Tracking Snow on the Internet

In the past week or so the reality of ski season has started to set in. Although summer and fall bring out the real color of Colorado, it is hard not to enjoy the snow covered peaks, the cold brisk nights, and of course getting on the slopes. There is something about ski season that just feels so right and Colorado is truly blessed with not only some of the most beautiful vistas but also some of the most amazing ski terrain. Crested Butte Mountain Resort opened last Wednesday for opening day which happened to be free for everyone. There was not much options in terms of ski runs, and the lines rivaled a weekend at Vail resorts but it didn’t matter, it was exciting to get back on the sticks for the first time since April. In order to make a ski season successful, we must have snow. Of course some years are better than others, but if you are a powder hound like me, you know there are plenty of resources to track the white stuff on the internet.

Opening week and its still a white ribbon!

OK, OK, we all know how bad it was in Colorado last year, minus the odd ball of Wolf Creek with over 100 inches before December and 396 inches on the season. Every storm seemed to stay far north of Colorado. With each passing day, it got worse and worse. I remember riding my bike on the Upper Loop on January 4th. In February there was a little relief, but it was too little too late. Crested Butte Mountain Resort didn’t even see 100″ from November 23rd to April 8th. It holds the record as the 2nd worst snowfall year ever for Crested Butte Mountain Resort. We kept waiting and waiting, and winter quickly turned into bike season. As a result, we were in panic mode the first half of the summer with high fire danger and our rivers and reservoirs were evaporating fast. Ok, well enough of that. As you should all know, it is impossible to predict how each winter will pan out.  I am not a meteorologist, however, I love winter weather and storms and do as much research and tracking as I can. This year forecasters had initially said that it would be an El Nino winter.
My understanding of El Nino is that the Pacific Ocean’s surface temperature warms near the equator.  This usually increases the likelihood of storms in our area, thus dumping more snow on our ski slopes. Obviously, that is not a very scientific description, but the general idea is that El Nino could create a greater chance of snow.  As it stands now, most recent forecasts have shown a stand still. Meaning the weather has become neutral, somewhere in between El Nino and La Nina. This is making what some long range forecasters say one of the most difficult winters to predict.  Meanwhile the snow has for the most part stayed to the north of Colorado yet again. My goal every year is to improve, whether I am skiing powder, groomers or moguls. No matter what, we need snow to cover the grass and rocks to open more difficult and steep terrain. Here at Crested Butte it takes a bit more snow than most resorts because of some pretty extreme Terrain.

Here are a multitude of forecast/snow links that I use on a daily basis, in no particular order: has been been in the game a while but I started to use there site last year. The recently updated website makes for very easy navigation and functionality. They do personal weather forecasts for each and every ski resort in Canada and the United States. Although when two ski resorts are next to each other the forecast tends to be the same. The homepage shows highest 24 hour snow totals and highest foretasted totals. A cool feature they offer is a map that shows a radar and winter weather alerts issued by the National Weather Service. The site includes a forum and you can sign up to get snow alerts. has been another go-to source for me because it’s unique qualities. Steve or “powderchaser” chases storms to resorts that get the most snow or at least where he thinks the most snow will drop! The home page and entire website is very simple and easy to use. Although he might not update his “powder alert” every day he updates as needed. He forecasts the west and at times will forecast the east when warranted. formerly know as Colorado Powder Forecast is a very user friendly site. Joel Gratz and Andrew Murry started the sight last November and has since been a hit for Colorado weather freaks. Joel updates the Colorado forecast every day and sometimes multiple times a day. You can set up a “dashboard” and save your favorite resorts for convenience. Open Snow has yet to truly go region to region but it seems this is their goal. They do have a Tahoe Forecaster as well as a forecaster out East. Another character that sets them apart from the rest is that they have fun naming the storms.

