Thursday, July 13, 2017

Season Recap

Our annual "July tradition"... 
Putting together a video highlight reel of the most recent skijor season. 

Our last skijor outing of the 2016/2017 season was June 13th. Well, it is one month later and we are anxiously awaiting the start of the 2017/2018 season (in Sept or Oct). What better way to entertain ourselves in the dog days of summer than to relive the last skijoring season!

So, here you go - the 2016/2017 Season in Review, appropriately sync'd to Molly Hatchet's "Flirtin' With Disaster"
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

The final "summary shot" from the video:



Pray for snow as we wait to get back on the trails in September or October!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Finale

Our final run of the 2016/2017 Skijor Season this morning.

A great 12 mile run on Buffalo Pass bringing us to 1433.5 total miles for the season!
1433.5 miles traveled with 152,200 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 26 MPH.
"Every single mile was a BLAST!" declare my super happy partners at our turnaround
point of the morning.
With it being June 13th, you are probably wondering what kinds of snow conditions we found. Well, see for yourself below.

Nice at the upper elevations near the top of Buffalo Pass:
Whee we go along slightly choppy but "great for June" trails near the top of the pass.
The top of Buffalo Pass will blow you away. It was "snow as far as the eye can see" once you crested onto the open meadows at the top. As you can see, it was a bit choppy due to being on melting snowpack over uneven meadows. Choppiness just means you slow to a trot instead of a sprint; but we'll take any "toes on snow" in June!
3+ feet of beautiful, albeit choppy, snowpack to enjoy atop Buffalo Pass.
After those last two photos, you are probably wondering why this is our last run of the season. Well, the lower elevation approaches are narrow or down to dirt/mud for long sections:
Still enough snow for skis & toes; but barely. Another day or two and this patch will be all dirt/mud.
We had to hike 1 mile in (and out) to get to skiable snow and then had to take the skis off 6 times (3 up/3 down) to walk over a few extended patches of no snow. Not too bad for June 13th, though, and today's short video highlight shows you it was worth it as are on a great stretch of "all snow" and only slightly choppy conditions. Wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

We had an additional bonus for our last run of the season: it got below freezing last night! This meant two things: (1) the terrain was frozen and fast packed all morning (instead of increasingly soft slush you typically get in June); and (2) perfect temperatures for Max & Zorro to stay cool and go as long as the human could hold up. The result? We skijored 12.2 miles for our last outing and reached Summit Lake atop Buffalo Pass!
The choppy snow we are on is the beach of Summit Lake. The smooth snow behind Max & Zorro
is the "still frozen" Summit Lake.

We were quite surprised to find Summit Lake still 100% ice covered this late in June.

A great outing for a season finale: 12.2. miles traveled with 1500 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

Final 2016/2017 Season Stats: 172 days on the trails covering 1433.5 miles with 152,200 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 26 MPH.

On to the summer doldrums... We hope to be back running on snow in late September or October at the latest.

Pray for Snow!!!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Gangline

An interesting skijor up/down Buffalo Pass this morning...
"Interesting indeed. But 'toes on snow' is fun no matter what goes along with it!!!" exclaim my
happy & adaptable partners.
So, what was so interesting, you ask?

Well, first off, the Forest Service had closed the gate on the access road at about 9400 feet elevation up Buffalo Pass. Yet, there was NO snow at 9400 feet! The Forest Service does not always close this particular gate during the summer melt; but decided to this year for some reason. We knew there was still 4.5 feet of snowpack high up on the pass. So, we got out of the Jeep and proceeded to hike up the road with our gear until we found skiable snow (at around 9700 feet elevation).

