Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How Deep is Too Deep?

Okay, so I just scored a copy of Powderwhore O7 (which by the way, is a pretty fun way to spend an hour of your life to get fired up for charging on the snow) and watched it two days ago. Besides the ripping tele skiing footage, the question is asked at the end of the video, whether it is ever too deep for skiing. Now I can pose you all with the same question, and present first hand documentation of a day that just might be too deep, but that is for you to decide.

This morning started out typical enough. Wake up at 5am, meet the ski partners Adam and backcountry.com's very own Tommy (who might have been skipping out on work?!!!??) for an early AM Wasatch style slacker dawn patrol. A few quick phone calls tell us that both Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons are closed for control work, so we already know that turns won't come easy. It has snowed about 35 inches in the last 40 hours. So with our fate of Mill Creek Canyon decided, we start hauling up the gradual climb into Porter Fork.

Down low in the early morning light, trailbreaking is easy enough: boot top powder, staying dry while it continues to dump in my super light Outdoor Research Synapse Jacket, but not over heating, and chit chatting the morning away. Slowly we climb, until about 2,000' later we realize progress is being slowed tremendously, and the question of 'How deep is too deep?' is pondered. It shouldn't take you too long to notice the WAIST high trench that I am plowing!

You might start to think, as I am, that maybe it is too deep? However, there is more evidence for you to examine. Here is exhibit B, a short video clip to show the speed and efficiency taking place this morning, in an attempt to ski some powder:


At least there was 3 of us to break trail, so the novelty gets to refresh itself every 5 minutes or so. However, we need to examine the evidence from the other side of the coin...the downhill evidence. So here for you to examine is exhibits C and D. The first shot here is of Tommy skipping work, but to his luck, you can't really tell it's him, so he might just stay out of trouble.

The second shot though, is definitely some good proof, that maybe its not too deep, or even if it is, we can still laugh about it...then again Adam's face might be frozen in the single digit temps after sticking his mug shot in the snowmaking gun for a few turns!

In the end, we all decided that we had experienced enough of the ridiculously deep powder, and would glide down the canyon to resume our other responsibilities. At least we still got to debate the question of if it is ever really too deep...what do you think?

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Are you Aware?

*Beep Beep* Freshen up on your avy skills with Backcountry Awareness clinics at Snowbird on Feb. 9th. Everyone is welcome.
Snowbird Clinic Breakdown:

Snow Safety Clinic: 9-11am
Location: Meet outside Activity Center at 8:50am
Presenter: Exum Utah - Tyson Bradley
Price: $59 includes clinic, lunch, and ski pass

Advanced Beacon Course: 1-3pm
Location: Meet outside Activity Center at 12:50pm
Presenter: Backcountry Access - Eric Murakami
Price: FREE

Hasty Search Clinic: 9-11am
Location: Meet outside Activity Center at 8:50am
Presenter - Wasatch Backcountry Rescue - Dean Cardinale
Price: Price: $59 includes clinic, lunch, and ski pass

Not a bad deal, get a day pass at the bird, learn some avy safety, eat food... There is also a benefit dinner the night before at the Cliff lodge where David Oliver Relin, author of Three Cups of Tea will speak and present a slideshow about the book. If you can muster the $75 for a seat your bound to have a great time.

Hit up Snowbird with any questions at 801-933-2147.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

One Bike, Two Legs and No Car

This post comes from Rob Phillips who recently decided to forgo replacing his vehicle, and test just how friendly SLC really is to those without four wheels.

This Christmas I had the special privilege of giving away my car. Not exactly as a gift, but a variety of circumstances has led me to be car free in SLC.

I have some advantages that make a car free life more carefree. My work commute is a punishing 9 second early morning stumble from the bedroom to the office at the other end of our tiny little hallway. I work from home three days and carpool with two other guys from the neighborhood once a week. No problems there. It seems like recreating will be the greatest challenge.

