Spring Sunday: First Mountain Quail

IMG_1852Growing up, there are certain markers that define your childhood. The first time you ride a two-wheel bike. The first time you catch a baseball. The first time you read a chapter book on your own.

Yet, when you grow up in a ski town, the markers are a little bit different. The rugged peaks that surround us inspire rugged adventures. We learn all the little things, but we also take on more mountain-sized tasks. In short, there comes in a time in almost every Telluride kids’ childhood when they are going to hike and ski Mountain Quail.

Telluride’s hike-to terrain is one of the best parts about the resort. If you’re willing to shoulder a pack and hike for a little, you gain access to incredible steeps and powder.

IMG_1863Mountain Quail, perched at the outermost edge of Telluride’s Black Iron Bowl, isn’t the most challenging run on the mountain. In difficulty, it’s probably on par with The Plunge. But the climb up to it (about 30 minutes on a clear day) is steep and snowpacked, the trail, at times, thin and rocky, making the approach hard. Collectively the entire experience—the hike and the ski—is one of the best mini-burly events you can do in Telluride: break a sweat, ski a beautiful line, and catch some great views.

My girls, Quincy (5) and Siri (8), had been asking to climb and ski Mountain Quail for quite some time. Growing up, they’d often heard Andy and me recount the adventures we’d had up there: the epic powder we’d found at times; the howling winds we’d encountered on another; and the fun we always had, working our bodies hard to climb up to close to 12,500 feet, all in the name of skiing.

IMG_1858Two weeks ago, we found our day. The girls had finally finished doing ski club on Saturdays and the day was cloudless and warm. Andy and I stuffed our packs with tons of water, a picnic and some sweets, knowing that they’d need some motivation once we started in.

Well. Predictably, we hadn’t gone more than about 300 steps off the top of the Prospect Lift when Siri and Quincy started complaining. My legs are tired! My arms are tired! Isn’t this far enough?! Andy and I were about to call it quits when a friend of ours, Kenny Fuhrer, a legendary Telluride ski instructor, passed us. “Wow, are you girls going to hike Mountain Quail?”

Gulp. “Yes!” Quincy, my 5-year old shouted, jumping to her feet, even though for the past 10 minutes, she had been lying sprawled on the snow like some battleground victim.

“Great, I’ll take your picture up there,” Kenny called, hiking on.
“Quincy!” Siri, the 8-year old, groaned, still lying on the snow. She was not as easily convinced.

“Siri, we have to. We told him we would.”

IMG_1861And with that, the two started hiking. Andy and I bit our tongues and said nothing. Mountain Quail was the eastern-most run out on the ridge. We had both hoped to get there but would have been thrilled with a hike half as far. But the girls were determined. Thanks to a “knows-how-work-wonders-with-kids” ski instructor who walked by at just the right moment, we made to top. Granted it took us about an hour, but we had just enough time to have our picnic up top and to ski to the bottom before patrol chased us off the ridge.

The next week at school, Siri started studying the Renaissance and made a “Skills and Accomplishment” chart in class. She showed it to me at the end of the week. Her list included things like finishing first grade, winning a trophy for hockey, and running Girls on the Run 5K. But her achievement at the top of the chart? “Hiking and Skiing Mountain Quail With My Family.” Just one of the many milestones kids have to look forward to, growing up in Telluride.

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