Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lime Creek Ski - 1.1.2015

When I bought my sled years ago, the first thing that I did was to pour over topo maps dreaming of sled skiing potential. Over the years we've explored the likes of Steamboat, Wolf Creek, and Crested Butte. Despite the iconic zones of North Shore, East Vail, Euphoria, and Black Lakes Ridge, we've neglected Vail Pass.

Almost ready to leave the trailhead.

Back in Colorado, and finally with plenty of light, the old crew reassembled. Ethan just back from Nepal, Jordan busy with the race team, and myself back from Alaska; basically all out of the loop.

Dropping into our first run.

Given our lack of knowledge about the snowpack, we wanted to avoid the deep instabilities lurking on north aspects. With easy sled access and a stable aspect, I settled on Lime Creek, halfway between Redcliff and I-70.

Photo: Jordan Scheremeta

Sled skiing is supposed to be easier than skinning. Holding on for dear life behind Jordan's sled, I could only dream of the quiet skin track over the screaming engine and my burning quads, hip flexors, and forearms.

At the bottom, getting ready for another lap.

After what seemed like forever, Jordan stopped for a break, giving Ethan and I a chance to collapse and attempt to recover. One more burst of burning muscles and pounding ears brought us to the top of our intended zone.

Exploring new terrain is great, you trade the certainty of success for the heightened awareness of a new experience.

Photo: Jordan Scheremeta

Leaving the sled behind and skiing into the trees brought the tickle and slight trepidation of the unknown. Descending from one ecosystem to the next, the trees changed from pines to open and pillowy aspen glades.

27 months off snow, and back with a vengeance.

With a successful first lap in the books, a routine began: one of us would drive the sled back down while the other two raced it.

See that scarf? In 2007 it delayed a slopestyle comp when it deployed mid trick on the landing of a jump.

The day was going well, until arriving at the bottom of our fifth run, Ethan and the sled were nowhere to be found. Jordan and I could only guess what kind of disaster might have befallen Ethan, and decided to pretend everything was fine and just wait.

Eventually we gave up on hope, and with visions of flaming snowmobiles started skinning back up the road. Fortunately, Ethan soon came happily riding down the road excited to recount his encounter with a tree well.

Tree wells and sledding, can you have one without the other?

I certainly remember that sinking sensation of getting my sled really stuck, feeling doomed and alone, and not knowing what to do. The time Erik and I left my sled on the far side of Jones Pass for days comes to mind. I'm sure Ethan had a blast digging the sled out..

Photo: Jordan Scheremeta

At this point darkness was quickly falling and we headed for home, pulling up to the car as the snow of the next storm started to fall around us.

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