Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sufferfest Sled Skiing

When in Cooke City, you go sledding. Even if you're into climbing mountains and traveling by bicycle.

Rolling into town on my bike, I see 50 sleds in tight formation, parked down main street. The sleds were here long before the skiers and the climbers. And long before I rode in.

Now days, it's skiers and snowboarders with sleds that's the hot ticket. Packs of them everywhere, like wolves once were.

I've been to Cooke enough to know I wouldn't be riding my fat bike up the sled trails. At least not to go skiing, and not on this trip.

People asked if I was riding up Henderson, or other groomed roads for sledding. The answer is, no, I did not. I came here to ski and climb peaks. I rode the bike from home to trailhead. That was it. That was the plan. I don't identify myself as a cyclist, and never have. I'm a skier and a climber, and a dude riding a bike to get somewhere.

Starring at the bike, one strange man spoke about all the places I was riding to go skiing, with out looking at me. I think the bike hypnotized the guy. By the time I told him, "riding up a snow trail, with 25 pounds of ski gear, is slower and more difficult than walking," he was out of his trance, but didn't trust me. Like I'd suddenly made mountain biking up hill easy, because the bike got bigger and cooler looking, and there's snow involved.

Maybe it's the idea of cycling up sled roads, to go skiing, that gets people excited. I tried it years ago on my first fat bike, with ski gear, and didn't make it anywhere. I could still see the parking lot when I stashed the bike and switched to skinning.

I have no problem with going sled skiing, and I do it once or twice a year. Doubling on a sled is tough, with one person standing on one side of the sled, and the other person standing on the other. I've got the brake, he's got the gas, and we're flying up hill at 40 mph, hanging sideways off the running boards, stretched out, pulling as hard as you can on the handlebar. It's a rush, and I totally get it. It's one of those sports that requires an aggresive attitude, the smell of motor oil, and a nip of whiskey.

Still balks in comparison to the art of solo mountaineering, but most things do.

I also uderstand why sleds are so popular amongst skiers. We all want to ski the backcountry and the bigger lines, but can't get there easily. Even with a sled it isn't easy. But now the sleds are better, the riders are better, the routes identified, and everyone is getting after it…. If you got a sled.

I didn't have a sled, but I have a friend named Nate who wanted to ski with a partner. We skied a few days together, tailgated it at the dump in -25ยบ weather, and spent one night camped at 10,000 feet in white-out condition.

It was great. I learn a lot from the younger generation, with their funny shaped skis, and weird ideas. How else would a guy like me, who doesn't own a car, or cell phone, stay in touch with the modern world, and get a chance to go sled skiing?

Skinning around to the top.

Off the summit, the highest place you can ski from.

Nate picked a good run.

Tailgater scene at the dump.

Camp at 10,000 feet.

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