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Rite of Spring

By Ann Driggers

Even before I moved to the Roaring Fork Valley I considered climbing and skiing Mount Sopris a rite of spring. This aesthetic and majestic peak stands just shy of 13,000 feet and dominates the skyline of the lower valley. Rising over 6,000 feet in 3 miles makes it one of the largest mountains in Colorado in terms of vertical relief and even the lower 48. Consequently it harbors numerous ski possibilities with direct lines from the summit being most popular in the spring when the snowpack has stabilized. The classic route at this time of year is Thomas Lakes Bowl which is where myself and ski partner Scott McCurdy found ourselves once again. This year late snows and cool temperatures have kept the snow pack deeper than usual and we were able to ski to and from the car which is a rarity in early May. In fact it was the most filled in I have seen in a while and vastly improved over last year.

A mellow sunrise on the approach:

Crossing one of the Thomas Lakes:

We arrived at the 12,953 foot summit in record time (for us), about 3.5 hours, which meant we had to hang out and wait for the snow to soften. The views were spectacular from the Flattops, Sawatch Range and closer up the Elk and Ragged Mountains. Capitol Peak is the most prominent in this photo:

 

Ready to drop off the summit ridge and into the bowl:

 

And down we go. Scott first:

Being weekend warriors we had missed, by a day, what had evidently been primo conditions of a more wintery nature. Consequently we had a somewhat crusty and punchy surface in the upper bowl criss crossed with numerous tracks. Still it was all good. Photo of me by Scott:

As we neared the bottom of the bowl and swung left to a more easterly aspect, the snow had ripened, in the sun, to be more spring-like. Silky smooth corn turns always put a big ol' grin on my face:

I wonder if Scott is pleased about skiing 5,000 feet down a beautiful mountain in early May?

I'd say so! In fact we might just do it again. There's plenty enough snow up there to get after it for a few more weeks yet. There could be riteS of spring this year.

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