It seems, regarding the last two winters, we've had our feast before the famine. Last winter was a perpetual banquet of snow, the only thing plentiful this winter has been the never ending sunshine. Over the past few weeks we've had a few decent storms, but the damage has been done. Four avalanche deaths in less than a week underscore the fragile nature of our thin snow pack.
Just before Christmas my Dad, Zac, and I headed down to the San Juan's for a ski touring trip. Driving through the brown, dry scenery on the way to southwestern Colorado didn't inspire much anticipation for great skiing.
The Gang Gears Up to Go Down
Matt Klema. Dropping the Knee
We were pleasantly surprised to find fresh snow and good skiing. Although the rotten nature of the base did little to support our weight and made for challenging skiing at times. My good friend and fellow kayaker Matt Klema was done with fall semester in Durango and looking to ski. He was our tour guide and on the second day we hit pay dirt.
The second day we noticed this nice set of turns off the summit of the Battleship. They headed down onto the west face and directly into this . . .
We were quite surprised and humbled to ski into the debris of this large avalanche which was mostly hidden from view during the climb.
The Run out and Debris
We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure our what had happened before one of the skiers showed up to re-examine the accident. His partner triggered the slide and had been carried for close to 1000 feet. Incredibly, he was on the surface when the slide stopped and he survived relatively unscathed.
Dad and Zac. Back for More.
We skied the rest of the day on the low angled slopes near the slide. The snow was cold and loud. The new surface hoar growth made for some excellent "loud" powder.
Dad Tearing Up the Powder in the Sunshine.
The last day we broke trail up to a basin I had never been before. Breaking trail through the rotten snow was extremely challenging at times. Here Matt fights for every inch.
Hard Work Pays Off. Matt Klema.
We managed to climb and ski 13,400 feet in 4 days. As we drove through the non-existant snowpack further north we commented on our good fortune. In winters such as these, every good day counts.