Skiing Zee Cross Couloir!

I love saying the word couloir, because the only correct and reasonable way to say it is with an over the top French accent.  This makes me happy.  In addition to saying the word couloir, I have found that I enjoy skiing them.  It’s weird, but I just do.  Here’s a little story about a couloir at the top of the world that turns dreams into realities.

 

Ross and I had been talking about skiing Mt. of the Holy Cross all winter.  It is the easily most iconic line visible from Vail, where the both of us grew up skiing. The couloir is a giant cross of snow etched across a massive rock wall.  We had already done a few big missions this season and our confidence and enthusiasm were high.  It was early April; spring was approaching and the marginal amount of snow was melting.  We knew we had to do it very soon or have to spend another year wishing we had.  The problem was that we didn’t have snowmobiles, because we suck.   The Cross is deep in the wilderness and the approach without sleds would add a day to the trip.  So I thought of another plan.  I had been ski touring off the back of Beaver Creek a bit and had been eyeing up the access to Holy Cross. I google earthed a route from the top of the Beav back along a ridge to Mt. Jackson.  From Jackson, it’s a ski down to the valley and then skin up to the bottom of Holy Cross, spend the night around the Bowl of Tears and ski the Cross the next day…..easy.

I got Ross stoked on the idea and the weather looked great for a couple days.  Time to go!  We organized our food and camping gear together to spend one night out.  We split the four season tent, food and Ross carried the Jetboil.  Add in some mountaineering equipment and toilet paper and we were outfitted to slay the dragon.

We met up the next gloriously blue and calm morning.  I left my car Subrina at the bottom of Tigwon road and we took Ross’s Jetta (Dick Magnet) over to B.C.   You feel like a true boss strolling through ritzy Beaver Creek village with mountaineering packs and ice axes.  After saying hola and bon voyage to the homies at Surefoot we got on the chairlift and began the journey to Mordor. We started skinning off the top of the Cinch lift.  The skin to the top of BC (the Bald Spot) is a lovely mellow pitch at about 1.25 miles.  It took us about 45 minutes.  From there we were able to see our entire objective.

“What’s that?” asked Ross.

“Holy Cross” I said.

“Sweet, its right there!”

“Yep, I’m a genius”

 

What did appear farther away was Mt Jackson, which Ross observed and noted.  I agreed but we decided to head towards it and see how it went.  We skied down the back of Beav and skinned across Grouse Mountain.  The weather was holding strong and blue but the wind picked up reminding us that we were outside in the high alpine.  From the other side of Grouse we determined that Jackson was still pretty far away.  We decided it was a better idea to bypass skiing Jackson and take a more direct route towards Holy Cross since that was our main objective.

It was a leisurely ski down Grouse through open, rolling trees for the first half.  Then we got in to the trees and the snow became a little sparse, then we got to the dirt.  The last 1,000 feet down to the valley was entirely melted.  We put our skis on our packs and down hiked through the woods, cursing occasionally.  This was turning into the adventure I expected.  We finally made it to the river valley below, which was snow covered.  We looked back up at Jackson.  The exposure of the bottom was a bit better so if we had skied it, we could have skied almost the entire way to the valley floor.  It would have been more skinning but we could have avoided that whole walk through the woods. We were still making decent time though.

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Jackson from the river valley below

 

 

 

We had lunch in the valley and started skinning up the Holy Cross side.  It was steep zig zagging through woods.  We eyed up pillow lines that might be worth a 6 mile skin.  The snow was sticky and started to glop up on my 10 year old untreated skins.  Nobody brought glop stopper.  This when the going got a little tougher.  I found the best way to knock the snow off was by whacking my skis with my rental poles.  This worked great until I snapped my pole in half sending one end boomeranging away.  I recovered the half of my pole and continued on with one and half.  Learning experiences! Thankfully the snow had gotten less sticky at the higher elevations.

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up and over the shoulder of holy cross down to camp

 

 

It was late afternoon now and Ross and I hadn’t talked in two hours.  We made it to the ridge of Holy Cross past where the hiking trail goes up, and looked down at a nice place to camp.  We skied about 800 feet down an icy chute to a perfect camp spot.  It was flat, it had a cave, and there were trees nearby so we could gather pine bows to put under our tent.  Camping in the belly of the beast is not something I will soon forget.  I also repaired my broken pole with two sticks and duck tape.

