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How to Backcountry Ski at Snowmass/Aspen?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I'm heading to Snowmass this Jan for 7 full days on the mountain with a bunch of friends from work and I'm trying to figure out how I can get 2 days of back country skiing in - proper off piste skiing.

My skiing level: I skiied all the doubles at Whistler last year and skied most everything at St Anton in Austria the year before. Been to Vail, Breck, A-Basin, Banff (Sunshine, LL) and Alta. I like challenging stuff and exploring new trails. I like the adventure part of skiing. Since I'm obviously a flat-lander, I dont get much time on the big mountains, but I'd like to go beyond the resort boundary lines, legally.

Me and another friend (who grew up in the French Alps) are looking to do this.

Since I dont have all the proper equipment (beacon, shovel, etc), can I rent these from the resort?

Is getting a guide the only safe way to go about this? Any recommendations?

Are there any markings out in the back country to give you general guidelines on how to navigate through there?

Would a local bear be willing to show me around the back country?

How does the mountain huts system work? I'd like to do an overnight trip. Even camping out on the snow. I have a friend who does a lot of winter mountaineering and could borrow her equipment.
post #2 of 16
A decent number of folks get themselves dead out there. Unless you have taken avy training and have appropriate equipment + skills, this is likely a bad idea without an appropriate guide or instructor - who will presumably deliver training & equipment.

If you google for "guide backcountry aspen" you'll see several results immediately. There's also the cat operation.
post #3 of 16
What spindrift said. And you should really buy your own beacon, at least -- they all work differently, and if you ever need to use it, you're not going to have time to fumble with the manual.
post #4 of 16
Also, consider that Colorado's continental snowpack is among the most dangerous in the country. Even if you had plenty of backcountry training, you would still probably want someone along with local knowledge of the snowpack.

Since you don't have any experience, you would be endangering the lives of any locals you went with. Going with a commercial guiding operation would be a much safer approach for everyone involved.

BTW, have you seen Finestone and Hodder's Ski and Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb? There are well over 100 double (and triple) blacks documented there (most of which aren't on the trail map). The next time you go back, you can start work on really skiing "all" of the doubles at WB .
post #5 of 16
Both Aspen Highlands and Snowmass have a bunch of controlled, hike to terrain that can feel pretty adventurous.

Aspen has a couple of guide services, I would probably use these guys.
http://www.aspenexpeditions.com/
Even with guides, you can still have fatalities.

The guy that runs the cat operation is a really good guy. Since it's owned by the ski co, he's not really concerned with paying bills like some operations. His philosophy is " if it's not good, we don't go."
post #6 of 16
1) The snow here is deadly. Without training there is a pretty likelihood that you'll die out there

2) If you really must go into the backcountry and you don't have the skills and equipment to survive a guide is better than nothing. There are good guides and they can likely get you in and out ok. (the guys at Aspen Expeditions are good)

3)There is some good inbounds terrain that you'll have to hike to access, check it out
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanx for the replies.
Ok, the hike to terrain should be adventurous enough for me, without getting in over my head.

Thanx for explaining the conditions of the snowpack in that area. Good to know.
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by geoffda View Post
BTW, have you seen Finestone and Hodder's Ski and Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb? There are well over 100 double (and triple) blacks documented there (most of which aren't on the trail map). The next time you go back, you can start work on really skiing "all" of the doubles at WB .
Haha, yeah, I should've said I've skied all the marked trails Nice to know there's more to ski in bounds.

With 4 mountains to ski at Snowmass, I'm sure 7 days will fly by
post #9 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamminSki View Post
Haha, yeah, I should've said I've skied all the marked trails Nice to know there's more to ski in bounds.

With 4 mountains to ski at Snowmass, I'm sure 7 days will fly by
What days are you going out? I will be out there first of the year for a while. Also if I were you I would do highlands bowl just about everyday from 11-2? I think thats when the free cat rides close at 2.
post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamminSki View Post
Thanx for the replies.
Ok, the hike to terrain should be adventurous enough for me, without getting in over my head.

Thanx for explaining the conditions of the snowpack in that area. Good to know.

Good Call!
post #11 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamminSki View Post
Thanx for the replies.
Ok, the hike to terrain should be adventurous enough for me, without getting in over my head.

