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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.

 

 

skagit

Eldorado Peak/Skagit River

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.

10/28/12 Thoughts On Our First Layer

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.

EV late October

First Snow. Bring It.

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?

Sled/hike off the Worthington Glacier

Earning the turns

Base Camp at the old Thompson Pass airstrip

First week in April downtown Valdez

Serac we crossed under after skiing Girls and on our way to Acopolco

Just like the climb up off the Poma…

A Tale of Two Seasons

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.

Beards

“In the eyes of many Afghans, only manly men can be leaders. And all manly men have beards. Thus leadership starts with facial fair. Plus, the beards look awesome.”

With Vail quickly moving into bike season, its time to get yo AK beard on.

3/13/12 Operation Mud Runnel Rescue/ Trip report

I stand on top of the Top of The world and stare in awe at what I see. A mid-May landscape of brown and white stares right back. Barren Vail pass and a rapidly melting east vail are an indicator of just how off this season has been in terms of snow. Nothing to do now but hike and train, ski EVs to get ready for the big game. Nice also to get away from the spring break madness that has taken over the mountain. Good Lord it’s dangerous out there and I’ll take my chances with the backcountry any day.
Thought about my options and realized that with the consistent temps and sun hit, the west wall’s demise was near completion. Probably would be my last chance to rescue my AK JJ that I sacrificed last week during a moment of huberis. A few more days of the above 40 temps and sun would render the isothermic snowpack completely unsupportive and the West Wall starts ripping to the ground, entombing my ski in wet slide debris until late spring. The run to the ground scenario is something reserved usually for late April or May in a typical EV season. This year, March 13? Why not?
Rescue mission time. The only access it was to ski the run I had last time. There was no option to cut over from skier’s right West wall and be high enough to get the ski. Plus, undercutting that entire area to get across wasn’t an option.
Skied to the entrance of the Corner Pocket and thought about my last run, eating it, getting hit and losing a ski in the process. Shut my eyes for a second, deep breath and I push off onto March corn.  I ski the upper, sparsely spaced old growth trees without incident.

Coming to the choke, the place where I failed last time, I stopped behind a large tree and peered in.   I saw that the double stage drop was now a muddy runnel with snowmelt, bushes and mud leading to the runout area. Below  in the debris zone  is where my ski was supposed to be.  I could see two specks of black, and a tip of a ski in the melting carved runout.
Getting down to it was the issue. There was no hucking the drop this time. It would be a tragic irony to land and go through the rest of the snow pack and lose another ski in another tomahawk. The answer lies in the river of water and mud trickling to my right. The next sequence is an ad lib that has no basis in snow science or widley accepted backcountry protocol. I don’t give a shit. Sometimes you have to do what you have to get your ski.
First time for everything. Stood on a bushy bench looking down and considered my future.
Step One. Side Stashes off. (Taking your skis off is a no no, but there was no chance to downclimb mudrunnel on skis.)
Step Two. Throw side stashes like a spear into the debris pile below.
Step Three. Grab slippery root in the mudrunnel and try to down climb over a ledge covered in flowing water and mud.
Step Four. Realize gravity always wins, commit to the muddy ass slide over the ledge and air it.
Step Five. Land onto the debris pile below in a spider monkey position.
Step Six. Wallow/ swim in the snow to find and retrive AK JJ.  Use as a support to get to the Sidestashes. Get on em and get out of there.
Skied out decent corn on the old debris piles next to recent wet slide debris in the mddle of the far left west wall area. The slide went over the first roll and down near the traverse out from Tele Line. The crown was just under the cliffs to the skier’s right of my gully. It was about a foot and a half deep, the debris looked a day or two old.


Spider monkey pentrometer confirmed that the snow pack on the west wall was being bridged by a rapidly weakening mid pack crust layer being saturated with melt water. Underneath is loose and unconsolidated to the ground. The end is near.
Rescue mission a success. I skied out with three, being careful not to clothes line myself on the traverese out. Another first in my fifteen seasons here. Prouldy displayed my hard earned, slightly muddy trophy on the bus.
Sam, a EVI follower who I didn’t know, aked me if that was the indeed the rogue JJ from EVI. I laughed and confirmed. Talked about the state of EV and the crazy year on the way in.
EV season started two months late and ends a month early. Not much left in between.

3/8/2012 “Beeeaaans”!! Full Moon AK Training

Last night could not have been a better night to get out under the bright moonshine on Vail Mountain!  EVI was in full force, we met up with the Surefoot guys and brought “Beeeaaans” the legendary “Wayward Pup” for some priceless entertainment.  The full moon rose brightly just after 7pm and our group of 8 started out from the Vista Bahn in Vail Village.  We made great time ascending the freshly groomed cat tracks and head walls.

Charged by the magic of the night and the thought of being in Alaska in less than four weeks, the sounds of the Streetbeat Ska-Punk measured out a quick tempo to skin to.  Thanks to Troy’s Ski Shop for the new badass skins, made my life much easier than the borrowed ones I’ve been using and it is good to have my AK set-up dialed in.  Halfway up, our fat ski brigade was  already drenched in the cool blue light of the moon.

Spirits were high as we skinned swiftly by other children of the night and their canine friends.  Laughter and good vibes were the tone of the troop and we were soon gathered at the base of Avanti Chair.  Snowcats meticulously laying down row after row of perfect moonlit corduroy.

Some beers, whiskey, wine and good eats passed round set a real positive tone.  Our trip to AK is going to be lights out!  Our group is solid and it is nights like these that make getting ready for the trip that much more bearable with the countdown looming.  Not to mention gathering with new friends and having a good time on the local hill.

Cheers to anyone else who made it out last night and charged their souls with a perfect moonlight skin/shred session!

3/7/12

Haven’t been out in a few days, no real reason since EV got blown out on snow balls weekend. The temperatures spiked again after the recent snow, manking up the lowers and making the east facing areas susceptible to slides with the intense sun over the last few days.
I’m sure the tree dweller faction of the EV community is still finding decent pockets up high in the deep dark north facing trees, but again the high temps have rendered the lower tree pow pockets thick. Basically April in March.
I’d be lying if I sad my mind wasn’t starting to wander north. The lack of consistency in EV with weather and snow this year hasn’t allowed any kind of skiing progression. The ability to run lines of consequences were limited to a couple of days, immediately having to back off due to high winds or rising temps messing with the snow. The feeling with most of the EV season, save a few great days, is one of survival.
Today the temperatures have dropped with the incoming front. A definite tweener day both on and off the mountain greybird and bulletproof.
Out tomorrow for an overdue pit, hope for some fresh snow tonight.

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