It’s SNOWtime in Leadville Today
February Winter Sports Update
It’s a mid-month check-in as the shortest month of the year has seen the most measurable precipitation so far this season! With all that fresh snow and more in the forecast, it’s time to check in on #wintersports in Leadville Today. How did the Panthers fare in last week’s fun, festive, COVID-safe slalom competition for high school athletes? How are the virtual competitions coming along? What about the winter trails? It’s some winter sports #newyoucanuse as the storms roll in.
Panthers Create Something New On The Slopes
The LCHS Coach’s Report
February 10 marked the first-ever mixed gender head-to-head dual-panel slalom race hosted at Dutch Henry. Panel slalom is slalom-sized turns with Giant Slalom gates. What appears to be the start of a new tradition for Lake County skiers, this event was created by Coach Ben Cairns as a way to add a race to the competition schedule in a year where hosting ski areas first appeared sparse.
“Duals are something we’ve always had fun training at Dutch Henry,” Coach Cairns said. “When the directive came through for smaller field sizes, weekday races, and still trying to come up with a full slate of races we thought we’d take the opportunity to do something new.”
Summit High School gladly joined the effort. The field was split into Varsity and Junior Varsity brackets (also new for CHSAA racing) and the athletes hiked and raced the 11-gate course. Included in the set up was a homemade start gate (to prevent false starts) and slow-motion video of the finish line which had to be consulted by the finish referees four times throughout the day for finishes that were too close to call.
In the double-elimination event, the Panther skiers started strong with all the Varsity and JV fields winning their first head-to-head matchups. On the Varsity side, Jace Peters and Brady Potts were the earliest to be eliminated. Gwen Ramsey was eliminated in the quarter-finals after a very tough crash that sent her off the main pitch and into the powder. Cassidy Gillis fought her way to 4th place after an early loss to Summit’s Paige Peterson who then also became her final matchup in the battle for 3rd/4th place. Gillis lost by mere inches to Peterson after consulting the video review. Matt Cairns finished the Varsity field for Lake County in 2nd place to Summit’s Jenna Sheldon.
On the Junior Varsity side, Kiera King and Avery Milne held their own till they lost in the quarterfinals. Maya Nagel and Lucia Zettler both skied into the semi-finals. But it was Josiah Horning who would represent the Panthers in the finals where he finished 2nd to Summit’s Liam Dalzell.
“It was a really fun and fantastic day,” said Coach Danielle Ryan. “On a year when so much has been cancelled it was really great that we were able to pull off something so fun and positive. Hopefully, this is the start of a great new tradition.”
The Panthers will ski Slalom next at Ski Cooper today Thursday, Feb. 18.
Avalanche Update: Backcountry Conditions
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) has had a busy season, but not necessarily because there has been a lot of snow. In fact, “slab” conditions in the manner in which snow is setting up, especially at high elevations, are creating historic dangerous conditions.
In this video, CAIC Ethan Greene (and resident of Leadville!) describes the unique conditions that he and his team are seeing and explains why someone who has been backcountry skiing for 10 years in Colorado probably has never seen a snowpack like this one. Aaron Carlson, executive director of Friends of CAIC, adds context to the number of accidents they’ve seen this year. Please watch and think about these conditions as you consider backcountry travel. There have been 8 fatalities in Colorado this season, more than the year-long average of 6, and it’s only February.
Fortunately, a bit closer to town, February storms have brought the bigger snows and surrounding winter trails are now groomed and measuring a decent snowpack. If you’re a trail lover, be sure to check out the two ongoing “virtual” races (below) which rely on these annual events to raise monies to maintain the trails you love. Sign up or hit them up with a donation this month if you love – especially the MBT – winter trails in Leadville Today. But if you have your gear and training in order and are getting set to venture into the backcountry, here are the latest conditions from CAIC.
Wind is a Big Player in Backcountry
Issued by: Polly Layton, CAIC for Feb 18 8:25 a.m.
Naturals and remotely triggered avalanches continue to be reported across the region. Recent avalanche activity is the clearest sign of instability. Wide avalanches that break across the entire path and run farther than you might expect are the norm at the moment.
