The Outdoor Junkie

The Outdoor Junkie is a blog by Ann Driggers, a backcountry bon vivant who lives to hike, run, ride, ski and climb in the great outdoors, and is most often found roaming through the red-rock canyons and mountains of Western Colorado.

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Going with the Snow

By Ann Driggers
Saturday, January 2, 2010

With a week of play time scheduled between Christmas and New Year and the ability to travel, numerous options existed for finding the best snow in the Rocky Mountain west. Head north to Jackson Hole, south to the San Juans, east to the Elks or west to Utah. A plethora of choices would surely give us a week of off-the-hook powder skiing. The plan was to go with the snow.

Snow Smiley.jpg

Packed and ready to hit the road we decided to pick our destination at the last minute, following a final check on the weather forecasts and web cams. Sheesh, there was no doubt it had been a dry start to the ski season just about everywhere. A motorized lawnmower looked a better mode of transportation in Jackson Hole. Resorts in Utah were reporting a paltry snowpack and others in Colorado hadn't seen snowfall of any significance for weeks. None of the options were particularly inspiring nor motivating enough to burn a ton of gas. There was one place however which had seen several storms in the last 10 days, each producing double digit snowfalls. Despite being at low elevation, below 10,000 feet, the ski area was 100% open and the webcam showed oodles of white stuff and nary a rock or shrub in sight. Huh? Where could this place be? Was it worth the drive and would our powder appetites be sated? Although we had not for once considered this is where our epic week of powder would materialize we decided it was worth a shot. Going with the snow would mean....staying at home! Yep, little ol' Powderhorn, our town hill, was delivering the goods in spades. Perfectly positioned to capitalize on the recent storms on a west and south-west flow, the forecast looked as it would continue. And when Powderhorn is good, the Mesa backcountry is even better. So we unpacked our gear and went about investigating the local snow conditions with numerous forays into the 'hood. Over the past week we barely made a dent in our local options and we definately found the goods. Here are a few photos of evidence:

Day One. Chad skis makes turns with classic Mesa views:

mesaviews.jpg

Here I am writing my own lines in the aspen shadows.

  Lines.jpg

I love the light at this time of year though it can make for challenging photographs where the snow is best — in the north facing glades.

  bigtreesbigskis.jpg

Day Two: Pete Harris enters the white room:

  mesabc2.jpg

Day Three: It was snowing so hard and it was too cold to take pics. But with another 11 inches let me tell you it was GOOD!

Day Four: Another day in the white room. I think this was New Year's Eve:

 Whiteroom.jpg

Jumping for joy at the amazing snow:

mesabc.jpg

Day Five: Ringing in the New Year with yet more snowy goodness. Twyla Gingrich partakes of the powder.

  newyearsday.jpg

Day Six: After thousands of feet of climbing, many miles of skinning and too many turns to count it is time for a day of rest. In any case the next storm is coming in and I need to be refreshed for tomorrow. Going with the snow = staying at home. I think you will agree we made the right choice.

And the even better news is that the snow has started to fall in other places so I hope this is the beginning of a really good winter and we will be going with the snow....all over.

2 comments

Holiday Snowkiting

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Unfortunately Father Christmas has been delivering plenty of fresh powder to my homeland across the pond while Santa Claus has dropped the ball here in the Rocky Mountains. Though I have managed to get a few turns in here and there, it's been rather skinny and the avalanche danger has made things a little sketchy. Winds have been moving what little snow we have into hard slabs on steeper slopes and causing quite a few slides in the backcountry. Some skiers have had lucky escapes in recent days. So what to do? Well, with a snowkite the wind can be harnessed and powder turns can be had on the flattest of terrain.

No avalanche danger whatsoever! Of course there are other dangers so I did swap out my holiday hat for a helmet before whizzing backwards and forwards on this small lake.

Santa Snowkiting.jpg

And I even got some powder turns!

Powder Turn.jpg

Although Christmas has now passed, Santa is not off the hook. He needs to get with Ullr and make him give us some snowy love.

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It Worked!

