Classic Descent: Mount Sopris
Mount Sopris. Crystal Chute is in the middle of the photo.
Mount Sopris, at 12,965 feet high, dominates the view as you drive south to Aspen from Glenwood Springs. The twin-summited peak rises over 6,000 feet above the valley, making it look taller than it actually is. Lou Dawson, one of the godfathers of ski mountaineering in the U.S., writes of Sopris on his site Wild Snow, "When you live in the "downvalley" part of the Roaring Fork, Sopris is always in your face, begging to be climbed, skied, or just gazed at while you daydream.."
Part of the challenge of skiing Sopris is the vertical rise. Because the peak drops down so far to the valley, unless you catch it just right, you'll end up having to do a lot of hiking back down in ski boots to get to the car. If you do catch it right, you can get nearly 6,000 feet of skiing in.
In stable conditions, Sopris offers several stunning, steep ski lines. In unstable conditions, the Northeast Ridge is about your only safe passge. When conditions are right however, Crystal Chute should be the one to target. Crystal Chute starts from the top of the West Peak and drops for 3,500 feet at 40 degrees, offering just about the perfect ski experience. In fact, you can ski right off the summit into the the rollover and down Crystal Chute.
While the snowpack right now is still pretty unstable, I'm hoping that by the end of April, it will have corned up enough to be ready for a ski descent. Look for a trip report in early May.
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