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St Vrain Mountain- Front Range, CO

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Posted by skistache on 1/22/24 9:02am

I guess I took for granted how great the PNW is for touring after moving to Colorado- gone is that stable snowpack, couloirs filled to the brim with deep, safe snow, and thick, warm air- say hello to rocks, biting wind, energy-sapping climbs at elevations not seen on the West Coast off of a volcano, and a now-useless mental map of the Snoqualmie pass region. Oh, and the pervasive Deep Persistent Slab that seems to be a winterlong feature in the Rockies. 

Regardless, I've been trying to stretch the legs a little bit, and while hot laps at Berthoud pass are fine, I have been itching to get out for a real tour. A little digging pointed me at St Vrain mountain- a peak just south of Rocky Mountain National park, with a protected East face and gentle glades. Gambling on coverage from the latest storm, as well as a forecast promising moderate temperatures and no wind, I headed out on the 21st, finding myself in good company at the trailhead. 

The approach to St Vrain is old forest service road, which was packed resort-groomer-firm by various ski traffic, making for an easy ascent. I followed skin tracks up to the main East face bowl, which sits at a nice 15-25 degree angle. In an abundance of caution, I still chose not to climb the entire bowl, and skirted the edge about halfway up to around 11,500ft elevation, wary of contoured, wind-drifted snow. 

The ski down was great! Nothing particularly thrilling, with easy turns down the main bowl with a little loose powder on top of windblown crust, and a ski through well-tracked glades that reminded me of home- warm storm snow settling down in above-freezing temps, but still light enough to easily push. Maybe the highlight of this ski was that it was very nearly a ski-out return track- a 2.5 mile straight shot on a perfectly graded roadbed with no pole-pushing, skating, or transitions required. 

I guess the moral of the story here is that there is always good skiing to be had- each region presents unique challenges, whether safety, weather, or access, but with a little creativity and good timing, you can always get out for a fun, safe day. Now, just 10 weeks until primetime spring season, and the big objectives can start getting crossed off!


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2024-01-22 17:02:32