San Juan Snowpack: Be Aware Out There

February 1st, 2012

Early season snow that evolved into a layer of large, weak faceted grains is lurking beneath the surface on nearly all aspects and elevations. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center states that while the new, upper snow layers from recent storms are gaining strength, those faceted layers beneath are not, making for a dangerous snowpack. So be on high alert in the winter backcountry and hone your avy skills with this quintessential case study, digging pits and studying snow crystals out of danger’s way.

Faceted grains are not our friends

Never taken an Avy I course? Now is the time. Matt Wade of Peak Mountain Guides is offering an Avy I hut-based trip at our Ridgway Hut, Feb. 23-26. The perfect winter classroom, and with this season’s snowpack, the perfect snow study.

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Sneffels Half Loop is Back

January 24th, 2012

Are you ready to race? The Sneffels Half Loop is back. This backcountry Nordic ski race begins at Last Dollar Pass near Telluride and runs 34 miles to the town of Ouray finish on March 10. Racers and volunteers wanted, call 970.626.3033.

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Winter’s comeback in the San Juans

January 23rd, 2012

Winter made a comeback to the San Juan Mountains over the past 10 days. Overall snow totals vary area to area, but approximately three feet fell in the past three storms.  Snow above the huts is plentiful and trail access in and out is in fine winter shape. Of course, with these pulsing storms with high winds and heavy snowfall, comes high avalanche danger. High water content in the last storm should help settle out the season-long growth of faceted weak layers, but that is to be determined by Mother Nature. So while we wait…travel to the huts is a perfect alternative to poking around in high avy danger. Be safe out there.

Burn Hut

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Racers get ready for the Sneffels Half Loop

January 19th, 2012

It’s back … are you ready? The Sneffels Half Loop returns to pose a new challenge, 35 miles long. The course for this backcountry ski traverse runs from Telluride’s Last Dollar Pass to the town of Ouray making five aid station stops at our winter huts. AT, randonee or Nordic (not skate) skis are suggested for racers to take on the feat March 10.

 

 

Two courses will be open to racers, the Full Course and the Short Course. The Full Course starts at the Last Dollar Trailhead (above the Telluride airport) and entails 34.4 miles of rolling, arduous traverse to the finish at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. Total ascent is 6,630 feet and total descent is 9,057 feet.

The Short Course also begins at the Last Dollar Trailhead but finishes at the Blue Lakes Trailhead (near Ridgway), running nearly 24 miles. Total ascent is 3,990 feet and total descent is 5,498 feet.

We’re looking for racers and volunteers–visit our website or call us at 970.626.3033.

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Even with low snow levels, ski mountaineering can be a go

January 18th, 2012

With a winter like this, you’ve got to get creative. While snowfall sits at below average across Colorado and the country, mountain biking may be calling. But at San Juan Huts we’re thinking ski mountaineering. Because snowpack is so low, summiting some of the  Mount Sneffels Range peaks might just be more attainable.

From Burn Hut, Corbett Peak can be accessed, from North Pole Hut, Hayden Peak can be reached, and from Blue Lakes Hut, Reconnoiter Peak and Wolcott Mountain can be bagged. Low snow levels are making it a little easier to access.

According to the National Resources Conservation Service, Colorado’s snowpack is 71 percent of its average. This winter marks the fourth lowest snowfall level to fall in the past three decades. So while we pray for snow, get out and explore safely.

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Snow Conditions at the start of 2012!

January 9th, 2012

We just received about 4-5″ of snow over the weekend.  A little bit of an improvement to those conditions posted below on the 31st of December.  It is a good time to get out and do some mountaineering above the huts.  It is easy to get around up high!

 

December 31, 2011

Lower Hayden at North Pole Hut

Heard about the lack of snow around the American West!  Sounds grim around the country.  Fortunately WE HAVE SNOW!  Ski turns are happening.  While our snowpack hovers around 75% of the 35 year ‘norm’, here is the good news.

