Day One: On a morning with a sky as blue as Eeyore’s outlook, Kate, Tyler and Sylva departed Kate’s quaint cabin on the Frying Pan road near Basalt for Marble, Colorado and a day of back country skiing. With a rash of dumb luck, we timed our outing perfectly: three days ago, Aspen received the last of a rapidly accumulated three feet of snow.
A few other cars dotted the narrow, precipitous and snowy road to the mine outside Marble (thanks to those fancy slabs of stone for year-round road maintenance). In the already too warm morning sun, we donned our boots and packs and stuffed a few more Barbara’s Cheese Puffs in our smiling mouths before heading out.
Like a path whose users had reached rock bottom, the skin track looked straight up to bigger and better things — like the ridge, glistening way, way up there in the unfettered sun.
For over an hour, we alternately hiked and floundered like newborn mountain goats. The skin track ranged from painfully uneven (think walking up a stair stepper whose steps are stuck one up, one down) to perilously slippery (think sharp turns at cliff edges, worn buff and icy by warm days, cold nights and consistent use).
Over the next hour plus, we wound our way up to the ridge, despite Tyler’s antics and a whole boatload of sweating.
After a snack break at the top of the world, we de-skinned and blazed down Marble Bowl. Our descent took us skier’s right across the wide bowl whose hip the slippery skin track marched up. Then skins back on and we re-gained the ridge.
Our next move took us out the ridge curving out ahead of us and eventually back towards the road to the mine and our car. But first, a stunning trek across the high, narrow ridge…
Day one in Marble demanded the Merriam-Webster dictionary listing for “perfection” updated as such:
noun per·fec·tion \pər-ˈfek-shən\
: a warm, sunny day of back country skiing/exploring with two of the coolest people on Earth.
And then there was only one thing left to do: happy hour at the Volvo!
Then we’re aiming for the same slippery slopes and the panoramic ridge from the previous day. Today, our target is an unnamed peak at 11,900 feet which we spied in northern distance the day before and began to refer to as “eleven-nine.”
As the afternoon stretched ahead of us like a sunny carpet, we headed north along the ridge, the white sheer face of eleven-nine and its open slope beckoning us on. However, despite our best efforts and positive outlooks, Kate and my legs began to feel like lead weights. The Tyler-gizer Bunny, of course, remained unaffected by such things.
To our right, a steep sun-affected nightmare; to our right, a wind-affected puzzle of variable snow. We kept carefully to the ridge, shuffling along the bulletproof ridge.
Kate and I slipped and scrambled up to meet Tyler on the shoulder, feeling the previous day (and Kate feeling a consecutive 13 or 14 days of ski patrol) weighing on our muscles. Even though eleven-nine taunted us from the next ridge top, we realized it would be foolish to push on. Nevertheless, our explorations already gave us a new perspective of Marble and a new line to ski…
After a short slash, we applied skins and made a brief push back to the same ridge from yesterday. At its edge, we pushed a bit further on and chose a just steep enough shot through powdery trees.
After yesterday, we knew the area and the drainage well and didn’t have to stop so much to decipher terrain. And just like yesterday, the run was long and complex but soft and we made it out safely — albeit exhausted — as the afternoon nodded at evening. Happy hour on the Volvo’s bumper revived us before the winding road along the Crystal River to Carbondale. Tyler and I parted ways with Kate near Penny hot springs (no dip this time — some rowdy, beer-drinking rednecks beat us to the punchbowl).
We rode back to Dillon with perma-grins: those two days provided some of the most amazing scenery, terrain and skiing I’ve ever experienced. No doubt, we’ll be back for another Marble-lous adventure!