Matt Schonwald out for a blue sky harvest in FF Forest. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen
Every December my excitement rises in anticipation of that chest deep blower run off Exterminator followed by a run out Northback then Southback then a few laps in FF Forest and Bullion before I hit the Elk with a perma grin. My first run in the NW over 30 years ago was the deepest day I had ever seen and I forgave the long lines and slow chairs as each run seared my brain like a brand that Crystal now owned my powder consciousness. Crystal sit in the sweet spot of the PNW, on the NE side of Mt Rainier giving it fantastic views and on the Pacific Crest straddling the East/West Divide. The altitude gives Crystal over 1,300’ above the rest of WA ski areas with its long ridge lines running from 6-7,000’, which is its best kept secret. Cold, stable, and even blower powder make touring worthy.
Matt Schonwald crashing the party at Party Knoll. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen
Skiers designed Crystal, they explored the area, took a few rides in avalanches before settling on the current spot. The founders brought over some Austrian to help develop the terrain and they even hosted a World Cup and National Championships in the 60’s. Like the story of Tatooine in Star Wars, Crystal faded from the public eye and as the lifts grew slow and unreliable, locals looked around the boundary and saw a gold mine. I spent 6 years living there as a ski patroller, waking up before sunrise to do control work excited to look out a see where I would tour next Year after year exploring a new bowl, a steep chute, and the Apres kept getting better as my friends would gather around the pitcher hatching the next adventure.
Crystal Mountain Backcountry Skiing. Photo by Trúc Nguyen Allen
I have lost track of how many sunrises I have seen from Berthoud Pass. This means that I have also lost count of how many dawn patrols I have had at the Pass over the years. I don’t revel in the sub-zero and pitch black starts, but the day job and family schedule dictate these early mornings. When the sun rises over the Continental Divide it sheds just enough light on the surrounding terrain. From the top of the West Side you can see the Indian Peaks to the north, and the Mount Evans Wilderness to the south. The quick access and the deep snow of Berthoud Pass provide a solace from the harsh morning, and it is the camaraderie of the skiers in the parking lot that brings the warmth. Berthoud Pass is close enough to Denver to justify several laps and then a harrowing drive down I-70 to work. I often joke that after safely navigating the hazards of backcountry skiing, the most dangerous part may be the drive back.
Friends enjoying playful terrain after a classic Colorado storm.
Backcountry skiers have been exploring Berthoud Pass for nearly one hundred years. Cars would shuttle skiers to the top of the Pass, and the pick them up at the bottom. Fast-forward to today and you can find hitchhikers on any given day at a number of trailheads. Those who are generous enough to pull over and give a hitchhiking brother or sister a ride to the top are then blessed with good karma enshrined in the history and tradition of skiing the Pass.
Berthoud Pass also has a rich lift access history. Berthoud Pass Ski Area operated discontinuously from 1937 to 2003. It was the first ski area in Colorado with a rope tow, the first two-person chair lift, and the first to allow snowboarding. The ski area also pioneered big mountain competitions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Scott climbing Moonlight Bowl.
Quick access, a consistent snowpack, and endless discovery continue to draw backcountry skiers to Berthoud Pass. The east to west orientation of the Pass, located high above the Fraser River and Clear Creek valleys, attracts a deep snowpack benefiting from both northwest flow and upslope storms. In just over an hour drive from Denver, backcountry skiers have access to numerous trailheads leading into the high basins surrounding the Pass. From pre-work dawn patrols, to car shuttling, to all day epics, Berthoud Pass has an adventure for backcountry riders of all skill levels. This is why I love to ski here. I hope to see you in the Pass parking lot enjoying the dawn patrol as much as I do.
Just another two foot dump and the signs are gone.
The Parc de la Matawinie is a beautiful wildness area with great hiking trails, lakes and superb views. Sainte Émélie-de l’Énergie is the gateway to this beautiful playground. If climbing is your fix, you are in luck. There are lots of undeveloped areas if you’re ready for a little bushwhacking. But if you want ready to climb routes well then you won’t be held lacking.
