Diversify the weekend

Riding, skiing both possible if weather holds

A telemark skier glides down Lower Equalizer at Powderhorn Mountain Resort after a recent skinning trip up to the top of the resort. Skinning is like snowshoeing in skis and requires a lot of effort. After all the hard work, however, you get to make fresh tracks on your way down the hill.


If you go

“Side” country and backcountry skiing can be fun but also dangerous.

If you’re heading up to Old Powderhorn later in the season, check avalanche conditions before you go.

If you’re skiing at Powderhorn Mountain Resort, obey all signs, don’t duck under ropes, and avoid closed areas.

Take plenty of water for your outdoor winter activities. Even though it’s cold, you’re still going to need to stay hydrated, especially at higher elevations.

Remember your sunscreen and lip balm and have fun.

Whoever said weekends were for relaxing obviously didn’t live in Western Colorado.

The weather lately has made it easy to get in two days of diverse outdoor activities. Of course, this means Mondays at work turn into rest days during which I’m grateful to have a desk job.

On Saturday, looking for a great last (although maybe not) bike ride of the season, I headed out to Lunch Loop for a short ride. The trails were dry and dusty, and I looked skyward hoping clouds were moving in for a good storm. Sure, it was contradictory to be riding and hoping for snow, but that’s exactly what I was doing.

The temperatures around noon Saturday were perfect for biking. It was just warm enough to not need ear warmers. A 10-minute rest break for a conversation with a friend I saw on the trail left me chilled, however.

I rode down the Clunker trail and headed out and around to the bottom of the Holy Cross hill. After a warmup lap around Miramonte Rim, I cruised around on the Ali-Ally Loop, Coyote Ridge and Raven’s Ridge. I think I saw two or three other riders the whole time I was out.

By the time I got back to the car I’d ridden for about 90 minutes. To me, this is the perfect “I-want-to-ride-but-have-other-stuff-to-do” length of time. This side of Lunch Loop, closer to Little Park Road, is often less-crowded than the main lot, and I definitely enjoyed riding around some of my favorite trails just listening to the crunch of my tires.

As Saturday afternoon turned into evening, the clouds slowly rolled in, giving me hope for snow. I had one thought on my mind for Sunday: skinning up to the top of Powderhorn.

Skinning requires a lot of effort, especially if there is no path already made by earlier, more industrious skiers. It’s like snowshoeing in that you have to break trail all the way. Still, the rewards are many: The still-quiet slopes punctuated by the occasional “whoop” of a fellow skier or snowboarder, and fresh lines of powder from top to bottom.

We scraped wax off of skis, loaded up the car and were on our way by 11. The marquee at Powderhorn Mountain Resort said “14 degrees” when we turned in, but judging by the number of cars in the parking lot we weren’t the only ones who’d decided to climb to the top on a freezing cold Sunday.

I stuck my climbing skins onto my Atomic Century skis, sank my feet into my ski boots, and loaded my backpack with water, extra mittens, an extra hat, a soft shell ski jacket for the downhill, snacks and my ski helmet.

Skinning always seems masochistic to me. I love feeling that strong; I love the exertion that it takes to glide all the way to the top of Bill’s Run. Still, it’s exhausting. I get hot, and my head sweats. I think steam was rising off of it at one point. I stop to drink water and rest; I count steps; I listen to the shuck-a-clunk of my skis and bindings slowly moving up the hill.

There’s very little talking between my boyfriend and me. We’re both concentrating on moving upward, breathing and regulating our body temperatures. I unzip my fleece and take off my hat. Then I put the hat back on. Then I zip the fleece back up.

The wind picks up, and it starts to snow on us. Looking back down the mountain, all we can see are clouds rolling in. Our skis sink deep until we finally pick up a Snow Cat track and use it for part of our climb.

Almost there. One, two, three, four, 12, wait ... one, two, three, four ... I count each glide and stare straight ahead at the twig poking up through the snow ahead of me. I’m calling it the top. I can see the sign for Maverick far on my right as I make my way up the last hill to the top of Bill’s.

With a deep and satisfying sigh I stop moving. It’s cold. I turn back and see the clouds have parted, and blue sky peeks through down below in the valley. The longer we go without moving, the colder it gets, so we get busy taking skins off of skis, putting on extra layers for the descent, and getting ourselves organized.

With ski boots secured in bindings again, we take off down Bill’s, gliding almost silently through the fresh powder. Cutting over to Lower Equalizer, we look up to see perfect “S” turns coming down Equalizer’s wall. We head left, down the run and enjoy dodging the few twigs still sticking through the snow. We give our own whoops of joy as powder flies behind us.

All too soon we find ourselves skidding across the cracked and glassy man-made snow waiting for us at the base. With a satisfied smile we tromp back to the car; Day 1 of the 2012–13 ski season is in the books.

Daily Sentinel online advertising coordinator Julie Norman can’t do enough mountain biking, backpacking or skiing on her weekends. Email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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