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camp from inside the cave

 

 

We awoke at dawn and had coffee and oatmeal in the tent.  We gathered only the necessary gear together and started skinning up to the bottom of the Cross Couloir.  It felt great not to have a heavy pack.  The sky was blue and the wind was calm.  We skinned around to the north east side of the peak and started zig zagging up to entrance to the couloir.  It was firm but we knew it would be corn by the time we came down it.  We made it to the entrance of the couloir and got our first really good look at it.  She was beautiful. Tall and thin with subtle sexy curves. Consistently steep up to blind rollover entrance and flanked by two rock walls.  One other surprising feature  was the single track down it!  Some solo shredder  apparently got it the day before. Touché. We switched over to crampons and ice axe to start boot packing up.

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booting up zee couloir

 

 

 

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zee top

 

The snow was ideal for boot packing.  Kind of like a cream cheese corn mixture with blower in there too.  The boot pack was the most fun part of the trip so far.  We felt confident in the snow pack, the weather was great, and I was hiking up the freaking Cross Couloir with my buddy.  The top of the couloir is the steepest part.  It was exciting hiking but not gripping, just extremely fun.  We made it to the summit which was a bit windy.  The view from the top of Holy Cross is one of the best in Colorado.  360 degrees of snow capped rockies from Denver past Aspen.  We soaked it in for a bit and had some tea and crumpets.

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summit selfie

 

 

So without further adieu we skied her.  I let Ross take the honors.  The top few turns were firm and I skied slow and cautiously.  After a few turns the snow softened.  The sunny side of the couloir was corn and the shaded side powder.  I gained some confidence and started lacing some smooth turns exploring the different aspects of the couloir.   I stopped halfway down to let my slough go and give the legs a break.  Then I charged it down staying closer to the wall and the snow was powder almost the entire way.  I had a couple face shots and some of the best turns of the season, in definitely the sickest place I’ve been all season.  I exited on the right before the couloir closes out to a mandatory rappel and met up with Ross.  Even though we had hiked up it we were still shocked at how good the snow was.  Also my stick repaired pole held up perfectly.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Now we had another thousand feet of corn down to the Bowl of Tears.

 

We made it back to camp and packed up our stuff and headed out.  We ended up following the ski track of the solo person who skied it the day before.  It lead us to the way out perfectly like a guiding forest angel.  We were completely spent by the time we made it to Subrina and so happy about the whole adventure.  We didn’t ski Jackson, but we got the Cross in epic conditions and we did it without sleds.  Nature taught me a few lessons and I gained deeper appreciation for the mountains near my home.  The next day I went to Alpine Quest and bought glop stopper.

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Colorado, Alaska, and a Viking Funeral…

It’s been a year since I split to Maui and longer since the last post on this site and after a year on the rock I was ready to delve back into the winter world….especially after watching a 10 foot tigershark swim through the lineup at the Cove break in south Maui the Saturday before I left. Check please…

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Missed the entire season so this has little relavence to anything East Vail, but I found  my way back to Vail for closing day debauchery and got on the hill for one day. An after closing Roger’s Run was nothing short of epic.

Able to hook up with Deuce, Dave and Matt L. and his Dad for some quality over quantity turns on Vail pass after the late season storm rolled through bringing north winds and a couple feet of snow layered on top of a firm spring pack. We saw no natural avi activity on any aspect, save for some sun warming on S and E aspects with minor rollerballs and sluffing off sun warmed rock areas.  The skiing was creamy goodness on the N and W.

Matt's nice double Uneva peak

Matt’s nice double Uneva peak

Hooked back up with Dave to take a look around Berthoud pass for a day. Fraser and Winter Park are areas so close to Denver but managing to stay funky and rural. Good terrain and access and got 20 inches from the same storm. Pretty settled by the time we got to it. We ended up grabbing some low hanging fruit off the top for some more good spring skiing.

