Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pine beetle closing campgrounds

Two more popular campgrounds near Rocky Mountain National Park will be closed much of this summer so trees killed by pine beetles can be cleared.

That's on top of
nearly two dozen Forest Service campgrounds in northern Colorado and Wyoming that the U.S. Forest service announced in March would stay closed this summer because of concern over dead trees. So far none in the Pikes Peak area are closed due to beetles.

Officials worry the pine beetle infested trees could fall on campers. So... the areas will be clear-cut, then reopened. Bring a sun shade.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Zipcar for the pedaling crowd

A new public-private venture called SmartBike in Washington DC plans to make 120 bicyclesavailable at 10 spots in central locations in the city. According to the New York Times the automated program, which district officials say is the first of its kind in the nation, will operate in a similar fashion to car-sharing programs like Zipcar. You become a member, then rent a bike with a swipe of your card.

My sister, who lives in Chicago, is a big fan of Zipcar. So maybe this would work too, though I have a feeling, not in Colorado Springs.

The gear depression

Hit by a weak U.S. consumer environment, Columbia Sportswear reported a 24-percent drop in first-quarter profit and a lower backlog.

Columbia is an outdoor juggernaut which includes r Sorel Mountain, Hardwear, Pacific Trail, Montrail and Moonstone brands. With gear at all price points, its generally a good bellweather for the rest of the industry. And the industry is.... not doing so good.

Compared to last year, quarterly earnings fell 24 percent. Revenue rose 3 percent.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A year for the books

What a winter, not that it has stopped snowing in the high country yet, but the numbers are in and eight of Colorado resorts received record snowfall .

2007-08 Season Snowfall Record Breakers:

  • Aspen/Snowmass - 450 inches
  • Beaver Creek - 430 inches
  • Crested Butte - 422 inches
  • Monarch Mountain - 482 inches
  • Powderhorn - 320 inches
  • Silverton - 550 inches (and counting)
  • Steamboat - 489 inches
  • Telluride - 353 inches

Vail saw its third snowiest winter on record, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort saw their fifth snowiest winter. Both Copper Mountain’s and Sunlight Mountain Resort’s snowfall totals landed in the top ten in resort history. Keystone tied its best snowfall in the previous eight years, and Eldora received their best snow year in the previous five years.

Rock on!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Help Mother Earth

Here's a couple of ways you can recycle gear - aside from giving away items you don't need or want, or taking them to a gear swap (saw this in Newsday):

Nike wants your shoes: Its Reuse-A-Shoe program takes beat-up kicks (any brand) and recycles them into goop used in basketball courts, tracks, playgrounds.

Patagonia wants your fleece: The Common Threads Garment Recycling Program accepts worn-out (washed, please) Patagonia organic cotton tees and fleece and other makers’ Polartec fleece.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The results from Oklahoma City

Got a call from Tim Barnes, the sprint kayaker I profiled in today's Out There section. He said paddling conditions in Oklahoma City, where the U.S. Olympic Trials are being held this weekend, were not good. Actually, quite bad, with 35 mph cross winds.

But, Barnes said, he gave it a shot. He finished fifth in his heat and fifth in the "B" finals, putting him in roughly 14th place overall.

"My biggest thing, I was happy I wasn't last," he said.

The top paddlers, Barnes said, were able to knife through the wind and waves more efficiently than he could. They lost maybe 10 seconds to the wind, while he was 20 seconds off his pace.

Still, this was the 500-meter sprint. Barnes believes he'll do better in the marathon distances. Those aren't Olympic events, but Barnes believes he can be competitive enough to make it on the U.S. team for the marathon world championships this fall.

By the way, and here's the funny bit, that photo of the kayaker flailing in the water on the bottom of Out There? That would be me.

Seriously, I've paddled Class V whitewater. I'm a pretty decent kayaker. But I couldn't stay upright in that flatwater sprint boat long enough to take two strokes. Picture putting a three-year-old on a 10-speed bike. It was hilarious... but I was really glad I had a drysuit on.

Skiing in short sleeves

(Photo from Breck's Bump Buffet, 2007, snagged from Colorado Ski Country USA.)

