Chasing late spring snow in the Colorado high country

By Scott Coe \

Chasing late spring snow in the Colorado high country

It’s 27 degrees. My breath makes clouds of vapor in the light of my headlamp with each exhale of thin mountain air. Ahead, the trail climbs steeply through the trees and I focus on each glide of my skis as I ascend through the pre-dawn light. There is something about being awake before the rest of the world that feels invigorating. Not just to be the first to the summit, but also the first to the day.

As the veil of COVID-19 restrictions has cautiously lifted, I’ve escaped for a little additional social distancing with a friend, chasing the remains of the season’s healthy snowfall for some much-needed spring turns. Below me the Cricket disappears through the evergreens, at rest in the deserted parking lot that served as a makeshift campsite on the crest of Berthoud Pass. She is always geared up in the garage and ready to go. And I feel she’s been as restless as I have to escape, awaiting the Governor’s permission to play.

Above, the signal towers on Colorado Mines Peak are alit with the first rays of morning sun, while in the shadows, the snow is still solid from the night’s freeze.

Of all the overlapping seasons Colorado offers, spring is perhaps my favorite. The peaks still hold the clean palette of snow that makes them so dramatic, throughout the year, while down lower, nature awakens from a winter slumber. The rivers start to thicken with runoff escaping the icy elevations for warmer climes and the summer’s first flowers start to appear from the snowmelt. It is hopeful, not unlike the way I felt as I drove up from Denver, fleeing the endless weeks of virus lockdown for some fresh perspective and a reminder that even as things become turbulent, nature plays a healthy, invigorating role of renewal in all of us.

Last night, by the firelight in front of the camper, a red fox appeared and cautiously watched us from a distance. My friend and I sat a respectful 10 feet apart and she did the same. This morning as I opened the door to the Cricket, it was back, and sat a few feet away as I put on my boots and readied my skis, the only neighbor on this quiet Colorado morning.

How it’s rigged:

Our Overland Edition Cricket comes with the suspension and ground clearance to get farther back into the places we want to play. But in Colorado, the seasons can change pretty quickly. For winter outings, we rely on the onboard heating system pretty regularly at night. We’ve overnighted as low as -5. In the morning, by the time the hot water is boiling on the stover for coffee, the inside temp is t-shirt weather. Our rack system converts from bike and kayak trays to winter gear for skis and boards when we have a lot to haul. Otherwise stuff just slides pretty easily into the under-berth storage cavities. We typically remove the onboard Dometic fridge and just use a Yeti cooler in the winter and let mother nature keep things chilly.

Other Winter tweaks:

A portable fire pit that runs off one of the onboard propane bottles.
We leave the water tanks dry for the winter and haul bottled water instead.
An avalanche shovel is always onboard, not just for the skiing but for campsite tending.
We’ve rigged a small drying rack that hangs from the ceiling to dry wet gear while cooking.
And it’s always a good idea to have a bag of sand in the back of the truck for sites that can get a little icy when it’s time to leave.