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EL Nino - Ski safari plans - Need Help

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

OK, Since most everybody seems to prediciting a deluge in the southwest - I am planning a ski safari through

colorado and New Mexico.

 

I live in SF and love steeps. This will be a solo trip. I hoping I can rent an SUV at my starting point and will be

able to drop it off at the last point before I fly back to SF.

 

 

Here is what I am thinking so far - My main targets are Aspen, crested butte, telluride and Taos. (other than Telluride in a 

low snow year - havent skied others)

 

Option 1: If the direct flight from SF to Aspen is too expensive - then I could fly to Denver and ski Breck and then head to Aspen.

Not too keen on skiing Vail/BC - as i have skied it before and not too steep.

 

 

From Aspen - drive to Crested Butte  - how is the driving here. Will definitely watch weather forecast and would prefer to drive in 

non-stormy weather. Are there any closures I need to worry about. How quickly do the roads get cleared after a storm.Google maps 

says - Hwy 24, 50, via Gunnison. should I stick to that.

 

 

From CB to Telluride - google maps says - via gunnison, monstrose and placerville. Are there any closures I need to worry about. How quickly do the roads get cleared after a storm.

 

 

From CB to Taos - this is the part that I am most conerned about as Google maps says its a 6 hour drive. too long for me.  I am wondering If I should take a flight to Taos(santa Fe) from Telluride. 

 

 

In terms of timing - I am thinking of mid january or last week of february. Will Taos be fully open in January. 

 

Would appreciate any tips on logistics  - plane vs drive suggestions, route suggestions. My time is fairly flexible. 

 

Thx in advance

Marty

post #2 of 9

Aspen to CB.  You have to drive north from Aspen as Independence pass will be closed.  It is 273 miles from Aspen to Crested Butte in winter -- you drive right by Beaver Creek, so perhaps it is worth a stop just to break up the drive?  As an alternative, you might drive to Salida and ski Monarch on your way to CB.  The road will be ok unless it is really puking.  The high points are Monarch pass between Salida and Gunnison and Tennessee pass between Minturn and Leadville, but in general the roads are well plowed.

 

CB to Taos.  Another long drive.  Why not go a bit further and hit Telluride?  Good steeps at T-ride.  As an alternative, why not go to Silverton, or Wolf Creek?  If you are going to drive direct, then go back to Salida and down 285.  Much shorter and better roads.

 

There's no real efficient way to fly from Gunnison to Taos.  It'll take longer than to drive.

 

Mike


Edited by habacomike - 9/14/15 at 5:02pm
post #3 of 9

How long of a trip?   That's a lot of real estate to see in a week.

 

1. Fly direct to Aspen during the gathering and just stay there the whole time. We have three really good hills, a cat op and butt loads of BC.

 

2.  If you are set on the safari, fly into either DEN or ABQ and maybe shorten your itinerary.  Rentals will be much cheaper and your already driving so much, the extra's not going to make that much of a difference.

post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post
 

Aspen to CB.  You have to drive north from Aspen as Independence pass will be closed.  It is 273 miles from Aspen to Crested Butte in winter -- you drive right by Beaver Creek, so perhaps it is worth a stop just to break up the drive?  As an alternative, you might drive to Salida and ski Monarch on your way to CB.  The road will be ok unless it is really puking.  The high points are Monarch pass between Salida and Gunnison and Tennessee pass between Minturn and Leadville, but in general the roads are well plowed.

 

CB to Taos.  Another long drive.  Why not go a bit further and hit Telluride?  Good steeps at T-ride.  As an alternative, why not go to Silverton, or Wolf Creek?  If you are going to drive direct, then go back to Salida and down 285.  Much shorter and better roads.

 

There's no real efficient way to fly from Gunnison to Taos.  It'll take longer than to drive.

 

Mike

 

Fastest and best route from Aspen to CB (in WInter) is via McClure Pass (State Hwy 133) to Hotchkiss, and then State Hwy 92 to US 50, US 50 to Gunnison, and State Hwy 135 to Crested Butte. 203 miles. McClure pass is not a bad winter crossing, and most of the drive is high desert that is typically snow free. My Aspen-living brother skis CB a weekend each year and always takes this route.

