Cold Smoke Shop Files

Cold Smoke Splitboards2

Cold Smoke Splitboards1

Gaining Independence

Words by Will Shoemaker: Editor for the Gunnison Country Times

It was raining cats and dogs when a Cold Smoke crew consisting of Kyle Jones and I pulled north out of Gunnison on Friday afternoon. Independence Pass called our names, but the soggy weather cast doubt on whether spring shredding was actually in the cards.

 Typically, this Colorado high-country pass is plowed free of snow by the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, and the doors open to a winter wonderland of massive peaks, alluring couloirs and creamy corn snow. Typically, that is. As we headed north from Gunnison, the forecast called for wintry weather for most of the holiday weekend. Luckily, the pop-up, cab-over camper — dubbed the “Starship Enterprise” — in the bed of my truck would offer a safe haven from sour weather. Late spring in the Rockies: You never know what you’re gonna get.
As if on cue, the clouds parted as we entered Taylor Park and began the ascent of Cottonwood Pass. A  few beers and piping-hot pizza at Eddyline Brewery in Buena Vista set the stage for a solid weekend of hanging with homies and incredible turns. After dinner, we met up with a group of friends from the I-70 corridor at their camp along Lake Creek — the tributary that twists its way eastward as it descends from the top of Independence Pass to Twin Lakes.
The impending weather left a question mark on the next day’s objective. The Weather Man had called for 1-3 inches of snow on top of the pass overnight, but sunrise gave way to somewhat clear skies. With a window present, we headed to the top of the pass and pointed our tips toward the summit of Twinings Peak. We had topped out and were waiting for the snow to corn when the legendary Lou Dawson appeared from the opposite side of the summit with an entourage en tow from the Aspen side of the pass. If you’re serious about backcountry skiing or snowboarding, you’ve probably heard of Lou Dawson — the first person to climb and ski all of Colorado’s “fourteeners.” Every Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, Lou can be found skiing and barbecuing on Independence Pass.
After riding both east and west sides of Twinings — or what Lou calls “Blue Peak” — we called it a day and cruised back to camp for beers and food. A little fishing was in order, but afternoon rains sent us to the camper earlier than expected. Plans for an afternoon barbecue were drown by rainshowers that continued through most of the night. Luckily, a nap that turned into 18 hours of sleep had us feeling like He-Man by sunrise Sunday.
We drank warm coffee and fueled up on oatmeal and muffins while watching the clouds burn off — revealing summits capped in fresh snow. Duty called, and the crew sped to the top of the pass for the prospect of powder turns in late May. It wasn’t the 6-inch storm that forecasters had called for; most of the precipitation the night before came in rain. But at some point, likely early in the morning, the mercury dropped low enough to turn the moisture into cold, low-density snow — Cold Smoke. We lapped it up like hounds until
late-spring sun began peeking through the clouds, bringing to an end a fabulous, snow-filled weekend of spring pass shredding.
We said our goodbyes over beers at camp, packed up the Starship and rallied back to the Gunnison Valley. Who knew Memorial Day could be so good? Summer may be here, but there’s still plenty of snow begging to be ridden …

Searching For Pow


The snow in the state of Colorado this past month has been pretty hard to come by but fortunately there are a few locations throughout the state that are holding good snow. We are lucky to be able to find good snow not to far from home and this past month the Cold Smoke crew has been farming plenty of those Cold Smoke powder turns. Avalanche conditions got a little touchy in the past week after this last storm but they are starting to come back to normal and signs of another approaching storm is on the horizon. There’s even talk about snow returning to the forecast for the last half of February so cross your fingers folks.

“It’s awesome to have so many cameras and photographers on our tours to document everything that happens.  Thank you to everyone who takes pictures and sends us all these great shots!! 

Over the weekend we didn’t get to ride but we did get the opportunity to meet a living legend by the name of Dean Cummings (founder of H2O Heli Guides & Alaskan big mountain pioneer). One thing he told us to never forget is “Skiing is Living.”  Thanks for the advice Dean!



“Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” –  Anonymous

Without much discussion a brief plan was set and a decision was made. Sunday was to be the day. For far too long we had been trying to enjoy the warm weather by riding bikes or fishing, but splitboarding continued to torture our minds. Finally something gave. The high pressure system lingering over Colorado suddenly lifted and BAM!  Snow…

We meet up the next morning, all grinning ear-to-ear. We scraped off the remaining wax from the night before and loaded up the snowmobiles. We enjoyed a dark, aromatic coffee blend between breaths of brisk air (cold air in the lungs also wakes you up), and then it was ‘go’ time.  We had all imagined that first powder day of the year, wondered when it would arrive and how it would feel. Now it was here, and we were hot on it’s trail.

Snow has a funny way of making people smile. Whether it’s the first or the hundredth time you’ve experienced it, snow immediately sparks something inside of you to burst into happiness. Going months without the pleasure of sliding down the mountain you almost forget the feelings of joy obtained in the act. We basked in the glory of being out in the wilderness and once again traveling by splitboard. Great conversations were shared, jokes were told and for a few hours none of us worried about anything other than having fun. We explored new areas, found out cool new things about one another and recovered that feeling we had all been waiting for. Snow had yet again lifted the spirits of the worried and definitely put our minds at ease. We hope for lots more white in the coming months, and can move forward knowing we undoubtably got some freshies and traveled happily on this day.

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