Archive for the ‘snow’ Tag

Colorado fall, 2016

This year’s trip took place September 23-24, as I drove with a friend to the San Juans, looping counterclockwise starting in Durango. The trip coincided with a rather cold system that dumped a rather unexpected amount of snow (up to 2 feet in places) and left many areas 9000 feet and above with a coating of white. US 550 tends to see different peak times depending on the aspect and elevation, but in general the area between Red Mountain Pass and Ouray is at its peak in the last week of September.

We lucked out, while it was a rather gloomy, blustery noon hour in Durango where we had lunch, the skies gradually cleared such that by late afternoon, it was a beautiful mix of snow, clouds, sun, and foliage. I was told by the owner of a jeep tour operation in Ouray that this is a once in a decade kind of scene.

Looking towards Ouray from the viewpoint north of the Red Mountain summit, 23 September 2016

Looking towards Ouray from the viewpoint north of the Red Mountain summit, 23 September 2016

Plenty of reddish color this fall

Plenty of reddish color this fall

From Crystal Lake, looking south

From Crystal Lake, looking south

We continued over to Telluride the following morning, via the always spectacular Dallas Divide. Dallas Divide is relatively low in elevation, just shy of 9000 feet, and tends to peak in early October. It’s best when there’s a bit clearer weather and Mt. Sneffels is visible, but the morning was pretty cloudy. In Telluride the weather was similar, with only rare peeks of sun- the leaves were¬†slightly before peak, probably around a week early in town and along the road up to Lizard Head Pass. The top of the gondola station was awfully chilly, probably slightly below freezing, but with socked in clouds and general dampness, which made it feel even colder. By the time we reached Dolores, it was sunny and quite warm.

Between Telluride and Lizard Head Pass, 24 September 2016

Between Telluride and Lizard Head Pass, 24 September 2016

I’ve made regular posts about fall in Colorado over the past few years, generally with dates on the photos, so hopefully you can get a better idea about when to visit.

The Mountain Collective, Banff

I bought one of the Mountain Collective passes, which gives two days each at a variety of West Coast and Rocky Mountain resorts, plus a couple of days in South America, if you can make it there. For $369, it’s reasonably priced, you get an email with a barcode, and exchange it for the tickets at the season pass office. So the resorts are Alta / Snowbird, Alpine / Squaw, Mammoth, Whistler / Blackcomb, Aspen, Jackson Hole, and Sunshine Village / Lake Louise. Sun Valley joins the group in 2016. And if you’re staying longer than two days, extra days are 50 % off.

I managed (so far) to go snowboarding at three of the locations. It’s been a mixed bag conditions-wise, as the western US has generally had a dry winter. So given that, the California resorts were in awful condition, and the plane tickets to actually get to the resorts are not cheap. Still, I bought a plane ticket to Calgary and headed there in mid-February.

My travels started in Calgary, Canada, in unusually warm weather for February, where I caught an evening bus ride to Banff after clearing customs and grabbing my bags. I last visited many years ago, during a chilly, overcast August. It’s a roughly 90 minute ride on mostly freeway, through the national park gate, and then into the town of Banff. I stayed at the fancy-schmancy Banff Springs Hotel, a rather sprawling property that occupies a very prime location uphill, about a half mile from downtown. I could see why after waking up the next morning, it’s a million dollar view, and the facilities and amenities in the hotel are pretty good.

Mount Temple (11627', 3544 m) seen from Lake Louise

Mount Temple (11627′, 3544 m) seen from Lake Louise

The snowboarding was not that great, lots of rocks, rather thin cover for mid-winter, and warm temps. Lake Louise appeared to a magnet for park riders, with a section on the backside full of steep stuff, and more rocks. Of course the views were amazing, it’s kind of a magnified version of the Elks or San Juans, muscular, burly peaks. But it was a mix of ice and spring conditions, more towards the icy stuff at the end of the day.

Bow Range, Canadian Rockies

Bow Range, Canadian Rockies

Sunshine Village, which is much closer to Banff, lies on the Alberta / British Columbia border, and is accessed by this gondola that curls around a mountainside. It leads to this mini-mid-mountain village, with a hotel and a smattering of lodges and restaurants. One lift leads to the ridge that separates the provinces. Another lift crosses the border a couple of times, so that was definitely a novelty. As for conditions, it was a mix. I met a fellow local rider Geoff, who knew where to go, and the place was pretty fun, with lots of side hits and still a bit of powder hidden away. He kindly gave me a ride back to Calgary at the end of the day after some dinner.

Above Sunshine Village, in a wonderland of snowboard-eating rocks

Above Sunshine Village, in a wonderland of snowboard-eating rocks

Geoff, taking in the scenery

Geoff, taking in the scenery

A final word about crossing the ‘border’ at YYC, it’s atrocious, with the combined effect of a holiday and a Monday morning. It was easily 90 minutes of hauling bags and security and immigration lines. Surely this process can be better?