Lottery applications can be for any weeks starting December 29th, 2013 with the final week available for application April 26th, 2014.
Applicants can enter the lottery for groups of a minimum of 4 people
Application fee is $15.00 for every week requested. Multiple entries can be made on the same application for the same or different weeks. Note: Some weeks in the lottery may have limited capacity (not the full 20) available.
The only way to apply for the lottery is to use the online system
A winner for each week will be selected along with a first and second runner-up.
Rates for ski weeks are $925.00 CDN Per person and includes 7 nights accommodation and return flights.
All gear, food and any other items being flown on the helicopter may be weighed at staging area. The weight limit for items (other than people) is 100lbs per person.
We encourage all groups that are successful in the lottery to limit bulk when packing. Please pack gear and food accordingly considering that gear, food and 20 people need to fit on 5 helicopter flights. Any need for additional flights will be at the cost of the group.
The winning applicant in the lottery will be considered the week's group leader and will be the liaison between the group and the Alpine Club of Canada. The winning applicant will also be responsible for making all deposits and final payments.
If your group is employing a guide and/or cook, they need to be included in your group size at the time of your application.
Traveling in the Fairy Meadow backcountry area is for advanced intermediate to expert skiers with relevant backcountry travel experience.
As backcountry skiing gains mainstream momentum, K2 has aquired Backcountry Access (BCA) to compliment their quiver of 14 outdoor companies.
BCA, founded in 1994 by Bruce Edgerly and Bruce McGowan with their Alpine Trekker product, has maintained a strong presence in the backcountry scene ever since and has helped push avalanche safety equipment to new levels. BCA will remain an independent brand under the K2 umbrella.
According to Bruce Edgerly at Backcountry Access:
"The BCA brand will continue to thrive, our management team will stay on for many more years, and we’ll remain in Boulder. We’re as excited as ever about backcountry riding and saving lives. This new partnership will enable us to combine forces with a huge industry player so we can focus on our strengths: product development and marketing–yet take advantage of K2′s strengths on such things as finance, accounting, and logistics.
We’re completely stoked to be affiliated with K2, an icon of North American skiing and riding, with a huge legacy of pioneering innovative products and defining North American ski culture. With their dominance in alpine skiing and our leading position in avalanche safety, we see ourselves as a perfect match, especially as they introduce their new line of AT boots and splitboards to the backcountry market.
With this acquisition, K2 makes a strong statement that backcountry is where the industry is going. They’re also making a strong statement about responsibility: if you’re pushing backcountry gear, you should also be pushing snow safety gear and education. BCA is just the company to support that effort: we’ve been living this for over 18 years. With K2 on our side, we can now push the message out even harder!"
The New York Times just launched a very impressive article covering last year's tragic avalanche incident in Tunnel Creek near Stevens Pass, Washington. The piece offers incredible depth and detail of the day, plus super impressive interactive graphics including an incredible realtime reenactment of the slide complete with skier locations that is best viewed on a full-size screen, not that of your mobile phone.
There's a new saying gaining traction this season amongst avalanche educators and snow professionals: sidecountry, slackcountry, call it what you will, it's all backcountry. And the Tunnel Creek incident sends this point home. Just because it's easily accessible, does not mean it's any less dangerous.
I recommend reading the New Your Times article. It puts you in the scene that lead up to the day and the event itself. It exposes the heads and hearts of those fortunate to have survived and those not so fortunate.
The Backountry Skier's Magazine - Avalung Pack Giveaway
The Northwest is in the midst of a classic winter storm at the moment. Snowfall amounts are being measured in feet not inches with this one. Of course, our local Mt. Hood stashes are getting a good dose of wind, too. It's been a great December thus far, and there's plenty of winter ahead.
We've got the January issue (#56) in the works at the moment and it mails on 1/15. The issue features a variety of freeheel minded and avalanche safety content as well as a close look at several avalanche airbag packs. You can subscribe to the mag now and get issue 56 delivered to your mailbox.
