After Outdoor Retailer Dave Downing and I, plus 4 others, one dog and a ridiculous amount of gear strategically stuffed ourselves into a minivan and set off toward Carbondale, CO. Carbondale is where I grew up and I was excited to revisit after about a 10 year hiatus. Dave and I had planned to ski some of the backcountry outside of Marble, which is about an hour drive outside of Carbondale. Unfortunately avalanche conditions turned from bad to worse when a strong Southern storm dropped about 3 feet of fluff in 2-3 days. Our suspicions of instability were vindicated once we had heard reports of large slides being remotely triggered in Marble. We immediately opted for a whole new approach for our days in Colorado.
Low angle slopes and snowmobiling on safe open meadows was the obvious and reliable option- and the best remedy for my cabin fever. One area in particular, a local standby when conditions are questionable near Sunlight Ski Resort called Willie’s proved to have great skiing.
With only around 1200′ of vertical multiple laps are possible and with little traffic and plenty of pow to go around. Even on these slopes we still saw evidence in the snow of instability with lots of cracking and other signs of movement. Curious to see how unstable things really were, I stomped a cornice off very easily and was given a little scare when it rocked up under my downhill edge and lifted my leg in the air. The large block then proceeded to careen into a tree at the end of the short 50′ slope. To mix things up on another day we traveled to the top of McClure Pass and rode snowmobiles West back to a friend’s cabin.
After playing around on the snowmobiles a bit we threw our skis on and towed each other across the powder fields. It was like water skiing on glass accept with a touch more control. I experienced an excellent crash when my skis tips discovered a rock beneath the surface and I double ejected from my bindings sailing through the air and somehow ended up unscathed.
Our final day was a beauty and with little time we did a little skinning right outside of town and of course the views of Mt. Sopris were superb. That afternoon Dave and I reluctantly jumped into our next ride this one to Denver for SIA.