Landscape: Slackcountry…with a Saloon

My gal pal Tarrie (at right) and I got out for a little slackcountry skiing last weekend—except that it wasn’t as slack as it could have been, since we put skins on our skis and hiked up 2,800-plus vertical feet on Vail Mountain before dropping out of bounds. Why didn’t we simply ride the lift up, as most other slackcountry skiers would have done? Well…Tarrie doesn’t have a Vail lift pass, and we thought that skinning for two and a half hours would be less painful than purchasing a $98 lift ticket. And it was, indeed, less painful than that.

We were lucky enough to have a characteristically Colorado bluebird day, so being on the mountain in those conditions was as it always is: pure bliss. We stopped in the Wildwood café at the top of Chair 3 to get warm and meet up with Sibylle, who—having taken a lift up to meet us—gets the slacker award for the day. We enjoyed views of the Mount of the Holy Cross (below) while we stuffed skins in our packs and headed for the backcountry gate.

Just west of the Game Creek lift, a gate opens up into a nice bowl that begins the descent from Vail Mountain all the way down into the town of Minturn…otherwise known as The Minturn Mile. The powder had morphed into mashed potatoes on this warm day, but Tarrie was still getting in some good tele turns on her way down:

Below this bowl, we traversed through some trees and rodeo-skied through a bumped-out gully before coming upon the beaver pond:

The pond wasn’t entirely covered, so our options were to jump a kicker over some open water…or to weave a way through. I have no shame in admitting that I chose to weave my way through.

The route takes a sharp left turn at this point and again offers some great rodeo skiing opportunities before the trail dead-ends on a side street at Minturn’s north end.

The trailhead happens to be walking distance from the Minturn Saloon, so of course we celebrated a beautiful day out in the mountains over drinks, chips, and salsa. And then we slacked back to the car that we had staged at the trailhead for our return journey to Vail.


The Minturn Saloon


5 responses to “Landscape: Slackcountry…with a Saloon

  1. Shawna Macnamara

    I’m in pain just thinking about it

  2. Hey , I wasn’t slacking ! I don’t own either telemark or AT gear, which makes it difficult to climb up! I do have xc (track ski), so will run around the Frisco nordic center tracks with you to prove I’m not totally lazy!

  3. Pingback: Fun Climbs Around The World » Minturn Mile, Vail’s backcountry skiing

  4. And BTW – in 1994 I climbed to above 7,000 meters (over 21,000 feet) on Shishapangma in Tibet on AT skis with skins and ski crampons. With the Austrian women’s expedition to Shishapangma.
    I don’t have those skis, borrowed the skins and crampons from the Austiran women

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