A Sunday on Sopris
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” Last Sunday, I skied some of the hardest, wind-scoured snow I’ve ever experienced, but it was a sweet and memorable day.
A friend invited me on a backcountry tour up Mount Sopris. Given the sunny weather report and the fact that I’d spent most of Saturday shoveling snow, I happily joined him. We had a safe route planned, generally following the summer hiking trail, and it was sure to make for great scenery, good exercise and maybe even some nice turns.
We weren’t sure if we’d head for the summit or not. But I made my decision around timberline on Sopris’ east ridge. We’d been skinning for three and a half hours at that point, and were some 12,000 feet above sea level. But there was still a false summit and quite a distance between us and Sopris’ 12,953-foot summit.
Up on that lofty ridge, we’d left the soft powder far behind us in the trees. The wind was shifting and gusting around us and the higher we climbed, the harder the surface became. By the time I waved my arms at my compatriots and told them I was turning around, I could hardly dig a boot heel into this so-called snow. I wasn’t keen to ski it for an additional 900 vertical feet.
Plus, I was already raising a blister on one foot and I hoped to have some family time in the late afternoon. One fellow traveler decided to join me on the trip down; three others continued on toward the summit. (They won the manly prize, but we got to drink beer first.) The two of us lingered on the ridge for 10 minutes or so, just gazing around at the sun-splashed alpine scenery. Sopris doesn’t get the acclaim of the Elk Range fourteeners, but it’s a proud, dramatic, glacially sculpted peak, the monarch of the midvalley.
The trip down was a blast. The bulletproof snow skied a whole lot better than breakable crust, and down below treeline the snow turned light and soft. We followed our uphill tracks down, down, through groves of fir and aspen, stopping only to peel off layers of clothing as the wind disappeared and the temperatures rose.
We hopped happily into fields of powder when we found them and arrived back at the car in about a quarter of the time it took us to ascend.
Maybe I’ll ski Sopris again in the spring.
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