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Some area golf courses opening this week, but employing social-distancing precautions

Several Garfield County golf courses are making the call to proceed with their planned season openings, but with precautions in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Golf courses were not specifically listed among “non-essential” businesses that were required to close under the most recent public health orders from the state of Colorado.

And, given the allowance for people to recreate outdoors as long as they practice social-distancing protocols, golf courses that have already opened for the season have proven popular destinations.

“It was kind of a gray area, is how I would describe it,” acknowledged Zac Sutherland, operations section chief for the Garfield County COVID-19 command staff.

Initially, when Gov. Jared Polis issued the state’s stay-at-home order on March 25, an AP report indicated golf courses, along with outdoor basketball courts and tennis courts, would fall under the mandatory closures.

But the order itself didn’t specifically mention those facilities, leaving it up to local jurisdictions to make that determination.

Some municipalities have since closed playgrounds, along with public basketball courts, tennis courts and other outdoor sports facilities. Others, including the city of Denver, have closed golf courses.

Since most golf courses are private entities, operators have been working with local public health officials to enact safety protocols if they decide to remain open.     

“What we were left to do is come up with a way to say golf courses can open, but they need to maintain those safe distance guidelines and take other precautions (to protect public health),” Sutherland said. “Golf courses, just the way they are laid out, lends itself to being able to operate safely.”

A guiding document for all golf courses to follow is expected out this week, he said.

In the meantime, Rifle Creek Golf Course has led the way among area courses in announcing that it would stay open. The decision came after taking a couple of days to evaluate the situation and put some of those measures in place, according to a statement posted on the golf course’s website.

“We have decided to stay open and will be taking the utmost precautions within our operations to provide the safest environment possible for people who still wish to play golf,” according to the statement. “We encourage our customers to do their part to keep everyone safe by following the mandated social distancing requirements.”

Among the precautions:

  • The pro shop and dining room will be closed
  • Congregating on the deck is not allowed
  • Walking access only, no golf carts or pull carts
  • Restrooms in the clubhouse are available, and are routinely cleaned and sanitized
  • On-course restrooms and water drinking stations are closed
  • Flagsticks must be left in the cup (cups are raised to avoid contact)
  • All bunker rakes have been removed
  • Driving range remains closed.

The Glenwood Springs Golf Club is tailoring its guidelines after Rifle, in hopes of opening on Wednesday, General Manager Jerry Butler said on Monday.

The course last week put out a call to its patrons to help provide bleach and other cleaning materials to make sure they can sterilize the clubhouse premises. Much of what Rifle is doing will also be the standard mode of operation at Glenwood, with a few modifications that were still being worked out on Monday.

“Hopefully, all will be good and we can resume normal operations soon,” Butler said in an email.

River Valley Ranch in Carbondale has closed after being open for limited play last week, and is asking people to stay off the course until further notice.

“While some golf courses have remained open, we are temporarily closing as we believe it is our civic duty to do so during this time,” RVR operators announced in a Facebook message over the weekend. “Please help us by not entering course property. This includes the driving range, cart paths and fairways.”

Ironbridge Golf Course south of Glenwood Springs plans to open for member play only on Wednesday, and is currently planning to open for public play by April 11, when the governor’s stay-at-home order is currently scheduled to end. 

“We also have been tracking the best practices for golf courses, and will be employing those,” Ironbridge Assistant General Manager Cal Kendrick said on Monday.

The pro shop are closed, and tee time check will be done over the phone or through a window, he said.  

“We are carrying out the social distancing requirements, including a single person to a cart, no touching flag sticks and no raking of bunkers,” Kendrick said.

As many courses are doing, the cups are pulled up so the ball just hits the edge instead of dropping into the hole.

Hand sanitizing and washing stations with soap and paper towel dispensers are also set up, he said. 

A beverage and snack cart will be operating on the course, but will also be following protocols, Kendrick said.

Elsewhere, Battlement Mesa Golf Club remains closed until April 11 and the private Aspen Glen Club allows members-only play. Lakota Canyon Golf Club in New Castle did not have information posted on its website, and could not be reached for comment.


Sunlight shuts down uphill traffic as trails get muddy and amid new health department advisories

Sunlight Mountain Resort has now closed the ski mountain to all activities, including uphill travel, due to deteriorating snow conditions and in accordance with public health concerns related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The small ski area outside Glenwood Springs announced the closure in a Facebook post and press alert Monday morning.

