In-bounds adventures at Keystone
By Emily Palm
Ah, spring skiing: Muscles warmed up for the season, bluebird skies, pleasant weather, and tourists careening at you from all angles atop iced-up slopes.
Quick side note: I do not begrudge out-of-towners unacquainted with mountain culture and lacking ski skills (commonly called “gapers”), for they subsidize my inbound skiing.
At the end of the season, I’m not sure the resorts break even from my packed sandwiches, backpack beverages and me. Furthermore, isn’t it healthy for Americans to break out of their comfort zones? Isn’t compassion toward such folks on the slope good karma for when we’re out in other realms bumbling through as a newbie? I digress, but suffice it to say, “Love thy gaper.”
Now back to the topic at hand. To enjoy the aforementioned benefits and escape the latter, get thee to the backcountry or up to non-lift-served inbound areas.
Last weekend we set out to skin up to Keystone’s back bowls (if you don’t have skins and telemark or alpine touring bindings, hiking is fun too). We braced ourselves for spring-break mania at the base areas, but ended up delightfully surprised by crowds smaller than originally anticipated.
After putting the skins on our skis at the Outpost Lodge, we headed up the cat track toward Bergman and Erickson bowls. First and foremost, though, we had a brief safety meeting, an important component of many a ski excursion. Multiple layers in case the weather shifts? Water bottle full and lunch in hand? Meeting place, just in case? Check, check and check. That’s the bare minimum. It feels luxurious not to talk about route selection based off the avalanche report that morning, dig a pit, or worry about slope angles.
After a beautiful and heart-pumping trek up the ridge between Bergman and Erickson bowls, we took a quick break in the wind-whipping sunshine before making our earned turns. You know you’re happy being poor when you’d actually prefer to skin up than take a cat ride (and subsequently shell out $225 to ski the same bowls).
To further indulge our crowd-free quest, our group found a secluded lunch locale. The perfect picnic spot must be sunny and wind-protected by the trees. Make some instant Adirondack chairs by sticking skis in the snow and resting the poles in the binding, and you’re living the life.
To round out a perfect run, we found some untouched turns (even though Keystone hadn’t gotten any new snow for a bit).
After telling people I knew this would be my next column topic, many objected to outing our “secret” modus operandi. To which I reply, it’s on the trail map. I’d reckon the extra effort of skinning or hiking up deters enough folks, and if not, come join our happy throng. Just don’t be a gaper up there.
Telemark skier and freelance writer Emily A. Palm Mulica lives in Golden, Colo. Check out her Web site at www.EmilyPalm.com & follow Twitter.com/SteepShots and Facebook.com/SteepShots. Share with her your favorite joke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Filed under: Colorado, Keystone, Ski Resorts, skiing and riding, Summit County Colorado Tagged: | Bergman Bowl, Colorado, Emily Palm, Erickson Bowl, Keystone Colorado, Keystone Resort, Ski, ski touring, Summit County News, Summit County skiing, United States, Winter sport