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.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Narrow

A fun day cruising the upper elevation trails of Breckenridge Nordic Center next to Peak 6 of Breckenridge Ski Resort.
"Hehe, look - untouched snow in front of us!!!!" say my happy partners as we out-skied
existing tracks on the trails.
It was an interesting outing on the trails today. With all the new snow we had last Wed-Fri, we decided to return to the upper elevation trails of Breckenridge Nordic Center. We had declared these trails "done for the season" until this recent blast of 2+ feet of new snow. The trail we took is also a popular trail for people to "skin up" to get onto all this new snow on Peak 6 of Breckenridge Ski Resort. We completely expected to find a narrow single track from people skinning up - and this is exactly what we had:
Trotting along a single track from skinners. Just wide enough for Max and Zorro to trot
shoulder-to-shoulder.
While the previous photo looks very nice, we ran into one problem - soft shoulders. When we are on flat or uphill terrain, Max and Zorro can fit side-by-side in most single tracks. But, if the track is too narrow, then they cannot fit side-by-side when we try to go fast unless the shoulder snow has a hard crust. That is, they can fit in a single track next to each other IF their outer feet can bounce out of the track occasionally and not sink in deep snow. Unfortunately this was not the case this morning - the shoulders were very soft and Max or Zorro would sink in very deep snow if a foot went out of track. As a result, whenever we tried to go fast, they would automatically switch to single file configuration so that both could stay "in track" and not sink in the shoulders:
Going as "fast as we can" in a single file setup as Max & Zorro are smart enough to keep
away from the deep and soft shoulders. I, on the other hand, have one ski "in track" and one
ski on the soft shoulder for safety and speed control (thus the angle of the gangline).
We knew we would out-ski existing tracks and were originally looking forward to that as we expected a hard crust of untouched snow where we could finally open up the speeds. While the first photo above looks to have a hard crust, it was misleading as Max & Zorro both punched through the crust and sunk just a few steps later. After determining the crust could not support us, time to turnaround. But, first....
"Got to roll, roll, roll in the coooool snow!" demonstrates silly Max.
"He sure is a funny brother!" smirks cute Zorro.
Notice the post holes next to Max - thus the reason we had to turnaround, the crust could
not support us :(

Oh well, it was still "toes on snow" in late May! A slower & shorter outing than expected due to narrow trails and deep, soft shoulders: 7.2 miles traveled with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 160 days on the trails covering 1333.9 miles with 141,200 feet of elevation climbed.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thanks

Showing our thanks and appreciation of this great May snowstorm from last few days:
"Aaaahhhh, fresh May snow to roll in!" demonstrates snow loving & rolling Max.
"Yum, fresh May snow to chomp on!" shows snow loving & eating Zorro.
We returned to French Gulch today as this will be the first trail to lose snow from the storm of the last few days. We've got to make use of one of our favorite trails while it is still alive! Conditions were great far back and up higher in elevation:
Zooming along with just enough new snow to open the throttle.
Today's video highlight is amazing simply because of the fact that we are sprinting along the French Gulch Trail on May 20th. Come along and watch the fun - wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

One of the main attractions of French Gulch: the search for moose!!!! Only the "scent (or sight) of moose" can bring Max & Zorro to a halt and draw their complete attention off trail. No sighting of moose today, but the following photo shows you the scent was clearly in the air!
"Beep beep - our 'moose radar noses' say they are nearby to the right!" say the moose
seeking sillies.
Okay, now for the grim reality... French Gulch is one of the first trails to die because its entrance is lower elevation (compared to other trails in Breckenridge), it is sun exposed and it can get driven on by the owners of the few private cabins in the gulch. This morning was the official "last day in French Gulch" for this season. While the photo is ugly, we were still excited being able to get an outing on this trail on May 20th and get the upper elevation conditions you saw in the photos & video above.
Yuck... Trail dead.... The skis were still on; but only because Max & Zorro know to go
slow so the human can stay upright on such sketchy terrain.

