Know When to Hold Them…
Wicked weather and avalanche danger. It’s always awesome when the Nature takes back EV, it’s rightfully hers. In my mind, it deserves respect time and some distance.
Years ago but just a blink in EV time, it ripped from Joint Point through Old Man’s and buried I-70 15 feet deep.
Are we there yet? Not sure. But the size and scope of the danger now expands beyond most skiers immediate terrain awareness. Sympathetic slides from a distance above or away. Deep slab instabilities deep in the snow pack far beyond a skiers ability to “feel” the layer that are at tipping points all seem possible.
Can it be done safely? Im sure but watching Tweeners rip to trees in the first half of the first day of this huge cycle does not instill confidence…
I’m interested in the natural activity and hope to safely get a look at some point.
Tweeners Rips to Trees
Upper ridges today are nuclear. Tweeners ripped again 2x in 2 days. Today’s crown was bigger and the debris ran to the small trees. Assuming skier triggered. Debris pile warranted a hasty search.
Thank baby Jesus no signal. Radical temperature and snow load changes are happening. Black flag is raised for California’s storm of the decade moving through EV today tonight and the week.
The Vail Daily and CAIC are wrong today.
Title of the Daily indicates moderation of the snow pack as reported by the CAIC.
That might be true for the deep pack but today was punctuated by the dense new snow overlaying the colder lighter snow of days past, creating a fast moving reactive foot deep slab in the exposed upper scarps of EV.
This again illustrates the impossibility to accurately forecast micro zones in a huge area CAIC is responsible for. Also just bad timing.
EVI is asking for a small percentage of CAICs state funding to keep the EV field office open to supplement their forecast. And a red jacket please. Large.
Big Boy Pants
Special quick hitter. If you step out tomorrow morning bring you big boy pants.
Wind slab issues in the upper regions could be significant. Density differences in snow layers(new snow/old snow interface) with jet winds loading all zones will create touchy conditions tomorrow am in especially in the exposed uppers of runs.
With the weather clearing out…well let the games begin. Head on a swivel.
Early Season and The Pineapple Right Side Up Cake
Yeya. The EV season is now in full swing with Christmas break new snow and blue skies popping out after an extended snow cycle. We went from fluffy light to Pac-NW mank back to frigid and a last layer of light.
I started my EV season a day early. I knew this when I sank through two feet of quick sand above a downed log following a ski partner who was 50 pounds lighter, faster and on a pair of appropriate rock pow skis. Descending through the lower steep outs I was furiously trying to save my only pair of Blizzard Bodacious by going to slow across the punji pits and rocks. Suddenly I found myself doing the one-handed downward dog in the snow below me, other hand on a pine tree to keep my buried leg from snapping like a bread stick, all the while in full screaming semen position. After several tense minutes of blindly poling my left Guardian, I managed to free one boot and after kicking the crap out of the other Guardian I completed the half cartwheel into a tree well. One day early for sure.
The next wave of wind fucked high moisture spackle created a decent base to cover the reef and downfall. The waves of snow, for the most part, have come in right side up. Starting warm(really warm) and ending colder, then followed by warm days, has helped our snow pack. There was activity in Old Mans from a cornice fall down the middle gullies, but the whole bowl has yet to drop, and it might not. West Wall had some minor runs as well, but nothing of note. Please note, there is no Marvin Gardens run in East Vail. That’s monopoly. Marvin’s, bro on the bus.
I went to check it out on a rare Saturday afternoon as the 303 carpenter ants were flooding from the carmel apple after devouring the 10 inches. Luckily the eastern resorts called big numbers and it was limited shit show. Or it was all over by 9:12 and all the warriors were done. That Saturday showed nothing new activity wise. Actually a spectacular Benchie run. Add frigid temperatures to lock up the moisture and we will see how thing progress.
Add blue skies to the mix and you know its gonna be on for reals. I’d like to send a shout out to the Sunny=Safe ski club teeing up the left side of the west wall. There are two kinds of tracks people put down there. First, the people who know that the area is notorious for pulling out above the cliffs after six of the nicest tree turns you could ever hope for. Their tracks do not stop above the cliff band and exit like something is chasing them. These people are wise.
The second are the ones that ski the trees, then traverse to an area above the cliffs and stop. Then they have lunch, shoot selfies and eventually pick their way through the cliffs with CMH shvedle turns. Today, the evidence points to the latter. These people are wearing their beacon as an amulet and burn sage on top of the run to guarantee their safety. These are unwise people. However, the S and S crew might be onto something. They might have assessed the snow pack correctly. Maybe, but keep burning that sage team.
Well I guess this is our 2017 season pregame post. The weather is balmy and with a lack of any terminal snow game time anticipation is a bit delayed. My internal clock tells me the time is near. Time to roam acres of backcountry and leave the valley bottom behind.
Complaints about this time of year? None. The East Vail trails are mostly empty, the hiking and biking are sublime. The town is slowly waking. Its a time to savor. Before this.
Been entertaining myself with some ideas for creative funding for our nebulous non-profit. With sticker profits holding steady at 4 bucks over the last four years its time to think outside the box.
I’ve come up with this. The above photo is the reality of Vail on the weekends. Yet Vail trail maps are adorned with photos like this.
