A Family Adventure

Tyson, Emilie & Isaac

Rest day in Basalt, Colorado

February 27, 2024
Emilie Phillips

This is the third day of our 2024 Colorado Hut Skiing Trip.

We decided to take a rest day at the cottage in Basalt. According to the original schedule, Tuesday would have been our rest day at Friends Hut. We all felt more like sitting around playing cards than skiing in a howling snow storm. Down in Basalt, it only howled and snowed briefly. There was barely an inch of snow covering the ground by the end of the day. The storm was limited to higher elevations.

There weren’t any cards in the cottage. So we went into town to buy cards, hand cream, and olive oil. We also did laundry. No point smelling if we didn’t have to. Then we settled down for a day of cards and books until about 4pm when the adults started incessantly refreshing the avalanche forecast page. Finally the forecast came out at 4:50pm. It was considerable danger.

Though the storm underproduced, you still run the risk of triggering a slide in the new snow that can step down into layers buried up to three feet deep. You can trigger these larger, more destructive slides from thinner spots in the snowpack that are now obscured by freshly drifted snow.

We had hoped for a big storm that triggered massive avalanches everywhere and cleared out the unstable layers. Instead, the storm had loaded the slopes to just shy of avalanching. Now they were ready to go if someone breathed on them wrong. We would not be returning to Tagert Hut.

Plan B was to ski the lower angle access roads to other huts. This was a viable plan for those of us with light weight telemark gear. But for Benoit on AT gear, low angle touring would be annoying. AT is meant for going up, then down.

I looked on caltopo and Strava heat map for evidence of skiable glades near any of the proposed trails. Nothing. Looking near the huts showed some good low angle skiing near McNamara Hut and Fowler/Hilliard Hut. They were too far for a day trip. But I checked huts.org, and Fowler/Hilliard had beds open for the next two nights. The ascent route description said no avalanche terrain. It would be a stretch to get there. The trailhead was a 2 hour drive away. Then we would have to ski up to 11,000’+ again. We decided to go for it.

P.S. In retrospect, we definitely made the right call to not return to Tagert. The original storm happened Monday evening and Tuesday. According to the CAIC later in the week:

Unsurprisingly a few avalanches broke quite deeply, rekindling our concern for early February weak layers (surface hoar and crust/face combinations) and in the shallower areas even the early January faceted layers.

What is surprising is that natural slab avalanche activity continued today (Thursday) despite the loading event ending more than a day prior. That’s unsettling, especially heading into another windy storm this weekend.