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The Devil's Half-Dozen: Banana Chute Crested Butte, Colo.

The Devil's Half-Dozen: Banana Chute Crested Butte, Colo.

Features
By Stu Campbell
posted: 02/02/2004

The top of Banana Chute reaches to nearly 11,000 feet and plunges 3,000. It's named for its shape. "Banana has a perfect, steady pitch from top to bottom and amazing spring snow," says Susan Medville, a local pro freeskier. "It's so visible from town, you can look up and say, 'I just skied that.'" Banana Chute faces west, holds snow well into April and is the first double-black-diamond run to corn up. It's also a Class A avalanche zone, which the ski patrol controls with a Howitzer.

1. How to ski it: Banana Chute is located on the ski area's most prominent feature: the crested butte itself. Ski it only if it's coated with fresh powder or corn snow, otherwise it'll be like trying to ski a coral reef. Banana Chute has two entrances. The upper, accessed from midstation on the High Lift, is harder to find, but gives you more untracked turns. The lower entrance is just below the top of Silver Queen lift. There's no big drop-in, but be prepared to ski over rocks that will ding your edges. Traverse across the first chute, called Peel, to Banana.

2. In the main bowl, it's tempting to drop to the right. Don't. If you have absolute first tracks, ski down the middle. If not, the left will have the best, most protected snow. This line is called Chiquita. Make big swooping turns, but keep your head up and look out for choppy avalanche debris beneath the surface.

3. The open spaces narrow quickly. Suddenly you'll find yourself in pungies-small evergreens that stick a few inches out of the snow. Don't let them trip you. As you get into the tight funnel, there are awkward bumps, so don't go in there too fast.

4. The bottom opens up and mellows into the Skating Rink. The run ends at a road-like trail through the trees. Tuck this trail so you don't have to walk the short uphills back to the lift. You can be satisfied at having skied a true double-black-diamond run (double-blacks are a lot harder here than at other areas), but don't get cocky and try to ski under the T-Bar to get straight back to Silver Queen. It would be embarrassing to have the patrol pull your pass here.

The Gear
Take the widest, softest skis you can, and use short ones, because Banana Chute gets tight near the bottom. This shot takes work and endurance. Don't overdress or you'll roast.

The Prep
Get in shape. Practice making tight, short turns, as if skiing into a funnel. The choke point of the chute is only two ski lengths wide. Don?t even think about trying Banana Chute until you consult ski patrol. Go with an instructor or guide. Then try to be at the top just as patrol drops the rope.

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