Okay, not so bad, we simply had to "hike to snow", right? Well, then came the really interesting part. Can you see it in the following photo?
Uh, what's with the colorful leashes attached to Max & Zorro instead of a skijoring gangling?!?
Well, I forgot the gangling back in the Jeep - argh! We hiked up the road with Max & Zorro on their leashes and my skis on my backpack. It was not until I reached down to switch them from leashes to gangline that I realized there was no gangline!!! Not to be deterred, I told Nancy, "We are not going to be denied - just hook the leashes to me!" The leashes are attached to a waist belt that we use on summer hikes and trail runs. So, why not use a trail running setup for skijoring, right?
Looks to be working just fine as we fly along the trail....
While the prior photo may look just fine, there was a catch...

The leashes are much shorter than a gangline so I was skiing closer than I've ever been behind Max & Zorro (and, thus, a much shorter reaction buffer for me). Also, the gangline has a bungee in one part to act as a shock absorber between the flying Siberians and the helpless human. But, no shock absorber today!

What did this all mean? Well, I needed every last ounce of skiing ability I have to keep upright in this tight & jerky setup. But, I never fell or wiped out!!! Yay!

Come along and watch some of the live action skijoring with a trail running setup.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Oh, by the way, it is June:
"Whew, need to roll snow angels to cool off!" demonstrates silly Max.
"I just stay in the shade to keep cool!" says happy little Zorro.

Was it worth it? Well, look at how much snow is still high up on Buffalo Pass in the photos above. So, yes, it was worth the hike up and creative use of equipment. 7.2 miles traveled with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 171 days on the trails covering 1421.3 miles with 150,700 feet of elevation climbed.

Given the closed gate far down the road up Buffalo Pass and the increasingly long hikes to snow this introduces, we probably have only 1 more outing this season. Tune back Monday or Tuesday for our season finale on Buffalo Pass.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Wow!

Take a look at the following snowpack near the top of Buffalo Pass.
June or January? Hmmm... :)
All white as far as the eye can see with 5+ feet of snowpack all around us!
Every June I seem to have a blog entry that goes along the lines of this one:

All of our local and close to home trails have dried up leaving one to think our skijor season may be over. Yet, once this happens we pull out a few trips to Buffalo Pass in Northwest Colorado to close out the season. Buffalo Pass always has the deepest and longest lasting (into June) snowpack in the state. The only "gotcha" is that Buffalo Pass is a long drive, so we cannot go daily and need a few days off in between trips. But, after our first June trip to Buffalo Pass I always have a blog entitled, "Wow!"

The "wow" is always: "Wow, look at all the snow still on Buffalo Pass!!!!"

Well today was no exception as the conditions at Buffalo Pass proceeded to WOW us once again this year. Will we ever "get it" and say, "Ho hum, just another 5 feet of snowpack in early June on Buffalo Pass!" Ha, no!

Sprint tuck Zorro next to sprint stretching Max as we zip along endless snow in June.
Today's short video highlight shows the interesting conditions you find on snowpack in June. We get out early in the morning this time of year, so when there is shade the snow is packed & fast but where there is sun the snow is soft to slushy. So, we get this mix of shaded speed tracks with soft/slush tracks in between. Max & Zorro have learned to recognize and adapt to these conditions. Without word from me they will "floor it" in shade patches (because flooring it is so fun, of course) and they will back off to a trot/gallop in sun patches (think of running in sand - jogging is easier than sprinting).

Anyway, on to today's video: watch as Max & Zorro floor it through shade patches, back off in sun patches, floor it in shade, back off in sun, etc. etc. Such smart guys!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Nearing the top of Buffalo Pass and time to turnaround and head back down. Everybody ready to turn around...
"Okay, this has been so FUN!!!!" exclaims super happy Zorro.
"Turnaround, hmmm... maybe..." suggests Max.
Well, if we are going to turnaround and it is warm, you know what Max has to do first:
"Turnaround, okay. But wait, rolling snow angels to cool off first!" demonstrates silly Max.
"Wait a second... now that I look at all the untouched snow in front of us... Why are we turning
around?" asks intense and ready to go all day Zorro.

