Castle Creek Road heads due south out of Aspen winding along side Castle Creek and farther into the mountains. In the winter sleigh rides operate on the closed portion of the road, past the nordic center and parking lots, out to the Pine Creek Cookhouse.
We loaded sleds and strapped on packs before setting out from the parking lot towards the Lindley Hut. One of the 34 backcountry huts managed by the non-profit 10th Mountain Division Hut Association, the Lindley Hut is a recently renovated cabin large enough to sleep 14 and surrounded by some incredible terrain. Book your trip for next winter (or this summer) now – huts book up early.
As part of a trip that included writers, photographers, and representatives from Bergans of Norway, Recco, and Ute Mountaineer of Aspen, we were able to test out a wide range of equipment.
I found the Bergans of Norway’s Osatind Pant to be ideal for spring touring. It combined the comfort of a highly flexible soft shell with breathability and water-resistance, and included adjustable, removable gaiters, suspenders, and a handy front right thigh pocket. I’m not really a suspenders kind of guy and swapped those out for my new Arcade Midnighter belt – featuring very comfy elastic fit that synced perfectly with my new favorite pant.
On day two of our trip as we skied down from the top of Taylor Peak in the late-morning Colorado sun I realized how much I really enjoy spring skiing when the spring corn is just right for surfing and smearing. It was difficult heading back to the hut, but it was getting a little to soft in the sun for a second climb and descent.
When you’re skiing the backcountry, avalanche awareness is a necessity. Dale Atkins of Recco, former president of the American Avalanche Association, gave us a welcome refresher course throughout our three day tour. I carried my BCA Tracker2 beacon, and also got to play with the Tracker3, which is a bit lighter and smaller. I prefer the simplicity of the Tracker2, but both are easy to operate and feature three antennas for enhanced searching capabilities.
The Recco system is technology I was aware of, but like most people, had never seen in action. It relies on reflectors that are sewn or attached to pieces of gear such as ski boots, jackets, or helmets. Ski patrol, mountain rescue and other mountain professionals have Recco detectors that disperse a radar-like signal. That signal bounces off the reflector and goes straight back to the detector, allowing the search party to move directly toward a lost or buried person. While its avalanche related functions are important, I think a real exciting development could be in the application of their technology to find lost or stranded hikers. A forthcoming helicopter mounted version of the radar that will allow searchers to pinpoint a lost or stranded adventurer quickly and easily.
Other Gear Highlights
I was happy I brought along my Goal Zero Switch 10 portable battery / flashlight combo. It came in handy lighting the way during a couple of late-night visits to the outhouse and kept my iPhone topped off.
Also from Bergans, the new Istinden 26L ski pack may become my full-time pack due to its compact size, hydration bladder integration capabilities, diagonal ski carry straps, and surprisingly comfortable and functional Velcro hip belt. The Velcro belt will also make riding the lifts with a pack a lot quicker and easier.
The Julbo Aerospace Goggle came in handy when skinning uphill and my temp started to rise. It’s lens is easily popped out of the frame about a half an inch to allow air to freely circulate and prevent fogging. Once we were ready to start in on the downhill I just popped the lens back into place in the frame and I was ready to go.
FITS Light Ski Tech Over-The-Calf (OTC) Socks performed perfectly in our mild spring conditions. I love FITS socks quality and fit, and have been running in them for years, but this was my first chance to ski in a pair – I wasn’t disappointed. Check out FITS and support a family owned company with US based production facilities that include “the oldest operating hosiery mill in the U.S.”