Tag Archives: backcountry skiing

Skiing Triple Digits: Days 62-66, Backyard | Slackcountry | Mountain

On Days 62-66 of the Triple Digits Quest, I flirted with the idea of getting in backcountry skiing shape, which meant that I skinned up Meadow Mountain with my dog Kai and realized that it’s been a while since I’ve been in that kind of shape. And then I just retreated back to a mountain with ski lifts and trails groomed for downhill skiing…

Day 62: Sunday, February 9
Vail, and the Minturn Mile

Skied with Antony at Vail and then skied the Minturn Mile to the saloon.

day 62-feb 9

Day 63: Monday, February 10
Meadow Mountain

Skinned up Meadow Mountain and skied down with Kai.

day 63-feb 10

Day 64: Wednesday, February 12
Vail, Level II Training Day

Worked on teaching progressions with amazing trainer Greg Kelly.

day 64-feb 12

Day 65: Friday, February 14

Taught skiing at Vail.

day 65-feb 14

Day 66: Saturday, February 15

Taught skiing at Vail.

day 66-feb 15

Want more backstory?
Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest


Skiing Triple Digits: Days 49-55, Vail and Local Backcountry

On Days 49-55 of my Skiing Triple Digits Quest, I skied a few days at Vail, and I also got outside for a few local backcountry and slackcountry adventures with friends and dogs. Here’s the breakdown:

Day 49: Saturday, January 18

Cruising through Porcupine Ally on Vail Mountain:

Day 49-Jan 18

Day 50: Sunday, January 19
Vail…and evening hike-ski up Lake Creek

Skied at Vail during the day and then went for a skin up Lake Creek with Kai to catch this beautiful sunset. I skied down the tight trail in the dark–with a headlamp, and with Kai running behind me. Charmed evening adventure.

Day 50-Jan 19

Day 51: Wednesday, January 22
Vail, Level II Training Day

Another certification training day at Vail. Besides loving skiing, I love the people I meet in the process–like Doug, here, who has also been training for his Pizza (PSIA) Level II cert.

day 51-jan 22

Day 52: Thursday, January 23
Backcountry Day with Kreston and Kelli

Great bluebird backcountry day out with Kreston and Kelli and their dog Henry, in the shadow of Pacific Peak.

day 52-jan 23

Day 53: Saturday, January 25

My trusty K2 skis at Eagle’s Nest.

day 53-jan 25

Day 54: Sunday, January 26

Skiing Vail’s Black Forest Race Arena with kids.

day 54-jan 26

Day 55: Tuesday, January 28
Backcountry-Slackcountry Day

A great day out with my tree-hugging gal-pal from Boulder.

day 55-jan 28

Want more backstory?
Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest


Skiing Triple Digits: Days 38-42, Vail-area Adventures

Days 38-42 of the Skiing Triple Digits Quest took me on a Lake Creek Backcountry adventure with Kelli and Val (Day 38); a PSIA Level II Certification training day on Vail Mountain (Day 39); and ski days on Vail Mountain (Days 40-42), with one incredible powder day I shared with my gal-pal Tarrie (on Day 42):

Day 38: Monday, January 6
Lake Creek Backcountry

Jan 6 trail

Hiking and skiing in the Lake Creek area with Kelli, Val, and the dogs…

Jan 6

Day 39: Wednesday, January 8
Vail, Level II Training Day

Day 40: Thursday, January 9

Day 41: Friday, January 10

Skiing in some pretty crappy conditions on Vail Mountain…

Jan 10

Day 42: Saturday, January 11

Amazing powder day skiing with Tarrie…

Jan 11

Super bright afternoon…so bright that I couldn’t see the screen on my phone, so I returned with several hilarious accidental selfies, like this one:

Jan 11 selfie1
Want more backstory?
Read about the quest here:

Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest

Skiing Triple Digits: Days 6-9, Backcountry Beginnings

Day 8-crestonDays 6-9 of the triple digits skiing quest involved two backcountry days, one slack-country day, and one resort opening. These have been my best ski days so far…for the friends I shared them with and, of course, for the fresh Thanksgiving powder.

Day 6: Skin up Paulie’s Plunge, ski down Cinch at Beaver Creek

I met up with my gal-pal Tarrie for this evening skin up to Beaver Creek from the Eagle-Vail trail, and Kai came along for some off-leash adventure. We skied from the top of Paulie’s down Cinch  into Beaver Creek village on some really rough track pack and then had drinks at the Coyote Cafe. Great vibe–World Cup crowd all packed in, gearing up for Raptor and Birds of Prey.