All ski trails to and between huts are ‘in’ (i.e. they have 1-2 ½ feet of snow).  For ‘Big Skis’ that like to turn here is the situation.  From tree line and above where there is no tree canopy to keep the snow from landing on the ground…this is where you need to be.  Typical in early season the high chutes, basins and cirques have 2 – 4 feet of snow in them.  The upper entry level to these ski runs still tend to be somewhat rocky and windblown so you have to be careful about this —‘not picking up rocks’.  The snow is faceted TG on the bottom 50% but skiable powder lies on top.  Fat skis of today make these conditions possible verses the bad old days of ‘toothpicks’.

We just had someone return from the Last Dollar Hut.  The Last Dollar chutes are on the west end of the Sneffels Range.  Due to that, plus their lower elevation, those skiers did not find good conditions for turns.  If you are willing to ‘walk’ a farther distance in, i.e. The Ridgway Hut, your snow conditions for turns will improve.  The reason being, The Ridgway Hut is tucked deep and back into the pure north face of the Sneffels Range with a 13,000-14,000 foot headwall above it.  The Ridgway Hut conditions are much higher, colder and more snow than those found at The Last Dollar Hut.

Get out and ski!

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Ouray Ice Fest is On

January 4th, 2012

Ouray’s population is booming…with ice climbers. Tomorrow kicks off the 17th annual Ouray Ice Festival and conditions at the park are telling climbers, “get your axe in gear.” A weekend-long gear expo, nightly presentations, clinics (some free!) and evening soirees are all on schedule. After the weekend, come visit the huts and get your skis in gear.

 

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Snow Conditions Report

December 30th, 2011

Lower Hayden at North Pole Hut

Heard about the lack of snow around the American West!  Sounds grim around the country.  Fortunately WE HAVE SNOW!  Ski turns are happening.  While our snowpack hovers around 75% of the 35 year ‘norm’, here is the good news.

All ski trails to and between huts are ‘in’ (i.e. they have 1-2 ½ feet of snow).  For ‘Big Skis’ that like to turn here is the situation.  From tree line and above where there is no tree canopy to keep the snow from landing on the ground…this is where you need to be.  Typical in early season the high chutes, basins and cirques have 2 – 4 feet of snow in them.  The upper entry level to these ski runs still tend to be somewhat rocky and windblown so you have to be careful about this —‘not picking up rocks’.  The snow is faceted TG on the bottom 50% but skiable powder lies on top.  Fat skis of today make these conditions possible verses the bad old days of ‘toothpicks’.

We just had someone return from the Last Dollar Hut.  The Last Dollar chutes are on the west end of the Sneffels Range.  Due to that, plus their lower elevation, those skiers did not find good conditions for turns.  If you are willing to ‘walk’ a farther distance in, i.e. The Ridgway Hut, your snow conditions for turns will improve.  The reason being, The Ridgway Hut is tucked deep and back into the pure north face of the Sneffels Range with a 13,000-14,000 foot headwall above it.  The Ridgway Hut conditions are much higher, colder and more snow than those found at The Last Dollar Hut.

Get out and ski!

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How to stay healthy at high elevation

December 20th, 2011

Traveling to altitude over the holidays? What’s the best way to acclimate? High altitude sickness can ruin a trip or a trek and the Institute for Altitude Medicine Director Dr. Peter Hackett offers wise words on the subject. A couple tips: caffeine is not a problem and Gingko can be a remedy. Check out the IFAM website.

Institute for Altitude Medicine

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What’s in your pack?

December 16th, 2011

 

When ski touring, maybe as critical as what’s in your head, is what’s in your pack. Genuine Guide Gear, G3, recently released its list of top ten backcountry touring essentials. In addition to the most critical pieces of equipment–a digital, three antennae beacon, quickly deploying and user-friendly probe pole, and sharply edged shovel–G3 offered a list of other important things to carry in your pack.

1. extra food (energy bars) in addition to your lunch

2. lighter

3. knife

4. headlamp

5. SPOT satellite GPS messenger

6. extra down jacket

7. extra water

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