Friday, April 29, 2011

Jones Pass Sled Skiing - 4.28.2011

As seems to be the trend lately yesterday was again quite a show. Driving down 93 from Boulder my car overheated, which has never happened to it before, although I do have quite a bit of experience with overheated cars! We made it to Golden with the heat on full blast and the windows open. Once we started going slightly uphill up Clear Creek Canyon we quickly realized Sherman was quite ill and had Matt come pick us up. This was of course complicated by the snowmobile we were towing behind Sherman. Unfortunately Matt's car has a 1 7/8" hitch and my trailer needs a 2 inch hitch, so the drive to Idaho springs was done very slowly. In Idaho Springs we switched over to Matt's truck which required finding its hitch and moving our gear into another car a third time.

As we left Idaho Spring we heard that there had been a death at Jones Pass, and as we pulled up search and rescue was leaving. Assuming it had been an avalanche death we were especially careful yesterday. When we got back to Matt's we found out that it was actually a suicide, which was even more tragic than an avalanche death.

Initially we had hoped to build a jump to session with the sled, but all the snow was heavily wind affected, fine for skiing in but rather terrifying to land in. Matt and I did some exploring in the southern basin of Jones pass, found one really really awesome jump location, but were not comfortable with the large cornice hanging over it. Also, there was significant evidence of very recent large natural avalanche activity. Given the snow conditions and stability we decided to just lap some mellow 800 ft east facing bowls in the north basin. I'm proud to say the new ski rack works really well and that we did the trickiest tandem pow sledding we have done yet. Also, the trandem set up works quite well, but we weren't able to get up everything trandeming that we could tandeming. I think that the extra weight over the back just sinks the track too much in deeper/steeper snow.

New Ski Rack!!!!

Sled Skiing!!!!

 We never gained the ridges over the zone primarily because of our concerns with avy danger, and there are definitely limited ridge access points because of the large cornices over most of the ridge line, but I think there are 2 points that you may be able to gain the ridge on a sled which would add some incredible options to sled skiing there. Without that the options are pretty mediocre.

On a final note, I am blown away by how far the snowpack is away from a typical spring snowpack. There is several feet of unconsolidated snow sitting on top of the last sun crust, and much more in places. This is compounded with the fact that the snow down low is now starting to be significantly affected by the sun and warm spring temperatures, making the push to get into the alpine all the more tempting.


  1. I am looking to get prepared to sled ski next winter and have a couple questions. Do you have any communication with the skiers? What classes do you have or do you think you should? What equipment did you buy besides the sled and we are wanting to get a yamaha nytro. And any helpful maps/safety information? Thanks and this was a nice article.

  2. Sorry to take a bit to get back to you, and I appreciate your post. When skiing we use radios to communicate between the skiers and sledders when there is uncertainty about where both parties are going. However, that being said, if there is one way to make sled skiing inefficient it is to not have a fully developed plan and to not know where both the sled and skiers are planning on going beforehand. So, we try to practice good preparation before skiing lines, so we don't always use our radios. I have not taken any classes. I am fortunate enough to know quite a few people who sled who have been nice enough to take me out and show me the basics which has been very necessary. I would like to take a snowmobile safety course mainly because it would reduce my insurance rates for my snowmobile. In terms of equipment I bought a small, 1 place, tip trailer for 400$ which is really awesome. I tow it behind either a Jetta wagon or a Toyota truck. I am thinking about selling my Jetta and buying a small truck that I can build a small sled deck in the back of for next winter. Probably something just to the height of the wheel wells that I put storage space underneath. The sled came with a cover, which otherwise would be a very necessary purchase. I also bought some supplies to build a rack on the back of the sled (steel tubing, pads, and straps) which came to about 50$. Then of course there is the cost of oil (I use AMSOIL which is expensive, but is highly recommended by my friends), I also use STABIL fuel treatment to help the sled burn ethanol gas better. In terms of maps and helpful safety information, I have had a hard time finding maps geared towards sled - skiers as opposed to just recreational snowmobilers. I mainly use topo maps to plan our trips and well as information from other people in the community. My biggest suggestion on this front is that using winter roads is where sleds are an advantage over skinning. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.