Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fresh Tracks on Boreas Pass

We enjoyed laying fresh tracks all the way up Boreas Pass today.
Up we go laying fresh tracks in 2-4 inches of fresh snow the entire route up Boreas Pass.
Approaching Bakers Tank as we continue to "set the track" up Boreas Pass

We skijored just over a mile past Bakers Tank before deciding to turn around and head back the same path.
"Turnaround? Ok, it's always a fun & fast route back!" declares happy Max.
"I'm listening, I'm turning; but what about the fresh snow in front of us?" asks curious Zorro.

It was a peaceful return leg jogging in the track we set on the way up. A rare photo below:
Max doing the patented "hunt-n-jog" that he & Zorro have perfected to take in wildlife without
breaking stride. So, what is rare about this? Well, Zorro did not join in the "hunt-n-jog". Normally
it is both hunting or nobody hunting, not one hunting...

Always nice to get a "shot from the front" as Nancy captured us finishing the day back at the Boreas Pass Trailhead.
Happy boys running to the finish!

Tally for the day: 7.7 miles with 750 feet of elevation as we laid fresh tracks all the way up and then rode our tracks all the way back down.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 140 days on the trails covering 1215.0 miles with 139,700 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, April 28, 2014

April Trail Breaking

It is not often that you can say "slowed by deep powder" in late April.
Today was one such rare day...
Breaking trail as we glide past Sally Barber Mine.

As the photo above and 2 below show - we did some serious trail breaking on today's outing. The west side of the Sally Barber Mine trail was breaking trail in 6-7 inches of snow and the main French Gulch trail was breaking trail in 8-12 inches of snow!

Lower French Gulch and breaking trail in at least 8 inches...
Middle French Gulch and approaching a foot or more of untouched terrain.

The east side of the Sally Barber Mine trail was the only time we were not breaking trail as there was a set of snowshoe tracks paving the way. Today's video highlight comes from Max & Zorro moving quickly as they get a snowshoe track to ease the way...
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Who made those snowshoe tracks? Ah-ha, found them:
Flying by the snowshoers as they laughed and said, "Wow, looks like fun!"

A rare late April day when we can say "slowed by deep snow" - 7.2 miles with 750 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 139 days on the trails covering 1207.3 miles with 138,950 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

1200 - We Made It

We surpassed 1200 miles of skijoring for the 2013/2014 season today!
1200 miles - woo hoo, we made it!!!
"We did it, we did it - 1200 miles!" express my happy & satisfied skijor partners!

We woke to a small layer of fresh powder with snow still falling and decided to skijor Swan Valley as we would be sure to get the mileage to surpass 1200 miles for the season. We did a loop around the South Fork area of Swan Valley and were laying fresh tracks in 1-3 inches of fresh snow all day.

The trails look so beautiful with fresh snow as Max & Zorro tow me through the
day's fresh layer.

Today's video highlight goes along with the theme of the previous photo - a fun glide through the forest behind my sled dog pals - wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

I could pretend the previous photo & video were the condition of the trails all day; but that would be pretending. Spring really is here and, while the new snow hid most of the "spring damage", it was still visible on & off...

"Quick, lean to the left - puddle damage to the right!" say Max & Zorro as we came over
a slight hump to find this unwelcome obstacle on the trail.
"Whoa - look at that huge creek breakup!" state the left glancing pair as they slowed to
make sure the terrain was safe as we approached this huge section of breakup in the
middle of the trail!

We knew we needed at least 9.6 miles to pass 1200 today; boy did we cut it close: 9.7 miles with 950 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 19 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 138 days on the trails covering 1200.1 miles with 138,200 feet of elevation climbed. Woo hoo - 1200 miles and counting....

Friday, April 25, 2014

Zoom Day

It was "pedal to the metal" all day on Vail Pass - zoom, zoom, zoom!
"Check - ready to GO!" say the happy huskies when I paused to ask, "Everyone ready for
the final 2 mile sprint to the finish?"

It was fast on top of Shrine Pass.
Fully stretched long Max & tight sprinting Zorro as we zoom along the top of Shrine Pass.

It was fast on the backside of Shrine Pass.
Zipping along the backside of Shrine Pass.

It was fast on Lime Creek Rd.
Every trail we took was "fast all day"!

It was fast on the frontside of Shrine Pass.
Synchronized sprint along the front of Shrine Pass - zooooom!

