Ride the Rockies Day 5 Durango to Pagosa Springs

The quickest route from Durango to Pagosa Springs is on Highway 160 and is less than 70 miles.  However Hwy 160 is not where you want to ride your bike.  Our route instead took us on a southern loop through lots of quiet back roads.  We even went through the town of Allison!  At this point our route swung north and headed up towards Pagosa Springs.  And today we had a huge tailwind!  It was wonderful and made up for the misery of yesterday’s ride into Durango.  The only drawback to a tailwind is you don’t have the wind in your face keeping you cool.  We had a few short climbs on this stretch of road that were miserably hot, especially for me in my pregnant state.  My feet started to burn and all I wanted was a cold river to jump into.  With no river in sight my sister instead gave me a few squirts of water on my back and we continued on to the last aid station. 

What a welcome relief to finally get there.  I soaked my jersey, head, and shoes with cool water for some relief.  Ate a bunch of food and then started up the last leg of the ride.  Unfortunately this was a 17 mile stretch on Hwy 160.  We had a decent shoulder most of the way and our tailwind continued, but the traffic was awful!  And of course it was all uphill to Pagosa.  Dad chose to skip today’s ride and save his legs for tomorrow.  Carrie was tired of riding slow and went on ahead.  Marge was a ways behind me.  We all met up with dad at the high school in Pagosa.  Huge relief to be done!  Another long day of 87 miles. 

Ride the Rockies 2010 Day 4 Ouray to Durango

This was the day I had been looking forward to since the route was announced in Feb.  I have done portions of this ride, but never the whole thing.  I also figured it was going to be one of the hardest days of the Tour.  We got up at 5am again and this time we left by 6:20am.  Breakfast was pretty minimal so we didn’t have to spend a lot of time waiting in line to eat.  The winds had blown all night, bringing in lots of warm air, which made our early start not so bad.  It also gave us a headwind the ENTIRE day!

We immediately started climbing up Red Mountain Pass, the first big “hill” of the day at 13 miles long.  Red Mountain is a spectacular pass with incredible views, narrow roads, and lots of exposure.  Made for some great pictures!  With very little traffic at 7am it was a very enjoyable climb.  At mile 8 we had our first aid station.  It was time for pancakes!  Every day on Ride the Rockies the “all you can eat pancakes” vendor was at the first aid station.  And boy were they yummy.  I think I had ten today!  We all regrouped at the top of Red Mountain Pass, filled our water bottles, and headed down the hill to Silverton.  What an amazing descent!!  Dad decided to take the sag wagon to the top of the next pass.  Carrie wanted to get her heart rate up so she rode ahead, and I told Marge I’d meet her at the top.  Molas Pass was the next big climb at 6 miles long.  The traffic was terrible.  Lots of big motor homes with tourists wondering what the hell all these bikers were doing on their roads.  Because of the sheer numbers of riders, the traffic was forced to go slow so I never felt in danger.  It just got annoying. 

Most of the food vendors were waiting for the riders at the top of Molas Pass.  Despite the chilly wind we hung out on top for a good 30 minutes, eating crepes and drinking Gatorade.  Dad got back on his bike and rode with Carrie down the pass.  I waited for Marge and then came down with her.  It was a great descent but not nearly long enough. 

Then it was up the third big climb of the day, Coal Bank Pass.  This was the shortest at 4 miles, but seemed tough because we had already been riding for over four hours at this point.  More food at the summit and then a high speed descent back down the valley.  Once in the valley the road opened up into a four lane highway.  We had a large shoulder and a miserable head wind to deal with.  The road was flat with some long uphill sections that seemed to take forever.  Marge sat on my wheel the entire way, which meant I got no relief from the wind.  That took its toll and by the last aid station I was cooked.  We still had another hour of flat highway into Durango.  The temps were in the high 80’s.  I knew that if I kept going I would push my body too far so I opted for the sag wagon.  If I hadn’t been pregnant I would have gone on, but now I had a great excuse!  Marge, the bad ass that she is, continued on alone for the last miserable hour of riding into Durango.  I sat in a nice air conditioned van and answered a few emails on my phone.  What a relief to be off my bike!  Impressively enough, my dad also rode all the way into town from Molas Pass.  Carrie gave him a nice draft until the last aid station and then she decided to take off and ride hard the last hour to Durango.  So Dad rode alone as well. 

