February into the Alpine
No Powder, No Care.
February into the Alpine
As the powder starved took to stalking instagram users and obsessively following those fortunate enough to be enjoying bottomless powder in parts of the world other than Aspen this February, the rest of us mortals sat at home wondering what the hell happened to winter. For many skiers, a dry spell like we are currently going through brings on boredom, powder withdrawals and a nasty case of faceshot envy thanks to our Canadian brethren who simply can’t get up for air in all the powder they’ve had this winter. This perpetual cycle of longing for our beloved snow, left only to be exacerbated by the daily compulsive scroll through our facebook feeds for signs of winter. Grasping. Our minds stricken with a hunger that mother nature simply won’t fulfill.
The aggravated, tense mentalities of resort die-hards still holding on to the last breath of winter, hoping the puddles outside their apartments will refreeze and snow will again fall from grey skies, blanketing bare patches of grass and once again rejuvenating their spirits with another chance to enjoy winter. Meanwhile, others have all but given up, grabbed their mountain bikes and high-tailed it to Fruita, or some other place where mountain bikers go. But, somewhere out there, on a distant peak and in a place you’d never notice from your couch or the gondola, is a handful of skiers from Aspen that are eating up the green-lighted backcountry and abundant blue skies in a rare moment of alpine bliss. This February I was lucky enough to be one of the few.
Refrozen snow, wind crust, wintery surfaces, powder, and my personal favorite, chalk, where conditions that we were becoming all too familiar with. Sometimes the snow was simply unskiable and other times we found pleasant surprises where we least expected them. Everyday was a bit different than the next, and that variety served to entertain us, to keep us coming back for more. And so we did.
A human powered ski adventure awaits you, if you’re just willing to put in the time and the work to get there. Fortunately the effort pays off in dividends, and a day out in the mountains is worth every step, every time.
With the variable conditions came stable weather, stabilizing avalanche danger and even the peaceful feeling of the freedom of tours in the alpine. Things were taking shape and February was turning out to be something I hadn’t expected. Amazing.
Our gradual progress into the mountains this February naturally led to an area I often frequent each spring. The familiar terrain, knowledge of the approach and exit as well as a little recon from friends pointed to the possibility of getting the axes out and actually climbing something.
This time of year when you leave your truck to head out on a 7 or 8 hour day in the mountains, even when things are apparently “green lighted,” you know there is a very strong chance you’re just going out for a long walk in the mountains. It doesn’t hurt to choose a really beautiful location for your long walk for this very reason. And because skiing a steep line is always secondary to getting home safe, this mentality was held from the moment we left our truck to the moment we got back.
Packy and I were both fortunate to find some great consolidated winter snow in the “BS” and things were more or less how we had envisioned they would be before setting out. The cramponing was easy and the climb was straight forward. A series of aggressive ski cuts solidified our belief that conditions were safe and we enjoyed mostly good, wintery snow top to bottom. This will certainly be a February line that I’ll look back on, happy I capitalized during a period of high-pressure, but even more so grateful for the beautiful day, good snow, safe climb, fun ski and awesome shared experience with a good friend.
If the current weather trend continues, I look forward to getting back into the alpine a few times each week, and I’ll certainly have my eye on a few more couloirs and places with consistent fall line skiing without convexities or complicated route finding. If trends continue I imagine so will the gradual progression to bigger lines and taller peaks. If not, we’ll ski some powder!