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 four 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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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.

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I was so tired after yesterday’s powder day that I could only muster the energy for a four finger  Martini for dinner with a marathon of Gilligan’s Island thrown in for the evening’s entertainment.  My body and brain hurt from so many top to bottom laps.  It snowed throughout the day and the sun finally tried to peek out around 2pm.  I started my day with the usual zero lift line 8:55am jump on an empty gondola car to get to the top of Aspen Mountain.

My M.O. today was to try and ski some of the lesser known spots around the hill to keep it interesting.  In addition, I thought I would see if some of the areas that need larger amounts of snow are ready to ski yet.  Here is my tale of the three hour tour.

DSCN0304First run, a tree stash that I must have skied by 1000 times over the years before I peeked in one day and found that’s it’s really fun in here.  I don’t even know what this is called but it’s located to the skiers left of Midnight at the bottom of Buckhorn.  Here is a shot of the entrance.  Notice it follows the power lines for a bit.  You can break off at any point in here and take it all the way down to Pump House.

DSCN0305Here is the spacing of the trees.  Of note, NO TRACKS!  The pitch is real gentle as well.  You really can’t get into too much trouble in here.

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Hey, what are those tracks leading to?  Check it out.

DSCN0326Why it’s this little chute in the trees.  It’s a tad narrow and steep, but how are you going to get better if you don’t give it a whirl?

DSCN0319Here is another tree run on the Ruthies side.  This entrance is located just skiers right of Aztec.  It’s a cut in the trees three feet wide and now that you’re reading this, you may be able to find it.

DSCN0315Third run of the day.  A newer area to the skiers left of the upper entrance to Kristies.  The entrance is called Hidden Treasure but once inside you’ll find runs named Black Mamba and Cobra.  I tried to capture the very steep pitch but was unable to.

DSCN0314Here is a side shot in Cobra. 

DSCN0318Fourth top to bottom took me down Jackpot.  That’s the Dumps in the background.

DSCN0330I can’t forget about showing you Cone Dump.  Once again, rarely opened but some of the best skiing in the valley when patrol drops the rope in here.  The sign says it’s only opened on the best days for a backcountry like experience. Keep in mind once it’s been chewed up, the patrol shuts it down.  Keep your eyes peeled on the board up top for openings.

DSCN0329Another shot of lower Cone 2.  That’s the bottom of Nose of Bell in the background.

 

Now I’m off to bed to dream about Mary Ann….or maybe Ginger….stay tuned.

BBB

 

 

 

 

 

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Today had promise and was shaping up to be a spectacular powder day.  There were several inches of new snow on the ground this morning but as the gondola edged higher and higher up the mountain, it became clear the wind had a different story to tell.  In fact, it was so windy it was really putting a hamper on the powder skiing.  Visibility was poor, even in the trees, and the wind was taking away all the fresh powder.  I did ski some runs up top but it became clear early on that the best skiing was mid and low mountain today. Continue reading

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If your sitting there reading my blog thinking that it can’t possibly be snowing again…I wouldn’t blame you for thinking I’m talking nonsense.  Since my blogs last week, we’ve had a couple of days of clouds and flurries but it’s been snowing for 3 days now and Ullr is back in earnest giving us the business.  It snowed another 6 inches or so overnight and today we were treated with yet another powder day.  I headed for the hill and at 9am there weren’t to many lingering soles at the gondie.  I jumped right on and got whisked to the top in a scant 17 minutes.  As it was a smidge cold this morning, I headed for the steeps wanting to warm up as fast as possible.  First up, a newer tree run to the skiers left of Kristi.  Once a patrol stash, it’s now open to regular plebes given you have the skills to negotiate the terrain. Continue reading

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Yesterday will go down in the Aspen annals as one of the biggest one day dumps since the silver mines were shuttered and Fred Willoughby built the first boat tow ski lift on top of Aspen Street.  With over two feet on the ground in one day, last night we saw another 8″ to make it even better.  On another note, the temps last night dropped and the cold really squeezed the moisture out of the snow making it truly blower cold smoke today.  When I arrived at the gondie at 9:30am, there was no line and I jumped right on.  The day started out windy and snowing but as the morning went on, the sun came out and with sight came vision.  It was terrific to be able to see the entire mountain and how good it really was.  The last three days I’ve stuck to the trees and the sides in order to see and with the sun..well, you know.