We are still in the midst of our Black Diamond Gear Giveaway and, this month, we have a Black Diamond Covert Avalung Pack to award one lucky subscriber! All new, renewing and existing subscribers have a chance to win a pair of Black Diamond Justice Skis mounted with Fritschi Freeride Pro Bindnings. We'll announce the winner in February! If you've subscribed or renewed this season, you're already entered. Existing subscribers can e-mail us to be entered, too. And more details on the contest can be found here.
The days are getting noticably short on daylight and the flakes are finally beginning to stack up around North America (although they are bit wet in these parts at the moment) and Issue 55, December 2012, is in the mail!
Although not fully intentional, Issue 55 revolves around dreams - dreams of backcountry shelter in one form or another. From Colorado to the Pacific Northwest to your backyard stash anywhere in the world, the dream of overnight shelter adds a great dynamic to a day in the backcountry and the December issue of Off-Piste explores the dynamic and the dreams.
We also continue our dedication to avalanche safety education with a look at micro-terrain and the role terrain features play in choosing safe terrain to climb and descend.
We offer an in-depth look at seven pairs of alpine touring boots from La Sportiva, Garmont, Dynafit, Scarpa, Black Diamond and Tecnica. We promise you more information than you ever thought you wanted to know!
There's plenty of backcountry ski news, ski movie beta and, with the holidays on the horizon, Grumpy Old Shop Guy comes through with some time-tested gear shopping advice. Get your copy today
You know the feeling - you are on your skis working the rhythm, enjoyin’ the speed - and suddenly, for a few turns, you feel immortal; you channel the energy of Ullr himself. Ullr, god of choice among Scandinavians and backcountry snow lovers alike - is a pre-Viking era Norse God who kept fine company with the likes of Odin, Thor, Skadi and others.
Among his many skills, of course, is skiing. His name is often invoked in the name of snow and praised in hopes of more snow. However you use Ullr's name, his image invokes strength and power in the mountains and has graced the pages of Off-Piste Mag on more than one occasion.
I am always in search of cool ski and mountain culture related artwork for the mag, and one of the first artists I ever worked with was Scott Dickson. Based in Nelson, BC, Scott's creative illustration and design work has run on the pages of national magazines, billboards, moto and bike helmets and even mountain bikes - not to mention our first-ever t-shirt design.
One of Scott's first illustrations to appear in the pages of Off-Piste was a freeheel skiing Ullr that we ran twelve years ago. The image still generates e-mail inquiries when people stumble accross it in our online archives (it's in issue 6, by the way).
Well, Scott is now set up so you can easily purchase his work as prints, cards, even iphone covers! His work appeals nicely to the ski and mountain afflicted user, and he's got some killer images of scenes around Nelson, too. Now's the time to stock up on the long sought after Ullr holiday card or get some mountain inspired imagery for your walls of your cave.
The Utah Avalanche Center does an excellent job forecasting mountain weather and avalanche hazard in Utah. Their website offers a wealth of information for anyone heading into Utah's backcountry and beyond.
Their latest video, a retospective look at last season's record breakingly poor snowpack, is full of incredible avalanche and snowpit footage that illustrates the hazards of a shallow, continental snowpack. It's long at almost 20-minutes, but for anyone interested in seeing a textbook shallow, faceted snowpack brought to life, it's a must see.
It's been a busy week in the backcountry ski industry. Our inbox is full of event news, backcountry hut updates and industry press releases.
Let's start with some environmental action news brought to us by Black Diamond Equipment. Admirably, BD is taking the lead on the Stop Ski Link movement in Utah's Wasatch Mountains. The Utah Ski Link proposal revolves around a gondola that would connect Canyons Resort in Park City with Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The proposed project requires the US Forest Service to sell 30 acres of public land, located in some of the Wasatch Range's most popular ski touring terrain, to developers while bypassing existing jurisdictional and environmental protections.
BD is helping to unite the fight to oppose Ski Link, and in the words of BD CEO, Peter Metcalf, "The industry is against SkiLink but in favor of more sustainable and true Wasatch-wide transportation solutions that benefit all ski areas and the entire community." You can join in the opposition or just learn more at the Stop SkiLink website or visit the Stop SkiLink Facebook page.