By the time we all found each other in Durango on the campus of Mesa State College we were exhausted.  It had been another nine hour day!  Today also happened to be my official presentation to Ride the Rockies so after getting my tent partially set up and doing a quick change of clothes, I had to hustle off to the Student Union to give my speech.  Not exactly what I wanted to do so soon after finishing but oh well. 

My presentation was on the Women’s Tour de France.  There was a small but attentive group of riders in the audience.  I think most people were collapsed in bed after such a hard day.  After my talk we went straight to dinner, which was easy because it was right below us in the cafeteria.  We definitely took advantage of the “all you can eat” sign at the entrance.  After dinner I took a short bus ride into town to buy some Comfrey salve for my very raw bum.  When I got back it was 9pm and time for bed.  Yippee!  What a day!

Ride the Rockies 2010 Day 3 Delta to Ouray

With only 67 miles listed in the ride guide today seemed like it should be fairly easy.  Oh how wrong I was.  The first 20 miles or so were across the backroads of Delta through all the cornfields.  This part of Colorado is famous for its sweet corn.  Unfortunately the roads aren’t great and we spent over an hour riding some miserable roads.  Being the fourth day of riding for me, my bum and crotch were already pretty sore and the rough roads were not helping.  It was downright agonizing!

We finally hit the aid station in Montrose and fueled up with energy bars, grapes, and animal crackers.  Dad was not having fun today and decided to take the sag wagon.  I think he was exhausted.  I was so impressed that he did the entire ride yesterday.  He said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done on a bike.  Carrie, Marge, and I rode together to Ridgeway.  Much better roads but a lot more traffic because we were on the main route into Ouray.  We had a wide shoulder most of the way but it still wasn’t fun having semi trucks roaring past you for hours on end. 

Once we got close to Ridgeway the view improved dramatically with Sneffels on one side and Uncompaghre on the other (both over 14,000ft).  The aid station was a much needed break from the monotony of the gradually uphill ride.  The last 10 miles into Ouray were the hardest.  The road got steeper and the temperature went up.  At one point I started to overheat and had to stop in the shade and pull off my jersey.  My temperature regulation has been all out of whack since I got pregnant. This was really the first time in four days that I felt too hot.

I was almost as tired when we pulled into Ouray after 67 miles as I was the day before riding Grand Mesa.   They had all the campers piled into the grassy athletic field next to the famous hot springs pool.  Because dad had jumped in the sag wagon, he got to spend most of the day in Ouray.  He got us a good tent spot, close to the bathroom and food. 

Riders have two choices for accommodations on Ride the Rockies.  You can either camp for free or spend the extra money to stay in local hotels.  This is my 4th year and we have always camped.  Hotels get so expensive.  Camping usually isn’t too bad.  They always have us stay at the local high school or college campus.  You can pretty much pitch your tent wherever you find room.  For riders arriving late in the afternoon that can be a challenge.  Tent space becomes extremely tight.  Luckily we are always on nice green grassy lawns, which is heaven for camping.  The high school is opened up and we have full access to the bathrooms, gymnasium, locker rooms, hallways etc.  The locker room showers tend to run out of hot water by mid-day so most of us take showers in the shower trucks.  If you’ve never experienced a shower truck it is quite amazing.  The shower truck is a huge semi turned into 16 indoor showers.  They hook the truck up to the local water supply and the large hot water heaters at the back provide a continuous supply of hot water for the entire day.  Outside the truck they set up carpet, chairs, and a large sink to brush teeth, hair, put on makeup etc.  It is quite an elaborate set up.  The best part is you are always guaranteed hot water.  The worst part is the line can be huge.  The number of men on Ride the Rockies far surpasses the number of women, so the lines for the men’s shower are enormous compared to the women.  Same for the bathrooms and port-a-potties.  I think all us women enjoyed watching the men have to wait in line for a change. Haha!