A magical June day at Buffalo Pass that just makes you say WOW: 8.8 miles traveled with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 170 days on the trails covering 1414.1 miles with 149,800 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, June 2, 2017

1400 Miles

We did it! We surpassed 1400 miles of skijoring for the season!
1405.3 miles and counting....
"We did it!!!!" say all three of us to one another as we relive and celebrate the milestone
at the end of our run this morning.
After 3 seasons in a row of 1300+ miles of skijoring, we broke through to surpass 1400 miles this season. What a fun accomplishment. Max & Zorro are incredible!

Okay, on to this morning's outing. We did roughly the same route as yesterday: climbing quickly up Walton Peak at Rabbit Ears Pass to get to better and higher elevation terrain. While conditions are deteriorating quickly near the trailheads, it is still nice near and at the top of Walton Peak. A few fun shots and video from the upper elevations...

Flying along in a 'shoulder-to-shoulder sled dog machine':
You cannot get in a tighter configuration than this as Max & Zorro sprint while
rubbing shoulders :)
One more interesting shot before the video as it will help you watch the video. A suicidal chipmunk ran across the trail in front of us and barely escaped being scooped up by Max's mouth...
The arrow shows the chipmunk. Max & Zorro see "trail food" :)
Okay, on to today's video highlight. We start skijoring on "soft summer snow" near the top of Walton Peak. If your volume is up high, the "clicks" you hear are slush bombs flying off Max & Zorro's feet and into the camera (and my face :).  About 8 seconds into the video and you'll see some of the slush bombs hit & stick to the camera. Then, watch closely, about 33 seconds into the video and the suicidal chipmunk crosses the trail. Max & Zorro, of course, floor it towards the "trail food" and you see Max dip out of view as he tries (and barely misses) scooping up the chipmunk before hopping back into the skijor setup. Silly...
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

One last shot from the top of Walton Peak:
"Oh man, JUNE.... so hot!!!!" say the snow rolling sillies.
The cool curvature of this photo is due to the fact that we are on the tiptop of Walton Peak.

Unfortunately, this was most likely our last run at Rabbit Ears Pass this season; but what a fun time and major accomplishment today: 7.4 miles traveled with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 169 days on the trails covering 1405.3 miles with 148,800 feet of elevation climbed.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Zorro Birthday

Doing one of Zorro's (and Max's) favorite things on Zorro's 9th birthday:
Catching air while skijoring!
Airborne & flying sled dogs as we catch air skijoring atop Walton Peak.
More fun atop Walton Peak: exchanging pleasantries while flying along the terrain...
"Happy birthday little bro!" yells Max to Zorro.
"I'm 9 and flying!!! Wheeee!" responds Zorro :)
Today's short video clip showcases us having a great time on the top of Walton Peak. If you watch closely you will notice Max & Zorro are in "conversing while sprinting" moods. These conversations can sometimes turn into wrestlefests; but, luckily, I catch sight of them brewing and a few "forward" and "uh uh" commands circumvents the need to wrestle as we keep flying along - wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

You cannot have much more fun than this for a June birthday in the Northern Hemisphere, right:
"Oh yes, the BEST present!!!" says happy little Zorro.
"Happy to be part of the present!" adds happy Max.
End of the morning's run and time to discuss & relive how much fun we had:
"Toes on snow in June - need we say more? Loving Life!"

It was a different than usual outing for us at Rabbit Ears Pass. Usually we cover lots of miles on gently rolling terrain; but the big melt is on at lower elevations so we took a steep route to get us as high as possible quickly. As you see in the video above, the terrain was still great once we got up high! 7.6 miles traveled with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 22 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 168 days on the trails covering 1397.9 miles with 147,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Frisky

Everyone was a tad bit frisky to be back on snow after two LONG days off :)
"Hehe, want to play 'tag & tackle'?!?" suggest the silly pair to one another.
Unfortunately our 2016/2017 Skijor Season is starting to show signs of ending. We returned to Rabbit Ears Pass this morning which is usually the second to last of our trails to dry up for the season. Compare and contrast the following two photos showing the conditions down low versus up high...