In other backcountry access and landuse news, the Bend Backcountry Alliance is prepping to dispute the Kapka Butte Sno-Park in the Century Drive corridor on the grounds that it offers virtually no accomodation for non-motorized users (no new ski or snowshoe trails). Furthermore, it does not include anything to mitigate the addition of more motorized users to the Century Drive corridor.
In hut news, the crew at Payette Powder Guides in Idaho has a great line-up of avalanche safety courses this season including a free safety presentation at The North Face Shop in Boise on Nov 11.
Meanwhile up in British Columbia, Carlyle Lodge is looking to fill some spots on a 5-night New Year's hut trip. They've been hard at work with lodge improvements all summer and are ready to ring in the new year in style, and you can join 'em!
Also from BC, The Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association (BLBCA) is pleased to announce the second annual Backcountry Purist Contest. The BLBCA is seeking four ultimate Backcountry Purists - skiers and snowboarders who deserve a fully guided and catered week at one of four participating backcountry lodges of BC.You can get all the details on the contest here
Seattle area skiers should put the the grand opening of the new evo retail shop in Seattle on their radar. On Saturday, November 10, 2012, evo invites the community to enjoy a day of celebration. Stop by and have some fun and help support the Service Board, a local organization that mentors and supports at-risk youth. Facebook.com/evo.
In our own neighborhood here on November 9 and 10, the Crag Law Center will be hosting the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Hood River, OR. Originating in Nevada City, CA, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival aims to use film to inspire activism.
Finally, on the industry side of things, Black Diamond just announced they have established a wholly-owned ski manufacturing factory in Zhuhai, China. The all-new, 43,000-square-foot ski factory will build BD's 2013/2014 ski line, incorporating new manufacturing processes that are expected to help BD reach new levels of performance and quality control.
The October 2012 mag (issue 54) is out and includes our 2012 backcountry ski reviews, featuring 40 models. As usual, it also features top-notch avalanche safety advice, entertaining opinions and valuable backcountry wisdom. Subscribers should have the issue in hand by now, and it's available at select outdoor shops around the country.
Our first issue of the season coincides with the first real winter storms of the season. The Pacific Northwest has seen snow totals pushing 12-20 inches depending on where you look, and the Tetons are boasting similar numbers. Sounds like the Sierra got 2-3 feet! Yes it's early, and I have yet to venture out on skis, but the winter vibe has arrived.
By subscribing (or renewing), you'll also be entered for a chance to win Black Diamond Gear. This month we are sending one lucky subscriber a pair of Black Diamond Razor Carbon Ski Poles, and you have a chance to win a pair of Black Diamond Justice Skis (138/111/123) with Fritschi Freeride Pro Bindings! The Justice is a great soft snow touring rig. Here's a snip of our review on the Justice: The Justice serves up shorter radius arcs and is a bit more agile in tighter terrain than the Megawatt. It has good turn follow through and walks a nice line between surfy full rocker and a more traditional ride. It’s still a quiver ski for most folks, but it’s a fun one.
Current subscribers can get in on the ski contest by shooting us an e-mail requesting to be included int he giveaway.
Stay tuned to the latest with our e-mail newsletter - sign up here
As we prepare to launch the first issue of the season, we are stoked to announce a new subscription campaign contest.
All new and renewing subscribers will be eligible to win monthly gear prizes from Black Diamond and will be entered into our Grand Prize Ski Giveaway scheduled for mid February when one lucky subscriber will win a pair of Black Diamond Justice Skis with Fritschi Freeride Pro Bindings!
Each month we wil giving away smaller Black Diamond Gear prizes including, gloves (October), Razor Carbon ski poles (November), Ascension skins (December), and an Avalung Pack (January)!
If you recently subscribed or are already a current subscriber, you can still get in on the contest. Just send us an e-mail, and we'll get your name in the Justice Ski Drawing!
