March 10, 2012

Alaskan in Colorado

A journey to sunny Colorado to ski and visit with family was a fabulous time, something to repeat.  Finally skiing in the Colorado Rockies with brothers, nephews and cousins was a real treat, and there are some great ideas for follow up trips. 
We stayed in the Arkansas River valley in a cabin near Leadville, and at a ranch near Salida.  Both places were comfortable and convenient for five days of skiing the lift served areas of Ski Cooper, Copper, and Monarch, and three backcountry day trips around Leadville and Monarch Pass. 
One day at Ski Cooper was perfect for acclimatizing to skiing at 11000 to 12000 feet above sea level.  Leadville and Cooper have a long tradition and association with the 10th Mountain Division, and it has a lot to offer regarding outdoor education, snow safety programs, and volunteer ski patrol training.
Cntrasting the small area, gentle terrain and small town vibe of Ski Cooper, the development at Copper Mountain had an industrialized feel, but the skiing was very good.  Colorado snowfall has been meager this season, and the alpine country was nearly barren, but we found untracked snow and good skiing in the trees of the Union Meadows area, exciting terrain in Spaulding Bowl, and an overall high quality ski experience at Copper.
Backcountry ventures to Monarch Pass and Sangree Hut were nearly perfect introductions to the Colorado backcountry for yours truly, and to alpine touring for my brother.  His AT rookie status was belied by strong fitness - he had no trouble keeping up.  We found some great snow and glade skiing at Monarch Pass.  The trip to Sangree hut was inspiring - sunshine, powder with a well-marked route to a well-managed ski hut.  Alaska could use some huts like the 10th Mountain Division.
Continental Divide

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