14er Ski Descents – Snowmass Mountain – May 20, 2002
Route: East Face
Team: Ted, Jeremy Barbin
Snowmass Mountain has always been a favorite. Part of its allure lies in its remoteness, the fact that you can only really see it from other exciting locales. Backpacks, peak climbs and backcountry ski tours bring the mountain into sight, when I see it I must be doing something fun, like a reward for getting out. The average person has no clue it’s actually a different place than the local ski area named after it.
Anyway, 2002 was a lean year. Christy and I had no problem forgoing closing day on Aspen to run the Boston Marathon. Soon after, we were driving up the west coast to climb Rainier with friends Jann Stoeckl and Chris Carmichael. By the time we were back in Aspen, a quick look around showed there was almost no snow left. The east side of Snowmass though, that could still be good. It blows in there so deep all winter it takes most of the summer to melt.
It made sense to Jeremy as well, so we went for it. We hit the eight mile trail to Snowmass Lake and with a borrowed AT setup Jeremy had no problem skinning the dry ground between stretches of snow. It’s a slog with the big packs.
Skinning around the lake the next morning was tricky. An uncontrolled slide on the frozen sidehill would send you right into the water— thankfully it wasn’t an issue.
Once past the lake we cramponed up the steeper, lower section, switching back to skins up until the ridge. Upon arriving at the ridge I was disappointed to see a mostly bare west side, the finish to the summer route we were following that day was dry. Bummer. We left the skis at the notch an climbed the rocks ~250 vertical feet to the summit. At the time I thought it to be fine— in 2006 I would return to get it right.
We noticed a true straightline off the summit to the east but it looked like a bit more of a thrill than we were seeking, so we down climbed to the notch and skied late spring snow back to the lake. Our skis were down there anyway.
Back at camp we tried to spearfish some trout by duct taping a leatherman to a stick but had no luck. We camped again and packed out the next day, stopping for burgers at the Woody Creek Tavern. Snowmass was the only 14er ski trip that spring (2002). 2003 would be even leaner as I was away to Everest, 2004 would be when the push really began.