On the Hill: I’d rather be skiing
ASPEN ” We are 92 days into the ski season and I hate to admit that I’ve only logged 28 days.
In treatment, that would seem like an eternity, but as a full-season pass holder, it’s pathetic.
Looking back on the season thus far, I’ve found really good excuses/reasons not to go up: Busy with work; hungover; flat light; too cold; no one to ski with; I would rather take a run, cross-country ski, hike, etc. The fact that I had family in town for the holidays and moved in January also were contributing factors.
Life just gets in the way, I guess. And since most of my friends have lived here long enough to put family and career before taking turns, I find myself skiing by myself a lot, and that’s only fun for about an hour. I would be more motivated if someone else was motivating me.
On Tuesday night, I vowed to myself that I would get up on the mountain every day until the season is over. I picked noon to 2 p.m. as my window. Wednesday came and I sat in the front office of the Times looking up at Ajax. It was 12:45 p.m. and I could see the tree tops swaying. “It’s too windy,” I thought to myself, “and that rain yesterday I’m sure didn’t help the conditions.”
After a few minutes of agonizing, I talked myself out of talking myself out. I suited up and headed for the gondola. I loaded with three others and it was all good until the wind gusts started swinging the gondola car.
My fear of heights kicked in, and I was blasting myself for putting myself in that position. I made it to the top unscathed, although emotionally spent, and did a couple of runs. The snow was funky enough that I skied down Spar Gulch. What a wonderful surprise to have the entire gulch to myself!
I made big GS turns like those damn instructors do, but unlike them, I wasn’t cutting anyone off.
So, even after some emotional turmoil, it turned out to be an OK day. At the very least, it beats being in the office.
New snow on Monday was followed by a rapid warm up, as much as 15 degrees Fahrenheit in two hours, on Tuesday morning. This brought on a nice little cycle of avalanches in the Aspen zone backcountry Wednesday. Observers in the Castle Creek valley noted up to 10 new wet, loose snow avalanches on low elevation westerly aspects during the afternoon hours. About half of these reached the road burying one lane with a much as 4 feet of debris.
At higher elevations there were a few fresh soft slab avalanches observed as well. From the Highlands ridge there were three new natural slab avalanches observed. These occurred on E, NE, and NW aspects near and above treeline. Crowns were 1-2 feet deep with the avalanches running around 1000 vertical feet. The avalanches observed in this area failed at the interface of the new snow from Monday and the old snow surface below it. In many areas of the zone, that storm came with light winds and low density new snow. As a result, there were also numerous dry snow sloughs observed in steeper terrain yesterday as well. Take a close look at the bond of this last storms snow to the old surface in the area you are traveling.
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