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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With X Games in full swing and the town full of millennials fueled up on angst and Monster drinks, what’s one to do but go skiing on the very mountain where they’re not, Aspen.  As we haven’t had a flake fall from the sky in a fortnight, fast groomers and hardpack bumps are what I like at the moment.  And since it’s white and I can ski on it, I’m not one to complain.

DSCN1109I took this moments after my ingress into the Silver Queen Gondola.  I popped open the window and shot this on the move.  As you can see, not a cloud and very few tracks at 9am.

DSCN0946Another shot from a moving gondola.  As you can see, the entire upper mountain is in good shape and still skiing quite well.  As I mentioned earlier, the bumps are firm and getting larger by the day but if you still look around, you can find little hidey holes with good snow.

DSCN0960I took this standing on top of Sunrise.  Bumps and more bumps.  If you’re not a good bump skier when you get here, you will be when you leave.

DSCN1000I’m not sure what this little hit is called.  It’s right under the Ruthies lift and you can see it on your right just as you load up and take off.   It’s only 20 turns or so but I haven’t hit a rock or seen an errant blade of grass poking through yet this year.  It’s also a tricky double fall line making things more interesting.  If you take this around the bottom of the Ruthies lift, it brings you over to Spring Pitch.  The skiers left line is still in good shape and the bumps are reasonable.

DSCN1316Continuing down 1A, you’ll find these two runs.  At the top is Corkscrew and then you’ll come to  a road. (Can’t really tell in the photo)  Just past the road is Slalom Hill.  If this doesn’t test your legs, then how about Face of Bell for you?

DSCN0941Silver Dip.  Ends up in Deer Park.

Please do a snow dance for us at home as I don’t see any flakes in the long term forecast whatsoever.  Even though we haven’t had snow recently, the local fishwrap reported today we’ve had as much snow this year as last.  Doesn’t seem possible, but OK.  As you can tell from the photos, the skiing is still above average and the warmer temps make for some really nice ski days.  If you’re planning on coming soon, don’t fret, you’ll have terrific skiing.

I’m out.

 

 

 

 

 

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With bluebird skies and temps in the 30’sF at the base of the mountain, it was a great day to be outside and skiing.  The conditions were firm and the bumps big.  I knew there was still some good snow to be had, I just had to look for it.  On my first lap of the mountain, I’m surveying Silver Queen from the top and look hard at the road that traverses to the left.  I’ve seen it a hundred times but have only taken it a handful of times. So take it I did.  Off the road were little hits through the trees and a way over to the top of Silver Rush.  This north facing slope keeps the snow in great condition days after a storm so naturally I had to make sure it was skiing well.

DSCN0651Here is a shot of Silver Queen taken from a quarter of the way down.  From here I kept moving left to find the best snow.  There were a few rocks here and there but easily missed.  As you can see from the photo, there is almost zero consistency in the bumps.  Line selection is free form at best.

DSCN0647Blondies is a tricky triple fall line run.  The middle is a mish mash of line choices depending if you took the left side or the right.  The two lines converge in the middle making skiing ‘interesting’. If you can flash this, you’re skiing well indeed.

DSCN0634Gretl’s first thing in the morning.  You can still make out the perfect corduroy on Tortilla Flats in the background.

DSCN0665By late morning I made my way to Bell Mountain.  You can see how firm and set up the snow is here on the ridge.  Despite that, it is still plenty grippy and holds your edge well.  This vantage point gives you a good view of town in the background.

It snowed all day yesterday and today.  Stay tuned for an update as soon as I can get out there.

I”m out.

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I’ve always said that Aspen Mountain punches way above it’s weight.  For a ski mountain with just under 800 acres, it skis much larger than it’s size and for it’s relatively small size, has more little hidden stashes than you can count.  I’m always amazed when I’ve been skiing around and trip over another hidden run that I hadn’t seen before.  This happened as I was skiing on a nice warm sunny day looking for runs I haven’t been on in awhile.  I started the ski day on North Star and noticed a stand of trees to my left between it and Lazy Boy. The trees had been gladed out with some tracks in there to boot.  I’ve probably skied by this stand a hundred times and never noticed it before.  On my next lap I took Lazy Boy above North Star and found the tree runs.  It was great skiing in there and glad I was looking around when I went by.

