Trip Report: Snowmass, CO – August Turns at 12,000 Feet

Clay Malott | BackcountryBackcountry | Trip ReportTrip Report
Clipped in and ready to shred. Photo credit: Clay Malott

Report from August 6, 2021

I’m now on my 26th consecutive month of skiing, and I’m now entering my third “tough season”; August, September, October, when the skiing gets more and more difficult. Fortunately, just above home in Snowmass Village, Colorado, lies Snowmass Ski Area. With a summit elevation of 12,510′, Snowmass typically holds at least some snow into the fall. Yesterday, I scouted a decently sized snowfield at around 12,000 feet and made it my objective to cruise up there to get my 27th consecutive month.

I loaded up my pack with layers, water, food, etc, and then attached my skis and boots to my pack in an A-frame ski carry. I then loaded onto my bike and began biking towards the base village of the ski area.

Once I made it to the base area, I began biking up the access roads that the ski company uses to repair lifts, service facilities, etc in the summertime. These roads have a nice, gentle grade that makes biking up them a little easier!

I snaked my way up about 4,000 vertical feet before reaching the top of the Sheer Bliss chairlift. I had left home at about 5:30 pm, so I was a bit crunched for time and ascended as quickly as possible, which definitely got my legs burning! The top of Sheer Bliss is where the road ends, so I had to stash my bike near the top lift station and travel on foot the rest of the way to the snow.

The late afternoon view from 12,000 feet. Photo credit: Clay Malott

The ascent the rest of the way to the snow was fairly mellow, although there were thick, tall shrubs every foot of the way there. I made the erroneous decision to wear shorts, so the wiry branches scratched up my legs quite a bit. At one point, I startled an elk that I didn’t see about four feet in front of me, which caused it to bound away, easily clearing the bushes as it went. I wished I could cruise through that terrain that easily!

At about 7 pm, I reached a vantage point where I got a good view of my snowfield. It wasn’t too sun-cupped or dirty, which meant that I had pretty good August ski conditions.

My August snowpatch. Photo credit: Clay Malott

I worked my way over to and then descended some steep scree down to the top of the snowfield. I swapped shoes and put on my ski boots and clicked into my skis.

Clipped in and ready to shred. Photo credit: Clay Malott

The skiing was pretty good by August standards. For the most part, the suncups were manageable, and I was able to squeeze in about 15 turns before reaching glacial ice near the bottom, where I had to take off my skis and walk back onto the dirt where I had to change back into my hiking shoes.

August turns. Photo credit: Clay Malott

I was beneath the ridgeline that was above the snowfield, so I strapped my skis and boots back onto my pack and ascended back up to the ridge. Once I was on top, I bushwhacked my way through the shrubs back to the top of Sheer Bliss, where I saddled up on my bike and descended back down the access roads all the way home.

Overall, it was an awesome 27th month of skiing and a fantastic way to spend the evening!

Heading back down around sunset. Photo credit: Clay Malott

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One thought on “Trip Report: Snowmass, CO – August Turns at 12,000 Feet

  1. That is awesome. I have friend Steve Kruse in Anchorage that just logged month 409. I hope that inspires you to keep it going.

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