Summit skiers find ‘cold smoke’ powder in the backcountry during Tuesday’s June snowstorm
DILLON — Frisco local Gary Fondl, known in the local backcountry skiing community as the “Mayor of Pow Town,” extended his consecutive ski streak to 88 weeks Tuesday thanks to the sudden June snowstorm that dropped more than half a foot of powder above 11,000 feet.
“That was probably some of the best June powder in my 26 seasons here,” Fondl said Wednesday. “We had that storm late June last year, but it just wasn’t as deep as (Tuesday’s) skiing was. There was a good 8-plus inches. The winds were really blowing, and we were skiing some old cross-loads leftover from last season to have a base underneath. It was about boot deep.”
Out skiing a location in the Loveland Pass area with Breckenridge adventure sports photographer Liam Doran, the pair skied a spot Fondl typically skis in corn conditions each June. He’d skied it for the past couple of weeks, leading to his knowledge of where snow coverage remained in advance of Tuesday’s storm.
“You definitely have to know what’s underneath there when skiing in a storm like that,” Fondl said.
Doran, an accomplished photographer, typically switches to mountain biking and other summertime sports this time of year. Following a recent four-day commercial backcountry ski shoot for an outerwear brand deep in the Gore Range, Doran has opted for mountain biking dry, lower-elevation trails near his home in Breckenridge, like the Flume trails and Aspen Alley.
But on Monday night, Fondl called to ask Doran if he was down to shoot a powder day the following morning. Having kept an eye on the forecast, Doran knew Idaho had gotten hit with a bunch of snow and knew Tuesday morning could be special — but not 6-12 inches of “cold smoke” powder special.
So Doran ran through his house to gather the ski gear he stored up after the Gore Range trip, packing his go-to setup of Atomic Backland 107 skis with Atomic Backland bindings for the conditions he anticipated the next morning.
After getting up at 5:30 a.m., Doran met Fondl an hour later and drove to a high-mountain road in the Loveland Pass area where there was a quick boot-pack hike to the steep, 1,200-foot zone Fondl knew would be prime conditions.
The snow at the spot was coming down much heavier, and the weather was colder than Doran experienced driving out of Breckenridge. The adventure-sports veteran found himself underdressed with light gloves and a light fleece under his shell for what he described as a “full-on winter morning.”
The duo hiked straight up and — to Doran’s surprise — found Old Man Winter’s best powder. At the end of his first run, Doran quickly realized he mixed up East Coast and mountain time and rushed home for a New York City-based video conference meeting. Fondl headed up again for another lap.
Dropping into the line featuring 1,000 feet of continuous turns from the gusty winds up at about 12,200 feet, the “Mayor of Pow Town” enjoyed what he described as awesome June skiing where the powder got deeper the farther down the line he skied, with some of the best turns at the very bottom.
“Just another day of skiing in Summit County,” Fondl said.
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