1) Open patch of dirt, mud and puddles down low:
Ugh! Luckily Max & Zorro know to stop at the edge of the snow. The will automatically stop
and wait for me to figure out how to cross (either take the skis off or backtrack a little if there
is snow to our right or left to cross). Smart guys!
2) But still perfect up high:
Zooming along the perfect upper elevation terrain.
Today's short video clip goes along with the prior photo. Watch and see how nice the snow still is up high! Wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Bonus moment of the morning's outing: fresh moose tracks!
"Sniff, sniff, moose in the area!" say my moose track inspectors.
Max & Zorro's noses are in a moose track and you can see another moose footprint in
the bottom/center of the photo (between the two ganglines attached to Max & Zorro).

Despite needing to be creative getting in & out of the upper terrain, there was still enough great snow up high to get an 8.4 mile skijor with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 167 days on the trails covering 1390.3 miles with 146,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pristine

How is this for pristine & untouched open space on May 28th?
Flying along laying fresh tracks in 2-3 inches of powder on the untouched back side
of Walton Peak
Temperatures at Rabbit Ears got into the low 20s last night and remained in this cool range long enough to re-establish a spring crust under the fresh snow. This made for the beautiful picture you see above where we were able to abandon set & packed trails and go exploring terrain untouched by others.

As we approached the trees you see in front of us in the prior photo, I called out a "right turn" to my partners as I started turning right too. This lead to a fun profile shot of my impressive partners:
Flying Zorro and Kicking up Powder Max!
To get to the untouched back side of Walton Peak, we skijored up the front side. This is a trail used by others that takes you along a high ridge for miles. There was a set track under an inch or so of new snow, so I skied outside the track to set one next to it. Why make a separate track? Well, I knew we would be coming back this route and if I set an additional track then I knew Max & Zorro could each pick a track, if they wanted, and fly side by side back down.
Flying back as Max is in the original track and Zorro is in the one I set on the way up.
Today's short video clip goes with the prior photo. Come along as we fly along the front side ridge trail of Walton Peak at Rabbit Ears Pass. Wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

What a fun day, right guys?
"Oh yes! Incredible!" says fun Max.
"I could go all day!" expresses happy Zorro.

Believe it or not: but winter is finally supposed to end starting today. With warm temperatures starting to arrive, this was probably our last run in the "9 mile range" for the season. But, the impressive May snow we have had has certainly left enough snowpack for us to reach 1400 miles. Today's tally: 8.8 miles traveled with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 22 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 166 days on the trails covering 1381.9 miles with 146,000 feet of elevation climbed.

Approaching 1400 miles... Stay tuned :)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Snow Day

A Snow Day atop Rabbit Ears Pass!

Yes, a snow day on May 27th!!!
Snow covered Max, snow covered Zorro, snow covered trees, snowflakes falling all around us.
May 27th powder day - yay!
It was dumping snow when we started our outing this morning. I could not keep the GoPro clear of snow for more than a minute or two before it would be completely covered and blurred by snow. The photo above is one quick glimpse of the morning just after I wiped the camera clear of snow.

About halfway through the outing, though, the snowfall let up and I wiped the camera clear one final time to get some great footage of Max & Zorro towing me through 4-6 inches of fresh powder on this late day in May.
Great shot of Max leaping over the snow while Zorro is "kicking up powder" behind him.
Notice their footprints behind them leaving fresh tracks in 4-6 inches of new snow.

