As the days get shorter and the temperatures get (relatively) colder, the winter winds start to make their appearance known. Living near the foothills, with almost a clear shot to Eldorado Canyon directly to the west, we typically get some of the strongest winds on the front range. The winds can signal several different things, including a warm day on the front range, an impending snow storm in the mountains, or just a desire to make any human-powered movement extra challenging. I’ve been living in Colorado for over six years now, and the winter winds still take me by surprise every. single. year.
The winds first made their appearance back in October. Jason and I had plans to ride our bikes at North Table Mountain followed by beer at New Terrain Brewing Company, but first wanted to wash our new truck. We packed up the truck with the bikes and car washing materials and headed over to his parents house. As soon as we stepped out of the truck at their house the winds started whipping. For reference they only live 10 minutes away and are in the same zip code as us. After a comical car wash, complete with the wind blowing the water from the hose all over the place, we decided that the exposed slopes of North Table Mountain were not the best idea. Instead we headed up into the hills to Centennial Cone, forgetting that if it’s windy in the plains, it’s windy up higher!
When we got to the parking lot, the winds seemed to increase in force to the point that it was challenging to open the truck doors and we had to lay our bikes on the ground to avoid having them blow away (or just blow over). We headed up towards the first overlook on the trail, with the full intention of making it a short 4 mile bike ride if the winds were too terrible. Most of the first part of the ride was in the trees, so we were shielded from the wind, and arrived at the overlook full of energy and optimism. That optimism was quickly stripped away as we rode through an open space, fully exposed to the brunt of the wind. Being the stubborn people we are, we continued through the entire loop, but had to jump immediately into the truck to warm up our faces and hands after biking the last 3 miles uphill directly into the wind. When we made it back into cell service land, we found out that the wind was a sustained 60 mph with gusts up to 88 mph.
We spent the next couple of weekends traveling to places like San Diego, Sedona, Portland Maine, and Orlando and were able to temporarily forget about the winter winds. The mostly warm travels to mostly sea-level locales also stripped our winter hardiness that we’d built up through the cold and the wind.
After enduring the humidity and heat of Orlando in November, I arrived home ready to throw myself fully into winter again. With that thought at the forefront of our minds, and the fact that it had snowed the entire previous day in the mountains, we decided to head up to the Continental Divide for some fat biking. I looked at the weather forecast for Rollinsville, which reassured me with a current temperature of 34 degrees and high for the day of 40s with sun. There was no mention of wind. I should have known to not trust it! Anyways, as we drove to the Rollins Pass road, the temperature gauge on our truck steadily dropped and the winds increased in force until we parked and the temperature gauge said it was 16 degrees outside with a strong and steady wind of unknown force.
We set up the bikes in between breaks in the truck to warm up and escape the wind. Luckily the wind was blowing at our backs as we left the truck and headed up the jeep road and the snow was fresh and untracked which warmed us up quickly. We found a little stretch of road that was sheltered from the wind and had fun playing the pristine snow. Unfortunately some trucks came through as we were heading further up the road to find more fresh snow and destroyed the perfect blanket. We followed the truck tracks, secretly thanking them when the snow became really deep and we realized we would have been pushing our bikes if we didn’t have the truck tracks to follow. After a particularly steep section, where I walked my bike through drifts above my knees, we decided to turn around and enjoy the deep-snow descent. Thanks to the wind we still had to pedal downhill, but it didn’t detract from our fun. We made it back to the truck with huge smiles across our wind-burned faces.
I guess the moral of the story is, always expect wind if it’s winter in Colorado. And the second moral is, you can still have fun, even if the wind tries to dampen your experience. Oh and never forget a face mask or neck gaiter!