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AVY SAFETY CHECKLIST | SLEDNECKS VS HIPPIES | THE GOOGLE TRAIL JANUARY 2013

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GO OUTSIDE & PLAY

BEST SKI TOWN WE ASKED. YOU VOTED.

FRACK-FREE COLORADO

GPS TO

POWDER TURNS A NEW YEAR IN

ELWAYVILLE

STEVE HOUSE THE MENTOR

INSIDER’S GUIDE TO

SNOWCATS BEST GEAR FOR THE

BACKCOUNTRY


Get out and get your zen on. We live in Colorado for the experiences. 360+ days of sunshine doesn’t hurt, either. Come see what all there is to experience in any weather at Devil’s Thumb Ranch. From 140km of groomed Nordic trails to two Wine Spectator-recognized restaurants, spa and stables, there’s something to inspire everyone.

Plan on joining us for one of these special events! December 31 - Grand County’s Best NYE Party featuring OPIE GONE BAD January 1 - New Year’s Day Brunch January 6 - Skijoring Clinic January 17 - Chef Demonstration Dinner January 26 - 26th Annual Governor’s Cup Nordic Race February 3 - Ski, Spa & Sip Women’s XC Ski Clinic February 21 - Chef Demo Dinner February 22 - Beer Pairing Dinner with Steamworks Brewing

This winter, stay two nights and your third is FREE.* Visit our website for more packages and events.

970-726-5632

3530 County Road 83 • Tabernash, Colorado 80478 • www.devilsthumbranch.com *May not be combined with any other promotion or package. Expires 4/24/13. Blackout dates apply, including but not limited to holiday periods. Complimentary night applied to lowest priced night. Nights must be consecutive. May not be available for all lodging types.


DECEMBER 31

WINTER EVENTS

Fireworks and Ice Box Ice Rink Skate Party from 7-9pm

mark your calendar JANUARY 26-27

A weekend of events and contests Friday through Sunday evening

JANUARY 26

5k winter adventure race with snowy uphills, powder pits and steep terrain

FEBRUARY 16-17

Mushing with the Rocky Mountain Sled Dog Club plus Dog Sled Races and ski-joring

MARCH 8-10

3-day music festival with over 50 bands performing on multiple stages

DON’T FORGET TO GET YOUR FREE KEY CARD

VISIT PLAYWINTERPARK.COM for

MORE EVENTS & DETAILS BUSINESS DIRECTORY AREA MAPS

@

800.903.7275 playWinterPark.com Winter Park Visitor Center

800.903.7275

APRIL 6

Winter obstacle race from Winter Park Resort to the town of Winter Park


J A N U A R Y 2 01 3 J.c. Leacock/jcleacock.com

features 18 The insider’s guide to phat snowcats

People Crested ’s Choice Butte : our topped for C reader’s mid-sioloado’s Poll zed S best ki to wn. (see page 20)

There is one way to get yourself guarateed powder turns this season. Buy a seat on one of Colorado’s numerous snowcats. We break them down so you can choose the right one for you.

online for the best ski towns in Colorado. Out of the anonymous comments and flame wars arose three authentic winners—Crested Butte, Silverton and Durango.

20 Colorado’s best ski towns

Peter Kray has a list of New Year’s resolutions that you can actaully get done in 2013.

We asked our readers to vote

34 ELWAYVILLE

departments 7 EDITOR’S LETTER Share the wild with your kids.

8 QUICK HITS

ACT LITE 65+10

At 3 lbs. 14 oz. this pack has superior ventilation via air circulated through the cushions. The result is a stable carry and a perspiration reduction of 15%. Visit www.deuter.com

Steve House becomes an alpine mentor, Frack-Free Colorado goes after the Gov. and more...

12 FLASHPOINT

Shorter Back Length / Shorter & Narrower Straps / Curved Angled Waistbelt

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The best of the backcountry and what a girl wants for the hut trip.

28 the road The BVI’s best surfer goes backcountry snowboarding.

Your brain is your best avy safety gear. Learn how to use it.

30 calendar

15 butting heads

32 hear this

Snowmobile in or skin?

ACT LITE 60+10 SL

25 gear

17 The trail A downloadable topo brings you powder at Arapaho Lakes.

Are you ready to SkiMo!

Gregory Alan Isakov ON THE COVER: the snowbaru cruises crested butte. BY J.c. leacock/jcleacock.com


Bloch & Chapleau is one of the few law firms in Colorado that has extensive litigation experience in ski, snowboard and other recreation related injuries. The attorneys at Bloch & Chapleau have successfully litigated ski injury lawsuits involving substantial awards for injured skiers, including a case where a jury awarded punitive damages against Vail Resorts for failing to supervise and train lift operators. If you have been injured, call Bloch & Chapleau today for a free consultation with one of our experienced injury attorneys. Ski Accidents | Automobile Accidents | Motorcycle Accidents | Medical/Dental Malpractice Other Serious Injuries | Percentage Fees

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JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

5


contributors How do you get deep?

dougschnitzspahn E D I TO R I A L EDITOR-IN-CHIEF DOUG SCHNITZSPAHN doug@elevationoutdoors.com MANAGING EDITOR JAYME MOYE jayme@elevationoutdoors.com SENIOR EDITORS CHRIS KASSAR, CAMERON MARTINDELL COPY EDITOR AARON BIBLE CONTRIBUTING EDITORS ADAM CHASE, ROB COPPOLILLO, JAMES DZIEZYNSKI, SONYA LOONEY, CHRIS VAN LEUVEN EDITOR-AT-LARGE PETER KRAY CONTRIBUTING WRITERS dana alLen, Casey flynn, devon o’neil

ART + PRODUCTION ART DIRECTOR MEGAN JORDAN megan@elevationoutdoors.com SENIOR DESIGNER AMANDA POWERS amanda@elevationoutdoors.com

1) Reading Gibbon, Bertrand Russell, Robert Haas 2) The Jackson backcountry 3) Jägerbombs

jaymemoye I don’t . . . yet. But just got my first AT setup and I’m reading the CAIC website every day.

peterkray

By reading Dolores LaChapelle.

JUNIOR DESIGNER CHAD BASSETT chad@elevationoutdoors.com ASSOCIATE DESIGNER LAUREN WALKER lauren@elevationoutdoors.com

A DV E RT I S I N G + B U S I N E S S PRESIDENT BLAKE DEMASO blake@elevationoutdoors.com

cameronmartindell With a shovel, usually.

PUBLISHER MEREDITH DEMASO meredith@elevationoutdoors.com SENIOR ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE MARTHA EVANS martha@elevationoutdoors.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE DANA WAGGENER dana@elevationoutdoors.com BUSINESS MANAGER MELISSA GESSLER melissa@elevationoutdoors.com

chriskassar

Drinking too much whiskey.

DISTRIBUTION MANAGER CHUCK GRIGSBY chuck@elevationoutdoors.com INTERN Jessie Czopek PROMOTIONS JAKE HOWE

D I G I TA L M E D I A INTERACTIVE PUBLISHER CHARLES LEONARD charles@elevationoutdoors.com IT DIRECTOR/WEBMASTER CRAIG SNODGRASS craig@elevationoutdoors.com DIGITAL MEDIA COORDINATOR CHASE LYNE chase@elevationoutdoors.com

robcoppolillo

©2013 Summit Publishing, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the publisher.

A wizened sage, meditating in a cave above the Shaolin temple, said, “To go deeper, rely not on trickery or sorcery. Rather, simply extend yourself.”

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I go somewhere alone and high and sort through whatever happens to be on my mind. Fresh snow seems to help.

ELEVATION OUTDOORS is the property of SUMMIT PUBLISHING, LLC.

ELEVATION OUTDOORS MAGAZINE P.O. BOX 7548 Boulder, CO 80306 phone 720-201-5145 / 303-284-8410 fax 303-568-9785

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EO_half_T2.indd 1

devono’neil

11/26/12 11:20 AM

caseyflynn Skin or hike farther than anyone else in your group thinks is reasonable. When you smell a mutiny, it’s time to drop in.


E D I TO R ’ S L E T T E R

TOP GEAR • BOTTOM DOLLAR

E R O F E B Y TR YO U B U Y Doug Schnitzspahn

wild lives: big smiles at vagabond ranch.

Kid Stuff At 5 and 8, my children are starting to get to the age when they can really join us on adventures. For Christmas, my daughter actually asked for a mountain bike. A mountain bike, to ride trails. My son high-fived me after he got bumped up to the next level at ski lessons. They can’t wait to camp. I don’t know if I should reveal this information or not, but my kids don’t actually sleep under their covers anymore. They curl up in sleeping bags on top of thier beds—which serves double-duty since they don’t have to make those beds in the morning. I couldn’t be happier. 2012 was full of too many tragedies, too much pressure on kids and parents to try to navigate a dangerous world. As far as I am concerned, getting outside and enjoying the wild is one way to move on, to accept, to find joy within ourselves, the ones we love and the world around us. On that note, I wanted to recommend some things I have done with my kids that have fueled their sense of adventure in hopes that we may inspire other parents (and, I don’t know, maybe dog owners) out there. Vagabond Ranch. When my wife was away at a conference for a weekend, I decided it would be a great idea to ski in with my kids to the little cabin at Vagabond Ranch. Well, we went dad-style: we didn’t get to the trailhead until dark and it took the three of us until about mindnight to make the four-mile skin in. But I have never felt more proud of my 8-yearold daughter, who troopered the whole way while her brother slept in the Chariot after chugging for about a mile. There was no whining (maybe some wondering when we would get there), just the quiet of a winter night, the stars and the schuss of the skis. It was well worth it. The next day we explored the ranch. Cooked together. Manned the wood stove. All the day-today complaining was gone. (This is when they got the sleeping bag idea.) Valmont Bike Park. There is a lot of angst over what you can and cannot do on a bike in Boulder. But we are damn lukcy to have this bike park. The beauty of it is that children of any age can enjoy the place—you find your own personal challenge. That’s typified by the jumps, which go from “extrasmall” all the way up to an “extra-large” that would make Danny MacAskill happy. But again, the real beauty of the place is that you and your kids can experience it together. You don’t have to find a sitter. Goblin Valley. This little state park in Utah is a natural playground. The campground is full of odd sandstone mazes and the park itself was either made for children or the result of the creator on an acid trip—stone “goblins,” little hoodoos of red sandstone cover the place, and make it ideal for a big game of hide-and-seek. (It was odd though when an eldery couple we did not know walked by and I was hunched up by myself hiding in a stone crevice... they just kept walking and ignored me.) Ski School. Once more, we have too many great options here in Colorado. And just like teaching your significant other to ski, teaching your kids can be more arguing than it is worth. My kids went to ski school at Vail last month and I was mighty impressed. There is nothing better than picking them up and seeing how excited they are to have learned about a sport you love. And the best part is when they beg you to take one more lift ride so that they can show off what they learned and you can begin to ski together. Yes, that’s why we do this.