This high altitude training was in preparation for the AK leg of my trip. I was hoping surfing and hiking would keep me in the game for the microseason but there was some time needed to sweat out the Mai Tais  and salt water. Two choices on my first few runs, stroke out or make it to the summit following tech binding tourers. Touch and go for the first few laps but luckily I made it on the big  skis and Dukes. Oh yeah, I can still say the alphabet too. Success.

Berthoud

Berthoud Pass

Hit Girdwood AK at the tail end of a low snow year salvaged by a big April but then hit by big rain down low the week before I arrived. It left low to no snow on lower elevations but still significant snow up high. The season was very warm overall and produced a rapidly destabilizing isothermic snowpack that was slowly creeping upwards in elevation with each warm spring day. Pretty much nailed the last few days of the season on the pass.

Turnagain pass on the Kenai peninsula offers some of the coolest touring terrain.  There is an epic non-motorized side that preserves the gnar for those willing to sweat for it (leave your Epic passes and credit cards at home).

With the low snow pack putting the kibosh on a motorized season on the other side of the pass, Turnagain was silent and empty. Exactly what I was looking for after a year on an island with 144000 people. What I missed most for the last year was mountain air…nothing like it.

Pastoral and Kickstep

Pastoral and Kickstep. Got to earn these….

Three days of beautiful weather allowed me to tour and window shop for future trips while skiing some fun stuff. The spine walls were mostly melting out so staying safe and on supportable snow on N and W aspects was paramount.  S facing slopes were heading rapidly towards a large shed cycle and cornice failures were already causing step down wet slides. Some superficial melt freeze with the clear skies during the time I was there, but the pack was waterlogged down low and the ship had sailed on the season. Glad I got what I could.

 Cornice chunk from Sunburst ridge...different group

Cornice chunk from Sunburst ridge.

The end of the trip for me signified also the end of an era in gear. That’s right, the 207s,  (196s after I chopped the skegs off with a hacksaw for better touring capabilities) time had come.

Just chucking them seemed too mundane, so in true Sunset Rider Inc. fashion( a subsidiary of  EVI) a Viking funeral was the only option. I grabbed a lighter and some lighter fluid from the Tesoro at the Alyeska turnoff and headed out to the Portage Glacier for a ritual sacrifice. It’s AK, you can burn shit pretty much where ever you want.

Valhalla!

Valhalla!

Learned that Maker Dukes explode when burned and that it takes some doing to send the 207s to Vahalla, but finally they went. One way to save on baggage fees headed back to the rock…

Aloha!

1 /10/14 Black Flag Warning/ Thoughts on CDC

As I did a couple 360’s last night coming down West Vail after my brakes failed, I had a few seconds to ponder the temporary nature of things. Things are most clear and vivid when the future of our own existence is not certain. Luckily no one was hurt, and what do you do when shit happens? Get up and keep going.

There is increasing avalanche danger in East Vail as the biggest cycle of the year so far continues. High W SW winds and heavy snow will crossload our usual suspects and create the possibility of rider triggered avalanches. Again wind slabs on top of a weak base layer is the concern.
Excitement over the epic snow conditions is tempered with the events of this week. A big snow weekend will bring the travelers out, and we will be waiting to see the results.

EV always demands respect, but during cycles like this extra caution is advised. Runs like Water Tower that are most frequently utilized during storm cycles are able to slide, even into the old growth trees. Step out into the open over the next couple days and I would expect reactivity at least in the new storm snow. Of special concern is Benchie. Like Olds, parts of Benchie have run, but not all together and not to the bottom of the base layer of the snow pack. Head on a swivel if you plan to venture out.

Buddy passed along some info from his run today. Mentioned 22-24 inches of new with what he described as “moderate” reactivity of the new snow, increasing with another night of wind transport. The x factor is if it goes blue bird. That definitely brings the people out and seems to entice folks to step out a little farther. This week the death of Tony Siebert is fresh on everyone’s mind and the effect of that I think will limit traffic. However EV skiers will continue to ski EV,the beat will continue to go on and slowly the traffic will build again.