On day three of car-lessness, I decided to go backcountry skiing. It was a bright sunny day and the Wasatch had just received the best belated Christmas present I can think of: snow… and lots of it. So I strapped my skis to my backpack and hopped on my bike and started riding up toward the closest ski-able terrain near Mount Olympus. It took just over an hour to ride up to the trail head. After clamping into my boots I was ready to put on my skis when I realized I'd forgotten my poles. Now, if I had driven up there I would have thrown my gear back in the car, raced home, grabbed my poles and been back in less than 30 minutes. Without the car, I found myself coasting back down to my house feeling just a little dejected. I cracked open some milk and cookies and watched football for the rest of the afternoon instead.

There have been some great highlights since then, however. There’s a bus stop within six easy walking minutes from my house. One transfer later and I’m on the ski bus (free with my ski pass) to Snowbird. I can read a book, take a nap, stare out the window or shrug off the strange looks I get from the non-skiers on the local bus. And honestly, it's a really pleasant way to access the slopes. Taking the bus is only just a little slower, and I find myself much more relaxed at the end of the day. So, leave the frustration of battling up the canyons and the road rage to the bus driver.

I ride my bike to the grocery store and am granted a wooden nickel by loading up my panniers instead of using plastic bags. It’s amazing how darn close the grocery store actually is. I ride to the climbing gym and the 15 minute cruise becomes a perfect warm up. My room mates make fun of my fancy rigging of my x-country skis to the sides of my bike rack. Which by the way, is a much better way to go than having them act as sails on the backpack. I even have a new front and rear light for evening jaunts to dinner with friends.

So far everything about not owning a car has been great! I’ll keep you posted for when I need a ride to Indian Creek.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Chronicles of a (Slacker) Mountain Guide

I've been invited to start sharing some of my adventures on this blog, and I can only hope that everyone who reads them, doesn't begin to hate me...I am more thinking along the lines of inspiring a few folks to get after it, much like TC and powstash have been doing on this blog.

TC posted a bit about skiing with me up at Valhalla Mountain Touring 2 weeks ago, catching me in the middle of a 3 week stint of guiding at the lodge based in the heart of the Selkirks of British Columbia. The Utah crew caught it pretty nicely up north, skiing the ridiculously deep powder in an area about a third of the size of the central Wasatch, but with only 13 other people to compete with for freshies. With the week before they came, and the week after they left, I ended up tallying about 100,000 vertical feet of backcountry skiing all for work (see this is where you start to hate me). Life is tough being an IFMGA mountain guide, but I have to make my living some how!

Thankfully I am back in Utah as of Sunday for 3 weeks of down time before heading back north, and my timing couldn't be better. Monday morning the wife and I woke up to a good dose of new snow and fresh off the plane we headed out to Mill Creek to enjoy the deep stuff.But the wife has no remorse so I had to chase her around for 8 grand of touring...luckily she turned me on to her Canadian ways of using the ultra-light and bomber Dynafit bindings instead of tele skiing a few years back and I can keep up.

No rest for me though...Tuesday dawned and I still had yet to unpack, the phone rings and its time to climb some ice, as the Wastach are not only having a banner snow year, but the cold has kept the ice in good shape. So, I hook up with my photographer friend Andy Burr and my best friend's wife Caroline George to go climb Storm Mountain Falls in Big Cottonwood Canyon. It is in good WI 5 shape, catches a bit of sun, and is only 3 pitches long, so what the heck, unpacking can wait until tomorrow.


So I get home Tuesday night, but the whip is cracking and the wife insists its time to go to the climbing gym. A couple hours later I am on the phone, scheming about today's (Wednesday) plans...conditions are good, so time to grab the skis again. Today's mission: East Couloir on Kessler Peak, booting back up and skiing out God's Lawnmower. A good choice for a half day morning tour, and definitely fuels the adrenaline needs, skiing some big steep faces...however, the light and fast nature dictated that all parties forgot their cameras, so you are just going to go see what they are all about your selves...

Now I am home after the AM mission, and it is only 3 days since I have been back, but I just finished unpacking, so now I have the time to begin chronicling my adventures.

I told you that you were going to start to hate me.

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First Ascent in Indian Creek

Ah yes, crack climbing. Despite skiing some amazing powder in the backcountry yesterday morning (pictures to follow on my next post) I was thinking about climbing today.

