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Morning photo: Celebrate skiing!

Another season under way …

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Flying high in the superpipe at Copper Mountain.

FRISCO — With another ski season starting today at Arapahoe Basin, it’s time to dust off a few pictures from the Summit Voice archives to celebrate the best sport ever invented. As far as I’m concerned, skiing is the closest you’ll ever come to flying with your feet on the ground (or not), and floating through a blanket of fresh powder is pure bliss. Dream on, do your snow dances and get ready — winter is coming! Continue reading

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Forest Service close to releasing environmental study for proposed new backcountry ski hut near Breckenridge

Public review session set for Aug. 22 at Breckenridge ice rink

Weber Gulch Hut

The Weber Gulch Hut is proposed for the north flank of Baldy Mountain, near Breckenridge, Colorado. Map courtesy U.S. Forest Service.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The long range vision for encircling Summit County with a network of backcountry ski huts may come into a little more focus this month.

The White River National Forest is preparing to release a draft environmental study for the proposed Weber Gulch hut during the next few weeks, with a public review of the document set for Aug. 22 (5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m) at the Breckenridge ice rink. Continue reading

Skiing at the Oasis

Backcountry paradise in the Canadian Rockies

Our camp at around noon on the day we flew in.

Our camp at around noon on the day we flew in to the Oasis Lake area in the Selkirks.

By Stan Wagon (All photos by Stan Wagon unless otherwise noted.)

After 23 years of skiing in British Columbia, either visiting a nice lodge (with many comforts) or doing a ski traverse (camping, and traveling with heavy packs), we tried something new this year — a week-long base camp at a single location. We chose Oasis Lake in the Selkirks southwest of Golden, a spot we had passed through on a traverse on 2004. To our group of six Coloradans we added a guide, Pierre Hungr, who last year led us on a hut-to-hut trip near the Lyell Icefield.

We used a Bell 212 helicopter flown by Alpine Helicopters in Golden. It is a powerful and spacious machine, but it cannot fly in low visibility, and we were delayed a day going in (and the same going out). Speaking of delays, the drive up was a bit of an adventure as I-25 was closed at the Wyoming border and we had to make a complicated detour via Highway 14 through Cameron Pass in whiteout conditions, and then use a route through Idaho. This added eight hours to what is already a long 1.5-day drive.

The view from near camp of the Wrong icefall and the descent route at looker's right. This picture proves that there was more snow here this year than in April 2004, where more rocks were showing.

A view of the Wrong icefall from near the camp, with the descent route at looker’s right. This picture proves that there was more snow here this year than in April 2004, where more rocks were showing.

Continue reading

Colorado: Report says deadly Loveland Pass slide went unnoticed for several hours

State report concludes the April 20 avalanche accident that killed five people was avoidable

Looking east along the crown line of an April 20 avalanche that killed five men in the Sheep Creek drainage

Looking east along the crown line of an April 20 avalanche that killed five men in the Sheep Creek drainage near Loveland Pass, Colorado. Photo courtesy CAIC.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s April in Colorado and heavy snow is falling on the mountains of the Continental Divide, where a high-spirited group of mountain enthusiasts gather to plan a short backcountry tour, envisioning dreamy, floating turns and faceshots on the slopes of Mt. Sniktau, a mountain along the Continental Divide between Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin where planners once hoped to create an Olympic ski arena.

Well equipped and versed in backcountry travel, the six men head up Loveland Pass, a Mecca for Colorado backcountry skiers since the early days of the sport. At Scotty’s Corner, the last hairpin before the crest, the men headed east across the face of the 13,234-foot peak, aiming for northwest facing slopes on the far side of a broad gully that splits the face of the peak, according to an April 24 report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Recognizing the potential danger of avalanches, the group identifies what they thought was a safe zone near a cluster of trees on a knoll on the far side of the drainage. They discuss the avalanche danger again, agreeing to spread out as they crossed the slope. But they aren’t cautious enough, given the magnitude of the slide they ultimately trigger at about 10:15 a.m. Continue reading

Backcountry: Four avalanche deaths since March 1

Slide8New snow brings spike in avalanche danger

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Avalanches have killed four people since March 1, including a snowboarder near Cameron Pass (west of Fort Collins, March 2), a snowmobiler in Utah and a climber on Mountain Washington, in New Hampshire.

The latest Colorado avalanche was a monster, breaking up to six feet deep in places. The slide was estimated at 1,200 feet wide and broke trees as it crashed down the mountain. A second person was injured in the slide and evacuated from the scene by helicopter, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Continue reading

Skiing: Backcountry snowpack touchy in Colorado

Monthly Breckenridge ski patrol talk to focus on backcountry travel techniques and terrain choices

There's plenty of good backcountry powder skiing in Summit County, but it's best to stay on low-angle terrain right now, like this 28-degree slope on Baldy, Photo courtesy Matt Krane.

