Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What's a Long Day of Ski Touring for You?

This man is more of a man than I. And likely not employed 9-5, M-F.

10K vertical/day for 100 days


Monday, January 29, 2007

Wasatch Wussies - Someone Call the Wambulance

The level of apathy for skiing is at an all time high in Utah. Yea, I know, cry me a river. A ski touring buddy called today and said that after an hour of skinning to a destination that he knew had "powder" he just turned around, skied down the crust laden skin track and went home. "I couldn't muster the desire" he said. This coming from a guy that will skin 6,000 vert in a day and say it was a "moderate day".

Lee Cohen was interviewed by AltaCam.com recently and after recalling the 240" snowfall of December 1983 he calls those of us who've all but given up hope a "bunch of Wasatch Wussies".

AltaCam.com podcast - Lee Cohen part II

What are current conditions in Utah? From the Utah Avalanche Center report today:

Current Conditions

31" for January. Less than 3'’ of snow came this month, a month that averages nearly 100"”. The "'100" in a hundred hours storm'’ from November of 2001, the 125" before November two years ago, all the storms, all the powder!…!… seems like a distant memory.

Skies above the soup are clear with mountain temperatures in the teens and low twenties. The westerly winds picked up overnight along the highest ridgelines blowing 20-25mph, and they should calm down by about midday. One observer described the backcountry as "depth hoar to the ground, surface hoar glinting like diamonds, breakable crust, corn, rocks, bushes, and some petrified turns left by the milkman. Oh yeah, and some decent recrystallized snow on top of a crust." Nicely done.

Well, look on the bright side. Flip Flops are on sale at Backcountry.com. The glass is half full.


Mount Rainier v Iraq? Plan C.

A month ago I couldn't take it any longer. My friend from Seattle continued to text me how deep it was, how the powder was so light and that if I ever wanted to ski in the Pacific Northwest that this was the year. So I booked a flight, anticipating deep powder and untracked lines. I must have done something wrong as the snow gods are not smiling upon me.

Mount Rainier v Iraq - I wish the supreme court could decide the winnerJust in time for my trip a massive high pressure has set in. A friend of mine in Seattle referred to this as
"...a blocking high is really entrenched, hunkered down out there in the Pacific like the unwanted mother-in-law, sobbing at your cruelty and hanging on for all the misery she can inflict."
Scratch Plan A.

So I'm thinking I could make the most of a high pressure and climb and ski Mount Rainier. A most perfect plan B! Makes sense right? Not so.

Remember those storms I wrote about that took out highways on Mount Hood? The same thing happened to Mount Rainier National Park and the access is still limited at best. the park needs additional funds and quite frankly it isn't a priority for the govenment to get it done right away. There's this little fued we're involved in over in a place called Iraq. Heard of it?

I'm having a harder and harder time (was it ever easy?) looking around the nation, heck, looking around my community and seeing worthy projects in need of my tax dollars while the GOP spends millions/week in Iraq. Some estimates are $2 Billion per week, a 20% increase over last years spending. When was the last time, or any time, that education received a 20% YTY increase in spending? Afganistan is estimated at $370 million/week. I wish there were such a thing as a "time out" or a 2 week vacation from the war and its spending, thus allowing a redirecting of that money to school buildings, educational programs, national parks, trail/conservation efforts, ANYTHING but bombs and fruitless spending. "Some say, I'm a dreamer...."

But I digress, back to my trip. While the ski resorts in Washington have conditions more reflective of an ice rink tipped up, access to Rainier is not conducive to a 2-4 day trip.

From the Mount Rainier Climbing Blog comes this insight:
"Access to the mountain is still quite challenging, unless you really like hard approaches. For example, getting to the Westside Road is difficult because the Nisqually to Longmire road is only open to the public (sorry no vehicles) on Sundays from 10AM-5PM. What does this mean, either you have to complete your trip in under 7 hours, or take 7 days! And with that said, the road above Longmire is totally closed to any sort of pedestrian traffic. Even if you made it to Longmire in under 7 hours, you still can't hike, climb, ski, board, walk, thumb, or skip along the road to Paradise."
Scratch Rainier. Move on to Plan C. I'm going to make like a draft dodger and head to Canada. More on that to come.

We'll continue to check in with Mike Gauthier over there at the Rainier Climbing Blog - good stuff Mike!

Cartoon credit: David Horsey of the Seattle PI


Friday, January 26, 2007

Not Your Father's Patagonia

Found this gem in my inbox.


"Having trouble with images or links? www.patagonia.com/email/012207

“Revealing” Press Announcement & “Brief” Film Premier


Are you having trouble with this image?


