Author Archives: Bobby Schafer

About Bobby Schafer

My first introduction to skiing was at a little mom and pop ski area tucked into a small corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. This was my second year of college. After graduation with a couple of bachelor degrees firmly in hand, I would regularly find myself daydreaming at work of being the next Scot Schmidt or Glen Plake. After a year of working a 'real job', I had had enough and decided to pull the pin and find a ski resort where I could ski every day. I sold everything I owned, loaded my favorite K2 TNC's on the roof rack and started driving my old Cherokee towards the Rockies. I had no idea where I would end up and after a month of driving around, I found Aspen. I've now surpassed my 20th year here in the Roaring Fork Valley and still love this place as much as I did on day 1. I had a good run as I was able to figure out how to ski 5 to 6 days a week by working evenings. I did that for 17 years. Things have changed a bit now as I have a family and priorities change. I'm currently on the mountain a few days a week with one of them dedicated to skiing with my five year old son. With so much time on our four mountains in the last 20 years, I would like to share my knowledge and insight with you as you plan your ski trip to our mountains. I hope you can ski vicariously through my camera lens and enjoy Aspen/Snowmass as much as I do.

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It started snowing yesterday around noon and continued through the night.  When I woke this morning I had at least 4 inches on the driveway of my secret lair in Basalt. I was thinking if I had this much here, how much is there up top?  I had one of my henchmen shovel as I didn’t want to be late for my powder day.  Of note, there is over a 5000 vertical foot difference in elevation from my lair to the top of Aspen Mountain.  The report from the mountain said 2 INCHES!  Surely you must be kidding?!  How can that be?  However, when I arrived with my powder skis at the summit of Aspen Mountain, it really was only two inches.  And that was using Vail’s rubber ruler.  A bit optimistic for sure.  However, not to be uppity, I skied it with aplomb as you can never have too many powder days, no matter the amount.

DSCN0541Being that it’s still before Christmas, the Ridge of Bell is looking really nice.  I didn’t hit anything in here today, however, the Face of Bell is an entirely different matter.

DSCN0545Before you is Back of Bell 1.  As you can see, it’s in good shape.  You can make out our “2 inches” on top of the bumps.

DSCN0548Back of Bell 1.5 in the trees. 

DSCN0555I skied all over the upper portion of the hill today taking in runs like Blondie’s, Red’s, FIS and Pussyfoot.  The runs just kept getting better and better as the day progressed.  After some warming up, I started to do top to bottoms hitting Bell first.  I’d have to say the best snow on the mountain was Back of Bell all the way over to the Ridge.  It was so good I skied BOB twice trying new lines each time. I eventually made it over to the Ruthies side and hit the Dumps as they just opened in the last couple of days.  Still hollow in spots, if you kept to the previously skied lines, you could still find yourself having a good run.  Above is Perry’s Prowl.  Look hard in the background to see lower Face of Bell near the Shoulder.

We’ve had some cold nights lately getting into the teens F squeezing the moisture out of the snow and giving us that perfect Colorado cold smoke.  Today’s high temp was in the 20’sF on top combined with sunshine giving us a great ski day.   The forecast calls for a couple days of sun and clouds then another strong storm moves in this weekend.  The weather service is calling for a good dump Sunday and Monday.  Stay tuned for amounts and photos.

DSCN0549Standing on Ridge of Bell looking into town in the background.  Gent’s Ridge off to the right in the photo.

Start planning that ski trip as your legs are not getting any younger and the snow keeps adding up.  I’m out.

 

 

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I awoke this morning from dreaming of moose drinks and goose drinks and listened to the ‘weather forecast’ on the radio as I was coming out of my slumber. The report was for 1″ to 6″ inches of snow starting early morning lasting throughout the day.  Well, that report was a bust because I skied in bright sunshine until noon.  Just as I was calling it a day, that ‘weather forecast’ kicked in as it started to snow in the early afternoon.  As of this writing, it’s still snowing hard and we should have a decent powder day tomorrow.

DSCN0519A ride up chair 6 over to the Ruthies side.  After our last snowstorm, more and more of the mountain is opening daily.

DSCN0504A shot of the Ridge of Bell with FIS and the Ruthies Lift in the background.

DSCN0527Here is a photo from the upper part of Ruthies.  In the background are the eastern runs of Deer Park and One and Two leaf.  Notice the gondola back there as well.

DSCN0533Face of Bell is finally open.  I found a few rocks today and my skis are at the shop paying the price for my tomfoolery in there.