A May 20th French Gulch Treat: 8 miles traveled with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 19 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 159 days on the trails covering 1326.7 miles with 140,500 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Deep

A day of "breaking trail in snow up to 2+ feet deep" in mid May! Oh my!
"It's a workout, but we are having a GREAT time!" say my trail breakers pausing for a
moment in the deep snow to catch their breath and let me know they approve of the day!
How deep was it? Well, deep enough that short Zorro got in line behind long-legged Max to let "Max the trail breaker" take over:
Snorkeling up the trail behind "trail breaking Max" in 2+ feet of fresh powder!
How deep was it? Well, deep enough that Zorro had to take over trail breaking chores for a while. Max & Zorro will automatically switch trail breaking duties during long stretches of deep snow with Max breaking trail about 65-75% of the time and Zorro 25-35% of the time.
Still snorkeling through 2+ feet but with Zorro in lead this time.
How deep was it? Well, deep enough that even the "trail breaking snail human" had to take over for a short bit. If it is super deep for long stretches, Max & Zorro will eventually tire a bit to the point of pushing me to the front as they get in line behind me in my ski tracks. This is very rare (only the 4th or 5th time this entire season) as Max & Zorro have little faith and patience in my snail pace. Whoever is directly behind me will head butt my legs at every stride trying to get me to move faster :)  After a short distance one of them will give up on me and move back into the front. But, hey, at least I helped for a short distance!
My turn... Boy is this a lot of work while Max & Zorro take a quick break following in
my tracks behind me :)
Our day's plan was to skijor up the back side of Sally Barber Mine, then down the front side and finally do an out/back in French Gulch. Well, we found ourselves breaking trail in 2+ feet of snow the entire back side of the mine (this side of the trail is less popular). The reward, though, was knowing the front side of Sally Barber is very popular and would have set tracks for us to rest in. It was only a narrow single track on the front side, but still an easy trail to jog single file down:
This is like "resting while jogging" compared to the trail breaking we did up :)
Now for today's humorous shot... Remember that these trails were down to dirt, mud and flowing water just 36 hours ago. We came upon this active water flow across the middle of the trail with only a very narrow snow bridge to the right for crossing over:
"I don't think you can make it ahead!" says happy Max looking back to let me know the
trail is not passible in front of him.
"I can't even look, I can't even look. Let me know when you find a path over!" states
water averse Zorro hiding his head in the trail behind Max until the two of us figure
out how to cross the water.

Who ever thought we'd be slowed to a trail breaking crawl in mid May??? 6.1 miles traveled with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 15 MPH (which is pretty fast considering we were in single file configuration all day).

2016/2017 Season to Date: 158 days on the trails covering 1318.7 miles with 139,600 feet of elevation climbed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May POW

Breaking trail in over a foot of new snow on May 18th! Mid May POW Day!!!
Powering through 12+ inches of fresh snow on the French Gulch Trail. What a May treat!
Consider the following... The terrain you see in every photo today had NO snow a little over 12 hours ago! We woke to find a ton of new snow out the window. The super May storm that was forecast really came. Oh boy. With this much new snow, we decided to return to one of our favorite trails: French Gulch. It was April 29th the last time there was enough snow to skijor French Gulch yet we were able to return to this trail today! Yay!

As we were driving to the trailhead, we found the county road (just outside the town limits) had yet to be plowed. So we hopped out of the jeep and proceeded to skijor up the road until getting to the French Gulch trailhead and continuing up the actual trail. As luck would have it, someone had driven the road a few hours before we started. As a result, we were laying fresh tracks in a couple inches of snow for the beginning and end of the outing:
Look closely and you can see Max & Zorro are each in a tire track as we are laying fresh
tracks in a few inches to start the day.
We are happy to report that it was dumping snow all morning long. Every 1-3 minutes I would wipe the GoPro clear of snow only to have it get covered again within a minute or two. As a result, most of today's GoPro footage looks like the following:
Blurred by snow collecting on the camera. All you can see of Max is his back feet. Zorro is
a little more visible but a few seconds later and he was missing in the blurs too.
Today's fun outing went as follows: (1) lay fresh tracks in tire tracks up French Gulch Road to the trailhead; (2) arrive at the trailhead to find 12+ inches of fresh snow and break trail up the gulch for a bit; (3) turnaround and jog back in the trail we set until getting back to the road and following the tire tracks again.

I just wiped the camera clear to get this clip of us jogging in the track we set:
Jogging along in the trail we carved. Fun day!

A fun day of jogging in snow filled tire tracks and then breaking trail: 7.2 miles traveled with 700 feet of elevation climbed.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 157 days on the trails covering 1312.6 miles with 138,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Difference

Catching air skijoring the great "upper conditions" at Rabbit Ears Pass. Wheeee!
Beautiful shot of Max & Zorro the "airborne hover huskies" :)
We took a route this morning that has a quick climb to get you onto a shelf of open meadows up in elevation. It was only a 500 foot climb but, oh my, what a difference in snow conditions & coverage just 500 feet up! See for yourself in this incredible wide angle shot for May 17th:
Looks like February to me :)
Okay, it wasn't really "February quality" as the terrain was a little choppy from warming & refreezing. But, it certainly was not too choppy to slow us down. Come along and watch as we open up the throttle with only a little bounciness to the terrain. Zoom!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

We have been on quite the stretch lately of finding fresh smelling moose tracks everywhere we go. Here are today's tasty tracks:
"Sniff, sniff - tasty!" say the moose inspectors.
Max & Zorro each checking a footprint while you can see another moose print in the bottom
center of the photo.