Today's video highlight comes from the stretch where I believe the GPS clocked us topping 24 MPH. I felt Max & Zorro kick into another gear and let out a instinctual "Woo Hoo!" as we flew down the trail!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

A fast & fun day all over the excellent conditions at Vail Pass: 12.1 miles with 1350 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 24 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 137 days on the trails covering 1190.4 miles with 137,250 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day

We celebrated Earth Day today with a multitude of wildlife encounters while skijoring Boreas Pass.

Beautiful conditions at the upper elevations of Boreas Pass!

Mother Earth provided us with the following forms of wildlife encounters: 1 fox crossing, 3 different squirrel encounters, 1 chipmunk crossing, 1 low flying robin and 1 low flying bluejay - wow, what an Earth Day! Here we go...

"Fox straight ahead, let's get this human moving!" say the fox-locked pair determined to
sprint up the trail and catch the fox.
"Squirrel on the shoulder and our radar is locked - go, go, go!" demonstrate Max & Zorro as
we fly down the trail towards the squirrel target.

Along with the day's theme, today's video highlight starts with a chipmunk distraction on the trail. You cannot actually see the little chipmunk cross the trail, but you can tell it happened by the reaction of Max & Zorro. Watch as I almost lose my "typically composed lead dog Max" off the trail to the chipmunk before he finally recovers and we begin real skijoring again.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Max & Zorro's opinion of our Earth Day outing...
"Excellent wildlife viewing & chasing today!" say the happy brothers giving me an
approving glance as we glide past Bakers Tank.

A 10.4 mile outing up & down Boreas Pass with 1100 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 136 days on the trails covering 1178.3 miles with 135,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Fun Run

We were ecstatic to find excellent conditions on the trails at Swan Valley today!
Zooming along the trail we go!
Max in a full sprint with his front feet barely touching the ground.
Zorro in an airborne stretch as he flies along the trail!

We were not sure how we would find the state of the trails given recent rain and warm temperatures. To our pleasant surprise, we found the South Fork Trail (and its adjacent side trails) in perfect skijoring condition this morning - woo hoo! Some of the more sun exposed trails at Swan Valley, such as the Middle Fork Trail, are no longer usable; but South Fork was about as perfect as a late April trail could be!!!
Happily jogging along a perfect late April terrain!

We scaled up the South Fork Trail before turning around and enjoying an endless ride all the way back to the trailhead. Today's video highlight is a 45 second glimpse into the endless jog & sprint along South Fork.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

What did Max & Zorro think of the great conditions for the day?
"Perfect, we are having a BLAST!" say the happy, happy pair at our quick midpoint break.

A nice day to cover 8.8 miles with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 135 days on the trails covering 1167.9 miles with 134,800 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oh Mother Nature

Oh Mother Nature, why must you tease us so?
Wet snow atop slush atop mud - yuck!

It was just a few days ago that I was marveling at the snowpack we had in & around Breckenridge as I was expecting skijoring deep into May and dreaming of June outings. Well, Mother Nature exerted her authority yesterday and made sure I knew who was boss and who is really in control of the May & June conditions. Mother Nature's authority came in the form of a rainstorm Saturday afternoon and evening! Nothing destroys snowpack faster than rain; not sun, not warm temperatures but rain is the quickest snow destroyer. We were talking with a friend who has lived in Breckenridge the last 20 years and he said, "I can count on one hand the number of times it has rained in April!" It does not rain here in April - it snows or it shines, that's it. The Saturday afternoon/evening rain eventually turned into snow; but that did not fix the damage the rain had done to the trails...

The day's route took us out & back in French Gulch. We were first tracks on the trail; but it was wet snow on top of slush for most of the day. The slush was the damage done by the rain before it was covered by 2-4 inches of wet snow.
Laying fresh tracks in what looks to be pristine conditions. But, look closely at the footprint
behind Max - we were cutting through the fresh snow and into slush most of the day!

Eventually we got above 11,000 feet elevation and everything came back to normal - fresh snow atop snowpack. So, the rain clearly did not occur above 11,000 feet; but all of our trailheads start between 9500 and 10500 feet elevation.
Above 11,000 feet elevation and climbing towards French Pass.
The conditions are still soooo good up high; but the rain beat up the entrance from
every direction.

As the previous two photos show, we were laying fresh tracks most of the way out French Gulch and eventually breaking trail at higher elevations. About 1/3 of the way back from our turnaround point, we ran into snowmobile tracks for the remainder of the return leg.
Sprinting along the fresh snowmobile tracks. We go so fast on set tracks!

