The route professional big-mountain skier Austin Porzak, a Boulder native, took up to the First Flatiron Sunday morning was one he had spent four summers planning and designing.
It involved going up Flagstaff Road and then skiing through thick snow and fallen trees up to the summit of the First Flatiron.
From there, after a few deep breaths, Porzak made what is believed to be the first descent of the historic Boulder landmark.
“I made it down in one piece,” Porzak said. “It was really unique. It was remarkable. It was great to do something that I’d been dreaming about for (so) long, I feel really happy to get it done.”
The few minutes spent racing down the thin snow and sandstone on the First Flatiron took years to plan.
In 2010, Porzak skied the “1911 Gully” route on the Third Flatiron, and as soon as he realized the famous crags could be skied, he started looking for a new line.
He explored ice climbing routes, which often get covered with snow and noticed a part of the First Flatiron, known to climbers as “The Silk Road,” got a bit of snow. He watched it, winter after winter, hoping that one season the conditions would form in his favor.
Two years ago, they did, or so he thought.
“I skied the top 200 feet on belay, but the snow kept blowing out on me so I climbed back out,” he said. “And honestly there was so much unknown and the route really is intimidating, especially from the top, that I made the call to climb back out.”
Boulder got a record amount of snow this February, so he decided it was time to try again.
First, he needed to figure out how to get up there. He said that with such thin snow, he didn’t want to climb up the front. Plus the route, which is often climbed without gear, had few spots to place climbing gear, making the climb up as risky as the ski down.
“I knew the snow would be thin, so I didn’t want to climb up the ski route,” he said. “I should come around the back of the First Flatiron and ski from the top.”
He figured out how to do just that, and on Sunday, he skied more than 800 vertical feet with an average angle of 60 degrees, Porzak estimated. He was roped in, belayed by Alex Krull, who then followed him down on his own set of skis.
Alpine skiing and snowboarding with fixed heels is “not allowed anywhere” on city open space land, according to Boulder open space and mountain parks spokesman Phillip Yates. It’s unclear if Porzak violated any rules when he free-heel skied down the First Flatiron on telemark skis.
This isn’t the first time someone has made their way down the Flatirons on skis. Back in 2007, Bill Wright and Stefan Griebel became the first pair to ski down the “1911 Gully” route on the Third Flatiron, three years before Porzak did.
The narrow and steep line wasn’t Porzak’s first taste of adventure. He went to Mount Everest base camp at age 9 and watched his dad climb the famous peak. He’s also been climbing and skiing most of his life, right now working on a project to ski all 58 fourteeners in Colorado — he’s done 54 so far.
But this run was special.
“Just being a skier and climber and being from around here, I always thought it was a unique project to try and ski the Flatirons,” he said.
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