Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Now that's DEEP!

"You mean this day only happens once every 4 years? Aw Man!" exclaim Max & Zorro.
"Thank Dog this day only happens once every 4 years!" mumbles the exhausted Brad.

Now that's "Trail Breaking"! Max in lead has snow up to his shoulders. Zorro in back actually
has his chest up on Max's butt to get a view of the terrain. Look at the incredibly deep snow
trench behind Zorro.
Here is a puzzle for you... What would cause Max, Zorro and I to skijor only 6.7 miles in 2h 25m time? Note that a typical outing of this time would have us covering upwards of 15 miles and over 1200+ feet of elevation.

The answer: Extreme trail breaking up steep terrain is the only thing that could slow us down this much.

Our extreme terrain today... (1) Ascending up 1800 feet in about 5.7 miles; (2) Breaking trail in 8-36 inches of snow for the first 4.3 miles! (3) Breaking trail in 12-36 inches of snow for 3.5 miles straight! Now that's extreme...

More extreme trail breaking. Doesn't it look more like Max & Zorro are swimming through the
snow? Especially Zorro - just swimming along behind Max's lead... There really is a trail under
all this snow. If you deviated from the "hidden trail", you sink into 4-5 (or more) feet of snow!
It started snowing hard yesterday morning and it kept falling all day & night long. We had a winter wonderland to skijor today. We started right out of our garage (no need to drive to trailheads with this much new snow) and took a steep set of trails from home up to Sally Barber Mine. Within a 1/10th a mile from home, we were already breaking trail in 20 inch drifts with the "shallow sections" breaking trail in 8 inches. This continued for about 4.3 miles with the depth reaching about 36 inches of untouched powder to plow through!

Max and his snow stilts (long legs) are usually in front during extreme trail
breaking. But, every so often, Zorro (or I) need to take the load and break
trail for a while. Here we have short little Zorro doing his best as Max is riding
his butt to go faster!
Restarting after a quick "catch your breath" break. Zorro thinks he has the better
trail - a few steps more and he sunk past his head, popped up out of the snow,
declared "Oops, I'll follow Max" and dropped behind the snow stilt lead.
Max's harness when we got home. It's been 20-25 minutes since we
finished skijoring and he was in the heated car ride home. Yet, the harness
is still covered in snow! The life of the trail breaking lead dog: a harness
full of frozen snow - Siberian Good Time!
Vital Stats: 6.7 miles; 145m total time; 125m skijoring time (lots of quick "catch your breath" breaks during the extreme trail breaking); 18 MPH top speed; 1800 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Home Run

We awoke to trace amounts of new snow this morning. Then, it really started to dump and we had over 3 inches of new snow by the time I finished breakfast (and still falling). So, Max, Zorro and I hit the trails for a morning fun run...
Cruising along the Blue River Trail. As you can see, the trail is only "One Siberian Wide",
so we were single file skijoring for 4 miles along this route. A few times, the sides of the
trail were taller than Max! I tried to snap a photo of this and immediately fell out of the
narrow single track and into the snow. So, put the camera away and pay attention....
We started at the Indiana Creek winter trailhead. As we were driving on Indiana Creek Road to the trailhead, I noticed how deep the new, fast falling snow was on this city road. "Hmmm, we could skijor the road before the plows come out!" I noted...  We then started our fun route out & up Indiana Creek - laying fresh tracks in 3-4 inches of snow near the trailhead and breaking trail in 4-8 inches as we got further back into the Indiana Creek Gulch.

