ASPEN - As an avid backcountry skier, this season has obviously been a conundrum of hope without results. After spending last year in the Wasatch range over in Utah and having 700-plus inches of snowfall and a perfect stability of snowpack all year, this season has been one of just training, but for what?
Of course there are many uphill competitions to take part in here in the Roaring Fork Valley, but like many others I enjoy the adventure of being out beyond the resorts and in the middle of exotic terrain that gets the heartbeat pounding and adrenaline flowing. So, where do we stand this year?
With the avalanche danger being the highest in 30 years here in Colorado, the simple answer is: We are at a monumental, if not total, loss. The more complex answer, however, is that this is a year to expand the horizon of what and where we ski.
This season, I have had the opportunity to compete in the Aspen Times Town Race series and it has reawakened my passion for skiing. Each race has shown me my lack of technical proficiency and how lazy I have become just skiing in the backcountry. Sure, I can ski in 2 feet of blower powder on an untouched slope, but I would venture that it does not prove your skiing ability the same way racing in a downhill on Racers Edge against some of the top racers in America does. As the year has moved on, and the hope of grabbing skins and skiing some of the country's most amazing terrain once avalanche conditions stabilize has dwindled, my focus now has shifted completely. This year, I raced on my Fritschi bindings with my Garmont Radiums and 10-year-old all-mountain skis.
Needless to say, with my lack of proper gear I clearly stuck out in the starting gates moments before going 60-plus miles an hour on a sheet of ice.
I am now looking at all the race equipment I can online and budgeting to make it happen for next season.
And so, the waiting game will continue until late May or even June to hopefully ski the backcountry up Independence Pass and over to Montezuma Basin, but until then I am very happy to be re-establishing my technical ability with the most beautiful backdrop: the Rocky Mountains.
Remember: The ski season is what you make it, so try something new this spring. You never know what you might find.