After getting settled and showered, we walked into Ouray to the community dinner.  I had lasagna and a yummy salad.  They had live music and a beer garden as well.  It was a fun evening and felt good to relax.  Everyone was in bed early again because tomorrow was another huge day.

Ride the Rockies 2010 Day 2 Grand Junction to Delta

Today was supposed to be the hardest day of the entire tour with a 90 mile ride up and over Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction, CO.  Grand Mesa is the largest mesa in the world and after riding over it today I would definitely agree.

Knowing it was going to be a long day, my dad wanted to get an early start.  That meant waking up at 5am and leaving on our bikes by 6:45am.  Ouch.  The only benefit of leaving this early is the nice cool temperatures and the lack of traffic.  After the first two days of Ride the Rockies you quickly realize that even if you wanted to sleep in you couldn’t because everyone else is getting up at 5am and making quite a racket. 

We left Grand Junction and headed east, riding beautiful quiet roads through the wonderful orchards of Clifton and Palisade.  After a short 3 mile stretch on I-70, we exited onto the road that we would be on for the next 45 miles to the top of Grand Mesa.  The road followed a river valley for 15 miles to a small town with a large aid station.  That was the last flat road until the last 4 miles of the day.  Now the real climbing was about to begin.


My sister, dad, our friend Marge, and I all took off together.  Marge and I rode together for the next two hours.  My dad dropped back and Carrie stayed with him to keep him company.  Being pregnant I have to be careful about keeping my heart rate down.  It isn’t hard to do because as soon as I start going too hard my belly starts cramping.  My body knows exactly how hard it can go, and does a good job of telling me when I’ve gone over that limit.  So I rode very slowly compared to what I’m used to, however still faster than a lot of other riders so I can’t complain.  The hardest part about the climb up Grand Mesa is the wide open road with very few switchbacks.  It can be mentally challenging when you look up a long hard climb and you can see riders for miles and miles ahead of you.  I’d much rather be on a small narrow road with lots of tight turns.  Keeps things more interesting.  When you’re suffering for hours up a climb, any kind of mental stimulation helps. 

The entire top of the mesa was covered in thick dark clouds.  I think all of us knew what was coming.  After riding in the rain the last two days I had everything I needed.  Doesn’t make riding in the rain any easier or more fun however.  With eight miles to go before the summit the weather fell apart.  The fog rolled in and it started raining with temperatures hovering in the 40’s.  It was damn cold and pretty miserable.  I felt like I was in Europe again.  Ugh!  I was surprised at how unprepared some of the riders were.  They were in for a world of hurt once we started going downhill.  I was riding on my own, too fast for Marge and my dad and too slow for my super fit sister.  It was good to go my own pace and not have to worry about anyone else. 

The top of the climb is not obvious.  The road meanders up and down for a few miles before starting down the big descent.  Miraculously the weather cleared and the sun even came out just as I pulled into the aid station.  How wonderful!  Before looking for food I took off my wet sweaty job bra and put on a dry undershirt, hat, gloves, rain gear, and booties to keep warm before the big descent.  Then it was time to eat.  Dad and Marge finally arrived and joined in the festivities.  The aid stations on Ride the Rockies are amazing.  They have music playing and all sorts of food vendors offering everything from hamburgers to brats, fajitas, pancakes, crepes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and cookies.  It was fun listening to the stories of the riders coming up the big climb as they sat and ate.  Everyone had some epic experience.


After 30 minutes on the summit we decided it was time to head down.  The clouds were moving back in and the last thing we wanted was more rain.  The 30 mile descent off Grand Mesa is one of the best I’ve ever done.  Beautiful wide open roads with very few turns.  We got lucky and missed another downpour by 15 minutes.  The roads were still wet but no rain.  Lucky for us!  After 20 miles we hit the next aid station at Cedaredge.  The temperatures had warmed up considerably so we took layers off and got down to shorts again.  Still another 10 miles of descending. 

We finally got down to the valley floor, made a right hand turn, and had a stiff headwind for the last 4 miles of the ride into Delta.  We pulled into the finish area at 4:45pm.  Unbelievably long and hard day!  Definitely the longest climb I’ve ever done!  We were all exhausted.  After setting up our tents and taking showers, we wandered over to the community dinner.  The locals of Delta were out in force with a huge spread of Mexican food.  It was a wonderful end to an epic day.

