Skiing the Centennial Peaks

Chris Davenport is in the car, and judging by how quickly he's talking, he's probably driving fast.

Davenport, along with fellow ski mountaineers Ted and Christy Mahon, just got done skiing 13,823-foot Lackawanna Peak, on the Leadville, Colo., side of Independence Pass. It's only 20 miles from Aspen, where Davenport and the Mahons live, but the pass is still closed for the winter, so they drove 150 miles up to I-70 and around the other side of the mountains to ski it. Now, they're headed for the San Juans, in the southwest corner of the state, to tick off 13,000-foot peaks there.

They're on a mission. The three of them, who are calling themselves the Centennial Skiers, are trying to climb and ski the 100 highest mountains in the state, commonly referred to as the Centennial Peaks. Right now, they're racing spring, and Ted and Christy, who don't have the benefit of a Red Bull sponsorship, have taken only a few weeks off of work, so they're rushing, trying to knock out as many peaks as possible before the snow melts.

It's been a wet spring in Colorado, after a dry, dangerous winter, and Davenport says the conditions are just getting good now. He thinks they'll be able to ski 30 of the peaks before they lose snow.

So far, of the 100 peaks they're setting out to ski, Davenport has done 26 of them this season. If you count the number of descents the three of them had done before they officially started this project, Davenport has a total of 81, Christy has 80, and Ted has 84.

Skiing the Centennial Peaks

They've all done tick list ski mountaineering missions like this before. They've climbed and skied the 54 peaks over 14,000 feet in Colorado -- so they've done more than half of the Centennial Peaks. Christy was the first woman to do so, and Davenport did them all within one year. Last spring, Davenport skied 15 volcanoes in the Northwest in two weeks.

Davenport says he always likes to give himself a spring mountaineering project, to force himself to ski new things, and that after he skied the 14ers, he wanted to keep moving down the list.

"When I got done with the 14ers it felt nice to wrap up, but it didn't take long to be like, 'OK, what's next?'" he says.

The Centennial Peaks project came from that, and he says it wasn't too hard to recruit Ted and Christy, who are his frequent ski partners. "There's a lot to be said for having partners that you know and trust," he says. "That's hard to replicate if you haven't spent a lot of time together."

They've had other partners along the way, too, and Davenport says part of the goal of the project is to get more people out, and to create beta for the ski mountaineering community.

A lot of the peaks they're skiing aren't skied frequently, if ever, and they're learning about them as they go. "There are some sucky ones," he says. "Like Phoenix outside of Creede, it's a long boring approach and not interesting skiing."

Christy says that's part of the project, and that they signed on because they wanted to explore more, and see more of the state. "There's something about that that makes you so stoked every day," she says. "Even if it's a little bit of suffering."

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