We have a lot of hiking/biking/snowshoe trails near our house. These trails are skiable immediately after a fresh, fast falling snowfall (and then get beaten down to non-skiable ice & rock soon after). But, we were out skijoring on the cusp of a fresh dump of new snow. As we were cruising around Indiana Creek, I said to Max & Zorro, "I bet the snow is new & deep enough for us to make a run all the way home!" As we got back to the Indiana Creek trailhead, I noticed the plows still had not been out and I said, "Ok, lets go for a home run - Max, Zorro forward!" and my two pals happily galloped through the trailhead and started down Indiana Creek Road. Wheeee, we cruised down the road until meeting up with the Blue River Trail - this popular snowshoe trail would wind us back into Breckenridge and drop us a few blocks from home. So, I sent Nancy a text telling her we didn't need a ride home and off we went on the Blue River Trail. What Fun! We found beautiful, untouched snow the entire route! The trail had steep snow walls on each side and was only one Siberian wide; so, it was single file skijoring as we were breaking trail in 4-12 inches the entire route! Eventually we dropped back into town and had to carefully navigate a couple of blocks of recently plowed roads to complete the route home. What a Blast!

Vital Stats: 9 miles; 130m total time; 110m skijoring time (quite a few sections of deep snow and/or single file tracks kept the overall speeds down); 21 MPH top speed; 1100 feet of elevation climbed.

Max making a very nice Snow Angel in the fresh snow! The sun popped out
for a about a 1/2 hour during our outing. But it is back to dumping snow
again now.
Zorro inspecting the new snow for the "right spot" to dunk his head.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Breckenridge to Como

At the summit of Boreas Pass - very wind blown terrain.
The plan for the day sounded perfect - sometimes reality sucks! ;-)

We were going to start on the Breckenridge side of Boreas Pass and skijor up to the summit and then down the other side of Boreas Pass to the town of Como. This would be a 15 mile route climbing a total of 1850 feet in elevation - a fun workout for all. Skijoring from Breckenridge to Como - it sounded so perfect...

It even started perfect...

(1) The "up route" was incredible. We ascended up Boreas in about an hour and 20 minutes - 7 miles of "all up" and 1600 feet of elevation climbed. When you factor in the elevation, we were flying! Everyone was in top skijoring form!

It even started perfect on the Como side of Boreas...

(2) The first 2 miles starting down from the Boreas Summit towards Como was awesome. No existing tracks on the trail (except for the occasional fox or snowshoe hare tracks) and we were breaking trail in 8-12 inches of untouched snow for 2 miles. "This is going to be a fun, wild ride down!" I thought. Silly me...

Then disaster set in - the final 6 miles of the route to Como was a wind blown mess!

(3) Over the next 2 miles, I had to take the skis off twice and hike down as the trail had every trace of snow blown off it. We were skijoring for at most 1.5 miles of this section and hiking over exposed terrain for over 1/2 a mile. "Ugh, we want to skijor not hike!" I moaned. Little did I know...

(4) The final 4 miles to Como was horrendous! We skijored at most 2 miles in this section and had the skis off hiking over completely snowless terrain for over 2 miles. To make matters worse, it was not as simple as 2 miles of snow then 2 miles without. Instead, we had what seemed like a million short sections of snow and then short sections of no snow: repeated "on & off" of the skis and repeated hiking interruptions - never a chance to open up the "skijoring vehicle" for some downhill speed! The Como side of Boreas Pass was indeed a wind blown disaster with so much exposed terrain you would have thought it was October or May, not February.

Anyway... We did complete the entire 15 mile route with a nice 1850 feet of elevation climbed (1600 on the initial up and then 250 of occasional upswings on the way down). But, we had the skis off for about an hour of the route to hike over snowless terrain - BOO! Oh well, it was still a fun workout for all even with the extended hiking interruptions.

Vital Stats: 15 miles; 200m total time; 120m skijoring time (60m hiking time; 20m of repeated equipment "on/off" time and route planning time); 16 MPH top speed (we never had an extended down section to open up the throttle); 1850 feet of fun elevation climbed!