Proximus is the typical roadside crag with little to no approach. Just park and walk for less than one min and choose your climb. Most climbs here are bolt protected sport climbs, but you’ll find a few easier trad lines if that’s more to your taste. The angle varies from polished slabs to overhanging faces and arêtes. The climbs are quite technical and thought provoking. It’s just a great place to try hard.
Sérénité is simply unique. The climbing here is great. It’s definitively one of my favourite cliffs in the Montreal area. Two distinctly different climbing styles will greet you here. First off is 25m of overhanging face with lots of features. Pump and technique is the challenge here. Climbs will have you redlining for the anchors. The second style is more of a face-slab style. But unlike most featureless friction slabs, you’ll be greeted to a variety of slopey step-like holds. Creative positioning and mantling will get you through some cruxes but good footwork and balance are the key. And if that’s not enough, bring your fishing rod and walk up to the lake to try and catch you lake trout that only the patient will catch.
Have fun and enjoy.
Socrate Badeau on New York New-York 5.10 (Sérénité)
Simon Brunette on Dupond 5.10 & Louise Quattrocchi on Bazoka Joe 5.10 (Sérénité)
Rohan Badeau swinging on Toquerre 5.8 (Proximus)
hiking Sérénité with kids
hiking Parc de la Matawinie with friends
Evan Stassinos on Chipless 5.12 (Proximus)
Delphine & Megan on Puissance Turbo 5.7 (Proximus)
David Savoie taking a rare breather on Bachibouzouk 5.13a (Sérénité)
Brune Demers-Giroux on the FA of Bazoka Joe 5.10 (Sérénité)
bird’s eye view of Sérénité
James Otey on Tsunami 5.12c/d
Rumney is the premier sport climbing venue in the Northeast. Located at the southwestern corner of the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, the crags are scattered across the south-facing slopes of Rattlesnake Mountain. With a wide selection of all-bolted routes from 5.2 to 5.15, there are challenges for climbers of any ability.
Chloe Leberge on Yer Anus 5.9
But it is more than the bolts that make Rumney so special. Each of the cliffs has a distinctive feel, making it seem like many different areas in one. The predominant rock type –schist – demands a skillfull blend of power and technique. A scenic setting above the Baker River, a great swimming hole, and stable access all contribute to the area’s popularity.
This is the fifth guidebook to Rumney, and the area has undergone incredible changes over that time. Gone are the days of having the crags to yourself –and of free parking. The Forest Service has used the fees to upgrade the parking lots, construct toilet facilities, and improve trails accessing the cliffs. By paying the parking fee and obeying all closures, climbers can demonstrate that we are a responsible user group, and ensure future access for all of us.
Kevin Ogden on Whip Tide 5.12b.
Climbers have helped to make Rumney what it is today. In 1993, access to the crags was posted by a private landowner. The Access Fund and the Rumney Climber’s Association (RCA) bought the land, and then sold it to the Forest Service. Most recently, the RCA has purchased the last privately owned area of cliffs – the Northwest Crags – through their “final frontier” initiative. A new parking lot has been constructed at the Buffalo Pit, and a new trail was built in order to provide additional access to the Northwest Crags. Please consider joining both the Access Fund and the Rumney Climber’s Association in order to help preserve the crags that we love so much.
The quality of climbing at Moore’s Wall is superb. As John Sherman said in his Stone Crusade, the rock is “bullet-hard quartzite”. Large blocky features that force opposition as well as the small razor sharp crimps are common and found in many of the area classics and test pieces such as Stickman, Proper Modulation, The Nick and Tsunami. Further adding to the experience is the mental game of unlocking beta. Large, seemingly good features from the ground, climb very different than they appear and makes for some thought provoking beta decryption. The high-quality rock, its texture and features along with the vision of the locals has produced a movement and style unique to the Southeast.