A short & quick run this morning with the great decision to climb quickly to get into great terrain just 500 feet up: 5.2 miles traveled with 500 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 23 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 156 days on the trails covering 1305.4 miles with 138,200 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

1300 Miles

Surpassing 1300 miles of skijoring this season!
That's 4 seasons in a row with 1300+ skijoring miles! Impressive Sled Dogs!
"Piece of cake! What a blast! How about 1300 more?" say the happy pair at our
midpoint break of the morning.
We were 9.5 miles from 1300 this morning. I figured we had no chance of making it to 1300 today as it is hard to get 10ish miles in May due to rising temperatures and deteriorating or soft conditions. But, a few miles into our outing I noticed there was a cool breeze blowing with near perfect snow conditions and Max & Zorro looked completely fresh, happy and in a skijoring groove. I started contemplating, "Can we get a long run in today? Is it possible?" Then, we got the last piece of the puzzle to propel us to 1300 - fresh moose tracks! Cool breeze + perfect snow + moose tracks and I knew we'd accomplish a long May run and surpass 1300 miles for the season!
"Sniff, sniff - fresh moose tracks!" say my track inspecting partners.
Notice the footprints to the left of Zorro going up the trail.
As luck would have it, the moose had walked the ski trail! So we had "moose juice" to add to Max & Zorro's tank as we skijored the trail full of moose post holes. Additional luck: the tracks were fresh enough to juice Max & Zorro but we never ran into the moose! Phew!
Moose juiced Max & Zorro following the moose post holes for miles!
Here is a fascinating table to study. If you have followed along this season you know we had a very late start to the skijoring season. It did not start snowing with any consistency until the week before Thanksgiving. Look at the following table of our 1300+ mile seasons which show the miles we had on November 18th each year and the date we passed 1300 miles:

SeasonMiles on Nov 18Date of 1300 Miles
2013/2014174May 19
2014/2015142June 1
2015/2016133June 12
2016/201758May 16

Yes, you read that right... We had 58 miles on Nov.18 of this season yet we surpassed 1300 sooner than any previous season! How did we do it? Well, our pattern the previous 3 seasons was to do 5 9+ mile runs a week and rest 2 days. Once if finally started snowing this season, we decided to try doing 5 9+ runs a week, 1 shorter 5-7 mile run a week and 1 rest day. The thought was we rested most of October and early November so let's catch up. We decided to run at this torrid pace until Max or Zorro showed signs of needing more time off. Well, that never happened, so we kept at this torrid pace for an entire season! It turns out the only real question was whether the human could keep this up.... Well, my knees and elbows are a little sore; but I can rest in June :)

Max & Zorro have another interpretation of this table and our torrid pace for the 2016/2017 season: The human has been unnecessarily holding us back for YEARS!!!!!

Back to today's fun outing. Once the moose tracks disappeared into the trees it was time to turnaround and sprint across the open & snow covered meadows at Rabbit Ears. Turn up the volume as you watch and all the "clicks" are slush bombs flying off Max & Zorro's feet and into the camera (and into my face too!). Wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

What an incredible season! And we are still going with a winter snow storm advisory in place for Colorado this coming Thu-Fri! Sharing the joy with my partners at the end of today's run:
"Glad you finally stopped resting so much! How about NO days off next season?" say
my focused and intense partners.

A great way to surpass 1300 - a surprise long May run: 9.7 miles traveled with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 155 days on the trails covering 1300.2 miles with 137,700 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Nature

