When Kyle mentioned he was bringing an extra snowmobile for me to use I became ecstatic. I had driven them before, but always under the surveillance of the sled’s owner and never with this much speed. Kyle and I got them up to 65mph on the slick and often icy Kebler Pass Road. He says he’s taken his newer and better sled over 80 on a frozen lake, so I wasn’t too surprised when he led me to the trailhead in his ‘beater sled’ going 60+. I rode his new rig, and he took the one that had issues and was smoking profusely. I laughed to myself as I sped behind the “wake” of not-so-cold smoke billowing from the “POS” and imagined the possibilities on a new, powerful snowmobile. I also painted myself a picture of a cabin in the woods, with all sorts of toys – snowmobiles and splitboards, dogs and gnar-nuggets (kids), and a simple, soulful and pleasure-filled life. Kyle has created a very pleasant and similar lifestyle for himself. He’s got the toys, he’s got the love (girl, dog, and solid friendships), he’s self-employed > Cold Smoke Splitboards, and he’s got the right idea. Today’s fantastic idea: Get some soft turns out at the Anthracite Range, about 8 miles WNW of town where the snow really piles up. The backcountry surrounding Crested Butte ALWAYS has more snow than the actual mountain resort, so with the dry, early season we’ve had so far a Search & Destroy mission sounded ideal…necessary, actually.
To start things off, I didn’t have enough change for Kyle’s Gatorade AND our breakfast sandwiches, so the guys at the Gas Cafe let me go without payment…as long as they were eligible for a free slice of pizza the next time they came into my place of business. Close call: a solid dude came through last-minute with an extra pair of boots. We had some boot-trouble at the trailhead, and my buddy Matt was cool enough to get out of bed (let alone cool enough to answer the phone at 7am) and leave his backcountry pair on the doorstep for us. Surprisingly, they couldn’t have been a better fit!
When we eventually left the trailhead the skin to the top was cake. The skin-track climbs almost vertically, with steep traverses that make the trek straight and to-the-point. It’s a slight leg-burner, but it’s over so quickly that the strain is barely noticeable. And to “top it off”, the views from the summit are incredible. We sat down for awhile to take in the beauty while we transitioned from skis-to-board.
Splitboards allow you to ski up, then snowboard down. Simply put, you cut your snowboard vertically in half and add a set of modified AT (Alpine Touring) bindings, so your heel is free for climbing. Then you attach climbing skins (Similar to snake-skin, so they grip in one direction and slip in the other.) When you reach the top, you clip your skis back together into board-mode and ride down.
The snow wasn’t half-bad either, and Kyle and I decided it would be a good idea to rip that mountain a new one. I would ride ahead a little at a time, and turn to face up-hill with my camera while he descended.
We also found some pretty fun features to play on. A highlight was the log jam, upon which Kyle produced a wonderful, effortless floater.
The Anthracites also showed us some love by providing an open powder-field that seemed desperate to be appreciated. We boosted Mother Nature’s esteem with a subtly violent slash-and-burn technique.
Tree-huggers rest assured, we would never literally destroy anything. We’re quite the hippies, actually. Well, more like New-Age Hippies. Or High-Endurance Hippies, as I like to put it, because we are advocates of natural life, yet we use shampoo and apply deodorant daily.
Thanks to Kyle for providing the snowmobiles, for rallying on a morning when nobody else wanted to rage, for blowing my mind with the incredible job he (and Cold Smoke Splitboards co-founder Lucas) did splitting my board, and of course for setting a superb example of how to live – for love, for pleasure, and for others.
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