DSCN0522I made it to the Ruthies side to check out Reardon’s and Roch’s.  The best snow on the mountain today was that little stash that you can see to the left in this photo just under the lift.  I don’t even know what it’s called but the powder was still light and not set up like on the rest of the hill.

DSCN0528The aforementioned Reardon’s.  Little beginner bumps and soft snow.  A great early season combo!

As I mentioned early in this post, more of Aspen Mountain is opening every day as the conditions improve.  I did a few drive by’s Walsh’s and Kristie’s to see if patrol dropped the rope but that wasn’t in the cards today, maybe tomorrow.  However, areas like Face of Bell, Back of Bell, Gent’s Ridge and most of the 1A side are open.  After another series of storms, the mountain should be mostly open.  I skied the Highlands yesterday and that is looking good as well.  All four areas are now open for skiing and only getting better with every storm.

Check back tomorrow for more pics and updates.   I’m out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After our much needed storm cycle just before Thanksgiving, nary a snowflake has fallen from the sky since and it’s been over a fortnight since our last snowfall.  That’s about to change as a strong pacific storm is about to move in promising some more white stuff in the near future.  The skiing has been decent for this time of year and all we need is one good dump to put us in good shape.  Most of the advanced and expert terrain is just waiting for one more good dose of snow and it should open.  On the positive side, the temps have been very nice, almost fall like the last two weeks and the sun has been our constant companion these last 10 days or so.  Here are some pics I snapped on my last tour of Aspen Mountain the other day.

DSCN0493You say you like butter smooth groomers, we’ve got ‘em!

DSCN0488You want some small practice bumps, we’ve got those too!

DSCN0478How’s Pump House look?  Pretty good from here.

DSCN0486North American looking toward Bonnies Restaurant. 

DSCN0474Deer Park.  Groomed to perfection.  Bonnie’s, once again, in the background.

DSCN0484And the not so good…..Buckhorn.  Mine field of rocks.  Hopefully tomorrow’s storm will remedy that.

 

Stay tuned for snowfall amounts on the next installment of the local’s lowdown.  I’m out.

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It’s hard to imagine that only 3 weeks ago we didn’t have a flake of snow on the ground and the temperatures were more reminiscent of September than November.  How things have changed in the last week.  In fact, Aspen Mountain received so much snow from one storm they managed to open 6 days early and have top to bottom skiing to boot.  That one storm also produced enough quality snow that the women’s World Cup race course was in perfect shape with a week to spare.

DSCN0440I wasn’t able to get on the mountain on opening day as I work Friday through Monday for the next month, but I was able to go up 3 days mid week.  It was a blessing in disguise as it kept snowing on Tuesday and the crowds were minimal at best.  The above shot was taken from the gondola around 9am.  As you can tell, abundant snowfall has our early season conditions looking pretty good.

DSCN0431Another Tuesday shot heading up chair 3 to the top.  It was blizzard conditions which was all the better as it kept the crowds at bay and more powder for me.

DSCN0429I was standing on top of Pump House when I took this shot.  You can just make out the gondola cars in the background.

On Wednesday and Thursday the sun came out and warmed things up making for great skiing in the sunshine.  Once again, the crowds were fairly thin considering the open acreage right now and since there were no lift lines, the legs failed in no time flat.

DSCN0445I took this shot of Pussyfoot on the first run of the day.  Still some left over snow on top to make it nice and soft for those first runs.

DSCN0459Behind Bonnie’s Restaurant on Gretl’s run.  The clouds were breaking up and another hour later they were all gone.  And no, this is not a shot from last year…..the coverage is this good right now.

DSCN0454Another peek from Pump House

DSCN0467The final run of the day.  My legs were feeling second hand at this point and I had a go down FIS.  That’s Bell Mountain in the background and it’s yet to be opened.  One more good storm and there should be enough coverage to open it up.

….and one last thought.  As I was on the chair lifts last week, I overhead several different conversations about skiing technique.  People kept droning on about ramp angle under the binding, 1 degree of boot cant here or there, over rotating the hip and how if affects the turn and so on.  Here’s the deal, don’t get caught up in the minutiae of skiing and just ski.   Those people are missing the point.  It’s about having fun, getting some fresh air and feeling invigorated by the sport.  Don’t over think it.  Just ski.

…And that is all, I’m out.

