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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Kite Training

By Ann Driggers
Saturday, February 21, 2009

I have inadvertently stumbled into a new (to me) mode of winter transportation. Over the past couple of months, in unexpected backcountry locations, I have met skiers who harness the power of the wind to travel across snow. By combining skis or a board with a kite, snowkiters as they are known, scoot across frozen lakes, up mountainsides and hop over obstacles. At the cutting edge of the sport, long distances are covered to cross continents or reach distant mountain summits, and at the extreme fringe, snowkiters catch big air off cliffs. My brief observations have evolved quickly into a keen interest in the sport. Inseparable as I am from my skis, learning to harness the wind as a compliment to my favorite outdoor activity will expand the horizons of my outdoor world. And I want in. So when local snow kiting expert, Dave Grossman, offered to show me the ropes, or lines in this case, and teach me the basics of kiting, I jumped at the chance.

First stop, the wide open spaces of Canyon View Park on a gloriously sunny and barely breezy afternoon. As we unpacked the kite I had visions of being drug onto and tangled up on I70. Dave quelled my fears and reassured me the kite was but a small three meter trainer and I would soon have everything under control. He was right. With a big grin plastered across my face and after an hour of his tutelage I had learned in a fashion how to launch, fly and crash the kite.

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Despite its small span, it was amazing how much power was under the canopy when the wind picked up. Even with a light breeze I found myself lifted off the ground and towed pretty hard. Fortunately the kite had a brake and could be stopped quickly before I rocketed into the fence at the east end of the park.

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Looking beyond my kite, the snow covered Grand Mesa beckoned, a perfect location for snow kiting. With a little more practice I soon hope to be up there combining my skis with the wind to launch me into a whole new world. All photos: Dave Grossman

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San Juan Redux

By Ann Driggers
Saturday, February 14, 2009

Winter is back! And so were the San Juan mountain’s, as the destination when I played hooky from work last Thursday. The previous time I went to the San Juan’s it was early season and conditions were marginal. But since then the snow has been falling and my ski buddy Jack Brauer has been taunting me by posting photos on his blog of some incredible conditions and lines down in his neck of the woods. Having decided we could take it no more, Pete Harris and I drove south and Jack kindly obliged in showing us the goods. In advance of the coming storm the winds were kicking up high, so we headed for some sheltered tree runs called the Destroyer Chutes. After a steep 1,800 feet climb up the skin track we dropped in. The snow was deep, untouched and oh so much fun. We managed a couple of laps before we had to head back to GJ, and me to work.

Pete Harris slaying the Destroyer Chutes.

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Jack is a (real) photographer and is usually the one snapping the pics. Although no substitute for his talented photography I was nevertheless pleased that I got some half decent shots of him riding.

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It’s Official - Mud Season Is Here

By Ann Driggers
Sunday, February 8, 2009

Now brace yourselves. This is going to be a bit of a shocker. I actually spent one day of my weekend not skiing. Yep that’s right, NOT skiing! Instead I went trail running. Or rather trail slopping, slipping and sliding. The warm temperatures that have trashed the snowpack and turned me away from the mountains until the next storm, have also created a muddy, icy, snowy mess of our beautiful high desert trails. However, I was oblivious until Tikka and I set off to do one of our favorite runs on Saturday morning.

Devils Canyon trail in the McInnis Canyons NCA

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McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area has many great trails including mine and Tikka’s favorite, the Devils Canyon loop. At about 7 miles with 800 feet of climbing over rolling terrain it’s a great little run. Plus it follows the stream for at least a mile so there’s plenty of water for dogs. And the scenery is outstanding. After the first short stretch of graveled and dry trail we dipped into the canyon narrows. The floor of the canyon was either rock or ice, not a bad running surface, though Tikka was a little disappointed at finding her wallowing holes frozen over. But as soon as we climbed out of the canyon floor, up into P & J (pinyon and juniper) country, the trail became a slick and gloppy mess.

Tikka doesn't care about the mud.

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Alternating between ice, snow, mud, and occasionally, but not enough, dry single track, I tentatively skidded my way around the loop. Tikka, of course, couldn't have cared less. Although I didn’t get my usual work out, the slow going was a great excuse to stop often, cast my eyes up the towering red rock canyon walls and poke around the old sheep herders cabin at the trails turning point.

Old sheep herders cabin towards the head of the canyon.

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It seems mud season has officially begun. So if you go out, be prepared. Have the garden hose at the ready for your return. It will likely take as long to clean up as it does to run the trail. As for me, this 'not skiing' malarky doesn't sit well in winter. Hurry up storm, we need more powder.

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Recipe for Perfect Backcountry Ski Day

By Ann Driggers
Monday, February 2, 2009

Being a weekend warrior, it is a rarity that all the key ingredients come together to make the perfect backcountry ski outing. This past weekend I was lucky enough that the recipe could be followed to a T. Ingredients Avalanche danger rating of moderate on most aspects Unlimited amounts of powder Bluebird skies and warm sunshine Five skiers well matched in terms of speed, ability and interest Method Place key ingredients in classic backcountry ski terrain of the Raggeds Wilderness. Set skiers to slowly rise on skin track for 2,300 feet.

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When fully risen at summit, prepare skiing utensils.

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One at a time drop skiers into large bowl allowing each to carve turns in deep and steep powder.

Photo: Pete Harris

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At sounds of hooting and hollering, drop another skier into bowl. Repeat with remaining skiers, beating snow well with each addition.

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Once all five have settled at base of bowl, sprinkle with PB&J and water. Leave to rise again. Repeat above process as many times as desired. If snow becomes chopped due to excessive beating or whipping, place skiers into fresh bowl.

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When fully cooked or darkness falls, whichever comes first, remove skiers from bowl and decorate with sunburned noses and goofy grins. Serve with chilled beer from snow bank. Makes five tired but extremely contented skiers. Memories can be kept for weeks in airtight container.

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Wipeout!

By Ann Driggers
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Here are some recent shots of my friends and family (probably ex after this post), who shall remain nameless, demonstrating the fine technique of the skiing wipeout. Please note they are all extremely good skiers and were performing these wipeouts purely for demonstration purposes. The following photos are not representative of their typical performance on skis. No one was injured during the demonstration. Disclaimer: Do not attempt to try this at home or without the supervision of professional wipeout artists such as these. Wipeout #1: A nice cruise through the shaded woods, a flat forest road lurks to capture the joyous but unsuspecting skier.....

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Wipeout #2: A fun little jump looks good from above, but the landing angle was a recipe for disaster...strange the photographer didn't point this out from her vantage point below....

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Wipeout #3: My favorite of all. This person just loves snow so much that they rather be at one with it. Not satisfied with faceshots while skimming along the surface, they prefer to flip upside down for a complete immersion experience. The problem with this technique is they eventually stop moving. And it gets awfully wet and cold if you make a habit of it. Still, makes for a cool photo.

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