14 February 2019


Who says an old dog can't learn new tricks? 

I haven't been on downhill skis since I traded in my twin-sticks for a snowboard in 1997.  I love snowboarding. Really really really love snowboarding.  But a snowboard requires a lift ticket at a resort, and a lift ticket at a resort these days requires a trust fund.

However, backcountry skiing requires only legs, lungs, and determination.  (Screw you, big-corporate-ski-area-charging-$200-for-one-day-on-a-stupid-chairlift!!)

Now, theoretically, backcountry snowboarding is a thing, but it requires a (wicked expensive) splitboard.  Backcountry skiing requires "alpine touring" gear that allows the heel to be free on the up, and locked down on the down.  If you're still confused, there's a good overview of them all here

Anyway, last month I set out on a quest to find either a splitboard or AT ski setup at a reasonable cost.  Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I found a bottomless bin of reasonably-priced used AT gear.  It quickly became apparent that a splitboard would be way out of my budget, so this old dog set out to learn some new tricks on twin-sticks.

Pretty, huh?

Again, not my color choice, but CHEAP!

The skis were being sold by a woman in Glenwood Springs, which was an excellent excuse for a road trip to a new piece of Colorado.  Finn spent the night with his BFF, and Sunday donned her service vest for an overnight stay in a hotel that once served as a Navy hospital.   Oh, and it was also a good opportunity to check out two new breweries.  Because beer.

That's her "there better be treats if you're going to make me work" look.

Once we returned to Ouray, I got the skis tuned and boot liners molded, and set out for my first skiing adventure.  Avalanche danger here has been nuts this winter, so I picked a very safe route on an unplowed jeep road far from any avy paths.  The skin up was fantastic.  It was a beautiful route, lined with big snow-covered pines, and quiet .... so very quiet.

Well, I figured out how to get the boots on, everything into "walk mode", and into the bindings.  Its a start.

So much better than sitting on a chairlift. 

Somebody else on twin-sticks had been here, so I must be in the right place.

The skin up was pretty damned empowering.  I was super proud of myself for diving into something totally new and killing it.  I took lots of pictures.  I laughed.  I thought about how amazing my life was.  I even took a selfie at the top and texted it to Doug. 

Then I peeled the skins off, locked down my heels, and pointed those tips downhill.  And it became immediately apparent that I was in WAY over my head.  I face planted.  I ate snow.  I face planted again.  I purposely threw myself into a snowbank to avoid hitting a giant tree.  It wasn't pretty.  I was frustrated.  I took my skis off and started to just walk back to the bottom.  But then I remembered how good it felt to tackle something new, and I put those skis back on and tumbled my way back to the bottom, thankful that there weren't any other humans (or dogs) here to witness my own personal shitshow. 

Then, I texted Doug and told him I needed to go do something I was actually good at, and drowned my frustrations in an IPA at Ouray Brewery.  The fact that their IPA is named "Powder Day" just seemed to be unnecessary mocking at that point.

It took me awhile to get back out there, but I did.  And it went much better.  This time, I chose a less steep, and much wider, jeep road.  No face plants, and I actually made some pretty turns.  No beer needed afterwards, either. 

Plenty of room to make turns on the way back down.

Temps in the high 20s, but still hot & sweaty on the way up.

Feeling much more confident about the trip down this time.  

So yeah, an old dog can learn new tricks.  I still love my snowboard, but this twin-sticks thing might work out OK.