WILDY X DEMO PROGRAM! $120 FOR 3 DEMOS CAN BE APPLIED TO THE PURCHASE OF NEW SKIS AT AND TELE AVAILABLE! TAKE UP TO 2 PAIRS OUT FOR EACH DEMO!

Mark Husbands “deep” in the Aspen backcountry • Photo by: Nick Sprang

CALL • CLICK •

OR

COME ON DOWN

WILDYX.COM

JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

7


A new Colorado non-profit wants to shut down fracking in the state. Gallons of freshwater per well: 2-8 million Gallons of chemicals per well: 10,000–40,000 Number of active wells in Colorado: 48,000 New wells planned for Colorado: 50,000

in session: jesik in the Black canyon.

Home School of Rock

Steve House’s Alpine Mentors program gives the famed alpinist a chance to give back to the climbing community.

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Statistics like these recently inspired companies and concerned citizens to join forces in the fight against hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. fracking, a technique that forces strong streams of water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground to create fissures that unearth stores of oil and gas. Frack Free Colorado, seeks to school the masses on the latest science about fracking and its effect on Colorado communities. Evidence has shown that fracking contaminates water resources, pollutes the air and soil and exposes countless people to endocrine disruptors, carcinogens and toxicants that can harm the nervous system. In addition, fracking permanently removes water from the system, a particular concern for Southwestern states enduring years of drought. Oil and gas companies estimate that they will use 6.5 billion gallons of Colorado’s water this year, enough to fill almost 10,000 Olympic swimming pools. “We have the power to stop these dangerous practices,” says Allison Wolff, CEO of Vibrant Planet and co-organizer of Frack Free Colorado. She hopes to mobilize Coloradoans to secure a fracking moratorium, similar to the one spurred by the citizens of New York. “The path ahead should not favor a short-term grab that will forever negatively impact our public land for the profit of private corporations,” says Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond, a coalition sponsor. “It should instead seek solutions that are clean, sustainable and economically durable.” To raise awareness, Frack Free Colorado will host events—like one in Denver last October that featured Daryl Hannah, Mariel Hemingway, acclaimed ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber and local acoustic band Elephant Revival—and provide opportunities for people to raise their voices until Governor Hinkenlooper, who earned the nickname “Frackenlooper” earlier this year because of his outward support of big business, takes notice and honors the desire of his constituents by adopting a concrete plan that moves the state toward a renewable energy economy. frackfreeco.com —C.K.

out of range? google-ing the wild.

Eye on the Trail

A new backpack-contained system takes Google into the wilderness

Steve Harbula

Three years ago, legendary alpinist Steve House plummeted 80 feet off the north face of Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies suffering five broken ribs, a collapsed right lung and multiple fractures in his pelvis and spine. House does not recall much about the accident, nor the painkillerinduced weeks that followed, except for how grateful he was to be alive. “I realized I’d been pretty close to not making it,” says House, 42. “It made me reconsider a lot, especially my relationships and how I could give back to the community of climbers.” House, a Patagonia brand ambassador, largely attributes his success to the mentors who provided guidance and friendship when he was just a “puppy” exploring the Alps as an exchange student in Slovenia during in his early twenties. “They demystified climbing for me and validated my goals and dreams like no one else had.” As he slowly recovered from that fall, House decided start a formal mentoring program for climbers based in Colorado. Alpine Mentors, which aims to give young alpinists the chance to achieve goals perceived to be beyond their reach. For Alpine Mentors’ debut, six applicants spent a week climbing in southern Colorado. Afterward, Marianne van der Steen, 28, Buster Jesik, 26, Colin Simon, 24, and Stephen van Sickle, 29 were invited to join the two-year program which will culminate in a joint expedition that they design, plan and execute. The goal of Alpine Mentors is not to build the best climbers. “They are all extremely good climbers with solid technical skills,” House says. “I can help them with the mental part—dealing with fears and expectations, finding direction and hearing that their goals are worthwhile.” Mentee Marianne van der Steen echoes House’s vision. “The most important thing is trusting myself, believing in myself and accepting myself,” she says. House hopes his program will motivate more people to take their climbing to the next level. “I’ve moved beyond just climbing for myself and toward doing anything I can to promote alpine climbing and inspire people to get out there,” he says. alpinementors.org —Chris Kassar

8

courtesy google

Frack Off

courtesy alpine mentors

quickhits

SHORTS

Google Street View has already moved beyond the pavement, providing panoramic 360-degree views of art museums, Antarctica and even the Great Barrier Reef. Now Google has devised a wearable backpack-mounted camera system, dubbed the Trekker, to take Street View into the backcountry. The company has already used tricked-out cars, trikes and snowmobiles to feed images to Google Maps. The Trekker will extend their reach even further, documenting remote wilderness areas that can only be accessed the old-fashioned way—on foot. The operator controls the unit with an Android phone and automatically captures photos while walking. The cameras send image and location data to an on-board hard drive. The images are later downloaded and stitched before landing on Google Maps. Google has spent more than a year developing the Android-controlled Trekker unit. After early Nordic ski test runs near Tahoe last winter, this past October the Street View team took their first official excursion: a test-hike down the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel and Kaibab Trails. The Trekker sports some serious hardware. Its camera housing is a beach-ball-sized orb festooned with more than a dozen five-pixel cameras. To achieve an unimpeded 360-degree view, the housing mounts to a lightweight arm extending above the wearer’s head. A lightweight computer running Android powers the on-board hard drive, and two beefy batteries provide enough juice to keep the unit running all day. With all this gear, the Trekker is not an ultra light affair. Base pack weight clocks in at 40 pounds, begging the question: will the Trekker’s human transport mechanism run out of juice first? At the time of writing we’re still waiting for 360-degree panoramas from the Kaibab to show up on Google Maps. Also, no word yet on job openings for Trekker operators, so don’t ditch your 9-to-5 gig just yet. —Rick Dickinson


Y T O O B OUNTRY

Y A W A E GIV

BACKC

Elevation Outdoors is encouraging you to take a “SICK DAY” . AGloves Touch Screen Gloves Altoon Ridge Lodge, Montana: One-night stay plus half-day guided Ski Trip for you & 5 friends Ortovox Kodiak Shovel Drift Ghost Action Camera One free entry to the Goals4Youth Vertical Challenge

go outside and play. JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

9


quickhits

SHORTS

You don’t necessarily have to take on the whole world to make the world a better place. You have to think about what’s important to you as a person. I’m a fighter, I’ve always been a fighter and I’m not going to go down easy on this one.. —Pro skier and climate change activist Alison Gannet, in response to the fact that her 75-acre farm in Paonia, Colorado is adjacent to an area that has been nominated for fracking. Filmmaker Alexandria Bombach tells the tale, the third in the MoveShake Story series by Red Reel. See the short film at: vimeo.com/51823995

Skihaus Swap

Earlier this season, Boulderite Christopher Carter launched skihausswap.com, the first home swapping community for ski house owners. The idea is that Front Rangers with second homes in say, the Vail Valley, can try skiing someplace different by swapping their ski resort getaway with someone who owns a place in say, Tahoe. “We’re not a rental site,” says Carter, 41. “Just swaps, and specifically, just ski home swaps.” His site is driven by Google Maps, which ties it to a database of every ski resort in America and Canada, and sets it apart from less-visual list-driven sites like Craigslist. Users fill out information about their property, including distance from resort, year built, number of rooms and amenities, and also note their local favorites like best run and tastiest place for breakfast. In addition, users flag their top three swap destinations, triggering backend logic to suggest direct property matches with other ski house owners. Carter, whose family owns a ski house in Fraser, is pretty sure he’s onto something, and even set up a sister site called Golfhaus Swap to extend his services beyond ski season. But he recognizes that the real value won’t be apparent until several thousand users sign up. To help build the online network, he’s waiving the $99 annual fee for the debut season. skihausswap.com

2

In October, USA Today named Denver the #2 Best Beer City in the World, after Munich. Denver brews more beer than any other city on the planet and the number of craft breweries in the city doubled this year.

lyons’ local booze with a conscience

A new wood plaque in Lyons reads: “Whiskey from Colorful Colorado.” That sign marks the town’s first craft distillery, Spirit Hound Distillers, which opened on December 1. Co-founded by four Lyons residents, including two former Oskar Blues employees, the distillery currently produces vodka, gin, a coffee liqueur called Richardo’s and four vodka infusions. An American straight whisky, which will eventually become the distillery’s flagship offering after it’s been aged for the pre-requisite two years or longer, was being barreled at press time. The distillery is committed to using local ingredients whenever possible, regardless of the profit margin. Many of their botanicals come from the farm across the street, and the malt for the whiskey comes from a family in Alamosa who has been growing barley for three generations. “We’re not here to take over the world,” says says Director of Distilling Craig Engelhorn. “We just have an appreciation for things that taste really, really good, and we want to bring that to the market.” spirithounds.com.

far More than doing donuts

What do the top drivers in drifting, rally and most every form of road racing have in common? They train on ice and snow. Ice amplifies poor driving technique and so mastering it makes negotiating other surfaces that much easier. The Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs has been teaching professional drivers, members of the Secret Service and FBI and ordinary citizens the art of winter driving for 30 seasons. The 77-acre facility is unlike anything else in North America and features three purpose-built ice and snow covered tracks coated with more than 250,000 gallons of water so they stay ultra-slippery. Classes range from half-day to multi-day and are held mid-December to early March. Beginners use front- and all-wheel drive Lexus vehicles equipped with Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires to practice braking, acceleration, weight transfer, cornering and accident avoidance techniques. More experienced winter drivers learn to properly control a vehicle in low-grip situations and explore tricks used by the world’s greatest rally drivers including advanced skid control, the best use of traction, emergency/threshold braking and how to maximize weight transfer. “They put you in these complete real life oh shit situations and teach you how to safely get out of them,” says Denver resident Kristi Castle Africano, 33, who took the introductory course in 2010. “It was more fun and frightening than I ever imagined.” winterdrive.com.

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Courtesy Winter Driving School

How’s this for a ski area parking lot?


