It’s been a strange ski season for me. The snow in the west was notoriously bad, yet I skied a lot of great conditions. I traveled a lot, but feel like I didn’t ski as much as usual. Even as the snow dwindles to thin, bumpy, rotten ribbons of grayish snow I have still felt the pull to get in one last ski trip for the season.
After some deliberation I decided to keep it simple and head for the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Admittedly, there’s better snow in the Pacific Northwest and Europe, but getting to the San Juans is simple, I have good friends there, and there are more than a few lines I have wanted to ski for a long time. I visit the area several times a year, and every time I arrive to town I am drawn to the west face of Corbett Mountain. It has a huge planar face and a prominent couloir that both light up a fantastic shade of purple at sunset. At the moment, the face is melted out, but the couloir was still filled in, and one of the longest lines of snow in the area. While the skiing wouldn’t be stellar, it would serve as a great introduction to the mountain and hopefully make future visits a little easier.
This was a deceptively far objective. We were able to drive pretty high into the mountains and managed to park at the end of the road at an elevation of over 9000-feet. Yet, while we were higher in elevation, we were further from the line than we wanted to be. Happy to be out in the mountains, we optimistically set out on what would be a very long walk.
We did manage to reach the top of the line. The snow, while there, was pretty much a rotten, grayish mess. The skiing was terrible, but fun at the same time. The walk up involved several hours of meandering through a forest without a trail, and with plenty of downed trees. Once we got to the alpine the lack of snow meant crossing miserable scree fields. The skiing was laughable, and once done, we had to traverse the mountain back to the car. This involved plenty of creek crossings and a little rock climbing. The entire trip was absolutely ridiculous.
Why do we do this? We could have been mountain biking and enjoying the summer sun in shorts and flip-flops. The easiest explanation I have is to relate it back to being a kid and exploring the woods and creek beds near the house. We could have been on the playground, but instead we were out exploring our surroundings. And while most of the time it’s fruitless, it still always seems better than going the standard route. These late season ski days totally remind me of being a kid. They are silly; but they are fun.