There are two lines in EV that aren’t in my playlist anymore. First is King Tut’s, the second is CDC. Watching my friend get strained in the through the top trees and seeing the entire bowl run top to bottom under 3 seconds in 2002 tempered my enthusiasm for the area and shattered my youthful notion that I could out run a such a slide. Hourglass convex cross loaded entrance with few safe areas in the open parts make it a consequential run under the best conditions. The sleeper rock on skiers right provides a thin spot in the slab and a sensitive trigger point. Can it be skied safely? Sure, under the right conditions. Many folks like the run for its length and cliffs. It can be an epic run.

I hope to get out tomorrow and get some more detailed pit info as I’m interested in what is going on. As always, leaving the possibility open of not skiing EV,of turning around. The lesson of turning around is the hardest to learn for a pow addict like me. After my own mistakes and lessons learned, it is easier now to do that than ever. For me it was the hardest one to learn. Stay safe out there.

1/7/14

EVI has learned that a Vail local has died today in an avalanche in East Vail. A four pack headed out to the old man’s bowl and triggered a wall to wall slide that buried the deceased and injured 3 companions. Early reports indicate one companion suffered broken ribs while the extent of the injuries of the other two are unknown. We here send our deepest condolences to the family of the deceased, and that quite frankly seems horribly inadequate.

Sunday’s storm came in with high winds and cold temps. The small sharp densely sintered grains produced a slabby feel to the new snow, especially on the ridge lines and upper wind affected cross loaded N facing areas. It was a change from the several days of 3 to 4 inch storms that came with little wind and mild temps which produced light blower snow, resulting in a snowpack that was upside down.Dense storm wind loaded storm snow on top of a base layer of loose facets is a dangerous situation. The first signs of localized instability during was a slide in T-falls two days ago, which I have little information on.

Skier accounts today indicated that before the slide the old man’s area looked fluted, with mini spines in the bowl itself, a sign of serious wind affect. Same observer dug a hasty pit on an E aspect, different than the N aspect of Old Mans but found serious instability with a score of CT 2 on a quickie column test. Old Mans usually runs wall to wall at least once a year. This year parts of it ran early, but not the whole thing. Critical load was reached with this storm and skier traffic. The slide seemed to originate from the CDC area, stepping down from a thin spot in the new wind slab to the ground by a large rock on skiers right in the hourglass entrance of CDC. It’s the same trigger spot that has claimed others lives as well.

I’ve skied EV for fifteen years and regular local EV skiers are a group that knows and watches out for each other. This will resonate with all of us for a long, long time.
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1/5/2014 Howdy Stranger, Yonder is Jackson Hole…

Happy New Year EVI from the Tetons!  

What a long strange road 2013 has been.  Radio silence, not even a pin drop.  It has been a while for me and my two cents in the whole wide world of EVI and rightfully so.  I have taken a huge step back and am now looking at my life in the mountains from a totally new perspective.  A “Grand Perspective” if you will.  Everything in my Rocky Mountain life seemed so large and important, so safe, predictable. constant and calculated.  Come to find out, my life in the valley was only a fleeting illusion and the life I was enjoying on the summits was completely different from the life I was grinding out down below.  Much like the infamous snow pack of Colorado, a wedding cake resting on top of champagne glasses just ready to tip and come crashing down.  Sometimes a change of scenery or even aspect and angle can have a profound effect on what we choose to hold near and dear and what layers we choose to shed down to and move on.  2013 was my year for that imminent change in scenery, aspect and angle.  I even shed down a few layers.  

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After a textbook Vail-Valley-Style divorce, I was left with the only prized possessions any self-respecting mountain man needed for survival.  She got everything;  the house, the money, the valley and my friends.  I got what was left;  the dog, the Allroad, mountain bike, fishing gear, ski/mountaineering arsenal.  What more did or do I really need?  The real question was/is, where would I need it?  The obvious choice was the Teton Range, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  So I loaded up and got the F outta dodge.  

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I’ve become incredibly used to the fact that all I need in this Peter-Pan-Life to be truly happy are the tools to be waist deep in pow, waist deep in the river, or out exploring with my unconditionally loving four-legged companion.  All said and done, with those very simple and humble possessions, I will never grow old, I will not waste or want and I will be ever-ready and packed for the next big adventure.