Chris on Tsunami V8
Located inside Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina, Moore’s Wall is one of many state parks maintained by the North Carolina Parks division. It is part of the Sauratown Mountain Range (1,700 feet to more than 2,500 feet in elevation). It is comprised of four primary sectors, The Main Area, The Valley, The North End, and Two Mile. One of the great things about Moore’s is that the sun exposure is different for each of the areas. During some of the coldest months you can still climb at Two Mile since it is south facing and will always be warmer than the other areas. On the flip side, if it is warm out you can climb at The North End, which is always ten or more degrees colder than The Main Area or Valley. However, a cooler temperature if it is humid out (and this is North Carolina) will just mean the boulder will feel wet. We don’t make the rules here.
Kitten Mittons V7
As you might expect, the best time of year to climb here is when it is cold and dry. Although you can theoretically “climb” year round, the heat, poor friction, smog of bugs, unreasonably large spiders, and rattle snakes during the warmer months are a deterrent for most climbers. The climbing season can start as early as September if the temperatures stop exceeding 80 and 90 degrees and continues until it gets unbearably cold at the dead of winter. Climbing picks back up in February or March and continues through May/June. Although with global warming you can occasionally climb throughout the so-called cold months. In what roughly correlates, in our calendar, to the month of December, there is a yearly sasquatch migration. They can be quite territorial. When confronted, avoid direct eye contact; it may be considered an invitation or a challenge depending on the gender of the sasquatch. Be especially careful on a lunar leap year.
Drone footage of the Painted Corridor, Photo: Rock Abond
If you’ve ever wondered what China or other parts of the Far East look like, now’s your chance. Yangshuo is one of the most unbelievably hip places on this planet. It’s a microcosm of everything you ever wanted in life. You know how there are those tiny locations nestled into the threadwork of each countries daily life labeled an ‘escape’, well Yangshuo is one of them. Life is pleasant here. Everyone walks around with a smile and are content with life. It’s a place removed from big city drama, allows cultures to cross, and welcomes every idea under the sun.
Traditional cormorant fishing culture, Photo: Anotherdayattheoffice.com
For starters, Yangshuo is located amidst the most amazing and fantastic scenery you will ever lay eyes upon. Plentiful 200m tall green towers rise abruptly in every direction starting immediately outside your hotel balcony continuing past your wildest fantasies. And when there aren’t any towers, you’ll find farmer villages surrounded by lush rice paddies and crazy amounts of interconnected trails with swimming holes and hidden caves. The best way to enjoy it all is by grabbing a bicycle and heading out to discover a surreal world where ancient lifestyles mingle with contemporary pursuits.
Overlooking Yangshuo Town, Photo: David Kaszlikowski
Heading back into town, you might be turned-off by the blistering pace of China’s population and their go-get-it attitude, but then you’ll realize what’s ahead of you is more interesting than the tranquil nature 5 minutes at your back. The town of Yangshuo offers a different perspective of China’s rich history more than any other tourist destination. As said before, it’s used as an escape from the real world, a weekend holiday get-away. The upbeat metropolitan tourists have forced Yangshuo to host an array of first-world amenities rivaled by few and far between. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the comfort.
Approach to The Egg, Photo: Ursa Kenk
So as you can see, Yangshuo is a tale of two towns. One with unrivaled natural beauty and a downhome local scene, ahhhh…the climbing, local people, and landscape are simply amazing. Then the second, an upbeat take-it-as-it-comes metropolitan escapade, with either a romantic calmness or wild eccentric nightlife. Yangshuo is an incredibly rare treasure to find on this planet, and its calling for you to experience it. Bring your smiles, climbing shoes, and adventurous soul, all to let yourself get lost in the splendor of everything that is China.
The only way to discuss rock climbing in Yangshuo is to start with the complete experience. Sure, you can travel here purely for the climbing, but after a few days you’ll realize there is so much more. Yangshuo is stocked full of the most interesting international climbers you will meet anywhere, and when intertwined with such a huge diversity of climbing styles it has evolved into the epitome of a world-class rock climbing destination.