I believe a 1,000,000,000 dollar class action lawsuit on behalf of #VAILLIVESMATTER(our rouge paramilitary strike-force) for false advertising against VR will provide us with the massive funding that we really don’t need. We’ll settle out of court for a dollar and some envelopes.
But really Vail lives do matter. Before the main Vail exit is renamed Parking Lockers n’ Such, we do need to ask where does skiing experience and local flavor/businesses figure into the profit matrix of VR? Do lift lines you can see from space actually help?
Despite VR ‘s development of an Area 51 type compound in eastern Colorado where they are rumored to be developing cutting edge “chimp control” technology that will render the need for actual human workers obsolete, at the present time there is a need for actual people here year round. They’re called locals and they need places to live.
Also ski pass prices should be based on billing addresses. It’s an expanding circle, increasing in cost as it hits the front and rear range areas. Sorry if you moved to Eagle/Gyptucky you sold out, you know it Pay the piper. By the time the pass shockwave hits Lakewood and Thorton it should be around $6,000 per pass. This is based on an algorithm that factors actual positive economic impact vs. negative psychological and physical impact on our town, snow and people. Just an idea.
Hang tough everyone, winter is on its way. Times have changed but the game is the same. I recommend find a new hobby on Saturdays to keep sane.
Season Wrap-up(Except There’s a Ton of Snow Left So..)
Broke, tan and happy, I sold my surf truck today in Paia, Maui. The small pile of wet hundos from Beau would help get the Astro van out of DIA auto lock-up in the Pikes Peak lot. After three weeks, it was going to cost a bit.
Throw in a little heli-skiing around a Maui trip and life is good. Quality over quantity for me with my budget up in AK. ASG didn’t have to accommodate me during a busy end of season. They did. Mahalo fellas, see you next year for sure.
I love driving in AK. My primary life vehicle is a dilapidated 2001 Astro Van that looks like it’s been taken apart and put back together by border patrol a few times, so when given a New Taurus SLE with 5 miles on it at the Budget rental car counter, its on. Even rocketing down the Glenn Allen at 100 or so, the Chugach range view changes its appearance ever so slowly as my kinetic energy takes me closer to Valdez.
The trip is about the people, the town and the skiing. Eating breakfast with the proclaimed “King of Valdez”, Pat Olson, Chugialk tribe member, SAG member(worked with Bart the Bear and that douche Streven Segal), original heli-skier, fastest fish filet in AK (3 seconds down at the town docks) all around Valdez OG is enlightening and fascinating. Pre WESC day stories of Valdez skiing are fascinating. 10 buck runs. Nobody around. I sit and eat my Totem Slam, nod my head and listen.
AK every spring…
Old Snow New Snow
What do you get with a foot of new on top of a 3 week old skating rink?
That is all…
Sheepskin Cabin Trip Report
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.
“Vail’s Flat Bruh”
The title of this post came from a caption of a satellite screen shot of EV I was emailed from a company called FatMaps, a UK based company, as they were pitching their avalanche safety and 3d mapping ski app and recruiting me to write the beta for it.
I had weathered some earlier bullshit from them but still was intrigued a bit as the app and satellite technology were cutting edge. The local guy Matt seemed pretty cool, who he represented turned out to be cheap, arrogant and out of touch with US skiing. But I thank them because up until this point EVI has lacked a cause and I haven’t been interested in posting the same shit about the same runs. Our cause? Repel the euro 3d satellite invasion into our local backcountry.
In preparation, I watched the movie Red Dawn 10 times last night, the original of course, not that remake crap. I’m ready.
Let’s say the tables were turned, and I had a company called Saucy Maps and I wanted info on our FatMaps homies local break. Being based in the UK, I assume that would be Mad Cow mountain in the Northern Snaggletooth range. I wouldn’t send them satellite images of their mountain with headers like “Your Mom was in Clockwork Orange” trying to get local knowledge from them.
The title of this post came from the caption of a satellite screenshot they sent me of what they thought was East Vail. I know the knock on Vail, I’ve heard it. I sure don’t need to hear it from someone who is trying to get my knowledge of an area that I like and is decidedly not flat. These people also needed to be told to put the trees back in the satellite relief images they had of East Vail to make it more realistic. For reals. Also, if you shift your satellites a little north there’s something called the Gore Range. Enough said.
Regardless of the application of this technology it is EVI’s opinion that EV skiing should never be for profit. And FatMaps can market the app for “safety”, but don’t kid yourself. Its for money. There is also a concern that this app will give inexperienced people a false sense of security by mapping “runs” in what is uncontrolled terrain, taking the place of experience, training and working a skill progression that allows a gradual introduction to an area. My question is when a Denver tech-savy at-risk youth grabs a float pack, pays 29.95 and snaps open a FatMap app, then comes out here and gets smoked is there a customer service 800 number they can call? Country code first remember…
I think the technology itself is cool. I think that in Europe where unmarked objective hazards lurk everywhere in massive alpine ski centers the route finding aspect is useful. And I’m sure the deal will appeal to someone’s ego enough that EV will get mapped. I’m personally not in a hurry for technology to demystify a unique and special area that deserves respect even from high-powered IMGA alpine guides with fancy technology. Who have never skied here.
See ya on the skin track.