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So here I am now, smack in the middle of Davey Jackson’s Hole.  I have replanted some roots, although shallow roots they be, made some good local friends, (local = born and raised here.  Not oh, my family has a fourth home here and I have summered since I was a kid and now that I am so, like, totally funded… my parents just let me live in our 3,000 ft. guest house rent/problem/job/responsibility free…).  There are all types here, as there are anywhere else.  

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Fortunately,  I have found my way into a contingent of skiers and riders who are humble, down-to-earth and who ski and ride harder than anyone I have ever seen.  The gals rock Dynafit/Kaestle/108/187’s and are just plain, so much radder than you.  They even have this thing called the “JH Babe Force” and it is a force to witness, with drool, dripping off the chin.  I just offer to buckle boots and give calf massages and in turn, get to chase after “Ms. 108’s” as we drop into places like Granite Canyon, Cody Bowl and some of the more “Top Secret” lines that the Tetons have to offer.

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So here we stand, clipped in and ready to drop into a new year.  And me, with a whole new range of mountains to explore.  As I follow along with the crew back in EV and the Gore Range, I will be pursuing all that the Tetons have to offer and will bring you along for the ride.  Look forward to some of my adventures in Jackson Hole and Beyond this season and I will look forward to hearing from everyone back in Colorado.  The scenery from this aspect and angle are looking extremely promising!  Now if I could only find a hoar in Jackson Hole that will support me better than that loose one in Colorado, I will be living the ultimate Peter-Pan-Life.

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L.L.D. & EVI Worldwide         

1/2/14-1/3/14 And let the games begin….

Sunny and bluebird day after the day long storm that brought elevated winds good snow and low vis for a great day of storm skiing on Wednesday. Scooted around the north facing trees for both laps and enjoyed skiing the new snow as it accumulated. Nothing better.

Thursday was the busiest day of the year(myguess) for Vail mouintain. Took an hour to weave my way through the throngs to get out. Found that the parade was on, regardless of the poma being open or not.  Bluebird and about a foot of new.

Wind slab concerns as the upper scarps of Benchie and Old Man’s were loaded. First run in Old man’s I found myself skirting the edge of a pocket release in the first slot skier left of treeline, rider triggered, as tracks entered by the rock band that creates the reef at the first rollover. Didn’t propagate beyond the width of the pocket or beyond the depth of the new snow, about 50 feet wide and ran to the beginning of the flats.SS-AS-R1-D1 new snow old snow interface, soft wind slab. My run was uneventful, excellent skiing conditions in settling pow.

East facing warming quickly with intense sun,but early teleline tracks looked good in the morning. West Wall still not quite fully covered from it’s wall to wall rip a few weeks ago. Eying up the corner pocket, but will wait for another storm before testing it. Probably my favorite mandatory run in EV, gets the adrenaline going and usually something is following you, so sticking it is necessary.  It’s the closest I’ve come to using the float 30 after blowing the landing and getting hit in the back by the following slab. I, being infallible, blame the elf shoes I was wearing at the time, Damn JJ’s.Sold them for a month’s rent in Bham.  Saw a set of tracks through there today, Friday, nice to see it held above the rock band after the trees for those two.

Second run spotted Matt B. and friends through gunbarrell, then skied through secret chute to trees, getting the goods in the dark north facing. Slots in benchie still a little boney for my taste, picking through the shrubbery not my preferred way to run there, but props to them for  sticking it through there and sending it. As evidenced by the four foot trees guarding Mushroom Rock, it’s still a little thin to run clean.

Good to see the usual suspects still around, and the crop of senders half my age as well. Hope we all have a safe year out there. See you on the skin track.

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Merry Christmas from EVI

It’s Christmas madness here in the valley. As I sit writing this, a visiting family is playing in the snow drifts below my second story window. Two kids are grabbing chunks of large icicles that have fallen from my roof and rollIng around the snow. Another kid, along with the Dad, are chucking snowballs at the remaining six foot skewers as the two others play underneath. They are oblivious to the Darwin award they are about to win. Ah yes, Christmas. There’s a metaphor here somewhere for EV travelers.

