My trip to Colorado last month was primarily to go downhill skiing, but we took a day off to try something different. We were staying with my friend Teddy's Uncle Rob who lives in Salida for a month each winter. Everyday he is out in the mountains downhill skiing, cross country skiing, show-shoeing, mountain biking or hiking. Rob encouraged us to Rent cross-country skis and join him for a morning ski trip. In the mountains about an hour away, we parked at the end of a small gravel road at St Elmo, an old mining ghost town. From there we followed a snowmobile trail before turning off onto a small hiking trail. It was lucky there had been some traffic on the trail through the winter, leaving only 10 inches of soft fresh snow on top of a well packed trail. If you left the trail you would immediately sink waist deep into the soft snow, even with the floatation of the skis. The adventure was lot of fun and very different from the xc skiing I've done around golf courses in Minnesota.
Our great fortunes for fresh snow in Colorado also meant we had a few blustery, snowy afternoons as the new snow fell. The cold snow, and blowing winds combined to form some epic beard-icicles in the bushy mountain-beards of many of the skiers on the mountain. While Teddy Wolff, a fellow Carleton alumnus and photographer, does not live in the mountains, but instead in urban DC, he was sporting a big mountain-beard that collected some epic icicles in the snow.
As I did last year, I took a trip out to Colorado to ski, relax, and make some new portfolio images. Flying into Denver, I met fellow Carleton College alum, Teddy Wolff. Teddy is also working on kicking off his photography career in the Washington DC area. We also met Teddy's cousin and hopped in a rental car to drive into the mountains. Teddy's retired uncle rents a townhome in Salida, southwest of Denver, and was gracious enough to host the three of us on our ski trip. We pulled into Salida just in time for a late dinner and a few hours of chatting. Fueled with eggs, toast, and hearty local bacon we made our way to the mountain for our first day of skiing. Monarch Mountain is just about 30 minutes outside and up a pass from Salida. The mountain base sits at 10,800ft with the summit just shy of 12,000ft. It was the three of ours first trip to Monarch, and for a "small local slope" the place blew us away. Our first day was a beautiful sunny day with smooth fast groomers that were just a blast. With no fresh snow for our second day, we decided to take a day off the slopes and explore the area around Salida, going for a short hike, finding a brewpub, and soaking for a few hours in hot spring. We spent our last three days in Salida hitting the slopes each day. Monarch was such a great deal for skiing we didn't feel bad to ski until only about mid afternoon and head back down to Salida as the afternoon wind would pick up.
We had two very different, but wonderful powder days for the 2nd half of our trip. Tuesday morning was sunny in Salida, but we could see the clouds smothering the tops of the mountains above town. As we made our way up to the mountain, the snow began to fall and accumulate on the trees. At the base of the slope about 3-4 inches of fresh snow were already on the ground, it was finally time to try playing among the trees. We found some great trees off of the Breezeway lift, but unfortunately the lift lived up to its name. By about noon the wind was picking up making it an exciting ride up the lift with fat skis catching the wind. Just as we were going to head back up and repeat our new favorite run, the staff closed the lift. With the wind swirling we called it an early day, but there was already 6 inches of fresh snow was on the ground from the storm and it was still steadily coming down. Having called the day early, we had extra time in the afternoon and went for another hotspring trip. Sitting in the hotspring with the snow coming down was utterly surreal, watching flakes begin to accumulate in everyone's hair. Our final ski day found us waking to bright blue skies and over a foot of fresh snow on the slopes. This was one of the best snow days I've ever had and great way to close out a trip.
I'm already planning to return next year.