Friday, February 22, 2013

Buffalo Pass Skiing - February 2013

After several years hearing stories of the deep and stable snowpack north of Steamboat, Rachel and I spent several days earlier this winter starting to explore the zone. But, we just touched the tip of the iceberg, and since then I've wanted to go deeper. Last weekend, Jordan, Conor and I headed west from the Front Range, while Nick drove north from Crested Butte.

Like the rest of the state, the Yampa River Basin snowpack is hurting this year, at about 70% of average. I'll start with a few frame grabs of what a bad year looks like here:

With three days ahead of us I, was excited to explore, get lost, suffer, and enjoy. We spent the first day very successfully accomplishing the first three items.

After a day spent digging out sleds, breaking trail, and skiing bad snow, we knew just how much good snow there was for us to find the next day.

Day two started with mini golf through a pillow/cliff zone:

Photo: Nick Matisse


Yep, thats deep:


still deep...

After thoroughly skiing out the zone we headed deeper:

Photo: Nick Matisse

Conor on our last run of the day:

Photo: Nick Matisse

Waking up Monday morning the cold that I had had the previous two days had progressed to the point where I could barely stand; but with 9 inches of new snow reported at the ski area we knew Buff Pass would be even deeper. There was no way Nick was going to let us miss a day like this. A bottle of DayQuil later and we were sledding through untouched snow towards a zone we had seen the day before.

Nick in the midst of a rad triple pillow line:


Floating down a steep pitch:

Photo: Nick Matisse


For the last run of the day we lined up a steep pillow zone; I dropped first, looking up at Nick who I assumed would be skipping off the pillows below him.

But, he had other plans, and cleared the whole stack:

And what weekend would be complete without a little sledding. 5 PM, President's Day:

Monday through Nick's eyes:

Deep snow, no wind, and few people, I can't wait to go back - this was a Top 10 trip!


  1. Dude thanks for posting. Court and I are going to try to get up there in March sometime. Did a great trip to butler gulch today.

    Hey, when you take photos in snow what kinda equipment are you using? For the B&Ws do you ever use a colored filter to increase contrast? I'm usually just snapping photos on my phone, but i'm debating trying to bring some yellow cellophane and shooting some B&W shots through it to see how they turn out.

    1. Loved that pic of you guys sleeping in the car Mike, looked like a great day at Butler! I shoot w/ a GoPro, and a point and shoot w/ a fair amount of manual control; Nick shoots with a 5D. I've never used a colored filter, but increasing contrast on a gray day would be huge (which is obviously why there is so much B&W in the first place). My main concern would be a reduction in light reaching the sensor with a filter, my camera already struggles enough keeping up a reasonable shutter speed in low-light gray bird conditions. Let me know when you try it out!

  2. one more shredit from the trip...