DSCN0644Here’s the stand of glades I found near North Star.  North facing means the snow is in the shade, staying in great shape even after some sun.

DSCN0653Another little stash I found taking the low road to Sunrise and Sunset.  If you look left immediately after you enter the road, you’ll see the trees open up and evidence that skiers have been there.  It’s short but rarely skied.

DSCN0655Here I skied waaaay out on the spine of Pump House.  I can’t say I’ve ever been out this far as it’s a shorter run out here.  I usually ski right down the gut where those bumps are.  Today I ventured out here as the snow seemed softer and less skied.  It was a good call as it was.

DSCN0662That’s the back of a restaurant that doesn’t exist any longer at the bottom of Ruthies run.  I took this photo standing under the 1A chair looking back at Ruthies.  Currently the 1A chair is down for repairs as the chair’s gear box needed a new gear.  The SkiCo reports it will be up and going by the middle of the week.  Since it’s down, the skiing on this side has been fantastic as less people have ventured over here.  Some of the best skiing has been on this side like Super 8, Aztec and my pick of the day, Corkscrew.  I skied down the left hand side near the trees which held the best snow on the mountain.  The fact that it’s a double fall line adds to the challenge of this run.

The last few days have been chamber of commerce nice with temps in the mid 30’sF at the base and bright sunshine all day.  I do like the fact that each and every day we add a bit of daylight making those chilly mornings that much better.

The weather service is calling for snow the next 3 days or so.  We’ll see how much falls.  Stay tuned.

I’m out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….And the snow returns.

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After ONE sunny day this week, the snow returns in earnest as I skied in near blizzard conditions most of the afternoon.  A light snow fell for most of the morning making already soft conditions softer.  I skied most of the mountain today as just about everything is open now and some of the areas that need the most snow to fill in including Bingo Glades, Cone Dump and Bonnie Bell chutes are now skiable.  The only thing not open yet is Trainors Ridge and that opens only in the best of snow years.  Since it’s still relatively early season still, I’m holding out hope that will open this year.  As I just mentioned, Cone Dump was opened earlier this week and if you’re a regular reader of mine, you’ll know that’s one of my favorite areas on the hill.  It only opens occasionally and when it does open, it’s for a couple of hours at best to keep the experience more back-country like.  It’s patrolled and maintained in the ski area boundary but it skis like it isn’t.

DSCN0612Here is a shot looking up at Blondies.  This photo is deceptive as Blondies is a true double fall line run.  Not only does it fall away from you, but it’s also pitched to the left as you go around a corner at the top.  Tricky, yes; rewarding if you nail it, double yes!

DSCN0616Here is an alternative to skiing the Little Nell run to the bottom.  If you stand on top of the LN run, look left and you’ll see a road that goes around the corner.  Before you is Slalom Hill and it’s a nice little bump run that goes to the road at the second tower in the photo.  Take a right and you’ll come out just above the gondola ready for another run.

DSCN0621I skied Bear Paw for the first time this year and it’s fairly bumped up already.  The best part is you can traverse to the right and take Chair 6 back up for another quick lap.  I like exploring these short runs that everyone forgets about.

DSCN0622Another shot of Bear Paw.  Just beyond those trees is Chair 6, the short chair that goes to the Ruthies side.

DSCN0625A shot from the top of Chair 6.  In the foreground is FIS and you can make out most of the upper mountain in the background.

This week the sun is supposed to come out and warm up a bit.  It’s been fairly cold here so a bit of a warm up will be welcome.  Stay tuned later this week for more adventures.

I’m out.