Unfortunately there was one big problem with snowmobiles - they are heavy! So, while the tracks gave us a fast track to sprint, it also frequently exposed the slush below the snow. Today's video highlight shows the constant obstacle of the day - running fast and then slowing to navigate & avoid slush patches. It was this way most of the return route: run, run, slow to avoid slush - repeat...
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

If only we could stay above 11,000 feet all day...
"Exactly - it is GREAT up high!" say the approving pair once we got above the
slush layer and into pristine conditions.

The day covered 8 miles, 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH with a huge rain induced slush layer from Mother Nature to remind us who is really in charge...

2013/2014 Season to Date: 134 days on the trails covering 1159.1 miles with 133,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Vail Pass Snowpack

April 18th and the snowpack at the Vail Pass Recreation Area is still quite impressive!
Note the STOP sign forward and to the right. This is a "full height" STOP sign for summer
traffic on this road but the sign is barely above the snowpack today. That's an impressive
base of snow for April 18th!

We did a "double loop" at Vail Pass today. We skijored up Shrine Pass via the snowshoe trail, then sprinted along the groomed Shrine Pass Road, then back up Shrine Pass making our own trail on the hard snow crust and finally sprinting back along Shrine Pass Road.

Cruising along the Shrine Pass Snowshoe Trail.
Sprinting along the groomed Shrine Pass Road.

Today's video highlight features "Run, Hunt, Run"... Watch closely as something keeps catching Zorro's attention off the right of the trail as he frequently glances to the right. Eventually the "something to the right" catches Max's attention too as both start focusing off to the right. Only wildlife can capture their attention like this; but I scanned the terrain and saw nothing. All this hunting without breaking our run and without veering off the trail - perfect "Run, Hunt, Run" form :-)
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Eventually the day had to come to an end, although Zorro was not sure why...
We just finished our second climb up Shrine Pass (this time making our own trail).
I called out "right" as we needed to connect back onto Shrine Pass Rd to head back to the trailhead.
"Right? Ok - let's go!" says happy Max.
"I'm turning, but why on earth aren't we going further?" asks obedient but puzzled Zorro.

A fun double loop on Shrine Pass covering 9.7 miles with 1100 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 133 days on the trails covering 1151.1 miles with 133,000 feet of elevation climbed. Over 1150 miles and still going - Woo Hoo!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Beautiful Day

A beautiful day to skijor the trails in & around French Gulch this morning.
Sun, Snow & Siberians - what more could you ask for to make a beautiful day!

Today's video highlight shows some of the complexity of "backcountry skijoring" (as opposed to groomed or nordic center skijoring). When in the backcountry, the trails are rarely wide as today found us on trails one snowmobile wide with very fast conditions. The complexity of a narrow & fast packed trail is "how to operate under control?"... If you put both skis in the track then it is not wide enough for you to use the skis to keep under control. You have to proceed with one ski "in track" (the speed ski) and one ski "out of track" (the control ski) and the faster your partners go, the more complex this becomes - the video gives a good example of this as we progress along at varying speeds working the human's ability to operate under control with in & out of track skis.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

One of the highlights of the day was finding the top crust of snow strong enough to hold Max & Zorro's weight. This allowed us to ski across a couple of untracked meadows throughout French Gulch to add some additional fun to our outing!
Yeah - the crust is strong enough to hold our weight. Through the meadows we go - wheeee!

Temperatures were in the upper 20s all day, so you know what that means:
"Rolling snow angels to cool off at our midpoint!" performs Max.
"Chomping snowcones to cool off instead!" demonstrates Zorro.

All in, a great day touring around French Gulch:
"We approve - what a fun day!" say my happy pair!

A peaceful run in French Gulch covering 9.2 miles with 850 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 132 days on the trails covering 1141.4 miles with 131,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Today's skijor outing required a lot of creativity and improvisation by the musher...
"Which way now?" ask the happy pair as I survey the terrain to set a path to continue.

Here is a description of today's "problem" that lead to trail creativity. First off we had 8-12 inches of fresh snow fall Sunday night (that was a good thing). Second, the sun & wind came out slightly on Monday to begin to build a "spring crust" on top the new snow; but the crust was not strong enough to hold Max & Zorro's weight (that was a bad thing). The problem with a weak crust is that it makes for "punchy trails" such that Max & Zorro cannot glide through powder nor can they stay atop the crust; instead they punch through the choppy terrain. I always abort "punchy trails" as it is unnecessary work on their hips to punch along the trails.

