Best of both worlds |

Best of both worlds

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado

It would be tough to complain about the skiing of late after a weekend of sampling the best of both worlds ” skiing of both the downhill and backcountry touring variety.

Saturday took me to Snowmass for the first time in several years, and to the Elk Camp side for the first time in probably a decade. I was last there when Elk Camp runs and Two Creeks base area debuted. I quickly pegged it as beginner terrain labeled blue to facilitate real estate development and abandoned that side of sprawling Snowmass. But fearing holiday crowds on the Fanny Hill/Big Burn side, a friend and I forked out $13 to park at Two Creeks, betting on easy, crowd-free access. We were right.

OK, I can find one thing to complain about: Sandy Park. I’d forgotten that what looks like a gloriously long, dog-leg strip of corduroy off the Elk Camp summit ends in an tortuously long, flat runout and interminable double-poling. Even before that point, there’s a lot of sitting on one’s skis and hoping to make it to the top of the next rise.

But, there was powder left over from Friday’s all-day snowfall, and I figured the day was a good bet to check out Long Shot for my first time ever. Skis over our shoulders, we trudged up the hill to the top-to-bottom, quasi backcountry run on the far edge of Elk Camp. It didn’t disappoint.

The top three-quarters of the run still held beaucoup powder and we were essentially alone out there for a run that seemed endless. It was the perfect antidote to Sandy Park and an ideal precursor to Sunday’s first outing of the winter on Basalt Mountain.

We glided out onto the latter on a blue-wax day, a diffused sun peaking through clouds that continued to sprinkle diamonds on the flocked conifers. That line from a Robert Frost poem, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep” sprang to mind as we explored new territory on the vast playground.

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As I write, this we’re debating cross-country ski destinations on Christmas morning. Does it get any better?

The Aspen Skiing Co. reported 6 inches of new snow over the past 24 hours at Snowmass and Aspen Highlands in its Tuesday morning report. Aspen Mountain picked up 5 inches and Buttermilk got 4 inches.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated overall avalanche danger in the Aspen zone as considerable on Tuesday. Says the CAIC: Above treeline the avalanche danger is considerable on north, northeast, east, and southeast aspects and moderate on other aspects. Danger is an overall moderate at and below treeline. Unstable wind slabs and drifts are likely Tuesday on many steep slopes above treeline, and possible on steep slopes near treeline.

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