Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Top Crust

Great views as we glide along the top layer of snow crust in open meadows at Vail Pass!
Snow covered Rocky Mountains all around us. Snow covered terrain all around us.
Skijoring fun all over Vail Pass this morning!

Our goal this morning was to skijor the "top crust" of snow in all of the meadows around Shrine Pass at the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area. Max & Zorro really enjoy the open meadow tours we get in Spring when the top crust can support their weight as we glide back & forth, up & down and make our own path.

We started from the trailhead on an established trail and then, after climbing up for a mile or so, it was time to test the meadows for a top layer that would support us.
Off the main trail and pausing for a second to make sure the top crust can support us.
"Feels safe to me!" exclaims happy Max.
"If it can support you two, then you know I am safe!" declares cute little Zorro.

The top crust was still intact, so "touring the meadows" we went...
Wheeee - back & forth we go! You can see tracks from someone else who recently skied
up the middle of this meadow too.

The crust is holding just fine, let's open this team up!
Zoom go my skijoring partners as they tow me up and to the left.

Unfortunately, it was a warm day (low to mid 30s F) so the crust started to get soft and a little punchy partway through our outing. Once that happened, it was time abort the open meadows and get back on the established trail. Nothing wrong with the main trail, though, but it is a shame to see top crust starting to give in to Mother Nature and Spring...
Back on the main trail. "Let's catch some air and haul this human home!" declare the
airborne, sprinting pair.

Fun on the top crust for about 1/2 the outing and then fun on the main trails for the second half: 8.3 miles with 850 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 133 days on the trails covering 1144.5 miles with 120,050 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, April 27, 2015


We went snorkeling today in French Gulch!
Snorkeling along the French Gulch Trail - wheeee!

For those not familiar with the term... Snorkeling is used by powder and backcountry enthusiasts to describe skiing in chest to shoulder deep powder. It is also used by snowmobile enthusiasts to describe riding in "machine deep" powder. So, why wouldn't sled dogs breaking trail in shoulder deep powder be referred to as snorkeling as well? No reason not, so we have officially declared "sled dog snorkeling" as breaking trail in shoulder deep powder. We found ourselves snorkeling most of the day in French Gulch. Snorkeling in late April - what a surprise treat!

The day started modestly (compared to what we encountered later) as we were breaking trail in 10+ inches of fresh snow from the beginning of the outing. Well, 10+ inches is modest compared to the snorkeling we got into further along the trail!
The "modest" terrain as we are breaking trail in 10+ inches :-)

An aerobic workout of breaking trail to snorkeling was well worth it as we got in one of our favorite activities in French Gulch: moose sighting!
"Found one!" declare the intense moose watching pair whose noses lead them to the right to
give us a chance to watch a moose move through the trees.

Everybody having fun in the deep snow?
"Yes, I could go all day!" states long-legged Max.
"You bet; and what a workout!" states short & happy Zorro.

Not much can slow Max & Zorro to a less than 6 mile skijor outing. Snorkeling in 15-20 inches of fresh snow is one such thing... 5.6 miles covered with 500 feet of elevation climbed and a modest top speed of 14 MPH (you try running in 10+ inches of snow!)

2014/2015 Season to Date: 132 days on the trails covering 1136.2 miles with 119,200 feet of elevation climbed.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Late April Freshies

Laying fresh tracks as we descend out of the backcountry and onto Boreas Pass Rd at Bakers Tank.
What beautiful, untouched terrain in front of us - wheeee!

If you paid close attention to our last six skijor outings, you should have noticed a common denominator on 5 of the 6 outings - Pass... Rabbit Ears Pass, Vail Pass and (today) Boreas Pass. While conditions may be deteriorating at lower elevations, the season is still alive and well when you hang around the upper elevation passes.

Today's "pass" was Boreas Pass. The trailhead to Boreas Pass is extremely popular and had been tracked and melted down to dirt and mud. So, we needed a way to get onto the upper parts of Boreas without using the published entrance. Luckily, we know of a few secret ways to approach Boreas from the backcountry and bypass the lower, broken section of trail. The secrets were a success:
Laying fresh tracks in 4-8 inches of untouched powder on our secret approaches to Boreas.
What a fun backcountry tour!

