Backcountry Skiing Above Emerald Lake on Halletts Peak

I’ve gotten more ski days in this year than ever before. I think I have 17 days on snow, which is not a high number for many Coloradans. But it’s a huge improvement, and I’ve spent many of those days in the backcountry. I’m excited for spring skiing and getting out more.

A couple weeks ago I got out with Will Butler to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, on a warm Saturday morning in early March. The skin up to Emerald Lake is not difficult and goes by quickly. It was my first time in the backcountry with my new Black Diamond and Dynafit set up (and it was glorious!)

We had met two friends in the parking lot who had never been up in this zone and invited them to come with us. It was good to fill out the group.

I know I already posted this, but, well, I like it. The view of Halletts Peak from Emerald Lake. Dead Elk and Dragonstail coulouirs are the steep couloirs on the right face. 

Will Butler, Garth Fasano, and Peggy Tautz skinning up below Dragonstail Couloir. It is steeper than this photo makes it look.

We debated what to go up. There were some natural wet avalanches being triggered in and around Dragonstail, but the slope between Dragonstail and Dead Elk looked to be more stable, and others had already skied it this morning. We follow their skin track to a safe zone between the two couloirs. Garth and Will contemplate trying to cross the slope to a larger ridge line past Dead Elk, but since things are sliding around us I thought it best to get down as quickly as possible in the zone we just came up.

As Garth and Will try to get a better look a slide comes down Dead Elk solidifying that we should get down as soon as possible and we should stay in the zone we “know” is solid.

Garth crosses some of the debris to get to some fresh snow. I follow him up, staying in the debris field a little longer. When I pop into the fresh snow, its much heavier than I expected, having been warmed in the sun all day. It was still bouncy, grin inducing skiing. 
Will cuts some turns in the soft but heavy, super wet snow below Dead Elk Couloir. All the debris around are from wet avalanches from the day’s heat. 

 We decide to stay on the north face and end up in some really nice snow directly below Halletts  Chimney. This snow, protected by the mountain, was in much better health. It’s amazing how much aspect makes a difference in snow conditions.

Another group preparing to drop in

Making some pretty tele turns down the steeps. 

 We take one more quick lap before calling it a day. I will definitely be back up here. I’m looking at you, Dragonstail!

Garth enjoying some fine powder.

Peggy making a slash

Gear Review: Black Diamond Convert Touring Skis

I sold my AT skis before I was ready, and RIGHT in the middle of powder season. Huge mistake. But, on the flipside, I was tired of skiing uphill with lead weights on my feet and turning huge powder boards on so-so snow.

When I buy gear, or anything really, I tend to do a lot of research. I’d been looking at the Black Diamond Convert for a while and had only seen glowing reviews. Coming in at just over 7lbs for the pair and combined with Dynafit Radical FT, they feel ridiculously light weight in comparison.

Radical FT tech binding. Photo from the Dynafit website. 

My old set up topped the scales at almost 25lbs including skis, boots, and bindings! That’s 12.5 extra pounds for every step you take. Simply too much.

I missed a couple weeks of great snow in the meantime.

Seventeen Pounds. Dynafit boots & bindings & BD Skis come in at 17lbs, a savings of 4lbs per foot per step, which is incredibly significant!

I took my new skis for test drive a Keystone Resort on a mediocre snow day. The groomers were fast, the moguls soft, but the trees were less than ideal. I was nervous using my tech bindings, two metal pins that somehow hold your boot in while you’re screaming down the mountain. I had had issues with being ejected once before on a pair of demo skis, but I had no such problems on this day.

They RIP!!! I had a blast carving at full speed on the groomers. I attacked moguls harder and faster than I ever have before, I think due to how light they are I can really throw them around. There were times when I thought I had lost a ski when I lift my foot only to see it fully connected with no hint of coming off. It was so light I just barely felt it. Honestly, I was psyched, except my first time in my boots, as with first time in any ski boot, was extremely painful (After 4 days in them they are MUCH better).

I went on a tour up to Hallitt’s Peak the next weekend. Holy Amazeballs! Going up is so easy! The Mercury boots walk so incredibly well, each stride almost twice as long as in my Salomon boots. With the tech binding you’re not lifting the back of the binding with every step, which saves a ton of energy. And everything is just so much lighter. Heaven.

By the way, Emerald Lake and Hallitt’s Peak are beautiful. 

On a warm day we skied the line between Dragon’s Tail Coulouir and Dead Elk Coulouir, mostly because of the avy danger. The Converts cut through the crud and bounced in the warm, springish slush. 
The Convert’s dimensions I have deemed to be about perfect. 105mm underfoot, 133mm in the tip and 117mm in the tail. Fat enough for most powder days, the tip floats, the tail sinks and you just enjoy the smile inducing powdery ride. 
ME! Getting some airtime on a cornice at the closed ski resort Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park