Southern Colorado Shred Trip with the Neff Crew
On a recent trip to Silverton, Colorado, we ran into snowboard photographer extraordinaire, Aaron Dodds, at the register of the town's market. Geared up with coffee in hand, Dodd’s let us know he was bunkered down in the San Juans with heavy crew of Neff athletes on a trip they had been hoping to make happen for years.
For ten days, the crew brapped around, built jumps, slayed pow, and sampled the fine fruits of Southern Colorado shred. Journey through their adventure by clicking through the gallery above, and read on for Dodd's account of all that unraveled on their San Juan tour.
Words/Photos: Aaron Dodds
Talk of a trip to the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado with Scotty Lago had been out there for years now, and it just never seemed to pan out. The snow wasn't that good the last two years, and scheduling conflicts seemed to rise up and trump our plans over and over again. With a strong El Niño in full swing, the stars aligned and our trip became a reality early January of 2016.
Our trip started at Bubbas Boards, located at Needles, or Purgatory, about 25 miles north of Durango and 25 miles south of Silverton, Colorado. If you are ever in the area, stop by and say what's up. Bubba is a legend in this land, and if you swing by you'll quickly know why. He might even have a cold beer waiting for you. Just FYI, he rents his house out and it's more than comfortable for a crew at an extremely reasonable price. Check it out here. This is where we called home for our 10-day trip, and Bubba took great care of us.
Our crew consisted of Greg Bretz, Tim Humphries, Scotty Lago, filmer Wojtek Targosz from Tahoe, Mark Copeland from Santa Barbara, California and myself from Breckenridge, Colorado. Once everyone arrived, we made a plan and decided that day one was going to be a warm up the legs day, and get our stoke up by riding Purgatory Mountain Resort, which to our benefit, was literally right across the highway.
We met up with local yokel and all around radical dude, Mark Daley. Mark has been building logs all over the mountain for years now, and aside from constant entertainment, we were looking for a private tour of the fruits of his summers' labor. He must have taken us to five or six zones that contained anywhere from five to 20 logs in a row that were nothing short of some good old fashion jibbin' fun. On top of that, 'Purg' as most locals refer to it as, is filled with rollers, bumps, and headwalls literally around every corner. A mountain some might say is stuck somewhere between heaven and hell, but certainly one hell of a good time.
The weather moved in, and we decided day two would be a build day up on Red Mountain Pass. With the snowy weather it was just the logical approach to stay productive and wait for better weather. So we headed out to build on what would be a lot of digging over the next eight or nine days to come.
We ended up building with two jumps on Red Mountain Pass, and the snowy weather continued, so we decided day three would be simply be a shred day. With the snow stacking up, and a crew hungry to ride pow, it once again came down to logical choices. We hit two spots in Silverton throughout the day. The first zone is known as Minnehaha, and the second, Deer Park. I'm not going to give directions or anything, but if you ever make it to Silverton, both zones are relatively easy to find and can provide plenty of fun soul shredding. Sled access would be the suggested approach, but you can skin/hike at Minnehaha if you're under your own power instead of a sled.
In typical fashion after a fun day of shredding, we hit the après hard at our local watering hole, The Schoolhouse, which is located right across from Bubbas Boards. It was actually a schoolhouse way back in the day, and has since been converted to a now popular dive bar. Man, if the walls could talk in this place, you might not want to listen! An absolutely classic place, where a cat lives in the pool table, PBR and Jameson are literally ordered out of stock by the patrons on the regular, and if you want to staple your underwear to the wall, it's probably okay. If you ever pass through here, stop in and get yourself a PBR, shot of Jamo and they even make some of the best damn pizza this side of the Mississippi. I give the Schoolhouse all five stars.
