Snowmass Mountain – the Big Bowl
Route: East Face
Team: Ted, Aron Ralston
It had been 10 years since I last hauled my skis and overnight gear up to Snowmass Lake for a spring ski attempt of Snowmass Mountain. I had forgotten how much fun that mountain can be.
Sure, it’s a long way up there. Eight miles from the trailhead to Snowmass Lake to be precise. And with the big backpacks, it can be pretty punishing. But the lake is such a special place and I’ve always considered Snowmass Mountain to be underrated when compared to other Elk Range 14ers. It’s as beautiful as it is remote, and when it comes to skiing, it’s actually one of the best 14er ski descents in our neck of the woods. The 3000 foot run down the huge east bowl is unmatched in my opinion.
So when Aron Ralston called to ask if I was interested in joining him, I was in.
The approach to the lake was tough, as always. It was a slow-paced five hour slog. But arriving at the lake without another person around, and below the huge ski run we would attempt the following morning made it all worthwhile. We got there early enough to dry everything out, relax, eat some freeze dried dinner, and get to bed early.
The next morning was picture-perfect. We started across the frozen lake and then up the slopes of the bowl towards the summit. It steepened as we neared the summit ridge, and from there we followed pretty close to the normal summer route, traversing just below the ridge on the mountains west side. The snow was very supportive after so much sunny, spring weather. It was easy travel with our crampons.
Before we knew it we were at the summit, looking down the direct east face ski line. It’s really steep. While other local peaks like Pyramid and the Maroon Bellsget the credit for being committing ski runs, I’ve always believed that this line down Snowmass Mountain deserves to be recognized as well. It’s easily 50 degrees for a couple of hundred feet, after which the angle eases an it becomes a more enjoyable ski.
It was early enough in the spring that the snow off the summit was still dry and wintry. Once down in the bowl and on a true east aspect it became a corn run all the way down to the lake. It was really cool.
We made it back to camp by 11 or so, and packed up and skied out of camp. The exit was just as tiring as the approach, but having had such a great ski run right from the summit made it all worthwhile.