Ready to hit fresh snow under sunny skies? Luckily, Colorado's the place. Seven ski areas are still open, but Breck, our largest, is closing Sunday.

Here are the closing dates for resorts that remain open:
Arapahoe Basin - June 8
Aspen Highlands - this weekend and next; closing day April 27
Breckenridge - Sunday
Echo Mountain - May 4
Loveland - May 4
Silverton - April 27
Wolf Creek -this weekend and next: closing day April 27

Here are some reasons - other than snow - to make the drive to the mountains:

A-Basin: The Beach

Aspen Highlands: Been working at a ski resort that has already closed for the season? Head to the Highlands and show a current season picture pass and pay just $12 for a lift ticket.

Breckenridge: Sunday's closing day brings the annual Spring Massive party and the 29th Bump Buffet, in which telemark skiers shred the bumps dressed in all sorts of crazy costumes.

Echo Mountain: This is college weekend, and you can get lift tickets for $20, there'll be trick contests, a live DJ, free food, demo tents, bar specials and prizes.
Next weekend is Last Park Standing, a finale season party with $12,000 in cash and $4,000 in prizes, an amateur rail jam and pro slopestyle competition, live music, a sponsor village and more. To register for the competition, go here.

Loveland: April 26 is the Corn Harvest Benefit Ski Party, which helps raise cash for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Silverton: What more do you need? It's Silverton.

Wolf Creek: Lift tickets will be $27 for adults and $16 for children and seniors, no ID required! Lifts will be operating from 9am-4pm.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wolves in the woods?

Any of you Out There readers ever encounter a wolf or a wolf hybrid while hiking or biking in the area?

Check out Gaz reporter Scott Rappold's story about locals' worries about a wolf hybrid pack roaming the hills.

(That's a DOW photo of a gray wolf. Wouldn't want to meet him, hungry, on a trail at dawn.)

weekend slopes or trails?

That's a shot from Loveland on Friday. Nice April skiing. It was tempting, but so were local trails. I stayed local - way local, as in Garden of the Gods. It was nice to get out in the sun.

Oh, and Amy Kemp from Vail Resorts sent more info about those RF scanners in the works for next year. She says they'll use handheld devices "that will still show your pass photo and pass info." Looks like there'll still be lifties AND pass/line wranglers. Nice to know we're keeping people in the equation.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Out There blog takes a siesta

Dave's in Oaxaca for two weeks.

Pasque flowers out

I saw a cluster of the flowers a mile up on Barr Trail, as I was getting pelted by snow.

Gear test: The Gadget bottle

When cyclist and tinkerer Steve Lach got tired of fishing in his jersey pockets for his cell phone while riding, only to realize the person who was calling was someone he’d rather not talk to, a light bulb went off. The result is the Gadget Bottle — a 22-ounce water bottle with a nook where riders can strap a cell phone, iPod or BlackBerry so you can see who’s calling or what’s playing while you’re riding, running, or getting crazy on the StairMaster.
Cost: $7.50
Where to get it: gadgetbottle .com
Bonus: If a band snaps, it can be replaced with one of those colorful, charity wristbands cyclists seem to have a lot of.
Bummer: An iPhone doesn’t work as well with a sticky coating of Gatorade.

Vail takes que form New York Thruway

Vail announced today it will useradio frequency technology on its season passes, instead of bar codes, giving skiers an “easy scan” process that lets them keep their pass zipped inside their jacket in the lift lines, much like EZ Pass drivers breeze through toll booths all over America with out having to search for change.

“Instead of fumbling to find your season pass in your coat to present at the lift lines next season, our scanners will be able to detect your pass through your jacket which will provide our guests with an easier and more convenient experience,” said Rob Katz, chief executive officer for Vail Resorts.

I'm sure as soon as he said it, he realized a ton of ski bums are going to use this as a way to share season passes. Now you don't even have to buddy up with someone of the same gender.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More backs to the beach

Friday's Out There in the Gazette offered a glimpse of the end-of-season craziness that is the Arapahoe Basin "Beach." I wanted to include a few more photos. Bonus points for anyone who knows what a Shotski is called in German. (answer at the bottom of the post

A foot of fresh for the final weekend

Wolf Creek got dumped on last night, just in time for the end of the season. This Sunday is a "locals appreciation day" which means $27 tickets, whether you're a local or not. Then
Wolf Creek will re-ope for two Local Appreciation weekends, April 19th and 20th and April 26th and 27th. Take advantage of it!