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ouray Ice Tests:
Marmot Flurry Jacket

Marmot Flurry JacketI bought the Marmot Flurry Jacket because I needed to replace the down jacket I sold in Peru, and I didn't have the dough to drop on the Patagonia DAS parka. I switched to synthetic from down because it's a much better choice (usually) for the mountains, though the best bet would be to have one of each (down for cragging, synthetic for the big stuff). For those who don't understand: down loses its insulation value when wet, while synthetics will still keep you (relatively) warm, and mountains are wet places. Though the Marmot Flurry Jacket isn't quite as warm as the DAS Parka, it's pretty darn close for about half the price and only weights about an ounce more.

This Marmot jacket is sized a bit large to fit over all your clothes, so you don't have to size up when you get one. Plus, the whole thing stuffs into its own internal pocket for a package about the size of a softball. In fact, the biggest drawback to this jacket is that I like it so much that it's become my everyday coat, and will likely be trashed by next ice season.

  • High quality synthetic insulation
  • Pretty darn light (1lb 12oz)
  • Packs small (especially for a synthetic jacket)
  • Large size fits over all other clothes
  • Large hood fits over helmet
  • Great price
  • Packs out and loses insulation faster than down
  • Not quite as warm as DAS Parka


Ouray Ice Tests:
Lowa Ice Expert GTX Boots

Lowa Ice Expert GTX BootsAs I said before, none of the Lowa boots at the demo fit my tiny, fat feet except the Ice Comp. However, the vast majority of the climbers around me were getting after it in the Ice Expert GTX Boots, so I figured I'd at least relay what they had to say.

As with all footwear, sizing is by far the most important issue. The consensus with the Ice Expert was that they fit medium to wide feet but struggled a bit with narrow dogs. These ice climbing boots come in a men's and women's version, so ladies don't have to deal with heel lift, painful arches, and other problems that arise from "unisex" sizing.

The models used at the demo had integrated gaiters. These are awesome features, and I don't have the slightest clue whey they aren't on more mountaineering boots from all brands. The Gore-Tex lining did a great job of keeping climbers' feet dry when they accidentally stepped in the river (which happened relatively often). Most people commented that their feet stayed warm in these Lowa boots, and I didn't hear anyone complaining about cold feet.

It seemed that these boots also fit well with a very wide range of crampons (which is not always a give-in), as no one seemed to have any problems.

Other than that, it's hard to give a more detailed review of these boots, but I'm definitely bring some ultra-thick insoles to try them out next year.

  • Waterproof
  • Built-in gaiter
  • Relatively warm
  • Work with lots of crampons
  • Men's and women's models
  • Don't fit really narrow feet
  • Man, that green color is bold!


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Forget Branding, What did they get that I want?

So, its just about time for my yearly installment of a branding article for the blog. I could say that its because I haven't learned anything earth-shatteringly new or interesting, but that would be FAR from the truth. Between Social Networking (I'm a Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn Freak), Social Retailing, and the general awesome-ness of e-commerce, my head is almost exploding with the potential of marketing and internet retailing. So, lets blame my lack of "real posts" on watching re-runs of "the Office" and attempting to be funny.

But I read something today that I had to share...

The Center for Media Research (Motto: Numbers make me happy!) came out with a report on the power of product reviews.

They found that people were 5% more likely to be satisfied with a retailer when there are product reviews. Additionally, the are more likely to shop again at the same site at a later date and recommend it to thier friends.

As far as the specific shopping experience--39% of customers site product reviews as the main reason they purchase one product over another and 42% of first time buyers are influenced by product reviews.

Now, this does pose the question--do you want to be unique? I understand going for the tried and true (One explanation for the ubiquitous Denali Jacket) but if you are only buying what someone else bought will you jump off a bridge when all the cool kids do that, too?

Hopefully, I'm way off, because there is definitely something about website personalization and recommendations for products. Reviews can be the changing force, or at least the nudge you towards what you need before you become completely dependant on Social Retailing.

When trying to pick out a recipe for a dinner party I hosted a few weeks ago, reviews made all the difference. However, I've read a few reviews (never on backcountry!) that, uh, sucked (I'll protect the guilty and not link to them... but you'll know 'em when you see them.)

Personally, I've found review-writing to help me with my general business day. I create new outdoor terms, reccount my own personal history and have played an alternative version of the Super Troopers "meow" game in reviews.

I've read a lot of reviews in my day, and written a fair amount too, and in the wild, empty world of internet shopping, its definitely helpful to have opinions of those who know!

The complete study and results can be found and downloaded here.


Paragliding in Mexico

Valle from 11,000

With the poor snow pack and frigid temperatures in the Wasatch this January there was only one thing to do… head south to Central Mexico for a week of paragliding and bask in the sun and warm weather!

A group of about 10 pilots from the Salt Lake area went down to Valle De Bravo, Mexico with Two Can Fly Paragliding at the beginning of January. Valle is located about 80 miles west of Mexico City on the shores of Lake Avandaro. The landscape is hilly with thick pine forest at 6,500’ and the town itself is very picturesque with cobblestone streets, terracotta roofs , and luscious courtyards. The town square hosts a beautiful church which serves as the focal point for the locals.

