Splitter Blue in Snowmass Colorado
It was high and dry in Aspen/Snowmass, as was the case in much of North America this January and February of 2015. What started out as an above average season for snowfall had dried up and we were in a solid high pressure system.
Despite the lack of new snow we were staying very busy ski guiding with Aspen Expeditions. The high pressure also brought unusually warm temps, which had increased the stability. This gave us a longer and more stable than typical “January thaw”. While guiding our usual lift accessed side country ski lines off of Snowmass ski area, I had been eyeing some bigger steeper faces in-between the two classic ski mountaineering peaks of Garrets and Willoughby peaks.
To get to them we would start with any number of steep narrow west facing chutes ranging from 1500 ft to 3000ft, then climb 3300 ft up the big east face. I decided to do some exploring that week with a combination of a couple of my best long-term clients and a “young” old friend.
We started the week off right with a triple couloir day. My long time client and friend John Chrystal and I started with the steep and narrow “Mad Goat Gully” then made our way on to the big east face across the valley linking hanging couloirs from bench to bench. We finished up with more one boot up a short steep chute before making the long traverse back to Snowmass Village.
We were back out the next day with another long time client and buddy John Rader. John has skied all over the world and is no stranger to the steeps. So we started off the day with a couple unnamed west facing chutes. Then finished the day with some fun powder/ facet skiing on a steep north facing gladded face. Where we encountered some fast moving facet sluffs, which ended up being some of the only moving snow of the week.
After a day off with the family I linked up with my old “ young” friend Pete Gaston. I first met Pete and his twin brother 12 years ago in a level 1 avi course I was teaching them. Pete is a partner owner/ founder of Strafe clothing line as well as being a pro ski mountaineer for Salomon and Oakley.
Super strong and always motivated, Pete was stoked to get out on another Snowmass adventure. We decided on a variation of the classic Little Willow to Sievers link up, which links Snowmass and Aspen Highlands ski areas. It was a perfect splitter blue day with light wind, good temps and a picnic lunch. We skied a few big faces and chutes and finished with a character building willow bush whack ski out.
Two days later the faucet turned back on and we received 8 feet of snow over a week and a half. The big lines were out for a while, but the Colorado Blue Bird continued. Glad we made the most of the high pressure, whether the snow was fresh or not.