Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wapta Traverse, Part 2

Ok, so I have been a slacker with part 2, but that is because I got to the coast of BC and the weather went splitter for 36 I rallied a crew and we punched the Garibaldi Neve Traverse in a day. Oh well, like any good mountain person, responsibilities get thrown out the window for fun. But here is part two, with another post to come about the Neve Traverse!

The next day dawned cold with an arctic haze. When it gets to be below zero farenheit, any moisture in the air tends to freeze pretty quickly, and today was no exception. With a low of around -30 celsius there was no rush on getting out the door. At those temps your skins and ski wax don't really work that well.

We spent the morning brushing up on the essential skills for the terrain we were travelling in. Avalanche and crevasse rescue in and near the Peyto Hut was definitely in order. Everyone needs to review their rope systems and knots from time to time, and there was no better excuse to wait for it to warm up then practicing essential skills!

Knot Practice at Peyto Hut

Finally, around midday we mustered up the courage to brave the cold and headed for a day trip up the north summit of Mt. Rhondda. Sitting across the glacier from the hut, it is an easy day trip, with about 2,000' of elevation gain up glaciers all the way to the summit ridge. The cool thing about the summit ridge is that it is the continental divide, at roughly 10,500', as well as the border of BC and Alberta, and on a good day the views are amazing.

Up and Down Mount Rhondda

We retreated back to the warmth of the hut, and got ready for the 8km traverse over to the Bow Hut for the next 2 days. This is a pretty simple leg that takes you up about 600 vertical feet to the broad col between 2 summits and then down the Bow Glacier to the Bow Hut. You spend virtually your entire time on the glacier, just getting off to basically go to the hut. The nice thing about the Bow Hut is that it is fairly popular (meaning social) and stocked with fire wood, so you actually have quite the warm and cozy atmosphere there.

Skiing down to the Bow Hut

We settled in for 2 nights, with the plan for the next day being a day trip to the summits of Mt. Gordon and possibly St. Nicolas. Things were starting to warm up, and overnight the temps only dipped down to the mid -20s celsius. Inspired by our new found warmth we got ready for a great day of ski mountaineering...

Part 3 on Monday!

Track the rest of my ramblings at

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wapta Traverse, Part 1

Last week I was fortunate enough to guide the Wapta Traverse for the Alpine Club of Canada. If you haven't heard of the Wapta Traverse, it is by far the most classic ski mountaineering traverse in North America, and I would say it is our version of the famous Haute Route in Europe. The traverse can take parties anywhere from a day(the super-humans), to an average 4 days, or a leisurely 5-7. The longer you take on the traverse, the more time you have to summit numerous peaks enroute.

The route starts via the Icefields Parkway between Lake Louise and Jasper, Alberta, where you climb up from the 'highway' (it is a loose term for a 2 lane road that is barely plowed in winter!) to the continental divide, where a high plateau of interconnected ice fields and glaciers weaves its way back down to the trans-canada highway. You average about 7-10km of travel a day, with about 2-4 thousand vertical feet to get from hut to hut.

We were going for the classic Wapta Traverse, which starts via Peyto Hut. Upon starting our journey, the weather forecast was looking frighteningly cold. I don't mean chilly, I mean forecasted daytime highs of -25c and lows of -35c. For those of you on the farenheit scale, -40 is where both celsius and farenheit are the same. These temps are with out wind chill. COLD.

So of course it all starts with some gear sorting andpacking, making sure we have the essentials. We met in Lake Louise the night before and divided the group gear and checked our equipment to make sure we had it all.

Gear Packing in the Lake Louise Hostel

There are a few key essentials to remember about this trip. First is that it is glaciated, so we need to carry harnesses, ropes, and ice axes as well as the necessary crevasse rescue gear. Second is that it is a hut trip, so we don't have to carry too much excess stuff, and can try and go with lighter packs! Stoves, cooking utensils and foam mattresses are all provided, so basically food, spare clothes, sleeping bag and down booties are all you really need to add to your day pack. Don't get me wrong, the food weight adds up, but it is a lot easier than carrying a stove and tent!

The next morning we began our journey at Peyto Lake with our 10km and 2,000' slow climb to the hut.
Skiing across Peyto Lake.

We spent about 5 hours making the journey into Peyto Hut and settled in for a cold cold week on the Wapta...

Part 2 tomorrow!

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

(Taos 03/2009) Extreme Freeride Championships

---Update: Ollie Bell uploaded the video of my qualifier run to Vimeo for me!---

Thanks Ollie Bell!

Last week came and went in a blur. The six day journey Nik and I took to New Mexico for the Freeride Championships was completely uncharted territory. New ski area, new event (Freeride World Tour), and a new judging system. Overall it was a very fun experience and something I'd like to do again next season.

Day 1: Leaving Salt Lake
The drive down opened my eyes to a few things:
-There is a 3:1 ratio of Wal-Marts to people in Southern Colorado
-Never eat at the Moab Diner, no matter how good the prices are
-After 8 hours in a car with no radio, you will be convinced that every car on the road is following you
-The night-shift employees at the Chama, NM Chevron station will force you to take magazine surveys if you want to charge your cell phone at the register
-The internet doesn't exist after you pass the La Sal Junction
This doesn't look sketchy at all...

Day 2: Inspection
Any first day at a ski resort is weird, especially when it is for a competition.  You really only ski one area and you analyze it a bunch trying to figure out the best places to score big.  Taos was no exception, especially when the venue changed the first day from West Basin to Kachina Peak.  This changed the hike to the start gate from a 10-minute walk to a 45-minute assault up a ridgeline with 50+ mph winds.  Also, any ski event sponsored by Red Bull is a very good thing.
This hike got old real fast…

Day 3: Qualifier
Qualifier day provided some cool things and some less cool things.
-Kachina Peak is an awesome venue
-Sunshine during your run is always nice
Less Cool:
-Inspecting at 8:00a and having to be back on top of the peak at 9:00a
-Trying to find a place to pee on an exposed ridge with heavy winds
My run went more or less according to plan and I finished 16th (of 54 or so) overall.  Nik got hung up a bit, but managed to beat the cut and finish 35th.
Now that's what I call a Big Mountain Venue!

Day 4: Weather Day
Day 4 was kind of a junk show as it began dumping heavy snow early in the morning and it became clear that it would be next to impossible to run a comp in those conditions.  A weather day was called and ultimately the venue was moved back to West Basin, which left those of us unfamiliar with that area a bit bewildered.
Nik wishing he’d taken more pictures of West Basin when there was sunshine…

Day 5: Finals
Finals was a bit hectic as the conditions kept going from blue bird to complete flat light.  That being said, there was still some major gnar thrown down.
Snowbird local Cliff Bennett took 1st for the men and Michelle Gmitro finished in top position for the women.
I ended up skiing a line in a bit tamer section of the venue as I didn’t know the area too well and ended up 27th.  Nik took his go-to approach for top finishes and hucked about 30 feet off an air at the top and straight-lined the rest of the venue.  He earned himself 19th.

Flat light conditions and tricky snow conditions didn’t stop the event from being an all out throw down-fest.
Day 6: Junk Show Home
Nik and I left Taos, New Mexico around 8:30am with roughly 12 Red Bulls (thanks Taos for having a kick ass sponsor).  We arrived back in Salt Lake City, Utah at about 10:30pm with 2 Red Bulls.
It started fairly normal with a stop over the huge Rio Grande on the way out of town.
If I'd had my skis on I totally could have stomped this.

Nik looking away from the camera all emo and stuff

We took an unscheduled ski break on the way home at Durango’s local ski hill

I sent it in jeans

Nik points it, East Coast style

I make some restricted movement turns

I nail a 10-point spread

Nik goes for a car jib

Thank you for daylight savings for allowing us to get lost in Arches National Park

It the end, it turned out to be a pretty fun journey.  I’ll have some video of the Snowbird comp that just wrapped up a little bit later and I’m considering going for one more this season at Kirkwood this weekend!  Hopefully that will yield some equally cool/weird/crazy photos…


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spring is in the Air

Winter has been interesting this year in Wyoming. Powder has been plentiful, avalanches abundant, and politics have been ripe. I definitely have had my share of ice cream headaches and pow-face burn (all with smiles), but I am ready for spring to refresh all of the above and a little, no a lot, of sunshine for a change. 

Spring is the time to leave behind so much worry about questionable mid-winter snowpacks, and head for your nearest couloir. Longer days bring helmets, crampons, ice axes, a little ambition for early mornings, and great times with your friends. I know I am ready! I hope you enjoy a couple of our classic Absaroka lines from this pre-spring.
Chockstone Dogleg (looker's left) and the Diagonal Couloir:
Our line for the day, Chockstone Dogleg:
Aesthetic pyroclastic walls rising high above:
View down the couloir:
Matt Lloyd tests the waters in Chockstone Dogleg couloir:
Airing it out in the apron with spring pow and plenty more vert down:

Radio Tower Couloir (upper left)
Brad Douglass and Bryan Gleason near the top pitch:
Would conditions be good or cause variable Havoc?
Brad Douglass teles it up on the down:
Bryan Gleason sets an edge in Radio Tower:
More love in the apron:
Time to start getting out and enjoying those longer and warmer days! I know I am amped!

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Friday, March 13, 2009

US Freeskiing Nationals Live Webcast at Snowbird

Today is the first day of the Freeskiing World Tour event at Snowbird, Utah. The event will be broadcasted live via webcast today and Saturday. The webcast will be going live at 12pm MST.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing

February 26 - 28, went in with Black Diamond to bring Dudeness to the people. The Big LePowSki was a clinic-with-the-pros event at Brighton that benefited The Billy Poole Fund and the Winter Wildlands Alliance.

The Powderwhores were there. Check it.

The Big LePowSki from Noah howell on Vimeo.

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End of the Good Stability

I took advantage of the last day of our 3 week high pressure and bomber snowpack at Valhalla Mountain Touring, here is a video of the day...enjoy!

Lots of other good time wasting material on my blog at

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One Run off a Snowcat

Date: February 20, 2009
Location: Powder Mountain, UT
Featuring: Just Me (Jake Kirshner)

Low-Res Vimeo Version:

High-Res Version:
(right-click > save target/link as...)

One run off the Lighting Ridge cat skiing at Powder Mountain in Ogden area of Utah. The run I ran in this video is off James Peak which is actually about a 20m hike or so from where the cat drops you off. I hiked it because I'm a man.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Gelande Quaffing World Championships: Take Two

It's that time of year again. Gelande Quaffing season. And this Thursday marks the second World Championships of the World in Jackson Hole. The masters of the sport will converge on the Wyoming ski town armed with lightening-fast reflexes, unquenchable thirsts, and beer guts honed from years of training.

"My massage therapist tells me that she can identify an athlete's sport just by looking at the form of his body," said Jeff Wogoman of Cloudveil, the event's sponsor. "She can see one of these champion athletes from all the way down the street she just knows that they're quaffers. Either that or crusty, beer swilling, part-time working ski bums. It's quite amazing, actually."

The sport was born in 1986, fathered by the infamous Jackson Hole Air Force at the Bear Claw Café in Teton Village.

It was resurrected last year. Thank god. entered a team in the 2008 tournament, but unfortunately, we got our frothy mugs handed to us by Big Sky Brewing of Missoula, Mont. (That's ok. We're smarter and better looking.) The corps of talented athletes from the original Big Sky team will be back this year to defend their coveted title.

The beta:

Gelande Quaffing World Championships
Deck of the Village Café, Teton Village
Thursday February 26th
First round starts at 4:20

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Friday, February 20, 2009

High Pressure Pow

Well, the high and dry has set in up north in British Columbia, which means it has been dumping down south. I don't mind so much, because it means its time to get back into the alpine and ski the BIG lines in more stable snow. When things set up right, you can really tuck your way up into the mountains inhospitable nooks and crannies, and do some amazing skiing.

Here is a video from last week of me and a bunch of skiers from the Reno area...enjoy!

If you are really wasting time on the internet you can check out the rest of my posts at

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Jeremy Jones re-signs with O'neill Athlete Jeremy Jones, the freeriding legend, has pledged his future to O’Neill, who continue to support the big mountain rider in his continual quest to explore and push the boundaries of freeriding around the planet.

Jeremy who has been with O’Neill for the past nine years has signed a contract for another five years, with the option thereafter to continue as either a professional rider or a brand ambassador.

“I am super stoked to continue working with O’Neill,” said Jeremy. “In the past few years we’ve started to do some amazing things together and I look forward to evolving the relationship. The launch of the Jones Experience and O’Neill’s involvement with Protect Our Winters are just two examples of what lies ahead.”

Jeremy and O’Neill come together in a natural fit. The brand responsible for inventing the first wetsuit is dedicated to exploring ways to enhance every rider’s experience within nature.

Jeremy Jones has spent the last 12 years traveling the world in search of the ultimate line.

He has achieved over one hundred first descents, formed an intimate relationship with the best mountain ranges in the world, become the most filmed snowboarder in the world and won the last eight ‘Big Mountain Rider of the Year’ awards.

“We are very excited to have Jeremy re-sign with us,” says Eppo van Berckelaer, O’Neill Global Marketing Manager. “His passion matches our philosophy. O’Neill is dedicated to supporting Jeremy in his mission to go further and find the more challenging rides and faces that he is always dreaming of.”

As part of the partnership, O’Neill will continue to support Protect Our Winters, POW, the non-profit organisation that Jeremy formed in 2007 to focus on environmental initiatives which will help fight global warming and help save our winters.

In addition Jeremy will continue to be involved with product development, bringing his experience and knowledge into O’Neill’s snow collection. The first season of the Jeremy Jones Experience Line is being launched at ispo next week, and will continue to grow. The line has incorporated Jeremy’s needs and desires in backcountry riding to provide some of the best performance wear in the industry.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nimbus Independent's En Route-Japan

Our friend Gary Winberg from Nimbus Independent and Spacecraft checking in with a very very cool new webisode-

Hey Fellas,

I hope this email finds you doing well. Just wanted to drop a quick note and let you know we just released our latest webisode, En Route - Japan, along with a new website at: Check it out if you have some free time, hope you enjoy the vision we are trying to share with the ski industry. Please spread the word to your ski friends and community.

It's best viewed if you download the HD version, although it's a slightly hefty file size at around 800 mb.




Monday, February 16, 2009

Zipfit - Are You Drinking the Koolaid?

I'm not sure why I was so reluctant to replace my ski boots, especially considering that I've pretty much hated them from the very beginning. Most likely, I dreaded the time-consuming boot fitting and figured it would be more miserable than simply dealing with my pathetic old boots. But today I finally reached the limit of my patience and stormed down to Christy's Sports in search of Steve Bagley himself. Steve is a Salt Lake boot fitting legend, and I figured if anyone could find something appropriate for my callus laden, bone-spurred, too wide at the ball, too narrow at the heel, high arched, Cinderella's ugly step-sister feet, then it was probably Earl. Long story short, he and Jason, a co-worker at Christy's, were able to set me up nicely in a pair of DalBello Storms.

During this lengthy process, I was truly amazed by the rabid Zipfit adoration of not only the boot fitters but also a majority of the customers in the shop. Jason had suggested that I consider a Zipfit liner, and I'd casually responded that "they look a little gimmicky to me". The moment I uttered the words, a hush fell over the shop, and I had the distinct impression that I was about to be mauled. Everyone surrounding me suddenly loomed as zealous born-again Zipfitters prepared to condemn me for my blaspheme. I quickly backed down and after much schooling in Zipfit lore, I gave in and ponied up for a pair.

