pressure inside the mine shafts for about two years. An explosion could inundate Leadville and contaminate the Arkansas River.

Next time you're at Ski Cooper, bring your hip waders.

An unintended story of survival

The second time the snow cave collapsed was the low point in an accidental overnight local snowmobiler Sonny Mata, 40, weathered last Thursday. That was the night blizzard conditions closed several highways in Colorado, and the wind and snow were swirling so ferociously that Mata could hardly see.

He hadn't intended to spend night like that. He had set out from Colorado Springs Thursday morning intending to do a day trip on Cottonwood Pass, a popular snowmobiling area west of Buena Vista. Everything started out fine. He was the only one there. He zoomed up to the pass, then played around in the deep powder off the trail.

It was up there that he met another sledder from Kansas named Jeff. They talked. They hit it off. Riding with a friend is always more fun than riding by yourself so when Jeff suggested they go about 10 miles down the west side of the pass to get a burger at the little mountain outpost of Taylor, Mata said sure.
They zoomed down the packed trail, which is a dirt road in the summer. Jeff was in the lead, they were cruising past open glades of untouched powder that looked too good to pass up. So Jeff turned in.
Mata hadn't planned to go off trail, especially while he was by himself. Being in the Boy Scouts as a kid, and a long-time snowmobiler had taught him to always use the buddy system in case something went wrong. But here was Jeff, disappearing into the woods. Mata figured he'd better follow.
That's where everything went wrong.
The mountains around Cottonwood Pass have near-record snowpack this winter. Cold, cloudy days have kept the snow from packing down, so when the snowmobilers turned off the trail, they turned into about five feet of unconsolidated fluff.
"It was fine while we were going down hill," Mata said, "But we got into this ravine and when we tried to get out, turning up hill, the sleds just buried themselves."
They dug themselves in like moles, then had to dig out their sleds and try again three times. About 1:30 p.m., they realized it was no use. They'd have to walk to Taylor and get help to pull the machines out. They could see a packed snowmobile trail across a meadow. It was less than a half mile away. So they started walking.
It wasn't easy. Each step in the powder meant sinking in to the chest. Jeff had snowshoes, Mata didn't. Jeff was struggling with sea-level lungs and a lack of fitness. Mata was basically swimming in the powder. Their speed was measured in feet per hour. Just as it was getting dark, when they were almost to the trail, they hit a broad creek.
Jeff wanted to splash through the creek. Mata said at the rate they were moving, if they got wet now, they'd freeze to death. There was a small fishermen's bridge a short distance away, but it would take hours to reach. Jeff said he thought he was having a heart attack. Mata suggested they go for the bridge in the morning.
They dug a snowcave. Mata had an emergency pack with a small tarp, a shovel, a glow stick, some fire starter and a can of sardines. They snuggled into the tiny cave, cracked the glow stick and ate the sardines. The wind had started howling. Gusts in the area were blasting over 50 miles per hour, Mata said.
Visibility in the open meadow by the creek was zero, but they were safe, and relatively dry. When the sardines where done, they planned to build a small fire in the tin with a few twigs they'd filched from a nearby beaver dam. Then the snow cave collapsed.
They stumbled out into the wind, furiously searching the snow for the shovel and glow stick. The tin was gone. The fire starter was gone. There would be no fire.
Mata dug another snow cave in the dark. Both crawled in. That one lasted until about 5 a.m. Then it collapsed. They when through the same drill, searching for the shovel and digging a new cave. It seemed like dawn would never come.
When it did, the two split up. Jeff opted for a direct route across a nearby snow bridge. Mata, afraid the snow wouldn't hold, opted to go for the fisherman's bridge. It was about four blocks away, he thought. He set off crawling, almost swimming, trying to spread his weight out on the snow. Every so often, his arms would sink. He'd be buried head-first and have to wriggle out.
The whole morning passed. By noon he was almost to the bridge. He looked back. Jeff had made it out to the trail. And just then a small snowcat came by.
The cat took Jeff to Taylor and sent rescuers to get Mata. He was only feet from the packed trail when they reached him, but was exhausted, with a body core temperature of 92 degrees.
The rescuers gave the men food and the next day they headed back to their cars, abandoning the sleds in the snow, for now.
Mata said Monday he was shocked by how debilitating the deep snow was. "I want my ordeal to act as a lesson for others," he said. "Always go prepared. Don't travel alone."
He also went out and bought a pair of snowshoes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2 skiers die on Colorado slopes

Telluride: 33-year-old Brian J. Irvin of Mesa, Ariz., is dead from head injuries after he ran into a tree. He was racing playfully with friends Wednesday on the Marmot ski run when he lost his balance and hit a tree, the coroner said.

Irvin was a Southwest Airlines pilot. He had a 1-year-old and his wife was expecting a second child.

Winter Park: Officials say a 68-year-old man was found face down, unconscious in the snow Wednesday on the Cramner Trail. He died, and the cause was unknown today.

