One of the hardest backcountry ski seasons nationwide and to the WildSnow team is drawing to a close. The loss of Gary Smith and other friends close to the site were tough blows and contributed to our longest lag ever for putting out new Totally Deep Podcast content. In the end, the season closed the way it began though, with good turns, stories and memories of friends and a look forward to creating more of all. So Randy and I took back to our mics to record Episode 88.
For a 9th straight year, the local crew started on bikes from the town of Carbondale and began pedaling our way to the Mount Sopris snowline. This year’s event took on way less of a race atmosphere as the entire field stayed together and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day. Good stability and great views awaited us up top and laughs at skiing breakable crust on skinny sticks awaited us for much of the descent. Everyone that embarked from town reached the summit and more importantly everyone that reached the summit made it back to town safely, even if after 10 hours of sweet suffering.
Sopris is usually my biggest gathering for friends on skis but this year we were vastly outnumbered by everyone else that took to the snow that day. Seeing so many people enjoying the spring weather and corn (if at times a little breakable) left me motivated to take on more spring missions. Not to be so.
A week later, I heard a loud pop while catching a frisbee on a sunny sports field in Denver. ACL torn and my plans quickly changed. No this is not a replay of episode 10 entitled “Doug’s Demise,” this was the opposite knee shredding with a poorly calculated change of directions.
It is easy to feel sorry for yourself when an entire volcano trip goes up in smoke (pun intended), but soon I was back on the bike. As I pushed farther into the mountains with the retreating snow getting that same adventurous freedom I do from skiing, I had a lot of time to muse on the similarities and differences between the gear, culture and mindset of these two sports. In the end the goal remains the same: get deep into the mountains and come back safe to do it again.
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Doug Stenclik is an avid skimo racer and ski mountaineer who lives for sharing the amazing sports of ski touring and splitboarding. Since his first time on skins he was hooked and the obsession has taken him all over the United States and the world pursuing the human powered ski turn. He founded Cripple Creek Backcountry in 2012 and took over the Colorado Ski Mountaineering Race Cup in 2014 to spread knowledge and the love of the sport. In 2019 he took a step back from the ski shop and race promoter life to become a publishing partner with WildSnow.