 

BE WARNED that Google maps will suggest taking Kebler Pass (County Rd 12) to cut off about 100 miles of this trip. However, that pass is also usually closed in Winter- if it is open, it probably means shitty low-snow conditions on the mountain as well.

 

Ironically, Aspen and CB are roughly 20 air miles apart. A fairly popular Aspen activity in the summer is to Hike from Aspen to CB in a day using the ridgeline that starts from Aspen Highlands and runs almost the entire way to CB.

 

CB to Taos would be about 7 hours- and Aspen to Taos about 10. Unless one has like 3 weeks to do this, if I was starting from Aspen and wanting to head South, I would do either Aspen/Telluride/Silverton or Aspen/CB/Wolf Creek (maybe Monarch). I wouldn't stretch to Taos. 

post #5 of 9

I agree with others that unless you've got two weeks, you're ratio of road time to ski time is high esp. without driving partner.  I think in almost every case the last week of Feb will give you much better chances for open extreme terrain than mid-Jan.  From reputation, Crested Butte seems to be the most vulnerable with respect to getting renowned steeps open for any visit.  If you fly into Aspen that would seem to dictate an Aspen-Telluride-Taos route with return flight out of Albuquerque.  If you fly into Denver you could wait on picking exact resorts until close to travel date and pick those with best snow.  You could do Breck, Aspen, A-Basin for a great out and back steeps safari from Denver, but Denver would also be good approach for Crested Butte, Wolf Creek, and Taos with flight back from ABQ.   Caveat, I defer to other posters on best feasible winter routes in CO.

 

Or you could do like Shredhead says and just go only to Aspen for the early Feb gathering and get free guides with fun group on steepest terrain.

:Ott 

post #6 of 9

In terms of the rest of your trip, if you want to do it as suggested, here is my feedback.

 

Note that for quite a lot of this driving, you will be in remote, isolated areas. Make sure you have gasoline! From Aspen to Telluride, you will want to fill up in Carbondale as you won't hit another gas station until wither Somerset or possibly Hotchkiss. Gunnison-Saguache is the same way, as is a few other sections on the drive to Taos. Point is that you can't count on services in these areas, even in towns listed on the map. 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Marty View Post
 

 

From CB to Telluride - google maps says - via gunnison, monstrose and placerville. Are there any closures I need to worry about. How quickly do the roads get cleared after a storm.

 

 

From CB to Taos - this is the part that I am most conerned about as Google maps says its a 6 hour drive. too long for me.  I am wondering If I should take a flight to Taos(santa Fe) from Telluride. 

 

 

In terms of timing - I am thinking of mid january or last week of february. Will Taos be fully open in January. 

 

Would appreciate any tips on logistics  - plane vs drive suggestions, route suggestions. My time is fairly flexible. 

 

Thx in advance

Marty

 

CB to Telluride is an easy Drive. You have small hills at Cerro Summit (US 50) and Dallas Divide (State Hwy 62)- neither is substantial. The entire drive is dry valleys moving to desert and then back to mountains from Placerville to Telluride. Minimal snow and you can expect attentive snow removal. 

 

If you DO decide to add Silverton, note that the drive to Silverton from the North will likely scare the shit out of you. Red Mountain Pass is no joke.

 

 

 

CB to Taos- You would take State HWY 114 over Cochetopa Pass to get to Saguache. This road is open in Winter and is mild, but is a remote area and plows don't run from 7PM to 7AM, so don't venture onto this road if snow is falling. Assuming you aren't in the middle of a storm, Cochetopa is a milder drive with less snow than Monarch Pass. From there, you can take US 285 to Tres Piedras and US 64 to Taos. IF you were doing this. I would recommend doing CB to Wolf Creek for a day or two, and THEN driving to Taos. 

 

 

The other permutation that could come up is Telluride to Taos. Lizard Head Pass South of Telluride would be a concern in snowy weather, but once you get over the pass, you transition to desert. From Durango, two routes are suggested- either CO 172/NM 511 by Navajo Reservoir to US 64, or Hwy 160 through Pagosa Springs, and then US 84 to US 64. The CO 172 route is desert and can be expected to get a lot less snow than US 160, which follows foothills between Durango and Pagosa and while generally ok, will pick up a lot more snow in storms. 

