Since it was my birthday, I chose a family ski outing to celebrate. With the news that the Cinnamon Pass road had been recently plowed as far as the American Basin trailhead, I picked Handies Peak as the destination of choice. A relatively quick and easy 14er, the crux of the trip is driving the rough road to the trailhead at 11,300 feet. After bouncing around in the truck, it was a relief to be out on the skis and start the climb. As Chad and I skinned through the undulating terrain of American Basin we scoped out the snow conditions. Below 12,000 feet the dust, deposited by numerous storms over the last month, was now exposed and the snow rapidly deteriorating. However we could see that higher up and mostly on the north faces there was some white snow left from the last storm.
The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny under bluebird skies. When we reached the final climb along the summit ridge, the wind really started kicking. It was cold enough that our summit celebrations were brief - hi-fives or rather hi-paws for Tikka on climbing her first fourteener.
From this high vantage point we were able to examine the conditions on the neighboring mountains that I planned to ski over the next few days. Unfortunately the rapidly disappearing and dust covered snow did not make any of the lines look particularly appealing. The ski down from Handies is a wonderful cruiser. Despite the cold wind, the snow had softened sufficiently to provide us with perfect corn through which we carved big GS turns.
As soon as we hit the ‘snirt,’ skiing became infinitely more challenging. Despite a drop of 700 feet in elevation we had to pole out of American Basin. In places the snow was so rotten it collapsed beneath our skis. A day out in the mountains is always good, but at some point one has to admit the ski season is about over. We decided to mothball the skis and take up other pursuits for the weekend.