Day 7: Opening Day at Beaver Creek

I took a writing break to ski for a few hours with Antony at Beaver Creek for the season opener. Early-season-excellent snow in Rose Bowl, blue skies, light-fluffy stuff up high. Yee-haw! Happy day.

Day 8: Thanksgiving skiing on Uneva Peak (12,552)

Set off early on Thanksgiving morning with Bill, Kelly, and Kreston (above) to ski Uneva Peak. We parked at Vail Pass (10,662) and started skinning up the nearest trailhead on the north/east side of I-70. Kelly and Kreston brought along two dogs, including Otto, a gorgeous Malamute who belongs to a friend of theirs:

Day 8-otto

We skinned up to the summit of Uneva and checked things out. We decided to ski the east-facing bowl down to the lake, which was surprisingly good skiing! Kelly’s on her way down here:

Day 8-uneeva lines

We then skinned all the way back up to the summit ridge in order to ski back to our car, but because we felt some settling as we were skinning back up the bowl we skied down, we quickly changed our course and chose instead to ascend up a steep ridge, slick with sugary snow and icy rocks. We then had a little Thanksgiving celebration with sausage, cheese, crackers, and champagne. I like how this crew gets after it and knows how to celebrate, too!

Day 9: Resolution Mountain (11,911) and the Fowler-Hilliard Hut

The next morning, Tammy, Kai, and I set off from the freezing-cold Pando parking area (9,200) near Camp Hale in order to visit my friends from Boulder who had rented out the Fowler-Hilliard hut for a Thanksgiving hut trip. The adventure began pretty quickly out of the parking lot, as we needed to find a good place to cross the river in order to avoid adding an extra mile to our trip. We decided to trust a solid-looking beaver dam, but the crossing was delicate, and Kai (poor dog) was shaking as he followed us across. After a physical ascent, we stood on the summit of Resolution Mountain, Tammy here enjoying the blue skies:

Day 9-tammy on resolution

We took in the gorgeous mountain views and looked down on the hut where my friends were staying:

Day 9-view from resolution

Before we went over to the hut, however, we skied down a soft, buttery meadow until we hit treeline, and then we put back on our skins and hiked over to the hut. Some of the hut-trippers were on their way out for an exploratory hike:

day 9-hut hikers

Luckily, when we arrived, my friend Cathy was just heating up Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, so Tammy and I got to share in the lunchtime feast!

With full bellies, we hung out on the porch of the hut with everyone…

Day 9-hut hanging out

…until it was finally time for us to hike back up to the ridge and then rip off our skins for a full-on rodeo ski back out to the car. The beaver dam was much more tenuous this time, as the sun had softened the snow and ice–I think I was shaking as much as Kai was when I delicately slid my skis across. So…that’s it for Days 6-9!

Want more backstory? Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest

Skiing Triple Digits: Opening Days, 1-5

My skiing triple digits quest started on November 17, 2013, a week before Vail Mountain opened for the season. We had a big dump of snow, so the quest began:

Day 1: Skin and Ski Vail Mountain
I met my friend Tammy early in the morning at one of our secret parking places in Vail, and we suited up. In our lightweight-Dynafit-geek-race gear, we set off from Lionshead to skin up to Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain. We had to weave in and out of snow-making machines, and it was really crappy weather. Hence, no photographs. The ski down from Eagle’s Nest was also pretty crappy: breakable, variable snow. But that was it: Day 1. Gear sorted, legs warmed up.

Day 2:Downhill Ski Vail Mountain Opening Day

Day 2

On Day 2, I joined the masses and skied opening day at Vail Mountain. Low visibility, icy groomers, and not much snow. But…hey, sliding down snow slopes is fun, or I wouldn’t be doing it. I rode the gondola to warm up…check out the weeds!

Day 3: Double Duty, Backcountry Skin up Paulie’s and Downhill Ski at Vail

Day 3-1

Paulie’s Plunge is one of my favorite trails in the area. In the summer, it’s a nice mountain biking trail, and in the winter, it’s possible to skin up it and pop out on Cinch, a groomed ski trail at Beaver Creek. Paulie’s has become one of my comfort, go-to trails. It’s super quiet and beautiful, a forest full of aspen and pine trees.

Day 3-Tammy

Backcountry gal pal Tammy, above, joined me along the skin up Paulie’s, along with my dog Kai, a boxer-lab mix. Once we reached Cinch, we realized that things up high had been groomed, so we continued to the top of Beaver Creek’s Centennial lift and skied by ourselves down wide-open groomed trails, Kai running behind. Beaver Creek wasn’t open yet, so we had the mountain to ourselves.

