Skiing has its ups and downs
Special to the Daily
If You Go ...
What: “Climbing and Skiing Colorado’s Mountains,” with authors Ben Conners and Brian Miller, and guide Donny Schefchik.
When: 6 p.m. on Friday.
Where: The Bookworm of Edwards at Riverwalk.
Cost: $10, includes appetizers.
More information: Visit http://www.bookwormofedwards.com, or call 970-926-7323.
EDWARDS — Risk accompanies the thrill of outdoor adventures, and it is prudent to mitigate those dangers by taking someone with you who knows the ropes. But if you can’t take the athlete who discovered a run or has perfected a difficult line, Ben Conners and Brian Miller are willing to accompany you anywhere in Colorado. And while they don’t contribute to gasoline costs, you don’t have to feed them, and they don’t take up much room in your car. Instead, their expertise in climbing and skiing Colorado’s mountains will help to ensure that you have a fun and safe time in the backcountry.
If you’d prefer to hear their tips first hand, head to Edwards on Friday for a conversation about notable routes and memorable ascents and descents. Along with Paragon Guides trip leader Donny Schefchik, they’ll emphasize proper equipment for climbing and skiing, memories of awe-inspiring trips, the lifestyle of alpine enthusiasts, and how to safely navigate the backcountry.
Match made in mountaineering
Vail native Conners discovered his true love of mountain sports on a 2001 church climb up West Buffalo Peak in the San Isabel National Forest near Buena Vista. After that ascent, he quickly took up mountain sports for good, climbing Mt. Elbert and 13 other Fourteeners. In 2008, he decided that skiing down peaks would be easier than hiking down, and so he began his new adventure of climbing to difficult ski terrains.
Miller, Conner’s writing and skiing partner, grew up in Maryland and was exposed early to the excitement of the outdoors. He began climbing in college in Vermont and New Hampshire with his father’s old gear, and decided to take a job in Aspen to continue exploring mountains. He began combining skiing and climbing in 2007 to “keep himself young.”
“Climbing and skiing are good exercise, and great [ways] to socialize with friends I genuinely care to be around,” Miller said. “In my mind there is no better way to experience Colorado.”
Conners and Miller met on a ski trip in 2009 on Mount Evans and discovered a mutual love of mountaineering. This rare duo began a dynamic trust culminating in their 2014 release of “Climbing and Skiing Colorado’s Mountains.”
They work well together, and Miller admits that their interests in climbing and skiing are unusual. He said that there is something unappealing about “getting up before sunrise on your day off from work to climb 3,000 to 6,000 vertical feet in the cold.”
But both Miller and Conners thrive on that special bond that forms between people climbing mountains.
“People usually tend to listen to one another more when you are in a setting such as the mountains — rather than a loud bar — and the experiences are more genuine and meaningful,” Miller said.
Not only does the beauty and quiet forge meaningful friendships, but the danger skiers and climbers face often has the same effect. The pre-trek research and safety assessment requires respect and shared priorities. Conners emphasizes the importance of finding a group that is of a common mindset with regards to risk tolerance and on-mountain dangers.
Avalanche training and the right gear help to limit surprises, and climbing at the right time of year is also paramount. Miller recommends skiing in the spring, when the snow is deep, the slopes are clear and the sun is out.
“Winter snowpack is unpredictable and very dangerous,” he said. “That’s when most deaths in Colorado occur.”
Of course, the triumph of a successful trip is part of the lure, and those adventures often create lifelong memories that last for years after the trek is complete.
“I can’t think of another time in life that I would ever spend 12 to 24 hours with one or two other people, facing the same challenge together, completely shut off from the Internet, advertisements, television and even other people,” Conners said. “Life gets simpler, it’s just a few people against a mountain, and the bonds formed with friends during these times are some of the most real, powerful ones I’ve ever formed.”
Leigh Horton is the journalism intern at the Bookworm of Edwards and a senior at the Colorado School of Mines.