Words: Allison Perry
Images: Allison Perry, Matt Weldon, Cody MacDonald
In Telluride there are those of us who lament the end of mountain biking season as we watch orange and yellow leaves pepper the landscape, and those of us who frantically dig our skis out of the garage the moment the first dusting of snow graces the high peaks, relegating our bikes to the corner or the rack, where they will wait, almost forgotten, until it’s summer once again.
I count myself among the latter. All my skis are rock skis, my skis and boots begin and end every season covered in mud, and I am always trying to find people who are willing to risk a few core shots to both skis and body to make slow, cautious turns in the backcountry well before the resort opens.
Why? Because early season skiing is awesome. Sure you can’t rip huge lines at Mach 12, but that feeling of being on snow again, getting the muscles working and feeling that flow spread through your body is unbeatable. It’s rarely very cold, and there’s never any pressure to push it too hard or take too many risks.
The past couple of seasons, however, I’ve become accustomed to hearing things like “It’s way too early to ski, you’re crazy” and “Wow, what a great way to break your femur” when looking to recruit partners to go touring in October and November.
This year however, I have finally found people who are just as stoked as I am to venture back into the snow. And they all seem to have one thing in common: they work for BootDoctors.
For example, all I heard when I asked DeAnne Gabriel (who you’ll find wrenching on fat bikes and making your XC skis run like a dream all winter at Bootdoctor’s Main Street location) if she wanted to go try to find some powder was “YES! YAY!”
DeAnne and I, along with another friend, checked out Jane’s in Ophir with no expectations other than being outside all day. Did we get some good turns? Sure. Did we have to ski through a whole lot of bony crap and heavy snow? Yep. Did every single one of us take at least one digger? You bet your ass.
But our catchphrase for the day rang true throughout: “Being on skis is better than not being on skis”, long after we moved beyond the good snow up top and had to slog through a rock-filled obstacle course to get back to the road.
Just days later, I was thrilled when I was invited to go along with a whole crew of BootDoctors’ dudes to shred Red Mountain Pass. On Saturday morning at 6:30am, Matt Weldon, Chap Chapman, Cody McDonald, Davis Shamburger, a guy named Gary and myself headed towards Silverton not knowing what we might find.
As the token girl of the group I briefly wondered whether I was biting off more than I could chew, but those worries quickly vanished when we started laying our skin track and I realized these guys were out for the same reason I was: to enjoy hanging out with friends and being on skis again.
The trail we broke was quite steep, heart rates rose quickly, and my glutes started singing to me far earlier than I anticipated. However, morale remained high and the mood remained mellow even when we were forced to boot pack for a stint after the rocky side-hilling and downed-log avoidance got too sketchy. The mood didn’t sour even after one of our crew suffered a binding malfunction that could have ended his tour.
We were treated to some relatively smooth pow up at the top, but as tends to happen early season, we quickly found ourselves in survival-ski mode, dodging rocks and logs as we lost elevation. Although things got a little tedious, especially when the pitch took a turn for the steeper, everyone stayed positive and happy and no one got wadded up.
I will note here too, ladies, that not a single one of them was too hard on the eyes. Don’t be too jealous.
I guess what early season skiing boils down to is this: the point (at least for me) is not to crush sick lines, or ski as fast as you can: it’s to get outside, enjoy the surroundings, and, above all else, have fun, which necessarily includes being safe and prudent. If your group sucks, or is in it for the wrong reasons, you’re gonna have a bad time. I’ve had the best of company, and therefore the best start to the ski season I can remember despite the fact the skiing has generally consisted of eight good turns, followed by survival skiing, profuse sweating, a couple of tumbles and core shots you can feel in your bones.
We’ve got more snow in the forecast this week, and I know who I’m going to be hounding for some turns if Ullr delivers.