No secret, most of Colorado’s skiers live east of our mountains, and ski what’s known as the “Front Range” due to its facing the city of Denver. While many portions of the “Front” can be a bit thin on snow compared to the heart of the Colorado Rockies, the Front has hundreds (if not thousands) of ski touring options, much of which are best enjoyed during spring. This especially so after the snowpack turns to melt-freeze around April or May (depending on season, elevation and aspect). It is now a few days from being officially springtime here in the Centennial state, so to assist those who desire to partake in the warm and rewarding pursuit of springtime ski touring, let me present the excellent guidebooks written and published by prolific ski alpinist Fritz Sperry.
I’ve been stunned of late by the downright biblical details and route count of the backcountry guidebooks popping up over North America and western Europe. This two volume ~600 page set is no exception. Author Sperry does not hold back. Hundreds of well rendered color photos expose every route. Tight data blocks summarize, and got me smiling when I saw they included “sunhit” (e.g., Sunrise+4 hours), which is something I came up with for my early guidebooks, and thought nobody noticed.
A set of somewhat useful maps are included as the last group of pages in each volume, but as with most Colorado ski touring guidebooks the cartography here is minimal, though at least these maps are color printed and fully legible. I’m a fan of author-built detailed mapping, but pulling that off is a world of hurt (I’ll testify) so my take on Sperry’s maps is what you could call a “soft criticism.” Reality, with well written trailhead descriptions, plenty of photos, your smartphone GPS mapping — and the internet — paper guidebook maps have lessened in importance over the years.
The “Making Turns” volumes include fairly short but concise indices, and even a glossary for individuals who have recently seen the light of backcountry skiing. A chart of sunrise-sunset times for Colorado works with the sunhit concept I mentioned above. One glaring omission, especially for skiers seeking moderate routes, is an index of routes arranged according to difficulty. I feel inclined to ignore that as the otherwise stunning amount of information Sperry includes is pretty much all you need. But as one who now seeks out the finer things in life rather than the steepest couloirs, I wouldn’t mind a quick way to find the vintage wine for vintage legs.
Overall, an impressive effort by author Fritz Sperry, and a good example of taking a smaller area and doing highly detailed guidebook coverage. In sum: essential books if you’re ski touring Colorado, especially if you’re a “Front Ranger” looking to stay closer to home.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.