A day off….and a powder day to boot.

Today is the day I make my weekly pilgrimage to Snowmass to bring my 5 year old son to our local ski club for ski lessons and such.  They get to ski with their friends and generally make havoc around the mountain while the adults in the immediate area are just trying to not fall around them.  After the ‘drop’, I decided to stick around and actually ski the mountain instead of heading over to Aspen which I usually do.  It was a lovely morning today with temps in the 20’sF, windy with a mild blizzard dumping on us.  The snow started in the middle of the night adding up to a few new inches by morning and continuing throughout the day.  I don’t usually partake in skiing on Snowmass, but since I was there, I decided to ski some new areas and revisit some others I haven’t been to in years.  This is truly a huge mountain and it would take you a week just to hit the highlights.

DSCN0668Here I am standing under the Sheer Bliss lift first thing in the morning.  As you can see, not too many people on the lift yet.  This area has a bit of everything for the intermediate skier including some moderate steeps, gullies and wide open runs with nothing to hit for miles.(except the snow)

DSCN0666Case in point.  Here is the top of Sheer Bliss.  If you look closely in the photo, that’s the lift to the left.  Nice gentle slopes with a light hit of new snow to make it nice and soft.  This run goes down and down until your legs are Jello.  It’s so good, you’ll want to do it again.

DSCN0671Which I did.  This is my second run on Sheer Bliss.  If you veer left as you make your way down, you’ll come to this area called Garret Gulch.  Not sure why it’s a black diamond except once your in, you’re committed until you reach the bottom.  It’s not very steep just a few bumps and double fall line sections on the right side valley of the gulch.

DSCN0672Garett’s Gulch.  It looks like this most of the way down.

DSCN0670Here I am mid day heading up towards Sam’s Knob.  Most of this area is intermediate bumps and moderately steep terrain.  You could spend the entire day exploring just this area of the mountain.  This area is only about a sixth of the total area of the ski hill.

DSCN0676After my Sheer Bliss warm up runs, I ventured into new terrain for me.  About 10 years ago the area off of Elk Camp now called Long Shot wasn’t even a run.  At the time, there was a side country gate that said you are leaving the ski area boundary and you’re skiing at your own risk.  That’s the last time I was here.  My ski buddies and I would explore this area but it would literally take four hours to do one lap.  Now this area is an open, gladed and patrolled run that’s 3.5 miles long!, thus the name.  It’s a quick 5 minute walk to the start of the run from the top of the Elk Camp lift (see hikers in the background) where you can explore a truly blue intermediate run with the adventure of the backcountry!

DSCN0681If you’re looking for something a bit more while you’re on your Long Shot run, check out the Burnt Mountain Glades.  This area had the trees thinned out a couple of summers ago and opened officially last year.  It’s labeled as a black diamond area and I think that’s appropriate given the degree of difficulty.  Moderately large bumps with some trees thrown in makes for a challenging run. Oh, and double fall line to boot.

DSCN0673Another shot of some of the glades in there.  I didn’t hit a rock or stump while in there and the coverage was pretty good.  It’s probably even better after our last snowfall.

DSCN0680On my last run of the day, I headed up the High Alpine lift in order to find one of my favorite little hidden tree stashes.  When skiing down Reidars, you’ll see a small opening in the trees about half way down on the left. (not marked) This is Reidar trees.  It’s been years since I’ve been in here and the patrol has done a terrific job of thinning the trees out in the summers.  Back in the day, it was fairly tight in here but now you can see 5 turns ahead and there are no surprises any longer.  What a nice treat.

I had such a nice day here today, I’m planning on making a return next Saturday to see if I can find even more stuff I forgot about.  I’ll put my thinking cap on this week and see if I can remember any more little areas and report back next weekend.

Stay tuned.  I’m out.





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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.