We have reached the mid-February mark when the sun starts having more input on the snow surface. Mostly sunny skies today across the region will likely aid in settlement of the recent storm snow at mid and lower elevations. This may add just enough load to tip the scales if the cold ambient air temperatures can be overcome, particularly in the shallower parts of the region. Winds are also expected to increase this afternoon in spots adding load to east and southeast slopes. Give slopes where you see signs of wind-loading like flagging and pillow-like features an extra-wide berth.
In deeper parts of the zone, today’s settlement may keep things elevated for today. In the long haul, however, it will help trend the avalanche danger down on the weak January 19 facets now buried over 120cm in places. This leaves us moving closer to “scary moderate” by tomorrow in these deeper spots, as long as we don’t get too much wind. Avalanches may be harder to trigger by a human, remaining slightly more likely with a machine, but will be deep and wide; only survivable by sheer luck if you were to get caught in one.
Conservative terrain choices and a good assessment of what conditions are like in the area you plan to travel are essential today. The simplest, low-stress option, is to enjoy blower powder on low-angle slopes, without overhead hazard.
Winter Bike Series in High-Gear!
With a couple of races already in the books, the Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series continues keeping those fat-tires spinning, albeit in a different gear, this year!
“The tweaked 2021 Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series is off to a great start with over 211 participants so far,” reported Sterling Mudge, Cloud City Wheelers Executive Director. The self-timed arrangement is allowing a lot of new riders (and some snowshoers and skiers) that are normally a bit shy of the typical mass start, to get out there and be competitive by themselves.
“It’s always great to see new faces out on the trails even if they have masks on, you can tell they’re smiling while enjoying our Leadville trails,” said Mudge. Next up is the Mineral Belt Mayhem running from Saturday, March 6 – Sunday, March 14.
The Leadville Winter Mountain Bike Series is typically the largest fundraising event with 100% of the proceeds being put directly back into the Lake County trails community. So please support them through this season. All the details and registration HERE. Kudos to the local bike club for keeping ‘em spinning through the snow this winter. 2021 RACE RESULTS (so far).
Sawatch Backcountry Conditions: February 15
Yee-Haw and Keep Yer Distance, Parder!
Looking ahead Leadville Ski Joring (LSJ) is a Giddy-Up-and-GO! But put your blinders on for this Wild West Show this season as NO spectators will be allowed as LSJ organizers and Lake County officials have come to an agreement on allowing the 73rd Annual Leadville Ski Joring competition to take place in Leadville Today.
Of course, things will look a lot different in many ways. So as fans await more details from organizers, readers should note that the event has been moved down to McWethy Drive, adjacent to the rodeo grounds, the high school and community field. This current plan is in response to the LSJ’s initial meeting with local officials where it was determined that the event could NOT be held downtown, nor have ANY spectators. Organizer Duffy Counsell’s next step was to work with county officials to create a new plan with much help from Lake County Public Works Director Michael Irwin, the racecourse was slid six blocks west. That seemed to do the trick and on February 2 Anne Schnieder with Lake County Land Use and Building Department issued the final permit allowing the “re-designed” event is to be held on its traditional first weekend in March 5 – 7. Stay tuned as the details come together, LT will be here to fill you in! #GiddyUp #MaskUp and #KeepYourDistancePardner.
Ski Joring 2021: On-The-Record Videos
- January – Ski Joring meeting with Lake County officials YouTube link.
- February – Ski Joring meeting with Lake County officials YouTube link, will link when posted, here is the official permit document.
Loppet’s Month-Long Ski-Extravaganza
The Leadville Loppet is being held virtually in 2021 with competitors logging their own data throughout the month. In January the race organizers determined “In the interest of the health and safety of our community, we are going virtual this year.”
From February 1 through February 28, 2021, Leadville Loppet competitors will log their skied (classic and skate) kilometers in RunSignUp from wherever you are racing. Please note that 100% of the proceeds will go towards winter grooming of the Mineral Belt Trail.
“We hope that you’ll join us in celebrating the beauty of Leadville and cross-country skiing from wherever you are in the world!” the group stated. DONATE HERE.
February Snow Arrives in Leadville Today