The morning routine would include getting up when the church bells rang about 7:30, wander down the street to a small café and have a great breakfast with freshly squeezed local oranges and pineapples. We’d then head to the launch site several miles away where we’d sit with close to 100 other pilots waiting for the day (i.e. the thermals) to build.

Sometime between 11:00am and 12:00pm, when the skies developed and the thermals were starting to produce enough lift to climb, everyone Big Gaggle
would rush to launch creating a frenzy of activity on the ground and some large gaggles in the air.

While there were numerous landing areas around the launch, cross country flights back to town were a daily occurrence for the experienced pilots and the mark of success. The routine continued after the first launch, with lunch at a small roadside café and prepare for the more gentle evening flight landing in front on the launch site to a waiting van to drive us back to town. All we had to do for a week was, wake up, fly, repeat. What a great way to fight the winter, stay current on those important flying skills and escape the cold and snow-less Utah temperatures !


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Powder Skiing Legend Dolores LaChapelle Dies

Powder Skiing Legend - Dolores LaChapelleDolores LaChapelle was a legend among powder skiers, old and new. For over a half a century she has about the business of skiing untracked snow. Weather you know it or not, she's one of those pioneers who have paved the way for us skiers of today. Don't believe me? Check out the respect she is getting on the TGR message board

I can't say that I ever met Dolores but quotes from her book "Deep Powder Snow" which delves into the soulful experience of skiing powder snow, have been spot on in putting to words my experiences of skiing powder in the backcountry. I'm not alone. Her poetry and prose on the topic have touched many backcountry skiers lives and is likely one of the best books to explore the feeling and the pursuit of untracked snow. If you'd like to get a copy of her book for $6.95 visit the Alta Store.

The Durango Telegraph ran an interview with Dolores in November of 2002 that is worthy of a re-read.

Lou Dawson has some nice words about Dolores on his blog - WildSnow.com

photo from the Durango Telegraph/credit to Jonathan Thompson


Ouray Ice Tests:
Lowa Ice Comp Boots

Lowa Ice Comp BootsThe first thing I did on my first day at the ice festival (after drinking lots of coffee and recovering from a hangover) was to get fitted with Lowa demo boots. Of course, my ultra-wide, high-volume size 6 (yup!) feet didn't fit into anything except the Ice Comp.

Lets backtrack a little here and explain what these boots are all about. Boots with bolted-on crampons, known as "fruit boots" in Canada, were designed for competition mixed climbing the same season leashless tools became manditory. They increase sensitivity for both ice and mixed climbing and have a giant heel spur that I recommend taking off unless you climb M10 or harder. Few ice climbers use them. It's a shame. Changing out of regular ice boots and slipping into these 4.4-pound wonders (including crampons) was impressive. Their nimble feel on the ice was more like carefully placing a rock shoe than bashing a crampon-fitted boot into the ice. They still had just enough heft to place solidly in uniform ice, but could be placed in skinny pillars with a few scratches instead of a kick that could possibly bring down the whole route. There is no comparison on mixed climbing.

Surprisingly, the Lowa Ice Comp boots were pretty warm. My toes got a bit chilly toward the end of the day, but nothing too bad. The only real drawback is that you have to approach in a separate pair of boots and bring these along to change into at the ice. It's a pain, but worth it for really hard terrain.

  • Ultra-precise footwork
  • Lightweight
  • Built-in gaiter
  • Removable heel spur
  • Need to approach in other boots
  • A little on the cold side
  • Only for cragging, not for the mountains


Exploring Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia

This Adventure Report is from Tyler Bucher, a Backcountry.com customer living and adjusting to life in Nova Scotia without mountain unicycling.

Kejimkujik National Park landscapeAs a first-year college student in a foreign country (I’m from Maine, attending university in Nova Scotia) the transition can be a bit tough. There’s the meeting of so many new people that they all meld together into one hybrid giant, along with the culture shock of being in a new country with a completely different set ideas and attitudes toward the world.

One of my main outlets has always been adventures in the outdoors, and as soon as I arrived here I became involved with the outing club. Here at Acadia University it is called APAC, the acronym standing for: the Acadia Paddling and Adventure Club. Prior to this year, my main outdoors focuses have been for the most part: mountain biking, rock climbing, mountain unicycling, trail running, snowboarding and Nordic skiing. I have also done some hiking (but not much serious backpacking) with family Kejimkujik National Park landscape and coastand friends throughout the years.

Our first trip of the year was a hike on the south shore of the province, at the Seaside Adjunct, part of Kejimkujik National Park. The trip from school was a fairly brief 2 hours by car and we piled out into the Saturday morning sunshine ready to go. Once underway we moved fairly steadily, stopping occasionally to take pictures of the view and each other.

The trail system is extremely well-kept, and not too technical, so our group of fit college students weren’t overly taxed, and we spent our time enjoying being outdoors. There were many great opportunities for picture taking, and everyone took advantage. The 5ish Kilometer hike took us a few hours, including lunch and snack breaks, and we piled back in the cars to be home for dinner and Saturday evening festivities on a college campus. I'm looking forward to exploring this part of the world and finding more adventures.