Nice shot of Max & Zorro flying over the snow as you see my skis in tow behind them.
Today's video highlight is a compilation of short clips from the day's fun. We start with a short clip of us skijoring amongst the heavy falling snow as Max & Zorro tow me along as the camera gets more and more blurred by snow. We then transition to later in the day when the snow has let up and Max & Zorro are having fun launching me down an incline. Finally, we finish with Max & Zorro galloping along, laying fresh tracks, in pretty & snow covered meadows. What a fun day!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

A perfect May morning if you are a sled dog:
"Oh my, this has been FUN!" declares ecstatic Zorro.
"Is it going to snow all summer too?!?" asks happy & pleased Max.

A great snow day in late May: 8 miles traveled with 600 feet of elevation climbed and a modest top speed of 17 MPH (what a treat to be slowed by snow on the 27th)!

2016/2017 Season to Date: 165 days on the trails covering 1373.1 miles with 145,000 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Miracle Mile

Flying along the "Miracle Mile" at Rabbit Ears Pass - wheeee!
Flying, literally flying (especially completely airborne Max) sled dogs. Fun!
What is the "miracle mile"? Well, there is a stretch of upper elevation (i.e., good snowpack) trail amidst thick trees (i.e., shaded and sun protected) that seems to hold good snow every year until late May or early June. This stretch of trail is a bit over 1 mile long, but less than 1.5 miles of "late season perfect conditions" - thus the name Miracle Mile.

Come along and watch us skijor part of the Miracle Mile on May 26th. Can you believe how nice this section of trail is so late in the year? A miracle!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

After the Miracle Mile, there is about another 2 miles of climb on more sun exposed terrain (and thus occasionally dirt exposed in late May) before arriving to the upper meadows of the south side of Rabbit Ears Pass. While sun exposed, these meadows are high enough in elevation to have good late season snowpack too. But, the meadows only go for a few miles before dropping you down the south end of Rabbit Ears Pass. When we reached the upper meadows this morning, we had skijored up into a thick fog bank. Note the trees in the photo - snow covered!!!! Yes, there was a dusting of new snow atop the pass last night! Just a slight dusting; but dusting is the opposite of melting!
Dense fog, snow covered trees and Max & Zorro laying fresh tracks. Yes, May 26th!
Now, before you think the entire outing was on "miracle terrain" this morning, check out the following:
You have to endure this to get to the Miracle Mile! Zorro and I hugging the thin strip of snow
while Max has to hop the puddle to make it through. 
There were many patches like the previous (with many much worse in length and lack of snow); but it was worth the cautious conditions down low to go up/down the Miracle Mile and frolic around the upper elevation meadows. Right guys?
"Oh my, SO WORTH IT!!!!" say the ecstatic pair at our turnaround point of the morning.

A late May miracle: 9.3 miles traveled with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 23 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 164 days on the trails covering 1365.1 miles with 144,400 feet of elevation climbed.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Rain

Today's skijor was cut short due to....

RAIN! Egad!
Cruising along the trail trying to out run the rain :)
The forecast was calling for rain and the sky did not look pretty, so we knew the outing could be cut short due to rain. As a result, we did not stray very far from the trailhead and tried to have fun looping around the forest knowing we could abandon ship and get back the trailhead quickly if the rain started.

As you see above, it was a nice start to the outing without too much threat of rain as the sky is only partly cloudy. But, behind us the sky was DARK and we knew the rain would catch us eventually. So, we skied away from the rain as fast as we could - eventually needing to take a break to cool off (i.e., if it was going to rain, it was well above freezing):
"Outrunning rain means you need to roll dual snow angels to cool off!" demonstrate the silly
pair stopping momentarily to roll and cool themselves.
There are three things wrong with the following photo. Can you spot them?

First: dirt! You can see my ski tips as the bottom of the photo as we are cautiously gliding along a very narrow patch of snow.

Second: rain spots! Look closely, the blur just above Zorro and just to the left of Max are rain spots on the camera. Yuck! It started dumping seconds after this photo as we raced back to the trailhead to get out of the rain.

