December 21, 2006

Accumulating Snow

So when most people think of Denver in the winter, they think of a nice snowy city. On the contrary, it rarely snows in Denver, and when it does, it's in the form of these pretty, little, snowflakes that hover in the air and never seem to land on the ground. Thus, the snow never accumulates.

We recently had a snow storm (note that I'm not calling it a blizzard like the TV stations) in which the snow actually landed on the ground. This caused widespread panic amongst Coloradans across the state. When the storm started, there was a gust of wind recorded in Denver at 35 mph. Since this is the minimum required to consider a snowstorm a blizzard, the media has insisted that the entire storm was a blizzard becuase of this one stupid gust. This pesky snow has caused nearly everything to close - mail service, schools, universities (during finals week), shopping malls (only days before Christmas), and engineering offices (mine included!). Most irritating is that they decided to close one of the biggest airports in the country. The airport is to remain closed until noon tomorrow (Friday). Our flight, scheduled to depart at 12:30, has been canceled. As a result, we may not make it back to Oregon before Christmas.

On the up-side, Ashley and I put on our skis and engaged in a ski tour of South Boulder (SoBo) last night. We visited several friends and saw people stuck on the road, including about 4 busses, some of them sideways in the road.

Today I went up to Eldora with a bunch of the people Ashley works with and skied over 2' of fresh powder. It snowed for a few hours in the morning and cleared up to become a bluebird day by about 10:00 am. It was the best ski day Eldora has had for a few years, and I got to use my new K2 Anti Piste skis (really wide skis made for powder) for the first time!

I'd like to close with a picture or our Honda Accord.

Rubsy the Christmas Tree

This is a picture of Rubsy the Rubber Plant dubbling as Rubsy the Christmas Tree. After the whole tree towing incident, this is what we resorted to.

December 19, 2006

Random Update

On Sunday I went skiing up at Eldora. There still isn't enough snow to ski off-trail, but they've got more runs open now. I managed to find a run where the middle third was covered with a few inches of man-made powder, which seemed to break up the monotony of the groomers. I can't wait to go back to Oregon where they actually have a snowpack! Sunday night Ashley and I hosted a Holiday Sweater Party, centered around Hot Buttered Rum, holiday ale, ski movies, and (of course) ugly holiday sweaters. Yes, those are moose slippers on my feet with red noses.

I have only two more days of work before we leave for Oregon!

December 12, 2006

Taos, NM

I'm leaving after lunch today to go to Taos, NM. I won't be doing any skiing - I don't think they have any snow down there yet anyway. Instead, I'll be pointing a laser gun at a pile of rocks and pulling the trigger for a couple of days. The end result is to be a survey of a rockfall area that can't seem to get along with the adjacent highway. Should be much more fun than office work.

December 10, 2006

Mt. Sherman

Yesterday Dane and I hiked up and skied down Mt. Sherman. Mt. Sherman is known as being the easiest 14er in Colorado, however, the conditions yesterday made it a bit of a challenge nonetheless.

The day started out with me realizing I forgot my climbing skins, which meant I would have to hike up, carrying my skis instead of skiing up, unless I could improvise some skins. The photo below shows my attempt, which worked well on lower angle slopes. I was able to complete the approach using this setup.

Much of the hike up was over rocks anyway, so the climbing skin issue turned out to not be too problematic. The only problem it really presented was the fact that the skis on my back acted as a parachute during the entire hike up. When we neared the summit ridge we were both nearly blown off the mountain, so we ditched our skis and snowboard for the final summit push. The following video is of Dane leaning into the wind shortly after we gained the summit ridge.

This was the most brutal weather for a bluebird day I have ever witnessed. Much of the climb was into this wind, making the ascent much more strenuous than it needed to be. We took a few photos at the summit before beginning our rapid retreat back to a more sane weather scenario.

We were able to ski about 2/3 of the way back to the car by linking up the most continuous patches of snow we could find. The video below shows the beginning of Dane's run.

. . . and a good shot of me throwing some snow

The car-to-car trip took a total of about 6 hours. Overall it was a fantastic trip with some exciting weather.

On the drive out from the trailhead, we passed several people out cutting Christmas trees. Dane and I thought this looked like a good idea, but we didn't have a saw. However, we did have a towstrap. We were both aware from past experiences that alpine trees are surprisingly stout. Knowing this, we picked a nice, small 5' tree near the edge of the road. Shifting the 4-Runner into 4-low and slowly driving away, the tree held its ground with an impressive resolve.

As a final effort, I put some slack in the towstrap and drove away, more quickly this time. As the strap became taught, the 4-Runner came to an abrupt stop. Upon questioning Dane, who was outside the vehicle watching, I found out that the tree didn't even budge. Not wanting to damage my truck, we left the tree and drove home with Dane saying something to the affect that in the future, he'll feel much more comfortable using small trees as climbing anchors.

December 06, 2006

Costa Rica

My friend, Antonio, is graduating in a few days from the same engineering program that I did about a year ago. He plans to spend a couple months lying low and traveling before beginning work at a firm that competes with mine. One of his planned excursions is to visit his dad, who conveniently lives in Costa Rica. As luck would have it, he invited me to go with him! His dad ownes a small hotel in a medium touristy mountain town, where we will stay for free. I believe the food is covered too, so all I really have to pay for is my plane ticket and any recreating we choose to do while we are there. I hear there are monkeys all over the place, so this brings the excitement to a whole new level! I simply couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I've informed Keith and Melanie of my planned trip (January 20 - 28), and they think they'll be able to find me and hang out since they'll still be on their tour of Central America. This all means that I'll have to return to work for 2.5 weeks after my holiday trip to Oregon before leaving for another week - vacation time courtesy of the North Dakota field work and compensation time earned there.

December 03, 2006

Backcountry Weekend

On Friday after work, Ashley and I drove into the mountains to visit our friend, Dane, who is staying at his parents' vacation home in Frisco, CO. The three of us went skiing on the slopes of Mt. Baldy on Saturday, and Vail Pass on Sunday.

The primary task during the Mt. Baldy trip for all three of us was to stay warm. I'm pretty sure the temperature where we were skiing never rose above 0 degrees F, but I'm not sure how cold it actually got. After the short approach to the skiable slopes, we found ourselves at an old mining structure. Dane combined his climbing skills (to ascend the structure) with his riding skills to create the entertaining video below.

After that point, it started snowing and we never saw the sun again. It became too cold to take pictures, but Ashley and I did pose for one shot, managing to smile and pretend that we were not experiencing the initial signs of frostbite.

The snow was deep and plentiful, but after two runs we called it a day and thawed our frozen lips out in a glass of beer at the Breckenridge Brewery. Still frozen, we returned to Dane's place for a hot tub.

On Sunday Dane and I went back out in search of more powder, this time at Vail Pass. Ashley stayed back to grade papers and study - that Ph.D. thing is always getting in the way. The sun was out all day, so the frigid temperatures didn't play as much of a role. We explored a new area, and found a bowl that appeared to have good snow and a good pitch. Upon dropping in, I found the snow to be deep, light, and consistent for several hundred vertical feet. On each turn I sank between 12 and 18 inches, my cheesy grin getting bigger with each turn. The run was amazing, and the next run that we did in the trees right next to it was just as good.