Eventually we transitioned onto Boreas at Bakers Tank (as shown in the first photo). We then had fun following a set snowshoe track up & down parts of Boreas before taking another secret way off of Boreas to end the day (and, again, bypass the broken lower terrain):
Enjoying a gentle jog along the snowshoe trail on Boreas Pass Rd.

Temperatures were below freezing, but barely....
"Must cool our jets by rolling snow angels before continuing!" declare the snow angel rolling
pair at our quick midpoint break of the day.

What a late April treat: laying fresh tracks using secret trails to get on & off Boreas and then jogging along the set tracks of Boreas. 8 miles with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 15 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 131 days on the trails covering 1130.6 miles with 118,700 feet of elevation climbed.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Vail Pass Uncorked

It was "pedal to the metal" all day as we uncorked the skijoring engine on perfect conditions at Vail Pass!
Flying along the hard crust in one of the many open meadows around Shrine Pass.

There was about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of new snow on Vail Pass and the "Spring crust" in all of the open meadows is still strong enough to hold a Siberian Husky. As a result, we were sprinting all day on trail, off trail and just about everywhere up, down and around the Shrine Pass area at Vail Pass!

The first photo is "off trail" sprinting while the following is "on trail" as the layer of new snow gave me enough control on the skis to let Max & Zorro keep it full throttle all day - wheeee!
Zoom! Beautiful form shot of Zorro as I am directly behind Max and able to catch this
nice side view of the Sprinting Z.

Today's video highlight is just what you would expect from the title of today's blog... Zoom we go flying along the terrain atop Shrine Pass. About 25-30 seconds or so into the video is where we hit the day's top speed of 23 MPH.
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Nothing like perfect conditions for a late April sprint run!
"What a great day & perfect conditions to 'open it up'!" declare the happy pair looking back
at me at our turnaround point atop Shrine Pass.

Zoom: 9.1 miles with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 23 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 130 days on the trails covering 1122.6 miles with 117,800 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Hidden Gem

Skijoring one of our favorite "hidden gem" trails near home this morning - zoom:
Fully out-stretched sled dogs towing me up a rise in the trail.
So fun to get towed uphill!!!

The network of trails we used this morning are some of the gems that stay ski-able the longest into Spring. Two reasons they stay in good shape so long: (1) you are above 11,000 feet elevation on most of the terrain; and (2) they are seldom used (and, thus, not "tracked down") by others. Come along for our tour of the hidden gem trails:
The real trail is the footsteps you see to our left; but the trail gets more sun and some traffic.
The right shoulder is about 3 feet above the trail (3 feet of snowpack!) and hard enough for us
to glide along on the side! "Nice up here on the shoulder, huh bro?" whispers Max to Zorro
as we cruise along the terrain.

A lot of this terrain weaves you through dense forests. The snowpack was fine, but you have to be careful near large trees as their branches block snow from collecting at the base...
Zooming through the forest, just stay away from the dirt spots near the tall or dense trees.

A few nice open straightaways to open things up - wheeee:
Wide open straightaway - pedal to the metal!

Unfortunately I had to take the skis off once to cross over a large patch of dirt in the trail. As long as I cross quickly and get the skis back on quickly, my partners are quite agreeable and understand the conditions:
"Having a great day; but get those skis back on quickly..." declare the happy pair looking back
at me as I place my ski down to get me ready to restart the proper pace.

A great day cruising around the forest on one of our hidden gem trails: 7.7 miles with 1050 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 18 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 129 days on the trails covering 1113.5 miles with 116,900 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

1100 Miles

Flying (literally) past 1100 miles skijoring for the season!
1105.8 miles and counting...
Catching air as we open up the throttle on a fast straightaway atop Rabbit Ears Pass.

This is our second year in a row surpassing 1100 miles of skijoring for the season. We are dreaming of 1200 if the snowpack can hold up (or Mother Nature gives us some new snow).
"1100 was fun, how about 2200?" asks happy Max at one of our turnaround points on the trail.
"I hear Antarctica has a great snowpack for summer!" suggests fun Zorro.