Those into "nature photography" and "changing of the seasons" will like this photo.
Those into skijoring will be sad...
Yikes - end of trail! Spotty snow with fast flowing water in between!
"I'd rather see more snow!" says Max.
"In complete denial!" states Zorro.
Luckily, though, we found mostly open & snow covered terrain on our path at Rabbit Ears Pass this morning. This was somewhat surprising given the recent warm temperatures and the path we took that was exposed to sun and lower in elevation. But, we were intent on trying this route one more day.
Nice snowpack along this open stretch. But, notice the bumpiness of the surface...
On to today's video highlight which goes along with the prior photo. A few things to notice in the video: (1) we are bouncing and bumping along this choppy terrain; (2) you can see a lot of my skis in the video (whereas my skis are often barely to not visible); (3) you can see my hand/arms/poles a lot in the video. What does this all mean? Well, I was skiing hard today. The amount of ski you see is from me tucking and driving my legs hard into the snow to combat the bumpiness. In other words, my legs were burning at the end of today's outing! It is so much easier to sit back and ride the skis on smooth terrain :)
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Why one last visit to this set of trails at Rabbit Ears? That's an easy question: Moose!
Max & Zorro each have their noses planted in a moose footprint while you can see two
more footprints behind them. Moose!!!
I said today's path was "mostly snow covered and open", here's a really sketchy patch:
Skis tight together as we ride the narrow strip of snow. Max & Zorro always stay "on snow"
if at all possible, so I can ride through narrow strips like this knowing they will keep
me on the snow. Great partners!

No moose sightings today, but plenty of fresh smelling moose tracks. As you can see in the last photo, this is our last trip to this section of trails at Rabbit Ears. But, we still have plenty of higher elevation terrain to continue to use at Rabbit Ears! Yay - tune back tomorrow... 9 miles traveled with 800 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 154 days on the trails covering 1290.5 miles with 136,700 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Premonition

A wild day chasing wildlife all over Rabbit Ears Pass!
"No that was FUN!" exclaims ecstatic Max.
"Moose and porcupines - my favorite!" declares silly Zorro.
How fresh were the moose tracks we encountered on the trail this morning? Well, fresh enough for Max to break out into his patented "bucking bronco moose scream" even though we never saw the moose. The tracks and scent of moose were sooooo strong that Max broke out into his bucking moose scream without a moose visual! He's only done this once before in his life - normally it takes a visual for him to turn into a bucking bronco screamer...
"MOOOOOOOSE!!!! I SMEEEEELLLL MOOOOOSE!!!!!" screams bucking bronco Max.
"Must be to the left, must be to the left!" declares intense hunting Zorro.
How prevalent was the "scent of moose" along the trail this morning? Well, so prevalent that Zorro could not maintain a forward-focused sprint for very long before scanning left, right, left, right, etc for moose!
"Smells so moosey to the left! Where is it?!?" says sprint-n-hunt Zorro.
Max is still focused forward, so you know there is not a moose to our left; but silly
Zorro had to keep scanning every direction!
Zorro was so focused on scanning left & right that I had to stop reacting to him and watch Max. At first I would start to snowplow with each of his scans so I could safely look that way too. After many false alarms I noticed Max was not scanning as much as Zorro. So, I switched to watching Max and only slowed to glance when Max did too. Zorro had "moose on the brain" and couldn't focus :)

Funny story... I was telling Nancy on the way to the trailhead this morning that I had a dream last night that we skijored this section of Rabbit Ears and encountered a moose, herd of yak, porcupine, bear and mountain lion. Was this premonition on my part?

We encountered one snowless patch of trail where I had to take my skis off to cross before starting again on snow. As we started to cross this patch of dirt, a porcupine waddled from a nearby tree and climbed up the tree. We treed a porcupine. Fresh moose tracks then treed porcupine, I started scanning the forest for yaks, bears and mountain lions! :)
Yes the picture is ugly (no snow). But I just had to show Max & Zorro staring intensely
up the tree the porcupine climbed. We could see it partway up the tree even though it does
not come out well in this photo. Treed a porcupine, oh my!
Oh yeah, we did some skijoring too :)
Zoom, zoom, zoom we go in between moose and porcupine events.

Next time I dream of moose, yak, porcupine, bear and lion, I will not go skijoring on the trail where the dream occurred! 8.2 miles traveled with 800 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 153 days on the trails covering 1281.5 miles with 135,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bluebird

A beautiful bluebird day atop Vail Pass this morning.
Zipping along as we have great views, great terrain and great sled dogs!
Yesterday was so much fun at Vail Pass that we returned this morning. It was much warmer today than yesterday so we went for a shorter run. But, even with rising temperatures, the spring crust was solid enough to hold us for most of the outing!

But, wait, what is that in the previous photo in the distance in front of Zorro? Let's get a little closer to see...
Yikes! Look at that open and flowing water to our left! This is the gully that will eventually
take the melting snow off Vail Pass and into the rivers below.
So sad to see the gully opening up and flowing with water. Summer has to come eventually, I guess.

