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January 14, 2008

Wolf Creek Weekend

I am notoriously late. If I say I will be there at 4:00, expect me at 5:30. If we have to leave for the mountain at 9:00 AM, I get up at 8:55. So it shocked everyone when I told them I planned to leave for Wolf Creek at 3:00 PM on Friday. I didn't want to drive all night and be tired the next day. I was on the East side by 3:15 and we were gone. We got into Pagosa at 1:00 AM. Even more shocking was when I was the first one up at 7:00 AM, showered and done eating before Tim had knocked the cobwebs out. Got my gear loaded. I didn't want to miss the start of the day.


Five people. Erich and Tim that are regulars. Jake that is attached to me at the hip. And the new guy, JP. Erich for whatever reason was running late and trying to get his gear set for the day. Instead of leaving at 8:00, Erich is cramming his stuff into the Avy at 8:30. We start cruising up a snowpacked but sanded 160 from Pagosa. Just after the switchbacks, we notice people passing us and pointing. All I can think is John Candy and Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles:

"You're going the wrong way!"
"Yeah, OK." {waving}
"How do they know where we are going?"

Well, they were trying to tell us something. The tailgate of the Avy was open with all of our gear in the back. The standing temperature was -9 and Erich left the tailgate open with Jake's and my boots at the very back. Nothing fell out, but my boots were as close to frozen as you can get. I thought they were going to break when I put my foot in them. Needless to say, Erich got an ear full.

We hit Treasure, through the Waterfall Area, and on to Alberta. All day, lap after lap on Alberta. We never touched a run, just caught fresh track after fresh line through the trees between Shazaam, Bankshot and Gyro. About midday, Tim and JP hiked the ridge above the lift and swore we needed to head up there. After a climb from the Alberta lift side, we skied Peak Chutes down to the base for lunch. Oh, the powder. I commented on the way up that I couldn't imagine a more perfect day. Bluebird. 80" of snow over the last 7 days. 20 degrees by midday. Tim replied, yeah, almost perfect. The only thing wrong was that there were an occasional set of tracks in the untouched pow.

Back up Treasure lift after a Wolf Dog (all veal brat with onions, parsley and curry) and Quiche. I point that out because the lodge food was so good that we actually had a 20 minute conversation about if it was the best lodge food we ever had. We traversed and hiked up to Boundry Bowl before dropping through Waterfall again. By 3:30 PM, when we called it a day, there was nothing left in the tank. The entire day was knee deep powder. A stop at Kip's Cantina, which was basically a small house downtown that was converted into a restaurant to catch the Pats-Jags game, then back to the hotel to prepare for round two.

JP just dusted us. We went climbing and he never stopped. Turns out he was training for a half marathon and was an avid hiker that has summited several 14k peaks in Colorado. Tim neglected to tell us that which made Erich and I feel less old and worthless.


So Erich won the bonehead award for Day 1. Jake won it for Day 2. Overnight, he had gotten out of the truck and left the back door to the Avy wide open. Froze up the truck and covered the inside with frost and ice. Ran the battery down. An earlier start to the day and we were on the mountain, parked, and geared up by 9:00. Back up Treasure, traverse, then hike Alberta Peak.

I am deathly afraid of heights. I have never been scared skiing, so this was a first. Not that the peak was unskiable, but that the climb combined with the wind, combined with the two skiers that went backcountry and are still missing, combined with my quads absolutely burning from the day before and now the climb, combined with a little dizziness from the almost 12,000 feet scared the living hell out of me. I sat down at the top and the mountain was spinning. I didn't want to put my skis on because I was scared I would fall over. By the time we got down to the bottom, Erich had stopped three times with dizziness and nausea and had to sit for almost at the bottom of Alberta before he could even take the lift up and take the catwalk back to the base.

So we split up, each of our groups with a Motorola handheld. I told Erich I would head over to the mainside with him. Erich felt better as soon as he got back to the main lodge, so we skipped calling it a day and hit Raven and Dickey lifts. JP and Tim wanted to spend the rest of the day climbing and skiing double blacks. Which brought us to Jake.

"Jake, you going back or you hiking?"

Jake chose hiking and skiing double blacks. During the trip, Jake skied Knife Ridge Chutes, Dog Chutes, Alberta Peak, Montezuma Chutes, Peak Chutes, and Waterfall. Spent the entire time either skiing double blacks and hiking or skiing trees off of Alberta. My son that turned 11 on January 3rd let his old ass dad head down to the lodge while he went hiking and skiing double blacks with Tim and JP. He was either right on my heels all day Saturday or charging ahead. But by Sunday, he bested me.

Straight A student. State Champion football player. And Erich, JP and Tim spent most of the time Saturday night, before the hiking and me wussing out, talking about "when my kid is his age, I hope my kid is that good". Sunday just destroyed my expectations.

I called Big Jake today and left a voice mail. Big Jake of my best friend since college and the guy that went down Jake's first blue run on his first powder day at Sunrise with me and watched Jake crying and ski patrol carrying his skis down for him. Jake who watched the 1997 Rose Bowl with a 9 month pregnant Tera the night before he popped out. My message to Jake:

About 2 years ago, I stopped playing Xbox against him because it embarrassed me. I knew this day was coming. But this trip was sudden. We are old.

It was a good weekend.

Posted by Justin at January 14, 2008 09:37 PM


Sounds like a great trip. So you lasted until age 11 with Jake? I am hoping to last to 12 with Alden so I'd better get my but in gear so I have a chance

Posted by: Steamboat Springs at January 15, 2008 11:07 PM

One of the greatest feelings as an instructor is watching your students get it suddenly. Then watch as they improve to better than you by the next week. Sounds very similar.

Although it also sounds like an epic weekend. Keep enjoying that pow!

Posted by: Oft-piste at January 16, 2008 10:27 AM