Had a chance to get out to to Tfalls on Saturday and dig a pit on a 35 degree NE facing slope by the entrance to the chute. Found very shallow conditions 80 cms, defined by two major layers. Settling denser storm snow on top of the typical Colorado basal facet layer, with two buried surface hoar layers in between. The loose facets underneath the recent storm snow have the stability of table salt. Two column tests were CT 15 and CT 17 with a Q2 shear on both. Hard to really qualify the shear as it was more of a crumble than anything else. Reports of lower pockets in trees pulling out in Racquette Club and Bighorn chutes as the basal facets give way under the weight of riders, especially lower down where the snowpack gets extremely shallow. Definitely calming down avalanche wise later in the week as the couple feet has time to settle. The snowpack isn’t nearly as reactive as earlier in the week, but lurking wind slabs and shallow spots by rocks and trees still provide areas of concern for trigger points especially N through E aspects.
Also noticed surface hoar formation, two to three millimeter as Saturday was humid calm and warmer. Sunday was colder and a few inches of new covered the surface hoar. Something to watch with more snow in the forecast.
The big news of course is the EV avalanche video that has gone viral and made it to CNN. Lucky for them the snowpack was shallow, later in the season it would of been a full burial. Interesting enough, Adam and I skied left Abe’s first thing that morning in the middle of the storm cycle, skiers right of the slidepath and had minor movement in the main choke.
Really nothing out of the ordinary for EV as far as the snowpack and early season avi cycles, the change is that technology is now allowing everyone to witness the game that is played out there, good or bad.
Sunday afternoon was a nice break from the busy opening week of EV. Bluebird, sparkling snow and noone out in the zone. A chance to take a breath, enjoy a solo lap in the forgotten trees and get ready for the reset and the interesting stories it will bring. Say tuned.
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EVI on the River

Looking at J’s video from the West Wall today inspired me to write a post. Check it out, looks like a sweet bluebird day in ol’ EV and a nice run. Makes me a little misty…
Don’t have much snow info for you all, Mt. Baker still exists and the nonstop weather here has ended for the time being  revealing the Cascades cloaked in feet of the white stuff.  Bluebird here hurts the eyes at first, takes a little while to get used to it after four weeks of constant snow and rain. The energy around town immediately picks up, the vampires here absorbing the UV’s and turning back to day walkers. Will get up there when I can, but starting somewhere new requires more work, less play.
Been occupying myself with learning and guiding some of the local  rivers, many which run year round. Trying to get ready for the whitewater season here on the Sauk and Suiattle rivers. Fast and loggy, they both provide a different challenge than most of the Colorado rivers and are a challenge for any rafter, especially during the spring runoff.  The northern Cascades are chock full of snow to melt, the coming season shaping up to be a good one so far(starting  after an AK ski trip I hope.  Snow is starting to fall up north in the Chugach finally after a drought cycle.)

It’s eagle season here and that’s a big deal. Thousands of eagles, Balds and Goldens alike travel down from Alaska and Canada to feed on the spawning salmon in the Skagit River basin. The river, fed by rain and snowmelt from the towering Eldorado and Glacier peaks, contains all five species of salmon, as well as steelhead and rainbow trout.  The might Skagit runs emerald green and crystal clear, a big wide beast of a river headed to the Puget sound, 10 billion gallons every day. Seattleites flock with here with the eagles, toting five thousand dollar cameras, clad in Gore-Tex, ready to capture the action. They  turn the tiny rural river  towns of Marblemount and Concrete into bustling tourist havens for a month or so.

The eagles sit perched on branches overhanging the gravel bars at turns in the river. The mottled dying and dead salmon wash up on these bars and provide an easy meal for the eagles and their young.  One trip I had we saw 190 eagles. I was told by a veteran river guide here that was a below average day. Pretty cool to see.

I try to stay in the loop as much as I can as far as EV concerned. Read about the snowboarder that launched a cliff and took a ride sometime back.  More recently, I heard someone ran Benchie and ripped out the whole thing. I’m wondering if Old Man’s has ran yet wall to wall. Sounds like Deja Vu all over again, assuming the existence of persistent loose facets below the new snow like last year.  J’s run looked solid.  Typically the East facing West Wall snowpack sets up differently than the shaded Northern aspects of Old’s and Benchie.  Just hearsay, however, from a recovering EV addict at large. Hope everyone has a safe year.