The Crested Butte Avalanche Center is my go-to page for local backcountry conditions. The home page offers a weather synopsis and what’s happening in the backcountry. Detailing recent slides and what to expect out in the backcountry. It also includes the current danger graph for the region and trends. You can submit recent observations, which is a very neat feature. People post pictures and a quick write up of the conditions they experienced. The guys the run the site are all CB locals and love what they do.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center is a very useful site for all backcountry snow conditions in Colorado. Whether you’re a skier, snowmobiler, or if you are just getting out in the backcountry, this site is a must view before you head out. It has a detailed avalanche and weather forecast for every different zone in Colorado. It also shares accidents in Colorado and the United States.

This is the National Weather Service website. These are the guys that release weather advisory for the United States. I use the Grand Junction NWS which issues statements for eastern Utah and Western Colorado. The sight is easy to navigate. the home page shows the weather story, radar, satellite, and weather map. It also includes any current advisories.

With that said, Check out the sites for your self. As far as weather, who knows what will happen. Last October we got a good amount of snow, and then moisture left the area. So far the moisture has been completely absent. It is all about the storm track and right now it is not in our favor. Regardless, winter is the time to hunker down, drink tea, eat soup, ski, and repeat. It is an excuse to wear long johns all day, and to enjoy an alcoholic beverage before noon. It may snow this year, it may not, that is the beauty of visiting other ski destinations. No matter what it is going to be a wonderful ski season, and I can’t wait to share every moment with you!

whether your still biking or need to plan a backcountry tour route check out 2pedal for maps.

Specialized Stump Jumper Comp Carbon 29er

Late this summer, in August, I decided I wanted a new mountain bike. I had an opportunity to get a discounted 2013 bike from Specialized so I started my research. I had done a lot of research throughout the summer on race bikes, and narrowed my search to a hardtail 29er. The mountain bike community had declared the 29er as the next best thing. Every bike magazine has been saying how the 29er had finally been perfected after years of manufacturing and testing. I had friends jumping on the 29er bandwagon, and it was time for me to jump aboard. I got on the internet to see what my bank account could afford. I came up with the Stumpjumper Comp Carbon Hardtail 29er. I considered the the Expert Carbon but there were a few upgrades on the bike that were not worth the money. Once the bike was in hand, I tested it in a variety of conditions and circumstances, every day rides, races, and even a bikepack trip. I want to share with you my thoughts of my first 600 miles on the Stumpjumper Comp Carbon Hardtail 29er.

My Trek Fuel EX 9.8

I started Mountain Biking in July of 2010 when I purchased a 2010 Trek Fuel EX 6. It was a perfect beginner bike and a perfect bike for Crested Butte area trails. I road the bike the rest of 2010 and all of 2011. I sold it and upgraded to a Trek Fuel Ex 9.8 in March of 2012. This bike has been simply amazing; climbing, descending, rough terrain, it can manage anything. I raced on it and bikepacked the whole Colorado Trail on it. I had no real idea how a 29er rode, I tried out a few but knew I would just have to get one and test it for myself,  so that is what I did. Keep in mind, all of my opinions are compared to my experience riding 26er, as that is all I had ridden prior to buying the Stumpjumper 29er.

First impressions: My first impressions of the Stumpjumper were very positive. First off the look of the bike is very sleek, the black with yellow detail looks great. The simple things matter to me like the color and the two water bottle cage mounts. I got a large frame and it is a perfect fit for me at 5″ 10′. The 12 millimeter thru axle with the Rockshox Reba works perfectly and the quick response and handling surprised me. The Roval Wheel set seemed a bit sluggish at first, the wheels are heavy but I got used to them. The bonus was the “2bliss” Ready Rim strip that came pre-installed! All I needed to do was add some Stan’s and pump up the Specialized Fast Trak Tires, it was one of the more easy tubeless installations I have done. The tires seemed a bit thin on the sidewalls and I knew they would struggle in the mud. The drive train was the kicker on this bike. Specialized mixed and matched Sram and Shamano products. The cranks, chainrings, front deraillure, and cassett were all Sram and the rear derailleur and shifters were Shamano. What stood out here was the Shamano XT rear derailleur with clutch. Basically it is a derailleur that becomes ridged by the flip of a switch on the derailleur it self.  It is supposed to prevent chain slap and chain drop. Specialized switched from Avid Brakes to Magura on almost all of there Stumpjumpers this year. I like how powerful the Magura MTS (Specialized custom version of the MT4) are. The elongated brake lever is a bit awkward, something to get used to. Overall, I am happy with the components, but have plans on upgrading. The ability to upgrade to components I want is one of the reasons I purchased this bike over the more expensive Expert Carbon.

