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Words: Kevin Luby
Photos: Alex Witkowicz (except where noted)
Storm chasing is a peculiar business. Decision-making is only as good as your intel. In our case, a large storm was forecasted to crush Colorado over the weekend of February 23. Supposedly it would be one of those big suckers that delivers snow to every corner of the state, but four days before the brunt of the storm was expected to arrive, a freak weather phenomena decided drop almost a foot in Telluride and kicked of what would become the biggest storm cycle in the recent memory of most locals.
Of course, I didn’t know that when I awoke in Boulder, Colorado, on Thursday, February 21. I simply saw 11 inches reported, and got the itch to go for a drive. I wasn’t fully convinced however. Telluride is a solid seven-hour trek from the Front Range. All I could do was watch, wait, and finish out the workweek.
On Friday, Telluride reported another 10 inches. The webcams showed no sign of the snow letting up and the brunt of the storm wasn’t supposed to arrive until Saturday night. Game on. The previous evening, I’d enlisted my friend and photographer Alex Witkowicz to make the trip. After a full day in the office, we hit the road. Our projected arrival was well after 2 a.m. Red Bull would be involved.
It’s after midnight on pitch-black mountain roads that roads trips become vision quests. Ours fully kicked in at 1:17 a.m. on Saturday morning as we sped over the Dallas Divide south of Montrose, hit a patch of black ice, narrowly missed rolling my truck into a sketchy ditch, and slammed into the opposing snow bank none the worse for wear aside from some now-necessary alignment work.
We parked ‘er in a pull-off shortly after our near death experience, unrolled our sleeping bags, packed it into the bed of my truck, and tried to grab some sleep on a night that was substantially colder than my 0-degree mummy could handle. “Don’t freeze,” I thought. “Tomorrow will be all time.”
And it was. Saturday, February 23, will go down in the annals of my skiing history as one of my lifetime days. It didn’t snow much the night before, but the Telluride Ski Patrol was able to get more of the upper mountain open. Waist. Deep. Sickness.
After the crumby night in the truck and an absolutely rediculous day on the hill, we needed a warm bed and a shower. We checked into the Lumère. It was pure class and a far cry from the back of my truck. Comfortable beds, powerful showers, overstuffed couches, and a delicious breakfast buffet made this slopeside hotel in Telluride’s Mountain Village the perfect place to recharge. The staff took good care of us, a hugely appreciated perk of the hotel. Our boots were dried overnight. Our skis were at ready the next morning. There wasn’t much left for us to think about besides skiing.
Check out the Lumère here.
Siam might be the best Thai restaurant I’ve ever experienced. Seriously dank banana curry and heavy-handed cocktails make it a place you don’t want to miss in Telluride.
Check out Siam here.
Eight fresh overnight rounded the 5-day storm total out to 40 inches. Some of the crew from Wagner Custom Skis offered to take us on the grand tour of Telluride. From here on out, I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. Our two days in Telluride were more than worth the 14 hours of drive time and nearly wrecked truck. A good vision quest does wonders to clear the mind.
Photo: Greg Hope demonstrates proper backflip technique for deep days.
Herb Manning investigates a recent infestation of forest dwellers in Telluride’s Electra glades.
Herb Manning demonstrates how a proper tuck can keep you from looking like a goon when you hit a cliff.
Hike-to zones like the Gold Hill Chutes, Black Iron Bowl, and Palmyra Peak offer some of the best high-alpine terrain in the country. The legendary views aren’t bad either.
We came for deepness and on Sunday, Greg Hope found it for us. Exhausted from two of the best days of skiing of the season, Alex and I pulled out of Telluride with ear-to-ear shit-eating grins. We’d scored. The weekend was all time. Not even the 7-hour drive home could faze us. We left with one certainty. We’d be back to Telluride soon.
For more information, check out Telluride Ski Resort.
Huge thanks to Joel Gratz at Opensnow.com. His tireless snow forcasting convinced me to make the trip.