The acid hadn’t quite kicked in yet, but I could definitely feel the moorings holding my mind to this reality loosening. It wasn’t planned that I found myself on top of a big-ass line in the San Juan mountains tripping, but I came into this trip telling myself to have no expectations and to just roll with it. Didn’t quite plan on this.
The rest of the crew was already back at the sleds on the other side of the magical wilderness boundary where the machines, beer and about a pound of Durban Poison waited. We had skied two big runs already, the first a huge, classic San Juan death funnel, choking out down low and spitting out onto an apron. The second was a surreal run, skiing steep fingers through red red rock towers deep in the range. Its not often you can put a group of eight through these types of runs here, but the snow pack was green light after a couple weeks of clear warm weather with a solitary storm dropping about a foot on top of a rapidly consolidating early spring snow pack. The elevation was above 12000 for the cabin and terrain, which left the north, west, and even east aspects up high with a creamy smooth pow layer. The snow reminded me of AK orange peel texture snow in the spring, and skied and held as good as you can hope for a continental snowpack. The weather was perfect as well, bluebird and light winds. Green means go.
Our crew was a pack of 9 senders, all capable skiers and riders, with a pack of high-end sleds at our disposal in a vast wilderness with no one else for miles. We were all here to ski, ride and party, taking a needed break from the Vail valley ski season, deep in our respective jobs serving those that come here to catch a glimpse of the life that we live. Usually a group this large is a pain to organize, but everyone was ready to get after it and capable. Patrollers, photographers, ski bums, the love for skiing was well represented.
Hunter S. Thompson would’ve been proud is all I can say. Epic night sled missions punctuated days of sled accessed touring, climbing and sending. Sleds allowed us to bring anything we needed to this amazing cabin. Drinking, guns, sleds, skiing pow, food, party favors. Pretty much all time.
Our group had spaced a large portion of the meat products and cheese at the hotel in South Fork, but that was the only snafu of the entire trip. Too much Durban too early in the morning had contributed to the meats being left in the mini-fridge at the Allington Inn in South Fork.
I had spotted the line instantly when we got to the cabin. It was by far the most esthetic line in the immediate terrain. A winding steep entrance onto a huge steep face and into the basin. The far right line in a half dome face littered with old avi crowns and mando entrance lines with no way out, it was the only skiable line on the face and it was a gem. I mentioned it a couple times, but no one seemed to hear. So I waited.
Our two runs required us to skin out right under this face, so I had time to study it and look. The snow, weather, group dynamics, snow pack were all pointing to a go. All I needed was the opportunity. I wasn’t going to rely on anyone to make this happen.
The x factor was on a skin change over on our way out of our two runs. Quiet, reserved, baller skier, J Tsunami produced a “20 minute J” and ten strip of L. We were a group of four of the nine putting our skins on and shooting the shit, reviewing the runs at a cluster of stunted avi hammered pine trees.
“Hey, I have a 10 strip of acid.”
Everyone looked at him, at each other, and burst out laughing. The line of the trip by far, now and forever.
Now my big party days are long behind me, but at that moment I couldn’t think of a reason to say no. Here, deep in the San Juans, there was plenty of room for one’s mind to roam free and soar. What the hell…
It’s been a long time since I twisted myself is such a way. The skin continued on, through the basin, up and out. Things started getting weird around the time I crested the ridge, and assessed the situation. Everything was getting brighter and louder and starting to shimmer. The crew had headed left back to the sleds, across the ridge. I looked left, then I looked right. Over to the right, the line of the trip waited. Suddenly, I wasn’t tired. I was elevated. I was waiting for my spirit animal to appear. What I got were two ravens flying low in looping circles up the skin track. Good enough. I turned right and headed up the skin track to the low ridge cutover to the top of the half dome.
I remember being on top of the line, looking down the concave 55 degree entrance chute rippling like a white water bed. I didn’t have much time before things got seriously unhinged. Check the snow and go time. The first three turns in the chute was blower and deep, then gravity took hold and onto the apron. Shit flew by warp speed. I had time to make one sweeping turn to avoid the exposed moraine below the run. I wanted to gap it, but realized that I was going way too fast to do that. Around, down and hauling ass to the skin track laughing like a loon. It was over.
The skin out was a face-melter. By the time I crested the ridge again a permagrin was plastered on my face. D had mercifully jetted over on the sled, into the wilderness terrain, to save me a slog out. I had hoped that he had gotten the shot from across the ridge, but he wasn’t expecting the warp speed velocity of the run and missed it. The free ride out was much appreciated, and he was instantly forgiven. I had gotten to ski it and that was enough.
Back on the ridge was a party going on. I had wondered if the group was pissed for holding them up, but they were psyched, hanging out drinking beer and watching the show unfold. Hi fives and a beer…A moment of pure ski bliss.
We headed back to the cabin for a night of debauchery. Those of us on the paper watched the others lap the log rail and ski the pow shots near the cabin. I was seriously torqued and headed upstairs to hide from the sun for a while. It was an overwhelming urge after being stuck in a white salad bowl for hours.