Moon Hill, Photo: Henn Photography
Yangshuo rock is stupendous. The karst topography present in South China offers an experience like no other; areas in Thailand Laos and Vietnam can’t compete with the plethora of rock nor the subtle variations found in the rock of Yangshuo. Each of the 50+ crags are located on different towers resulting in every climbing sector having different atmosphere, scenery, and approaches. Furthermore, none of the crags are similar to each other with regards to sun exposure, weather protection, or rock features. Once you experience it, you’ll easily understand why Yangshuo’s rock caters to everyone’s preferred climbing style…even limestone cracks!
Moon Hill, Photo: Henn Photography
As mentioned, there is something for everyone. Routes range in difficulty from 5.5/4 to 5.14d/9a with plenty of high-end Open Projects. There is steep pumpy terrain, technical edgy face climbs, and 3D body torqueing routes. You can pull on tufas until your heart’s content or tip-toe crimp your way to heaven. Everything is possible in Yangshuo including, multi-pitches, deep-water soloing, traditional routes, and limitless development potential. These are the main reasons why Yangshuo has been repeatedly featured in climbing films as well as magazines and continues to attract professional climbers from around the globe.
Yangshuo is one of the best climbing locations in the world. Yes, the rock diversity plays a major role in this designation, but when mixed with friendly welcoming people, a plethora of opposite sex eye-candy, comfortable and familiar living amenities, and easy access to international travel hubs, it’s difficult to find another location with such appeal. After you’ve been here for a while, you may never want to leave. The amount of psych emanating from your crag mates is unrivaled anywhere. You’ll push past individual mental limitations and find undiscovered motivation to attain your next high-point. Give Yangshuo the chance to show you what is possible in this world. It could be the next place you call home!
When the sun goes down on Qurlutuarjuq camp
Vous y découvrirez un territoire et un peuple unique qui ne laisse personne indifférent. Tous les aventuriers et explorateurs qui y sont passés en reviennent marqués. Y aller c’est s’imprégner d’une culture millénaire, c’est découvrir un territoire infini, c’est de vivre l’agréable sentiment d’isolement, d’être seul au monde et d’avoir le privilège de vivre des moments uniques, intenses, des moments WOW. En entrant en communion avec la nature, les animaux sauvages, les aurores boréales et les montagnes, on a l’impression que le monde nous appartient.
Mount Iberville south valley
Avec un peu plus de 40 lignes décrites, ce guide ne couvre qu’une infime partie de la cordillère arctique qui s’étend sur plus de 50 000 km² au nord du Labrador et du Québec, vous donnant ainsi l’opportunité de skier du terrain déjà connu et documenté, mais laissant aussi grandement place à votre imagination pour explorer l’infinité de possibilités encore intouchées. Cette chaîne de montagnes située à la frontière du Québec et du Labrador cache les plus hauts sommets du Nunavik, y compris le légendaire mont d’Iberville (Caubvick) qui se situe à cheval entre les 2 provinces. Avec son relief qui s’étend de la mer jusqu’aux pics rocheux d’où l’on peut voir la toundra s’étendre à perte de vue, ce territoire peu connu mérite le déplacement.
Jacob Laliberté bootpacking Sun In the Bucket
Il renferme une infinité d’options skiables pour tous les types de skieurs avec des dénivelés atteignant près de 1000m de vertical, des angles de pentes allant de 20º à 50º, des couloirs, des bols, des sommets et des faces de tous genres. Sans oublier les refuges (camps, dômes, tentes arctiques) situés un peu partout sur le territoire qui rendre l’expérience encore plus agréable et accessible.