Sunlight closed last week after Gov. Jared Polis ordered a temporary closure until mid-April of all ski resorts in the state amid growing concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus, especially in Colorado’s ski resort communities.

Sunlight decided to go ahead and close for the season, which was to end April 5 anyway but was still allowing uphill enthusiasts to continue to trek up the mountain under their own power, even if the lifts were closed.

“Conditions are thawing and lower sections are starting to become muddy,” Sunlight officials said in their Facebook post announcing the new restriction. The decision is also “in accordance to public health recommendations issued by the state and Garfield County.”

“We saw a few hundred uphillers over the weekend,” Sunlight Sales and Marketing Director Troy Hawks said in a followup email. “I didn’t witness any groups of more than 10 — people were maintaining the minimum ski-length distance apart while on the mountain, but of course the upper warming hut has limited capacity. The hut is also now closed.” 

Sunlight maintenance crews have also now plowed out Grizzly Road, which they normally do soon after the lifts close so that staff can access the mountain to do their post-season work.

Trails in the adjacent in Babbish Gulch area do remain open to cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. However, users are advised to maintain state and county recommendations to travel in smaller groups and maintain “social distancing” precautions.

After the state’s ski resorts shut down March 15, many enthusiasts continued to access the terrain by using traction skins to get up the mountains, and then skiing down.

Some ski areas, including all of the Vail Resorts-owned mountains, eventually closed to uphill traffic also for fear of skiers accessing steeper terrain that was no longer being maintained for avalanche control.


Backcountry skiers urged to use extra caution

Coronavirus-induced cabin fever plus fresh snow plus growing interest in backcountry skiing could be a recipe for trouble if people aren’t educating themselves and preparing for risks, experts warned Friday.

“The avalanche danger jumped to considerable in the Aspen-area zone Friday after 8 inches of snow fell on the ski areas and up to 2 feet fell in the Upper Crystal River Valley.” More snow is in the forecast.

“It’s still prime avalanche season,” said Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Lazar said backcountry travelers might be paying closer attention to keeping themselves safe from coronavirus and not paying enough attention to avalanche risk. People are eager to feed their need to get outdoors.

“Mother Nature doesn’t alter the avalanche danger based on those needs,” he said.

Avalanche forecasters around the state have encountered more activity at backcountry trailheads. One factor might be more people are driving separately to maintain social distancing, he said. But there also appears to be more people engaging in backcountry skiing and snowboarding, particularly with so many workers laid off, he said.

There has been a surge in the number of skiers and split boarders putting on climbing skins for the uphill journey at the closed ski areas in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Cripple Creek Backcountry, which operates shops in the Roaring Fork Valley and one in the Eagle Valley, reported in its newsletter Thursday it has been “absolutely buried by gear drop-offs” for tunes and mounting bindings.

Mountain Rescue Aspen member Greg Shaffran said the uptick in backcountry skiing in the Aspen area has been obvious since the ski areas were ordered closed by executive order by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis.

“People are getting a little cabin fever, a little antsy,” he said.

Shaffran said Mountain Rescue is stressing to people to be careful even in the ski areas. Terrain they are familiar with under typical circumstances during winter might take on different snow characteristics with no ski patrol and no snow safety measures. Therefore, he recommended extreme caution on tougher terrain in the ski areas.

“It’s not unheard of for avalanches in ski resorts,” he said.

Lazar also advised caution in the ski areas. “It’s all backcountry right now,” he said.

Caution is needed not only for the safety of skiers but also because the health care system cannot handle extra stress of caring for someone with a broken leg when the expectation is for all attention needed for coronavirus victims, Shaffran said.

The message from MRA is to enjoy the backcountry and uphilling at the resorts — but be smart and safe.

MRA also has been affected by the need to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It gave up its headquarters by the Aspen Business Center to the Pitkin County incident management team for the coronavirus crisis. MRA has suspended its trainings and meetings to avoid large gatherings.

When called out on a mission, members drive directly to trailheads or staging areas rather than mobilizing at the headquarters or another location.

“Generally, the Mountain Rescue Aspen response has been to throw big numbers on it,” he said of an incident. Now a more calculated approach is required.

Recommendations suggested by Shaffran and Lazar included check conditions with CAIC at https://avalanche.state.co.us, make a plan in advance, implement that plan effectively, let someone know about your plan, carry a beacon, probe and shovel and know how to use them.