UPCOMING EVENTS! Colorado Invitational

Jan. 8-13

RMISASkiing.com

50th Anniversary Birthday Party

Jan. 12

Eldora.com

New Belgium Scavenger Hunt

Feb. 23

NewBelgium.com/Events/Scavenger-Hunt

12th Annual DOJoe Memorial

Feb. 24

DOJoe.org

Photo: Stephan Link

eldora.com | 303.440.271 x 271

GET YOUR ROCK ON! WHAT’S THE BETA SILVER CITY?

SilverCityTourism.org • 575.538.5555

Funded by Silver City Lodger’s Tax

montana

Off the grid and 8000’ above it all.

SKI - HIKE - BIKE - RELAX arlmt.com

JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

11


Ben Pritchett

flashpoint

ISSUES Human factors vary from person to person. One of my personal demons, for example, is “scarcity.” I love to ski and I’m competitive, so having a group go past me on the skin track sometimes stresses me out. By reacting to the perception of scarcity of a resource—untracked powder—I’m more likely to rush a decision or “just go for it.” Knowing I’m prone to letting certain human factors negatively affect my judgment is my first line of defense against them.

The Debrief

Choose Your Own Adventure: Thinking through your choices makes a big difference in the possible outcomes.

Taking an AIARE 1 can help pinpoint your own human factors, as does reading up—but as an ongoing exercise the “avy debrief” is an indispensable tool in self-critiquing and building a solid team with which to ride. In short, it’s common practice amongst guides and high-level recreationalists to debrief their outings. First, identify when you and your group were in the most danger—while skiing, crossing a frozen lake on the way to a climb or combat skiing in the trees, for examples. Then ask yourself if you could’ve managed that hazard differently—by avoiding it, using a different travel technique, taking a different line, using (or not using) a particular piece of equipment, etc.

Your Team You and your buddies should be constructive and honest with each other. If you discover one of your crew can’t admit mistakes, won’t take suggestions or seems clueless or unwilling to debrief, then maybe she or he isn’t a good candidate for your backcountry “team.” Making good decisions—and responding to an incident— requires a strong, cohesive crew, so support each other and grow together.

Thinking it Through

Your brain is the best tool you can carry into avalanche terrain. But do you know how to use it? Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to best break down a day in the backcountry.

By Rob Coppolillo

Skiing, climbing, and riding in the winter backcountry requires accepting a certain amount of risk—weather, marauding wolverines and avalanches to name a few. While weather and wolverines account for hundreds of deaths annually (ok, maybe no the wolverines), it’s really avalanches we’re most worried about in the Rockies. Airbag-packs, Avalungs, beacons, shovels and probes are all great safety devices, but they’re only useful after we have blown it. For less than $400 you have unlimited access to the three best tools to help avoid avalanches in the first place: the avalanche bulletin produced daily by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC; avalanche. state.co.us), an “AIARE 1” avalanche course, which is offered by the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (avtraining. org) and most important of all your brain. Here are the steps to take from there:

12

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The Bulletin The gang at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center helps you identify the main avalanche problem of the day and choose your terrain accordingly. Join the CAIC, read the bulletin daily. It’s worth it. caic.org

The Course Identifying avalanche terrain, observing “red flags,” and interpreting the daily bulletin are all skills taught in an AIARE 1. Make sure to take your course from an approved provider like Climbing Life Guides (ClimbingLife.com), Alpine World Ascents (AlpineWorldAscents.com) or the Colorado Mountain School (TotalClimbing.com).

Your Beloved Brain Last, but certainly not least, the most important piece of gear in your avy-safety arsenal is standard issue for most of us--your brain. The vast majority of avalanche accidents are due to “human factors,” or errors in our judgment when deciding on when, where, and how to ski and snowboard in the backcountry. That’s daunting on the one hand, but also empowering in another sense: if we’re the problem most of the time, then we can be the solution. But how? Identifying our own tendencies, or predispositions to mistakes (those “human factors”), will dramatically reduce our chances of falling prey to them while out touring.

The Alternate Ending I like to use a complementary subspecies of the debrief, too, what I’ll call the “alternate ending.” Remember reading those choose-your-own adventure books as a kid, the ones in which you’d get to a critical point in the story and then have different choices within the plot? The book might say, “If you choose to fight the wolverine with your tongue depressor, turn to page 238,” or “If you run like a scared little wuss, turn to page 459.” Based upon your decision, you were then led to any of several alternate endings—some happy, and some decidedly not. At any time during your backcountry day, faced with a critical decision like skiing a slope or not, briefly compose your day’s story (in your head or out loud), kind of like a pre-accident report. Think of the choices you’ve made to that point and imagine your potential “alternate endings.” Do your decisions read like the first half of an accident report or the intro to an epic outing? Any human factors or red flags jumping out? In your powder fever, did you discount the amount of new snow? How much wind-effect is going on? Do an honest appraisal of your day, then imagine a happy outcome (great turns, survival, sharing a beer afterwards). Then a negative one (death, carnage, running into Justin Bieber). Accidents in the backcountry tend to be a cascade of smaller errors that combine


ISSUES

EO contributing editor Rob Coppolillo is a keen student in the avalanche game. He’s pursuing his international guiding certification through the American Mountain Guides Association and has completed his AIARE level 1, 2, and 3 courses.

Doug Schnitzspahn

flashpoint

to produce a catastrophe--do your decisions read like that? Creating your alternate endings takes just a minute or two, but in verbalizing your day’s story up to a particular decision, you might see a pattern developing. If it’s negative, then do something about it! The great thing about the alternate-ending debrief is you can do it in the moment, or during the drive home. Try to be open to hearing other perspectives and critiques, and explore your decisions. You’ll be wiser for it and you’ll accrue experience more quickly than you might otherwise. And you’ll be way more likely to experience a happy ending, than not.

Pit Boss: Guides Eric Henderson and Greg HIll analyze the snowpack.

Light Gear for Going Huge “Rando racing” is the rage these days. For those who haven’t seen it, it involves skinning uphill, then ripping the hides and bombing down to the next transition and doing it again. The Colorado SkiMountaineering Cup (cosmicski.com) offers you 15 events this winter alone—so gear up and try one out! See page 30 for options. Meanwhile, check out the coolest backcountry-worthy gear to come out of the rando scene. Light enough to speed you up; burly enough to go huge. The C.A.M.P. X3 600 pack ($120; camp-usa.com) carries a day’s worth of gear, at a mere 600 grams. Stash your skis for a bootpack without taking off the pack, too, just like the rando geeks. C.A.M.P. also makes the world’s lightest crampons—the Race 290 (yes, that’s grams, $180) fits boots with Dynafit-style tech fittings and uses a Dyneema strap, rather than a weighty steel bar. Meanwhile the Dynafit (dynafit.com) crew continues to bleed rando-efficient elements into its backcountry line, including the Vulcan boot (1590 grams). The Vulcan ($1,000) offers the range of motion of a rando-racing boot, but the stiffness (believe me, it’s stout!) of an alpine boot. Marry them with the Speed Radical ($400) binding (the function of a Dyna binding at only 341 grams), and the fatty Huascaran ski (115mm underfoot; sub-8 pounds for a pair; tip and tail rocker, $900), and you’re big-mountain freeriding at less than half the weight of your alpine set up. —R.C.

This article draws on the insightful work of Dr. Ian McCammon and his method of “pre-mortem” discussions. Read more of his work here: bit.ly/ZVPECT.

JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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D E B AT E

Slednecks vs. Lungbusters

Is it cool to access your backcountry powder via snowmobile? We asked our readers and they were split right down the middle. So we put the question to earn-your-turns purist Casey Flynn and gas-powered realist Dana Allen for the ultimate backcountry cage match.

two legs

Backcountry skiing is about more than turns. When I strap on my skis and skins, I’m out for a taste of the wild. For the thumping of snow clumps off tree branches. For the swish of my skis en route to remote powder stashes. I’m here to commune with the mountains. Then my reverie is shattered as an unholy clamor rips up out of the depths of the forest like a swarm of powder-thirsty weed whackers. A parade of smoke-spewing sledheads scream by on their hasty way to satisfaction, tracks spraying chunks of oil-stained snow. Gas fumes mingle with the scent of pine and spruce. Do these clowns really need to show off the size of their engines everywhere? I am in praise of slowness. I’m not talking about, “Whoa, we live in a digital age, dude, I need to unplug,” kind of slowing down. I’m talking about the kind of slowness that keeps you alive. The pace of legs over snow favors observation of weather and snowpack conditions, stability and avalanche hazard. Sliding foot by foot up a mountain valley gives you time to compute what the mountains want to tell you. How are you going to catch that “whumph” when you’re hauling two-stroke ass toward your next run? Winter in the high country is raw. Layering up while the sky pukes around me, miles from the trailhead—that’s real. I’ve got to rely on my brain, my body and what’s in my pack to keep myself upright and breathing. When I’m leaning into

whipping winds on a ridge top, blowing snow crackling against my goggles, I know I’m alive. I’m surviving and thriving. Getting freshies is icing on the cake. With interstate highways and high-speed quads raiding the mountains, we need some terrain that stays sacred, that doesn’t get tracked out within an hour of dawn. Touring gear gets lighter, more durable and more intuitive every year. But human-powered access can only take us so far and so fast. There are places vehicles shouldn’t go, where we can soak up the holy in the form of face shots and healthy lungs. Boulder-based freelancer, Casey Flynn ponders the meaning of life with the help of deep powder and clean rock lines, which he claims is easier done without the hubbub of the combustion engine.

two stroke

Let’s get one thing straight—I am not a cardcarrying member of the Snowmobilers of America Club (which as far as I know doesn’t exist). I’m a skier. And like every other skier I know, I live to ski fresh pow. I moved out West from the Ice Coast to do it. I got fatter skis so it would be more fun. I took avalanche safety courses. I learned about how the snowpack should be analyzed and respected. I spent hours researching backcountry gear just to spend more time skiing freshies. And then I bought a sled. Gone were the hours I spent slogging along flat approaches, replaced with the thrill of whipping past aspen groves, navigating long sidehills and getting face shots on the sled. Drudgery was replaced by recreation—and, come on, isn’t that the point

buttingheads

mark fisher/fishercreative.com

feel the gas-powered love: can’t we find common ground when it comes to redneck fun?

of skiing in the first place? If you want exercise, can’t you find it anywhere? For those of you thinking ‘But what about moments of quiet contemplation?’ I find that there’s plenty of that on the skin track up. And since I can’t bring my sled into designated Wilderness areas, there will forever be bastions of silent meditation. “How about the environmental impact?” you might ask. Valid question. When I bought LaFawnduh, my sweet mid-90s two-stroke powder maven, I had moments where I wondered the same thing. But consider this—my daily commute was a 5-minute bike ride. My lawn at 9,000 feet needed a trim once a month and was more putting green than driving range. My apartment was festooned with CFLs and I paid exorbitant prices for local eggs. I cut my carbon footprint where I could through conscious choices and practices. If you’re a skier who’s not eating only local, organic food to fuel your skiing and instead scarf down GMO-laden over-fertilized swill, your impact is right up there with mine. So the next time you see a sled at the trailhead with a pair of fat boards strapped on back, don’t think “greedy emission-spewing powder-hog,” think “efficient backcountry enthusiast.” Smile. Give ‘em a wave. And then offer to trade post-skiing beers for a tow out to the start of your skintrack. You won’t regret it. No one ever does. Dana Allen attended Middlebury College in Vermont before moving to Crested Butte, Colorado to obtain his Master of Arts in burrito-rolling and dirt-baggery. Currently back in Vermont, and sled-less, he misses the heady bouquet of two-stroke smoke in the predawn light of a backcountry trailhead parking lot.

