This past weekend we ventured to Aspen for our second trip this winter season. It is logical to think that we would have done something different from our earlier trip there, but we ended up doing pretty much the same thing. That being the case, this post will be much shorter than that of our prior trip.
Day 1 ~ We left early Friday morning and parked at Henry Stein Park. Our intention was to cross-country ski on the Rio Grande Trail heading toward Basalt. Unfortunately, after only skiing about 1.5 miles, the snow was completely melted. While that had prematurely ended our travels any further, it did not deter us from seeking elsewhere to ski.
We headed over to the North Star Preserve. The looped trail on the preserve is about 1.5 miles around. It is a very level area, which makes it an ideal place for beginners and/or for those looking to ski a few miles with ease. The snow was very soft from the warm temperatures, and I found it easier to ski outside of the tracks than in the skating lane. We skied the loop twice and decided to call it a day, as the sudden wind possessed a cruel bite. We skied a total of 6.25 miles (between the two locations).
Day 2 ~ When we drove into the parking area at the winter gate closure of Independence Pass, there were only two other vehicles, which had surprised us since it was a beautiful Saturday morning. But we didn’t ponder that for very long before we began making our way up the road. On our prior trip, the road was completely torn up from snowmobile tracks, and snow was cold and hard. This time, however, the snowmobile tracks were fairly well snow-covered and the snow was very soft. Snowshoe, boot, puppy, and ski tracks were abundant everywhere.
For the first 2.25 miles, we skied in existing tracks. But once we had reached Weller Lake Trailhead we cut our own tracks within the snow-covered snowmobile tracks, which we did for a very specific reason. The temperature was in the 40’s, and while it was fabulous skiing outside in the beautiful, warm weather, the spring weather can present some challenges for Nordic skiers.
The higher we climbed, the stickier the snow became. Cutting a track through the snow-covered snowmobile tracks had helped, to a small degree, with the snow sticking to our skis (it was better than cutting through fresh snow). But we finally reached a point where we didn’t want to continue because the snow was sticking to the bottom of our skis like massive heavy bricks. And when that happens, there isn’t anything you can do. On our last trip, we had skied 5 miles up the road. This time, we cut it short at 4.5 miles simply due to the snow conditions.
On the way up, we also heard the classic sounds of spring in the mountains: cracking icecicles. Every time I heard it, I jumped and completely froze, gazing up at the rock wall beside me to locate the source of the sound. Larry would yell, “Don’t stop, Stella. Keep going!” So I willed my body out of the stupor to bolt past it as fast as I could. The tall rock structures along the road had long icicles, which could break at any given moment and plunk you in the head.
Turning around to ski back down the road is normally fun. Last time, we flew down the road back to the Tahoe. This time, however, was a different situation. In the time that we had climbed up the road, the snow had continued to soften in the areas exposed to the sun, transforming it from a sticky clump to a slushy mess. And if you have ever skied on slushy snow, you know the challenge I am referring to. It slows you down significantly and causes your skis go anywhere and everywhere all at once.
Once we had reached the Tahoe, the parking area was completely packed! It was about 3:30 p.m. and many people were just starting their journey. It is unclear how far they intended to go that late in the day. Most of the people heading out had back-country Alpine skis, so we suspect they may have been heading to the Weller Lake Trailhead. We skied a total of 9.5 miles and got lots of sunshine!
FINAL THOUGHTS: On Day 3, we had a snowshoe trek planned either in Aspen or the Vail Pass area. However, due to a traffic accident and the overall traffic heading back to Denver, we decided to just head back home to avoid getting stuck in mountain traffic till late in the evening. Even though we had to pass on an adventure on our third day, we still had an awesome Aspen Winter Adventure II trip!
Where is Base Camp @ Grand Lake headed next?
- March 19-20: Grand Lake (again)
- May 6-8: Steamboat Springs
- May 14-15: Open Base Camp in Grand Lake!
- July 27 – August 7: Canada, Sandpoint/Clark Fork & Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
SOME OF THE GEAR USED: