I started looking at flights the minute after my friend Marian invited me to join her for some serious skiing/snowboarding in Colorado. What I put together landed me in Denver at midnight, which made my arrival in Breckenridge about 3am. A short 5 hours later I was running behind - we were late to meet a crew of serious backcountry skiers and head out to hike out of bounds. It's not my first time doing this, so I knew the most important thing is to have your shit together and don't be late. But my gear wasn't organized, I was still wearing street clothes, and I was checking my email. Lessons learned: gear up first, check email later.
This office nerd weekend warrior who lives at sea level is at a disadvantage compared to the group of ski industry pros - I'm not aclimatized to the altitude, don't have the fitness level of the rest of the crew and I'm on a snowboard which is not as efficient at managing traverses or going uphill compared with skis. Yes, I have a splitboard. I left it in new york. We get to the mountain and the crew is assembled - they're very patient with our tardiness. This is a big deal. Time is limited when you're going backcountry. Snow conditions change minute to minute, and getting a late start can limit your options, put you in danger or jeopardize the success of the whole day. Waiting for a guy who just flew in from New York is something that few Colorado skiers are willing to do.
On the hill, we take lifts as high as we can go and traverse out the backcountry gate. The gear comes off and we're hiking up. At the summit, it's avalanche risk assessment time. The locals have checked the avi report - considerable on some faces, moderate on others. We watch some riders go before us on a face that should be in the considerable category. Looking down after they're gone, we see that they set off some small slabs about 6" deep and left the face with hard surface. What they triggered wasn't enough to cause a problem and they all got down safely - it's basically sluff that they were able to manage to avoid. With the top layer gone, we consider it safe to head down. We ski one at a time and get to an area of safety to meet up. Everyone has a fun run, but it's short.
The local crew are planning to skin back up and then head out further to the next area. With no splitboard, and no skins, Marian and I are heading back in-bounds. This proves more difficutl than expected. We're traversing in deep powder and I'm on a snowboard. Lesson learned: bring the splitty.
We get back in bounds after a long and taxing hike. The rest of the day is spent lapping the major peaks of Breckenridge. At the end of the day, my legs are shot and I'm riding like shit, Marian stops mid-run to look at the mountains. Look, we pretty much owned this mountain today. She points to all the peaks we hit. I'm feeling like the mountain kicked my ass, but her optimism was the perfect conclusion to a fun day of hard riding. I would have taken a photo, but I left the camera in the car, and wasn't permitted to run back for it - we were THAT late.
This was just day one. Next up... we're going for a full day with some teenage competitive mogul skiers at Breck and on Friday heading out to Silverton for some seriously burly shit.