Last Ski Of The Season(?) – Purple Mountain, West Elk Wilderness

This guest post comes from Josh Whitney, a Boulder, CO-based pro mountain biker, cyclocrosser and lover of all things alpine. Josh occasionally contributes his trip reports, reviews and inspired mountain ramblings from the Rocky Mountain West to Tahoe Mountain Sports. His blog at blends bike racing and mountain adventures with musings on his day job in business, technology and sustainability.

purple mountain panoramic

My good buddy Mark and I woke at 5:30 on Memorial Day with the goal of climbing and then skiing from the peak of 12,958-foot Purple Mountain. The pyramidal peak, iconic and visible from downtown Crested Butte, offered nearly 3,000 feet of sweet corn skiing – if we could reach the top in time before the late spring sun softened the snow to the point of mashed potatoes and unsafe conditions. A moisture-rich April had given the mountains a serious recharge and conditions had finally settled, allowing for some bigger lines to be skied safely.

Following a fun fjord across the braided Slate River in the 4Runner, we donned hiking shoes and walked up the Daisy Pass road to snow line, around 9,800 feet, and put on our boots. Waterfalls cascaded all around us, and as we ascended up and through a small gorge the sunlight opened to gorgeous views up the valley and all around. Crested Butte is no doubt one of the most beautiful places on earth and we had arrived in time for the goods. A long slog on skins took us to a ridge-line bootpack and some class-3 scrambling put us on top of a nearly cloudless, windless, perfect day.

purple mountain peak west elk

After a fist bump, photo bomb and shout, we made our way down the lookers-left shoulder, through a choke, and down into the bowl. Mark let me have the first turns down the 40-degree slope and I savored each one, carving effortlessly through the snow. The descent took over an hour, with some super fun sections followed by a long roller to the end of the line. Back in town by lunch and home to Boulder by 7 p.m…pinching myself along the way.

purple mountain crested butte

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