It was quite windy with big gusts atop Boreas Pass. Usually we stop and take
a break at the Summit. Too windy today, I just snapped a shot of the "Summit
sign" as we skied on by to get back in the cover of some trees to escape the wind.
We stopped for a quick break about 1 mile down from the Boreas Summit towards
Como. Look at this beautiful, untouched terrain in front of us! Breaking trail in
8-12 inches of snow. Little did I know we only had about 1 more mile of this pure
bliss before disaster terrain set in...
A 180 from the previous shot - looking back at our trail breaking tracks coming
down from the Summit.
At our break point - there is a squirrel in the trees in front of us. You cannot see
the small squirrel in the photo; but the "crouched hunting" posture of Max should
tell you all you need to know about what is in the trees!

Friday, February 24, 2012

5 in a Row

"If it snows, we go!" - That is Max, Zorro & my skijoring motto. Fresh snow means we strap on the harnesses & skis and hit the trails. Mother Nature clearly decided to test my resolve to this motto. This morning was our 5th day in a row with fresh snow on the ground. Skijoring 5 days in a row? Can my body keep up? (the Siberians have no trouble going every day :-)

We made it: 5 days in a row of either breaking trail in deep snow or laying fresh tracks in 2-4 inches of snow. We fought off high winds, we fought off busy holiday crowds, we fought of human exhaustion. Thankfully, it is a beautiful sunny day today - rest the human tomorrow and pray for new snow for Sunday...
High up on the trail connecting Baldy Mountain to Boreas Mountain. Breaking
trail in snow soooo deep that we need to go single file and let Max lead the way.
I was planning an easy 8 mile outing today - skijoring up, down and across Baldy and Boreas mountains. But, Mother Nature snuck in a surprise for us... We found untouched snow for about 2.5 miles between Baldy and Boreas - leaving us to break trail in 12-30 inches of fresh snow for this entire stretch. Yes, I said "30 inches" - that's deeper than Max & Zorro so they had to "bunny hop" up and down in the snow to make progress for about 3/4 of a mile straight! Woo, what a fun surprise workout for all!

Vital Stats: 8.1 miles; 120m total time; 105m skijoring time (that 2.5 mile stretch of extreme trail breaking really slows you down); 19 MPH top speed; 1100 feet of elevation climbed.

Max taking a quick break to lay & play in the snow before we start our final
stretch to the Boreas winter trailhead.
Zorro snacking on the snow to "cool his jets" before we start our final stretch.
A look back at our trail breaking fresh tracks as we transitioned out of the woods
and onto Boreas Pass Rd.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Deep Powder Day!

Midway up our route in French Gulch. The snow is as deep
as Zorro's shoulders - Siberian Trail Breaking Power!
Love it when the weatherman is wrong (in our favor)! The forecast was for only a few inches of new snow overnight. We awoke to 6+ inches at our house - meaning the backcountry trails would have even more! Woo!

We were not disappointed as we had the French Gulch trails all to ourselves today. Breaking trail in fresh, untouched powder from 6 to 20 inches deep! What a Siberian workout...

We started at the BnB trailhead and skijored up French Gulch Road. We were able to follow some existing 4wd tracks for the first 1.5 miles until reaching the French Gulch winter trailhead. After transitioning from French Gulch Road onto the French Gulch trails: wheeee - no existing tracks and we started breaking trail in about 6 inches of new snow and progressed as deep as 20 inches. All in, we were breaking trail in 6-20 inches for almost 5.5 miles straight (with the majority being in the 12-20 inch range). Quite a workout when you are under 2 feet tall - just ask Max & Zorro...

Vital Stats: 7 miles; 105m total time; 95m skijoring time; 15 MPH top speed; 1200 feet of elevation climbed. The first 1.5 miles was an easy incline on existing tracks; the next 5.5 miles was nonstop trail breaking in deep, deep snow! Thus the reason we did not hit a very fast "top speed" - some days are defined by strenuous "trail breaking depth" instead of speed and distance...