Trail riding: Like I said, I have done a lot of different riding on this bike since I got it in August.  It has become my go-to bike mainly because of how efficient it is. On relaxing rides I see myself going much faster then I had in the past. I read that people need to get over the hump of switching to a 29er; the first handfull of rides where you want to get back on your 26er, I never felt that.  The first thing that stood out was how the bike handled obstacles.  For Example, going up a technical rock a foot in height. With my 26er I would have to crank up on the handlebars and pop my font tire up and over. With the 29er all I needed to do was lift up on the bars a little but mainly just engage the tire with the rock and with enough momentum the bike would handle the rest of the work. It was amazing how much less energy I expended.

Racing: Normal rides were fun, but where this bike excelled was racing. I started to do a few races late this summer, because I knew the bike could hold it’s own and I wanted to see if I would enjoy it or not. The two shorter races I did at Hartman’s Rocks in Gunnison went better then I had anticipated. some people say that the pickup on bigger wheels such as a 29er is slower compared to a small wheel, I thought the pickup was pretty good. I had not done too much racing on my Fuel Ex so I couldn’t compare but I was happy with the way it excelled. Hartman’s is pretty sandy, the one race I rode the Specialized Fast Traks was a bit scary. I noticed in fast turns I would washout a bit more. Not sure if it was the tires or me not used to the lack of tire coverage that 29ers have? In general these two short races were tough but the bike handled pretty well, A few upgrades might make it even faster. The one race this bike excelled at was the Crested Butte Classic. It is a 100 mile bike race that take racers around three large loops in the Crested Butte area. There is a lot of singletrack but also a lot of road and that is where this bike felt like a rocket. It also surprised me in super steep descents. Because of the big wheel size, the bike’s weight distribution is more balanced, thus preventing a dive over the handle bars. Even with the long saddle time my back never seemed to hurt, this also could have been due to adrenalin and proper fitting on my bike, but still I was surprised.

Bikepacking: More recently I took this bike on the Kokopelli’s Trail for a bikepacking trip. Bikepacking is pretty much backpacking but on bikes. I add packs on my bike and cinch them down. This specific trip was short but such a blast.. This summer I started getting into bikepacking and thru biked the Colorado trail. I was really excited to take this bike on it’s first bikepack. I plan on doing the Arizona Trail Race this April and I wanted to test the bike out with the packs on it. It did not disappoint. Not only was it a great test run, but I was surprised what the bike could handle through technical sections with all the weight on it. The only problem I had was my saddle bag was packed a bit to much and my rear tire would scrape against the large saddle pack every so often. I might have to consider a different way of carrying my stuff in the future. Overall this is a perfect bike for bikepacking.

Final Thoughts: The Fact IS 8m carbon frame gives just enough that you don’t feel like your getting beaten around.Yet its tougher then the 6m carbon frame on all other higher end models. This was one of the deciding factors over an Aluminum frame. I love the Rockshox Reba, so far it has held up great. For my bikepack trip I added a little more PSI and it worked great. The lock out is a function I rarely use but when I do it works flawlessly. The Roval rims will be my next upgrade, not that they are bad but I just want better, they are a bit heavy. The Specialized Fast Track tires didn’t last long, I just didn’t like how they felt and I had heard to many good things about the Maxxis Icon exo’s, that was my first upgrade on the bike. The drive train has preformed up to my standards with the highlight being the Shamano XT Rear derailleur with clutch. Countless times has it been used to the fullest going thru fast rock garden and it never disappoints. I have noticed the X7 front derailleur constantly needs adjusting, it tends to over shift I wondering if it has something to do with the 2X10 drivetrain? The SLX shifters don’t compare to my XT shifters but you get what you pay for, this could be an upgrade for the future but not to high on the list. The Magura brakes have been so-so thus far, probably my most frustrating component. The brake levers just don’t fit on the 680mm Handlebars. Now if you like to brake with two fingers this lever is for you, but I don’t. I also already had to replace my rear brake pads. I love resin pads but they wore very fast. They also need to be re-bled already, this could be because it is one of the lower ends of the Magura MT series. I enjoy the 180mm front and 16mm rear Rotors, that contributes to how powerful these brake are. The other disappointment with the Maguras is the Modulation. When feathering the brakes the rear tire locks up and skids. In general this bike is fast, it is a race machine, and I have been very please with my purchase. I plan on getting 700mm carbon handlebars, carbon seat post, some lighter wheels, and maybe a brake upgrade. Whether it be trail riding, racing, or even  bikepacking this bike will suit your needs. Specialized has a winner in the 2013 Stumpjumper Comp Carbon 29er.

