backcountry follies



evidence of a good day
evidence of a good time

Brett suggested that backcountry skiing might be fun over the holiday weekend, but warned that we’d have to play it by ear, as there might not be enough snow to get any turns in.

Ha. Ha ha ha.

During our relaxed drive up the Poudre, Michael Franti preaching in the background, we watched a few flakes fall without comment. At one point, I was surprised to see a car headed down the canyon blanketed in several feet of snow and wondered where it possibly could have come from.

Our destination, it turns out.

The higher we drove, the heavier the snow. We eventually reached the parking for Montgomery trailhead and nestled in with the other cars. Wading through the 3 foot drift to reach the outhouse caused me no concern, as I figured it was either windblown or deposited there by a passing plow.

Brett and I quickly suited up while Chukai bounced through the fluff yelping with sheer joy. It took about an hour or so to skin up the trail to Montgomery Bowl. I don’t have my 10k-feet lungs yet this season and the upward slog felt relentless as playing tennis against a wall (thank you Mitch Hedberg).

Upon reaching the bench, the howling wind convinced us that we really only needed to take one lap before heading back to the safety of the car. A few hundred additional feet of climbing, and we finally took our skins off. The first day of the season is always a rough reintroduction; add in near whiteout conditions, blasting wind, and thigh-deep powder, and well, let’s just say that yours truly won’t be featured in any ski porn videos any time soon.

We lost the trail near the bench, but figured we’d quickly find it again. All we needed was to simply head downhill anyway, and we’d soon be back at the car.

An hour or three later, we were a sorry forlorn group indeed. The humans were frustrated with being lost and having to actually push downhill on account of too deep snow and too shallow slope, and the pooch was nearing exhaustion, having to essentially swim through chest deep snow despite trailbreaking from the ski-enabled humans.

“Hey Brett, how concerned are you, on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being absolute panic?”

“6. That giant hill shouldn’t be there, and we’re going to lose daylight soon.”

“Um, I was at a 2, but now I’m a 6 too.”

Breaking trail was difficult enough that we had to take turns. I couldn’t tell if the sweat pouring down my face was from the effort or the newfound realization that twilight was soon approaching.

A sound. Low and thrumbly, a steadyish silent roar.

“Is that the Poudre?”

“The Poudre doesn’t run up here. I think it’s traffic.”

“Why is there so much steady traffic? It sounds like water to me.”

“We could always retrace our steps, which would be miserable, but better than freezing to death.”

“I’ve got a headlamp. You?”

“No.”

Deus ex machina. Brett looks up and sees a fast blurry streak in his vision coincident with yet another roar.

A truck.

Traffic.

The road.

Escape.

Relief.