A big weekend for snow in Crested Butte, Colo., where the Gear Junkie here is holed up for a few days. The adventures started Saturday morning, when I met with two local friends to skin uphill on resort trails before the lifts opened. We used alpine-touring (AT) equipment to stride and pole about 1,200 vertical feet with the Crested Butte avalanche patrol working hard to make the slopes higher above safe for the day. Indeed, hand-tossed charges were exploding every few minutes, big flashes followed by shock-wave BOOMS! as we skied up to the halfway point toward CB’s summit. A single downhill run was the reward after an hour of effort, though going up and getting a workout is all part of the adventure and the fun.
Snowy view from my hotel room at Crested Butte
Lifts have been in order for most of the rest of the trip, with some intermittent hikes to powder stashes in between. Though it’s before Christmas, the resort has seen substantial snowfall, and we were able to sample knee-deep powder through pine and aspen forests. The best snow so far has been had in the trees off East River Express Lift, where ample woods kept fresh tracks available all day on Sunday.
A big portion of the mountain — mostly the upper mountain and the double-diamond runs — is not yet open for the year. I’m bummed not to be up there on the true steeps, though I guess now I have a good excuse to come back soon.
Gear in testing on this trip includes Black Diamond’s new high-end Method ski boots, which are made for downhill turns as well as touring and uphill travel. They look like regular alpine boots, and on the moguls and in tight trees at Crested Butte they perform as such. But flip a switch and the Methods convert to flexible boots with generous forward lean, allowing you to attach climbing skins to your skis — as I did the first morning at the resort — and stride uphill in alpine-touring mode.
Black Diamond Method ski boot
My jacket for the weekend, Millet’s Super Touring shell, is made for skiing, mountaineering and other active winter sports. The jacket’s unique fabric, Polartec’s Powershield, has a slightly fuzzy interior and a smooth face. It’s stretchy and provides some warmth, though it’s made to be worn with sweat-wicking layers underneath to create a temperature-regulating system. The Super Touring is a minimalist shell, with three pockets, a hood and little else. But at Crested Butte, where my days have alternated between short hikes to access powder and wind-chill-inducing downhill runs, I have found the jacket to have great versatility. It blocks wind but breathes well enough when I am on the move heading uphill.
Millet Super Touring shell jacket
My ski setup — the same system I used, and loved, last year — includes Black Diamond Kilowatt skis ($539, www.bdel.com) mounted with Fritschi Diamir Freeride Plus bindings ($425); Black Diamond’s Ascension ski skins ($122); and a discontinued pair of adjustable-length poles from Indigo.
Signing off for now. One more half-day of skiing tomorrow before I head home for Christmas, that is if the airplane can get off the runway in Gunnison in this storm. . .