I was checking out a new(ish) website from the Momentum Gym guys in Sandy, Utah called Momentum Video Magazine and on the front page was a "free" video of Cedar Wright getting the first ascent on Yellow Submarine in Indian Creek. (was it my connection or did it load slow for you too?)

What a stellar video! I realized that about 1/2 way through the video my palms were sweaty. Pavlovian response? I'm thinking the next high pressure we get here in Northern Utah that leads to mid 60's in St. George that I'm heading south for some rock.

Momentum offers some free videos but like a magazine this video mag requires a subscription. The teaser for Volume 3 was pretty cool. They need to be putting that teaser vid on YouTube if they want to generate more buzz about the video mag. (then I could post it here....)

With the annual subscription at $69.95, like any climbing dirt bag worth his spit, I'm sticking to the free vids for now. Is there anyone out there with a subscription willing to chime in about Momentum VM? If given the choice would you buy a new C3 for your rack or nab a video mag subscription to feed the climbing jones?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Roadside Attractions in Parleys Canyon

If you're like me you've toed the line with death while driving your car in order to get an extra glimpse of that coulior, that rock outcropping, that peak, that.....you get the picture. Riding shotgun is even better. Even the most alpha driver can enjoy riding shotgun if there are lines and mountains to be scoped.

And if you're a skier and have driven down Parleys Canyon on I-80 in Utah heading from Park City to Salt Lake City you've no doubt thought to yourself: "Some day I'm going to ski that".

You may have even seen this image appear before you:


If you would only exit and skin up the peak this is what it might look like from above the masses who like you moments before are just driving by:
And after dropping into the main shot off the summit it would have looked like this as you descended after watching your two friends ski knee deep blower powder:


And finally, this is how you'd feel laying trenches in the untracked powder rather than laying on the horn as another commuter cut you off trying to make the I-215 exit from the left lane.

Roadside attractions are there for the taking. Get some.

(photos taken Tuesday January 21, 2008)

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Monday, January 21, 2008

We're Making Skis! A look at PMGear

Just watch the vid. PMGear is dripping with authenticity and passion. Hard not to root for these guys to keep on growing.

Wish the "big guys" could show us passion like this once in a while. [sigh]



Curious to know if any of our readers are skiing the Bro Model? Chime in with a comment if you are and let us know which model you're on and how they ski.

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Goat Sighting - Steamboat

This comes from one of our gearheads, Dave who enjoyed some turns at Steamboat. I am assuming the person that 'goated' the sign disregarded the whole DANGER warning and killed it. Were stoked you were thinking of us (whoever you are) while we were in our cubicles. If your out there and you find this post, let us know just how 'dangerous' it was.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

VMT Pow Report - P3 - Operation: Cold Smoke


I love a good road trip. Especially these days when the demands of the 8-5 life can make you so locked into your normal daily routine. It takes a day or two to escape the vortex, and to remember that your world won't stop while you are gone. I'm fairly busy these days, so I didn't break free completely. I was shooting, editing photos, a blog post here and there, but at least I was out seeing and doing new stuff. Now that I'm back I'm as busy as before, and missing the slightly (for me) more simple life of waking up, eating and throwing the skins on the skis and heading out for a day in the deep snow, with frost soon to be on my beard.


I know I missed an epic week in the Wasatch, but it wouldn't have been the same. Something would have kept me from skiing seven days in a row, all day. I know the snow was deep here, but damn, it was pretty deep up in the Valhallas too. It snowed about every day, with no wind, so it just piled up light and fluffy like.


Skiing seven days in a row will test, and solidify your gear/ski kit. I've got it pretty dialed; Dynafits on older BD Verdicts, my trusty synthetic puff from Patagonia (maybe the most key piece of clothing I take on a day touring.) Even when I thought the zipper was going south on me, it keeps on working. I was pleasantly surprised with some of my new Backcountry.com items. The Merino wool shirt, which I wore every day to ski, and most nights to hang out in, was pretty sweet. The Rime pullover was nice for the skin up, before the puff gets put on at the top. I had a stash of Pro-Bars, which were almost as good as my friend Evan's espresso brownies. And they stay warn and chewy if you put them in the Rime's chest pocket.