Day 3 Blue Sky Vail

After a quick hot chocolate in Beaver Creek village, Tammy and I drove over to Vail and skied groomers for the afternoon. Superstar Vail blue-sky day.

Day 4: Downhill Skiing Vail Mountain w/ my man Antony

On Triple Digits Day 4, Antony and I went out for some downhill ski action on Vail Mountain.

Day 4 w Antony McCoy

Antony tore his ACL in March, and this day was his first back on skis. We skied some easy groomers, and he carved his first turns on that new, bomber cadaver tendon of his.

Day 5: Downhill Skiing Vail Mountain

On Day 5, I got up early and did all of my writing work for the day so that I could take off and ski in the late afternoon. It was basically a groomers day…no recent snow, dirt showing on the opposite side of the valley. I managed to cruise around on all of the Chair 2 groomers and came home from dinner, feeling happy, a bit more balanced with five days in my ski boots!

Day 5 Vail

Want more backstory? Read about the quest here:
Skiing Triple Digits: The Quest

Survival Stove: Required

In the spring of 2011, my friend Rich and I entered the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, a backcountry ski race from Crested Butte to Aspen, Colorado. This race began at midnight in Crested Butte and covered 40 miles of gnarly, mountainous terrain–mostly at night and in the freezing cold.

elk 1

We packed our backpacks carefully before the race…

elk 2

…making sure that we had all of our required gear, which included our choice of a survival stove. We chose to carry the Esbit® Folding Pocket Stove because it’s a superlight stove, and it’s easy to use in an emergency. We hoped that we wouldn’t have a type of reason to use the stove, but we had to carry it, nonetheless.

elk 3

At the starting line, my backpack didn’t feel very heavy at all, even though I wouldn’t say that it was superlight, either. The race organizers published a list of required gear months in advance, and they checked our backpacks the day before the race to make sure that we had all of the items. Disqualification can result at the end of the race if participants fail to carry the required items for the full duration of the event.

elk 4

So, like all of the other participants at the starting line, our backpacks contained a stove, a sleeping pad, a shovel, an emergency blanket, and a bivouac sac, among other items. We wore avalanche transceivers and carried avalanche probes.

elk 5

Completing the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse was one of the most brutal, physically challenging things I’ve ever done. We skied through the night and into the next afternoon, but we were still smiles here at the finish line.

Want to know more about survival stoves?
Read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:
“Gear Overview: Survival Stoves”

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

Winter Food and Backcountry Fun

gothicGood food adds a lot of fun to backcountry adventures. Sure…good friends and good conditions are essential…but without adequate food, um–let’s face it–I get hangry (that’s being so hungry that I’m angry; hence: hangry). I notice that if I have good, healthy snacks easily available on long hikes and ski tours, I usually avoid getting to this point. I just wrote an article for the About.com Survival Skills website called “Cold-Weather Survival Snacks: Lightweight but Loaded.” You can usually find me with at least several of the items I wrote about stuffed into my pockets: nuts, seeds, dried fruit, jerky, or PBJ rolls. But snacks are snacks, and if I’ve eaten enough good snacks and had enough water to drink en route, I don’t usually arrive at a destination hangry…but I’m always happy to pitch in and get a good backcountry hut meal going.

One of my most memorable hut trip meals was the one a group of us carried in to the Gothic hut near Crested Butte. It was a friend’s birthday, and we had our backpacks stuffed for the occasion.

gothic hut

For breakfast, we had the most amazingly gut-busting concoction with ingredients including egg beaters, tater tots, bacon, and cheese. It all started with Deb cooking up the egg beaters:

hut food 1

Then, we layered the tots on the bottom, eggs, bacon, and cheese on the top:

hut food 2

After a while in the oven, the thing was a cheesy-bacony-yummy mix:

hut food 3

On this breakfast, we could have hiked and skied for a week straight, but it at least got the birthday boy and a few of us to the top of Belle Vue for a nice powder ski down back to the front door.

bill on belle vue
Final advice: Forget the bacon, eggs, and cheese…unless you’re going on a hut trip.

For more nutritious cold-weather snacks, see my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:
“Cold-Weather Survival Snacks: Lightweight but Loaded”
When you’re out for extended periods of time in the cold weather, it’s important to think of food as fuel. But you don’t want your backpack to be as heavy as a brick, as carrying a heavy load will make you need even more fuel to help keep you going…click here to continue reading

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.