On the trail: The last ski tour? | AspenTimes.com

On the trail: The last ski tour?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesFresh snow beckons on Independence Pass near Aspen Sunday morning.

ASPEN – At this time of year, I figure any great ski outing could be my last of the season. Heck, any marginal outing could be my last, given the unpredictability of March snows and my propensity to reach for my bicycle or fishing rod instead of skis as the weather warms.

When I checked the Sunday morning snow report, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ten inches at Highlands but something like an inch on Aspen Mountain? How is that even possible?

There was maybe 8 inches in my backyard in the midvalley. It fell heavy and wet most of Saturday while I shoveled what felt like buckets of water off my driveway. It dried into a nice spring powder overnight though, so I pointed the car toward Independence Pass near Aspen on Sunday morning, uncertain whether I’d find 1 inch or 10 inches.

It was about 6 inches, and hardly anyone had been up ahead of me. After I passed a hiker with two dogs, it was just me following in someone else’s ski tracks. I never did catch up to that individual, which meant I had the place to myself for the climb to the Grottos (maybe 3 miles up).

It was winter with that unmistakable hint of spring. I could hear water gurgling alongside the road, somewhere beneath the snow. Great, scalloped drifts gobbled up the guardrail in “the narrows” before the Weller turnoff and the Roaring Fork River, far below, disappeared beneath a marshmallow land of boulders covered in pillows of blinding white.

The snow was softening in the sunshine by the time I turned around for a leisurely descent, double-poling but without great effort. Inevitably, I ran into more and more people and dogs as I neared my car, but I’d already had the best part of the morning to myself.

The solo climb was perfect and made for a fitting end to my season of ski touring, just in case that was, in fact, the end. Just the same, I’m hoping there’s more to come.


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