Went up the last few weekends for a few mellow tours up above Nederland.
Rogers Pass Lake
First up was Rogers Pass Lake, just below the Divide above Rollinsville. I went there on Super Bowl Sunday, continuing a tradition of skiing somewhere on Super Bowl Sunday, although it's really a great day, relatively, for downhill skiing.
The route starts at the Moffat Tunnel/East Portal, on the edge of James Peak Wilderness, and climbs steadily for between 4 to 4.5 miles up the Boulder Creek Drainage to Rogers Pass Lake. Shortly past that is Heart Lake, and this area is a popular summer hiking destination as well.
As it was, I did see a surprising number of users on the trail. This alone increased my probability of occasional frustration, with some dog owners (among good ones) and people stopping in the middle of the trail even when it's clear people are coming from both directions (I just don't "get" that, just as I'm also never tempted to stop my car in the middle of the road). I made it maybe a good 2.5 miles or so without putting on skins and just using the scales on my skis, but this eventually became too much work, so I pulled off to put the skins on. This trail is a bit tougher than most popular trails for skiers without skins.
As I climbed higher, I did see a guy literally (figuratively) bombing down the hill and taking a jump on the trail, which increased my stoke and also made me wonder how well he would fare with the crowds below. That said, it was also a sign that the snow was creamy and quite good, and the upper reaches of the trail were more like a good Blue gladed run at a resort: wider-spaced trees with options. That, plus the views on top, makes it clear why it's popular.
This took about 1:45 to get up. I poked around a little bit towards Heart Lake, but I also took caution to be wary of the avalanche danger, which was "Considerable" from the CAIC at and above treeline. I saw a few women taking a break, and as I was talking to them, she pointed out a small avalanche/slough behind me, on the wind-scoured ridge that led up to James Peak. I turned around just in time to see a cloud of snow rising upward. A good sign to be careful, and although I wasn't going on that side near the steeper cliffs, I just decided to avoid that cirque altogether.
Instead, I cut across on a tamer angle below Haystack Mountain for new views, took a break for lunch, and circled back.
By then, a group of skiers that I had passed earlier were up near the rocky outcropping that I decided to avoid...and then started skiing up there. I was curious as to there assessment, and also if there was anything good up there, so I watched as they got closer to a narrow passage around a rock that gave me pause because of the higher angles above it. Then one of the guys peeled off and headed towards where I had gone, so maybe we all made the same decision.
I was ready to head back down to the trail, but went a bit further west so as to drop in on some wide-open but safe looking snow back to the trail. I enjoyed a few turns, and then a few more in the glades, which zigzagged around and eventually led back to a sustained descent on the trail. Including some breaks and fiddling with my dying camera and cold hands, it was less than an hour back down.
Jenny Creek Trail
After convincing J to join me for some XC skiing for the first time in awhile, I decided that Jenny Creek would be a good new place for her. I had been up there a month ago and recalled good snow and a moderate, rolling course along Jenny Creek, and made mental note that that section (excluding the upper reaches near Yankee Doodle Lake and up the Guinn Mtn. Trail) would be a good option.
Well, there is a bit of a steeper section in the 2nd mile, as you ascent and then descend a ridge from the ski area. I remember that section as "fun" and "quick," but unfortunately and improbably, in the last month, the snow has gotten worse -- it's February, for crying out loud! So it was a bit bony and thin through that section, with a few (no more than a couple meters) short stretches blown clear of snow.
My skis are a bit wider and I have cable bindings, so tight icy turns are on the edge of what's comfortable and safe. Otherwise, walking for about 4 or 5 minutes through that section gets one through with ACL and skull intact. It was a hit against my promise that it was an easy and mellow trail, however. But as we descended toward the creek, the snow was indeed significantly better.
We went a few more miles, had lunch, and turned around. The return trip was great because of the slight downhill along the creek. Also, it had started snowing by now, so not only were the woods more serene and wintery, but the snow was perceptibly grippier on the uphill with less icy sideways-slipping on the downhill on the ridge.
A few bare spots on the side of the ridge
So other than a few spots of caution, which is scary for mid-winter, the rest of the trail was fun.
Since the trail crosses through, with permission, on the side of a "Green" learning-hill on the edge of the ski area, I always get a kick gliding down the "hill" on skinny skis, thinking to myself that people pay money to get taken up hills like that in the midwest.
And now it was lunchtime. So the other reason to go to Ned, again, was to get lunch with J. We've only been there once before, and I can't justify going by myself, but it seemed like a fine day to go to Kathmandu Restaurant for their awesome Nepalese-Indian-Tibetan lunch buffet.
The food is great and plentiful; the tap beer selection is surprising; and the service from the family that owns it is fantastic, despite being just a "buffet."
Plate 1 of 3. Not shown: Delicious Naan, Beer, and Tea
The drawback of pairing a delicious meal with an Ellie's Brown Ale is the bloated drive back down the Boulder canyon. Luckily, we made it down into Boulder proper, where we pulled off into a parking lot for a 20-minute nap.
I'm not sure how much of it is context -- being outside for a few hours, being in a cool little town in the mountains, and eating there only rarely -- but I can't argue against this being one of my favourite restaurants in Colorado, or anywhere.