Still climbing, snow is getting deeper. Zorro's gangline is starting to show some
occasional slack. "You try keeping up with tall Max in deep snow!" he exclaims.
Too deep for "shoulder to shoulder" trail breaking on the narrow trail hidden
deep under the fresh snow. Zorro happily hops in behind Max as we use the
"snow stilts" (Max's long legs) to break trail. "Phew, I can keep up back here!"
says Zorro.
But, it's not all fun & games dropping in behind Max. Zorro's head down as
he still has to power through the snow - just not as deep as Max is breaking.
Keep on truckin in the deep snow - Zorro peeking around the big red trail
breaker to see what the upcoming terrain holds for us...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Day of 'M' Routes

We still had a "high wind" warning (continued from yesterday) when we started our outing today. So, our goal was to stay below treeline and do multiple up/down routes across Baldy Mountain (think of making 1.5 'M' routes across the mountain - up, down, up, down, up, down).

The plan was a success as we stayed sheltered from the wind; yet the constant up/down lead to us climbing over 1200 feet in our relatively short 6.6 mile outing. Roughly 3.3 miles of "ups" and 3.3 miles of "downs" with some steep sections requiring a lot of driving the skis into the snow to keep under control and going safe speeds! Fun, fun day!

Our final stretch returning to the Baldy Mountain trailhead.

Vital Stats: 6.6 miles; 84m total time; 76m skijoring time; 20 MPH top speed; 1200 feet of elevation climbed.

A snow-covered, old abandoned mine between Baldy and Boreas mountains.
Puzzle: Find the Zorro in this picture...
Hint: Look for his antennas (ears).
Max enjoying the snow at our break point (he just finished doing a snow
angel, I was too slow with the camera to catch it).
Max inspecting the left side of the abandoned mine.
Zorro inspecting the snow where Max just finished his snow angel.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fun Fast Day

Cruising up the Sally Barber Mine trail.
A "high wind" weather advisory is on the way to Breckenridge today. So, we got out on the trails early, stayed below treeline and did a short & fast outing around Sally Barber and French Gulch today.

There was roughly an inch of new snow on the lower sections of the trail and about 2-3 inches at the higher elevations. Perfect conditions to go fast up, down and around the trails!

Today's Route: (1) Start at the Sally Barber/Barney Ford trailhead and skijor up to Sally Barber Mine; (2) Sprint down to the French Gulch/Sally Barber intersection; (3) Skijor out & up French Gulch until reaching the first of the private cabins in the gulch; (4) Turn around and sprint down to the Reiling Dredge trailhead on French Gulch Road.

Vital Stats: 6.1 miles; 58m total time; 52m skijoring time; 22 MPH top speed; 650 feet of elevation climbed. A short, fun & fast outing!

At our turnaround point in French Gulch. Max is lined up to keep going further
up French Gulch; he's straining backward to say, "What? Sounded like you said
'turnaround'. I must have heard you wrong - lets keep going!
Max adds, "Well, if you really said something as silly as 'turnaround', then
I am going to snow-angel in the snow while you think about it!
Zorro says, "Yum, yum - I'll be over here chomping down on snow cones
until you 2 decide if we are going forward or turning around!
At our finish point and getting our end-of-run hotdogs. Zorro
demonstrating, "Who says I'm short? Look how loooong I can
stretch my neck to become as tall as Max!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Nice Videos

It's still the "busiest weekend of the year" in Breckenridge; but we got new snowfall overnight. Max, Zorro & I have a commitment: "If it snows, we go!" So, we got an early start today and did a quick outing in Indiana Creek. Short outing and cool temperatures meant everyone was in fast, sprinting form as demonstrated in our start & end videos below:

Off we go - not much help needed from the human, just
Siberian power as we sprint out & up into Indiana Creek.

Sprinting to the finish. Woo - fun!

Even though it was a short outing, we had quite the diversity of conditions to skijor through:

(1) It was 4 degrees with a growing breeze and slight snow falling at the start. This 1.5 mile start (and then 1.5 mile return) is protected by trees, so we were laying fresh tracks on 1-3 inches of new snow.

(2) After the first 1.5 miles, we transitioned into an open, typically windy meadow for the next 1.5 miles. As expected, the winds were really blowing and had created drifting snow for us to power through. We were breaking trail in 6-12 inches of snow this whole route. After we took a quick break, we started back the same path - the wind was blowing so strong that all of our original tracks were already blown over and covered in snow. So it was breaking trail in 6-12 inches again - what fun!