 The 700mm Bars are what this bike needed. It offers much more control and its more conformable. 
 XT Brakes with Ice-Tec Rotors have worked great thus far. A far better option then the Maguras. The Modulation is what the XT is know for so that’s one of the main reasons I went with them! I need my brake Modulation!!!!

My next upgrade will be a new drive train to accompany the already awesome XT rear derailleur. Xt cranks, cassettes, and chain.

The Kokopelli’s Trail Trip Report

Last week my friend Mike asked if I wanted to partake in bikepacking the Kokopelli’s Trail with him. The trail is approximately 142 Miles from Loma, Colorado to Moab, UT. It takes you through large canyons, over desert plains, along the Colorado River, up to the La Sal Mountainrange, and down to Moab. I immediately accepted the invitation and declared it my final hurrah before the ski season ramps up. A few days passed with diligent route and logistic planning, eventually we got everything dialed in. Mike and I would be bikingpacking the Kokopelli’s Trail Monday, October 29th with hopes of finishing on Halloween so we could get back home and maybe have some fun.

Highway 50

I work as the Security Supervisor at Crested Butte Mountain Resort and had to work Sunday night until 12:00am. Instead of driving straight after work and sleeping in my car, I decided to sleep at my house for a few hours. I woke up at 3:20am, packed my things and was on the road by 3:40am.  Next stop was Gunnison to meet up with Mike and drive our two cars together. We left Gunnison and made our way to Montrose as the moon light illuminated the road. Eventually we would reach Grand Junction and stop at a City Market around 6:30am for camp food, snacks,and two 3gallon water jugs. Back on the road to Moab by way of Highway 128.

Up Onion Creek Road

Water is the main issue on the Kokopelli’s Trail, depending on the time of the year, some say it is impassible without water drops. After much deliberation and research our hope to do the trailself-supported without a water drop would not happen. It was tough to plan for water as people usually don’t ride the trail this late in the season. Our thought was there might be some water due to the the recent snow fall, but with lack of knowledge of the area we really had no clue. We decided to drop our two large jugs where Onion Creek Road and the Kokopelli’s Trail meet in Fisher Valley as this was a very easy access point for us off Hwy 128. This however would be our only drop of any sort. As we were getting ready to hop in my car with the jugs of water to drive up to Fisher Valley, we noticed Mike’scar was smoking pretty badly. We are no car mechanics but we both knew smoke was not good! When in doubt, add some oil. Both of us had about a quart between our two emergency bottles in our cars. We added the oil and got in my car to drive the 8 or so miles up the road. We got to the junction, dropped the water and drove back down to Hwy 128.Mikes car seemed to be working just fine once we got back, of course, just in time for my check engine light to turn on. Car issues was not the way I had hoped this trip would start. However, my car seemed to be running fine but once we got to Moab I would get it checked out.  I made my way to ASAP Automotive to get a computer test done on my car. Luckily, no issues, just a glitch in the computer system, fewef!

Getting our things together

We dropped off Mike’s car and started to head north to I-70 and eventually the Kokopelli’s Trailhead in Loma. It had already been a heck of a dayand we had yet to get in the saddle. Once we arrived at the Kokopelli‘s Trailhead, we went through our gear, loaded our bikes, and hit the trail at 2:30PM. Our Goal was to make it to Westwater but with the late October sun setting around 6:00pm it would have been hard to muster 40 miles in 3 hours.