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, December 13, 2009

The power of Ullr worship knows no bounds and its impact is now becoming quite evident. Our activities have shown some exceptional results. Review with me if you will: The Grand Valley, annual average snowfall of 21.5 inches, received more than 9 inches in one day (December 8th). This extraordinary event shut down the schools, taxed the City plow crews to their limits and enabled me to take a snowmobile tour of the Redlands!

Snow Day 018.JPG

Furthermore a number of cross country ski tracks have been put in all over the valley and judging by the current forecast (the extent of the power of worship knows no bounds) will be around for a while.

Snow Day 037.JPG

Providing our local ski area, Powderhorn, with a 28 inch dump (second only to Wolf Creek in the state), this same storm enabled its early opening. Yesterday lucky skiers were able to enjoy darn nice conditions as the area opened 80% of its terrain.

While it is early days, I am proud of what we have already accomplished. That being said, we must not slack off in our worshiping activities. There are many months of winter yet to come. Let's make it a good one!!

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Praise Be To Ullr!!!

By Ann Driggers
Monday, November 30, 2009

The storms are rolling in. Snow is falling deep and fast, covering the mountains with a deep mantle of white. Fat flakes float through the air clumping on my eyelashes. As I ski through two feet of fresh I choke as the powder sprays into my face. Conditions are amazing......wait....it's all a dream! I wake and look out the window. The sun is shining again, the skies are blue and the earth is brown. Where is the snow? There's only one thing a skier can do: the passage from autumn to winter has to have an assist. The weekend before Thanksgiving I dedicated my life and soul, and those of many friends, in the name of Ullr, the Norse God of Skiing (not snow - thanks for the research, Brittany). We created our own version of a stimulus package - the Snow Recovery and Reinvestment Act - whose purpose is, and I quote directly from the document as it was written: making instrumental celebrations for snow creation and retention, equipment investment, snow sufficiency and science, assistance to unemployed (and underemployed) skiers, and their mental State and local fiscal stabilization, for the ski season ending as late as possible in 2010, and for other purposes (like having a good time). Note: with hindsight I realize that I neglected to specify when the snow was supposed to start and we seem therefore to have had a slight hiccup in the proceeedings. However I am sure it is a temporary glitch and the just rewards of our Ullr worship will be forthcoming. Here is some photographic evidence of our worship activities:

Sunday morning, we continued worship with a skin up a skinny Powderhorn:

  Skinning.jpg

We tried out Chair One for size. Five is a squeeze, but doable. In fact I bet we could have got six on there if they weren't busy taking the photo:

lift.jpg

Surprisingly there were a few turns of good snow to be found. Not bad for Powderhorn in November:

  Partaking of the Powder.jpg

And there was a nasty pile of ice, I mean man-made snow, at the base which made for a nice view of the cathedral:

Ice hill.jpg

And also provided some interesting skiing. Or should I say yet another option to demonstrate true worship before the altar. Now, please, purleeze, SNOW!!!! (Yes I know I am begging and starting to look very foolish).

2 comments

Snow Games

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, November 15, 2009

Our Indian Summer came to a screeching halt this past weekend but, truth be told, we were ready to break out the skis. Today we finally got the chance. The Grand Mesa had a good foot or more of very light and dry fluffy stuff so off we went for the inaugural ski of the season, albeit for a turnless cross country outing. In fact our group of four had a diverse collection of sticks from skate skis to cross country to a leather tele set up and full on plastic tele boots and touring skis. It worked though, as Greg skated back and forth between the group like a dog which tired him out thankfully, and Chad who has a torn up ankle needed the plastic boots for support. It was a chilly day topping out at 12 degrees farenheit so we headed out a few miles on the County Line trail. It was in great early season shape with twigs sticking out in only a couple of spots, thanks to some grooming from the Grand Mesa Nordic Council. There were plenty of others out there enjoying the fresh snow and sunshine.

County Line.jpg

At the end of our ski we practiced some avalanche beacon searches, making sure the beacons and operators were in tip top working order for a winter of backcountry skiing. Twyla and I packed in six searches for the boys two so I'm not sure what that means other than I'm going to stick close to Twyla when skiing in avalanche terrain this winter.

Beacon Search.jpg Success.jpg

And of course, because we were so happy that winter has finally arrived we made the requisite snow angel.

  Snow Angel.jpg

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