My first winter in Boulder has been an exciting experience of arctic adventure for this southern Alabama boy – my first powder ski day, my first snow shoe hike, my first traction device peak and my first ice climbing trip! I can proudly say I got the full Rocky Mountain winter experience.
This winter I learned to ski for the first time in my life, buying the Vail Resorts 5 Mountain Epic season pass. Some friends took me on my first ski day at Arapahoe Basin resort early in the season, when only blue and black runs were open. Read: no bunny slopes or beginner green slopes. I flailed on the medium difficulty green runs for a while but quickly got the hang of. As the season comes to an end for the year I can proudly say I got a total of 11 days of skiing in, including the resorts Abasin, Keystone, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek and Eldora. I learned skiing quickly, too: our last trip out we spent the whole day on black and double black runs, tearing up moguls and some impressive (albeit dangerous) speeds.
Another new experience for me this winter was going hiking in snow shoes in the Rockies. We borrowed and rented snow shoes and in one day did 9.3 miles through deep snow up Andrews Tarn Trail, starting at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was fun, more exhausting than regular hiking, and beautiful to see the forrest tranquil, white, and frozen.
Another hike up Bear Peak, the highest point in Boulder county, gave my friend Ian and me a chance to try out our new snow and ice traction devices. They are easier to hike in than full fledge snow shoes and are better when the ice trail has already been partially flattened by other hikers.
The University of Colorado Alpine Club organized an ice climbing trip to Ouray ice park in southern Colorado. Its this crazy little town that sprays water every night in a small canyon to make tons of artificial ice to climb in. It hosts an internationally acclaimed ice climbing festival every year.
Our trip there was extremely fun. Imagine 30 young college climbers crammed into a 9 person lodge rental and the ensuing party. We spent two days actually climbing in the ice park, where I learned how to use crampons, mountaineering boots and ice axes. I didn’t lead any routes (most everyone did top rope) but I did practice placing ice screws. The trip also included a luxurious visit to the local hot springs.
What a winter.