There’s plenty of good backcountry powder skiing in Summit County, but it’s best to stay on low-angle terrain right now, like this 28-degree slope on Baldy, Photo courtesy Matt Krane.

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CAIC forecaster Tim Brown examines the crown face of a large avalanche in Montezuma Bowl, at Arapahoe Basin. Photo courtesy CAIC.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With forecasters warily eying backcountry avalanche hazards and more snow on the way this week, Breckenridge ski patrollers will focus on safe backcountry travel techniques, route-finding and terrain selection during their monthly talk this Thursday evening (Village at Breckenridge, Tenmile Room, 6 p.m.).

The topic is especially timely following recent close calls and a cycle of natural slides in the backcountry, said Breckenridge ski patroller Matt Krane. Last week, a party of four backcountry travelers were involved with a sizable slide on Peak 6. Continue reading

A-Basin’s Beacon Bowl coming up this weekend

A contestant in the 2012 Beacon Bowl at A-Basin zeroes in on a buried beacon.

A contestant in the 2012 Beacon Bowl at A-Basin zeroes in on a buried beacon.

In it’s 11th year, the popular A-Basin event morphs into a two-day rescue clinic; proceeds benefit the CAIC

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — The two most recent avalanche deaths in Colorado show the continued need for avalanche education and rescue training in the state that historically tallies the majority of accidents each season.

Both deaths occurred in remote areas, where the skiers had to rely on their own rescue skills to try and recover buried victims. In those situations, speedy location, recovery and timely first-aid can make the difference between life and death.

One of the best ways to prepare for the almost unthinkable is to practice rescues in the field, simulating a real-life rescue scenario, and this weekend, Arapahoe Basin and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center offer a chance to do just that with the annual rescue clinic, which has morphed into a two-day event (Feb. 8-9) from the traditional Beacon Bowl. Continue reading

Avalanche warning issued for Colorado’s South San Juans

Backcountry travelers need to stay tuned to avalanche warnings the next few days. Photo by Dylan Berwyn.

Backcountry travelers need to stay tuned to avalanche warnings the next few days. Photo by Dylan Berwyn.

Chilly storm to bring more snow early in the week

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Forecasters are expecting a natural avalanche cycle in the south San Juans, where heavy snow and strong winds Saturday night loaded avalanche starting zones. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued an avalanche warning for the south San Juans.

“Large and dangerous avalanches are likely,” the CAIC forecasters said, urging backcountry travelers to avoid avalanche terrain.

About 10 to 15 inches of dense snow piled up, with southwest winds building slabs at higher elevations. At all elevations and all aspects, the new snow sits atop layers of old persistent slabs and non-cohesive faceted kernels of snow at the base. Slides in the storm slab layer can step down into older snow, resulting in big avalanches potentially running long distances. Continue reading

Colorado: Avalanche warning in the San Juans

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The latest storm has increased the backcountry avalanche danger in the San Juans and western Colorado mountains. Bob Berwyn photo.

Natural avalanche cycle expected, with large and dangerous slides possible

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Snowfall rates of up to 1 inch per hour, strong winds and a weak base layer have upped the avalanche danger in the San Juans to the critical zone. Forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center Friday issued an avalanche warning for the northern and Southern San Juans, where large and dangerous slides are likely and travel in avalanche terrain is not recommended.

The avalanche danger is rated as high on west, northwest, north, northeast and east aspects at all elevations. The danger is considerable on southeast, south and southwest aspects at all elevations in the San Juans. The avalanche warning is in effect through Saturday morning, but the threat of slides will persist through the weekend.

By Friday morning, up to 14 inches of snow had already piled up in parts of the San Juans, with winds gusting as high as 80 mph. The biggest snow totals were reported around Red Mountain Pass, Coal Bank Pass and the Weminuche Wilderness. Continue reading

Colorado: Avalanche danger ramps up with new snow, wind

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There’s already a layer of unstable faceted snow crystals at the base of the snowpack, potentially setting up avalanche hazards in the backcountry. Bob Berwyn photo.

Avalanche awareness classes being offered all around the state

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —There haven’t been any avalanche accidents yet this season in the Summit County backcountry, but avalanche control work around Loveland Pass triggered several slides that broke all the way to the ground and ran considerable distances, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

More than a foot of new snow combined with steady west-northwest winds have quickly ramped the backcountry avalanche danger up into the high end of the warning scale across most of Colorado’s northern and central mountains.

This season’s snowpack is starting out almost as poorly as last winter’s when snowslides claimed seven lives in Colorado. With skiers and riders eager to get out and sample some of the fresh powder, avy pros emphasize that education and awareness are the key to safe travel in the backcountry. Continue reading

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