On Friday, February 16, 2007, we all set out for some lift served skiing at Vail and primo guided backcountry skiing in Summit County while staying at Janet's Cabin . Fierce winds in Colorado made getting there difficult. Many roads leading to Vail were closed because of very high winds and blowing snow. I-70, Hoosier Pass, and Fremont Pass were all closed.
Bill had to backtrack from west of Denver to Colorado Springs and take the back way to Vail. Howard had plans to fly to Eagle/Vail but was stuck in Denver because of the weather. With difficulty, he found a rental car and drove through horrendous traffic, west on I-70, for almost six hours. He arrived about 4:30 A.M. Saturday morning. I-70 closed again shortly after Howard's ordeal.
John and Cindy led the way through Walzenburg, Westcliffe, Salida, Leadville, and over Tennessee Pass to Vail. With John's weather and road condition updates, Bob, Connie, and Vanda followed in their car a few hours later without a hitch.
I-70 remained closed Saturday morning. We were rewarded for our troubles getting to Vail. On Saturday, President's Day holiday weekend, the slopes at Vail were empty. We had a nice day skiing the resort. That night, we had a wonderful meal at Sweet Basil where we celebrated Cindy's birthday.
We had arranged to have Paragon Guides lead us on this trip. Using their service for a hut trip makes the trip a lot easier. Trip planning, navigation, emergency preparedness, and meals are all handled by the guides. They have sleeping bags and non-perishable food stashed at the huts, so we do not have to carry these items in on our backs. The guides carry most of the group, shared items. All we must carry individually is our personal clothing and gear.
Sunday, we met Don Shefchik, Head Paragon Guide, at their backcountry center adjacent to Arrowhead ski area. We checked out our gear and spent the remainder of the morning and early afternoon getting lessons in backcountry ski techniques and making turns on the slopes of the Beaver Creek / Arrowhead resort.
Our backcountry trip plans included spending 3 nights in Janet's cabin. It is part of the Summit Huts Association system. "Hut" is somewhat of a misnomer. Janet's is a large, well-insulated cabin with a wood burning stove for heat. It has solar powered lights. It even has a wood fired sauna. It does not have running water. The living style is communal. There were other people at the cabin not in our group. Please see the sidebar for more information about Janet's and other huts in the area.
Monday morning, Don picked us up and we drove to Vail pass where we met Meredith, our second guide. We left a vehicle there to give us the option on the way out of either skiing to Vail Pass or to Copper Mountain Resort. Then, we all drove to Copper Mountain Ski Area, rode two lifts up, exited the resort, and started our trek to Janet's Cabin.
A combination of transportation logistic glitches and a huge crowd at the ski area led to a late start around 10:30 AM. We took about five hours to travel 4.6 miles with 1,970 feet of climbing to the hut. Links to excerpts from guidebooks and maps of the route can be found in the sidebar.
We spent the next two days skiing around and lounging in the hut. We were blessed with beautiful weather and good above timberline snow conditions. Great skiing surrounds Janet's Cabin.
Our group likes to go to one hut and stay a few days as opposed to skiing hut-to-hut each day. This allows individuals the flexibility to ski as desired. We usually make two trips each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, which again provides different options for members of the group.
On the third day of the trip, we hiked up to Searle Pass. The top of the pass provided a Kodak moment. The view of the Ten Mile Range from the top was terrific. We made some nice tracks coming down.
On the fourth day, we skied out. One group took the easy way out by retracing our steps going to hut. The other group took a challenging and scenic tour out to Vail Pass.
Back in Vail, some people left the next day while others stayed and enjoyed the resort another day before returning to Amarillo.