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.
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.
Bluebird weekend with the Snowball festival. EV saw big numbers. 140 by two o’clock yesterday, 90 by noon today. Top of the World today reveals tracks everywhere. Temperatures rising again over 30 degrees.
Saw JD the Poma. He mentioned that he has seen plenty of large groups yesterday teeing it up everywhere. Tracks in the middle of west wall with no slide activity. Tweeners was stomped and Abe’s as well, confirming JD’s story. Met up with Law at the top by chance, grouped up with MFD and Atomic Mid Fat. Followed them down to Old Man’s. Cornice had risen dramatically with the wind arriving with the clearing storm.
Waited and watched the first two try to attack the cornice with a rope. Without the proper weight in the middle of the rope the rope cut nothing but plate sized chunks of snow while exposing them both to the edge of the overhang. They inched their way off the Old Man’s entrance with every rope toss and ended up over King Tut’s still trying to lasso a part of the cornice. I waited with Law above and watched. Good to leave a person in a safe area if you decide to tackle a cornice. I learned that lesson after my turn at cornice stomping left me with a ski in midair. A pole from Law behind me helped me back up to solid ground.
Skied lower down above the entrance proper as the calf roping continued. I asked them to back off a second. I probed the edge of the new cornice section at the entrance with my pole and gave a few good stomps. A sizable chunk of the newly formed section of cornice dropped and impacted the crown area of last weeks slide, the old bed surface in the middle of Old Mans almost completely filled in with the recent new snow. The chunks exploded on the scarp and ran through the frying pan. No step down, the new snow in the middle of the bowl held tough. Even with three hundred tracks in EV the last couple days, the rest of Old Mans was a blank canvas.
Dropped the entrance, skirted the debris and skied a surprisingly good Olds tree chute far right. Exited through lower trees where the snow was rapidly warming.
By writing this blog, I’ve given up the idea that EV is my personal space. People other than those I know, know about this area and will be out there at the same time I am. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a local’s only rant. The caveat is in my experience that almost every time, no matter how many people are milling about the Top of the World, I can easily find solitude and my own space if I put a little effort into it.
Today was a bit of a reversal. With J and I heading out into the tardy but increasingly powerful storm this late morning we seemed to be on track to have EV to ourselves. I did notice on the way out on the Ghengis catwalk another backcountry traveler, masked in a full face helmet, speeding down through a lightly covered, tracked Sugar Mountain. I watched him beeline toward the catwalk. not seeing the two small compressions that lead out of the small face. He skipped off the first, cased the second and starfished onto the catwalk. Ouch.
I’ve done that exact same thing once or twice in my years and it hurts more than you want to let on. You pick yourself and ski limp to the lift. Dust off the snow on your pack, dig the snow out of your face and tell yourself the concussion you just gave yourself is a mild one. Then, continue on like nothing happened. Big Mountain Starfish, I feel your pain. We ended up behind him on the lift.
Big Mountain Starfish post holed while skinned, a tough day on the lower hike as the wind slab was variable in density and thickness. Boot punching through wind slab world looked miserable. BMS tried to find the boot track, but couldn’t. He gave up and fell behind in our skin track. We left him behind as we skinned into low visibility, high winds and heavy horizontal snow.
J and I took our time up top, enjoying the hostile weather and the rawness of it all. It gave BMS a chance to catch up, making up ground on the scoured, groomed tail to the top. He hiked directly over to me. Around two feet away, he stopped and launched into an intense first run report on Tweeners. It took me by surprise. I listened and got a few syllables in every now and then. He was amped on the small wind slab that broke around him at the top of Tweeners first run and he was going back for more. The wind slab was just a couple of inches around 11 am as the storm was just getting going. I got in that Tweeners was also our destination when he stopped to breathe.
Suddenly, he ended the report, clicked into his skis and was off. He, a blur. I, a little shell-shocked. It was truly amazing, one person made EV feel crowded on the unlikeliest of days. EVI note to Big Mountain Starfish. If a group breaks trail, gets to the top first, and is geared up and headed to the same run as you are, unwritten etiquette says offer it the crew that did the work. J sat silent through the whole ordeal staring in disbelief at the full-face whirlwind.
I shook off the enigma of BMS, wondered if it was just a snow mirage. EV was just starting to fill in at 11 am. We skied four or five nice new inches in Tweeners below the ridge out of the winds, the snow fresh and light. We skied fast smooth north trees in boot deep, watching the snow come down bit by bit erasing the wind events scour. We at least had the bus stop to ourselves.
EV Black Flag Warning:
High winds and heavy snow still at 9 pm. Got a report from DPS that Tweeners was filled in again and reactive around three pm. Spiderweb cracking and wind slab release in the upper scarp of Tweeners, not at critical depth at the time. Tomorrow it will be. All sorts of different layers are lurking underneath this new storm snow. Old bed surface, east facing suncrust and upper north facing rock hard wind slab just to name a few. The variables are many and with a couple of feet of wind load on top, it could be a significant avalanche cycle.
Interested, as always, what will go down tomorrow in EV.
Fire was falling from the sky, locusts clouding the air, frogs and toads eclipsing the streets… Satan’s Etch-a-Sketch was in full effect with winds of ash and red hot glowing embers!!
Got everyone checked out of my building and finished dealing with a livid Big Appler who’s ski bags have sat in my lobby since Tuesday, unbeknownst to me with no pick-up scheduled. Okay Chief, I’m sure you need them over-nighted to go rip your non-existant snowpack on your local landfill with a chairlift on it… cry me a river.
Lunch, time to un-plug, tune out and head in the great blue yonder, sans the mob scene traveling from lift to lift. Up Centennial, Cinch and out the gate at the tip top of BC. Signs painted in red blood, screaming murder and suicide!! High Danger…probably for good reason. Took heed, said my prayers and calculated my chances as being safer outside the resort rather than inside it.
A solo skin up Beaver’s “Baldy” and the amusement of a ridiculously useless skin/boot track on a sub-15 degree slope that would burn five times the calories than any of my A-to-B “Crow-Flies” routes. I was beside myself, laughing so hard it brought tears to my eyes… See for yourself. Not to knock on good ‘ol fashioned route-taking skills, but this is the most conservative example I have ever seen, you might as well go run on the hamster wheel for a couple hours. I would say that this is a very appropriate pattern for beacon searching that particular stretch, but I’m always trying to look on the sunny side I guess. Thanks for breaking trail… or I guess, you’re welcome, but thanks for the laugh, I needed it.
Shot up lookers left ridge, blowing through big wind rolls and baking soda deposition in between. Cleared the trees and was in the midst of a cross-loaded moonscape of Sastrugi and wind scraped rocks. Made it to the most accessible drop-in point at the lookers right side of the “Baldness” and sat to enjoy the solitude, scenery and the distance between myself and the rest of the world’s insanity. It’s enlightening that one can find moments of true inner peace surrounded by “hell-fire”. Goes to show one can still enjoy the backcountry on “High” Danger days, all it takes is the right route planning, slope and aspect and ice cream dreams can become a reality.
Made my peace with the afternoon and looked down onto a completely blank canvass. Unmolested and untainted the Beaver’s “Baldy” was good to shred. Stomped around the top higher angle wind slabs with no results. Dropped in and had the best run at Beaver Creek all year.
Skied my choice line and the snow pack never budged, even got to send a couple of the medium sized cliffs lower down by the trees and finally put some air under the skis. Felt great to have a slope to myself and not have to deal with the Presidents’ Week Holiday madness. Short lived, it was time to plug back in and get the game face on… after all that was just a “ski lunch break”, back to reality whatever that may be.