Berthoud Pass has been a big part of my life for the last seven years. Skiing at the Pass; learning and teaching backcountry safety and etiquette; hiking in the woods; figuring out how I can poach your stash—I love it.
But what if I had to leave it? Pack up my gear and leave not knowing when I would be back.
My mind is etched with memories of special days at the Pass. There is much more than just turns in those memories—smiles, laughs, a special line, INSANELY DEEP POW and camaraderie shared with backcountry partners and friends. I’ve grown to love Berthoud Pass and the culture there is part of me now.
Yes, sure, I could move to another place where skiing is a huge part of life. But what would I miss the most? Which memories would I most fondly think back on? How many of them revolve around specific runs or turns I had at the Pass? Or the buddies that shared some of the coldest smoke I have ever skied?
If I came back ten years later, would it seem the same to me? What would the changes feel like?
Today, I got to witness this through someone else’s eyes. Someone with a long, revered legacy at Berthoud Pass. One of the original Bad Asses. A guy who, with his brother and their friends, set standards that serve as benchmarks today. Life’s road took him away from Berthoud ten years ago and this was his return.
Upon first inspection, everything was different to him. No lifts. The lodge replaced by a sparkly new warming hut complete with… a flat-screen television?
As we shifted our gaze away from the built world and to the mountain, my long absent partner realized that some things are still very familiar to him and remarked that the Pass is in its prime. Filled in so well, in fact, that many of the lines holding tracks in Rush were barely possible the years he skied here.
“The conditions are good and the snow is stable,” I said.
“Let’s go up to Russell and take a peek,” he said.
Better yet, we skied the shoulder and got some super soft steep turns in the trees. On the way down he paused to point out the crazy ass dead tree by the 100’s cat-track that almost impaled his friend back in the day.
“Where do you want to ski next?”
Without hesitation I said, “Let’s blast one down Cape Canaveral and Launch Pad.”
No reply, just a nod and smirk as we sank into some sweet boot-deep sugar and milked a few extra super-fun turns, just to savor it.
“Mind if we take a run through Hells?”
I was pretty sure he wanted to see all the sights to complete his trip down memory lane. “Of course not, I love that area.”
Back in the day Sentinel chute went by a different name. “Square Plate” I learned. As we reached the road, the taste of these great turns began to have a nostalgic effect on me.
I wished for a time machine to go back and spend a season at the Pass when the lifts were running. When the culture was thick with Berthoud Bad Asses and rich with people skiing rowdy terrain, in huge snow, at a rootsy resort.
Back at the truck I felt foolish for forgetting beers, but it’s okay because my new friend had some tucked into the trunk of his rental car. This guy… Berthoud Pass runs in his veins!
“The vibe is still here,” he said. He can see it and feel it. “This place is still all about skiing.”
For Robb Gaffney, these things have not changed. Berthoud Pass is still part of him, just as it will remain a part of all of us who know and love the Pass.
I beamed as he told me this; I had just spent the day skiing with an icon of our sport, whose roots are so inextricably tied to Berthoud Pass that one of the biggest kickers on the West Side is named after him.
I skied Berthoud Pass with Robb Gaffney and no one else in the last decade has. Dude, I don’t care if you’re a pro, I’m so much better than you.
Check out Robb Gaffney’s Squallywood: A Guide to Squaw Valley’s Most Exposed Lines.
And don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to me on March 10 at the exclusive Denver premiere of G.N.A.R. from UnofficialNetworks.com at the Oriental Theater where I can tell you to your face that I’m better than you.