Shaffran’s final piece of advice was, “Chill out a little bit.” It’s not a time for taking chances. “Uncertainty is high right now. Dial it back,” Shaffran said.

The forecast for the Aspen zone Friday said the new snow created dangerous conditions, particularly where the highest snow levels fell.

“Only two days ago most slopes were safe from avalanches,” CAIC said on its website. “That’s not the case today. It would be easy to assume that following a spring storm with dense new snow, the new load would settle quickly and the avalanche danger would trend down quickly, too. That may or may not be the case with this event.”


Aspen Mountain, Snowmass tapping out for season, RFTA cutting routes because of coronavirus

Despite a blanket of new snow, the coronavirus-interrupted 2019-20 ski season officially ended Friday. 

That was the word from the Aspen Skiing Co., whose spokesman said Friday afternoon that Wednesday’s extension of statewide closures until April 6 by Gov. Jared Polis effectively shut down skiing this winter because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“… (We) are officially calling it a season at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass,” Jeff Hanle said in an email. “Crews are completing breakdown work now and will start to prep the mountains for summer construction projects next week.”

Hanle, however, left the ski season door slight ajar when it comes to Aspen Highlands, which he said is “closed for the foreseeable future.”

“If we are given advice that we can reopen sometime late in April by state and local health agencies, we would evaluate conditions for a limited opening,” Hanle said in a subsequent email. “This would likely be a bare-bones, limited services opening.”

Skico previously announced that Buttermilk is closed for the season. 

The state’s ski mountains closed starting March 15 under orders from the governor. Polis announced Thursday that bars and restaurants in the state will remain shuttered until April 30, in addition to other “non-essential services” like hair salons and barbers, tattoo and massage parlors and racetracks. 

Skico wasn’t the only one ramping down Friday amid the unfolding coronavirus epidemic. 

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority announced cuts to service across the board that will affect both local Aspen riders and downvalley riders, according to a news release. The following changes are in addition to previously announced reductions and will begin Monday: 

• In Aspen, all local routes will see reduced evening hours, with the last Hunter Creek, Cemetery Lane and Castle Maroon buses leaving Rubey Park at 11 p.m. The last Mountain Valley departure from Rubey Park will be at 11:15 p.m., while the last Burlingame bus will leave at 11:20 p.m.

• The Cross Town Shuttle will cease operation. 

• Direct bus service from Aspen to Snowmass Village will cease operation.

• The Woody Creek Shuttle will cease operation.

• Downvalley service will continue to run every half-hour throughout the day, then cut to every hour starting at 4:08 p.m. going upvalley and 8:15 p.m. heading downvalley. 

• The last local upvalley bus will depart the West Glenwood Park and Ride Lot at 9 p.m. 

• The last local downvalley bus will depart Rubey Park in Aspen at 11:15 p.m.

• BRT service will be reduced to every 20 minutes during peak hours and less frequently during non-peak hours, with service ending with the 10:47 p.m. bus from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. 

• The Carbondale Circulator will continue to operate.

• Ride Glenwood will cease operation.

The RFTA service cuts were necessary because of decreased ridership, staffing constraints and the need to continually disinfect buses throughout the day, according to the release. 

Those with disabilities can call RFTA at 970-945-9117 “to discuss your travel options due to the absence to service,” the release states. 

The governor’s closure orders, which are likely contributing significantly to RFTA’s reduced ridership, are hammering the state economy. At a media briefing Friday morning, Polis mainly focused on easing the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent containment efforts. 

He said that while Colorado will need help from the federal government, the state is ready to help immediately with various efforts to help residents and business weather the crisis. Those initiatives include loans for small business, ensuring that people who can’t pay rent and mortgages aren’t evicted or face foreclosure and efforts to keep utilities on if people can’t pay the bills. 

Polis asked financial institutions and landlords to be merciful to people who don’t have money because they’ve lost jobs due to the virus. He also said state income tax payments will be extended 90 days until July for all filers with no conditions. 

“This will get worse before it gets better,” Polis said. 

Black Hills Energy announced Friday that is temporarily suspending disconnections because of nonpayment and directed customers to the company’s website to “explore options to assist those hardships,” according to a press release. 

The company also asked customers diagnosed with the virus or experiencing symptoms of it to consider postponing non-emergency calls. Crews that do respond to emergency calls “will be wearing appropriate personal protective equipment and following health practices as recommended by the CDC …” the release says. 

Better health practices prompted officials at Aspen Valley Hospital to erect a heated tent in front of the facility near the emergency room to screen patients referred to the hospital with respiratory symptoms, said Elaine Gerson, chief transformation officer at AVH. 

Previously, a nurse wearing protective equipment would have to walk outside and evaluate a patient before allowing access the emergency room, which is currently restricted, said Dave Ressler, AVH’s CEO. 

Gerson emphasized that the tent is not a COVID-testing tent, but rather a place to evaluate patients with respiratory issues. 

Ressler also clarified statements reported Thursday that AVH had zero patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Four patients have been admitted with COVID-19-like symptoms, though tests for two of them came back negative. The hospital was waiting for the results of the other two tests Friday, he said. 


Sunlight Winter Sports Club raising funds for a space to call their own (w/video)

The Sunlight Winter Sports Club has grown into its own over the years at the small-town ski resort outside Glenwood Springs, but has long since outgrown its current makeshift club quarters.

This season, the club launched a fundraising campaign for $40,000 to build a new clubhouse at the base of Sunlight near the Segundo Lift station. 

The new facility would replace the old, dilapidated trailer that was removed a couple of years ago, and give the 80-plus youth ranging in ages from preschool to high school a space all their own again. 

“The mountain has been kind enough to loan us a small space for the year, but we are growing and it’s time to raise the roof and erect a new ski clubhouse,” Lynn Merriam, president of the Sunlight Winter Sports Club board, said.

The new clubhouse would be built on the footprint of the former trailer facility, and provide slopeside access to the ski mountain, as well as the Babbish Gulch Nordic trail system. 

“Between all these kids, we really need a space for them to get ready for the day, to have snacks and lunch, a place to host home races, and just a place that the kids can call home base,” Merriam said.

A fundraising website has been set up at https://donorbox.org/clubhouse.

During the Buddy Werner regional championships on March 1, Integrated Mountain Properties of Glenwood Springs gave a big boost to the effort with a check presentation for $8,800.

Ben West from Integrated Mountain Properties, upper right, makes the ceremonial check presentation toward a new Sunlight Winter Sports Club clubhouse, with Buddy Werner coach Caroline Rubin and several Buddy Werner athletes present during the championships March 1.

The Sunlight Winter Sports Club now encompasses the long-established Buddy Werner ski racing development program and the age-class Sunlight Ski Team, as well as the relatively new non-competitive All-Mountain recreational ski program.

This season, there were 54 children ranging from age 4 to 12 in the Buddy Werner program — up from the past two years — plus 22 youth ages 8 to 16 in the All Mountain program, and eight age-class racers who compete in Junior Olympics-level ski races.

“We’ve really been diversifying to try to grab other kids and create that lifestyle adventure culture,” said Merriam, whose own children take part in Buddy Werner.

The All-Mountain program — under the direction of Jake Gentry — was begun last year as a way to add a more recreational aspect to the club’s offerings.

“It’s more lifestyle and non-competitive, and introduces the kids to the possibilities offered by winter sports,” Merriam said. “The kids just go out and ski with coaches and set goals to try to grow their skillset from greens, to blues, to blacks.”

The Buddy Werner program — named for the legendary 1950s and ’60s Steamboat Springs ski racer — has been part of Sunlight since the ski area’s early days in the 1970s, and has produced the likes of current U.S. Ski Team member Alice McKennis.

It introduces younger skiers to competitive ski racing, along with a fair amount of all-mountain free-skiing and skills development accompanied by a group of volunteer coaches. Among them is program coordinator Caroline Rubin, a former Buddy Werner racer herself.

The season concluded March 1 with the Buddy Werner regional championships at Sunlight, which invited 150 skiers from the Sunlight, Powderhorn and Beaver Creek clubs to compete in a giant slalom event on Sunlight’s Joslin run.

With the new clubhouse, the Sunlight Winter Sports Club would also have a good opportunity to introduce Nordic skiing to its program offerings, Merriam said. 

“Sunlight already has the infrastructure,” she said of the Babbish Gulch trail system. “And it would be right out our back door.”

In addition to Rubin and Gentry, Leigh Sheldrake is the current head coach for the Sunlight Ski Team.

“We’re a small ski club in a big ski area,” Merriam said. “Community and lifestyle skiing is what our demographic is, so that’s what we’re trying to build upon.”

She also noted that donations to the clubhouse fundraising project are tax-deductible.

The Sunlight Winter Sports Club will be celebrating its 50th year of existence during the 2021-22 ski season.


On the Fly column: Spring wanderings

Just as the fishing is heating up around here, many anglers with the itch (and the means) to travel are beginning to think about salt water destination trips. Spring Break isn’t just for coeds, you know. In fall and winter, many anglers are headed to Louisiana to cast at bull redfish or Christmas Island for bonefish and giant trevally. In springtime the wandering angler starts to think about the Florida Keys and Mexico or Belize to get shots at elusive permit and tarpon.

There are Roaring Fork Valley guides you may know that do both — guiding for trout in summer and salt water guiding in spring and fall. For the guide with the determination to work all year, this works out well. Owning a skiff and a drift boat isn’t cheap, but there are a few guides that make it work in their favor and pursue their passions the whole year long.

The spring tarpon migration in the Florida Keys is the stuff of legend, and it can be tough out there compared to the easy-going world of trout fishing here in the Rocky Mountain west. Most quality guides are booked a year out or more, so it pays to do your research and build relationships with people with their finger on the pulse of the waters they call home, wherever that may be. Many local fly shop employees have go-to guides and places that they strongly recommend.

Most shops around here cater to the salt water angler as well as fresh, and you can find everything you need from rods and reels to the right flies and lines to make your travel dollar stretch as far as it can. You don’t want to be that person that shows up for an expensive trip with the wrong gear and the wrong flies, so doing your homework and talking to professionals is a must. Whether you’re thinking about the Bahamas, Keys or somewhere south of the border, ask questions and pick the brains of those who have been there and done that, and go get your toes in the sand somewhere significantly warmer.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

Sunlight’s Defiance Challenge raises funds for volunteer ski patrol — in memory of one of their own

Friday’s annual Defiance Challenge ski endurance event at Sunlight Mountain Resort isn’t just about getting pumped up for 10 hours straight. It’s also about honoring the hard work of the volunteer ski patrol, while remembering one of their own who has passed.

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s Defiance Challenge will be donated in the memory of former Buttermilk Mountain patroller Jaime Tudryn, who died Christmas Day 2018 at age 33 from complications related to a brain aneurism.

Jaime’s husband, Matt Tudryn, also a former Buttermilk patroller who now lives in Massachusetts, plans to use the money raised for the college education fund of the couple’s now 2-year-old son, Bode.

“It’s an honor, and it shows just how much of an impact Jaime had during the time we lived out there,” Tudryn said Tuesday in a phone interview.

Jaime was an avid skier all her life and skied competitively in high school and college.

“To be able to carry that out the rest of her life and turn it into a career was a great thing for her, and obviously made an impact on people,” Matt Tudryn said.

Though he and Bode now live in Massachusetts where he works as a firefighter paramedic, he said they maintain some ties to Jaime’s family in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Defiance Challenge organizers hope to attract up to 50 two-person teams to participate in the annual charity event Friday.

The event challenges teams to complete the most runs down the mountain in a 10-hour period, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. The entry fee of $155 covers a pair of lift tickets, commemorative T-shirts and hats, and an after-event party including a silent auction, dinner and awards ceremony.

A past Defiance Challenge team of patrollers from Wisconsin celebrate at the finish.

As of Tuesday, event organizer Cindy Henderson said there were 17 teams registered, so there’s still plenty of space. Registration is available online, or on the morning of the event starting at 6:15 a.m. at the Sunlight base lodge.

Skiers still looking for a partner to participate in the event can call in advance at 970-945-9425 to see if others are looking to be paired up. Volunteers are also still needed to help with the event. Contact Michelle Eisenring at micwhalen@yahoo.com to sign up.

Half the event proceeds go to support the Sunlight Volunteer Ski Patrol, a nonprofit organization that has provided emergency medical care, safety and rescue services at the small ski area for more than 50 years.

The Defiance Challenge features a Le Mans-style start outside the base lodge. A starting gun signals participants to sprint to their waiting skis or snowboards, clip into their bindings, then scramble in a mad rush to the chairlift for the ride to the top of the mountain to begin racking up as many descents as possible on 40 different expert runs.

Every double-black diamond run on the mountain and several tree runs are included.

“For safety reasons, team partners must stick together and log each completed run at the scorers’ table before loading the chairlift for another ride to the top,” according to a description of the event.

Last year’s Challenge was won by local skiers Bobby Lombardi and Joel Schute, who each completed 46 runs for a total of about 70,000 vertical feet. Lombardi also completed 46 runs in 2016 with ski partner and Sunlight ski patroller Tom Brunner.

Chance Balis, right, and Zeva Carruth at a past Defiance Challenge event.

Though some participants in past events have come from out of state and elsewhere around Colorado, most are from the Glenwood Springs area. They’ve also run the gamut in age from 6 to 64.

“The youngest entrant, Kai Clauson, was the son of Silverton Mountain ski patroller John Clauson, whose family received Defiance Challenge funds in 2013 after he died from acute leukemia,” according to a press release.

The seven previous Defiance Challenge events have raised thousands of dollars for the families of patrollers killed or injured by avalanche, fire, helicopter crash and an explosives accident.

Past honorees have included:

  • Mark Gage, Loveland Basin
  • John Clauson, Silverton Mountain
  • Rocky Scott Miles, Copper Mountain
  • Jesse Williams, Powderhorn Resort
  • Dave Repsher, a flight nurse from Breckenridge who was badly burned in a helicopter crash
  • Joe Zuiches, Winter Park and Squaw Valley, Calif.
Defiance Challenge Details

When: 7 a.m.–5 p.m. Friday, March 6

Where: Sunlight Mountain Resort, Glenwood Springs

What: 10-hour charity ski and snowboard endurance challenge

Entry fee: $155 per two-person team

Beneficiaries: Sunlight Volunteer Ski Patrol and family of fallen Buttermilk ski patroller Jaime Tudryn

Information: 970-945-9425, or at the Sunlight Ski Patrol website

Sunlight’s mountain manager, Mike Baumli, helped to organize the resort’s first Defiance Challenge in 2012. He said he was inspired by a similar 13-hour “Enduro” event at Arapahoe Basin ski area that has been going on for three decades.

“There are other endurance events out there,” Baumli said, “but we wanted to do something for both skiers and snowboarders that would showcase our mountain’s character, charm and all it has to offer — including the lifts.”

Baumli said the retro two-seat chairlifts at Sunlight are an important part of the Defiance Challenge experience, since the relatively slow 12-minute ride to the top of the main Primo lift is about the only time participants have a chance to eat, drink and catch their breath before the next run.

The Challenge gets its name from Sunlight’s Defiance run on the East Ridge — a steep, north-facing trail that’s long been a favorite of expert skiers and boarders.                                          

Participants in a past Defiance Challenge event race to their skis at the start of the 10-hour competition.


On the Fly column: Pre-trip sermons

If you have fished with guides, you have surely listened to your share of “guide spiels” before your day on the water together. In my experience, whether you are the guide or the guided, this little chat at the beginning of the trip sets the tone, lays out expectations and helps create an understanding right out of the gate. The spiel usually explains everything you need to know for a successful day, boiled down into easy-to-digest nuggets. Some clients get with the program right away, others still need to be reminded to set the hook well into the afternoon.

If you listened to 10 different guides give their pre-trip sermon here in the valley (or anywhere in the world), you’ll hear 10 different approaches concerning how to catch fish. There will be some universal truths (setting the hook, reading the water, what insects are hatching now) but also completely different takes on technique, philosophy, methodology and goals for the day.

Many people (and rightly so) find a guide they click with and feel they’re set for years to come. I’d argue that it is important to experience more than one approach on how fly fishing is “done.” I personally like to borrow this and that from different people, plus a few things I have managed to distill myself, combined into what works for me.

There is a clear difference in guide spiels, once you listen to your fair share. Like any career, once you perform a task a few thousand times, you learn how to break it down simply and deliver clear and concise instructions on how it is done. A seasoned guide also learns to read people. Some clients just want to catch a pile of fish, others are more concerned with tuning up their cast or learning more about entomology. Different strokes, different folks. Whether you are a guide or a “sport,” take time to listen to each other. It makes for a great day on the water, regardless of how many fish you catch.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.

Vail woman’s passions include rocket science, Seven Summits

VAIL — Meghan Buchanan doesn’t just climb — she ascends. She wants you to, too.

The Vail resident worked her way back from a horrific snowboarding injury — she broke the head off her left femur in Sun Up Bowl — and is more than halfway to The Grand Slam of Adventure — the Seven Summits, and both the North and South poles.