Now, one way to avoid punchy trails is to follow existing tracks (from skiers or snowshoers). So that could have been our solution today: just stick to existing tracks. Well, this solution leads to our third problem of the day: people do not go nearly as far as a skijor team, so we kept running out of existing tracks (and, thus, running into punchy terrain). Since the snow was fairly fresh, there is one final way to avoid punchy trails - stay in the trees & shade as the shaded snow was not punchy and perfectly fine for Max & Zorro to glide through.

This brings us to the creativity of the day: stay on set tracks where they exist, abort punchy terrain when it starts and use the shaded backcountry to (creatively) connect whatever set tracks we could find. As a result, we spent the vast majority of the day on seldom used or never used paths of untouched snow in the forests. Fun, but a lot of creativity on the part of the musher to invent the non-standard path...
This is what most of the day looked like: keeping on the soft snow in the shade as we invent
ways to connect the few set tracks on the main trails.

The video highlight of the day goes along with our backcountry creativity. Most of the day was spent as shown in this video: a gentle trot on fresh snow as we invent paths through the forest.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Occasionally we would pop out of the forest and onto a set track and then, zoom, off we would go! But, we would quickly run out of set tracks and hit punchy terrain to send us back into the forest.
Zoom, zoom - a set track to sprint along!
Trot, trot - back to creative measures to connect trails.

A lot of "mind work" to go with the "skijor work" today...
"I love creative days!" expresses happy Max.
"I'm all ears, how shall we proceed next?" asks intense Zorro.

An interesting day covering 10.4 miles with 1150 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 131 days on the trails covering 1132.2 miles with 131,050 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April Pow

An April pow, pow, Powder Day on the trails today!

Having a blast plowing through about 10 inches of fresh powder!

Powder days in April are always a rare treat and today was spectacular as we found ourselves in 5-10 inches of fresh snow for most of our 7.4 mile outing.

Cresting over the trail at Sally Barber Mine as we break trail in 8-10 inches of fresh snow.
Gliding down a gentle slope with tons of fresh snow to ourselves all day!

Our route for the day consisted of 3 parts: (1) breaking trail up & over Sally Barber mine as we traversed from the west trailhead to the east trailhead; (2) breaking trail out the main French Gulch Trail; and (3) riding our own tracks back along the French Gulch Trail. So, it was breaking trail for about 3/4 of the outing and then riding our own tracks for the last 1/4.
Picking up the speed as we enjoy running in the tracks we set on the way out
French Gulch.

A rare extreme powder day in April covering 7.4 miles with 900 feet of elevation climbed.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 130 days on the trails covering 1121.8 miles with 129,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Funday

It was a "Sunday Funday" skijoring around Indiana Creek this morning. 

"Sunday Funday!" says happy Zorro glancing back when I asked, "who is having fun?"
"You're ok little bro!" expresses Max giving Zorro an approving peck on the cheek.

A new encounter for us on the trail today - DUCKS!!!! Apparently the ducks think winter is over and have migrated back to Indiana Creek for the summer. We have never encountered ducks on a skijor outing before as it took us all by surprise and was quite entertaining for those who like duck meat...
We were cruising up the trail nicely when all duck broke loose to the right.
You can barely see one of the ducks circled in this photo. There were 3 ducks that were
apparently as surprised by 2 Siberian Huskies as we were by 3 ducks as they all took flight
as we approached.
You can see 2 of the 3 flying off in the circle in this photo.
You can see 2 very intense hunters watching from the trail!
"Duck food!!!! We never imagined encountering duck food while skijoring!"

We skijored two different "out & back" trails in Indiana Creek. Here we are at the turn around point of on one of the trails...
"Cooling off rolling a snow angel!" demonstrates Max.
"Digging for gold!" exhibits hole digging Zorro.

Oh yea, we did do some skijoring in between all the antics pictured above :-)
Trotting along the first of our "out & back" trails that winds through the forest near
Indiana Creek.
Hopping along the second of our "out & back" trails that takes us along the shores
of Indiana Creek.

A Sunday Funday jogging around Indiana Creek: 7.4 miles with 800 feet of elevation climbed.

2013/2014 Season to Date: 129 days on the trails covering 1114.4 miles with 129,000 feet of elevation climbed.