It was an eye opening trip in a few ways. For one, I'll be going back to Canada. It's a new frontier for me- close by- for skiing in the winter and climbing in the summer. And it demands a good solid 10 day or more road trip, which everyone needs on a regular basis. I also gained a newfound stoke for skiing. I guess that's what it takes once in a while- to get out there and live the life, away from daily responsibilities, to really tap into that sense of freedom. It's a good thing.

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New Black Diamond Boots!?!

My first piece of black diamond gear ever was their blizzard harness for my first rock climbing excursion. I never would've thought my closet would be full of all the trinkets they sale; and now they pull this me.

I am one of those teli-markers so the Custom (on the right) is obviously catching my eye. BD has never done me wrong (or anyone that I know of) but bringing on a boot is a big deal! Their evolution of their cams has been amazing and I expect the same care of detail was put into these bad boys.

The new boot line features:
  • Multi-density plastic
  • Triax-frame split into Pro, Performance, and Tour groups
  • Rid-stiff, mid-stiff, and freeflex options per boot
  • Boa lacing system....WHOA!!
One thing I like about the new line is all the options. I think its way cool they are matching boot stiffness with their binding stiffness (wow I'm a gear whore).

Here is their Method AT boot to the left. Not seeing the BOA party in the back but you've got your Dynafit business in the front.

And can I just say these boots are just flat out sexy? Definitely going to bat off the women with my ski poles next season. "Ladies, ladies please..."

Many thanks to Telemarktips who posted all this fancy beta.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hot Tubbing at High Altitude

Gotta love the Euros. Regardless of how much they make you shake your head in disbelief you can't help but admire their audacity and how they push the edge of anything.

Take hot tubbing for example. It's a "sport" of sorts and though usually undertaken in the privacy of your back yard or a hotel in say Chamonix for example, that is simply too easy for our Euro friends. There must be a way to make it more...what is the word...le Extreme!?! And while you're at it, why not involve a pile of your closest friends and head to the top of Europe. After all, hot tubbing is best when shared...or so they say.

Enter the Jaccuzzi Events and Mont Blanc.

Check out the complete story with more photos at Jaccuzzi.ch

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Caption Contest - I'll ship a Backcountry.com Beanie of your choice to the person who can come up with the best caption for the guy in the background - the mountaineer who looks like he's leaving the "party" discouraged. Good luck!


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14 comments

Monday, January 14, 2008

Alta hits 300" as the Utah powder train keeps on rollin

The past two weeks have been amazing here in Utah ifChris Becker gets into the deep at Snowbird Resort you're a skier or snowboarder. With the later half of December and into the new year keeping locals riding fresh powder nearly every day it's certainly one of those storm cycles that I'll not soon forget.

Skis stayed in cars or on car racks, boots barely made their way onto boot dryers in time for the next day's adventure and sleep went by the wayside. And to top if off Alta passed the 300" snowfall season to date...500 is right around the corner!

Last week was a prime example.

Monday - Ski touring in Big Cottonwood Canyon yielded 2500' laps of creamy super dry powder, the kind Utah is famous for.

Tuesday
- Spinning tram laps at Snowbird Resort never gets old, especially when there are untracked lines near Tower 2.

Wednesday
- Had to get some work done - missed what some said was a top 10 all time powder day

T
At Solitude this is the normhursday - Not to miss out I headed to Solitude Mountain Resort for what I thought would be leftovers but instead we scored untracked powder that topped out my season as the deepest day yet. Oh, and with about 50 others at the resort that day the place lived up to its name.

Friday
- Passed on both a dawn patrol and turns at Alta for work and recovery. Co-workers at Backcountry.com tell me I missed walk on trams at Snowbird with bottomless powder - a very rare combination.

Saturday
- Headed up to northern Utah to check out Beaver Mountain which turned out to be a great call. Untracked powder off the backside took little effort to find, even at 4pm.