Ride the Rockies 2010 Day 1: The Colorado National Monument...again

Today was the official start to Ride the Rockies. The route was identical to yesterday's VIP ride. Except the sun was out and the skies were mostly clear when we woke up. Yeah!

After a yummy breakfast of all you can eat pancakes, eggs, and potatoes, we left on our bikes at 8am. Only 46 miles today so we didn't have to start super early.

The ride into the Monument was dry and warm. Much different than yesterday. At the second aid station up on top we noticed a wall of thick dark clouds coming in from the southwest. Time to keep moving.

About a mile from the start of the big descent off the plateau the skies opened up and started raining. We stopped quickly to put on rain gear and then rode down the big hill.  Chilly and very wet! We stopped at the third aid station in Fruita to warm up and regroup. All we had left was an easy 13 mile flat stretch of road back to Grand Junction. Good thing was we had a tailwind. Bad thing was it rained most of the way back. I've ridden in more rain in the last two days than I did all of last year!

We made it back to our little campsite at Mesa State College just in time to see the sun come out. Yeah! Then it was off to the shower truck for a wonderful hot shower and then a huge lunch in the dining hall.

Tomorrow is a 95 mile ride up and over Grand Mesa to Delta. 6000 ft of climbing. I have no expectations and if I get really tired and uncomfortable I will jump in the sag wagon.

More rain in the forecast. Ugh! Hopefully it will dry out before the big descent off Grand Mesa tomorrow.

Time for bed. Dad wants to start at 6 am. Ouch!

Ride the Rockies 2010 Day 0: A Ride With Governor Ritter

Today was the unofficial start to the 25th anniversary of Ride the Rockies. To celebrate the occasion I got to take part in the VIP ride through Colo Natl Monument with Gov Bill Ritter. Leave it to Mother Nature to keep things exciting in Colorado. We did the entire 50mile ride in the rain. It hasn't rained in Grand Junction in month. Crazy!

Being almost five months pregnant I went fairly slow up the big climb into the Monument. The Governor was also riding in the back so I got to enjoy a nice conversation with him up the climb. We just talked cycling, no politics. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tomorrow the weather forecast is for much of the same. The official ride starts tomorrow doing the same route as today. At least I know what to expect. Haha! I'm doing the ride with my dad and sister. Really looking forward to spending the week together.

I'm off to bed. Or maybe I'll read for a while. Until tomorrow....

How to get faster and more powerful on the flats

Question:  I am a good climber but I have a hard time holding people off on the flats and open road sections. How do I get faster and more powerful on the flats?

As we all know, being good at all parts of cycling is a challenge and involves many hours on the bike doing a multitude of different workouts.  A really good climber is typically not a great sprinter and vice versa.  But a good climber can be strong and powerful on the flats with some specific training. 

To improve your ability to ride on the flats, you have to improve your maximum sustainable power output.[1]  If two cyclists of the same height and weight ride from point A to point B, the rider that can generate more power over that distance will be the faster rider.  It isn’t just producing a lot of power that is important, it is being able to sustain that power that makes you faster. 

So how do you improve your maximum sustainable power output?  There are two good types of intervals that will accomplish just this.  First are maximal steady state or maximum sustainable power intervals.[2]  Maximal steady state is the highest workload a person can maintain while his or her lactate levels remain consistent, or in a steady state.[3]  On the bike this might be the highest power you could sustain for an hour long race-pace effort.  It isn’t the absolute highest amount of power you can generate at once, but the highest amount of power you can produce over an extended period of time without blowing up.  These intervals should be at least 10min to 30min in length, with the same or greater amount of recovery.  They are best done on a gradual climb, or a long flat stretch of road with no interruptions.  The intensity level is considered Zone 4 or your lactate threshold heart rate.  These intervals can be 2-3 times a week for 4-6 weeks.  Be sure to give yourself ample recovery after these workouts.  They are long and hard and take a lot out of you.