 

 

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Eldorado Peak/Skagit River

The End Of The Road….For EVI

Driven out of Vail  like the mighty lynx out of Cat 3 , I, Martineast found myself on the road in search of new terrain.  The factors had come down from the universe and it was time to go. Really the death of the Visti Bahn was too much to bear.  For me, that signaled an end of an era in Vail history and for me personally, my stint in Vail. That’s right, EV won’t have Martineast to kick around anymore.   I look forward to the first report of conditions, I expect another touchy year with the early snowpack resembling last years’ junk underneath, but I can’t tell you for sure.

Wyoming, Utah, Idaho. Drove through all of these and had the urge to keep going.  Washington. Pac-NW it is. Mt.  Baker sounds good, why not? World record snowfall, middle of the Northern Cascades. No Condos, 125 dollar tickets or fur stores. A sick little resort resort tucked away from the world high in the Northern Cascades. Bellingham, the closest real town, is 50 miles away.

Different from Vail? About as radically different as you can get. Land of moss, weed, wool and hanging seracs. Volcanoes, ice, crevasses, glaciers. At the end of WA-542, Mt. Baker sits below Mt. Shuksan, an imposing Cascade wedge with a massive serac hanging from it. A couple day lots, couple of base areas and that’s it. Possibilities for backcountry around Baker. Endless. When you can see, that is, as weather is a constant off the ocean. Literally, the end of the road.  Next stop B.C.

It’s been a long time since anything inbounds has required a second look to ski. I’ve been lulled into complacency by our wonderfully groomed golf course. Baker, however, has it all over. Better bring your A-game. Steep slots and trees runs, roll overs exceeding any point of repose in Colorado. Covered ice, rime spines, snow ghosts. Sidecountry that dwarfs the resort. Bottom line, if planet Hoth had a ski area it would be Baker.

Spent time out the gate my first afternoon to check out the snowpack. Dug my pit on a North facing 28 degree angle slope just above the gate, right off the skin track. Snow total, 305 cm depth on December 13. T his was before the current four foot snow cycle that has since closed the road. Results on my two columns dug to 160cms: CT-build a house out of it. Incredulous at the results of my first attempt at column failure, I recut and dug the second with the same result. It took all my weight and pulling on the second column as well to get a Q2 shear at 130 cms, way off any scale. Cascade snow pack is for real. I’m sure things have changed of late, our latest cycle has come with big wind, so we’ll see the impact of that. (63 inches in 4days, 100 plus trees down on the road up. Resort, I mean ski area,  is closed for three days to clean up  and dig out, truly a wild place on earth.)

Learning a new area isn’t overnight. I have no comfort level with the backcountry terrain here. My initial day had good vis and what I could see just on an EV length jaunt outside the area was vast and varied. Trees and spines, convex rolls and chutes endless are calling. In due time. It was good just to get my hands in snow and get a general idea of local conditions.

Here to relearn it all. I guess that’s the reason for the move. Look forward to the posts from Vail,  Luke in Jackson, Me in Baker. EVI worldwide. Note: we plan on being in AK again if the snow shapes up, so stay tuned…

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Baker parking

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Some layers of the concrete differ, but the result is bomber

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Baker inbounds

Snow Plot Madness

As we here at EVI wait for the snow  to pile up and the lifts to start running here in Disneyworld west, we’ve been racking our brains to figure out what we can give you, intrepid reader, to enhance your upcoming EV experience.  We’ve come up with the obvious answer in an information driven world. Data.  Snow data from a couple different plots will be available this year.  Pretty simple info, but should give those hungry for numbers something to look at besides the posts and keep you up to date on new snow and snow depth.   One at Beaver Creek  HQ, one in West Vail, and one up top of Benchie somewhere soon, (hopefully).  So much data you’ll be able to roll around in it, build a nest in it if you like.

The first storm in November  dropped 17cm of snow here at BC (not quite the 54 inches that Alta got), with cold air temps, -8.5 C  and light winds here at 8200 ft on 11/11.   Temps are trending warmer for the rest of the week. Hopefully it will snow without another extended dry period.

That’s it for now folks, have a safe opening day on the strip o’ death,  see you all soon.

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