Sunday, March 02, 2008

Colorado Backcountry: Northern Rockies Sled Access

Sled access above tree line in “spring like” conditions, Northern Colorado.
Lots of gooping up with Sunscreen today, it was a beauty! I spent most of it on and off the snowboard, taking turns shuttling up and down the ridge on the sleds. The snow condition today we call “hero snow”, because it is stable enough to allow the sled to go pretty much anywhere but soft enough to maintain great turns on the boards. The sun helps this along, as long as it doesn't get too warm. If temperatures get too high the snow starts melting and destabilizes in layers. "Wet slabs" have been known to slide in the heat of the day making the "hero" snow considerably more dangerous and sloppy to get around in.

Khyber via Apex Mountain and the crew, 2008.
We stop at the top for morning snack and/or smoke break and some avalanche assessment. Conditions looked great so we get to work cutting in the "sled road" for snowboard laps at the top. Most of us were shedding layers as the day warmed up, by mid day I was in a single layer and a windbreaker, no gloves or hat. We guesstimated the temperature today at noon to be near 50F. Got to love that at 12,000 plus feet in early March.

Tandem taxi to altitude on the sled road.
We take turns dropping riders at the top of the mountain on the sleds. One guy get "short bus" duty and drives the sled back down the hill, another guy is the spotter (usually takes pictures too), this is me today. the spotter makes sure that if there is an avalanche the rider's location is pinpointed on the slope for a speedy recovery . The other guys in the crew are diggers, most of the time they just hang out and watch the shralpage, but really they are all on "standby" just encase there is a slide and the rider needs immediate assistance. We all carry avalanche gear and try to maintain a level of awareness even on days like today. As anybody who has been out here long enough knows, a ski slope can go from being perfectly safe to a death trap in a few degrees.

The ascending taxi roars to ridge road, a hard right follows.

Jordon "points" the first run of the day.

Our different riding styles appear in the morning lines.
(From left to right: Me, Jordan, JP(pictured))

Jp riding near the summit.

No comments:

Post a Comment