Reader Response from the Web Because in the world of anonymous online comments everyone has a say.

“Only if they stay in designated areas and don’t cross over ridges into no snowmobile zones like they currently do in parts of Colorado. Plenty of space, but they should follow the rules.” —Peter Jones

Get ready for our next question, dear readers: hire a guide or go it solo, how do you hit the hills? Let us know and butt heads at ElevationOutdoors.com

JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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Arapaho Creek (coordinates: N39.901802, W105.656433). Again, depending on the amount of recent snow, you may have to cross some gaps in the snow where minor drainages cross the trail. No problem. At Arapaho Creek, turn left (uphill) and the climb eases some for the next 3/4 of a mile.

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Meadow (coordinates N39.91066, W105.666046). This is the confluence of the Forest Lakes drainage and Arapaho Creek—though, you won’t necessarily be able to tell if it’s all covered in snow. Trust your GPS unit. From here, turn left again and get into the trees. This is a great place to grab a snack because the next major climb is about to begin and if you pop out of the trees, you may well meet the infamous winds of the Indian Peaks. While the wind can be fierce, it can also be dead calm. Once above the trees, you can find some spectacular glade skiing, depending on conditions.

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Arapaho Lakes (coordinates N39.908221, W105.678616) Continue as high as you’re willing but don’t venture past the lakes unless you have extensive avalanche training, proper gear and have checked the latest avalanche reports. From here, you can strip off those skins, point the sticks downhill and let ‘em rip! (Or just start a snowshoe hike down). Bring a helmet for skiing through the trees as that’s where you’ll find some of the softest and deepest powder is deposited from the aforementioned wind. •

2

Indian Peaks Bliss

Arapaho Lakes is a winter destination that will appeal to everyone from newbies to cardio freaks to pow hounds.

By Cameron Martindell The great thing about this outing in the winter is that everyone is invited. On skis or snowshoes, with or without your dogs. Thanks to gentle slopes and woods, out-and-back trails like Arapaho Lakes are quite safe. Also, it’s impossible to miss the trailhead. It’s literally at the end of the road. From Rollinsville, that small cluster of buildings along the Peak To Peak Highway just south of Nederland, follow the sign for Rollins Pass and turn west toward the continental divide along the train tracks. While four wheel drive and high clearance are not always necessary, they do make for good piece of mind on this unpaved road to the start of the route.

Vasque SNow Boots In snowshoes or after wearing ski boots, the women’s Pow Pow (shown) and men’s Snowburban will keep your tootsies toasty and comfortable with Ultradry liners and Thinsulate synthetic insulation. The Venture outsole traction keeps you upright.$139; vasque.com

The Trailhead (coordinates: N39.903088, W105.644012). Once parked and geared up, you’ll find the trailhead at the west end of the parking lot. The first mile of trail takes you southwesterly and is practically level as it follows South Boulder Creek and goes through an even mix of evergreen and deciduous trees. At the second major drainage in a small mountain meadow turn right (north) and this is where the first substantial climb starts. Depending on how much snow has fallen, you might see the small wooden sign pointing towards Arapaho Lakes.

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Trail Junction (coordinates: N39.893551, W105.660103). If you’re the first to get on this trail since a major snowfall, the first turn is essentially a wide switchback. From here, you’ll start to climb above and away from the lower track. Look for a level trail-width break in the trees and continue north-northeast for half a mile.

Trail Gear

Cameron Martindell

with permission: © Intermap Technologies Inc. 2012 & Neotreks. All rights reserved.

GPS ADVENTURE

Open It Up: Slogging to the backcountry turns at treeline.

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Route code ELEV0001

JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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get Your Fix. When the snow offerings are meager at the resort and you are tired of spending hours earning a few turns, one thing is sure to deliver: the cat trip. But with so many options here in Colorado, what’s a powder hound to do? Elevation Outdoors’ cat guide will help you sniff out the best guides and terrain. by Casey Flynn

MONARCH SNOWCAT TOURS skimonarch.com Thanks to explosive-controlled steeps and topography that funnels snow from all directions, MST is built for the steep-and-deep skier. VERT IN A DAY 9,000-10,800 feet TERRAIN 1,000 acres SNOW 350 inches VIBE The expert terrain draws a loyal crowd of tenacious shredders back year after year. GUIDES Lead guide and manager Gail Bindner has been guiding with MST for 20 years and is AIARE Level 3 certified. COST $210-$275, Private Cat $2,300-$3,000. BONUS With tree-covered, snow-catching slopes on all aspects, a wind event is as good as a storm for finding freshies.

ASPEN MOUNTAIN POWDER TOURS aspensnowmass.com The perfect-pitch slopes are ideal for strong skiers looking to hone their deep-snow turns. VERT IN A DAY 10,000 feet TERRAIN 1,200 acres SNOW 300 inches VIBE Relaxed and confident guides let you focus on what you’re there for... fresh tracks. GUIDES Guide and manager Bob Perlmutter has been skiing, patrolling and guiding the Aspen area for over 30 years. COST Individual $410, Private Cat (12 seats) $4,320. BONUS A deluxe lunch of hot soup, fresh salad, fruit and wine bring Aspen-caliber dining to the backcountry.

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KEYSTONE ADVENTURE TOURS keystoneresort.com Explore trees, chutes and spacious faces in Independence, Bergman and Erickson Bowls above Keystone Resort. VERT IN A DAY 8-13 runs, with a focus on enjoyment rather than vertical. TERRAIN 832 acres SNOW 235 inches VIBE Internationals and Front Range locals alike congregate to take advantage of the easy access and low price. GUIDES All guides have patrolling backgrounds, WFR/OEC and AIARE Level 1 training. COST Individual $240 (Half-day $135), Private Cat (12 seats) $2,640. Includes powder skis. The Standby Guided Tour Pass gives you 5 trips for $500—call in the day before for openings. BONUS Cat tours are sit-ski accessible.

POWDER ADDICTION powderaddiction.com Less than an hour from Denver, wide-open bowls and sub-alpine glades await on Jones Pass. VERT IN A DAY 8,000-14,000 feet TERRAIN 2,600 acres SNOW 350 inches VIBE Stoke is high for fresh snow—safety talks and lunch take place on the cat to maximize turns. GUIDES “Ski Boss” Jamie Wolter is an American Avalanche Association certified instructor and has been teaching avalanche education for twenty years. COST Individual $350-400, Private Cat (12 seats) $3,400-4,000. Includes powder skis. BONUS Two beers on the house and a pro-shot slideshow await at the end of the day.

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CHICAGO RIDGE SNOWCAT TOURS skicooper.com Rack up the most vertical in the state while diving into trees and glades that hold snow long after a storm has passed. VERT IN A DAY 15,000-18,000 feet TERRAIN 2,460 acres SNOW 260 inches VIBE A light-hearted atmosphere makes this a great area to take your friends and family on their first catskiing trip. GUIDES All guides are OEC or EMT and AIARE Level 1, and several have 20+ years of experience with CRST. COST Individual $275. Private Cat (12 seats) $2,800. BONUS Ski off the Continental Divide at 12,600 feet where the 10th Mountain Division troops trained.

VAIL POWDER GUIDES vailsnowcat.com Link 200 turns down a 2,000-foot bowl, drop cliffs in the pillow-top area or ski steep trees on deep days atop Vail Pass. VERT IN A DAY 9,800-14,700 feet TERRAIN 3,500 acres SNOW 400 inches VIBE VPG provides empowered powder with confidence-boosting support and end-of-day hugs. GUIDES Jenna and Ben Bartosz have been guiding at Vail Pass for a combined 28 years. They are both AIARE Level 3 certified and WFR trained. COST Individual $400, Private Cat (12 seats) $4,400. Includes powder skis. BONUS VPG has a high standard of backcountry etiquette and is super-involved in the backcountry skiing community.


Topher Donahue

Purrrrrr: Vail Powder Guides will get your motor runnin’.

VERT IN A DAY 8,000-12,000 feet TERRAIN 46,000 acres SNOW 500 inches VIBE: Exclusive access to the privately-owned land means sole rights to snow and seclusion. GUIDES All guides have OEC or EMT training. COST Individual $399-$475, Private Cat (10 seats) $3,591-$4,275. Discounts for multi-day bookings and for paying cash or check. BONUS Want more vert on stuff the cat can’t even reach? You need to book a private heli for $6,900 (up to six people). •

Meet the Mini Cats You don’t necessarily need to book a day away from the resort to enjoy cat skiing. Check out these options that begin in-bounds.

SILVERTON POWDERCATS snowcat-powder.com Above Molas Pass, seek out the wide-open love of 1,300-foot The Deviant, or 39-degree, sparsely-treed Big Mo. VERT IN A DAY 10,000-14,000 feet TERRAIN 4,000 acres SNOW 400 inches VIBE Catering to both green powderhounds and seasoned rippers, SP can split the group to tackle different lines and meet back up at the cat. GUIDES Lead guides and owners Todd Brodbeck and Jon Krueger are both EMTs and have been in the cat-skiing industry for 16 years. COST Individual $335, Private Cat (10 seats) $3,000. BONUS Ski right down to the car on the final run.