Ce guide app vous donnera non seulement beaucoup d’information sur le terrain skiable. Il vous facilitera aussi la vie en vous donnant accès à toute l’information nécessaire sur; comment s’y rendre, comment économiser sur le transport, comment vous déplacer sur le territoire, où dormir et quel matériel apporter, vous permettant ainsi de vivre une expérience inoubliable sans trop vous casser le caillou. Le terrain skiable restant au cœur du guide, vous y trouverez le niveau de difficulté de chaque descente, leur niveau de risque, leur qualité (nombre d’étoiles), leur orientation, l’angle de pente, leur approche, leur description générale ainsi qu’une tonne de photos pour chacune des lignes skiables, vous donnant ainsi une bonne idée de la descente avant même de l’avoir skiée. Et pour ceux qui ont encore plus la fibre aventurière et qui ont envie de découvrir les dizaines de milliers de kilomètres carrés encore jamais explorés, alors ne vous en faites pas, il y a en masse de terrain pour combler tout le monde. Le seul conseil que nous avons à vous donner, c’est que peu importe que vous achetiez cette application ou non, ALLEZ-Y, foncez! Vous ne reviendrez pas déçu. Mais si vous n’avez pas envie de chercher de l’information à gauche et à droite, alors voici votre solution; «Backcountry skiing : NUNAVIK & LABRADOR » permet de contenir tout à la même place; autant pour la planification du voyage que pour l’auto-guidage une fois sur place.
Jacob Laliberté charging on Jesus On the Edge aka J.O.E
Bref, skier au milieu des aurores boréales et des caribous n’aura jamais été aussi accessible. «Backcountry skiing : NUNAVIK & LABRADOR» est un nouveau souffle pour l’exploration en ski et une aventure qui changera votre vie.
“Backcountry skiing: NUNAVIK & LABRADOR” is the first collection of ski runs covering the aera of Kuururjuaq Park and the Torngat Mountains Park located north of the 58th parallel.
Jacob Laliberté enjoying the light on Mirador with the Butt Crack in the background
You will discover a territory and unique people that leaves no one indifferent. All the adventurers and explorers who went up north came back marked. Travelling there is immersing yourself in a thousand-year-old culture, discovering a limitless territory, it’s living the pleasant feeling of isolation, feeling the loneliness and having the privilege of living a unique and intense moment! You and nature will make one by rubbing wild animals, aurora borealis and mountains. You’ll have the impression that the world belongs to you.
With a little more than 40 lines described, this guide-app covers only a tiny part of the Arctic Cordillera stretching over more than 50,000 km² in northern Labrador and Quebec, giving you the opportunity to ski the land already known and documented, but also leaving room for your imagination to explore the incredible amount of possibilities still untouched. This mountain range on the border of Quebec and Labrador hides the highest peaks of Nunavik, including the legendary Mount Iberville (Caubvick) which straddles the two provinces, with its relief that stretches from the sea to the rocky peaks where you can see the tundra extend as far as the eye can see. This little-known territory deserves a trip.
Bruno-Pierre Couture et Jacob Laliberté the two authors of the guide-app
It contains endless ski options for all types of skiers with vertical elevation up to 1000m, slope angles from 20º to 50º, couloirs, bowls and faces of all kinds. And that’s without counting all the shelters (camps, domes, arctic tents) located throughout the area that makes the experience even more enjoyable and accessible.
Bruno-Pierre Couture au campement sur la rivière Koroc secteur In Your Face derrière – at the camp on the Koroc river sector In your face in the back
This guide-app will not only give you information on the ski terrain. It will also make your life easier by giving you access to all the necessary information about; how to get there, how to save money on transportation, how to get around the area, where to sleep and what equipment to bring, allowing you to live an unforgettable experience without any headache. The ski area remaining the guide’s heart, you will find the level of difficulty, level of risk, quality (number of stars), orientation, slope angle, approach, a general description and a ton of photos for each of the ski lines, giving you a good idea of the descent before skiing it. And for those of you who feels more adventurous, there is still thousand and thousand of square kilometers to explore. So don’t worry, there is plenty of terrain make everyone happy. The only advice we have to give you is that whether you buy this application or not, GO FOR IT! You will not be disappointed. But if you don’t want to lose energy gathering information everywhere, then here is your solution; “Backcountry skiing: NUNAVIK & LABRADOR” put everything in one place; from the planning of your trip to the self-guiding once you’re on the spot.
In short, skiing in the middle of the northern lights and caribous will have never been so accessible. “Backcountry skiing: NUNAVIK & LABRADOR” is a new breath for skiing exploration and an adventure that will change your life.