Anyone else have an epic powder week during any of this cycle here in Utah (or anywhere in the west for that matter?)

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary dies at age 88

Sir Edmund Hillary on the left with Tenzing Norgay on the right Sad news from the mountaineering world - Sir Edmund Hillary who in 1953 along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay summited Mount Everest has died.

There is a comprehensive and well written story on CNN.com about it.

From the article is this little glimpse into the kind of humble and simple man that he was, who cared more about others (including the Sherpa people) than himself:

Before Norgay's death in 1986, Hillary consistently refused to confirm he was first, saying he and the Sherpa had climbed as a team to the top. It was a measure of his personal modesty, and of his commitment to his colleagues.

He later recalled his surprise at the huge international interest in their feat. "I was a bit taken aback to tell you the truth. I was absolutely astonished that everyone should be so interested in us just climbing a mountain."


Thanks for the dreams of Everest and for being more than just a climber. RIP

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

VMT Pow Report - P2-Gettin' the Ski Legs On


Ok folks, blogging from the lodge on a satellite connection -way out in the Valhalla Mountains. Gotta love modern technology...

The lodge is run by Evan Stevens, who is a Backcountry.com sponsored guide. His wife's parents own the lodge (yeah, he married up), and as an IFMGA Guide, he's the lodge manager and lead guide. We loaded up a snowcat with a weeks worth of food, 13 people plus gear, and took a hour and a half ride into the hills.


Before this trip, I'd only been ski touring twice this season, so it's safe to say the legs weren't exactly in shape.


After 2.5 days days and 12,000 feet, I'm sure they are getting there, but it doesn't matter because I am worked. The snow is great, about a foot of cold smoke, and a sorta sketchy avy danger, so we'll be sticking to trees and lower angle glades. The forecast is calling for more cold and snow for the rest of the week. Here's a photo of Evan skiing above Shannon Lake on our second day...


Here's some helmet cam footage of Evan skiing one of the signature lines at the lodge. It is a tree lined, 2,000' vertical gully called 'Big Momma'...enjoy!

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Because it's there



A documentary film will be released this year which tests the possibility of Mallory and Irvine being the first team to summit Everest. Documentary film maker Anthony Geffen and a film crew set out this last summer with climbers Conrad Anker and Leo Houlding to recreate the fateful 1924 expedition. Altitude Everest Expedition is comprised of a climbing documentary film, a behind the scenes film and an interactive website.

George Mallory and Sandy Irvine were last seen alive high on the northeast ridge of Mount Everest on June 8, 1924. Though there is much speculation about whether or not the duo reached the summit, the truth is not known. Could Mallory and Irvine have reached the top of the world nearly 30 years before Hillary and Norgay?

Dressed in period attire of wool, silk and leather, Anker and Houlding attempted to follow the same route Mallory and Irvine used, including the "Second Step", without the use of the bolted ladders used today.

Look for the documentary sometime this year on the VOOM HD Networks.




2 comments

Saturday, January 05, 2008

What do we do with this?

I'm very interested in a number of environmental issues, but to be completely honest, I often don't seem to make the time to do the proper research myself. Recycling and waste management has been in this category. Lucky for me, the National Geographic magazine has an excellent article this month entitled "High-Tech Trash" that answers a number of questions I have had concerning what happens to waste, how the U.S. recycling system really works, and what I can do to help. I've included a brief synopsis of what I thought were the salient points, for those who are equally stretched for time, but I sincerely recommend a full reading.

A large section of the article focuses on the dangers of discarded electrical components (referred to as e-waste), which often contain lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and beryllium, among other toxins. A staggering number of computers, monitors, televisions, and cell phones end up in U.S. landfills or sit in storage, with much of the rest being shipped to developing countries, where the effects are abhorrent.

The article also covers recycling in general. Some illustrative graphs are included in the magazine but unfortunately not in the online version. One depicts the energy saved in the U.S. by using recycled as opposed to virgin material. Recycled aluminum, carpet (interesting, and heretofore completely unknown to me), and copper wire offer the largest energy savings, with LDP, PET, PETE, and HDPE plastics trailing closely behind. Recycling glass and most papers, however, results in relatively little energy savings. Even so, paper is the most commonly recycled item in the U.S. (in an absolute measurement of annual tons- I'd personally like to see it as a percentage of what is produced annually), while, for example, very little aluminum and copper are recycled.

