On the trail: Skiing up the Fryingpan | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: Skiing up the Fryingpan

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesThe route toward the Betty Bear Hut in the upper Fryingpan Valley on Sunday boasted soft snow and blue skies.

BASALT – I’ve long considered the upper Fryingpan Valley easy to ignore as a wintertime destination.

It’s not that I don’t think it’s gorgeous, or appreciate the relative lack of crowds in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, but it seems so far away. I’m not sure why the drive east out of Basalt, up past Ruedi Reservoir and beyond, feels like it takes forever, but it does. Coming back home seems to take even longer, for some reason.

The procrastination ended Sunday with a ski tour up Forest Road 505 in the upper valley, which is not plowed and is off-limits to snowmobilers because it doubles as the ski route to the Betty Bear Hut. Unfortunately, a relatively late start doomed our party – two skiers and a dog – to a quick out and back while the afternoon sun still lingered above the ridge line.

The day couldn’t have been more perfect – windless, cloudless and crowdless, but for a few parties of skiers we encountered coming down from the hut.

The ski tracks left by others made the skinning upward easy. In fact, the grade was gentle enough that I think we could have waxed up and left the skins in our packs. The ecstatic dog bounded ahead of us, diving off into the sparkling powder to either side of the broken trail.

The afternoon was so warm, we pulled off hats and jackets and glided quietly through soft snow, taking in the striking granite outcroppings and vast hillsides of pine, thankfully still untouched by the beetle epidemic that has altered so much of Colorado’s landscape. Everywhere I go these days, I wonder how long before dead trees will mar the beauty of my favorite places.

We traveled no where near the roughly 7 miles to the hut, turning around after 90 minutes or so for the gloriously effortless downhill run to the trailhead, all the while plotting our return.


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