Perfect wave on the coast of Kejimkujik National ParkFor more information about Kejimkujik visit the Kejimkujik National Park page on Wikipedia.org

Do you have an Adventure Report you'd like to submit to appear on the Backcountry.com Blog? E-mail your stories along with photos to horde AT backcountry.com


Monday, January 22, 2007

Want to Live Longer? Don't Move to Boulder.

If you're asking yourself "what is that?" then we're on the same page. That's exactly what I said. Read it - lean in a bit. Closer...there you go.

What it shows is the overlapping social elements between the three cities in the world with the longest average life span. Sardinia, Italy - Loma Linda, CA/USA - Okinawa, Japan. I can't believe it either, Boulder is not listed on there. Nope, Portland, Oregon neither. [I know it's Monday morning so I'll go easy on you Bouldarians and Oregonians - the previous two sentances were sarcasm. Those are great places to live, so they say]

I can't claim to have found this one on my own. I've been checking out a new blog/website called Outdoorzy.com. It's a growing community of, you guest it, outdoorzy types who post trip reports of all sizes and flavors among other things. And like most things web they've got a blog too. I'll be watching it for the occasional fodder. The quantity of trip report is kinda slim right now but I imagine this too will fill out.

Wondering where the diagram came from? The Full Story at BlueZones.com.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Facets Magazine - Subscription Offer Extended!

We are pleased to announce that our limited time New Years subscription offer to Facets Magazine has been extended to at least the end of next week and perhaps beyond. Yes, we realize that this extended offer is as unsuspecting as the local weatherman's forcast. If you haven't taken advantage of this fine offer consider yourself among the lucky.

Act now and we'll include, free of charge, a generous dose of inversion.

But wait! That's not all! For the next 10 subscribers that comment we'll throw in a pocket bowsaw, a $19.95 value, free with your paid subscription. This bow saw will assist you in clearing brush and overgrown shrubs where last season you frolicked with glee.

This offer brought to you by Utah's fine team of "jaded" Avalanche Forcast pros from the Utah Avalanche Center who unfortunately have nothing worth writing home to mom about.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ouray Ice Tests:
Petzl Quark Ice Tools

Petzl Quark Ice ToolI actually got myself a pair of the Petzl Quark Ice Tools at the beginning of this season, and so far I have been very impressed. Their massive clearance makes them great for highly featured pitches with strange formations like bulges and cauliflowers. I have to admit that the first thing I did with these tools was to take the leash off and replace them with Black Diamond Android Leashes. After a few days, the second thing I did was take the BD leashes off and leave them leashless.

I eventually added Grivel Triggers. (The yellow ones fit great without the plastic part, but you have to use the black ones if you want to keep the plastic.) This system worked great except the piano matching was a bit tricky. It worked on ice, but was a pain on mixed ground. The (hopefully) last stage of changes was to turn the Triggers around, cut off the finger part, and leave the plastic hook in front. This eliminated the finger hook but allowed easier matching. The only draw back is that a bit more pick shift occurs.

My only real complaint for these tools is that the picks tend to wear our relatively fast. They are super thin and shatter little ice, but they also take a beating on thin ice. Be vigilant, and swing with your wrists only on the thin stuff.

  • High clearance
  • Lightweight
  • Good for leashless climbing
  • Leashes (leave your leashes in the bedroom)


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Ouray Ice Festival

Several years ago, the water main that feeds the town of Ouray, Colorado leaked into the deep gorge at the south end of town. It then froze and created the first ice climbs in what is now the Ouray Ice Park. Today the park employs a full crew to maintain the pluming and sprinkler heads that create the park’s several hundred ice and mixed climbs. Every year, climbers from all over the world gather in the park for the annual Ouray Ice Festival where they can climb until dark and party until the wee hours of the morning day after day. This year was no exception.

Those lucky enough to reserve a spot in one of the many clinics got a chance for lessons in everything from beginning ice to advanced mixed climbing. Instructors included veteran badass alpinists such as Steve House, Jack Tackle, Kelly Cordes, and many others. No matter how long you’ve been climbing, you will definitely learn something new with teachers such as these. Even those who didn’t get into one of the quickly filled clinics had plenty of learning opportunities around the park. Each day a guide would climb an ice or mixed pitch while talking into a microphone. Spectators watched from a bridge directly overhead while he explained his decisions about where to climb, where to place gear, or why he avoided a specific piece of ice.

I headed off with a crew from Lowa to test their new boots and run laps on ice and mixed pitches until I ran out of hot chocolate, water, food, and daylight. The next day was pretty much the same, except I got a much later start after a late night. Over the long weekend I tested a few boots, a handful of ice tools, some new prototype gloves, and the patients of my belayer as I took “just one more lap” again and again. Stay tuned for gear review to come in the next few days.