The rest of the ski country is reporting powder too, even though some of it is falling on runs that won't open again until next November. Oh, April is the cruelest month.

Do fourteeners make you dumb?

Scientists have long seen signs of brain damage among certain climbers on Mount Everest and other high peaks, and now a National Institutes of Health researcher says that even tackling Colorado's fourteeners could lead to irreversible brain damage.R. Douglas Fields, a senior investigator in neuroscience at the NIH, writes about his concerns in the latest issue of Scientific American Mind.


Traffic cops on the slopes?

There are some interesting comments on a Denver Post article about whether additional measures should be taken to try to prevent skiers and snowboarders from dying or getting seriously hurt on the slopes.

Gates to pass through to slow riders?
No grooming near trees?
Mandatory safety classes?
Skills tests?

Check it out and comment below.

Snow line at 7,600 feet, and ready to drop

A rainy day in Colorado Springs was snowy in the foothills. I can see, a a brief moment of clearing, aasnow starting at about 7,600 feet. More snow is on the way.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Woman buried/rescued from Avalanche near A Basin

Just east of Arapahoe Basin (in the Front Range Zone), a skier Sarah Thompson of Boulder was caught in an avalanche just before noon. The cornice she was standing on broke under her, and then triggered an avalanche, slid about 1,000 feet and was buried her with just a hand above the snow surface. She rescued and evacuated for medical care. See thread at

Dead snowboarder was on the clock for Aspen

Snowboarder Wallace Westfeldt died last week after jumping a 35-foot backcountry cliff beyond Aspen Highlands. I didn't realize until yesterday that it was part of a a ski/snowboard film shoot. And I just found out today, from, that he was working on the shoot for the Aspen Skiing Company.

I spoke with Lou Dawson, the ski mountaineering godfather behind Wildsnow, yesterday about how he sees the film industry increasingly encouraging young athletes to do reckless things in order to make it into ski films, and as pro skiers.
"It's a short career and it can end really badly," he said. He has more thoughts on it today.

Dewey Bridge burns

For many early Moab lovers, this 1916 suspension bridge over the muddy Colorado River was the gateway to canyon country. A modern bridge was added next to it in the early 1980s and the Dewey was restored and became part of the Kokopelli Trail.
Apparently a seven-year-old kid playing with matches at a riverside campsite upstream of the Dewey pullout started a brush fire Sunday night and the rest is history.

Colorado Springs climber Stewart Green said in an email this morning:

"Ed Webster and I just drove past the Dewey Bridge a week ago, en route to Moab and the canyon country, and talked about how crossing the old bridge in the seventies was the magical entry point to the desert and all those sandstone cracks and towers. Ed remembered driving across it for the first time in Jim Dunn's old Youth Challenge VW bus in 1976, on the way to climb the first ascent of Supercrack. It was well after nightfall below a sky filled with stars. Jim stopped the bus in the middle of the bridge above the torrent and Jim, Ed and Bryan Becker stepped out onto the creaky wood planks. Funny, I said, Jim and I did the same thing in 1971 on our first climbing trip to Utah. After that, I always stopped at night when I drove across the old bridge going either to or from the Canyonlands, hands sore from jamming cracks, hair full of desert sand and grit, listening to the river currents sweeping below like a strong black god.
I'm gonna miss that old bridge and what it meant."

Hell on wheels

Maybe you've been sitting on your couch, watching highlights of Lance crest the Alp D'huez in the tour, and just for a second, seen a shot a cantankerous little devil man, complete with pitch fork, running along side. That would be Didi Senft — a 56 year old German cycling fan. But according to this cool story, the guy is more than just horns and pitch forks. He builds some crazy, crazy bikes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Hard times in Vail: Man takes van instead of limo

It sounds like an Onion headline, but this is a real story from today's Vail Daily. Apparently stock market woes and general economic malaise have caught up even with this top-end ski town. Well, at least a little. The man mentioned in the headline still took his family of five skiing on vacation, but slept in and got half-day tickets.
“Do we want to pay $500 a day or $250 a day?” he said. “So we ski half-days.”

