Louie and I just returned from today’s climb and backcountry ski of Mount Sopris, our "home mountain" that rises southeast of our town, towering above the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys like something transplanted from a much greater range. Return on investment during a Sopris ski climb is usually not that great. Instead, you do it because it’s there, in your face, every day of the year.
|We found a "mini chute" that entered Thomas Lakes Bowl from the Sopris summit. Things mellowed out below here, with big terrain that was perfect for cranking lots of energetic turns.|
Days of skiing on Sopris frequently start with a mud slog on the snow closed Dinkle Lake Road, then you’ve got a few thousand verts of forest that sometimes involves dirt walking. Above timberline it gets better, with Thomas Lakes Bowl providing a classic corn run, and the Crystal Chute yielding a 3,000 vertical foot couloir shot when you can get it.
But today was different — Sopris was as good as it could ever be. We skied almost every inch of the 4,000 vertical foot descent, including some nice lower altitude tree skiing in an area of open aspens that I’ve been trying to get figured out over the years. Even the road walking was on snow, with a glide back down to the car. The snow was totally avalanche safe "powder on corn" that made for fun and energetic turning. It’s been an incredibly cold spring so far in Colorado, and though we’ve not had a lot of new snow, what we do have has not been melting, so it’s getting to be a thick dense snowpack that extends fairly low in elevation. This is the perfect setup for Colorado’s big peaks, as you end up with a "little less walk and a lot more action.
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.