The centerpiece of the Ouray Ice Festival is the mixed climbing competition. This year’s field of competitors was a bid different than in past seasons. Will Gadd was out with an injury, Ines Papert has retired from competition, and Hari Berger tragically died shortly before the festival when a serac collapsed during an ice climbing trip in Austria. These three competitors have finishes ahead of the pack in the last couple years, so no one was really sure what the outcome would be. In fact, not a single climber managed to send the qualifying route. Though this had some people nervous about the finals, the result was impressive.

The finals route started with 80 feet of vertical ice which was accessed by a stepladder over the river (where the free-hanging dagger came short of the ground). At the top of the ice, climbers traversed left to about 30 feet of overhanging rock with tricky route finding. Many of the competitors were stopped here. At the end of the rock, where the route would normally end, organizers built an overhanging structure with bolted-on holds to add a final challenge. It definitely did the job. Nearly everyone who actually made the “diving board” pitched off when they tried to move from the brutally sloping first hold.

Rich Marshall distracted from the biddingAs Rich Marshall climbed late in the day, announcer Michael Gilbert decided to raffle off the green wig he was wearing in preparation for Hari’s memorial party and fundraiser (the Hairy Party) where all who attended wore wigs or cut their hair. As the bidding heated up, Rich started bidding his own wig (as he climbed), apparently not wanting to loose his costume for the party. He eventually became too distracted by the climbing to bid, and Steve House managed to win the bidding at $95. Rick lost his wig but won a third-place finish.

Audrey Gariepy showed just how smooth mixed climbing can be by cruising past the previous men’s high point with the pick-handling precision of a surgeon. It appeared that Ines’ victory over the men two years ago was going to repeated. Audrey was finally stopped by a long dynamic move where she spent the last minute of her allotted time throwing herself at a distant hold only to come up short over and over until her time ran out. She took home second place, having never fallen from the route.

Evgeny Kryvosheytsev taking home first placeLast came Evgeny Kryvosheytsev with his combination of fluid movement and brute strength to take home first. As he reached the bottom of the diving board, he shouted to judges asking what was out of bounds. When they replied “only the sides” he proceeded to skip the sloping nastyness that tossed everyone else in favor of a tiny edge in the structures’ frame where the plywood bolted to the steel. He did a figure four, moved smoothly to the next hold, and tossed a couple times before sticking the move that stopped Audrey. He was the only competitor to top out the route, and it was well worth the long cold wait to see someone put that thing to bed.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Dave's Blog - Ski Industry Execs Take Note

I used to work in the ski resort industry. At age 16 I started teaching skiing at Timberline, Mount Hood. From then until 2 years ago when I left The Canyons Resort (I was 33) I missed just 2 seasons of not working for a ski hill. Part of why I left The Canyons had a lot to do with the increasing number of people working in the ski biz who know little about or have little to no passion for the ski biz other than it's the next stop on the resume building train.

Case in point - The Canyons (this post is not about The Canyons, trust me) filed this in a recent press release touting new hired employees:
Under the guidance of marketing Vice President Todd Burnette, the department has three new employees all from outside the industry.
One might say, "But it's a business, you have to hire business people." Yea, but...ah, [sigh]...you're right, mostly. See, there are elements to a ski resort business that feed upon the passions of its customers and therefore decisions of the business must (or should) consider these passions. Unlike, say a tee shirt or jacket manufacturer where the bottom-line is the primary and often the only underlying element to decisions the business makes.

In my search of the ski industry (and a point to this post) I have yet to find another ski industry executive that is really in the trenches, interacting with his or her customers to the degree that Dave Riley of Mt. Hood Meadows is.

Dave's Blog is not unlike other blogs out there. What started as an experiment, inspired in part by Chuck Shepard's "Chuck's Page" of Hoodoo Mountain Resort, a small ski hill in Central Oregon.

What does Dave's Blog have to do with the decisions that the business makes? Everything. Dave continually puts it out there for his customers to comment, and he listens. His most recent post has garnered 105 comments, ALL of which he responds to. Every single comment receives a comment in turn from Dave. EVERYONE.

Take for example what Dave did last May when he put out a challenge to season pass holders - as long as Meadows reached a certain number of skier visits they would stay open. Although they missed some of the target numbers the decision was made (with some input from the bean counters mind you) to re-open the following weekend which kept up though the first weekend of June. The most impressive aspect to this style of running his business is that it included respected the customers and their passion for sliding on snow.

Dave, if there was a blogging for businesses award in the outdoor world, I would nominate you. To be honest, when I lived in Oregon although I enjoyed the terrain of Mount Hood Meadows I was never a pass holder. I opted for Timberline primarily from the feeling I had that Meadows didn't care about their customers. If I ever move back to Portland, I would purchase a season pass to Meadows to get my ski fix.

Kudos, Dave.