Third: bear tracks!!!! Look to the right of my ski tips and you see a bear footprint in the snow with Zorro's footprint to the front/left of the bear print. That's a nice comparison for the difference in foot size between Zorro and a bear. Oh my! At first I wondered why Max was not studying the bear trail you can see Zorro is aligned on and inspecting. Well, the bear had walked down this trail and then come back up it. There was a second set of prints coming the opposite direction that Max is inspecting. At least we knew the bear was not in front of us as he'd been back & forth on this section of trail.
Little bitty Zorro footprint in front and to the left of a big bear print. Eek!
More wildlife fun from the day's short outing: Moose Prints!
"Sniff, ah, yes, love moose prints!" says the moose inspectors.
If you look closely you can make out another moose print in the snow behind Max's back feet.

An outing shortened by rain; but Max & Zorro knew how to get the most out of it: skijoring, snow rolling, bear inspecting and moose inspecting! All in a short, rain interrupted, 4.4 mile outing!

2016/2017 Season to Date: 163 days on the trails covering 1355.8 miles with 143,400 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Perfect

Perfect conditions for a 9 mile skijor atop Rabbit Ears Pass on May 24th! Woo Hoo!
Sprinting along with a dusting of new snow over snowmobile tracks as it is still "all white"
as far as the eye can see!
The previous was a great shot of us sprinting East. Here's one of us sprinting Southwest...
Different angle of Max & Zorro's shadows but still superb conditions for late May!

Today's video highlight speaks for itself. Come along as we sprint in & out of sun & shade on near perfect conditions in late May. Sure the terrain gets a little bouncy occasionally (when you see the camera bouncing up/down); but it is May 24th. We couldn't ask for better than this! Wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

In addition to perfect skijoring conditions, we found some wonderful smelling moose tracks!
"Sniff, ahh, tasty!!!!" say the moose inspectors.
A little further along and Max & Zorro stopped to dump their noses in another set of tracks. I was thinking, "those look pretty big for a moose"....
"Sniff - these are tasty too!" say my wildlife experts.
Yes indeed they were too big for moose. It was bear tracks! Eek. Bear tracks are a rare sighting given that they hibernate most of our skijor season; thus the reason I did not recognize them until getting a closer look:
I am leaning over slightly to inspect the tracks with Max & Zorro. Note the 3 sharp claw marks
you can see in the track right next to Max. This is when I said, "Eek, these are bear tracks! Time
to go the other direction!"

A beautiful late May day for a 9 mile skijor: 8.8 miles traveled with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 162 days on the trails covering 1351.4 miles with 143,100 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, May 22, 2017

View

Nice view of the snow & cloud covered Rocky Mountains from high atop Vail Pass this morning.
The "morning clouds" are beginning to burn off to bring out the sun and show off the
snow capped peaks all around us.
Last week's great snowstorm brought the trails at Vail Pass back to life for us! While the terrain high up on the pass still has a lot of snow, all the "entrance points" were down to dirt & mud until the super storm of last Wed-Fri. With all the entrances once again covered with snow, we climbed up the pass until flattening out well above 11,500 feet of elevation. Once up high, we found about a 1/2 inch of fresh snow over the snowmobile trails on the pass. Laying fresh tracks in May. Woo Hoo:
Max & Zorro leaving their footprints in the snow as we lay fresh tracks atop Vail Pass in May.
The terrain up high was so nice - time to put the pedal to the metal and zoooom:
Wheeee we go laying fresh tracks for miles & miles up high!
Eventually we had to turn around and come back down...
"Turnaround, really? Why, so nice up here!" asks 'listening but questioning me' Max.
"I'm with Max - why turnaround?" asks happy Zorro.

A great outing on the upper terrain at Vail Pass. Unfortunately, the "entrance points" will be back down to dirt & mud tomorrow (or within the next 1-2 days). So, we got a surprise trip back to Vail Pass in late May but must say good-bye to these trails until October: 8.7 miles traveled with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 161 days on the trails covering 1342.6 miles with 142,200 feet of elevation climbed.