The article even touches on excess packaging, a topic brought up in a post on this blog not too long ago by powstash. Indeed, packaging waste goes beyond what we see in the stores. Consider the products that come to us from abroad. These items likely have additional debris associated with overseas shipping; including wrapping film, bin liners, and shipping crates. In answer to powstash's question, *they* (being the EU) instated a Packaging and Packaging Waste directive in 1994 which calls for manufacturers, retailers and others in the product chain to share the recycling burdens of packaging associated waste, but it says nothing of reducing the waste in the first place. Moreover, the U.S. has been slow to adopt a similar stance.

While many may already be aware of the harm caused by our castaway devices, few know exactly what we can do to help. One method is to reduce our consumption in the first place.
Another involves choosing environmentally responsible products. Epeat.net provides an EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) of desktop computers, notebooks and monitors. What can you do with the stuff you've already purchased? See below:

Cell Phones
  • Some charities provide donated cell phones to seniors and victims of domestic violence. Find donation bins at electronics stores and libraries. For options visit recyclewirelessphones.com or collectivegood.com.
  • Wireless carriers also accept used phones.
Computers
  • Most companies accept used computers from customers buying new ones (but generally only if the old computer is the same brand as the new one). Some office supply store chains accept old computers for a fee.
  • The National Cristina Foundation connects computer and monitor donors with the needy (people with disabilities, at-risk students , and economically disadvantaged persons). See cristina.org for more details.
  • Keep in mind that donating newer models can earn you a tax deduction. Inquire with the organization you choose to donate to.
Batteries
  • Retail stores selling rechargeable batteries will often accept used ones, including small sealed lead-acid batteries from power backups. See call2recycle.org for locations.
Printer supplies
  • Used toner cartridges can be refilled (for a fraction of the cost of new cartridges) at retail stores; including Walgreens, Staples, and Office Depot. However, there is some debate as to the reliability of refilled cartridges.
  • The same cartridges can instead be traded-in (often at the same place you originally purchased the cartridge) for cash or discounts on subsequent purchases.
  • Collecting used cartridges for recycling can even be a profitable fund-raiser for groups.
Miscellaneous
  • Reputable recyclers will properly and safely scrap unusable electronics; however, they sometimes charge fees to do so.
  • For a list of recycling companies that have promised not to export hazardous waste or dispose of it in landfills, check the website of the Basel Action Network, a group that advocates green solutions to e-waste issues: ban.org/pledge1.html.

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VMT Pow Report-P1-The Road to Nelson


Ari sportin' some stylie GOAT WEAR.

The drive from SLC to Nelson, BC is long. No two ways about it. Along with three friends, I left SLC on thursday afternoon headed to Canada for a week of backcountry skiing out of the Valhalla Mountain Touring lodge, just north of Nelson in the Selkirks. Not an especially eventful drive, which is always good, but we did stop over in Missoula to sleep, and our friends there made us an amazing waffle breakfast before sending us on our way. Then on to Spo-Compton (aka Spokane). Hit the Costco with more of our crew and while waiting for STFUJ to fly in from Boulder we found the Ming Wah, a great old school 70's Chinese-American restaurant. It was a lucky score, and the food was great and cheap.


From Spokane we were on our way north. My first trip to Canada and I got to drive the snowy/rainy last shift. Now in Nelson waiting to take the snowcat into the lodge tomorrow, we've been checking out the town, hanging at the Osa Negro looking like the tourists we are and feeling dumb about not skiing at Whitewater today.


The forecast is for snow, snow, and more snow, plus some sick skiing and picture taking. We're kind of excited. Stay tuned...

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Flying not Skiing

Just getting back into it from the holidays and was watching some wing suit flying footage today. Probably a re-run for some but still awe inspiring to watch. From Matchstick Productions' film Seven Sunny Days.

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