Hungover as can be, we awoke to bright blue bird skies. We must have drank it blue and this would prove to be a repeating theme when we have a big jump/feature to hit. Slowly but surely we make it back up to our jumps on Red Mountain Pass. Another crew consisting of the Hooper Brothers (Aaron and Zach) as well as riders, Brett Esser, Benji Farrow and Chase Josey had a jump built right below us. It's not uncommon on Red Mountain Pass to be working in close proximity to other crews, and we were stoked to share the mountain and cheer each other on throughout our individual sessions.
Getting our session going on our first jump, known as the "Lame" jump, made famous in the movie "Lame" by Robot Food, Bretz put down a sick backside 720, followed up by a frontside 900. Humphrey's threw down a frontside 540, cab 900 and a switch backside 180 method. Lago came super close to a double back flip, but couldn't quite put it down. In the end, he ended up with a sick front 720. The weather was in and out during the whole session and then went fully gray on us. In the end, the clouds parted, leaving us just enough time to session our second jump, which to my knowledge had never been built before. It's always nice to find new features to hit in a zone that has been hit so hard over the years. Lago ended up landing a HUGE frontside 540 that was so styled out. Look out for it in his X Games Real snow part. Bretz landed a double backflip and Tim put down a backside 720 Japan and a massive frontside 360 stale. After that, Tim wasn't quite done either. He then proceeded to film selfies with his GoPro, and landed cab 540 and a backside 720 on the previous "Lame" jump. Kids a straight up animal! With that we called it a day and headed back to Bubba's compound.
Day five greeted us with more sunshine and the decision had been made to visit Silverton Mountain. Famous for chair lift accessed backcountry style runs along with helicopter access, Silverton Mountain is gnarly and the sign at the top confirms that with a "you could die here today" warning stamped on the trail map. And it’s true, but with the excellent and highly skilled guides that's not going to happen. You are in good hands, and aside from keeping you safe, they will take you to the goods. Silverton Mountain has just about everything when it comes to backcountry terrain. Chutes, bowls, pillows and cliffs, and even jump spots. Right out of the gate, we got right into some nasty lines in the seldom open "Vodka Shots" area and rode what is known as "Absolute". It just so turned out that this very chute popped us all out right into a perfect jump/hip zone. With lots of daylight left, we decided to start diggin' and had hoped to hit it before the sun sets. As it turned out, we couldn't beat the clock and had to throw in the towel and return the following day, but just in time to take one more "fun" run to end the day.
We woke to another bluebird day and with a solid jump/hip built we rallied back to Silverton Mountain. We roll up just as the sun started to hit it, and with a little prep the session was on. In the end, this jump/hip ended up being a little weird, but the boys still all put down a few tricks, and it was nothing short of a fun, successful day. With the sun still well overhead, we decided to head back to Red Mountain to check the legendary road gap. Upon inspection, the boys were pumped and after only two or three hours of shoveling it was done. Exhausted, we made our way back to Bubba's house and called it an early night.
With hammers logged, we decide to take a semi-relaxed approach to the next day and check out a local snowcat operation at Purgatory, San Juan Untracked. Along with local legends, Mark Daley and Bubba, we loaded up and headed out for the day via snowcat. We stopped and unloaded at a point just above tree line, with vistas reaching what seemed like a hundred miles in every direction. In an attempt to keep the "work" to a minimum, and the soul shred to a max, the guides took us to a variety of super fun tree runs with endless, bottomless pow. We were some of the first people this winter out on these runs and each run was better than the last.
There's something about riding good snow and having fun with your friends that just makes beer taste so good. With the fun day behind us, the beer started to taste really good! I mean….really, really good! Before we know it we are back at the Schoolhouse and things got rowdy. Things that can't be mentioned, crimes that were probably committed, the night fades to black.
The semi-repeating theme of being hungover on a day where we have a big feature to hit, shows its ugly face in the morning. Things were going to be a challenge and you could see that written on the backs of everyone's eyeballs, you could stare right through. We pack up with plans to head out to the Bonnie Belle Cabin after the road gap for a few nights, and make it up to Red Mountain Pass at a haggard, slow pace.