Vital Stats: 5.9 miles; 68m total time; 62m skijoring time; 24 MPH top speed, 850 feet of elevation gain. This was actually a pretty fast outing when you consider that 1/2 the route included breaking trail in 6-12 inches of snow!

I love the following clips from our "return video" - they show the fun of Siberian skijoring:

On the approach, moving in unison.
Passing by - look at the long,
outstretched Max legs!
Flying by - look at all 4 back legs
outstretched in sprinting unison!

A look back at our fresh tracks after breaking trail far back in the
Indiana Creek gulch.

An old, abandoned mining cabin in the Indiana Creek gulch. This cabin
always perks Zorro's interest - I joke that he's thinks this would be a
wonderful place to live!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Technical Route

All smiles as we sprint to our "finish point" today.
Today's skijoring outing covered a series of highly technical backcountry trails. We wanted to stay off the "easy trails" to avoid the weekend crowds. We accomplished that; but what a workout on all 3!

(1) We started early at the Boreas winter trailhead and had a peaceful climb to Bakers Tank on the wide Boreas trail.

(2) We then cut hard & high into the backcountry at Bakers Tank. We stayed on tight trails either undocumented or rated "expert" - weaving in/out of trees (and up/down terrain) from Bakers Tank, all the way across Baldy Mountain and eventually to Sally Barber Mine. In all, a 5 mile trek through highly technical terrain - wooo a workout for all!

(3) We then sprinted down from Sally Barber Mine to the Sally Barber/Barney Ford trailhead. This short section reinforced our route decision for the day - we encountered and navigated around over 25 other cross country skiers/snowshoers on the way down this short trail - what a zoo, happy we spent most of our day far off the beaten path!

Vital Stats: 9.2 miles; 120m total time; 105m skijoring time; 21 MPH top speed; 1100 feet of elevation gain. A technically difficult, yet very peaceful outing for the first 8ish miles and then a zoo the last 1.4 mile...

Nice video of our final approach to the Sally Barber/Barney Ford

Max doing his "snow angel" to cool off when we took a quick break at Sally
Barber Mine (too bad my shadow is hiding his head).
Zorro sampling the "snow cones", Max sniffing for treasures...
Sally Barber Mine with beautiful, clear blue skies in the background.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Max!

Today is Max's birthday! His present from Zorro and I: skijoring up, down and all over Baldy Mountain! Happy 5th Birthday Max...

Skijoring along the trail to the True Romance Mine. Notice the back legs in perfect
unison as we cruise along shoulder-to-shoulder on this narrow trail. We spent most
of the day on "lesser known" (so narrower) trails in the backcountry. Fun, fun, fun!
This 3-day weekend is the busiest of the year for Breckenridge Ski Resort - so the town is full and you want to avoid the wide, well known cross country trails. We did this by sticking to steep and mostly undocumented trails on Baldy Mountain. It was a success, we encountered only 2 other groups of skiers all day! Just Max, Zorro and I skijoring up, down and all over Baldy Mountain!

Vital Stats: 7.1 miles; 90m total time; 80m skijoring time; 19 MPH top speed; 1200 feet of elevation gain. Lots of narrow trails, lots of steep elevations (up & down), lots of Siberian skijoring fun!

Another shot of our narrow, yet very peaceful, trails today.
Max's present to himself: a "snow angel" roll in the snow.
A little "head dunking" exploration in the snow for the Siberians as I was
surveying the terrain for ways to stay on paths less traveled.
Getting our "end of run hotdogs" at the trailhead. Notice Zorro's two feet on my leg - trying to
get a "step up" on tall Max and get closer to the hotdogs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Peaceful Day!

