The Sunday before last a few of us motored up to Vail Pass in search of some turns, good conversation, and a potential summit of resident Gore 12er, Uneva Peak. Brian, Jason and I met up with two of Jason’s buddies, Luke and Zach, early in the morning on the pass, where we were greeted by single digit temps but an otherwise clear, sunny day. We were also joined by J and Brandon (who had come up from Avon), and although Brandon had topped out on Uneva and explored the surrounding area numerous times in the past, he was more than happy to head up there again and show us Denver gapers around.
For a Front Ranger looking to avoid the masses and find some untracked snow, the search for new areas is eternally constrained by several factors – distance from Denver, required time on I70, ease of access, and popularity are the few that immediately come to mind. Being almost as far away as Vail itself and given the cluster that I70 has morphed into in the past several years, Vail Pass doesn’t often make it onto the proverbial radar as a logical place to earn some turns these days. But for some reason, on this day, we felt compelled to drive a little further and run the risk of getting stuck in evening traffic a little higher, all in the name of trying a new area.
We each paid the $6 per person usage fee, which I also have some choice opinions about (particularly with regards to backcountry skiers as we don’t burn any oil and tend to leave no trace in an area) but I’ll save those for another time. After a brief skin up the Shrine Pass Road on the west side of the pass to warm up the legs, we skied a short run back down to the parking lot, crossed the highway, and began the skin up towards Corral Creek and the Uneva Peak cirque.
With a firm skin track already in place we made good time up through the crisp morning air and rolling terrain to the southwest of Uneva. It was good to catch up with everyone as it had sure been awhile for some of us. Spirits were high as it was also clear that we were in for some above-average skiing. The area had received more snow than any of us realized. And not just snow, but the light, cold, fluffy kind.
After a 45 minute skin appraoch, we broke out into the prominent bowl west of Uneva and got a good look at the terrain we would wind up lapping later in the day.
The ridge up to Uneva’s false summit was heavily corniced so we made sure to give the edge of the void a wide berth. Uneva kept popping in and out of the clouds as winds raked moisture across the peaks and surrounding ridge lines. At the false summit it was clear a direct summit descent of Uneva wasn’t in the cards, but a few of us decided to drop our skis and hop up the remaining hundred vertical feet to the true summit.
Once back at tree line we said goodbye to Brandon and J, who had to hightail it back to Avon for some latter-half of the day engagements.
The rest of us stuck around for another couple hours and lapped the low-angle powder snow a few more times (after all, we weren’t in a big rush to join the masses on 70 eastbound). A nice bowl just above tree line provided a near perfect pitch to stack turns on one another, and we also deviated further to the south once to check out a nice tree run.
The out took roughly 30 minutes, then it was down to IPA in the parking lot with a nice view of Jacque Peak bathed in afternoon sun. From there we headed for Brian’s choice of dinner locale at The Lost Cajun, where we loaded up on gumbo and powdered sugar beignets before finishing the drive home. We ran into some traffic on the west side of the Eisenhower, but cranking up Enya on the stereo seemed to help us all keep our cool (it’s a good strategy, you should try it some time).
Thanks for a fun day out there gentlemen. Let’s do it again sometime (like later this month)!