Come along for today's fun tour up, down and around Rabbit Ears Pass...
The top crust of snow is holding up beautifully for late April!
Having a blast sprinting along the top crust!
The two points on top the mountain directly in front of Zorro are the ears for which Rabbit
Ears Pass gets its name.
Nice semi-side view of my out-stretched skijor partners as I glided out to the left a bit
to catch this nice view.

Today's route took us by the Rabbit Ears Pass Marker. Always fun to stop and inspect:
"Hmmm, does not smell like rabbits!" declares inspector Max.
"Hmmm, I do not see any rabbits!" states inspector Zorro.

Max provides the day's comical interlude. If the musher ever takes too long during a quick pause (equipment adjustment, gps check, etc.), he is always told about it by at least one. Today was Max's day to let me know just how slow I really am...
"Aaahhhhh - you are KILLING me! I'm getting bone rot waiting for you!" screams Max.
"I would never say anything like that!" says 'it wasn't me this time' Zorro.
Note my shadow with my left arm in the air as I am saying, "I'm coming, I'm coming
you impatient red head!"

A day spent touring the terrain around the Rabbit Ears Pass Marker: 8.7 miles with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 22 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 128 days on the trails covering 1105.8 miles with 115,850 feet of elevation climbed.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Where is Everybody

The theme for this morning's skijor outing: Where is Everybody?
Fresh, untouched snow as far as the eye can see!
Where is Everybody?

We went to skijor our favorite "easy trail" at Rabbit Ears Pass this morning. This trail is typically popular with snowmobiles as we have never found ourselves laying fresh tracks on this trail. Well, "never" ended today as we found ourselves laying fresh tracks in 1-3 inches of snow for 10 miles! Apparently people think winter is over and have put away their snow toys. Well, winter is still doing just fine on Rabbit Ears Pass. Here we go...
Zooming along the trail of untouched snow!
Where is Everybody?

Second verse, same as the first...
Not another track as far as the eye can see. Really, wow!
Where is Everybody?

Third verse, same as the first...
What beautiful terrain all to ourselves. Unbelievable!
Where is Everybody?

Fourth verse, ... almost the first...
Look, tracks to our right. Someone else knows it is still winter is what you are probably thinking.
Wrong... We did an "out & back" today and those tracks to the right are our own from the
"out direction".
Where is Everybody?

Seriously, it felt like we had the Colorado outdoors all to ourselves this morning: 10.1 miles of laying fresh tracks with 500 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 20 MPH. Where is Everybody?

2014/2015 Season to Date: 127 days on the trails covering 1097.1 miles with 115,150 feet of elevation climbed.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Solo Track

Laying Fresh Tracks in a Solo Snowmobile Track atop Rabbit Ears Pass - Wheeeee!
"I'll take one 'runner track', you take the other 'runner track' and give the human the wide center
track and off we goooo!" say my fun partners as we lay fresh tracks in 2-3 inches of fresh snow
in a solo snowmobile track leading us up, down and around Rabbit Ears Pass.

We were laying fresh tracks in 1-4 inches of new snow the whole outing on Rabbit Ears Pass. Our route had us following snowmobile trails all over the terrain. Near the trailhead the snowmobile tracks were wide (e.g., multiple machines wide); but after about 2 miles, all tracks disappeared except for a solo snowmobile track. We had a great time following this solo track for miles and miles as if felt like it was just us and one other person who had experienced this great April snow!

Most of the outing looked like the first picture with us running in the solo track. But, down low it was laying fresh tracks on wider snowmobile trails:
The trail is about 3 snowmobiles wide near the trailhead; but it was still laying fresh tracks
in 1-2 inches of snow near the start of the day.

It was below freezing; but not by much....
"Aahh, rolling snow angels to cool off!" demonstrate the funny pair at our quick midpoint
break of the outing.

A fun video highlight from the day as we uncork the skijoring engine along the trail - wheeee!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

Great day atop Rabbit Ears Pass laying fresh tracks in a solo snowmobile track for most of the day: 9.7 miles with 900 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 21 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 126 days on the trails covering 1087.0 miles with 114,650 feet of elevation climbed.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


It was a Pow Wow of Powder far back in French Gulch this morning!
Breaking trail in 8+ inches of fresh, fun powder.