My Setup

Even with the late start and early frustration it was hard not to put a smile on our faces once we got on our bikes! It was our first time bikepacking since the Colorado Trail trip in early September. Mike and I were talking about how amazing the feeling is, it’s a whole different style of riding!

Marys Loop Over looking the Colorado River

I’m pretty familiar with the Kokopelli Trail system out of Loma, so it was a fun way to start the trip, Mary’s loop to Lions Loop to Troy Built. All very fun single track that eventually brought us down to Salt Creek. We crossed Salt Creek and instantly our pace slowed with a hike-a-bike section until we got to the top of the ridge. 
After the hike-a-bike we got on a fast road all the way to the Rabbit Valley Trailhead.  After taking a quick break, we continued on some double track, which included sand and rock ledges. We had also noticed the Western Rim Trail and how fun it looked. I’ve heard the riding in Rabbit Valley is great, but the look of this trail convinced me I would need to return. 

Western Rim Trail Area

After wasting some time gazing at the Western Rim Trailand taking some photos we called it a day, overlooking the trail and the beautiful canyon walls! The natural night light of the moon was so bright it created shadows, it was pretty unreal. After some tuna pesto pasta and some other snacks the long day that started at 3:20am was over. We got in our bivys after 30 miles of biking on the day.

spigot with clean water….YUM!

My watch alarm woke me up at 6:00am the desert wascold and still moonlit. I slowly got out of my bivy and started to boil water for tea and food. Both Mike and I understood we needed to crank out some miles today in order to reach our goal. As we hit the trail and started our first climb, a steep and rocky but short climb I had doubts we would reach the goal. I wanted to enjoy myself on the trail but at the same time the ultimate goal was on my mind. Bikepacking makes you think about logistics a lot, at least for me when I’m riding. I have kind of picked up the phrase “not much left to do but keep going” since, it is true until your finished. Once we got to the Westwater paved road we really started to cruise. If the trail calls for paved road while bikepacking, I won’t complain. We took a short trip to the Westwater Ranger Station to fill our water at the spigot. We heard about the spigot but we were not sure it would still be on this late in October. It was and we filled up on water and pushed on. The day was getting warmer and we stopped to de-layer. As we did, a Grand Mesa Sheriff drove up to us and asked us if we had seen any vehicles today at all. We had not and told him so. This was the desert, anything goes right? For the next few miles I was thinking what the Sheriff was looking for and hoping we wouldn’t stumble upon any vehicles.

Between Westwater and Cicso Boat Ramp there is a whole lot of nothing just plain desert with the occasional nice view,  and the riding was very easy. Mike and I did a lot of chatting. After Cisco we got on paved road again, then some more technical riding along McGraw Bottom. We reached Hwy 128 after some spectacular views of the mountains ahead.

Just before HWY 128
Old Dewey Bridge

Because we were in a bind for time we decided to detour around Yellow Jacket Canyon, we had also heard the riding was a bit sandy and not fun. The detour quickly got us to Dewey Bridge, there we took a left on Entrada Bluffs Road. Spirits were super high at first but what we didn’t know was this would be the worst section of the trail, in our opinions. Views were great but around 2:00pm it was like a heat switch turned on. The heat along with the consistent climb up sand and loose rock made it tough going. After the slow climb we finally reached the decent. At first it was a fun little downhill with cool slickrock ledge drops. This got very repetitive and after awhile we made our way to the hardest section of the trail. 

The crux of the trail, Rose Garden Hill.

We were carrying our bikes at one point down Rose Garden Hill. Mike and I were saying how we couldn’t imagine a dirt-bike even trying this. We finally made our way down to Fisher Valley and eventually our water jugs. The sun was setting but we both wanted to make it to Hideout Canyon Campground, so we filled up on water and carried our jugs the 2 miles from Onion Creek Road to Hideout Canyon Campground. We had made it to a very nice campsite, with a toilet, fire rings, and picnic tables, all to ourselves. We got a fire going as we knew it would be a little colder then the previous night. We made a tuna pesto soup with ramen noodles and penne, it hit the spot. we got some good coals going in the fire, hopped in our bivys as the moon lit the earth and shut the eyes after roughly 70 miles of biking on the day. Tomorrow, we hit the LaSals, Moab, and hopefully Home!

