By Veronica Whitney, El Montaes
January turned out to be a stellar snow month so far with conditions that were a good deal better than last years. More than six feet of snow have fallen in the Aspen area and Sunlight Mountain in January; thats a lot of snow and it was added to a really good base that had been building slowly but consistently since early December.
So a few weeks ago, and after almost five consecutive days of snow, my husband Charlie and I headed to Snowmass, we targeted our favorite run there: Burnt Mountain. What made it an even more special day was that it was a Monday so when we finally skied down the Burnt Mountain Glades we never saw one person there, which reminded us of how this area resembles so much the backcountry. Aspen opened it to skiers last winter and I think it still has yet to be completely discovered because it is an amazing playground where you can keep finding powder stashes days after the last snow storm.
And this area delivered! Unlike hiking up the Highlands Bowl, you have a five minute boot pack from the Elk Camp chairlift. When you reach the top of the hike there are many options, the first one is Long Shot, the longest trail in Snowmass (and maybe Aspen) its about 5 miles. But if you stay a little to the right theres a gate that will open to you a whole new world there: Burnt Mountain. Of course, even there you have a collection of lines to choose from and dont get too anxious because you cant go wrong with any of them. I like the closest line to the rope on the left which is open and has some great rolls or to skiers right all the way to the end of the ski boundary where you can really ski between burnt trees. It is a very special place. From that beautiful open area you will drop to amazing glade skiing and more openings and more glade skiing. That Monday it was at least two feet of powder. Just that one run makes your whole day!
The only thing Im not crazy about is the traverse to get back to the Long Shot trail that ends up dropping you at the base of Two Creeks. But then this is how backcountry skiing is, sometimes you have to hike and push to get to the best places and this is part of the whole experience, and is amazing that one can live it in a resort area. So if you havent been there, dont miss it this season while its still one of Aspens best kept secrets.
So back to describing skiing conditions now, this is how I remember the winters in Colorado. Coming from Vermont where one day it snows and the other one it rains and it is 50 degrees, Colorado snow seemed something I had never experienced before. Inches and inches of super light snow. Trails that never seemed to end, glade skiing between pines or aspens. And even though I worked and couldnt ski all the time, it always seemed I skied on a powder day at least twice a week.
In the past four years I felt we didnt get that much snow, but now I look at my backyard and I see my kiwi sculpture on the deck almost buried in snow. Also the snow pack on my street hasnt melted since early December! Another sign of good conditions. Now, hope it stays that way till April!