What if you don’t know what Zone 4 is or your lactate threshold heart rate or power?  Before doing any kind of training you’ll need to do a field test.  Find a long flat stretch of road without interruptions.  You’ll need to do a good warm up before performing a field test.  Have a heart rate monitor and/or power meter.  You will be doing a 30 minute time trial race pace effort.  The goal of the test isn’t to see the highest heart rate or power you can achieve in 30 minutes, but to instead determine the highest average heart rate or power you can sustain for the effort.  Start your timer at the beginning of the effort.  After the first 10 minutes start your heart rate monitor or power meter.  Make sure you are recording data for the next 20 minutes.  After your test is finished you can go back and look at the average heart rate and power for the 20 minute effort.  That number is your lactate threshold.  Zone 4 is a range of heart rates/power a little below and above your lactate threshold.  If your LT heart rate was 173bpm.  Then Zone 4 might be 169-175 for example.

The second type of interval you’ll need to do to improve your power on the flats is called a supermaximum sustainable power interval, or more simply a Vo2/Zone 5 interval.[4]  These are short and very intense and are the kind of intervals that make your arms go numb and your stomach feel like it might throw-up.  The goal of these intervals is to improve your ability to ride at nonsustainable work rates or at a power level you normally couldn’t tolerate for very long.[5] 

The efforts are 1-6 minutes in length with the same amount of recovery.  The intensity level is as hard as you can go.  It’s a super hard race pace effort.  If your lactate threshold heart rate was 173 you would do these efforts between a HR of 179-184.  If your lactate threshold power was 225 watts for example, your Zone 5/Vo2 efforts would be done between 250-350 watts.  If you’ve never trained with power or heart rate and don’t have any intention of doing so, then look at the lactate threshold or MSP intervals as a “fairly hard” effort or on a scale of 1-10, they would be an 8.  If you want to improve your strength on the flats, then do these efforts on a flat road.  If you’re looking to improve your hill climbing, then do these up a long gradual climb.  When doing these intervals you should not be able to talk and you will be uncomfortable the entire time.  It is an intensity level you could maintain for a long climb.  The Vo2 or SMSP intervals are considered “super hard I think I’m going to puke” efforts or on a scale of 1-10, they would be a 10.  Again, chose flatter terrain to improve strength on the flats.  Go as hard as you possibly can for 1-6 minutes and then recover.  Do a bunch of these during each workout and do the workout  maybe 2-3 times a week. 

As your training progresses, you will want to increase the difficulty of these two types of intervals.  To do that you can make each effort longer, shorten the recovery in between, or increase the HR or power you do each effort at.  The only way you get stronger is to force your body to make adaptations to a given stress.  If the stress never changes, your body will never get stronger.  Push yourself to make the intervals slightly harder each week you do them.  With plenty of recovery in between workouts your body will make the needed changes and come back stronger and faster than when you started. 

How do these fit into a training plan?  You will need to have a good solid aerobic base before starting these intervals.  Spend a few months doing long endurance rides with some intensity thrown in on the weekends when you ride with friends or do the local group ride.  When you have a decent level of fitness, do the MSP or lactate threshold/Zone 4 training first and it should last between 4-6 weeks.  Then do the SMSP or Vo2/Zone 5 training next and it should also last between 4-6 weeks. 

The ultimate goal of all of this is to improve your ability to ride hard on the flats.  To do that you must improve your power output.  Doing these two types of intervals will increase your power output making you stronger and faster on the bike.  It is a painful investment but the reward is well worth it!

Have fun!


[1] Dave Morris, Performance Cycling; Training for Power, Endurance, and Speed (Maine:  Ragged Mountain Press, 2003) 19.

2 Morris 33

3 Morris 33

4 Morris 62

5 Morris 62

[1] Dave Morris, Performance Cycling; Training for Power, Endurance, and Speed (Maine:  Ragged Mountain Press, 2003) 19.

[2] Morris 33

[3] Morris 33

[4] Morris 62

[5] Morris 62

Alison & Greg's Next Big Adventure

Big news! I’m officially pregnant and will be too big to run our October camp this year.  Yes it has really happened.  Greg and I are going to be parents in another five months. The due date is October 23rd. We’re both thrilled and scared to death.  Haha!

