May 15, 2013

Spring Skiing: Emmons, Ruby, and Owen


Words and photos by Alex Stevenson

After a few of the rainiest days Crested Buttians can remember, Alex Stevenson and friends set out to ski some of the area’s best south facing aspects. Here is a quick recap of three peaks and 7000 vertical feet of alpine shred. If you haven’t been getting after it, now is the time to wake up early and slay some corn.

Post powder stoke in Red Lady bowl.

Post powder stoke in Red Lady bowl.

Thursday, Zach Vaughter and I set out for Mt. Emmons.  A few days rain and snow had kept me inside and I lost familiarity with the snowpack.  Another foot dropped in the alpine Wednesday night.  I wasn’t sure if the corn was freezing up under clouded skies.  I knew however, Mt. Emmons offers a variety of terrain options for different avy conditions, and powder could be found.  The heavy May powder bonded well to the old snowpack and was not drifted by wind.  This allowed us to ski the bowl with confidence.  It was Zach’s first time skiing the Lady and she couldn’t have offered better conditions on May 9th.  The snow was surprisingly great through treeline, offering many tree bonks.

Friday, four of us had our eyes on Ruby Peak.  Bryan Mazaika, Julia Van Raalte, Alex Reidman and I had the sleds spinning around 7am.  A slightly later than ideal start was due to keys being locked in a running car(anything is possible).  We were able to sled up to the base of Ruby at 10,600 ft.  The new snow was easy to hike and we bootpacked a nice mellow pace to the summit. After a winter of conservative terrain selections, it feels awesome to get back up into the alpine.  Everyone enjoyed unobstructed views of the Elk range.

Bryan dropping into Ruby.

Bryan dropping into Ruby.

We dug a pit and were happy to see how well the new snow bonded to a mostly frozen corn base.  There was no propagation in an extended column test.  We opted to ski the south aspect, offering the best quality snow and 2000 vertical feet of wide open alpine.  Bryan dropped first, just before 11:00am.  The top section skied well.  The new snow was heavy enough, yet still cold so sluffs were not an issue.  The lowest section was very sticky and had everyone flailing some survival turns.  Another fun day in the hills put us back to the car by noon.

Sunday, Bryan and I took his sled back out to Irwin.  A warm Saturday caused most of the fresh snow to slide off east through south aspects.  All remaining storm snow settled and refroze well overnight.  Mount Owen’s south bowl still had a beautiful section that was not affected by wet slides.

Awesome light on Owen

Awesome light on Owen

Bryan and I were skinning up by 7:30.  Once at the ridge we switched to a bootpack, giving the huge cornices plenty of distance.  We continued past the false summit by 9:30 and soon stood atop Owen at 13,058 feet.  Other friends, Alex Reedman, Mike and Susan caught up to us at the peak.  We passed time by scoping other lines and planning our next missions.

By 10:30 the surface snow had warmed up perfectly.  I dropped first and was amazed by how ideal the conditions were.  The upper pitch is 1,400 vertical feet between 35 and 40 degrees.  It is nothing gnarley, but an absolute dream line.  I took photos of the next four skiers to drop and everyone was equally ecstatic at the bottom.  This week’s warm weather will destroy south facing lines, but luckily our crew did first.  It’s time to switch aspects and find some rowdier terrain.

About the Author

1. Ed Dujardin
After moving out west for college, Ed took summer school so he could spend winters in Crested Butte. These days, he coaches the Western State Colorado University Freeride Team, and spends as much time as he can fishing the incredible rivers of the area.