Monday, April 07, 2008

The first thunder of the year

A fast front moving southeast just swept over downtown, bringing with it the first thunder of spring.

Record year for skier deaths

A 32-year-old Lakewood man (left) who hit a tree at Vail Saturday holds the dubious distinction of being the 17th ski area fatality in Colorado this year, breaking the 2001-2002 record of 16.
The accident occurred at about 10:20 a.m. in Blue Sky Basin. It was Vail's first fatality of the year.

Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for Colorado Ski Country USA, told the Rocky Sunday that the number of skier injuries is so small and random that little can be learned from it.

"There's nothing that can be drawn from that," she said. "There's no commonality or trends in the fatalities. There are no relationships to other numbers or statistics. It's tremendously unfortunate to say the least. But it's incidental, and unique, and very, very random."

But that's not quite true. Certainly skiing is very safe if there were about 5.5 million skier visits and only 17 deaths. Even so, trends emerge. Men 18-35 make up the vast majority of deaths. Most fatals happen on green or blue runs. Most are caused by a high-speed collisions with a fixed object, usually a tree. In winter, they typically happen after lunch, when snow is scraped and icy. In spring, though, the pattern may reverse as snow is hard and fast in the morning, then softens as it melts.

Given the patterns, what can ski areas do to minimize deaths? Not much short of cutting all the trees down, and the bark beetle may take care of that.

New fees for Pike National Forest

Will fees and gates help protect South Colony Lakes, or is this just the start of bureaucratic regulations that will eventually ruin everything good about public lands? This is what I pondered as I read a story in the Gazette today about a new series of use fees for popular trailheads.
No doubt South Colony Lakes, the popular portal to four fourteeners, needs some TLC. For years, the Forest Service's plan for controlling recreation there seamed to be letting the road fall apart, but that hasn't stopped the use. If anything, it's attracted a certain rock-crawling Jeep element.
So now the feds are gating the road a few miles down and creating a proper trailhead where hikers will be charged a fee of $5 - $10.
Makes sense but there may be unintended consequences. The area is surrounded by almost pristine basins that may get no more than a dozen visitors a year (South Colony can see 400 on a summer weekend.) The new fees may encourage people to use the less-visited basins, which may not be a good thing for wildlife. Hard to know what to do in a situation like this.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A poem from a reader

Left on my voice mail during the wet, heavy snows last night

Always the pioneer in me
Looks out upon the untracked snow
And thrills to venture out and be
The first to take a step and go
Where no one ever stepped before
Where undefiled creation lies
In drifts, like gifts, as I explore,
The common place is white surprise.
-Margaret Bratton

Colorado kier death record tied

When I guy hit a tree Sunday at Keystone and died, he tied the record for skier deaths in Colorado for a winter. That would be 16.
It's been a weird year, with lots of women and men who are too old or too young to fit the statistical curve.

Photos from Atlantic Peak

Today in Out There I profiled guidebook author Dave Cooper and his new book, Colorado Snow Climbs, which, like his first book, Colorado Scrambles, is an excellent list of routes for the alpine enthusiast.
For the story, Dave, who lives in Alma, and I climbed Atlantic Peak near Breckenridge. Here are some photos:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Copper/Winter park drops price on season pass!

The price for the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus dropped $40 from last season, giving skiers unlimited days at Copper and Winter Park, plus six days at Steamboat for $439. It's basically matching prices with Vail. You pick your favorite. The normal Super Pass, without the Steamboat days is $399, just like Vail's Summit Pass. For more, click here.

Big snows extend season at yet another resort

Sunlight Mountain Resort will extended its normal ski season to include Saturday and Sunday, April 12th and April 13th. Sunlight has received over 300 inches of snowfall this season and is maintaining a 65” base including 20 inches in the last 3 days. They say snow conditions are near perfect. Adults may purchase a lift ticket for $30 and kids 12 and under will ski free on April 12th and 13th.

