Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Boulder on the crust

[Due to travel and family, this post was delayed by a couple of days; the skiing took place on Sunday the 28th.]

Hitting the crust (sans poles)

This blog operates under the assumption that crust skiing is awesome. Some of my best skis have been on the crust, especially in April on Maine in 2007, when a thick snowpack led to crust skiing on the trails in Farmington. Since then, I've looked for crust skiing where I could find it, whether it was in June in Colorado or on a golf course in Saint Paul. After a week, and two feet of snow, in Boulder, I finally was able to enjoy the crust in town, too.

The early morning view from the Chautauqua Trail Head.

Boulder has quite a bit of open space, especially along the Flatirons and other hills which rise, strikingly, out of the plains. While the terrain pretty quickly gets very steep (the Flatirons are known for their rock climbing), there are sections which aren't too steep to ski and, with the recent snows and northern exposure, had built up enough of a base that after warmer weather Saturday they'd crusted up. That's what I was heading for.
The view to the north (downtown Boulder included)

I biked the 300 foot hill up to the trailhead (a good warm-up) and hit the trails just as the sun was rising over the prairie—the views were splendid in the early morning light. I headed up along one of the hiking trails (these had been stomped and melted clean). The hill started out gradually but didn't take long to get steeper, and I was mostly V1ing. There were a few rocks and some brush to avoid, but the crust was firm and the purchase was good. I do quite like crust skiing.

Another view of the Flatirons.

I skied about a mile up he trail and in to a wooded area (less snow, but still good crust). In some shaded areas, my poles punched through the crust in to a couple of feet of snow, but for the most part my skis and poles stayed on top. At turn around time I began to retrace my tracks and realized that there was a reason I was huffing and puffing—what I'd come up was quite steep! My rock skis' edges leave something to be desired, and I was barely able to make a turn; I was definitely not carving up the slopes. But with a few well-placed turns, and a lot of skidding across the hill, I made it down to the base without incident, loaded up my bike, and shot downhill (300 feet) in to town.

And another view of Boulder and the surrounding hills. This is less than two miles from both Downtown Boulder and CU.

I was up later in the day and a the snow had melted back a good 200 yards; it might crust overnight; if not, it might be the end of crust skiing in Boulder (and I may have hit the sweet spot). I went on a trail run later in the day which was pretty mushy and then, after I'd gotten in to a narrow drainage with northern exposure, quite slippery. I ran up, but slowly walked and skidded my way down. It was in the 60s in town, but still winter up in the hills.
My tracks in the snow.

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