 

 

 

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I read an article in the local fishwrap today stating the occupancy numbers in Aspen for the holiday time period this year are at or near record levels.  Just walking around town will let you know right away that is probably not an embellished story.  The only place in the world with more black Range Rovers in one location is probably at a mall in Dubai.  Another word of note, the SkiCo is saying last Wednesday the four local ski areas saw more skiers than any other day in their history.  Now here’s the kicker.  Not once have I waited in a lift line more than 4 minutes! Compare that to any other front range ski area on a normal weekend where lift lines are in the 45 minute range, and you can see why people from around the world flock here to ski.

DSCN0607Here’s another reason why people from around the world flock to Aspen.  Face of Bell on a bluebird day with a few new inches on top.  We’ve had a really good storm cycle in the last 10 days giving us 2 to 4 inches a night, every night, to freshen things up.  Yesterday, the sun came out making for a really nice ski day.

DSCN0602Dipsy headwall with Chair 3 going right over the top.  You can just make out the gondola in the background.  Notice the very crowded slopes with our throngs of holiday skiers.

DSCN0583I rarely ski Aztec as it gets groomed a fair bit but as you can see here, the fresh snow is a welcome sight.  More very crowded holiday slopes.  Don’t want to ski here.

DSCN0586A peek through the trees from Gretl’s.  A nice view of Sunrise and Sunset in the background.  Barely any room to ski here.  Move along please.

DSCN0582I made my way over to the 1A side for a few runs down Spring Pitch and Corkscrew.  My old standby, Super 8 gully, was, predictably, not skied at all and I had 10 untouched turns at noon.  Go figure.  With our massive ski crowds, it hard to imagine being able to get runs like that.

DSCN0604I don’t usually stop for anything to eat but the skiing was just so good that I kept going and had to stop for nourishment.  A Cliff bar and Poweraid and I was out of here.  Massive crowds at Bonnies made stopping almost unbearable.

DSCN0592The last photo of the day was taken….?  I can’t even remember where this was.  I was so frustrated by dodging skiers taking my lines and then dealing with them on the lift that I became flummoxed by the prospect of having to take another run.

 

Check back tomorrow as I got another day on the mountain.  Even though I’m frustrated by the crowds, I managed to force myself to go.  And it snowed….again.  I’m out.

 

 

 

 

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I had to settle for sloppy seconds today as yesterday’s storm left over a foot of new snow on the hill and today all I got were the table scraps!  Judging by the smiles on the faces of people departing from the gondola plaza yesterday, it sure looked like an epic day on the hill.  Today wasn’t too bad but you sure had to hunt high and low to get a few untracked turns under your belt.  I did find them and you can too, just keep looking.  The first place I found some untracked was the skiers right of Hyrup’s.  It usually wind loads in there and while most everyone salivates over Walsh’s, just one run over and it’s still fresh.  I took that down to Gent’s and hugged the boundary rope all the way to Glade 3 and low and behold, it was pretty soft in there as well.

Last night we saw some very fierce winds which loaded all the eastern facing slopes and pummeled the western ones.  Temps today were the coldest of the season and I’m sure it was well below zero F with the wind chill.

DSCN0567One of the first runs of the day was in Back of Bell 2.  Loaded up and still soft a day after the storm.  I took this all the way to Copper Gulch and then took a sharp left hand turn onto the Ridge.  Followed the tree line down the left hand side all the way to Grand Junction.  Hit the gondie, time for another.

DSCN0565I took this at the bottom of the worm hole near Gretl’s.  As you can see, or not, the vis today was rubbish and it was hard work to make out what was in front of you most of the day.

DSCN0571A peek through the trees at the bottom of Back of Bell.

DSCN0563More delicious powder.  Today I took out my pair of super fatty powder skis I picked up second hand this fall.  I found out they have a fair amount of sidecut and actually rip everywhere on the mountain.  I like them so much I’m taking them out tomorrow.

DSCN0561I can’t even remember where I took this .  Still horrible visibility though.

DSCN0556Here is the start of Hyrup’s.  Down to the left was the uncut and off to the right is Walsh’s.

Check back soon as I plan to ski both tomorrow and Christmas day.  We have another storm moving in for Christmas and the weather service is calling for another foot or more.  I wish everyone a happy holiday and hope to see you out here sometime in the new year.

Merry Christmas everyone!  I’m out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.