I’ll keep everyone posted on our newest adventure!

Happy Trails!


Moab Mountain Bike Skills Camp a HUGE Success!!

I just returned from running our Moab mountain bike skills camp last week and have been playing catch up for the past few days trying to answer all of the emails I neglected.  There are a lot because the camp was non-stop adventure and I had no free time the entire week to do anything other than camp stuff.  We had five participants this year, a nice intimate size that made for a lot of quality interactions and one-on-one instruction.  The economy is still hurting us but even with five people it was worth doing.

Everyone arrived on Tuesday night to gorgeous sunny skies and warm temperatures.  We run our camps with the help of Rim Tours so that means they do all the cooking for us.  We had a gourmet dinner of grilled salmon, risotto, and a garden salad, with chocolate brownies for dessert.  This is definitely not a camp where you lose weight.  After going over the week’s itinerary and goals for the camp it was off to bed.

The weather changed dramatically on Wednesday and made for a challenging day.  We spent the morning doing skills and drills at City Park.  Part of the park is under construction; a new pool is being built.  Some of the man-made obstacles we used in the past were now under dirt.  It was a cold morning and the winds were fierce with gusts up to 45mph.  We didn’t realize how much protection we had being in town until we did our afternoon ride out on the trail.  After a yummy lunch we loaded up the van and drove north to the Bar M ride.  Bar M is a fairly easy ride and makes for a good introduction to Moab riding.  However the wind made riding almost impossible.  With gusts now over 60mph it was almost impossible to ride in a straight line.  And with all the sand, there were moments when we got sandblasted and could hardly see.  Not a great way to start our camp, but everyone hung in there and stayed positive.

Upon returning to the condos the guests were treated to massages and time at the pool and hot tub.  Dinner was pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, and a yummy salad.  Dessert was a sinful chocolate fondue.  After over indulging, we held a bike maintenance clinic for our guests that lasted over an hour.  Lots to learn!

Thursday was chilly but calm.  We bundled up and headed back to City Park for our second session of skills and drills.  It was great not having the wind, but the cold temps kept us inside the Rim Tours van for lunch.  For our afternoon ride we drove north to Klondike Bluffs.  After shivering all morning we were treated to a wonderful break in the weather, and enjoyed beautiful blue skies with warm sun.  It made for an amazing afternoon. 

Klondike Bluffs is a good intermediate ride and offers a little of everything; slickrock, sand, ledges, drop-offs, and amazing views.  We stopped at anything technical and spent time explaining, demonstrating, and then practicing the challenging moves.  The ride back to the trailhead was all downhill and generated a lot of laughs and big smiles.  The day was a success.

After another afternoon of massages and soothing the tired muscles in the hot tub, we had a yummy fajita dinner with homemade guacamole and chips for an appetizer, and a rich pineapple upside down cake for dessert.  Afterwards I gave a presentation on training and nutrition to our guests, and then it was off to bed.

Thursday was much improved with the weather.  Still a little chilly but a lot more sun than clouds.  Today was our first full today of riding and a chance to really fine tune the skills we had worked on all week.  We took our group to a ride called Blue Buffalo.  It’s a great ride to trail to work on slickrock skills; riding up and down steep ramps and learning how to launch off ledges of all sizes.  There was something for everyone.  And we had lots of sunshine and no wind.  Yippee!  By the end of the day everyone was mentally and physically exhausted.  We stopped ½ mile from the van and scrambled up the slickrock to a beautiful petroglyph and pictograph panel high above the valley floor.  Years ago there was a blue buffalo painted on the rock, also known as a pictograph and also the name of our ride.  Unfortunately vandals destroyed the painting and you can only see a very faint outline of where the buffalo used to be.  Many of the other petroglyphs were still in good condition and made for some great pictures. 

Another afternoon of massage and rest.  We always have a special “dress-up” night for our last dinner of the camp.  With everyone in their finest we enjoyed Dutch oven lasagna, garlic bread, and a Caesar salad.  And of course dessert, a yummy strawberry shortcake. 

