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The Turkey “Shoot”

This is one of my favorite skis in the San Juans that Matt Wilson introduced Cruise Quenelle and I to several years ago. On our hike up, Cruise asked, “What is the difference between a chute and a couloir?” I didn’t quite know how to answer that except, they must be very similar, perhaps you must be French to be able to ski a couloir? After returning home, I Googled the topic and it looks like it’s up for debate as to a true difference. Either way, our plan for the day was to ski down a very long run with big rock walls on both sides of us!

Turkey Chute Trail Head

The plowed road to the start of the skin.

When we showed up to the trail head, to our surprise San Juan County had been hard at work and already plowed the road, cutting off about half a mile of hiking in. Instead of starting our skin there, we cheated and drove up the road until it was no longer plowed. From there, we slowly attained our way up into the basin behind the Turkey Chute. For the most part, it’s a mellow skin in, until it’s not. After working our way up through the first basin, you must climb a very steep hill, then it mellows out as you enter the second basin, then you have the final approach to the saddle of the Turkey Chute. The final approach is a steep, bullet proof slope of snow. Luckily, Cruise and I both brought our ski crampons, and they were definitely the tool of the day.

Ski crampons proved very useful on the Spring slopes.

Ski crampons proved very useful on the Spring slopes.

We spent some time at the top, eating some food, admiring the view and checking out the goods in the chute. We walked down a little ways to get a better view and check out the snow.

Top of The Turkey Chute

The view looking down from the top of the chute.

After we made our switch from uphill mode, to downhill mode, Cruise got into a position to take some photos. I got to go first. Looking down the chute one more time, I moved to a spot and rolled some snow down the chute. It looked like the roller ball was moving through softer snow on the middle left of the chute. And so, that’s where I dropped in and I did not stop until I skied almost the entire chute.

Near the bottom, I saw an opportunity to duck to the side and get below a rock. From there I quickly got my phone out to get pics of Cruise. The first few photos I took it’s hard to see him because the chute is so long. If you look at the small dot partway up the slope, that’s Cruise.

Cruise in the Chute

When he got closer, I captured this great shot of him.

Cruise Up Close in the Turkey Chute

Cruise crushing the Turkey Chute.

The apron run out also held some great turns, but not quite as good of snow as the chute itself. Wow, it’s a great ski. About 2,800 vertical top to bottom. Check out the ski tracks for the decent vertical.


From there we made our way back to the plowed roads and then had to hike for about a mile back to the truck. And that capped another great day skiing in the San Juans.

Bottom of the Turkey Chute

Looking back up from the bottom of the chute.