Winter Camping

Being a member of the Colorado Mountain Club, I had heard about the Winter Camping School that was offered and thought, why not test my camping and backcountry skills on the snow?  The class lasted about a month with three evening lectures at the American Alpine Center and then three weekend overnight trips.  Our instructors had some pretty impressive resumes with some having climbs of Aconcagua, Denali and Mt Rainier.  Knowledge and experience was not an issue.

During the lectures we covered topics such as: planning (goals, weather), equipment (boots, shovels), cold weather ailments (frostbite, hypothermia) and site selection (avalanche risk, snow conditions).  We had two training days in the field before our overnight trips which is where we applied what we had learned and of course the obligatory stop at Tommyknockers Brewery in Idaho Springs after every session.

We went to St Mary’s Glacier and camped below tree line for our first over night trip.  When we arrived, we began digging out areas for our tents.  The St Mary’s Glacier weather is notorious for wind and blowing snow and this weekend was no exception.  It is important to create some type of barrier from the wind, so we stacked snow blocks that we cut and built walls.  After our tent compound was complete, we began carving blocks to build our kitchen area.  This is where we all cooked and melted snow for drinking water and where we all froze together before we crawled into our sleeping bags.  One member of our team learned an invaluable lesson – always keep the sheath on your snow saw when not in use.  It was a freak accident, but a gust of wind blew something out of their pack and when they went to grab it, they hit the saw that was stuck in the snow with their hand.  It left a pretty nice gash that required stitches.  Needless to say, the instructors worked quickly to get him off the mountain and to an emergency room.  Unfortunately, this cut their trip short, but they rejoined us on the last outing.

This weekend was our last trip as a class.  Winter storm “Triton” was bearing down on the Front Range, but we still headed to the high country.  With snow-packed roads and lots of accidents, we slowly made our way west.  Finally we arrived at the Second Creek trailhead between Berthoud Pass and Winter Park with a fresh layer of powder to greet us.  We all grabbed our gear and headed up the trail to about 11,000 feet, where we set up camp.  One of the instructors and I attempted to build a snow cave.  After 2 hours of work, we found a crack in our ceiling that made it unfit to stay in.  He used his back-up tent and I attempted another, much smaller snow cave.  Temperatures were supposed to dip to -8 F and a snow shelter is warmer than a tent, as the ambient air is a constant 32 F inside.  Snow is an excellent insulator and sound barrier.  After setting up camp, we went snowshoeing, ate some dinner, hung around and again, froze together before going to sleep.  I woke up around 6am and fired up the stove for some scrambled eggs, potatoes and bacon and some hot coffee.  Everyone else started slowly crawling out of their tents and we all hung around in the kitchen until we were thawed out enough to start packing.  It snowed almost the entire time, until just before we broke camp.  With blue skies trying to pierce the clouds, we finally saw the beautiful landscape that had surrounded us all night.  Denver only saw half of the snow that was predicted, but we had a fun hike down in about 12 inches of fresh powder.

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Winter Road Trip

Love a little road trippin’….we took a day trip on I-70 to enjoy the snow and winter views.  We shopped at the Minturn Winter Market, warmed up at Crazy Mountin Brewery, and took a stroll around Officer’s Gulch Pond.  Here is our day in pictures….

Snowshoeing, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Sunday seemed like the perfect day for a hike, so we drove 20 miles to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We went to the visitor’s center and looked around and I asked the ranger if they could suggest a good day hike that would allow for some snowshoeing. She suggested Horseshoe Trail. It was a moderate 3.5 mile hike with a starting elevation of 8,140 feet.  We arrived at the trailhead and Furry B was ready to lead the way. K and I got our gear ready and decided to start with micro spikes as the trail looked like packed snow and ice. We took off up the trail with temps in the 40’s and winds at 15-20MPH. We made our way up and were very glad we had the spikes. I don’t think furry B had any issues… The cool weather and snow gives him a burst of energy that makes him look like a rabid dog.

Rapid Snow Dog

We stopped at a switchback and had some water, trail mix and jerky and enjoyed the scenery. As the trail changed from packed snow to powder, we decided to use our snowshoes. Continuing up the trail we reached an open meadow and the halfway mark, so we turned around and headed back down.  Horseshoe is a very popular trail, so we were glad that we had gotten an early start.  As we descended, we met several hikers and dogs heading up the trail eager to enjoy the snow and the views.




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It’s been over a week since Denver had a record breaking snow storm; but the proof still lingers outside.  Almost 18 inches of snow in Denver closed businesses, schools and even interstate highways!  But snow couldn’t stop us from taking a weekend roadtrip to the Mountains.  We explored Frisco & Breckenridge, tried some Rocky Mountain Oysters, visited a couple of local breweries and enjoyed the beautiful snowy scenery.

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Ski Day

Eldora Mountain Resort

Fresh Powder = Great Ski Day!

A day off work and lots of fresh snow in the mountains meant it is was time to ski.  So we woke up early, packed a lunch, and headed to the mountains.  This was our first time back to the slopes since my ski lesson a few weeks ago.  Fingers were crossed that I would remember at least a few of the techniques I had learned.  I’m not yet a pro…but I did have a few trick moves during the day, such as a complete 360 (accidental) turn when getting off the ski lift.  However, most of the day was a success and fun!

Take a peek and click here to view Eldora’s snow live on the Web Cam.

It started snowing around noon.

J spent the day getting reacquainted with snowboarding.

On the way home...

Steamboat Springs

“Well, when I was your age, I walked 4 miles…uphill…in the snow, just to get an elk loin steak….”

As most people do, the majority of our Christmas was spent eating…a lot of eating.  So, it was time to head out to Steamboat Springs and burn off a few of those festive calories.  Steamboat is a hip western ski town that has plenty of entertainment for the entire family.  Skiing, shopping, and relaxing in the hot springs are just a few activities that the town has to offer.

Just outside of Steamboat, there are lots of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling trails.  Snow levels in many parts of Colorado are currently about 30% lower than normal.  However, the Steamboat area has more snow than many of the neighboring ski towns, so it was a good choice for our day of snowshoeing.  We decided to spend our afternoon at the dog friendly trail, Fox Curve Loop.  It is just a few short miles from town on Rabbit Ears Pass/Buffalo Creek.  Fox Curve Loop is a 4 mile trail that provides some variable terrain…downhill, through the meadow, over the creek, up the mountain and through the woods.  There is no shortage of beautiful snowy scenery.  It was a fun and exhilarating hike, but at the finish line Furry B was ready to warm up from the breezy 28F temps.

At the hotel, the clerk was kind enough to provide a recommendation for dinner….Ore House at the Pine Grove.  We were the first diners in the door and ready to eat.  The Ore House is located in a 100 year old barn that was renovated in the 1970s and is full of western pictures and artifacts.  It is the oldest restaurant in town…and I’m guessing one of the busiest too.  In true western fashion, J ordered the peppercorn Elk Loin and I chose the Steak Bits.  All entrees include the salad bar, bread and cinnamon rolls (yes, cinnamon rolls!), and choice of potato – their specialty is the House Potato, which is shredded red potato rolled into a ball and fried, and then covered in a warm cheese sauce.  Trust me, order it!  This was one of the best dining experiences since arriving in Colorado.  The dinner was delicious…fresh salad, tender and flavorful steak, and the sides were divine.

However, the true test of restaurant greatness is of course dessert. At many restaurants desserts often look great, but the taste rarely lives up to their gourmet look.  So here it goes…Brownie Fudge Sundae please.  And then it arrives at the table…an extra large warm brownie (corner piece) covered in fudge sauce with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream garnishing this delicious ensemble.  Heaven on a plate and angels dancing on my tongue!

If you are ever in Steamboat Springs, Ore House at the Pine Grove is a must eat!!

Before saying our goodbyes to Steamboat, we drove downtown to visit F.M. Light & Sons clothing store.  Walking into the store, one takes a step back in time.  This historic store opened in 1905 and still uses many of the same display cases from when it originally opened.  Western clothing, boots, and Stetson hats fill the store.  Take a few minutes and read the fascinating story of this store’s humble beginnings: History of F.M. Light & Sons.

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