Check out Dave's Blog


Skiers, Snowboarders and Tree Wells

I've been surprised to see the nubmer of stories this year and last year that have involved skiers and snowboarders falling into tree wells. Most of the stories have come out of the Pacific Northwest yet that isn't the only area of the country that has occurances.

I had a friend who while skiing the north woods area of the Condor Lift at The Canyons had a close call where he was almost caught in a tree well. It was a particularly deep powder day and although we were skiing relatively close to each other we lost sight of each other. Unknown to me, my friend fell and slid into a tree well. Fortunately for him, he was able to continue his momentum a bit to the side and grabbed onto an adjacent tree branch to pull himself out.

Such isn't always the case.

The Full Story - The Seattle Times

Via The Piton


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Getting it Done on Colorado's 14ers

Just got a message in my inbox from Chris Davenport who is trying to complete his project to ski all 54 of Colorado's 14,000' peaks. He's just tagged #50 and #51:

This is just a quick update to let you know I have skied peaks 50 and 51 of my project yesterday and today. Yesterday we skied Little Bear Peak via the Southwest Face to West Ridge and today we skied the fantastic Crestone Needle via the steep and hairy South Couloir. Snow conditions were firm and slippery on Little Bear and soft on the Needle. I'm exhausted at a hotel in Westcliff and will drive home to Aspen tomorrow to write my trip reports and post photos. A big storm is headed our way and I have eleven more days to complete my final three peaks, shavano, Longs, and Blanca (which is totally wind hammered and dry)
I really hope he makes it. What an amazing project and it's getting down to the wire!

Look for his trip reports soon on skithe14ers.com

Image courtesy of Chris Davenport and skithe14ers.com


Monday, January 08, 2007

Why do I snowboard?

Adventure reporter Eric Godfrey reflects on what got him started snowboarding and what keeps him coming back.

It’s winter here in Utah, the mountains are white and the snowboarding season is really getting rolling. Although the season has had a slow start and it seems like a lot of those huge pounding storms we get so spoiled with here have missed us, the season has still been a fun one so far as long as you can avoid those rocks and branches buried just under the snow. I know you are used to getting canyoneering videos from me every month, but this time I decided to mix things up a little and share my other passion; snowboarding. A fresh new video is in the works that should be much better than this one, but to hold you over I’ve included a short video put together by my good friend Randy Mangum. It’s old and includes some ugly riding, but hopefully entertains you a little. Our group of snowboarders have improved our skills (we are no pro’s by any means still) and I’m trying to get some good footage for a quality video hopefully next month, but no guarantees as to how long it will take.

The readers of this blog I know are very diverse but share a love of the outdoors. Everyones passion probably lies in different activites etc… and I wanted to attempt to share with you all why I love snowboarding (maybe one of these months I’ll share why I love canyons so much too). For some it’s the deep powder lines, for others it’s fields of moguls, for me it’s about accomplishment and progression. I started skiing later than many, it was just after high school when I bought my first ski’s and tried tearing down the hill (I was also one of the dorky guys sporting those short skis). After my first powder day I was hooked and could never turn back. Slowly all my friends started converting to snowboarding and I was the last to switch (leaving my skills behind too). If the snow was good we would drop cliffs, build jumps, and find natural features to “jib” (pretty much bonking your board against or sliding along something that isn’t snow covered like a tree trunk, log, rail, box, car, etc…)

After a few years ski resorts started building terrain parks full of rails, jumps, and all kinds of good stuff for us to play around in and believe it or not, the parks were actually best ridden on days in between storms. So now we basically ride powder when it storms and ride the parks in between.

Whats the big deal with sliding rails and hucking yourself off jumps? I get a lot of people telling me they can see the thrill in jumps, but what about rails/boxes? Well the first thing I always hear is how dangerous they can be (I’m sure everyone who loves the outdoors gets the “it’s too dangerous” lecture), or that the risk of hurting yourself isn’t worth trying them. The truth is they really aren’t as dangerous as you might think (after all those wrecks in that video, you probably are disagreeing, but just trust me here) and can be a whole lot of fun as you get better and better at them. The key is making sure you can ride in control enough to approach the rail with the right amount of speed (faster is better, but of course you don’t want to go too fast). If you hit the rail at a tortoise pace, you will immediately stop once you try to slide it and fall. Best to start with short rails and go fast enough that if you wreck you fall PAST the rail, not on top of it (that’s just my personal preference). Rails/boxes provide an added dimension to what you can do while on the slopes. If I was confined to just riding down groomers all day, snowboarding would quickly become uninteresting and I’d quit doing it. There are so many variations to how you slide down the rail, what you do before you jump on and jump off. You can spin onto it, jump onto it, ride onto it, slide it forward, backward, sideways. You can spin while on it, spin while jumping off, do multiple tricks while on etc… the possibilities are endless and it takes enough work and effort to get good at these you can work on it for years and always feel like you are progressing, thus keeping things interesting.

Jumps are similar, there are countless ways you can progress with doing new and exciting tricks and catching more and more air. Again if you start small and build your way up, you can keep things as safe as possible. Of course the bigger the jumps get, the worse the consequences if you do screw up. When you can get comfortable flying through the air, there is nothing like it. It’s no substitute for dropping a cliff on a big powder day, but is about the most fun thing I can think of on a sunny day between storms!

Snowboarding gives me a chance to relax and enjoy the outdoors, it especially allows me to enjoy winter. It’s something I can always improve at and even if I never get as good as those guys I see on the fancy snowboarding videos it’s always a blast landing that new trick I’ve been working on for a while or finally getting my turns dialed in to where I feel comfortable going down something steeper and faster. It’s being with friends and building off what they are doing, getting stoked that they landed a new trick giving me the motivation to push myself further. I’m lucky to get to do the things I love so often (sometimes when schools in I wonder if I really get to do them often enough) and I hope to be doing this stuff when I’m old and gray (I might lay off the jumps and rails when I’m old, but who knows). Hope you all are having as good a winter as I am, and I’ll see you on the slopes!

P.S. I'm a little behind on posts so look for a winter canyoneering write up coming this month too!


Zephyr Camp Snowboard – Not Just For Kids

This post is from Reno Walsh, Zephyr Camp Snowboard Director and Backcountry.com customer.

I look back on the day I started to snowboard and I know why I am where I am today. However, on that ice laden day at that Midwest Ski Resort when I first “strapped in”, I had no idea what I was in for.

Having skied for several years, I thought I was pretty good and at age 18, invincible. I had a friend who had snowboarded a few times and he was going to teach me how to ride. It was the winter of 1991 and I was a freshman in college, I was doing a lot of things for the first time, why not snowboarding?

As far as my friends instruction goes, it was less than adequate. I remember riding the lift with him, he considered this step one in the learning progression and then when we got to the top, he was gone. I guess this was a one step program. The next thing I remember is “my instructor” and a few other friends riding the chairlift over my head and lots of laughter. I was not laughing with them, yet.

I sold my skis within a week and before I knew it my friends and I were snowboarding every slightly snow covered slope in the Midwest. We were hooked and most of us still are today.

Perhaps it was my friend’s instruction that also peeked my own interest in instructing snowboarding. After graduating from college in the Midwest, I immediately moved to the West to snowboard the Rocky Mountains. Instructing snowboarding was the perfect way to share my own passion (addiction) to snowboarding with others and to get a free pass. Throughout the years, I have taught many people the benefits of riding a snowboard and found many more of my own.

I often find myself encouraging people to relax and to enjoy their time on the mountain as much as they are enjoying their time on the board. Snowboarding is smooth; it’s about carving back and forth down the mountain and finding your own rhythm. Energy is returned from the snowboard and from the mountain and this energy drives you and your route down the slopes.

But I'm Not So Young Anymore

“It’s easy”! That is what my friend told me many years ago and he was right. Snowboarding is "easy" and what makes it even easier is to have a good instructor to spend some time with you and to share a few of the key ingredients that almost assure success.

There are good reasons why snowboarding is growing in popularity among adults. It’s not just for the younger crowd anymore. The fact is that snowboarding is fun, safe and easy to learn.

Check out the Zephyr Camp Snowboard two-day camp designed to teach adults (and kids accompanied by an adult) to snowboard. Never been on a snowboard before? No worries. Absolutely no experience is necessary.

Locations this year include Hunter Mountain, Loon Mountain, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Snowqualmie Pass and more.

Check out www.zephyradventures.com for more info or to register.

- All Zephyr Camp Snowboard attendees will recieve a discount to purchase snowboard gear from Backcountry.com


Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Darling Season Pass at the Canyons -

I think I’m finally ready to acknowledge that I may have a small fear of commitment. I’ve never really thought I was that kind of girl, but as this third winter gets going in UT, I hate to tell you that I've already cheated (twice...). It’s not fair to you, but I am finally acknowledging my freedom and flirtatious attitude. My eyes are slowly wandering to the West, North and anywhere the snow is tempted to fly.

In the past two winters that I’ve been in UT, We’ve had some great times! I’ve been riding over 120 times (at least half with you, my darling), but there have been some others (12?), but I’ve always come back! (I mean--2 season passes--and you knew about Powder Mountain and my Little Cottonwood habit … we're just friends!). Oh, Canyon's, we've gone through a lot together: pow days, bullet-proof snow, sunburns and sore legs. But you knew about my past... winters in New Mexico, New Zealand, and trips to Colorado, Wyoming and Canada. I mean I've dated a bit and had some relationships with a few resorts (nothing quite like what "we" had) and now I'm realizing I just can't be tied down to any one hill.

Riders in Colorado don’t have this problem—they have passes to multiple resorts and no one thinks any less of them, and it’s Utah that gets the bad-rap for Polygamy…

I don't want to blame your mild terrain, or long traverses (its really not you, its me!) but its just time to move on. It’s been quite easy to look at the past through rose-colored goggles. Each day that you wake up, whether a powder day, a corn day, or that freezing cold day on the ridge where you can barely go forward because the wind is blowing so hard; there is just something about being out there with you that made it worthwhile.