DSCN0124I didn’t start taking photos until the sun came out.  Here is a little stash right next to Chair 6 in the trees.  Yes, it’s as good as it looks.

DSCN0116I took several runs down the Ridge of Bell and Back of Bell.  Check out a series of pics from the spine.  Here I am in Back of Bell 2.

DSCN0113More Ridge of Bell on the spine.

DSCN0111Yea, we could use a little more.

DSCN0110Getting ready to drop into Keith Glen on Back of Bell.  I took this down to the Elvis road and then descended right under the gondie on the Ridge to Copper. Notice the amateur with the camera creating a shadow at the bottom of the pic.

DSCN0120Standing on the Ridge looking up towards the top of Aspen Mountain.

DSCN0109More obscene ski porn on the Ridge.  It was so good up there, I can’t remember how many laps I did.

 

The mountain was fairly empty today and I never waited in one lift line.   I skied all over searching for the best snow on the hill.  I found two places I couldn’t believe were still untouched.  First surprise was Super 8 to the skiers right of the gully.  I had to rub my eyes as if it were a mirage.  Not one track in there after two days of snow.  Man was that deep.  The second area that wasn’t as much of a surprise were the rarely opened Cone Dumps.  I entered Cone 1 and found myself salivating over Cone 2.  Both were epic runs towards the end of my day.  After 4 hours on the hill, my legs were shattered and it was time to call it before I wrecked myself.

DSCN0127Super 8 towards the end of my day.  This area stays in the shadows almost all day this time of year.  I elected to take a photo of the left side and town as opposed to the more attractive right side where there were few if any tracks.

DSCN0131Cone Dumps.  If you can get in there when it’s opened…this may be the best skiing on all four of Aspen’s ski areas.

Stay tuned for more later….over and out. BBB

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Extra, extra read all about it. In case you missed the teletype and the frantic Morse code that went out, we just got a powder dump that we haven’t seen since Madonna was a virgin.  If you also missed every weather forecast for our area in the last three days let me sum it up.  Yesterday we received 24 inches in 24 hours! Today we probably got another 8 inches or so and as of this writing, it’s still pounding out and we’re supposed to get another 6-12 inches tonight.  How does that translate to today’s skiing experience….get a load of this.

DSCN0088A little tree shot that I tried really hard to show just how much snow there was today.  This shot still doesn’t do justice to how deep it was today. The snow depth here came to my thighs!  I’m 6’4″!

I rolled up to the gondie just before 9am this morning and I was greeted to the largest line I’ve seen since opening day.  It stretched down the stairs and to the street.  I was surprised by the number of people in line.  Actually, I wasn’t, as this was the biggest powder day we’ve had in a long time.  To put this one day dump into perspective, I’ve been here 20 years and would put this in the top 5 of biggest days I can recall.  And I haven’t missed to many big days.  The line went fairly quickly and once up top, everyone spread out and normal service was resumed.

DSCN0084The skiing today was challenging and not for the reasons you would expect.  The hardest part of today was getting to the steep runs.  There was so much snow on the flats that you had to break through 3 feet of pow just to get to the good stuff.  To put this much snow into perspective, Pump House didn’t have enough pitch!  I had to ski straight down and not make a turn to get to Tortilla Flats.

DSCN0082The bottom of Summit around noon.  Pretty cut up but that was ok as it didn’t have enough pitch keep your speed.  Check out the sides of the run.  Deep.

DSCN0093Face of Bell.  Earlier in the day when this was untracked, you could just point your skis towards Spar and barely make a turn.  Face shots all the way down.

DSCN0079Looking up towards Ruthies about ready to go down Spring Pitch.

DSCN0092More Face of Bell.  Notice the poor visibility.  That’s because it’s still snowing so hard you can barely see your hand in front of your face.

DSCN0087More porn.

DSCN0075Even more gratuitous shots of our snowfall.

Today was one of those days we rarely see as we do get pretty good dumps but not at this level.  Keep in mind this is Colorado dry powder and not that nonsense they get in the Sierra or out East.  Usually the moisture gets squeezed out once it hits the Wasatch range in Utah and we will get a good parade of several snow days in the 6 – 10 inch range. However, every now and then we get one of these whoppers.  Tomorrow should be another truly outrageous day and I will be there with my Polaroid camera and flash bulbs to capture the action.  Stay tuned.

Over and out, BBB