What: Art Burrows and Joel Gratz presentation
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Neptune Mountaineering, 633 S. Broadway
More info: neptunemountaineering.com/events.aspx
O n the last night of their 10-day traverse across the Canadian Rockies, Art Burrows and the seven other members of his group paused at the Glacier Circle Hut.
It was around 11 p.m. when they arrived, exhausted and hungry, at their home for the night. When they lit up the fire, someone gasped.
There, written on the wall in pencil, were the names of the first skiers to complete the traverse from the Bugaboos to Rogers Pass in June 1958 — the same route Burrows and his crew were skiing more than 50 years later.
“Bill Briggs, Barry Corbet, Sterling Neale and Bob French,” the wall read. “10 June 1958 — Ski Traverse from Bugaboo Creek to Glacier. Started June 2. Alpine Ski Club of America.”
The five men were on their last night of the traverse in 1958, which they completed by carrying all of their supplies on their backs. The modern-day skiers were also on their last night of the traverse, though they had dropped caches of food along the route via helicopter before setting off on skis.
“It was a little epiphany there,” Burrows said in a phone interview from his home in Aspen. “We were sharing the same experience with those guys.”
Burrows will describe his May 2010 traverse through the Canadian Rockies during a multimedia presentation at Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder on Thursday. Joel Gratz, meteorologist from OpenSnow.com, will join Burrows and give his take on what to expect for the upcoming ski season.
For Burrows, seeing the names of the original skiers on the wall was a humbling experience as he realized his small place in the vastness of mountaineering and skiing history.
“They were doing it for the first time, and they carried everything on their backs,” he said. “They only had one cabin and were outside the rest of the nights. I thought back to how they did it, the style they did it in and the type of gear and the unknown element. What we were doing was pretty modesty.”
The 95-mile Canadian traverse is listed in the book “Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America,” which Burrows co-authored with Chris Davenport and Penn Newhard.
While writing the book, the authors relied on contributors for descriptions of routes they’d never personally taken. Burrows was struck by the description given by contributor Chic Scott, who guided the traverse in 1990.
Eventually, he decided to see for himself.
“It was incredibly spectacular,” Burrows said of the traverse. “You’re traveling high up — above timberline — the whole time. You’re traveling on glaciers primarily. It was really wonderful.”
Burrows completed the first free-heel ascent of Mount Logan, the highest peak in Canada, in 1978. The two-time World Masters Telemark champion designed the Scarpa T1 telemark boot and worked on ski equipment for Black Diamond.
“He really helped bring telemark to the forefront,” said Eric Lamb, vice president of the U.S. Telemark Association. “The T1 revolutionized the way people telemark ski. It really put (telemark) on the level of alpine skiing.”
Burrows grew up skiing with his father on the weekends, but when his dad was too busy at work as an aerospace engineer, 12-year-old Burrows would hitchhike his way to the lifts.
Now he owns Ajax Designs, a marketing and graphic design business based in Aspen.
“I combined the creative with the pragmatic,” Burrows said of his artistic business and penchant for engineering ski boots.
Chris Davenport worked with Burrows on “Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America.” The pair first met when Davenport recruited Burrows to design and illustrate his book “Ski the 14ers.”
“I needed someone to help make it look good,” Davenport said, adding that the pair have remained friends long after their initial business agreement. “He is an eccentric, artist-athlete. He loves the mountains, he loves riding his bike, he loves skiing and he is so great with the creative side of design.”
–Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.