It’s full on summer from coast-to-coast, but that doesn’t mean there’s no snow left to get your shred on. The Pacific Northwest (PNW) Volcanoes are still holding, and you can still find some rippable slopes in snow starved California if you head to Carson, Sonora or Tioga Pass. Lift access via Timberline at Mt. Hood, Blackcomb, B.C., and Beartooth Basin, WY continue to offer easy access to summer turns, and there was even a short window powder session in Utah last week.
In the previous State of the Backcountry the Tetons were the primary destination in search of some late spring fun. For this final State of the Backcountry report for the 2013-2014’ ski season, it seemed appropriate to get out to another state that also enjoyed a huge winter this year- Colorado.
While I’m perfectly content skiing as much as possible in the Golden State, this was a pretty decent year to get out and explore some other areas that fared a bit better with snowfall totals than the Sierra. However, the first two shots were taken in early and mid June making the most of what’s still left in the Sierra. You have to love that even through such a tough winter, skiers and riders can still score locally if they’re willing to get out and get it.
With the spotlight on Colorado, for early summer, the options are as good as you’re going to find anywhere in the present. The state offers a host of easy access options for fun summer skiing, and in places like Loveland Pass and Independence Pass, you can still skin or boot on snow, right from the car. On the flip side, there’s quite a bit of snow up high in the mountains no matter where you’re at in Eagle or Summit County, and if you’re willing to walk, you’re going to end up finding more worthy snow than you’d think, even in July.
A friend who was recently skiing in Rocky Mountain National Park reported the conditions to be well worth the visit as well. I didn’t make it that far east, but from what I found closer to the Aspen and Summit County areas, the report seems to line up with the solid coverage sampled above 11,000′ feet, with higher quality summer skiing available above 12,000’.
Beyond the easy access at Loveland and Independence Pass there were a couple of recent adventures that involved not-so-easy access. Not surprisingly, those missions to the Holy Cross Couloir near Vail, and the Conundrum Couloir near Aspen, were two of the more memorable adventures of the trip. It just goes to show with the right crew and the right vibrations, as long as you have some skis or a board strapped to your pack, the mission is going to bring a smile to your face.
It never gets old to junk show out a vehicle and hit the road with a friend or two in search of summer fun, especially when skiing’s involved. Both the PNW and the Colorado Rockies are sizable trips from the Sierra depending on your final destination, but as is the case locally in Tahoe, the other mountain adventures accessible along the journey more than accentuate the primary objective to get some summer turns. The mountain biking, rock climbing, and other summer activities people have been enjoying for months are just as plentiful in places like Washington and Colorado as they are in Tahoe. Sometimes it just takes the right motivation to make a road trip happen, and there’s no time like the present.
Once again, it’s been an honor to share these reports with you from the 2013-2014’ ski season. A major thanks to Alpenglow Sports who continues to make these reports a reality, and Unofficial Networks for providing the space to share them. It certainly wasn’t the local winter we were all hoping for, but after three thin seasons in a row I think it’s pretty clear that you can always get your stoke on if you’re willing to go for a walk and seek out whatever snow is out there. The buzz for next season is already building around the American West. Until then, enjoy summer, and whatever outdoor pursuit brings out the most passion in you. I look forward to checking in when the snow drops in the fall. Be safe and have fun out there!
“State of the Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in Backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.