Today I had the opportunity to take an awesome young man from my church skiing. Actually, he's the son of the pastor of my church. He recently turned 16 and he's a great young guy. As I've gotten to know him, he's mentioned on several occasions that he's a snowboarder.....and that he's willing to go skiing with me anytime.....anytime! Knowing that I had the day off, I asked him if he wanted to head up into the high country for a little back-country riding. After approval from the parents, he gladly accepted.
Then came the hard part......where do you take a younger guy skiing? First of all, I wanted to ensure he was safe everywhere we went. I didn't want him traveling or skiing anything dangerous, which means sticking to 20ish degree slopes and being extremely careful where you're touring. Secondly, I didn't want to wear him out on a climb, leaving little chance he'd enjoy the trip down or the overall experience of being away from the crowds in the mountains.
Lastly, there was the logistics of getting him up the mountain. He's a snowboarder, whereas I typically telemark ski in the back-country, using climbing skins to tour and get me up the mountain. I've ridden with guys that use a split-board, giving them touring capability with their snowboard, but I couldn't find a setup for him. I've also ridden with guys that use snowshoes (or slowshoes as some call them) but I wasn't sure how he'd fare.
With all that in mind, I decided to take him to a local mountain pass where skiers and riders often go. By hitching to the top of the pass, you get halfway 'free!' Then, there's always a solid bootpack to follow up to the ridge. Lastly, a good portion of the bowl and runout sits at 18 degrees or so. I thought this was the best option.
For a high school sophomore, he was up early! I picked him up at 7 AM and we headed up to the high country. We talked about school, girls, music and all that lies in between. As we headed up the mountain, I ran into a co-worker who decided to join us on our outing. We hiked in great weather, with temperatures in the high 20's and virtually no wind. We couldn't have asked for better conditions. The snow was nice as well, giving us the opportunity to open it up a little in the bowl, having confidence there was little variability in the snowpack. As we were in the parking lot, munching on snacks at the end of our day, my young ski partner said, "that wasn't so bad.....I'd say it was pretty equal to track practice!" And with that (and a quick stop by Starbucks), we headed for the Front Range.