The snows of Arapaho

After last weekend, I was still in the mood for a winter trip.

But I wanted to do something I have not done in a while.

Rather than a nylon shelter cocooning me for the night, I’d use the material I’d be skiing on all day: Snow.  A snow cave to be precise.

A wonderful insulator, snow keeps things warm.  If done right with proper ventilation, a snow cave hovers around 30F inside.

An emergency snow cave can be done in an hour or so per person. A really substantial snow cave? Double that time.

But it would be a chance to do something I have not done in a few years.

So my buddy Mark and I took off this past Saturday and went just below Arapaho Lake in the Indian Peaks.

We started at the popular Moffat Tunnel area. On a warm Saturday with little wind, the trail head was a bit busy.

I had some binding issues with my backcountry Telemark skis and the clip kept on popping off. A fix was fashioned, but it cost us some time.

After getting the equipment issues squared away, and making the climb,  we found a suitable spot to make a cave. Due to a later start and my binding issue, we finished the snow cave by headlamp.

Though we were tired, the weather was fairly mild in the low-teens.   The night sky above was brilliant.

Our cave was finished.

Soon we settled in, starting making hot drinks and eating. A little night cap (whiskey) was just enough to be relaxing after all the shoveling.


The avalanche probe makes a good lantern stand. It was moved a little later. Photo courtesy of Mark Thomas.


The cave was warm and comfortable. I brought a 20F bag and I was very toasty all night.

The following morning we woke up to another gorgeous Colorado day. There was no wind. The sun was warm. We were in no rush to leave.

A perfect morning to brew up some coffee and relax. Why leave?

But even with a lollygag pace, we did finish packing. Time to head out.


In the morning. Sporting my puffy pants. I need coffee!

One last look to where had spent Saturday night. Any surprise we took our time leaving?

Before skiing out, I re-did my bindings. My MacGyver-like repair held exceptionally well for the whole way down.

Though I am not a very good technical skier, the powder in the trees was forgiving (once I found a good line! 🙂 ) and I enjoyed myself quite a bit.

I made my way down to the single track and somehow managed not to fall on the icy/slushy snow that formed on the warm Colorado day.  A power snowplow with some less-than-elegant tele turns mixed in kept me upright. 🙂

After we stowed our gear, we headed to the nearby and historic Stage Stop in Rollinsville for some mandatory post-trip beer.  A couple of Sawtooth ales and a burger was a perfect end to a great weekend.



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John Patton
John Patton
9 years ago

Do you have an opinion on the Z pack system of light tents, packs? I am 78 and would like to do a 5 day 100 mile trip on the CO. trail this summer. What is minimum food requirements for an old man? Thanks.

9 years ago

Glad to see you two made it that day! I met you on your way up after my dog and I tired of the sloppy mess up high and turned around shortly after tree line. Looking forward to hearing more about it on the next TTS – cheers!