Mike warming up
Officially entering the LaSal National Forest

I woke to my alarm at 5:45am, my sleep was not nearly as sound as the night before. It was a cold morning and I didn’t want to get out of my bivy. I rolled over to my left, grabbed some wood, and rolled back over to my right to put the wood on some buried hot coals. Not until I started a good size fire did I get out of my bivy. My watch said it was 30 degrees. It was slow getting our acts together but if we didn’t have a fire to warm not only our body’s but our spirits it would have been much slower. We got the water ready for what mike calls “rambombs” which is ramen noodles and potato flakes and the occasional summer sausage mixed, it was tasty! We got our things together, huddled around the fire one last time and doused it with our extra water. We knew we had a pretty long climb ahead but were hoping it wouldn’t be as bad as the Dewey Bridge to Fisher Valley section. We hopped on our bikes while our fingers and toes slowly went numb. The sun had yet to hit the north part of the canyon where we were. Once we got to sun the pain from the thaw hurt so good. It had not warmed up too much as we climbed. Ponderosa pines lined the sides of the roads, snow started to fill the shaded areas but the views became increasingly more and more spectacular. We passed paradox trail road and made our way to the top while overlooking Fisher Valley, Surprisingly we never hit any large amounts of snow.

Top of the climb before we descend to Castle Valley Road

We descended from Bull Draw down to Castle Valley Road on a very fast paved road. Just as we were about to start our final climb of the trip we were stunned to see “road closed 1.5 Miles ahead no access to Sand Flats Road.” My stomach dropped, confusion set in. We were hoping this wouldn’t end our trip early. This was one thing we never thought to look into, but once I saw that sign I thought how stupid I was to have not to! We disregarded the initial sign as well as the one 1.5 miles ahead on the road. Once we arrived to the construction we were immediately greeted by some construction jerk. I asked to speak to the foreman as this guy was not the brightest. The foreman was kind and said he has not let anyone through, but said there was a road at the valley floor that would take us around the construction. We thanked him and right there descended down to the valley floor.

We scaled down this hill… funny!

Our so called detour brought us on a very rocky road and eventually back to the paved La Sal Loop Road. Once we got there we knew the top was near so we both pushed it pretty hard. We got to the top and soaked it in! All we had to do now was cruise down Sand Flats RoadI had done the Whole Enchlada last year, so considering our lack of time, we opted to descend down the road. I have only gone as far as the Slickrock Trailhead, and I was blown away by the cool rock formation and beautiful vistas up Sand Flats Road. We descended past Slickrock Trailhead and past what the Latitude 40 Map says the 2nd most beautiful landfill, we thought that was funny. We got to Moab at 2:30pm and went directly to Zax for a burger and a beer!

Sand Flats Road looking East

After our meal, we still had to bike to Potash Road to get Mike’s car which was another 8 miles of road riding. We got to Mike’s car pretty quickly, loaded up our stuff, checked the fluids in his car and took off for Loma to pick my car up. After a quick stop in Grand Junction at the Jimmy Johns and Starbucks I hit the road for Crested Butte. I arrived home at 9:45pm put on my costume and went out and had some fun! After it was all said and done we finished the trail in 48 hours, yet we still enjoyed ourselves. I could not have asked for abetter trip this late in October. There is something about bikepacking that feels so right; covering so much ground, carrying all the essentials on your bike, it is truly one of my favorite things to do!

I need to thank Rad Anzulovic of 2Pedal Mountain Biking, Rad helped Mike and I with last minute trip planning and convinced us that we needed to do a water drop (so thankful for that). He also sent over his draft of his Kokopelli’s Trail Guide book. It was very easy to use and help tremendously. I cant thank Rad enough for the help, Please check out his web site and look out for the Guide book coming out soon! 

Check out all my photos here 

Also Check out this brief video Mike made using his Go Pro Footage.