In January of 2017, it began snowing in the Elk Mountain. A month later, it felt like it had never stopped. A long sequence of storm cycles had deposited over 10 feet of snow at Irwin, just outside of Crested Butte.
Skier Gail Sovick heads-up the front side of Snodgrass mid storm.
For backcountry skiers, a massive amount of snow in a short amount of time awakes a mixed bag of emotions. On the one hand, a skier cannot help but get excited about deep, deep pow. Images start appearing in our heads (and on our social media) of skiers porpoising way down into the white room, gloves and poles barely exposed above the surface as if they are the only way to catch a breath of air on behalf of the submerged powderhound. On the other hand, a lot of snow in a short amount of time means that avalanche danger is likely to rise, thus keeping us from venturing out into the steep-and-deep to realize our dreams of flying through the subnivean zone.
An impressive amount of snow blankets a “light tour” in the Anthracite Range
During this storm, I stopped into Wild Snow Headquarters to talk about a new book that my publishing company had just released for backcountry skiing Snoqualmie Pass in Washington. Lou Dawson runs wildsnow.com, which is one of the best online stops for quality and comprehensive backcountry ski news. Being the warm welcoming guy that he is, he invited me in for a cup of coffee, where we proceeded to talk about the storm that was surrounding our beloved mountains. We began talking about what we typically do during storms like this. Many people will read the avalanche forecast during storms like this, see that the danger is very elevated, and they will simply go to the ski area or just stay home. But backcountry skiers like Lou see things a little different. They begin to look for slopes in their area that are too low-angle to slide, but still steep enough to get some slow, yet oh-so enjoyable, turns on the way down.
Lou and I began talking about these tours and how wonderful they are, not only for high-danger days, but also for days with novice friends, or quick before-work tours, or days when you’re nursing a pulled muscle. In our conversation, we soon came to realize that we don’t even need an excuse to go hit the “light tours” of our area…we just plain like them. Our conclusion was that it’s really good to have a list of your local light tours in the back of your mind when the context presents itself.
Skier Gail Sovick takes a meadow break in Crested Butte’s Red Lady Glades.
So was born, the idea of creating a book that showcases some of our state’s light tours. It is said Colorado has 300 sunny days a year. Combine that with several thousand mountains, and a winter climate that’s downright temperate. The result: one of the best places on the planet for ski touring. Of course nothing is perfect. Colorado challenges backcountry skiers with limited public access options, due in part to it being a mostly rural, relatively un-roaded western state. More importantly, due to various climatic factors the state’s mountains can be prone to dangerous avalanches for much of every winter. Yet options exist. Key with backcountry travel is picking routes with lower angle pitches and other avalanche-mitigating factors. While these “light tours” are surprisingly difficult to find, they do exist. We detail a selection of Colorado’s best under these covers. Further, a growing trend in ski touring is the use of ski resorts for “uphilling,” motivated by the need for a less committing experience — yet nonetheless an experience that can equal any other outdoor sport in enjoyment. Colorado lends itself to this as well, with most of the state’s more than twenty ski resorts allowing uphill skiing. Thus, we offer a special mix here, combining a variety of “easy” backcountry routes with recommended resort options. Pick one of our many days of Colorado sunshine, get out and enjoy.
How does a solid 7500 vertical foot ski descent from the top of a steaming volcano, with views of Canada, the San Juan Islands, and the heart of the North Cascades sound? If this sounds like your kind of thing, Mount Baker is your kind of mountain. Mount Baker, originally known to the Lummi as Komo Kulshan, aka the White Sentinel, was first sighted by the Spanish in 1790. 2 years later Captain George Vancouver discovered passage into the Salish Sea and the great renaming began with giving Kulshan the name: Mount Baker, after his lieutenant Joseph Baker who was the first of his crew to spot the volcano. Locals discovered powder skiing in 1927 and the ski area opened in 1929.