 

 

 

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Big Bald Bobby is back for another season of giving you the best local insight to our 4 mountains here in the Aspen/Snowmass valley.  We’ve had a prolonged fall with beautiful sunshine and temps hovering in the 60’s well into the early parts of November.  However, if you’re like me and dream of skiing all summer long,  you are probably very ready for the snow to start flying and the temps to start falling so we can get our fix.  Here in Aspen, the snow started falling fairly hard starting November 12th and hasn’t let up since.  In addition to the new snow, the temperatures have fallen significantly with highs only in the teens and low 20’s today.  With the low humidity and low temps, the snowmaking is also in full swing.  Aspen Mountain has put in more snowmaking on Spar Gulch which will speed up top to bottom skiing early season.  Snowmaking has also been addressed on the World Cup race course for the upcoming women’s World Cup event in two weeks time.  In years past, the snowmaking would be concentrated on the race course only leaving Spar a little suspect unless we had plenty of natural snow.  As you can tell by the below photo, the snowmaking is not only on the race course (far right) but also on Spar all the way down to Little Nell.  It should be pretty good top to bottom skiing on opening day if you don’t want to check out the racing.

IMG_0591-1Stay tuned all winter for continual updates on all four of Aspen Skiing Company’s mountains as well as humerous diatribe, interesting pics of the mountain, references in bad taste and overall tomfoolery that’s unbecoming of a respectable citizen.  Look for my first update on opening day with plenty of photos so you can get your ski fix on and more importantly, plan your ski vacation!

IMG_0595-1I jumped out of my car today on Hunter Street to grab a shot of the gondola building with the snowmaking in full swing on Little Nell.

Check back opening day, November 27th, for pics and banter.  I’m out.

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As luck would have it, Sunday night provided us with yet another quick moving spring storm that left us with a foot! of new snow up top.  Interestingly enough, there wasn’t a trace of snow in the parking lot when I rocked up to Snowmass for yet another weekly stop. In late season, I like to check out the upper expert areas that are nice and filled in this time of year.  As I did last week, the first thing I did was take the Sheer Bliss chair to the top and had a nice knee deep top to bottom run on Big Burn for a warm up.  Once up top, I noticed the poma opening and as I stood in line, the ski patrol came by and opened up every expert chute in that drainage.  I headed for the longest run of them all, AMF.

The sun was out and quickly making hints that it would turn all that fresh snow into mashed potatoes within the next few hours.  I had to ski all of the eastern facing runs as fast as I could or risk that sun turning that cold smoke to slop.  It was a cold day on Monday barely getting into the 30’s F but the sun is so strong this time of year, it has the power to quickly change the snow conditions.

DSCN0395Heading up the Sheer Bliss chair about 10am.  There are still plenty of fresh lines just to the left of this photo.  I bowed to temptation and had a go on this run once up top.

DSCN0398This shot was taken at the same time as the one above but looking down the mountain.  Notice there is no one on the chair lift.  It was as empty as a North Korean free speech convention up there yesterday.  I practically had the entire hill to myself. 

DSCN0413Here I am a few hours later standing in the cliff bands of the upper wall.  To get here, you have to take the High Alpine chair to the top and then have a quick 10 minute hike over the ridgeline to the Wall.  This is some of the best in-bounds/out-of-bounds experience of the four ski areas.  Still lots of fresh tracks in here at noon.

DSCN0420Somewhere in the lower part of the Wall.  I think this was on my way to Union.  Keep going left and you end up having fresh tracks like this.  Keep in mind this is around noon or so. 

DSCN0409Here’s the AMF drainage.  About 500 vertical and man was it good.  This was my third run of the day.  And yes, you are not seeing things, there is still plenty of fresh powder to be had.

DSCN0421More lower Wall.  This was my last run of the day around 2pm.  I had to ski the right side as that was protected by the shade.  The sun had cooked the rest of the run. 

Snowmass is a massive place and the runs are extremely long.  The legs can only take so much and by early afternoon my legs are shattered.  Another week of skiing then the road bike comes out.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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So yesterday Ullr had a funny and decided winter shall return to the Aspen area.  Spring-type weather has been threatening lately, but winter weather is still hanging on.  With 8 new inches on the hill, I decided a change of venue was in order.  I usually make my own personal hajj over to Snowmass a couple times of year and yesterday was another calling.  Once the back areas of Snowmass fill in, it has some of the best expert level skiing in the valley.  Yes, everyone talks about the Bowl at Highlands and the Dumps in Aspen, but for some of the best technical skiing we have, you can’t beat the chutes of AMF, Gowdy’s, Baby Ruth and of course….the Wall.

