On the trail: Finally, a ski tour | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Finally, a ski tour

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
It's white out

MISSOURI HEIGHTS – Maybe an inch or two of new snow encrusted my midvalley driveway Sunday morning, but I had promised the dog a walk through whatever snow there was on Basalt Mountain, so we headed up Missouri Heights to the winter closure gate.

I was thoroughly surprised to find maybe 7 inches of, well, not fluff, but pretty soft snow, and we were the first ones there. I inwardly kicked myself for failing to bring touring skis, but I knew my companion would have a hard time keeping up on the descent anyway. As it was, she wore herself out quickly breaking trail.

The morning had that fresh-snow feel – sound muffled by the thick blanket of white coating the landscape. In the stillness, snow balanced on every tree branch and the thin strands of barbed wire lining the road. The clouds closed in, obscuring the mountain peaks and isolating us in our reverie.

Still, I couldn’t wait until I could get home just so I could get back. Opportunities to ski on the mountain have been few and far between for the past couple of winters. After shoveling the meager accumulation on my driveway, I waxed up my skis and headed back to the gate, intending to make fresh tracks a second time.

I found a line of trailers parked near the gate and multiple snowmobilers revving up amid a high-pitched whine and blue exhaust. I skied only a few hundred yards before 10 machines or so blasted by. So much for fresh tracks. But the snowmobilers were quickly out of sight and out of mind, and I glided easily in the packed snow.

I’d managed to leave my pack behind in my haste to leave the house, so I was without my wax kit, water and extra clothing but also without the pack’s weight. Miraculously, the wax I’d chosen was just right, and I climbed the two miles to the summer parking lot and then perhaps a mile beyond that with ease, finding even deeper snow. Then it was time for the payoff – the downhill run.

Without an extra jacket, the descent was a bit brisk even though the sun was now shining. I hunkered into a racer’s crouch and let the skis fly.

It was my teeth that finally got cold. Too much grinning.


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