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Mountain News: Backcountry beef burrito near Butte



Backcountry beef burrito near Butte

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – A remarkable story comes out of Gunnison County, where a quartet of backcountry skiers were astonished to find several cattle at 11,400 feet on a ridge northwest of Crested Butte.

The ridge sits 2,500 vertical feet above the valley floor and has a pitch of at least 40 degrees. One of the skiers, Billy Laird, described the ridge as a "gnarly skinner for experienced backcountry skiers. It's (colloquially) called Heart Attack Ridge for a reason."

The cattle had apparently avoided detection when cowboys last fall herded cattle from high-country grazing. Something similar had happened the year before, when 11 cattle ended up at treeline near Conundrum Hot Springs, near the top of the Elk Range between Aspen and Crested Butte. All of those cattle perished.

In this case, the skiers used a cell phone to inquire if any local ranchers had missing cattle in that area. By the time they had skied down the slope, they had the answer — and the rancher was very appreciative of their offer to try to herd the cattle off the ridge.

Easier said than done, as reported by the Crested Butte News and Gunnison Country Times. Skinning back to the ridge, they found one cow that seemed dead and two buried in snow but still alive. The two living animals, one a yearling bull and the other a heifer — refused to wade through the snow.

Returning the next morning, this time with several more backcountry skiers, they wrangled the bull and heifer, put stuff sacks over their heads, with slits for breathing, hog-tied their legs and rolled them into tarps, which they tightened with ratchet straps, creating what the Times calls a "bovine burrito."

Because of the steepness of the slope, they were able to slide the cattle, which weighed 136kg to 227kg (300 to 500 lbs), down to the valley floor.

There, the bull breathed his last. He was butchered by the skiers, some of whom are hunters. As for the heifer, she was treated to hay, warm water and supplemental heat and, the rancher hopes, will live to create more cattle.

Ski towns vie for X Games

ASPEN, Colo. – With snowmobiles doing flips and up to 20,000 younger people at the base of the Buttermilk ski area, Aspen this weekend is opposite to its image as a slightly-stodgy resort for the world's ├╝ber-elites.

But then that's the point of the X Games. To stay current, and not slip too far into stodginess, Aspen has been willing to invest in hosting an event that may not truly pay dividends for some years to come.

So are other destinations. ESPN, the owner of the event, announced this past week that Park City, in Utah, Quebec City and Heavenly and Squaw Valley, in the Lake Tahoe Basin of California and Nevada, were all in the running to host the event after Aspen's contract runs out in 2014.