We are in the midst of a wonderful mid-April snowstorm the last few days. The snow has been wet, sticky and heavy below 10,000 feet elevation, so we have spent our days higher. Between 10,000 and about 10,500 feet, the snow has been a bit wet but not too much. Above 10,500 it has been Champagne Powder in April!

The further we went today, the deeper it got. Max & Zorro were practically swimming in snow at points along the way:
Swimming or jogging? Hard to tell :-)

We did a loop around the last meadow in French Gulch (instead of our typical out & back), so we were breaking trail the entire circle. What fun!
Our "out direction" was along the trees across the meadow to the right. We were having so much
fun that we came back on the left side of the meadow to continue breaking trail.

Why do we love skijoring French Gulch so much? Moose!
Pausing to watch a big brown moose body move through the trees across the meadow.
Always fun for Max & Zorro to get the scents, sounds and sights of moose.
Always fun for the human when the moose is far away!

So happy this mid-April storm has brought the French Gulch Trail back to life:
"So much fun - let's go find the moose!" exclaim the happy pair at a quick pause on the trail
this morning.

Happily "slowed by snow" on our outing today as we were breaking trail deep in French Gulch for miles: 7.9 miles with 700 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 17 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 125 days on the trails covering 1077.3 miles with 113,750 feet of elevation climbed.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Yay Snow

A mid-April Powder Day - Woo Hoo!
Love looking at Max & Zorro towing me quickly around corners! Zoom zoom!

The morning's outing ranged from "lightly snowing" to "dumping snow"; but it was snowing all morning. Yay Snow!
Dumping snow as we can barely see 10-20 yards down the trail. Yay Snow!

The best thing about this storm? It brought the French Gulch Trail back into use! We had declared French Gulch dead about 2 weeks ago as the lower portion of the trail was down to dirt. But, the storm from yesterday into today brought French Gulch back to life, look at this beautiful terrain in upper French Gulch:
Breaking trail again on one of our favorite trails. Woo Hoo!

A great time had by all:
"Yay Snow!" exclaim my partners at our turnaround point in French Gulch.

Today's video clip is a tribute to "Yay Snow" as it shows the pattern for most of the outing - the GoPro was unable to remain free of blurring from falling snow for more than a minute all day. Yay!
[watch on youtube if no video loads below]

A great storm bringing French Gulch back to life: 8.2 miles with 800 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 19 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 124 days on the trails covering 1069.4 miles with 113,050 feet of elevation climbed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Good, Bad, Ugly

The good, the bad and the ugly on the trails today at Swan Valley...
"A mix of conditions; but we still had a GREAT time!" exclaim the happy pair watching
me kneel to get equipment out of my backpack.

We had "the good" as we were able to open up on straightaways where we could see snow covered ground far in front of us:
A beautiful section of trail to "open it up" - wheeee!

Yet, we had to slow down when we entered any blind curve in the trail in case the other side of the curve had an unwelcome surprise. We would enter many such curves on "the good" only to find "the bad" waiting for us on the other side...
Yikes - what an unwelcome surprise on the other side of a blind curve!

Carefully traverse a section of "the bad" and we would find a nice section of "the good" to cut loose on again:
Towing the human up a slight lift of "the good" on the trail - so fun when good!

But constantly slowing to carefully traverse "the bad":
Eek - exposed ground all around with a narrow ribbon of death to skijor through!

Finally, the ugly....
A quiz for you on "what is wrong" with the last photo:
   (a) only a trace of snow over ground!
   (b) you can see a ski pole but no ski tips!
   (c) all of the above.

Well, the answer is (c). We had to take off the skis to hike final 3/4 mile of trail today. I have a nice backpack to carry the skis; but it is such a shame to have to use it.

A day of cautious skijoring due to "trail surprises" and hiking on foot to complete the day: 7.2 miles with 800 feet of elevation climbed and a top speed of 16 MPH.

2014/2015 Season to Date: 123 days on the trails covering 1061.2 miles with 112,250 feet of elevation climbed.