Luckily there was still enough snow and crust to open it up. Come along and watch the fun as we come out of a left turn and uncork the skijoring engine into an all out sprint. Wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Temperatures may have been rising, but it was still toes on snow:
"Great day for a short & fast run!" say my happy partners at our turnaround point of the outing.

Unfortunately this may have been our last run on Vail Pass this season. While the snow was still nice up high, the entrance points are melting quick and will be down to dirt soon. Plus, look closely at the video and photos and you will realize we are running on snow over meadows (not roads). Snow on top of bushes gets softer faster than snow on top of roads or dirt. As a result, these meadows will become too soft to run any day now.

We'll see you again next season Vail Pass. As for today: 5.7 miles traveled with 600 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 152 days on the trails covering 1273.3 miles with 135,100 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Catching Air

Catching air in a skijor sprint in mid May - Yay!!!
Sprinting along in between sun & shade as we get both Max & Zorro in just enough sun to
showcase their hover husky form with the nice shadows.
We made a trip to Vail Pass this morning with the hopes that the temperatures had dipped below freezing last night long enough to build a solid spring crust. It was a little soft down low; but once we got up in elevation - SUCCESS! See for yourself:
A beautiful spring crust to sprint on at elevations over 11,000 feet on Vail Pass.
Oh, nice views too on this gorgeous morning!
Today's short video highlight shows Max & Zorro adapting to the terrain. We start in a gentle trot as the snow had been a little soft just before this clip. But, within a few seconds, Max & Zorro realize "the crust can hold us!" and they break into their favorite spring activity: sprinting the crust. Note that you do not hear any commands from me, I am just riding behind enjoying watching them automatically adapt to the conditions.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Eventually we had to come back down; so, with temperatures rising, you know what that means:
"Must roll in the snow to cool off!" demonstrates silly Max.
"He's silly! Can we go yet?" says happy little Zorro.
A very successful trip to a solid spring sprint crust up high at Vail Pass, right guys?
"Oh yes! Sooooo nice up high!!!!" exclaim the happy pair at our turnaround point of the morning.

It was "soft & choppy" terrain down low but certainly worth it to get to the perfect conditions up high: 9.1 miles traveled with 1000 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 22 MPH.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 151 days on the trails covering 1267.6 miles with 134,500 feet of elevation climbed.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Soft

The snow was soft all morning; but still so much fun to still be on snow in May!
Just ask Max & Zorro...
"Oh my, we are having the BEST time today!!!!" exclaim the super happy pups at our
turnaround point of the morning.
We are approaching the middle of May yet we found ourselves laying fresh tracks this morning! There was about a 1/2 inch of new snow at the lower elevations and almost 2 inches up higher. What a mid-May treat:
New snow for laying fresh tracks near the middle of May - Yay!
We did an "out & back" on the highest elevation trails of Breckenridge Nordic Center this morning. The nordic center has been closed for the season for almost a month, so no more groomed trails, just making use of what is leftover from being groomed & packed for months during the season. I was hoping there would be a solid crust under the new snow at higher elevations; but temperatures never got below freezing overnight. As a result, the trail was pretty soft our entire outing. Max & Zorro were happily trotting or galloping in soft snow; but opening the throttle to sprint would generally cause them to sink too far into the soft snow. Not a problem - my smart partners just adjusted to the conditions. We kept to a gentle trot the entire "out direction" as we were laying fresh tracks in the soft conditions. On the way back, smart Max & Zorro were staying in my ski tracks as that gave a little bit of "pack" to the snow. Whenever we would hit a shady patch with firmer snowpack, they would both transition into a sprint for the short duration of the firm patch and then quickly switch back to a trot or gallop once things softened again. So fun to ride behind them and watch them smartly adjust their speeds!
Shady & firm patch - GO!!!! Wheeee!
Now onto the comical interchange of the morning. Zorro started the fun by hopping off trail to roll a snow angel to cool off (remember temperatures were above freezing):
"Ah, rub a dub dub - feels so good!" demonstrates snow rolling Zorro.
"Looks nice, but you could improve your form a bit." says Max observing Zorro.
Zorro popped up from his snow angel and wanted to start back down the trail. Max, on the other hand, declared it his turn to roll:
"Now THIS is perfect snow angel form!" says completely upside down Max to Zorro.
"Hey, my back has snow all over it, I'm fine with my form and won't watch!" says silly Zorro.

A fun morning although the soft conditions kept us to a modest 7.8 mile outing with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a gentle 17 MPH top speed.

2016/2017 Season to Date: 150 days on the trails covering 1258.5 miles with 133,500 feet of elevation climbed.