The fun, steep terrain of the Colorado backcountry was calling my name as soon as I moved here about two years ago. Resorts are fun and all, but the thought of earning my turns and being able to get away from everything for a little while is way more exciting to me. But I also know that it snows here a lot and the weather is always changing. These things don’t make it super easy to safely venture into the backcountry.
If there’s one thing I learned since moving here is that the Colorado backcountry is incredibly fickle. Fun, but fickle.
But, about a month ago, I rode for the first time in the backcountry. I was dying to do so all winter, but without the proper backcountry knowledge and skills, I decided to wait until the spring when the avy danger was considerably lower. I ventured out in Rocky Mountain National Park with a couple of friends who helped me along the way.
The morning spent in the backcountry was awesomely amazing. But that didn’t calm my anxiousness of being out there without as much knowledge as I wanted. I wanted to spend more time understanding the terrain and snow and more time practicing my beacon skills. However, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and the recent weather and avalanche conditions.
When we arrived in the park, it was still snowing from the night before, so we fresh snow had coated the mountains and trees. We were the second car to park in the Bear Lake lot (crazy, right!?) and we had first tracks the entire way. We skinned over to Dream Lake then picked out what would be our line in the Terrain Park Backcountry Lines.
Skinning wasn’t easy. It didn’t take me too long to find my stride as I went out a few times this winter, but learning how to kick turn and stay upright while traversing a super steep hill was a different story. As a snowboarder, these were skills I never acquired.
Since it was my first time, my friends were awesome and broke trail, pointed out areas in the terrain to avoid, and explained what I should be looking for along the way in terms of potential avy danger. They also shared their massive bag of bacon with me before we dropped in. What great friends I have.
Beneath the fresh snow was surprisingly awful snow. Super packed and icy due to the melting for the week prior and freezing the night before. The snow was heavy and wet, which made it fairly difficult to ride, but I knew that meant that avy danger was low and especially low where we were riding.
While you wouldn’t normally wish and hope for terrible snow, it certainly calmed my worries that day and allowed me to enjoy it even more.
I’m glad I was able to get out at least once this spring. It didn’t change my perspective of the backcountry at all, but instead, it verified everything for me. That I know I’m going to absolutely love it. And that I still need more practice with the beacon and better understanding of the terrain and snow before the winter rolls around. Hopefully I can get out once or twice more before all the sun cups start appearing.