 

THE OTHER WRINKLE us US 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras. Officially this road is open in Winter. Reality is that they close this road when it snows, and then they do not plow it until the storm is long gone and they have cleared other priority roads. After a 60" storm in the Taos area last year, they didn't reopen this road until 9 days post-storm. I can also say from experience that the road closure IS NOT communicated via highway signs at detour points (like State Hwy 17 at Chama). When travelling to Taos last year, we didn't see signs communicating the road was still closed (1 week after snowfall) until we were a mile up US 64- we had to turn around and take US 84 to backtrack up US 285.

post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamesj View Post
 

I agree with others that unless you've got two weeks, you're ratio of road time to ski time is high.  I think in almost every case the last week of Feb will give you much better chances for open extreme terrain than mid-Jan.  From reputation, Crested Butte seems to be the most vulnerable with respect to getting renowned steeps open for any visit.  If you fly into Aspen that would seem to dictate an Aspen-Telluride-Taos route with return flight out of Albuquerque.  If you fly into Denver you could wait on picking exact resorts until close to travel date and pick those with best snow.  You could do Breck, Aspen, A-Basin for a great out and back steeps safari from Denver, but Denver would also be good approach for Crested Butte, Wolf Creek, and Taos with flight back from ABQ.   

 

Or you could do like Shredhead says and just go only to Aspen for the early Feb gathering and get free guides with fun group on steepest terrain.

 

 

For pretty much all of the resorts mentioned, you really can't do this trip too late in the season. All of these places have North facing steeps that don't get baked in sun- they don't even see sun on the signature terrain. The snowpack at these places peaks in the first week in April, which happens to be when most of these places close (due to lack of skiers, not conditions- conditions are at their peak).

 

Telluride, CB, and Taos have lots of technical terrain that is bony without lots of snow. This applies to the Aspen areas to a lesser degree. Even if the terrain gets open in Mid-Feb, that doesn't mean mortal skiers unfamilar with what they are getting into will be comfortable. For a first trip to these places, I would go late in the season. 

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Guys

 

Thank you very much. Great advice - just what I was hoping for. based on this  here is what I am thinking

 

- my original plan seems to be overly ambitious.

- move my trip to march to maximize terrain openings.

- I will  book a flight to Denver and a suv rental. keep options open. drive to A-basin, Breck, Aspen - as conditions dictate.

- If Taos or Telluride or CB is really going off - then consider a flight to ABQ or Montrose or Gunnison. It might be smarter for me to take the financial hit rather than

drive 6/7 hours on mountain roads which may or may not be closed.

 

 

Marty 

post #9 of 9
Quote:

For pretty much all of the resorts mentioned, you really can't do this trip too late in the season. All of these places have North facing steeps that don't get baked in sun- they don't even see sun on the signature terrain. The snowpack at these places peaks in the first week in April, which happens to be when most of these places close (due to lack of skiers, not conditions- conditions are at their peak).

 

Telluride, CB, and Taos have lots of technical terrain that is bony without lots of snow. This applies to the Aspen areas to a lesser degree. Even if the terrain gets open in Mid-Feb, that doesn't mean mortal skiers unfamilar with what they are getting into will be comfortable. For a first trip to these places, I would go late in the season. 

+10

 

I will state for at least the 4th time on these boards (and it surely won't be the last) that southern and western Colorado are NEUTRAL to El Nino. http://bestsnow.net/Neutral_areas.htm 

Wolf Creek 100% in strong El Nino months, 96% in strong La Nina months

Purgatory 98% in strong El Nino months, 96% in strong La Nina months

Telluride 105% in strong El Nino months, 107% in strong La Nina months

Telluride's record high season was during strong La Nina 2007-08.

 

Moving farther north:

Crested Butte 90% in strong El Nino months, 110% in strong La Nina months

Aspen 100% in strong El Nino months, 105% in strong La Nina months

Aspen and CB also had record high snowfall during strong La Nina 2007-08.

 

You have to go to NM to get even moderately favored by El Nino:

Taos 114% in strong El Nino months, 91% in strong La Nina months

 

Only SoCal, Arizona and the comparable latitudes in South America are strongly favored by El Nino with expectations in the range of 125% of average.  . 

 

 Therefore the El Nino does NOT change the equation in the slightest that this type of road trip should be in the later part of the season, mid-February to late March.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 9/15/15 at 4:50pm
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