Wittness the full power of the dark side

I have to admit, I've never pond skimmed, even during my days as a ski bum. But it's that time of year again, when skiers don wacky costumes and try to make it over the mote.
Taos Ski Valley's holds its championships closing day, April 6, with an 80 foot pool of ice cold water (best costume earns points).
Vail is holding its "world championships" the next week, with $1,000 cash for the winner.
Anyone who has tips on how to win is encouraged to post them below.
BTW... I bent my wookie.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Vail holds line onseason pass prices

Vail announced the sale of season passes for next year with no price increase, if you renew now
The Summit Pass will be $399.
The Colorado Pass, with unrestricted skiing at Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, and 10 restricted days at Vail and Beaver Creek is $439.

Don't have that kind of scratch? You can put down a $49 deposit to reserve the price and pay the rest by Setpember 2008.

You also get:
  • Half-price lift tickets at Heavenly Mountain Resort, the highest-rated resort at Lake Tahoe.
  • Six Ski With A Friend tickets, available at a discounted daily rate. Discounts vary throughout the season.
  • Free Summer 2009 lift access at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.

So much snow and so much work

I can attest to the great snow at Snowmass. I'm up here working at the Winter Sports Clinic for disabled vets. Vets are learning to ski downhill and cross country, climb, scuba dive, fly fish, play sled hockey and, of course, curl. That's what I'm doing. We've had about 30 vets come through the curling clinic in 2 days, plus all of their aides.

I got caught in the aftermath of that pileup Monday afternoon. It took hours upon hours to drive the loop through Leadville and Minturn to get past that crash. I left the Highlands Ranch area about 3 p.m. and arrived in Snowmass about 10:15. Ugh.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to ride yesterday. But I hope to get up for some turns later in the week.

(The photo is the view from our room in the village.) Come on up and ride!

Winter for the record book in mountains

The most recent storm to hit the Rockies boosted the season total at Snowmass to an eye-popping 407 inches (and counting), says the Aspen Times

The Aspen Skiing Co. recorded 20 inches of snow at Snowmass from the storm. With the official book closed on March, here’s how the season at Snow
mass shapes up:

• 118 inches fell in December, setting a record for the month.

• 95 inches fell in January, also setting a record for the month.

• 87 inches fell in February.

• 88 inches fell in March. (That fell significantly below the record of 101 inches that fell in 1984.) Snowmass collected more snow than Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands or Buttermilk this season.

Also noteworthy: this has been a very safe avalanche season.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Free skiing at Monarch - no fooling!

Monarch Mountain is offering free lift tickets on Monday April 7, 2008 to encourage people to visit the area in central Colorado. Monarch has received record snowfall this season, more than 36 feet so far and the conditions are fantastic.

Lift tickets will be available at the ticket windows starting at 8:30am. Monarch is asking for a donation of a non-perishable food item but everyone will receive a free lift ticket. The donated food will be given to The Grainery a local organization that operates a food bank.

For more information on Monarch Mountain or the free lift ticket day visit

Ski facilities on Pikes Peak part of Olympic Committee incentive package

In addition to $53 million in incentives to Keep the US Olympic Committee in the area, including a new downtown office building and renovations for the Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera announced April 1 that the city would help develop a Lake Palcid-style "winter sport training facility" on Pikes Peak, including lift-served downhill ski runs, a nordic ski track and ski jumps.
"We all know a facility like this is a natural fit for Pikes Peak," Rivera said. "I'm just glad the Olympic committee was here to twist our arm and complain until we had reason to build it."
The facility will also include one of the world's longest luge courses, stretching from near Barr Camp to Green Mountain Falls, and including at least two loop-de-loops.
Some Pikes Peak residents are objecting to the plans, particularly people living in Green Mountain Falls, where the Olympic Committee has proposed building an indoor ice-rink for its latest exhibition sport, yeti wrestling.
"Those yeti's could get out and eat the ducks in our duck pond," said long-time resident Dick Bratton.
City Council members said they would reconsider the proposal April 2, since today is April Fool's Day.

Yet more snow at Vail

Technically, it's snowing right now in Colorado Springs, even though it's clear an sunny on the summit of Pikes Peak, but the real snow is in Vail, where 24 inches have fallen in 48 hours. Yesterday Vail had a 75-car pile-up on the interstate. Now that's a lot of snow.