I mean, really, who can forget their first? My first full-day of REAL powder day with you: Though we’ve drifted apart since that initial winter (It’s not you, it’s me!) I shall always treasure the time we had, and I’m glad we can still be friends. I know you understand that I just couldn’t stick around.

And I’m sorry, but that first real weekend of the season, (6 resorts in the Wasatch were opening!) I snuck out on you and had an excellent day with Brighton—I couldn’t stay home. Even last weekend I went on a group date to Snowbird and had fun without you. But you were busy with your out-of-towners, and I can’t be blamed, right?

Remember when we first heard that Rilo Kiley song on that warm-up run off of Condor? “There’s love and work up where the snow meets the sky.” We’ll always have the Eagle Chair and Ninety-Nine Ninety; our Sunday afternoon chill sessions on Dreamscape and Tombstone with tunes blaring and bluebird skis shining will always hold a special place in my heart. I’ll still visit to catch some turns—I promise.

I can barely scratch the surface of mental, physical, and emotional feelings that I have had with you. But, there are some current crushes I can’t ignore, some past loves that still make me ache, and a few that have caught my eye and can’t wait to get to know a little better…

Till we meet again.



The Affair is Over - The Honda Ski Tour is Set to Launch

I've got no beef with snowboarding. None at all. I indulge myself in the occasional affair with my board. My skis get jelous but hey, I'm not the only one. The media has been all over snowboarding like a garage band groupie, spraying about how cool snowboarding is and how....yea yea, all that.

Mark my words, "The Honda Ski Tour" is going to be THE event of the 06-07 season. Okay, so the name is lacking the bling of our snowboarding brethren but what the name may lack the tour is more than making up for.

Four completely packed weekends at four mountain locations - Sun Valley, Breckenridge, Aspen and the finals in Squaw Valley. Each weekend will be packed with competition, Pipe and Skier-Cross with all the players. Athletes like Daron Rahlves, Tanner Hall (yea, he has a wikipedia page), CR Johnson, the Crist brothers, Simon Dumont.

The band line up alone is worth making the trip. In Sun Valley for example, Jan 11-13, the line up will include the Wailers, Swollen Members, Elan, Daniela Cotton, Three Days Grace, Tommy Lee and more.

Check out The Honda Ski Tour for all the info of the tour including the schedules, how to score concert tix, enter contests. Yea, these guys didn't just pull this thing together last weekend. The Ski Tour, cooler than snowboarding.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Nepal Trek - A Journey to Everest

This Adventure Report comes from Backcountry.com customer Baxter Gillespie who recently spent 3 weeks in Nepal trekking to Base Camp.

Baxter at summit of Kala Pataar(18,192') with Everest and Nupste in the backgroundIt'’s almost Halloween and I'm lying awake at 5:00am in my sleeping bag listening to the rain hit the tin roof of the tea house in Phakding, Nepal realizing that I'’m about to spend the next 3 weeks trekking in the Himalayas where all my mountaineering heroes have past.

Mallory, Irving, Norgay, Hillary, Messner and Boukreev have all spent time on theses trails and in these villages. After 35 hours of traveling from our home in Salt Lake, my wife Molly and I finally landed in Kathmandu several days ago. We spent time visiting most of the famous Hindu and Buddhist sites before catching a 23 passenger DeHavilland Twin Otter into the small mountain of Luklu where the trip really began.

Our plan was to carry all our own equipment but to hire a guide and stay in the guest houses for the three week trip to the 18,192' summit of Kala Pataar which overlooks Everest Base Camp.Buddhist Stupa near Dingboche, Nepal Over the course of the trip our guide, Depak, became a great friend and ambassador to his mountain world.

The Nepali people were very open and taught us much about their culture. The scenery was overwhelming. Even after seeing photos of the Himalayas for years, I was awed by the magnitude when viewing them in person. Overall, on the rolling trails in the Khumbu just to get to the top of Kala Pataar we ascended around 15,548' and descended 7874' each way which got us into good shape for the opening of ski season we returned to Salt Lake.

The trip turned out to be a fantastic experience. We had incredible adventures from snake charmers in Kathmandu to dealing with Maoist rebels on the trail and bargaining with Tibetan traders in the town of Namche City. We are completely hooked on traveling in Nepal and are now planning a more technical climbing trip back for next Fall.

If you are even contemplating going to Nepal, do it. I'll see you there next year!

Ama Dablam, Nepal - my next target
Molly in NepalAll photos courtesy and copywrited by Baxter at www.ChaseTheFun.com
Top photo - Baxter at summit of Kala Pataar(18,192') with Mount Everest and Nupste in the background and Everest Base Camp and the Khumbu Ice Fall in the left lower corner