Being that it’s early April, there wasn’t a line or crowded run to be had.  I underestimated the time it would take to get up on the mountain so I was not in line at my customary 9am.  I was a wee late, but no matter, I didn’t have to share the mountain with too many people.

My first run was something I don’t customarily do but since the Sheer Bliss chair was running and the Big Burn chair wasn’t, that meant the Burn was devoid of anyone skiing it.  I had the huge area basically to myself and I ripped off a couple of top to bottoms of untracked boot deep powder.  I also forgot how long the runs are at Snomwass compared to Aspen or the Highlands.  My legs were talking to me after a few of those.

DSCN0360A shot from the Sheer Bliss chair as I was riding up for the third time.  Still some great snow in there.

DSCN0368The clouds were in and out all day.  Everytime the sun came out for a moment, I would take a couple of photos.  Here is the entrance to West Face Trees.  If you stay in this drainage, you end up in Garrett’s Gulch.

DSCN0381More trees in the Garrett’s drainage.  Not the lack of tracks in here.  That’s the way it was all day.  Find a line and no matter where you went, it was pretty much untracked.

DSCN0384Standing at the bottom of the first pitch in the Wall.  To the right(not in photo) is the Roberto’s entrance and to the left is the Headwall.  I took the middle, the West Chutes.  West 1 and West 2.

The best wind loaded snow was in the Wall area and it was easily boot deep.  It was not your typical spring, heavy wet snow, but rather, mid winter cold and dry snow.  I couldn’t believe it was April.

DSCN0388A little tree stash at the bottom of the first pitch of Headwall.

DSCN0389This is the second pitch and one of the most popular parts of the Wall.  This is Wall 1 and Wall 2.  I’m standing between the two rock faces.  This snow was deep and pretty fluffy considering the sun was out now and threatening to turn it into mash potatoes.

As I’m sitting here writing this blog, I had visions of skiing again today on Aspen.  After a massive ski day of 5 hours yesterday, I’m just too sore to ski.  I had an Aleve but that didn’t help.  I even had a Red Bull.  However, the day wasn’t wasted.  Since it was near 50 mid valley, I took a couple of hours and de-winterized my motorcycle and went for a ride.  It was so nice I ended up riding almost 70 miles.

There are two weeks of skiing left plus a couple of bonus weekends at Aspen.  The snow keeps on piling up so I’m going to keep skiing it.

I’m out.

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I’ve been hitting the ski racing circuit for the last month and while I did have some strong late season results, it’s time to start free skiing again.  I picked a good time to get back into the swing of things as it keeps snowing here in Aspen.  My body is partly ready for spring as we’ve had a couple of sunny days that warmed up the bones, but while the lifts are still open, I’m skiing!  Yes, the bicyclists are out and my buddies that ride are asking me to join them but I figure I have the entire summer and fall to ride but only have three more weeks to ski….that’s not even a tough decision.

I got on the mountain yesterday and found some mixed snow conditions.  Up top it was hammering like Thor and down low the sun was almost out.  Yes, spring for sure.

DSCN0347Up top the conditions were a little suspect but you could still find nice snow near the trees and on the groomers.  Here is a shot of Gretl’s behind Bonnie’s Restaurant.  Yes the vis is as bad as it looks.

DSCN0350Here is the visibility a couple of Chair 3 laps later.  As you can see, it’s starting to improve.  A few new inches on top made for soft conditions.  This is a perfect example of why you need to stay out on a day like this because you don’t know when the weather will change.  There were a lot of people who bailed after one run yesterday.  Too bad for them, good for me.

DSCN0354Ruthies side.  Oh yes, that powder was nice.  I did a few over here as I was all alone for the most part.

DSCN0355I called it a day around noon and here is a shot of town as I’m coming down the 1A side.  Still a little smattering of powder on top but the amazing part is the lack of tracks over here at this hour. 

Yes, this is a great time of year to come ski.  One, it’s still winter, Two you get the place all to yourself, Three, you don’t need dinner reservations and best of all….April is bargain skiing month.  You can come to Aspen and ski at a fraction of the cost compared to the rest of the season.  Since it’s been snowing all winter, it’s also the best snow conditions.  There are still three weeks of skiing to be had….don’t get out the bike yet!