STEAMBOAT POWDER CATS

SAN JUAN SNOWCAT sanjuansnowcat.com If you’re jonesing for big cornices and alpine ridges then SJS is your ticket to the high country, with cat access all the way up to 13,250 feet. VERT IN A DAY 8,000-18,000 feet TERRAIN 35,000 acres SNOW 400 inches VIBE Based out of Creede, an old mining town in the “Forgotten” San Juans, everything about SJS is remote. You’re on the frontier when you ski here. GUIDES All guides have CPR, basic first aid and AIARE Level 1 training. COST Individual $250, Private Cat (12 seats) $2,500.

CS IRWIN irwincolorado.com Colorado’s newest cat-ski operation launches you into the deep at Irwin—near Crested Butte - which rakes in more snow than any other operation in the Centennial state. VERT IN A DAY 10,000-15,000 feet TERRAIN 1,000 acres SNOW 600 inches VIBE One word: luxury. Leather seats, surround sound and a flatscreen TV… in the cat. GUIDES Alan Bernholtz, Director of Mountain Operations, has been a AMGA Ski Mountaineering Guide for 13 years and is a AIARE Level 3 Avalanche Instructor. COST Individual $500, Private Cat (10 seats) $4,500. Includes powder skis or snowboard. BONUS Hit it after Crested Butte Ski Area closes when prices drop to $350/3,000.

LOVELAND Catch the cat at the top of Chair 9 for alpine chutes and steeps. Be sure to grab a Cat Access Pass at the Season Pass office first. Free. 800-736-3754; skiloveland.com

COPPER The Tucker Mountain Snowcat operates Friday through Sunday and hauls you up to expansive bowls and steep trees. Watch for green flags at duty stations to signal the cat is ready and running. Free. 866-841-2481; coppercolorado.com

KEYSTONE The easy-to-catch Outback Shuttle saves your legs for sweet turns down the bowls off Wapiti Peak. $5 a ride (cash) or $50 punch pass (15 rides, transferable). 970-496-4386; keystoneresort.com Loveland Ski Area

steamboatpowdercats.com Below-timberline spruce forests and long, gladed runs keep snow fluffy for weeks on Buffalo Pass. VERT IN A DAY 8,000-14,000 feet TERRAIN 10,000 acres SNOW 500 inches VIBE Three ability levels split between cats let you ski at your own pace without worry of waiting on or holding up others. GUIDES All SPC guides are certified OEC and CPR, and many have ten years experience with SPC. COST Individual $375-450, Private Cat (12 seats) $3,750-$4,500. Includes powder skis or snowboard. BONUS Go full-moon powder skiing in a private cat and enjoy a 3-course dinner afterward in SPC’s midmountain cabin for $3,000.

BONUS The owner, Bob Vita, makes a mean highaltitude pizza.

SAN JUAN SKI COMPANY sanjuanski.com Storms from the southwest regularly dump 20-30 inches onto SJSC’s expansive terrain of 45-degree gullies, spines, trees and flutes. VERT IN A DAY 10,000-15,000 feet TERRAIN 36,000 acres SNOW 300 inches VIBE Catering to expert skiers, the cats are usually packed with hard-charging powder fiends looking for steep and extreme lines. GUIDES Lead guide and owner Bob Rule has run SJSC for 15 years and is AIARE Level 3 certified. COST Individual $350, Private Cat (12 seats) $3,500. Includes powder skis or snowboard. Ask about their “hot seat” e-mail list for last minute openings at $175. BONUS There are guaranteed fresh tracks or you get a full refund.

PARK CITY POWDER CATS (UTAH) pccats.com Enjoy 3,000-foot lines down wind-protected ridges and bowls in Utah’s Uinta Mountains, which need less snow for good coverage than the nearby (and popular) Wasatch.

Dogs ride the lift.

JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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Living the Dream We asked our fans to vote for the best ski town in Colorado. The people have spoken and the winners just happen to be some spots with some serious soul. by Doug Schnitzspahn When we put an online poll up asking your, our readers to vote for the best ski town in the state, we asked you to rate the place based on its vibe and quality of life as well as easy access to to deep snow, stashes and on-mountain happenings. The response was overwhelming. Some voters publicly bitched that some of the towns in consideration (namely, Boulder, “are not even ski towns”) Great we replied, don’t vote for them. And it all worked out, in that way that messy democracy normally does. You would be hard pressed to find Colorado skiers who didn’t agree that these three towns deserve a spot at the top of the heap when it comes to the hearts of Elevation Outdoors readers. So here they are.

Best Small Town Silverton, pop. 531

track through the snow—a silent listener awaiting Being. And Being responds.” That’s right, people don’t live here. They are too busy being.

Reader Thoughts “The only real ski town where folks actually come to ski is Silverton. Not shop, or spa or dine… Just Ski!!

RUNNERS UP

Local Thoughts You want credibility? The shaman of the sensual power of powder skiing made her digs here. Dolores LaChapelle—the author of Deep Powder Snow, a major voice in the deep ecology movement and a pioneer of backcountry skiing lived in Silverton from 1973 until her death in 2007. And she once said something that best sums up life in Silverton: “On a clear winter morning, just as the sun rises high enough for its slanting rays to shine horizontally through the trees, disclosing each branch and needle, backlit and rimmed with fire, each intricate facets of the snow crystals distinct and glittering, each contour and dip of the land plainly outlined by the conforming snow, I lay my

South Fork

South Fork? Ok, we confess, we didn’t know much about the community near the base of Wolf Creek, which does, after all, get the most and most consistent snow in the state. But it sure ended up with a passionate following online. As one adherent said: “The best part about South Fork? It’s not the typical little ski town. South Fork does quirky well.”

Minturn Minturn is the little town that could in the midst of the I-70 power corridor. As one online devotee said, “Minturn is the best small town because you can ski Vail all day then ski right down to the saloon,no hustle and bustle with every one running around. It’s more laid back. What more could you want in a small, wonderful little town?” Jeff Cricco

This category saw the most fervent responses with residents, PR folks and frequent visitors getting into Twitter flame wars over the voting (and trying to rig the results). But in the end, Silverton absolutely crushed the competition, which seemed right since no town in the state represents the vitality of soul skiing than this tough little village high in the San Juans. And the local hill, an expert’s-only dream destination for hardcore skiers from across the planet simply sealed the deal. Silverton defines ski town.

terrain in the state at Silverton. You won’t find hotels, real estate, armies of ski school instructors, or mixology. Did we mention, there’s a yurt.

The Local Hill Silverton Mountain is unlike any ski resort in the world. You won’t find hotels, real estate, armies of ski school instructors, or even basic amenities. But who cares? Wth expert guided skiing, unguided skiing and heli-skiing to choose from, no one is here for the corduroy. The Vibe There’s a yurt. Make It Here Do you have a trust fund? Or can you fight with your bare hands? You have to make your own way in Silverton. Only the robust survive. There’s a yurt. Oh, and there is the best in-area

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San Juan Almighty: Dropping into the backcountry surrounding Silverton and Durango.

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When you come to Steamboat, you discover it’s not about our world famous snow, it’s not about our western heritage, or our 165 trails. It’s about a place, a setting that allows you to rediscover your family. Or rediscover each other. Or just to rediscover that feeling of joy you had when you were a child. So come discover Steamboat. And somewhere along the way, you may discover a whole lot more. Start making memories. Visit steamboat.com

®

©2013 Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.


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Devon Balet

Best Mid-sized Town

Crested Butte/Mount Crested Butte, pop. 1,487/801 Is it really any surprise that Crested Butte won out here? This place is one of the few real ski towns left. We did include Mount Crested Butte in the vote, which must have horrified some in-town locals but really the two side of this coin make up the beautiful dichotomy that is the Butte.

The Local Hill Crested Butte Mountain Resort is a proving ground. The mountain appeals to families form Texas and has a fantastic ski school. But it’s also home to some to the most buttpuckering extreme terrain around—without calling too much attention to itself. The snow can be epic or... well you make the most of what you get. The Vibe Funky with a flair for achieving something. The place brought back the telemark turn and heralded in the 29er.

Make It Here You must be determined to ski and bike to carve out a living in Crested Butte. A lot of people head down to Gunnison for a living. But selfmotivated entrepreneurs will thrive here.

Reader Thoughts “It is the best because the town is real, the locals are genuine, and the mountain offers the best lift served terrain in Colorado. Period.”

Butte Full: Funk never sleeps in CB.

backcountry and Silverton is just up the troad.

constantly praised as the most beautiful town in the state. One reader put it best: “Colorado racks up a lot of great ski towns, but nobody puts it together in true Colorado style like Telluride. The snow. The charm. The people. And the postcard views in every direction.” And it’s hard to tell whether all the festivals have grown the town’s cred among the ski illuminati or downgraded it with the locals. Here’s a hint: visit during Blues and Brews for the real deal.

The Vibe You can be wahtever you want here. It’s a college town without the bro-brah of Boulder. An outdoor sports paradise without the competitivenes of Vail. The Sothwest with some Rockies flavor.

Make It Here The best job in town? Working at Verde PR and Consulting. The boutique firm handles many of the powerhouse gear brands you see in this magazine, including K2, Scarpa, Ibex, Outdoor Research, Vapur and Atlas Snowshoes. Its employees get to live the Durango dream, travel the world for their clients and still be able to tell their parents they have a real job. Sort of.

Local Thoughts “My favorite thing about Crested Butte is that it’s a mountain town—which is like a ski town, but better. Sure there is killer riding here, some of the best inbounds terrain in the state is right out the front door and the backcountry spans many miles beyond that. But it’s the lifestyle, the sense of community and mountain culture that’s been evolving here since the 1880’s that puts our town over the top,” says Mike Horn the editor of StokeLab.com and Kronicle magazine, who moved here from Massachusetts and never looked back.

RUNNER UP Telluride

It’s hard to pass up Telluride, which has been

Best Big Town

Durango, pop. 16,887 We smield when we saw Durango rise to the top here. It is not on the tip of the tongue of editors of national magazines when it comes to big ski towns. That’s because they don’t know the meaning of the phrase. Durango is a way of life.

Reader Thoughts “For years, Durango has been ‘the most ready for anything’ ski town. Durango has something for everyone.”

