New Years Eve in Crested Butte

No 14ers climbed to close at 2012 as Winter finally showed up and gave us a Holiday Helping of snow.  However, there was plenty of snowshoeing and skiing to be had.

We spent the first 2 days just bombing the mountain.  We attempted to ski all 79 open runs on our first day…and came up well short at 29 runs.  However, we did ski every blue and black on the main mountain…those learner chairs just moved way too slow.  By New Years Eve, we had skied 47,954 feet over 2 days and 54,475 over 3 days including our first day at Breck…our legs we’re tanked.

We set out for the Torchlight Parade with a Dank IPA tucked away in my new growler and we’re greeted with an epic game of fetch with the Brownest.


Doing his best tennis ball model.


Wondering why I haven’t thrown the ball yet.

Casey played for a solid 45 minutes including being chased by 5 kids and 2 younger boys taking over the Chuck It duties.  He was loving life.

Eventually, the sun began to set and the temperature plummeted.


Last light at 12,192 feet.

Before the torchlight parade began, Crested Butte’s newest tradition, a glowstick parade for the kids began.  Much respect to them as there is no guarantee I can hold a line as well as them.


Tripod was on the fritz, but this does a decent job of reflecting the beauty of the evening.

We made it to grand ole hour of 10:04 on New Years Eve after a few beers (Avery Hog Heaven, Le Merle, Deschutes Black Butte XXIV) and woke up early the next morning to snowshoe up the mountain for the first time.


It was a balmy -10 at sunrise.

If you’ve skied the Butte…you know the first pitch up Red Lady (Hollywood Hill) is rather steep.  We thought this would be the hardest part of the climb, but we then found that greens are steeper than you think when you’re going up them.


Shoeing up A-Frame Style


Joel Gratz…you said it wasn’t going to snow!

After 45 minutes of climbing freshly groomed snow and a thoroughly confused dog, we had to head down to beat the lifts opening.  Christine quickly changed into her ski boots, a surprisingly easy transition and I clipped in and off we went!


Casey wasn’t quite sure what was going on but he followed.

We were back at the base area in 2 minutes and Casey still had no idea what happened.  On the descent, Casey chased down a ski patroller skiing back to the base, something very uncharacteristic for him.  Our best guess is that it happened because I wear a red coat and black pants which happens to be the same general colors of Ski Patrol.  Casey apparently doesn’t understand the difference between skis and snowboards yet!

After warming up and changing into our snowshoe attire we headed down to town for a huge breakfast at McGill’s.  Christine thought we should split something…that didn’t happen.  An entire breakfast burrito covered in green chile was quickly devoured upon arrival.

With full bellies (a bit too full probably) we headed out to Slate River for a mid-day snowshoe.  It was a pretty simple drive from town but we did pass the world’s best road sign:


Watch out for the furry fellas!

Despite the fact that it was still single digits, it was warming up nicely in the sun as we got ready at the trailhead.


He was getting in the way while we got ready so we told him there was a ball out there…he seems skeptical at this point.


Dashing through the snow…

Wanting to stay warm, Christine advocated that we take the sunny route.  Problem that we found with that was that it was in a fairly windy area and there was only an occasional trail.  By the time we discovered this, we were far enough out that we didn’t want to turn around so we just broke on through the snow.  We had to stop several times to enjoy the views:


The Lost Snowshoe Dance

Eventually we ended up at this little cliffs.

Looking Westward.


The “Trail”


Eventually we ended up on top of these little cliffs.

Our “trail” eventually led us to a little Aspen grove and a cliff.  As you can see above, this was not a large cliff.  However, when you’re on top, its hard to tell exactly how far down it is or just how stable the snow is.  Knowing that is was a sketchy snowpack and unsure of the drop, we backtrack our way around them and down to the trail below.


Beginning the backtrack.


Dad, I like the snow.


Oh No! She left!

Whatever original trail we had been following resurfaced so the trailbreaker must have made the same mistake we did.  It didn’t take too long to hike around the rocks and down to the well-packed trail below.


Beautiful views abounded.

We ended up on a pretty well packed trail that has been heavily used by cross country skiers.  It was still fun but I missed the workout of breaking our own trail.


Ahh…this is easier.


Blue sky and powder abound.


What? It looked fun!

We came upon a sign for Gunsight Pass that hopefully won’t be visible much longer.  At the same time, we got our first glimpses of the Paradise Divide which felt like something fresh out of Lord of the Rings.


Gunsight Pass and the Paradise Divide

Wanting to make it a loop, we dropped down to a trail below that was freshly groomed and meandered through trees and willows.


Looking back at the Paradise Divide

A new angle on Mt. Crested Butte. Slate River in the foreground.

We started working our way back to the trailhead as we were getting cold.  Unfortunately, our trail back was pretty shady and chilly.  We did however find a picturesque bridge to play on for a bit.


This looks dangerous.



The views with the creek were incredible.  I couldn’t get enough.


Looking West down Slate River.


A quick glance east back towards Mt. Crested Butte as well.

The surrounding mountains in Crested all get more snow than Mt. Crested Butte (just take a look at CS Irwin’s totals vs. CB), but it was obvious why they chose to build the resort where they did.  The peak is iconic.

We worked our way out with a slight detour.  Turns out our trail took as back on the other side of the ridge so we had to hike up and over it to avoid adding on several miles of shoeing.  Before we left, Casey had to take one last splash:


This was all him…no encouragement needed.

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