Climbers heading for Baker’s summit
The first uninterrupted climb and ski descent was achieved in 1933 by Hans Otto Giese and Don Fraser of the Seattle Ski Club. Apparently, they summited in 6.5 hours, and descended 6,750 feet in 30 minutes. Looking back on the particular gear they must have been climbing and skiing with, it is certainly humbling to think of the challenges men like these had to face in order to accomplish such high adventure with success. 90 years later passion to ride now is shared from Vancouver BC to Seattle driving up hwy 542 every weekend from November thru April to ride the biggest storms in the NW!
Ptarmigan Ridge beckons those looking to reach a little farther
The Mt. Baker backcountry extends east to west from Mt. Shuksan to Mt. Baker connecting ridges of Shuksan Arm to Ptarmigan Ridge with expansive glaciers, powder bowls, technical couloirs, powder-filled glades and plenty of lower elevation trees. Many ski routes begin directly from the Mt. Baker Ski Area averaging the deepest snowpack in North America guaranteeing you can find fresh tracks somewhere.
The terrain found on the north face of Shuksan certainly demands respect
What is one part of the avalanche recipe that never changes? Terrain. Terrain is the only constant. With Backcountry Skiing Mount Baker and Rakkup’s powerful planning and execution tools, you can read your run the night, week, or month before. Refer to it as you travel through the field, assess your conditions, and adjust your plan as necessary.
Skier Gail Sovick braves the blizzard
Skier Kevin Krill Samples the Goods
December, 2000: I was a freshman at Fort Lewis College in Durango, sitting in a van full of other new students. The van was doggedly climbing up Coal Bank Pass towards Silverton, Colorado. I had applied to Fort Lewis for two reasons. 1) It had an excellent humanities department, and 2) it is at the foot of the San Juan Mountains, home of backcountry ski legends. Legendary backcountry pioneers like Dolores LaChappelle and Chris Landry made their homes in the San Juans. Legendary big steep mountains like Snowdon, Bear, Sultan and Kendall loom over the towns and highways like sentinels of a sacred place. Yes, I wanted to get a college education, but let’s be serious for a minute: I was a 19 year-old kid hungry for epic adventures and boundary-pushing weekends.
Skier Kevin Krill finds a natural terrain park
This was my place. The van full of students parked at the top of Molas Pass where we all stepped out, trying not to let our dropped jaws show too much as to make us look un-cool (we were 19 years old after all). We were on an Outdoor Pursuits day-trip, led by two very knowledgeable outdoorsmen. The class was titled “Terrain and Route Finding in Avalanche Country”. The instructors’ goal was to give us kids a primer on how to view avalanche terrain, how to notice avalanche prone features, how to understand the way an avalanche will move down different types of terrain. All day, we drove and hiked to dozens of locations to see classic ski zones like Anvil, Red 3, Kendall, and Prospect where the instructors emphasized how important it is to inspect avalanche terrain, plan your routes up and down. I’ll never forget the part of the day when our instructor said the following: “It would be so cool to have a folder full of photos of all the runs you want to ski, so that you can use them as you plan your next tour. From this moment, deep in the best ski terrain of the San Juans, the idea was born to create a terrain based photographic atlas of all backcountry runs.
I believe that just as a kayaker scouts his run and commits it to memory, a backcountry skier should too. Smack-dab in the center of an ancient volcanic caldera, Silverton is a true mountain town. Home to an extreme ski resort, famous mountaineers, miners and rich history, it is a fantastic place to visit and speaks for itself when it comes to remote and rugged towns. Many mountain ranges don’t have a year-round maintained road passing through them. The San Juan Range from Durango, through Silverton, to Ouray has three: Coal Bank, Molas, and the infamous Red Mountain. Highway 550 brings powder-hounds through some of Colorado’s most rugged and diverse ski terrain. Silverton Mountain ski resort, at the heart of the San Juans, boasts an annual snowfall of 400 inches. What is one part of the avalanche recipe that never changes? Terrain. Terrain is the only constant. With Backcountry Skiing Silverton and rakkup’s powerful planning and execution tools, you can read your run the night, week, or month before. You can refer to it as you travel through the field, assess your conditions, and adjust your plan as necessary.