ASPEN - With the opening of Independence Pass last weekend, I, like many others, headed up in search of the last remnants of a ski season that seemingly never came.
The opening of the pass is always an exciting time of year: when the passage of seasons becomes official and people can start focusing on summer. For some, it is a time when one can enjoy the best of both seasons and participate in what we used to call "dual-sport season" in college.
The joy of being able to head up to the top of the pass and make a few truck runs with good friends, and then be able to head down to the valley and get in a round of golf or go mountain biking is exciting. When we were in college, it also symbolized the end of the semester and the start of summer. Oh, how I miss school.
Aspen Times Co-Manager Ryan Slabaugh and I left town early Sunday morning in search of snow, but we didn't know exactly where we were headed. As we drove east, the lack of any sign of winter was apparent; it looked as though it was already mid-to-late June or even July. The snow looked meager, but there were still turns to be had, and we were content and happy while driving up.
We were not really looking for anything too amazing, just great morning exercise and amazing views from the top of the Rockies. We drove to the top of Independence Pass and stopped at the Linkins Lake parking lot, figuring it was as good a place as any to start hiking. As we geared up, we sipped coffee while enjoying the early-morning sun and surveyed possible descents. We hit the trail and began to hike, not knowing how far we would have to hike to hit the snow or if there were even consecutive turns to be had.
About 30 minutes into the hike, we saw a great little chute dropping from the lake back down into the valley and determined it would be a nice shot to ride. After hiking up a series of steep slopes, we traversed over to the chute and took a break to soak in the warm sun. The upper chutes looked very nice, but we decided to just take it easy and ride down to the car. The chute was hanging over a waterfall running down from the lake, and the snow was soft and secure. We made the 15 to 20 turns down the chute. After a nice stone grind for the skis because of a walk across the river, we hiked back down to the car and called it a day.
The turns might not have been the greatest, but the morning was perfect. Winter is over, but ski season is still going on for those willing to chase it. My next few weekends will consist of taking turns on the pass in the early morning, then playing 18 holes at any one of the valley's beautiful golf courses.
Thank goodness for dual-sport season in the Rockies.