Thanx for explaining the conditions of the snowpack in that area. Good to know.
You won't be dissappointed and you'll gbet plenty of great terrain to satisfy your backcountry urges. If you still have the bug after the trip, start taking avalanche classes and geting the right gear and then go out with some experienced backcountry skiers but wait awhile
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiNebraski View Post
What days are you going out? I will be out there first of the year for a while. Also if I were you I would do highlands bowl just about everyday from 11-2? I think thats when the free cat rides close at 2.
I'll be there the whole second week of Jan.

Good info about the Highlands.

Yeah, can people suggest where to ski at what times of the day around the whole Aspen/Snowmass area?

What are your favorite runs?

I have 7 days there. How should I split it up?
post #13 of 16
I could tell you some runs but to be honest if I were to post them on a public forum I'd be lying to you as I wouldn't want crowds on the great parts of the mountains. Unless you really want some park time you can safely skip Buttermilk, pretty boring, Snowmass is fun, ok lot's of fun. Highlands on a powder day is great especially after the hike
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamminSki View Post
I'm heading to Snowmass this Jan for 7 full days on the mountain with a bunch of friends from work and I'm trying to figure out how I can get 2 days of back country skiing in - proper off piste skiing.

My skiing level: I skiied all the doubles at Whistler last year and skied most everything at St Anton in Austria the year before. Been to Vail, Breck, A-Basin, Banff (Sunshine, LL) and Alta. I like challenging stuff and exploring new trails. I like the adventure part of skiing. Since I'm obviously a flat-lander, I dont get much time on the big mountains, but I'd like to go beyond the resort boundary lines, legally.

Me and another friend (who grew up in the French Alps) are looking to do this.

Since I dont have all the proper equipment (beacon, shovel, etc), can I rent these from the resort?

Is getting a guide the only safe way to go about this? Any recommendations?

Are there any markings out in the back country to give you general guidelines on how to navigate through there?

Would a local bear be willing to show me around the back country?

How does the mountain huts system work? I'd like to do an overnight trip. Even camping out on the snow. I have a friend who does a lot of winter mountaineering and could borrow her equipment.
Most of the points I was going to make were already covered, but I would just like to state again, please don't get yourself killed.

Renting a beacon/shovel/probe is really only for peace of mind, unless you've already practiced with them a good deal. You are just not going to be able to use them effectively when you need to if you haven't practiced.

Like was already said, the snowpack here is known to not be the most stable for long periods of time. I'm from here, have taken avy classes, and have skied a decent amount of back country in the last few years, and I'm still very cautious when it comes to skiing out of bounds in Colorado during midwinter. A lot of the easy access stuff right outside the resort's boundries has nasty terrain traps that can bury you very deeply.

There are however some more sheltered sidecountry shots here and there, that I think could be skied safely even without a beacon (not that I'm recomending it). However, these stashes get tracked out just about as quick as Highlands bowl, so they aren't really true backcountry.

As far as the huts go, give the 10th mountain hut office a call, and explain to them what you're looking for. There are a number of huts that you can get to without putting yourself in danger from avies. The skiing will be mellow low angle pow, but it will be safe and fun.

Hope that helps
post #15 of 16

Wildsnow

Lou Dawson's blog <wildsnow.com> is a must read. http://www.wildsnow.com/ Lou knows the Aspen area well and writes often about the "killer" snow pack. As you will see in Lou's archive, even guided hikers die. http://www.wildsnow.com/439/details-...ing-available/ The warnings above should be taken deadly seriously. Buy a beacon, read "Snow Sense", practice, take an avy course, ski with knowledgeable people who know the local conditions.

You will have plenty of of adventure on the mountains or just off them. I tell no secrets in saying that: Highlands has two amazing bowls that should take several days to explore (don't hike Highlands bowl (12,300 feet) until you have spent several days acclimating to the altitude); Snowmass has great stuff in the the cirque and in the woods off the Burn; Ajax has great trees to skier's hard right off the peak.



Have fun.
post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by JamminSki View Post
Yeah, can people suggest where to ski at what times of the day around the whole Aspen/Snowmass area?

Follow the sun. East facing slopes in the AM, west in the PM.
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