On the road
My calves hurt. My eyes are heavy. My lips are cracked. My snowpants haven’t been dry since last Wednesday. But after riding at six different resorts in six days, with some 930 miles of driving in between, I’m still smiling.Some 40-odd inches of fresh snow will do that. Discovering new ski areas will do that, especially when you’re on your own with nothing to do other than explore.I had great runs wherever I went – whether it was charging powder in the trees at Sunlight or linking together long, arcing turns down the face of 11,900-foot Alberta Peak at Wolf Creek. I also got to hang with some cool locals. If you ever make it to Powderhorn, atop the Grand Mesa, be sure to stop in at the Wagon Wheel lodge in nearby Mesa. There you’ll find a hearty crew of regulars – ranchers, drillers and lifties among them – and some cold beers for just $2.50. If you’re ever in Silverton, look for the Miner’s Tavern – which Skiing magazine recently named its top dive bar in a ski town. The locals at the tavern are a little leery of tourists at first, but you’ll find friends quick if you stick around to play some pool and throw back a few pints. Just remember, loser buys the next round.I also recommend Monarch, which averages 350 inches of snow each season and is great for checking out retro ski fashion. When I was there, the place was crawling with tourists from Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Outfits ranged from puffy ski bibs with a sweatshirt or sweater to full camouflage hunting suits, complete with the Elmer Fudd hat.As for Wolf Creek, I’ll just say this – the place is too good to be true. The mountain averages 465 inches of snow each season, and even though snowfall has been way below average this winter, there were 17 inches of new snow when I was there on Sunday.I’d jump in the car and head back right now if I didn’t have a story to finish.Avalanche reportBackcountry avalanche danger in the Roaring Fork Valley is moderate at and above treeline with pockets of considerable on steep wind-loaded slopes. Below treeline, avalanche danger is low with pockets of moderate on steeper terrain.Pay close attention to those steep wind-loaded areas near and above treeline today. Recent activity on N- through E-facing wind-loaded terrain has shown that these slopes will still produce natural and triggered avalanches. Areas like the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys have been much more active than other areas of the valley. Recent observations around Marble and Lenado have shown a better bond of these new snow layers and very little avalanche activity.Avalanche danger details provided by the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center. For more information, call 920-1664 or visit http://www.rfavalanche.org. For conditions around the state, visit geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche.
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