Upon arrival, nobody wants to do anything, especially hit some fucking insane road gap. After going back and forth for probably an hour on whether or not we should be doing this, Scotty steps up and sends a straight air, just to feel it out and confirm speed. He goes way too fast and overshoots the road by probably 30 feet. Determining it's not as crazy as it appears in our current state, the session gets kicked off. Greg and Scotty both quickly get a backside 3 and while Scotty calls it quits, Greg goes back and lands a front 5 after a few more attempts. All the while, Tim lands a sick a backside 7 nose. Considering we almost walked away without doing anything, it was a pretty damn good session, and one I'm glad I got to see go down!
Wasting no time, as by now, the daylight was really running short, we rallied to the next trailhead in hopes of reaching the Bonnie Belle cabin before nightfall, a place I co-own and co-founded with a few friends. Unfortunately, we are no longer offering winter trips, but come stay with us in the summer!
Our hangovers are now in full force as we load up the sleds with beer, food and other provisions and prepare for a journey that is going to take some digging. With the amount of digging done on this trip we continually joke that we hate being so good at it. We crossed beneath about 20 slide paths, one being about a mile wide, and make slow progress, going anywhere from a few hundred feet, to twenty feet at a time, before we had to stop and dig, to make the road passable on a snowmobile. The smells that spewed from my jacket are nothing short of horrific, but after a few hours of slow progress we busted through the last roadblock and easily made it to the cabin just as the last rays of sun disappeared over the high mountaintops. Everyone was blown away, still severely hungover, and down right exhausted by this point. We all tried to convince ourselves that the beer tasted good, but struggled to put too many down before slipping into deep sleep.
Exhausted still, the crew starts to stir at first light. Coffee and breakfast were crafted at a leisurely pace. Knowing that we had no plan, it was snowing again, and we were all exhausted from the last week, we tried to just take it all in and enjoy the moment and the vibe of being in a cabin on a remote peak in Colorado, at 12,000 feet above sea level.
Out here we were smack dab in the middle of the zone, so there was no rush anyway. And there was certainly no one that we needed to beat to anything. By the crack of noon, we rallied out and decided to shred. The snow was blower, and there was plenty of terrain to find some launchers and slashers. After a couple hours of shredding, the crew got anxious and the decision was made to build another jump. Everyone was still on the verge of exhaustion, and it ended up being the most brutal build I've participated in, in a long, long time… I think the crew would agree. We had been going hard everyday for over a week straight now. Never the less, we got it done, and retreated back to the comforts of the cabin just in time to watch the light fade to dark. This evening the beer did taste good and so did the Jameson! As a fire raged on, an aggressive Domino game was played and shit was talked. It truly doesn't get any better than this.
We awoke to a bit of a blizzard on what will be our last day of ten. At a snail pace, coffee was brewed and breakfast made. Again, we were in a pretty solid chill mode, taking it in and relaxing a bit. The snow was really hammering down and we all had the realization that this snow could inhibit us from hitting the jump we painstakingly built the previous day. After some serious chilling, we decided we should at least go make some laps, and see what could happen with the weather. We ended up in a different zone from the previous day and rang out a few laps, before the crew again got anxious and basically said 'fuck it, lets hit this thing, rain, sleet or snow.' The snow started to subside just in time, and for the last time, the session was on. Exhaustion had probably gotten the better of the boys at this point as not much was put down, but Tim did manage a frontside 900 melon off the toes that was really sick,– certainly a trick you don't see every day!
Despite a less than successful final session the crew was still all smiles. I mean if it's not fun, then why do it? And damn, did we have fun! Knowing the trip was over, we loaded up the gear and headed back to the trucks. High fives were exchanged, future plans were made and we all parted ways. For the boys not from Colorado (all of them aside from me), most certainly left with a new appreciation for the state that is really only known for parks and pipes and big events like Dew Tour and X Games. Actually, that's all Colorado is about. Please disregard this whole story, it never happened. Southern Colorado is really just a void on the map. Colorado is flat and boring! Stay away!!!!