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Summer Stashes: Celebrating friendship with summer turns at Colorado’s Rollins Pass

 By now most skiers have accepted summer’s arrival in all its warmth and glory. But while some may be hanging up their gear for the season, high in the mountains remain a few dedicated souls who are still chasing turns. This summer, we will talk with a few of these die-hards about their favorite “summer stashes” that take them to the hills while they wait for the next snowfall.

All summer long, we will add to the growing list of places where you can find snowy terrain to beat the heat. For this installment of “Summer Stashes,” we talked with skier Jamie Seiffer who returned to his inaugural Colorado backcountry zone in the Indian Peaks Wilderness with a little help from his friends.

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Making the approach in sandals is one of the benefits of 70-degree skiing in July. [Photo] Bridget Bryson

Location: Rollins Pass, Colorado
Team: Jamie Seiffer, Charlie Ziskin, Heather Jones, Claire Riegelman, Paul Oldenburg, Jeff Whall-Bordeaux, Charles Lefkowitz
Prime Time: Early to mid-summer
Summit Elevation: 12,383 ft.
Descent Date: July 24th, July 30th

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The team gears up at the headwall. [Photo] Bridget Bryson

Colorado’s continental snowpack has a reputation for mid-winter instabilities. But come summer, warm temperatures and consolidation draw skiers high into the Rockies for stable, sun-soaked turns.

Boulder resident Jamie Seiffer and friends spent two July weekends camping and taking advantage of the persisting snow at Skyscraper Peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This year’s return to Skyscraper Glacier was inspired by a trip five years earlier, when Seiffer was just beginning to dip his toes into the Colorado backcountry.

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Skyscraper Glacier spills into the shiver-inducing Bob Lake. [Photo] Bridget Bryson

Seiffer recalls, “When I moved to Boulder in March of 2011, I didn’t know anybody ski-wise. I basically went to A-Basin on the weekend, and every single lift ride I was [introducing myself to anyone] that I could talk to.”

That May, during a parking lot aprés session, Seiffer exchanged numbers with fellow backcountry enthusiast Luke Mills. “I had forgotten I [gave him my number], but at the end of July, he sent me a text out of the blue saying ‘Hey, do you want to go skiing tomorrow?”

So Seiffer and Mills, along with Heather Jones and Charlie Ziskin, linked up that day to ski Skyscraper Glacier. “On the way home, I rode with Charlie, who became one of my good ski buddies,” Seiffer reminisces. “He was a glaciologist in Japan in the ’70s and pretty much taught me everything I know about avalanche and snow science.”

“Charlie is just a rad-ass, bad-ass dude, and so in a happy coincidence, we skied Skyscraper on July 31st [this year], the same day [I went there for the first time] 5 years ago, so it’s a very special place for me.”

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Seiffer seizes the summer day at Skyscraper. [Photo] Charlie Ziskin

Seiffer explains that part of the allure of Skyscraper is the simple approach. “It is less than an hour up; you probably gain 800 feet of vert, and it is maybe a mile or two from the car,” says Seiffer.  “At the top you scramble down 20 to 30 feet of rock, coming to a flat-snow surface as large as a tennis court.”  

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“Yeah, the snow was about as runnelled as it gets,” Seiffer admits. [Photo] Charlie Ziskin

“This year [the entrance] was really, really steep, and right over the first 40 or 50 yards you are really exposed,” Seiffer recalls. “If you were to slip, you would slide right down into these rocks, [so we] went from the center point and skirted our way in. It was actually pretty easy. In the end it was a 4-hour, door-to-door trip, including a mandatory dip in Bob Lake.”

But it isn’t just making turns that Seiffer loves about summer touring on Skyscraper.

“Camping out the night before, sleeping under the stars was a highlight, certainly,” says Seiffer. “The reunion of Charlie, Heather and myself was pretty nice. The run was sweet. The skinny dip was sweet. Everything was great about it in a way that I don’t feel about a lot of adventure days.”

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The group smiling during a weekend well spent in the Rocky Mountains. [Photo] Charlie Ziskin

Do you have a “Summer Stashes” adventure worth sharing? Submit your story, photos and video to intern2@backcountrymagazine.com.

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