Variety is the Spice of Farm Skiing
Two nights ago it was so cold that a giant pack rat froze to death in the middle of our barn. 2013 has been frigid and snowy here at Holy Terror Farm in Paonia, Colorado. In between feeding and watering chickens, dogs and cats, we are harvesting carrots and cilantro, and sneaking in as many types of skiing as possible.
For the sake of saving our snow, in 2001, I willingly gave up heliskiing (even free trips) and in 2005 I sold my snowmobile. 2010 was my first year ever without a ski pass, getting just one step closer to the all-human-powered skiing dream. Now that Crested Butte seems like a distant dream, I have new skiing challenges, not as gnarly but potentially more fulfilling.
Skiing here in the peach fruit-belt of Colorado, nestled down low at a mere 6,000 feet is better than many would think. Our farm borders the Grand Mesa, home to Powderhorn Resort and backs up to the West Elk Mountains on the backside of CB. Most days I find myself clicking into my Rando Race skis and tromping off into the mountain lion-infested surrounding BLM lands; adventure skiing at its best! I credit my two Akbash livestock guardian dogs for keeping me alive these past three years.
On low snow days, I opt for nordic skiing – either classic up Stevens Gulch, or skate up toward Electric Lodge. Always an ass-kicker for getting in shape or turning the most benign hill into a double black on the descent!
The original fat skis were most likely invented by the Chinese in the Altai over 3,000 years ago. My friend Nils was so enamored by these skis and this utilitarian system that he is now designing, manufacturing and selling a version of these in North America.
I’ve yet to ski on these gorgeous fatties, but I did order the ones that can fit on all types of boots, just like they use in Asia – that way I can use them for hunting, hauling water, and back-40 adventure epics. I can use them with my ski boots, my irrigation boots, or have my mom use them for ski-shoeing in her KEEN hikers.
I’m not sure I’ll be hucking big cliffs in these babies quite yet, but there is something so appealingly primal about this style that grabs me. The built-in skins are a super bonus, and glide downhill almost like a regular ski.
While I’m not yet trading in my rocketed Armada VJJ’s, I’m thrilled with yet another sliding apparatus that I can incorporate into my everyday life, just like our wintery ancestors would have done. It is also wonderful to think that skiing can be made available to more income levels and can be done in the backyard. It brings me even closer to divorcing myself from the consumerism of today’s ski resorts.