I arrived in Denver late Wednesday evening where Liz collected me from the airport. We went to her friend’s place to stay for a few nights where we cleaned & re-glued skins, waxed skis & collected the final essentials for living in the van in winter. After a few days in the sunny front range of Colorado it was time to hit the road.
We drove down the famous i70 headed towards a place called Butler Gulch. We stopped off for a couple of snacks to make tomorrow`s breakfast easy. Nothing quite like a service station burrito to start the day, served cold of course. We parked in the Butler/Jones Gulch car park right on dusk.
Snow was falling so we went for a short walk up the trail with Cody Oats World Traveler. Liz wanted to show me where we would be heading in the morning & also we needed to stretch the legs after a couple of days of inactivity. After a pretty warm night in the van we woke up to a number of cars in the carpark.
Liz taught me how to attach the skins to my skis & we were off. I had been looking forward to this for quite some time & was feeling pretty good about hitting the snow. I managed to stay upright as we climbed our way out of the carpark & onto a single skin track. My first thought was "wow these things are sticky & I can go uphill!”
We did a bit of climbing with intermittent stops to cool down a bit. After an hour or so we stopped to get my first lesson in avalanches. I learnt about pitch angles & things to be aware of. Runout zones, tree lines, concave/convex areas.
Then we continued up to a small almost summit. Right before we cleared the tree line we stopped and transitioned for the downhill. We put on our Buffs to prepare for the onslaught of wind and snow drift. Liz gave me brief instructions to follow her line and meet her once she stopped about 200mtr below me. I left my skins on to slow me down through this first stretch of deep powder. I made half of one turn before falling flat on my face & eating a lot of snow. Hahahhah It took me quite some time to get myself out of the hole, it`s a lot harder than it looks.
After I extricated myself I then had to extract all the snow from inside my jacket and under my Buff. I went down a few more meters before falling over again. "Oh well this is learning to ski after all.” Liz led down a few more stretches & I followed along in my bumbly hopeless fashion but slowly falling less & feeling like I had some idea of what was going on.
After the first & steepest part of the run, we decided to take my skins off. This made a huge difference as I now turned easier & glided nicely through the snow. I was also managing to somehow link a few turns & stay upright but man my feet & quads were hurting. I stopped a few times to rest before we hit a thin section of single track where I practiced my snow plow.
The familiar sound of ice under ski/snowboard was still as fresh in my mind from when I learnt to snowboard some 14 years ago. I haven't hit the slopes in over 8 years and never on skis but that sound strikes fear into you as soon as you hear it. I managed to stay upright as we went through a nice little rolling section on the way back to the van.
There was a short uphill where I learned to side step to the top, then it was a short ride to the bottom. I got a few more tips on how to use edges before finally getting back to the carpark at 3:30 pm. What a fun first day out. My quads and feet were pretty sore and I had only eaten it a few times & was feeling a little more steady on my feet.
I am an ultra runner, Mountain biker, Packrafter, Climber, Ironman, Endurance Athlete