Greg Johnson: The Endless Vista
Steamboat Springs — I go through the same routine every winter weekend. Make a huge breakfast, drink too much coffee, relax and head to the mountain around noon. It takes a good amount of motivation for me to break this habit, but a single text message last weekend was all I needed.
“I have an extra snowmobile today. Want to go up Dunckley Pass?”
How often does one come across an extra snowmobile to borrow? I made a crucial last minute stop to borrow a cross-country touring setup from Backdoor Sports and went down to Oak Creek to start my adventure.
An itinerary was set for the day. We would snowmobile up Dunckely Pass past Chapman Reservoir, switch to cross country skis and head to the ridgeline of Little Flat Top Mountain.
We rode up county road 132 as I adjusted to having the powerful machine at my disposal. I had driven the same county road a few months ago and we easily got from one destination to another much faster on the snow than we did on the bumpy roads.
I enjoyed my ride up to our resting spot, but the thrill of the day was just about to begin. We transitioned onto our skis for a tour of terrain we had not yet explored. I was setup with a pair of metal edged, backcountry skis with fish-scale bottoms and three pin bindings. This hike was a final test to see if I wold be splurging for my own setup this winter.
The view in front of us was the ridgeline, with a large rock wall and a steep decent down to our path. To our left was an endless view from the Gore Range to Hahns Peak. It was breath taking. Something you try to capture in a photo, but it never does it justice.
We headed towards the rock wall, gliding along a slight uphill ascent. As we neared we could see small avalanche slides that broke off. We decided the risk was minimal and continued on. We skirted the steep cirque and made our way to the ridge line.
The terrain became more difficult as we headed on our path. We headed over small slides and wind blown patches of snow. I do not have a ton of experience on the touring setup. Small challenges became great learning experiences, but also made me nervous. One mistake could put in a perilous situation.
We were stopped about 150 yards short from the ridgeline. My friend went forward to scout the area a little more, but the uneven, icy, and rocky terrain was too much. We made the decision to turn around.
As we headed back to the snowmobiles we really got a chance to take in the view. The endless winter playground was in full view. Possible snow climbs and ski lines on the mountain cirque immediately in front of us. A beautiful vista of mountain tops and Colorado’s enchanting open space in the distance.
This trip, more than ever, has me questioning if I will continue buying a full ski pass at the Resort every year. The instant access, with powder days and apres at the base of the mountain have been fun. The ability to get away from the crowds, pick your own adventure and see more of the area is appealing in a whole new way. The choice is having me question where to invest my funds and time year after year.
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