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Editors on the Move: Mark Lesh

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My ski time this week started with Skiing’s AT/Tele Test at Winter Park. Fresh snow really helped out in Winter Park as we feasted on a smorgasbord of granola-flavored boards. I was blown away by the quality of AT and Tele skis on the market. It’s not a question of which ski is best anymore. It’s a question of which ski works for your turn¬—they’re all that good.

After a brief day in the office I trucked south through the Arkansas River Valley to Crested Butte for a front/backcountry pow-wow with M3 Relations. We spent a day with Babes in the Backcountry and Crested Butte Mountain Guides in Red Lady Bowl testing out the latest from Garmont and Karhu. Variable conditions made for some interesting skiing, but a lot of fun. Sunday at the U.S. Extreme Freeskiing Telemark Championships saw some amazing skiing. Props to Dylon Crossman for winning his 7th straight title with the most fluid tele style that I’ve ever seen! And many thoughts going out to E.J. Poplawski who suffered a brutal fall in the Body Bag trees and has undergone a leg amputation.

With no trips scheduled in the near future, I’m looking forward to some time at home for some classic springtime Colorado backcountry action.

On St. Patrick’s Day I escaped with all of my body parts intact after two car bombs—that’s a shot of Bailey’s dropped into a half-pint of Guinness in case you didn’t know—at Connor O’Neils Pub in Boulder and ran straight to DIA to catch a flight to Salt Lake City for the 4th-Annual Black Diamond Wasatch PowderKeg. I was greeted by Skiing‘s jet-lagged editor Sam Bass and fellow racers John and Erin Spiess. We headed to Al Forno’s downtown for a quick Italian carbo load and then left the rain in Salt Lake City for the snow in Little Cottonwood Canyon. After sneaking a few hours of sleep at Alta’s Rustler Lodge. we awoke to even more snow and the possibility that the race would be postponed. Alta, Brighton, and Solitude’s ski patrol were able to finish their avalanche control for the courses and the start was postponed by a mere half-hour, with the courses only slightly modified.

At the start, nearly 200 racers nervously awaited the starting gun. Just as race director Butch Adams was about to fire the gun, a nearby avalanche bomb blast ripped through the canyon and like it or not the racers were off. The Race Division headed up Collins Gulch and myself and the rest of the Recreational Division headed along the rope-tow towards Patsy Marley ridge. Yes, I admit it, being my first randoneé race I played my wimp card and only entered the Rec Division. I got a lot of guff from my friends and next year I will not have that luxury.

Two thirds of the way up Patsy Marley ridge I was passed by Women’s Rec Division winner Erin Spiess and at the bottom of Black Bess, the second uphill climb of the Rec course, I was absolutely dusted by Race Division winner Pete Swenson. Swenson finished the Race course—which was 4.21 km longer and climbed 568 meters higher than the Rec course I was on—less than a minute after I did. I pulled into the finish at Brighton with a time of 1:54.06. The race was a ton of fun and the beers at the finish were even better. I highly recommend it to anybody who likes to get out in the backcountry. Go to for more info. And next year Sam, I’ll be right with you in the Race Division, I promise.

-Lesh, March 22

This past week found me at Big Sky, Montana, compliments of the gracious folks at The Club at Spanish Peaks. However, when I looked out the window my first morning there was not much sky to be seen and everything was covered in 10 inches of fresh. I was so amped up to ski that I strapped on my skins and poached Big Sky before the lifts were open and was happily greeted with a smattering of face shots. (I was later informed that Big Sky is private property and skiinng before the area is open is strictly forbidden. Oops.)

The next three days we spent touring around the neighboring areas of Big Sky, Moonlight Basin, and Spanish Peaks. I was blown away! Coverage was the best that’s it’s been in 10 years and burley lines were literally spilling off of every nook and cranny of Lone Peak, which Moonlight and Big Sky share. On top of the phenomenal skiing, attitude and development at Big Sky are virtually nonexistent. Three days after the storm there were still untracked lines in plain view. To ski this kind of terrain without charged up lift lines and condos all up in your mug was completely refreshing. With non-stop flights to Bozeman, a 45-minute drive from Big Sky, starting to pour in from around the country, Big Sky will likely turn into the next swanky ski-resort scene. But until then, there is still plenty of elbowroom to ski the steepest in-bounds terrain that you will find anywhere. Yes, ANYWHERE.

-Lesh, March 17, 2006