Along the way she launched GGRIT — Growth Gratitude Resilience Integrity and Tenacity — aimed at helping people in general and women in particular overcome obstacles and reach their personal summits, “give people the tools to overcome challenges,” Buchanan said.

This month, she leaves for Mount Everest, the fifth of her Seven Summits. She hopes to return home to Vail in May.

Really, rocket science

Buchanan is an honest-to-brilliance rocket scientist with Raytheon. Her company shares her vision and sense of adventure.

Denali was an enormous adventure. She had good weather for the first part, then, at about 17,000 feet, a storm hammered her group.

“You power through it and keep going,” Buchanan said, which is pretty much the story of her life.

“I recall thinking how beautiful it is,” she said.

Then a more profound thought hit her.

“You get to see it if you put in the work,” she said.

Her guide on Denali told her, “You are ready. Go do Everest.”

So she is. She hopes to arrive in Kathmandu in March and be off the mountain in May.

Her toughest climb

The Vail Valley is home to countless elite climbers and a few who’ve completed the Seven Summits, but few have rebounded from the kind of injury Buchanan suffered.

She was laughing, smiling and loving the powder on Windows in Vail’s Sun Up Bowl on Feb. 6, 2011, a powder day. Everything changed in an instant. Buchanan blasted through the deep powder when she hit a fallen tree, buried under about 4 feet of new snow.

She broke the head off her left femur bone, twisting it so badly that the muscle and everything attached to it tore loose. It was so bad she was bleeding out.

There was so much snow that Super Bowl Sunday that they had trouble finding her. Eventually, ski patrollers followed the screams.

Dr. Rick Cunningham, the surgeon with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics who put her back together, said he hadn’t seen injuries that severe in 10 years. To the untrained eye, it looked like ice cream falling off the cone, or in Buchanan’s case, the bone, he said.

Not so long ago, someone with an injury like that might have been facing life in a wheelchair, Cunningham said.

Cunningham inserted a 14-inch rod into Buchanan’s femur, along with all the hardware to hold it in place. Along with everything else she was suffering, Buchanan’s body tried to reject it, leaving her in constant pain. The femur is one of the biggest bones in your body, and the rod needed to stay there at least a year for it to heal.

After a year and a half, bone marrow was growing back and that pain was gone.

“After 19 months of constant chronic debilitating pain, it was finally gone,” she said. “The life I once knew came rushing back.”

A month later, she could finally climb stairs unassisted. Four months after that, with her team’s approval, she left for Nepal with Love Hope Strength, a Colorado nonprofit — to hike to Everest base camp (17,500 feet) and Kalapathar (18,500 feet), a 14-day trek.

“All the amazing support and people in this valley gave me my leg back. I can’t wait to celebrate with my family and friends,” Buchanan said.

On the Fly column: Things are looking up

If you’re thinking about wetting a line in the valley this week, there have been some major improvements in fishing conditions out there. Most rivers (including the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork and Colorado) have been experiencing an awakening in regards to insect hatches and dissipation of ice shelves along the banks. On the upper Roaring Fork for example, the edge ice has mostly disappeared this past week, and the river is looking pretty good. The deep snow doesn’t make access easy, but once you fight your way to the river you’re in the clear.

Anglers on the Fryingpan River have enjoyed much-improved dry fly hatches lately that have been starting earlier in the mornings and lasting later into the afternoon. We’re only seeing midges aloft right now, but stocking up on blue winged olive dries for the next hatch around the corner is a good idea. The middle and lower Fryingpan, like the upper Roaring Fork, has improved steadily this week with most sections of the river now open from bank to bank.

It’s always a little warmer downvalley, and this past week has been no exception. Most anglers in the know would tell you this is the best-fishing part of the valley lately (if they like you, that is), and whether you float or wade the lower Roaring Fork or Colorado west of Glenwood Springs, the bite down there has been strong.

Anglers and fish alike are getting spring fever, yet we all know we’re not out of the winter woods quite yet. For those with the winter blues, be sure to grab your tickets for the Fly Fishing Film Tour at the Wheeler on March 26 — this fun-filled night of amazing fishing footage always inspires anglers to get out there and fish hard. So dust off those waders, clean up your fly line, find your hand warmers, and go find a few fish this week. You’ll be glad you did.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.