Monday, 19 January 2009

Skiing Chimney Park

Penelope and I skied Chimney Park today in spring temperatures. There's a decent base of two to three feet and we skied the five mile Porter Loop.
Chimney Park is about six miles from the house, at much higher elevation and in the forest so, while the snow is pretty much gone down here in the sage country at around 7600 feet, there is still plenty of snow up at almost 9000 feet.

Our ski touring equipment is all 15 years old or more. Penelope is skiing on a pair of 200 cm Rossignol waxless skis with a fish scale pattern which do pretty well in the warm conditions. They have a beefy old Chouinard 3 pin binding and she is wearing leather Asolo Snowfield boots. I was on a (borrowed - thanks Joe) pair of Tuas that have a Rainey Superloop cable binding and I'm also wearing a beefy pair of Asolo leather boots. The Tuas were waxed with Swix Red Silver for the warm conditions. This worked incredibly well until the end of the loop when temps were up around 47° and the snow in sun was getting slushy. But by then the fishscales weren't doing that much better.

The trails are cut through some gently rolling country in Medicine Bow National Forest near Fox Park. This is lodge pole pine forest and it is just starting to get hit by the pine bark beetle. I expect that within a few years all the trees here will be dead. You can see some of the red/brown trees in the background of the photo of me on the trail.

The great thing about Laramie (as opposed to more popular and chic places in the mountain west) is that there are no people. Skiing midday on a holiday weekend, we ran into eight other skiers total. Of course, if you don;t want to see anyone, you are not restricted to the trails and can ski just about anywhere up there, but it is nice to not have to break trail, and easier for the dogs; we had Erdos with us (and Aldo was visiting too.) There is more spectacular skiing up in the Snowy Range but that is a 20 mile drive. We'll save that for after we've more firmly got our ski legs under us.

We saw a few squirrels and a rabbit. The elk and deer move down out of the forest onto their winter range which is more open. The moose don't seem to mind the snow and although we did not run into them, there is a cow moose and her calf living in the Chimney Park area whose fresh tracks and droppings are everywhere.

Skiing is an ancient mode of travel dating back to prehistoric times; men have been skiing for 6000 years. Moving through the forest on skis is very special. When conditions are right you glide over the snow and at moments seem to just fly.

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