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Anatomy: Crested Butte's North Face

Don’t be fooled by the T-bar that accesses this terrain: This is no bunny slope. The North Face, a massive back bowl that slants as much as 50 degrees, is the site of big-mountain competitions and gladed, fluff-filled stashes. If it’s a powder day, get here quickly.
posted: 11/03/2009
Crested Butte's North Face

1) Honey Pie
For a perfect warmup run, ride the North Face T-bar and follow the signs to Rachel’s, a mellow slope that gets trampled quickly. Halfway down, drop over the ridge to your right to reach Honey Pie, a 32- degree open slope. If that’s tracked out, traverse skier’s right through the trees to find softer snow in the well-spaced woods of Stevie’s or Paradise Glade.

2) North Face Cliffs
From the T-bar, follow the signs to the North Face. You’ll go down a short groomer, then cut right on a traverse through the trees. From there, pick your line. North Face Cliffs can be unskiable in lowsnow years, but when it’s filled in, you can huck 50-footers if you’re so inclined. High Notch and Hard Slab offer smaller 10-footers or 300 vertical feet of soft, cliff-free skiing.

3) Hawk’s Nest
Ski High Notch or Hard Slab, then head straight down through the thinned-out trees to Hawk’s Nest, a wide-open slab of wind-buffed cream. On a powder day, you can slash three big turns down this 400-vertical-foot face. If it hasn’t snowed in a couple weeks, watch out for car-size bumps. Veer right toward the bottom to reach Rosy Lane, a knoll that often hides powder.

4) Last Steep
If you’re itching for more vertical, head down from Rosy Lane moving left to reach Last Steep, a smooth 40-degree pitch. If your legs are killing you, head far left about three quarters of the way down Last Steep to catch Bucks Traverse, an unmarked singletrack through the trees back to the Paradise quad. If you’re feeling ballsy, go skier’s right of Last Steep, for Cesspool, Sock it to Me, and Little Hour Glass, venues in Crested Butte’s notoriously steep big-mountain comp. Each is riddled with 15-foot mandatory airs and narrow 50-degree chutes. You’ll need a big dump for much of the rowdy terrain here to be skiable.

In 1992, Crested Butte hosted the Lower 48’s first extreme-skiing competition, with the qualifier on Hawk’s Nest. Four years later, the venue was moved
to Sock it to Me, where Seth Morrison spun a helicopter off a rock.

The North Face terrain is, well, north-facing. Which means it stays shaded longer. Translation: no sun crust to deal with. Powder stays dry and cold
almost all day long and well into March and April.

Fredo’s was named after a legendary ski patroller named Steve Monfredo, who died of complications from pneumonia on Mount Communism, Tajikistan’s highest peak, in the mid-1980s.

Each March for 34 years, Crested Butte has held the Al Johnson Memorial uphill/ downhill race. Costumed skiers climb 600 vertical feet, then charge 1,200 feet down Hawk’s Nest and Last Steep.

Summit elevation: 12,162 feet
Base elevation: 9,375 feet
Total vertical drop: 3,062 feet
Skiable acres: 1,167
Website: skicb.com

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