Our last day greeted us with gorgeous sunny skies and warm temperatures.  We loaded up the van and drove to Dead Horse Point to try out the newest singletrack; the Intrepid Trail.  9 miles of fun mellow singletrack winding around the rim overlooking the White Rim Trail and the Colorado Trail.  The views were stunning to say the least.  There were a few technical sections on the trail, but otherwise it was fast and fun and a great way to end the camp.  We had lunch on the rim and then walked up to the official overlook for more pictures. 

After a relaxing drive back to our condos, everyone showered and packed their stuff for the trip home.  It was a great five days and I was sad to see everyone go.  I feel like I have five new best friends.  Our next camp won’t be until April of 2011.  I’m officially pregnant and will be too big to run our October camp this year.  Yes it has really happened.  Greg and I are going to be parents in another five months.  We’re both thrilled and scared to death.  Haha!

I’ll keep you posted on our newest adventure!

Happy trails!









The hut trip marathon continues!

I spent this past weekend getting caught up on blog and Facebook entries.  Life gets so busy it gets hard to find the time to stay up to date.  My husband and I still manage to get away for some adventures, and this winter has been the season of hut trips.  We recently went on another hut trip, yes I know we just did one, and spent three days playing in knee deep powder in the Gore Range of Colorado.

Our hut trip was to Eiseman, which is located directly north of Vail, CO.  The trail starts above the backyards of some of Vail’s finest trophy homes, and then climbs around the corner and up a valley away from the busy and noisy I-70 interstate corridor.  It was a beautiful warm “spring” day and we could have been in shorts and T-shirts.  No fresh snow all week so the trail was packed down by dozens of skiers and snowshoers. 

The 6.7 mile slog in took us just under 3hrs.  Unfortunately the group that was supposed to have checked out by 1pm was still there and didn’t appear to be in any hurry to leave.  We hung out on the deck, eating lunch, and taking pictures of the amazing view to the south.  After an hour we finally made our move into the hut, mostly because the weather was changing and we were all pretty chilled. 

This particular trip was organized by my brother-in-law, Dan.  He is a member of Alpine Search and Rescue out of Evergreen, CO so over half the group was fellow team members.  The fun thing for my husband and I was getting to hang out with a totally different outdoor crowd.  We spend so much time around cyclists that it was a nice change to hear the search and rescue stories and politics.  Very entertaining.

We spent the next day skiing from 9:30am to 5:30pm.  Another marathon aerobic workout.  Despite not having new snow, we were able to find some beautiful north facing slopes with lots of powder.  With most of our group trained in avalanche search and rescue, we were probably the safest group you could have possibly imagined.  Everything we skied was either low angle, or extremely stable.  It was a gorgeous day with hardly any wind.  We hiked almost 3000 vertical feet today and burned I don’t know how many thousands of calories.  Total exhaustion by the time we got back to the hut. 

Monday was a shortened version of the day before.  We set out even earlier and headed for the same areas we hit the day before.  Unfortunately the wind had been ripping through the valleys all night and the snow had settled into a challenging wind crust.  On alpine skis it’s not a big deal.  But for me on telemark skis, it was a very big deal.  Wind and sun crust present the most difficult conditions.  It is extremely hard to initiate a tele turn, and once you’re down, there is the very real chance that you’re going to punch through, which usually ends in an ass over tea kettle face plant.  Luckily I was able to avoid one of those, but I still had many near misses and linked recoveries.  Not as much fun as the day before, but still a blast.

We skied back to the hut around noon, ate a quick lunch, packed, cleaned, and left by 12:45pm.  The ski out was a bullet proof toboggan run down a steep narrow trail.  In the shade the trail was still rock hard.  In the sun it was a slushy mess.  Temps were even warmer than the ski in two days ago, which made me feel sorry for the group coming in.  Trying to skin uphill in warm slushy snow is a frustrating lesson in persistence.  One guy had so much snow stuck to his skins, that he had given up and was walking the last mile to the hut.  Brutal!  We made it to our car in just under 2hrs.  And then it was the long drive back home.  Amazing trip and another three days of uber athletics.  But we love it and we’ll be back for more next winter.  Until then enjoy the wonderful spring weather.  I saw some daffodils today!

Happy trails!