They don't come cheap -- at Christy's they range from about $300-$450, but my options were quite clear -- convert or be sacrificed to the snow gods. I opted to Zipfit. Unfortunately, my epic fitting session ended just after the lifts closed, and I won't yet have a chance to report as to the extent of my true believer-ed-ness. So, I'll check back in as soon as I can head up to the Bird again. 'Till then, if you've problem feet like myself, you might well check out these puppies. I for one am hoping everyone else is right and that they truly are the path to ski boot enlightenment.

********** Update **********

I am officially converted-- skied in the morning and found the liners to be both responsive and surprisingly comfortable. Now to convince BC to start carrying them! I should also mention that you can generally demo boots to determine which fits the best (and then buy them on Backcountry when they have great sales like the recent President's Day Sale).


Ullr, Will You Be My Valentine?

Just a few quick photos from Snowbird on Valentine's day during some awesome shredding.

I am going to post some photos from a mission to Telluride I did last weekend-

Kris, not letting his shoulder injury keep him down

I show off the top of my helmet

Kris doing his best not to swing his arms like a madman

I find some random pillows



Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Big LePowski and Black Diamond Proudly Present:

First Annual Big LePowSki USA- To Benefit the Billy Poole Fund and Winter Wildlands

The First Annual BigLePowSki event is aimed at all of the freeskiers out there who sell out the ski movie premiers, who pray for snow, who lick their lips at fresh tracks, who read Powder cover to cover, BUT, who don’t have the cash to head to AK and pay for the pricey pro athlete-hosted ski camps and clinics. These are the skiers and riders who aren’t competing in the comps, but who can only imagine taking a run with the pros they watch in hi-def and see in the glossy magazine ads. This event invites the everyday season pass holder, weekend warrior, off-piste skier or après ski enthusiast to do what they love most in wintertime, with their favorite rock star ski athlete.

The Big LePowSki is a weekend of on-snow education, clinicing, and freeriding; off-snow libations, PBR toasting and ski movie watching; all with some of the most influential athletes in the snowsport industry today. The event is open to the masses and includes no competitions.

The goal of the Big LePowSki is to touch the freeskier audience in a way that is unforgettable and empowering; and to celebrate the freeride lifestyle by skiing fun terrain by day and toasting the turns at night.

Tentative Run of Show:
Thursday, February 26th- WWA Film Premier at Brewvies
7pm- Showing with tables for set – up

Friday, February 27h
6pm- 10pm – Sign up party – Black Diamond Equipment HQ
- Meet and greet with attending athletes, share some beers, sign up for clinics and watch ski movie (TBD)
- Athlete meeting prior to give run down of what is expected and code of conduct with skiers

Sat. February 28th
6 am- Set up time, meeting at Brighton Ski resort, booths, demos, free stickers
9 am – Start of morning clinics, check in and hand out lift tickets
- Clinics-
12 pm – BBQ – BD sponsored burgers, sodas, beers, grill up-
1 pm – Start of Afternoon clinics
- Clinics -
Q and A on hill with the skiers while skiing
4 pm – Beers and pong signup – showing off of auction items
5 pm – Breakdown and cleanup-

Sat. Night-
- 8:30 pm at the Woodshed- poster signing with Sage, Chris, Brett etc
- Band, beers specials and pong tournament in the back
- Auctions and raffles of gear
- Band shuts things down- Band would be 80’s and or 90’s cover band,
List of Clinics-
- Assess and ski steep terrain-
- Women’s specific how to ski steep ski/freeheel-
- Air Awareness 101 -
- Women’s specific air awareness 101 -
- How to throw a 360-
- Safely drop a cliff-
- Properly slide a rail
- Advanced air tricks-
- Assess good backcountry travel –
- Properly Film your friends-
- Pick a line and ski it –
- Drop a cliff on freeheel –
- Spin a 360 freeheel
- How to link freeheel turns –
- How to Step out of your comfort level -
- Freeski 101 -
Avy beacon search area-
Safe Rail slides