It was a beautiful day out in French Gulch this morning. 2-4 inches of fresh snow at the lower elevations; up to 20 inches of untouched powder at the higher & less traveled elevations; a Siberian beautiful 9 degrees when we started; and not another soul on the trails - just Max, Zorro & I laying fresh tracks all day long! What a gem of a skijoring day!

Our return to the French Gulch winter trailhead. The tracks you
see on the right side of the trail are our original tracks. We had
the trails 100% to ourselves today and were laying fresh tracks
in untouched powder from 2 to 20 inches deep! Woo!

The changing depths of untouched powder made for a fun day with lots of varying speeds:

(1) 1/3 of the outing we were laying fresh tracks in 2-4 inches of untouched powder - the "fast track".
(2) 1/3 of the outing we were laying fresh tracks and breaking trail in 4-10 inches of untouched powder - the "jog track".
(3) 1/3 of the outing we were breaking trail 10-20 inches of untouched powder - the "workout track".

Vital Stats: 6.7 miles; 90m total time; 80m skijoring time (the "workout track" really slowed down our pace - but, boy, was it a workout!); 20 MPH top speed; 900 feet of elevation climbed.

At our "break point" far out in French Gulch. Max burying his head deep in the
snow - notice the top of Zorro's little black ears as he observes Max's snow dive.
Seconds later from the previous shot. Max has rotated around (without lifting
his head out of the snow) as Zorro dives in to help explore...
Did I mention the "deep, beautiful, untouched snow" as you got far out in French
Gulch? As I was planting my ski pole at our break point, it sunk all the way into
the snow without ever touching ground - just the 6 inches of handle is above the
snow in this shot!
A nice shot of our tracks coming up & out of French Gulch. Sunny blue skies
and untouched powder - what a peaceful & fun day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

High Season Crowds

Max cooling off in beautiful "snow angel" form - what
long back legs you have Max!!!
You know it is "tourism high season" in Breckenridge when the trails are packed early on a Tuesday morning! Time for Max, Zorro and I to stick to the lesser known trails for the next 4-6 weeks.

We were planning a short, one hour outing today. We ended up taking 80 minutes to skijor 60 minutes - a whopping 20 minutes of stoppage to avoid crowds of people and loose dogs.

We spent 3/4 of our outing on a very busy Sally Barber Mine trail - lots of stop, wait, start, sprint and repeat... We spent 1/4 of our outing on the lesser known Trail of Tears - nobody around, just the 3 of us.

Once we got on the uncrowded Trail of Tears section, I was treated to a Siberian Posturing Event from my cute little partners. If you have read some of our recent posts, you know we have been frequently skijoring in "single file" mode on skinny (one Siberian wide) trails. Well, today Max & Zorro decided they were "in control" and declared the trail too skinny to skijor side-by-side (see the images below). Oh those crazy Siberians - the trail was perfectly wide enough to skijor shoulder to shoulder. But, instead, they kept alternating chipping & nibbling at one another every time they got even shouldered. This would cause one to back off a bit until I corrected their form and then we'd start over trying to keep shoulder to shoulder until one started the chippy nibbling again. A battle of wills - will I give in and let them go single file or will I hold steady that I am the top dog and we do what I say? Every Siberian owner has had these trying moments of "hold steady, establish control"... Silly boys - that Siberian will trying to gain the upper hand :-)

Vital Stats: 6.1 miles; 80m total time; 60m skijoring time; 22 MPH top speed; 900 feet of elevation gain. 20 minutes of "stop, wait, restart" on the crowded trails.

Skijoring along on the Trail of Tears - a fun "2 Siberian wide" trail that we
usually cruise "shoulder to shoulder" at nice speeds. Usually....
Zorro starting one of our "posturing moments" today. Notice how much room
he has to his left; but he's trying to squeeze Max off the trail so I'll allow them
to skijor in single file configuration. You could fit a whole another Zorro in the
space to his left! This trail is closer to "3 Siberians wide" and is definitely "2 wide";
but the Siberians tried to play me today... I held firm with the crazy 2 and they
finally gave up and agreed to skijor shoulder-to-shoulder.