The Local Hill Durango Mountain Resort does not get nearly the praise it deseves. It’s a true locals’ mountain, that can get battered with southern storms and stashes some serious sidecountry. Plus, the San Juans offer endless and often extreme

Local Thoughts “I love Durango because it is

Scott DW Smith

a mountain town with a ski area, not a ski town. This distinction is critical as Durango doesn’t ebb and flow with each passing winter storm. One is quickly humbled in Durango when you can end up sitting next to the some of the best mountain bikers, kayakers and climbers in the world on any given chairlift ride. Nobody at Durango Mountain cares who you are or what you do as long as you are having fun. I have been very fortunate to travel the world and ski hundreds of places, but I still love coming home to Durango. The fresh snow stays around for days and there is no attitude at Durango Mountain. I love that the mountain is so unassuming,” says DMR marketing guru Sven Brunso, a 20-year resident whom you can see ripping in the accompanying photo on this page

RUNNERS UP

Steamboat Springs

Social Media: DMR’s VP of Marketing and Sales, Sven Brunso, makes the best pitch of his life.

How could we not praise Steamboat, where Olympians are simply the kid next door and every family is out shredding together? We leave you with one reader’s praise: “Steamboat Springs is perfect. There’s great skiing you can follow it up with a soak in the hot springs. What could be better than that?” You tell us next poll, readers. • JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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S WAG

Best of the Backcountry Gear

gearguide

There’s no time where gear means more than when you are out on your own in the wild. To that end, here’s the stuff that not only made the backcountry safer but also more enjoyable this winter. by Doug Schnitzspahn

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1. DPS Wailer 112RP

3. Liberty Variant

In the early ‘00s, DPS’s Peter Turner worked with Shane McConkey to develop the legendary Volant Spatula, the original reverse-camber, rockered deep powder ski. The quick-turning Wailer 112 is the evolution of that now-ubiquitous aesthetic. Its rockered, but unlike those prototypes it features lots of sidecut and a touch of camber. And we know we say this about every ski these days, but it really can do it all—on an early-season trip to Whistler it was shockingly stable at speed and effortless in pow. But the deal-breaker is the weight—the carbon and nano verison ponies up at just 4.19 pounds each in a 190 cm ski, making it simple to schuss up the skin trail. $1,249 (Pure construction), $799 (Hybrid construction); dpsskis.com

Avon-based Liberty skis added titanal along the edges of its new Variant (145/113/132). Pair that strength with the brand’s bamboo constructon and you get a big, stable touring ski that serves day-today duty in the wildly varying snow conditions of the Front Range backcountry. $839; libertyskis.com

2. Black Diamond Carbon Megawatt

The HD POV cam has become required gear these days and the easy-to-operate Ghost will record video and snap off still photos on the go, thanks in part to a two-way LED remote control that makes it easy to focus on the riding at hand rather than futzing with camera controls. $399; driftinnovaton.com

This fat boy—125 mm underfoot—does not move like a Clydesdale. The carbon construction keeps the latest iteration of the popular Meg down to 9 pounds, 5 ounces in a 188 cm pair. The rockered tip and slightly rockered tail give it floatation. You just won’t find another ski this wide that tours this well. $829; blackdiamondequipment.com

4. Jones Hovercraft Split Don’t be fooled by the shorter length of the oddly shaped Hovercraft. This baby can lope thorugh deep powder fields just as easily as it can rip off freestyle moves on natural backcountry terrain features. The spilt capability makes it an effective mountaineering tool, too. $699; jonessnowboards.com

5. Drift Innovation HD Ghost

6. La Sportiva Spitfire Tipping the scales at just 44 ounces per boot, the Spitfire wants to be the first up the trail. That makes

them ideal for rando racing but a low profile Grilamid shell and a Carbon Reinforced Polymer cuff give them enough downhill oomph for local exploration. Best of all, they switch from tour to ski mode with one easy flip of the top buckle. $899; sportiva.com

7. Dynafit One PX Dynafit took its wildly popular (but insanely minimalist) TLT5 and gave it a touch more downhill guts to create a light touring boot for the mainstream. Weighing in at just 27.5 ounces per boot, it features a similar one flip buckle for walk or tour mode, but it’s warmer, roomier and more confident on the downs. $640; dynafit.com

8. Ortovox Zoom Plus Here’s an affordable beacon that’s basic and effecive. It uses just two buttons and a simple display screen but still takes advantage of Ortovox’s smart, three antenna system to locate victims buried at odd angles. $299; ortovox.com

9. S.O.G. Powerlock Melding ski patrol and special ops this is one multitool you will want in your pack when things go wrong. The clippers will cut through a quarter and the small saw is damn sharp. $114; sogknives.com JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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Corvus and X-Ultra

LIGHTEN UP haganskiusa.com Available at Mountain Outfitters - Breckenridge 17 models for light and fast ski touring.

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1. Patagonia Lined Canvas Hoody

4. Stanley One-handed Vacuum Mug

The aptly named Lined Canvas Hoody is not a jacket for when you are sking the backcountry, instead this is what you want to wear when you drive to the trailhead and ready your gear out of the rocket box. It’s tough on the outside, soft and warm inside. $149; patagonia.com

Once again, here’s some gear that’s ideal for the dirve to the trailhead. And it won’t spill all over that fancy jacket while you are rumbling down a dirt road—the one-handed operation means you push a button to drink, let go to rattle around. $29; stanley-pmi.com

2. BCA Float 32

5. The North Face Warm Merino Zip Neck

There is no substitute for proper training and decision making when it comes to backcountry safety (see page 12) but an airbag is one tool that might save your life if you mess up. Just ask pro snowboarder Meesh Hytner who survived a slide in Colorado last season thanks to a BCA airbag (watch it here bit.ly/xJfdyH). The new 32 is the perfect size, big enough to hold gear beyond the bag yet not so large you don’t want to have it on your back. It’s worth testing how the bag works so you can trust it in the field, and if it you do pop it for any reason, you can fill it back up at a dive shop. $725; backcountryaccess.com

3. flylow Magnum BC Denver-based FlyLow got its start hawking sturdy pants for backcountry telemarkers, and, as the brand has evolved to encompass the freeride lifestyle all over the mountains, the latest iteration of this pant has also grown up. It’s even sturdier and big, long zippers let you take it off without having to remove your boots.$270; flylowgear.com

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The North Face created this baselayer with its Flashdry fabric, which uses minerals and coconut husks, that will dry, well, extremely fast. That could save a life out in the wild—or at least keep you cozy. $90; thenorthface.com

6. Fits Light Ski We challenge you to slip on these merino socks and not immediately think that they are the most comfy things your feet have ever felt.That’s because Fits set out to design a sock that would articulate to the shape of your poor, overused foot. Try them. $23; fitssocks.com

7 CoreConcepts Cowboy Pow A no-nonsense and affordable four-way stretch soft shell, the Cowboy Pow is a versatile jacket for backcountry touring, hiking, snowshoeing or just sampling the seasonals at the local brew pub. $169; corelayers.com •


W H AT A G I R L W A N T S

Cabin Chic

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It’s best to go fast, light and functional into the backcountry, but comfort counts too. These hut trip goodies will help ladies make the trip in style. by Jayme Moye

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1. Icebreaker 200+ Pocket Hat This sweet little beanie kills the chill, breathes well and folds up into practically nothing in your pocket when your body temperature hits the boiling point during the skin up. Made of pure merino wool, the Pocket Hat is feather soft and reversible for a style change once at the hut. $25; us.icebreaker.com

2. Eddie Bauer First Ascent BC MicroTherm 2.0 Down Jacket Eddie Bauer took a lightweight waterproof Nylon shell and married it with a lightweight 800-fill premium European goose down liner. The resulting jacket is lighter than most non-insulated shells on the market, not to mention warm, breathable and extremely comfortable. This season’s version 2.0 gains an inch in length for optimal coverage. $299; eddiebauer.com

3. Deerhammer Down Time Hey, we ladies enjoy more than wine out of a hydration bladder when we head up to the high country—and a nice single-malt whiskey can make that game of cards oh-so much more interesting. This American style whiskey, which has been aged 9-12 months in oak barrels, is smooth and easy to drink, and crafted here in Colorado. If you want to try a sip first, head to Deerhammer’s Buena Vista tasting room. $48; deerhammer.com

4. Smartwool NTS Mid 250 Pattern Funnel Zip Top and Bottom Smartwool’s warmest baselayer merino wool fabric is flattering enough to just wear on its own during cozy nights around the wood-burning stove. But out on the mountain, Smartwool is all business, with a flatlock seam construction that eliminates chaffing. The fitted bottoms tuck inside ski boots and the new funnel zip top will transform into a turtleneck with those always useful thumbholes on the sleeves. $115 top, $100 bottom; smartwool.com

5. Therm-a-Rest Alpine Blanket The 30 huts of the 10th Mountain Division hut system in Colorado mostly come equipped with mattresses, rendering sleeping bags overkill. Enter the Alpine Blanket, weighing in at only 1 pound, 9 ounces. The 700-fill goose down comforter eliminates the zipper and the wasted insulation beneath you, while keeping you toasty at temps as low as 35° F. Plus, it will snap together with your honey’s blanket for some serious hut-time snuggling. $250; cascadedesigns.com

6. Elemental Herbs Zinc Sunstick Toss the Sunstick into your pack for paraben-free coverage of face, nose, ears, hands and lips without turning your skin white like so many other natural products. Offering broad UVA/UVB protection at SPF 30, the Sunstick will also combat the effects of harsh weather on your skin thanks to revitalizing

antioxidants like organic green tea and rose hip, and nourishing oils like grapeseed, jojoba, coconut and avocado. Wow, that also sounds like a good lunch... $8; store.elementalherbs.com

7. Deuter Cruise 28 SL The woman-specific down 28-liter Cruise holds the essentials for a 10th Mountain hut trip with attachment loops for your helmet, and pockets for shovel, probe and even dirty laundry. Compression straps allow for ski attachment at the sides or secured centrally across the front. You will need to go bigger for huts that require sleeping bags (or have your man haul more). $149; deuter.com

8. Sierra Designs Pull-On Down Bootie It’s worth adding 11 ounces of extra weight to your pack for these babies. Sierra Design’s quintessential hut trip booties pack down small but deliver big time once indoors. Made of 700-fill down with a fleece cuff and nylon no-skid soles, they are just as warm and comfy as they look. $55; sierradesigns.com

9. Völkl Kiku Völkl’s widest women’s specific ski shreds with the best thanks to a full rocker profile and a girthy 107mm waist designed to surf soft snow. This is not a ski for newbies—the Kiku prefers speed and demands rider intelligence on turns. But once mastered, it serves up the most fun you’ve ever had in the backcountry. $825; volkl.com• JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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B A C K YA R D A D V E N T U R E

theroad

Riding the Wave Or how a surfer-turned-skier taught his friend from the beach how to love flying down a mountain.