RIP skier friends.

Skier sues skier

A woman who says she needed knee surgery after another skier collided with her has filed a lawsuit against the skier, reports the Aspen Daily News.

Christine Wheeler claims Lindsay Osbon struck her from behind in February 2006 on a trail on Aspen Mountain. The lawsuit said Wheeler was stopped on the side of a trail in plain view in clear weather when Osbon skied recklessly into her, going too fast and not looking out for skiers downhill from him.

Wheeler’s lawsuit seeks costs of medical treatment, transportation, loss of earnings and earning capacity, risk of future arthritis, and pain and suffering.

In 5 days of snowboarding, I haven't had anyone smack me that hard, but I've been run into by 1 little kid snowboarder and 3 adult skiers (older than me). All were people losing control (one would presume) near lift lines.

Am I right to believe this type of collision - with injury - is rare?

Survival course for Women

The Division of Wildlife his holding a local backcountry survival clinic in Colorado Springs. The seminar will cover topics ranging from what to do if you come face to face with a bear -- to how to spend the night in a survival situation. The class is geared toward adults, but mothers are encouraged to attend with their daughters.

The seminar is free, but class size is limited to the first 40 who sign up. Please call Trina Romero at 719-227-5284 to reserve a seat.

Just to trot out my gender biases. I don't know if most women would benefit from a survival course. There judgment is generally too good to get them into fixes where "survival" might be an issue. It's guys who do the really dumb stuff. I guess it couldn't hurt. Discuss.


A tip from a citizen helped the Colorado Division of Wildlife solve the case of deer being shot with arrows in the Rockrimmon neighborhood in Colorado Springs.

"Based on the information provided by a citizen, we were able to get a confession from a juvenile who admitted shooting deer with a bow and arrow," said investigating officer Steve Cooley of the DOW.

I bet the kid wet his pants when armed DOW guys showed up.
He was charged with three wildlife hunting violations and paid a fine of $2,877.

A perfect Valentine's Day gift

Just slip the Super Trackstick serrupticiously in your honey's car/bag/pocket and track them wherever they go. Then download their comings and goings to a 3-D map. If you don't end the relationship after seeing the route, he/she probably will after finding out you've been snooping.

Happy Valentines Day

Spend some time with the ones you love.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Forget eloping

... And forget Las Vegas, too. For a quick and fun wedding, head to Loveland Ski Area tomorrow, Valentine's Day, for the "Marry Me & Ski Free" ceremony.

Loveland got 6 inches of snow last night and with a storm moving in it could be the best wedding day skiing in ages.

Do you recognize alleged poacher?

This is a photo that ran in today's Gazette that shows two men who allegedly illegally killed an elk near Florissant a few weeks ago.

Someone visiting the area took the photo after coming upon the scene while driving. The man in the white shirt also is a visitor who came upon the scene.
The witnesses described three men in their late 30s or early 40s and a teen about 14-16 loading the carcass into a dark red, extended cab Ford F-350 with dual rear wheels. It had Colorado plates and some damage to the driver's side over the front wheel well.
If you have info, call 719-748-3253 or 1-877-265-6648.
ADDED: Here's the link Zen sent in his comment below, with close-up photo and more info.

Crash helmet calls 911 for you

Not that smart on your ATV? At least your helmet will be. The prototype Wireless Impact Guardian has GPSand 3G transponder that can call 911 and let responders know where you are. If accelerometers built into the helmet sense an impact, the helmet will beep for a minute. If the beeping is not stopped, it calls for help. Currently going through the patent process, this is meant for motorcycles and ATVs, but if it proves popular, look for it in bike and ski helmets.
Oh, and by the way, it will also make it easier for the man to track your whereabouts.

Wildlife Census

I just got a chance to flip through my winter copy of Colorado Outdoors, the magazine of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and I found the estimated state populations for elk, deer and antelope. Who knows if there will be this many after this winter. I haven't seen the South Park antelope herd in several weeks, and I used to be able to count on spotting them every time I drove through. Anyway, here are the numbers.

2006 post hunt population estimate:
Elk: 271,840
Deer: 612,760
Antelope: 73,020

She's like a moving, biting mogul

A young female coyote that wildlife officials believe was being fed by people was shot and killed near a Copper Mountain ski run Saturday after it became increasingly aggressive toward skiers.

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said that the DOW was notified early last week by the Copper Mountain ski patrol that there was a coyote roaming the ski slopes and acting in an aggressive manner. He said the DOW, along with the patrol, were in the process of formulating a plan about what to do when the coyote's behavior escalated Saturday.

"On Saturday, she approached people baring her teeth. In two different incidents, she nipped at a boot and grabbed at a child's jacket," said Hampton.

From the Denver Post

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

outdoor skating

A guy just called me and asked if I knew of any outdoor ice skating in the area. He wanted to take his lady friend skating on Valentine's. Anyone know a place?

Snowing in the mountains

Loveland just got 12 inches. For other tallies, click here