A tripping vampire, I emerged downstairs after the sun went down, after a few tacos and several beers. Switching to tequila for the leveler, the night unfolded and the slednecks took the opportunity to rip it in the huge lower pow meadows for hours. I laid on the couch, became part of the couch and chilled. J Tsunami guarded the fire with his white shades on. We held down base camp as the others brapped around till the late hours.
Not often a trip comes together so well with so many green lights. This one did. It will live in infamy for many reasons. For me it was an opportunity to ski something amazing and get ready for Alaska. The three day hangover was worth it.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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…
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?
Welp, it’s been a while. The season that never was led to a long summer off for the EVI crew. A snowy weekend across Colorado reminded us that a new season is just around the corner. Just in time, Matt put together an Alaska edit filled with footage from the EVI trip up North this past spring. Enjoy!
While half the crew enjoyed a second season in AK, the rest of us watched the snow melt as the mountain closed lift by lift, and ultimately, shut down last week for the 2012 season. Good riddance. For the past two months, I had been looking more forward to the sounds of sitars and Thievery Corp than the skiing. Armada Bubbas looking sad and lonely in the corner, maybe next year, friends.
The little bit of last second snow was almost a cruel joke, just covering up fallen trees and dirt patches long enough to get a couple final runs in. And honestly, the first few hours of closing day were some of the best of the year, as sad as that sounds. Why I’m even writing about a 7 inch powder day, I don’t know…other than to summarize the bookend season we had. If last year was the best of times, this was surely the worst of times. Seeing what EV could be on both ends of the precipitation scale told a tale of two seasons.
If anything, a good year to test your snow science skills. If you had none, it was a good year to get some. Silverton Avy School, et al. earned their keep this year, with plenty of examples to show would be snow gurus. EV dictated same, with what seemed like a slide a day. Fortunately, only a few serious injuries in Mushie and no deaths in EV. The rest of Colorado and the ski world as a whole wasn’t as lucky. A constant reminder in skiing, where the crossroads of freewill and inherent risk intersect.
Waxing philosophic aside, a pile of bones was about all that was left to poke at here in Vail. Full on summer now, so enjoy the off season. Get strong, train, ride your bike, go hike, get on the river, get swole, get ready for what will hopefully be a better season next year. If not there’s always the great white North. AK on the mind…see you next year.
Bluebird skies have been too good to pass up. Booked a heli trip wtih Alaska Snowboard Guides for a full day. Brand new op, cool guys and some I know.
Headed out with Dave and had an opportunity to get out and hit a legend. Our first warm up run out the heli? Meteorite. No shit. A 3500′ sustained 52 degree ramp with a 60 degree roll in, it defines Chugach ramp skiing. First run out of the heli for Matt and Luke in AK and headed to the big time. They are now completely jaded. We represented Vail well sent it and spent the rest of the day with Tim Ellis on the Tonsina glacier hitting shots ramps with Sophie.
Thanks to Alaska Snowboard Guides for the opportunity, many people wait a very long time to get the chance to tee it up on an iconic run. Storm rolling in for a couple of days, but all is good. Gonna hit up a sled drop to the Books for a couple days after with the guys from Big Mountain Taxi to hike and ski. Thompson Pass kicks ass…..
On a side note: Congrats to Vail local Brandon Reid for winning TGA with a sick run. If you’ve ever seen a guy on a long board being pulled by a dog at mach ten in the village, probably Brandon. 10 g’s cash and a sword, pretty cool.
A little update from the North on EVI’s inaugural trip to Alaska.
Letting the boys sleep in today after a bluebird windless stretch like I’ve never seen up here. We were up at 4500 feet yesterday and not a breath of wind. Unreal. Snowed 20 to 100 cms depending on the aspect and elevation last Friday and Saturday, since then its’s been game on!. Tailgate AK, a lovable junkshow, has wrapped up and the ABA parking lot is ours.
Spent our time getting to know both sides of the pass after getting through an avi cycle the day after the storm. Luke set of a SS-AS-R5-D3-I on the Berlin shoulder. Everybody’s OK, but a sobering reminder to watch your ass at all times up here. Since then the conditions are stable and good. Things heal up very quickly here in the maritime world. The north aspects are filled with Valdez cream cheese, wind buffed supportive powder that hardly sluffs at all on our 40 to 50 degree runs. We’ve been using sled bumps to get to our zones, after that we’ve been climbing and skinning. It’s different and very enjoyable to tour in a place that is a skier’s paradise and overwhelmingly beautiful, filled with a lifetime or two of accessible runs.
Berlin Wall, Berlin Shoulder, Giovanni’s, Aucopolco, Girl’s, Python Wall and today when the boys wake up a bump and hike to ski the mighty Python. Our cost? A little sweat equity and 180 bucks. Not a bad deal.
Will jump into the heli for a day or to and if it stays the same conditions try to get onto some big stuff. Meteorite, Tusk, Pontoon, Kiwi’s are all things availible.
Matt and Luke have been awesome and our group dynamic is better than I could hope for. Solving problems on snow, getting around hazards and learning the game, they both have excelled. We have a ton of pics and video. We will put them up when we aren’t skiing. Simply put it’s been incredible.