devon o’neil

by Devon O’Neil

We start hiking at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday. It’s 25 degrees outside and the trail has frozen into a crust from the previous night’s slush. I’m tired and more than a little unsure of how this day will end. We’re 3,300 vertical feet and a long, punishing ridgeline from where we’re going. When we reach it, the real worries will start. Our route begins on a gentle grade and wanders through the forest, passing an 1896 gold mine before entering a sparsely treed powder field. The sun crests the ridge high above, and almost instantly the air turns 10 degrees warmer. We stop and shed our outer shells. The heat is glorious but short lived. By the time we reach the ridge, the wind kicks up and lashes our cheeks all the way to the summit. My partner on a splitboard, Jason, is a 15-year Breckenridge local and highly skilled snowboarder. We’ve hiked for turns before, but as I will find out later, today’s summit, at 13,684 feet, represents the highest point he has ever been. My partner on snowshoes, Galen, has snowboarded a handful of times over a span of 18 years. He lives on an island in the Caribbean. This is his second time ever venturing into the backcountry. Like Jason, the summit will mark the literal high point of his life. Galen and I grew up surfing together on St. John, which tops out around 1,100 feet. He and his family are here visiting me and mine, a rare reunion in the mountains. (My mom lives on St. John and I try to get down once a year, which is when Galen and I usually see each other.) For years, I have wanted to introduce him to the rush and freedom that come from riding a

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big mountain in wild snow. Halfway through his visit, nearing the end of the worst season in memory, the conditions turned prime at last. Yesterday afternoon, Galen and I hiked three miles up a creek to scout our objective from afar. It’s a committing line: a 2,400-foot dogleg chute that plunges off the windloaded side of Bald Mountain, high above town. Still glowing from an eight-inch storm three days ago, I’d never seen it so white. But no matter how good I felt about the snow stability, I worried. Would Galen be OK on the climb, in thin air, with almost no acclimatization? Would the 40-degree chute freak him out? What if I misjudged the snow stability? I didn’t doubt his ability to ride the line—his technical snowboarding talent is remarkable, given his paltry experience. But due to the other concerns, I decided we’d only go if I found a third partner. Luckily Jason was game, which is how we all ended up at the Carbonate Mine at 12,200 feet, strapping our gear to our packs and starting the grueling bootpack up the summit ridge. Baldy, as the mountain is known locally, has a reputation for never ending. The ridge is like a wave: trough, subpeak, trough, subpeak... for a mile and a half. I keep glancing back at Galen, wondering when he’ll get angry at the false summits. But he just chugs along with a look that is equal parts grin and grimace. His aerobic strength astounds me. Three-and-a-half hours after leaving the truck, we summit. Photos, sandwiches, sun, silence. The chute is out of view from the summit, and I can tell Galen is nervous. He fidgets until we have our skis and snowboards on. I pick my way through a shallow

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scree field and suddenly we are standing at the entry. It’s big. And steep at the top. With oceans of talus on both edges. It would be a horrible place to get caught in an avalanche. I don’t dare say that in front of Galen. Instead, we go over safety protocols and route selection once more. When I hear something ruffling, I look down at Galen’s legs. They are shaking like a leaf.

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alen and I have known each other since January 1986. My twin brother Sean and I were 6 when we moved to St. John to live on a boat. Galen’s family arrived from Maryland about the same time, when he was 5. Shortly after our folks met, we started sailing together on weekends. We had bronze skin and bleach-blonde hair and were three of just a handful of white kids who lived on the island, so we became fast friends. We played football after school, learned to ride tubes on boogie boards, ran from wild boars in the woods. About the time we were 7, we all got surfboards. Sean and I were decent surfers but never prodigies. Galen was. While we were still trying to perfect off-the-lip carves, Galen was throwing his tail and tucking into barrels. By the time he was 18, he was arguably the best surfer in the Virgin Islands— which still holds true at 32. Sean and I gradually got into more traditional sports like football and baseball. We grew bored with our school on St. Thomas and eventually transferred to a high school in Connecticut, where we could play football for real. We returned every vacation we got, but a new path had been charted. Galen, meanwhile, became a sought-after house painter, an occupation that still allows him to surf when he feels the need. Little changed as we grew older. My brother and I made lives for ourselves in Colorado and Galen maintained his on St. John. He met Sherri on the beach when he was 18, they fell in love and 11 years later had a daughter named Violet Sky. The three of them live in a house on the hill overlooking Coral Bay. Last April was the first time Galen brought Sherri and Violet to Colorado. It’s magical to see your friend as a father, and Galen fills the role with a touching gentleness. That’s why the Baldy idea was difficult. As more of my closest compadres reproduce and I remain married with no children, it gets harder to propose the bigger adventures. Inevitably they involve some kind of risk, however slim, which can make me feel like a risk pusher. On the other hand, I also think it’s important to hold on to what you have with a certain few, and never stop suggesting adventures, no matter the trend in their answers. That’s why I brought up Baldy with Galen. I wanted him to feel what I feel. More, I wanted to show him it exists.

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here are a lot of similarities between riding waves and riding snow. One surface is liquid, one is frozen liquid. The turns involve the same principles—edge to edge, balance, subtle grace—and muscle memory transfers from one sport to the other. That’s what kept Galen upright as he dropped in from the summit of Baldy. His nerves froze like ice cubes, but his instincts didn’t. I had descended the top pitch before tucking away to the side about 400 feet below the summit. The snow was easily the best I’ve ever skied in that chute, 10 inches of cold, buoyant powder bonded to a stable base. It flew into my mouth and over my head. When I stopped, I shared the good news with Galen


B A C K YA R D A D V E N T U R E

Devon O’Neil

Courtesy Stamford family

There are a lot of similarities between riding waves and riding snow. One surface is liquid, one is frozen liquid.

theroad

and Jason, but it didn’t ease Galen’s fear. Only around his sixth turn did he realize he was going to live. By the time he got to me, his grin was near his ears. He couldn’t believe he still had 2,000 feet to go. Over the next three pitches, he started leaning into his carves and dragging his hand like Gerry Lopez at Pipeline, completely at home in a place that had terrified him just a few minutes before. The three of us reconvened at the bottom of the chute proper, panting. We agreed the snow was righteous, high fived, then Jason took off down the apron. I looked at Galen; I couldn’t get enough of his energy, radiating like sound waves. He slowly shook his head as he gawked at our surroundings, trying to grasp where he was and what he’d done. “That was one of the highlights of my life,” he said incredulously. “I’ve never felt a rush like that.” I knew exactly what he was talking about, but my own rush paled in comparison to witnessing his. Breckenridge-based Devon O’Neil, covers freeskiing and action sports for ESPN.com, and freelances for magazines ranging from Powder to Parade. devononeil.com

Galen riding the liquid in the BVI.

Galen riding the frozen liquid on Baldy.

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JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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EVENTS

calendar

steven dewitt

The Power of Four Ski Mountaineering Race March 2 • Aspen/Snowmass Four mountains (Snowmass, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain) and 10,000 feet of vertical gain in one race means no one can go it alone, no matter how big a superfreak. Participants compete in teams of two during this daylong undertaking that kicks off at 7 a.m. in Snowmass Village. The route is not overly technical, but the vert and distance are enough to make grown men weep openly. ussma.org goin’ the full euro: rando racers elevate their heart rates at the Winter Mountain Games at VAIL.

Mr. SkiMo Rising

Who are Colorado’s fittest endurance sport athletes? Try your first ski mountaineering race this season and we guarantee it will become painfully clear—even if you’re an expert skier in the best shape of your life.

By Jayme Moye

The Heathen Challenge January 12 • Sunlight Mountain

The Heathen Challenge’s recreation course is ideal for SkiMo first-timers, with “only” 2,500 feet of elevation gain. The regular course, aptly named the racecourse, is a different story with almost double that number. Add in the fact that this year’s Heathen Challenge is the final selection race for the U.S. National Team, and you’re opening yourself up to a world of hurt. According to the race directors, the skiing will be “extra adventurous” and the skin tracks and boot packs “more interesting.” ussma.org

Powderhorn Ski Mountaineering Race

January 13 • Powderhorn Mountain Leveraging the Heathen Challenge the day before, Powerderhorn Mountain hopes to create a double whammy of weekend SkiMo racing on the Western Slope. At press time, the course details weren’t yet available—the race will be Powerhorn’s virgin initiative. In addition, Powderhorn is also planning a Wednesday morning training series, which begs the question, just how much pain can one endure before work? ussma.org

North American Ski Mountaineering Championships January 26 • Crested Butte

Crested Butte has been a stop on the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Cup (COSMIC) race series for five seasons, and one of the most successful thanks to course quality and difficulty. Last year, CB played host to the first-ever 2012 International Ski Mountaineering Federation’s (ISMF) GORE-

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depending on experience. The first three finishers in each win an Eddie Bauer First Ascent Jacket and perhaps a sandbagger designation. mountaingames.com/winter

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TEX North American Ski Mountaineering Championships, which translated as more vertical, a class-five boot pack ascent and a more technical course. Look for more of the same this year. ussma.org

Race the Divide

January 27 • Monarch Mountain Last year, Salida Mountain Sports added more tree skiing and boot pack to the traditional Mirkwood Bowl loop. This year, they’re promising an additional loop that’s allegedly 100 percent backcountry. Race the Divide is historically an appealing race for SkiMo newbies, being one of the smaller, community-oriented races. Folks entering the rec category get two laps, instead of four, and considerably less vertical than the racers. But don’t worry, it still hurts. Bad. ussma.org

COSMIC Sprint Race and SIA Uphill/Downhill Challenge February 4 • Winter Park

Every season, Winter Park hosts the on-snow demo day following the annual SnowSports Industries America (SIA) trade show where industry insiders, sports retailers and media gather to try out the latest ski and snowboard gear. The highlight of the day is the SIA Uphill/ Downhill Challenge, where participants skin up to the Sunspot Lodge and then ski down the iconic Outhouse bump run. The race is a fundraiser for the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association and while it’s free to enter, a donation is suggested. More experienced SkiMo racers, or gluttons for punishment, can opt to enter the COSMIC race on the same day, which follows a similar course, but includes a skin up the Mary Jane run. ussma.org

Winter Mountain Games February 9 • Vail

The Winter Mountain Games SkiMo race offers the biggest prize purse in North America, with $1,000 being awarded in the elite category to the fastest man and the fastest woman. Cash prizes go six deep for both genders. But cold hard cash in that amount comes at its own price—a heartexploding 6,500 feet of vertical. Not quite ready? Enter the rec category or the advanced category,