 

 

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On Saturday I was supposed to have another ski race only to have it blizzard like crazy out.  What’s one supposed to do when your race gets cancelled; why ski powder of course!  It was a strange storm as it was lightly raining (yes, you read that correctly) at the mid-valley secret lair and as I drove up early in the morning, it turned to full on snow about half way up to Aspen.  I boarded the gondie promptly at 9am (no line of course) and once up top I was greeted by a monster blizzard that was rocking the gondie cars side to side in the wind.  I was pleasantly surprised by the amounts of snow (a foot or more in spots) but even more surprised by how light and dry it was considering the higher than average temps downvalley.  That’s what a 4000 foot elevation climb will do for you.  I spent all morning on the upper portions of the hill as everyone I spoke with said the snow was a little suspect on the lower mountain.  Nuff said.  Upper part it will be.  I skied every hidey hole I knew and in the trees until the clouds lifted around 11am.  Once the wind subsided and the visibility improved, you could ski the middle of the runs which hadn’t been touched yet.  It was like two powder days in one.  I skied every run on the upper mountain with re-do’s on all the eastern facing slopes as they were the most wind loaded.  Those eastern facing runs like Gretl’s, FIS, Reds and Pump House were all knee deep and if you pointed them, you could chew on some snow from the face shots.  My last run of the day was also the best of the day.  If you’re a regular reader you’ll already know what I’m about ready to say.  Cone Dump!  Man that run is good.  Eastern facing, rarely skied and deeeep.  As everyone said, once I got lower than slalom hill, the snow did get a bit wonky but it was still very skiable.  After 4 hours the legs were shattered and I was done.  Check out some photos from the day.

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Coming down Sunrise into Chair 3.  This is a western facing run, so if you think this is deep,  wait till the photos of the eastern facing wind loaded stuff.  Also, since I was supposed to be racing today, I didn’t bring a camera on the mountain with me.  I was forced to take photos with my phone so sorry for the dodgy pics.

IMG_2608I skied down into this tree stash near Sunset around 10am.  I went by the entrance again at about 12.  Guess what, my track was still the only one there.  Perplexed?  Me too.  I skied it again.

IMG_2619Looking up the chute.

IMG_2618Looking down the chute.

IMG_2615Behind Bonnie’s Restaurant.  Face of Bell in the background with Sunrise and Sunset the farthest runs on the right of the photo.

IMG_2606No caption necessary.

Another sweet powder day here in the valley.  The snow is supposed to continue into Sunday with some sunshine following during the week.  I’m not sure how much free skiing I’m going to get this week.  Training for a ski race on Saturday and Sunday.  Stay tuned.

I’m out.

 

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I blew off ski racing training on Thursday so I could have a powder day instead.  We managed a few new inches on the mountain but the real story was the wind and the wind chill.  It was howling from the due north all day long.  So much so that it really changed the landscape of the ski mountain for a few days.  It took me a few runs to find the best snow on the mountain as the wind made for a challenging day.  The best snow was not found on the top but mid mountain.  All of the runs up top had very firm snow packed in between the moguls and the groomers were even in rough shape as the wind made them bullet proof.  However, once you moved to mid mountain and below things got progressively better almost to the point of a pretty good powder day.  I skied runs like Spring Pitch, Aztec and Super 8 on the Ruthies side.   You really had to stick to the eastern facing slopes as those were wind loaded and soft compared to the rather tricky western facing stuff.  Areas like Back of Bell in the trees and Dumps were the calls for the day.  I did manage to rip off a few shots before my camera called it a day because of the cold.

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The sun did pop in and out starting late morning adding some visibility to the challenging slopes of a wind loaded day.  Here is a shot of the gondola from Pump House.

 

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Take from Gretl’s right after I skied through the worm hole off of FIS.  This was one of the eastern facing slopes I was telling you about.

 

 

 

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Another eastern facing upper mountain run.  I quickly retreated lower on the mountain after I took this photo.

DSCN0337 I stuck to skiing near the trees for this shot.  I can’t even remember where this was.  One thing to note however was this was taken around 11am.  Yes, I got freshies that late in the morning and you can too if you look around a bit.

 

After I took those 5 shots, my camera was done for the day.  I sure wish I was able to show you how good the mid mountain runs were.  The best run of the day was skiing down the skiers left of Aztec and Spring Pitch all the way down to the 1A chair.  Boot deep and fairly fluffy given the amount of wind that was lacerating the rest of the mountain.

Next week I have some slalom race training in hopes of getting ready for an upcoming Town Series race next Saturday.  Tune in….I’m out.