Happy 2019! We speak with hushed voices, but crazy optimism of the snowpack so far: Can this keep up? Six-hundred inches? More?? Might we see lines come in that have never been skied, never held snow, were always looked at in summer and sighed at, if only...
I love to freeheel backcountry ski in my home hills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, despite the challenges they provide: Oxygen-depriving elevation; legendary snowpack instability; wind (oh God the wind) that carries every fresh storm straight off the peaks into Kansas; Fast-n-Furious-style evasive action on I-70; and the fickle nature and lack of winter precipitation as felt the last two years.
But, in November and early December of 2018, there was no better place in the entire world for skiing on my trusty BMF/R telemark bindings than Colorado's Front Range. This year, I've been falling in love all over again.
The storm arrived on Halloween night. Not quite spooky-scary thunderclaps and lightning, but the jet stream did indeed fly in like the Headless Horseman's jack-o-lantern and take the Front Range by storm. A full meter-five of thick, coating snow would swirl through my hills in the next seven days. Forty-eight hours into the storm, I stuck the skins on my skis and went to have a look around. Gosh if it didn't look like January.
And it didn't stop snowing. By the third week of November—with my Utah buddies still posting MTB pics—the skiing in Colorado's northern mountains was starting to get seriously rad.
There was a sense among the local backcountry posse that we were in the presence of something truly special. A Thanksgiving blessing, undeniably. A start to the season the likes of which we hadn't seen for years.
Black Friday came and went, and - not in the backcountry - people were shopping. It was a good a time to buy a shiny new pair of Bishop BMF-R telemark bindings on Gonzo skis and get out into the backcountry.
The snow didn't stop. Above timberline, the big lines were growing holiday-dinner-fat. Down low, the first of the pillow drops were forming a full six weeks ahead of schedule. Folks were sending mid-February steep lines in the first week of December. I know it's almost too incredible to believe, but I was there.
It's so easy to love your home hills when they are loving you back. May all of our mountains, mine and yours, near and far, be generous, glorious, and gratifying in 2019.
Written by Doug Mock