The Five Peaks presented by CAMP

March 23, Breckenridge

Now in its fourth year, the Five Peaks is the original team sufferfest, taking pairs across the Ten Mile Range behind the Breckenridge Ski Resort. Last year’s course included six ascents (two boot pack climbs) and 8,000 feet of vert on Peak 7, 8 and 9, and is looking to be the same this year. The rec course is a dialed-back version with three ascents and 4,500 feet of climbing. New for this year: a 6:30 a.m. start time. Ouch. thefivepeaks.com

Cody’s Challenge

March 23 • Steamboat Springs For the fifth year, the Cody St. John Foundation celebrates the life of the former Steamboat Springs Ski Patroller. Participants climb, traverse and descend Mount Werner, with the option to do either the short or long course. Last year for the first time, Cody’s Challenge courted ski patrollers to compete in teams of two. The team with the lowest combined time won a $2,000 grant toward group medical training for their mountain’s patrol. whatwouldcodydo.org

San Juans Rando

April 6 • San Juan Mountains Last year’s race got cancelled due to snow, or more accurately, lack thereof. The year before, it was called early due to white-out conditions impacting visibility. Race promoters are hoping that the third time’s a charm for this storied course that takes participants from Molas Pass through couloirs and steep skin tracks before finishing with a long descent off of Spencer Peak. sanjuanrando2012.blogspot.com

Spyder Grind

April 20 • Arapahoe Basin The 11th annual Spyder Grind begins Euro-style with a running dryland start. Rec category racers will spend anywhere between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours negotiating the 2,000 feet of vertical punctuated with hair-raising descents. The race category follows the same course but adds a second loop on the upper mountain for about twice as much vert. But the suffering shall not be in vain—there’s New Belgium beer for all at the afterparty, along with the Spyder Big Rig. ussma.org •


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JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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Courtesy Gregory Alan Isakov

hearthis

music

Don’t miss January’s Trail Mix, free tunes you can download at bit.ly/S5I9Xy. This month includes a track off North Carolina string band Chatham County Line’s new live album, Austin acoustic instrumentalists Balmorhea and Aussie country singer-songwriting duo Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson.

How is work going on the new album? We’re recording in a remote part of Nederland, in the woods on this little property up on a hill, far from any road. You can make loud distortions in the middle of night. My younger brother comes and plays music with me in the summers. We hang out and play chess. What do you do in your spare time? I write in a notebook. I’m always gardening. I’m building a sculpture too. The space that I take away from the recording is really important. I have to have equal time working on it and time away from it. That’s why it takes so long for me to produce records.

livin’ the dream: gregory alan isakov went from sleeping in his truck to indie icon.

Deep Music from up in the Hills

We talk songwriting, success and living the life up in Nederland with indie-folker Gregory Alan Isakov. By Chris Van Leuven

Ten years ago Gregory Alan Isakov was living out of the back of his truck. Becoming a professional musician meant roaming from town to town and burning CDs at Kinko’s with the attitude of “I’m going to make 10 and hopefully they’ll last the next couple shows.” Today, the indie-folk sensation has 27,605 likes, and growing, on Facebook and is working on his fifth album. Isakov’s lyrics weave between the countryside, heartbreak and observations. The guitar picking skips the listener along like a flat rock skimming over ripples in the water. His voice is hypnotic. His influences are jazz musicians like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, poets Simon and

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Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen and albums like Bruce Springsteen’s The Ghost of Tom Joad. For a period he referenced ocean songs. Then it was celestial space, after that it was cowboy songs, then it was San Francisco. “A lot of songs are about five different places, five different people, a chapter of a John Steinbeck book and an experience I had somewhere and they all come out.” We caught up with Isakov after a morning in the studio working on his latest album, which has a spring release date. You were born in South Africa. How did you come to the States? The family and I left Johannesburg in 1986 at the height of apartheid. We left with nothing. My whole family lived in a small apartment in Pennsylvania. We were never in one spot for too long. I got into music because it was this constant stable thing in life that I carried around with me. High school was confusing. I dropped out and traveled a lot [in the] Middle East and [to] all these spiritual centers.

How does it feel to make it as a musician? I never thought I would be playing music for money. I had a landscaping company. I managed a vegetable garden on a farm. I always played songs in the morning before I went to work. I love playing music. It’s like having dinner to me. I’ve never been a super social person. I get nervous at the gas station. Maybe that’s why I do it. For a long time I used to just tell myself that no one was here to see you, they are here to hear songs. Every time I play at a show I get nervous. When I’m in the house and know someone is there I won’t write music. How do you write your songs? I write about landscapes and traveling. I was living in this Airstream for two years. I was out in this field and there was the moon. I wrote “That Moon Song” [from This Empty Northern Hemisphere (2009)] in like five minutes. I don’t feel that I need to write music whenever I’m inspired and there’s this dripping moon over me. I’ll pull over in a Taco Bell parking lot. It’s about going back to a craft. You’ll never master it; you’ll always have to work on it. As the song grows it presents itself to you like a living thing. At the beginning it makes no sense. When you’re working on something it has this space around it. At the end you feel like you’re being taken on a ride. Songs are like rides. You start out somewhere and you finish somewhere else. I like the process of it all. •


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JANUARY 2013 • ElevationOutdoors.com

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FRONT RANGE LIFE

elwayville

and blue ballers win in the past. So start spreading some ‘Go Broncos’ mojo and let’s see how far we get! (As a side note, it does feel like the football gods are setting the table with the Rockies and Nuggets stinking so badly and professional hockey basically taking the season off).

Get Waaa-aaay Outdoors

Kevin howdeshell / kevincredible.com

Are Twitter and Facebook classified as an addiction yet? They will be. Just wait. Maybe the psychs will throw in cellphones and Skype, too, call each diagnosis “Communication-mania” and offer everyone marijuana-laden prescriptions to help focus their Wi-Fi addled ADD. Oh wait, weed’s legal now. So instead, take your other naturopath’s advice and settle your mind with a nice mix of solace and sweat. Get so far out into a ski hut, cabin, snow cave or yurt that you couldn’t call for help if you had to. Then breathe. Chill. And don’t forget to take a bunch of pictures to post on FB when you get back.

Pennies for Progress

Make It Happen The world did not end, so now it’s time to make good on those New Year’s resolutions, Coloradans! by PETER KRAY

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’m all for New Year’s resolutions—as long as you have some real hope of actually keeping them. Resolving to exercise more, for example, seems like a guaranteed lost cause. Who really thinks they are going to start a life-changing workout routine during the coldest month of the year, jogging on icy sidewalks and hurdling snow banks when they’d rather be bundled up on their couch watching the Bourne Trilogy with a fresh bowl of popcorn and a hot buttered rum? But resolving to do something like be a kinder, more forgiving person seems more than doable (and also more admirable). Yet, it also still seems like something you could start doing today if you wanted to. All you have to do is start saying, “Bless You,” when someone sneezes on you at the movies, for instance, or going Seinfeld-style and repeating “Serenity Now” every time someone talking on a cellphone cuts you off in the passing lane. I think the secret to making resolutions really work—and thus have a more lasting impact on your life—is to keep them small, and doable in an hour, a day, or as the result of some incremental progress that will take at least a year to truly show fruit. Keeping them specific, to yourself and the place you live, might also help. With that in mind, here are a couple resolutions for Coloradoans to consider as a great New Year gets underway.

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Call in Well on a Powder Day Some days you just feel too damn good to go to the office—especially when there’s better than a foot of fresh snow covering everything from your backyard to the peaks. Whether it’s cross-country skiing through City Park, split-boarding at Berthoud (with all the requisite gear and mental preparation for traveling in avalanche country!) or chasing fresh lines from the lifts, you absolutely owe it to yourself to let the weather set your schedule at least one day this winter. Number one because easily accessible powder days are one of the greatest perks of living in Colorado. And two because you’ll remember it more than almost any single day you’ll ever have at work.

Celebrate a Super Bowl Victory It’s about time, right? Especially this year, because we’ve got Payton Manning and Von Miller, and Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and Elvis Dumervil, and because the whole Denver Broncos team and town owe it to Champ Bailey to win one more World Championship ring before the Hall of Fame starts sculpting his bust. Sure you have to believe in the power of Bronco Nation’s collective will to help this one resolution become reality. But I bet every-single Mile High Magic making one of you thinks they’ve had a role in helping our orange

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Helping others is always a good way to help feel better about yourself. A couple of years ago, my wife and I read about ChangeForChange.org and started setting aside all our pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to donate in a single sum at the end of the year. Each Christmas, we end up buying about $250 worth of dog food for the animal shelter. You could give your change to Breast Cancer Research, a wildlands/wildlife fund or your local soup kitchen. It isn’t much, but it adds up. And it’s cool how you think about your “pet” cause every time you put another 37 cents in the can after work.

Support Your Neighbor, Support Yourself Along those same lines of improving your community as a sure way to improve your own life, one of the best ways to accomplish that goal is by spending money at a local business. Coloradoans are incredibly lucky not just in the number of local restaurants, outdoor/ski stores, and brewpubs we have on tap, but also in the amount of endemically distilled alcohol, handcrafted skis and snowboards, and bikes and apparel being built by our friends and neighbors. I like to think that every time we spend money on helping their dreams come true, we’re clearing out a little more dreamscape for ourselves.

Dream Big Which I think is the entire point of this “resolutioning” business, that you do believe there is something in your life you can make better, and that by making it better you can have a better life. I certainly hope it’s true for you, because I have always carried all those brand “New Year’s” dreams for myself. Why wouldn’t you keep believing that you can still be a rock star, or own your own business, or run your first marathon, or hike the Inca Trail or really just be a good person who makes the world a better place by sharing your light? It’s up to you what you resolve to do, because every resolution is really just a promise that you make to yourself. Here’s hoping 2013 is your best year yet! • Peter Kray is Elevation Outdoors’ editor-at-large and co-founder of The Gear Institute (gearinstitute.com).


If you’ve ever been to our brewery, you’ve likely seen the old, beat-up truck that hauls away our spent grain. That truck belongs to Lugene, who’s been feeding his dairy cows the hearty malt for over a decade. Named in his honor, Lugene Chocolate Milk Stout is brewed with milk sugar and milk chocolate. The rich and creamy brew reminds us of a cold glass of chocolate milk and our hometown “Aggie” roots.


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Elevation Outdoors Magazine January-February 2013