Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Skin up and ski

The Snowy Range Highway opened over Memorial Day weekend, and a lot of backcountry enthusiasts were there to shred some spring snow. Jan, the soul skier from Montana, made the trip down from Big Sky Country. We joined up with Marty, the Ph.D. of Ski, to make some turns on the south flank of Medicine Bow Peak.

The snowpack is pretty impressive this spring. We got to the mountain fairly late in the morning, though, and snow conditions were getting a little soggy. Still, wet snow is better than no snow.

We skinned up at the Lake Marie trailhead. The biggest challenge was getting out of the parking lot because the snowbanks are 7-8 feet high and nobody had packed in any steps yet.

Jan and I were on telemark gear while Marty employed his alpine touring setup. Despite the cloudy conditions that threatened thunderstorms, we all worked up a sweat climbing the 1,100 vertical feet.

We climbed up to the ridge above School Rock and made two runs in the snowfields up there before skiing all the way down to the parking lot for a celebratory toast of Stella Artois.

Two days later, we did the same route but this time in rain at the parking lot, graupel higher up, and finally heavy, wet snowflakes that resulted in surprisingly nice conditions for our descent. I'm not sure that it was powder, but it was definitely more skiable than slush. Even though we were soaked after a couple runs, the day still called for a Stella Artois.

Jan and I even snuck in a day of flyfishing at a couple of lakes between ski days. All in all, a great holiday weekend spent with good friends and good beverages.