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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
L.L.D. & EVI Worldwide
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
Took a drive tour over Loveland Pass coming back home from the front range yesterday. Stopped to hike the dog up the eastside ridge at the summit of Loveland pass. Stomping through freshness layered in among the scree it was great to get smacked in the head with 0 degree, 30 mph winds under a cobalt grey sky.Stood into the wind and took a breath of the cold. The jet stream was whipping clouds overhead, obscuring the tops of the highest peaks off the Divide, blasting eastward. Snow was falling and the wind was transporting it in great swirls on the open faces of the pass, steadily erasing whats left poking through the snow. Off in the distance, A-Basin looked better than it did all of last year, lifts churning on a busy Saturday, snow in the tress .There were even a few intrepid souls braving seriously early season conditions on the West side of the pass, skiing down to the lower switchbacks . Looked to be about 8 inches of fresh on top of a 60 mile deep granite base. Admire the love, a little early for myself. Drove over a mitten in A-Basin”s cross walk. coming down the pass. No hand in it. Ahh winter. It’s back.. At least above 11,000 feet.
Back in our world, EV is covered in its first layer of the white stuff. I drove back over Vail pass looking the notorious layer that is the foundation for our snowpack. Usually for us in Colorado this becomes a loosely faceted layer that sets the stage for an avalanche cycle in mid to late November in EV and can dog us for the entire season, depending. Last season Old Man’s early season was perfect example, sliding to the ground in November.
This first snow set the stage for the crown jewel of a garbage Continental snowpack in 2011/2012. Early October snow with a long long period of clear, warm weather created 2-4 mm very loose facets out of the first snow. Surface hoar also reared its’ ugly head. When we finally did get some snow, it came with wind and the results….well you remember. The snow pack never recovered.
Our best hope is continued snow without a third Indian summer before the larger snow load arrives. As bad as last year was ,two years ago was the textbook for a decent snowpack. fo us. Snow, snow and more snow, consistent temps and little wind. “Average” year ? I’d take it.
Every year is different and fascinating in our world, , not only because of the endless variables that affect our snow, but the endlessly variable human element as well. You can’t make the stuff up that happens out in EV. Keeps me coming back and I can’t wait to tell the tale this year. See you soon at the bus stop. EVI.
Walked the roommates dog this afternon among the firing snowguns of Beaver Creek shrouded in falling snow from the first decent storm of the year. Matt’s video officially dusted off the website and ended our cyber-hibernation. The walk through the falling snow broke me out of my own. Found some interesting ways to spend the off-season, but when it comes down to it, it’s all just killing time until it snows again.
It’s dumping as I write this and my mind wanders to pow skiing. Having a few more weeks before the lifts turn, be fore we tell the tale of yet another EV season, we sift through memories of an epic trip. Moved some photos over to wp from the fb highlights from our tour from Thompson Pass to Hatcher to Turnagain Pass. Check ‘em out. Hoping to end this season in similar style, but first we have a season to ski. Ready?