Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Yurt Trip in Colorado - Getting away from it all

Having never been backcountry skiing before, I wasn’t entirely sure of what I had gotten myself into with an acceptance of an offer to join my friends on a Yurt trip in Colorado. I had no avalanche training and had only watched people make tele-turns at Snowbird, but I figured it couldn’t possibly be that difficult. While the area surrounding the Yurt was avalanche free during our stay, and I quickly learned to find buried beacons, I was quite mistaken about tele-skiing itself. I’m definitely going to practice at the ‘Bird and on day excursions before taking on something like this again. Still, it was awesome to be outside with absolutely no one else around and more powder than we could handle.

Our trip began at the Wolf Creek ski resort which was close to our Yurt. Blue skies, a slight breeze, and a few happy smiling spring breakers helped to offset the awkwardness I felt with a bulky pack and rented tele-skis. We quickly lost the crowds and found ourselves in a gorgeous winter wonderland. As a climber our trek in certainly left me with a much greater appreciation for those who strap on skins and hike up for their turns. Though the distance to the Yurt was not terribly far, I was completely exhausted by the time we arrived, and was extremely relieved to shimmy out of my pack and collapse on one of the beds. The Yurt was far more comfortable than I had expected, stocked with the amenities that you never think much of until you must go without. We got a fire started and were warm and cosy in no time. Having started fairly late, it was nearly dark by the time we arrived, so we decided to postponed our first turns for the morning.

We awoke to several inches of new snow with more coming down, and we excitedly set out to take advantage of it. Tomas and Lisa are quite experienced telemark skiers and had a fantastic time the first day, making some beautiful turns. Rob didn’t seem to trust dropping his knee and mostly opted to ski alpine style on his gear. I managed to spend most of my time trying to get back up out of the snow after face planting. It seemed that becoming accustomed to a free heel setup would take me a bit longer than I had anticipated. Despite these difficulties, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was determined to get a few “real” tele-turns before the time there ran out.

It snowed almost continually through our trip and we got some absolutely amazing skiing in. The snow kept coming down during our entire stay. All told, we got over two feet of snow over four days. It was absolutely amazing. As the snow got deeper, we moved to steeper slopes (always making sure to be cautious of any avalanche danger) and I finally discovered the meaning of “hero snow”. Everything seemed easier in waist deep powder.

Our trip was a total blast and I am definitely going to join everyone on next year's adventure. But this time I'll definitely train beforehand- no more face planting for this chick. If you’re looking for a fantastic winter backcountry trip- you should seriously consider checking out the Colorado or Utah Yurts.

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