Stay tuned in to Off-Piste news and happenings by signing up for our e-mail newsletter. We send it monthly between September and April. Sign up here
The Off-Piste swag department is also fully stocked for fall. We've got the usual Off-Piste branded ball caps, hoodies and Voile straps, plus we've just added cool new Off-Piste ski scrapers! Small enough to fit in your pocket while touring and big enough for shop use, these 2 in x 5 in plastic scrapers are made from clear 6mm acrylic. $6 each or two for $11.
Ski Movie season is underway, and ski season is creeping closer. I recently attended the MSP film, Superheros of Stoke in Portland, and now the Powderwhore boys are hitting the road with their new ski film, Choose Your Adventure. The film premieres at Brewvies in Salt Lake City tomorrow, September 26, 2012. The Howell brothers will then embark on a 50 city tour with the film. They will even be in Hood River, Oregon (our humble home) on October 8 with stops in Seattle on October 9 and 10, then Portland on October 11. You can get all the details on their tour page.
In gear news, Black Diamond continues to build there quiver with the recent aquisition of Pieps. With roots dating back to 1972, Pieps designs and manufactures alpine safety equipment including avalanche transceivers, probes, shovels, safety equipment, packs, and satellite-based devices for messaging, route tracking, and navigation. According to Black Diamond, "PIEPS will be run as a semi-autonomous, discrete but closely linked Black Diamond brand that we believe will benefit directly from our operational infrastructure..."
Closer to home, we are finalizing the first issue of the season and it will start mailing on October 15. We plan to offer a digital subscription option and will get the word out later this week with all the details. Also, we have new Off-Piste Ski Scrapers pending arrival! Sized 2 in x 5 in, they are designed to fit in your pocket while out touring, yet are stout enough for shop use, too. We'll have all the details for ordering as soon as they arrive. You can stay in touch with all things Off-Piste by signing up for our monthly e-mail newsletter.
A recent press release from Scarpa announced that Chris Davenport is currently working on development of a new freeride focused AT ski boot line for the company.
According to the release, "Davenport said he was attracted to work with the Scarpa brand not only because of its world-class reputation in the ski-mountaineering, touring and footwear categories, but also because of the opportunity to be intimately involved in the development and testing of a new, innovative line of ski boots specifically for the freeride market."
Scarpa is not ready to release any details of the new line as of yet, but we did coax a photo of Davenport skiing in what appears to be a Scarpa boot that was presumably shot during recent testing in Chile. (click the image above for a closer look at the boot)
Scarpa revamped their light, touring oriented alpine touring boots in 2011 with the Meastral and Gea, and then released the Maestrale RS (stiffer) in 2012.
I'm guessing the new freeride boots will replace the Mobe and Hurricane that have served skiers well for several seasons. The new Scarpa Freeride boots are scheduled for fall 2013 release, so we're likley to hear and see more come the January trade show.
Back when having big skis meant they were long, Scott Scmidt was the poster child for North American extreme skiing. This week's Tuesday time waster takes us down memory lane with some Warren Miller Footage of Schmidt ripping it up with his big boards, one-piece ski suit and trademark hop turns. Must be the mid to late 80's . . . nice special effects.
The first issues of Powder and Backcountry are in the hands of skiers around the country, and the reach of summer is waning a bit here in the Northwest. The first issue of Off-PisteMag is not due until October (we are firm believers that August is too early to get distracted from reality), but we are lining up a great season of stoke-filled content and opinions of backcountry ski gear. We'll be sending out subscription renewal notices at the end of the month and are looking forward to another great winter chasing untracked lines.
In the meantime, the ski industry news wheel is picking up steam, and we have a few stories of interest to pass on and help keep you in the know on all things ski . . .
First off, our friends over at Backcountryskiingcanada.com just posted an interesting video interview with Greg Hill. Hill answers questions about his recent move from Dynafit to Salomon and his interest in helping Salomon delve into the world of backcountry skiing. Although Hill does not spill the beans about specific Salomon backcountry products (i.e. tech bindings and lightweight touring skis), he lays it out that we all know his focus and we should be able to figure it out ourselves . . . check out the Greg Hill interview.
Other news of note is that the USFS has granted approval for the Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion plan. The expansion pushes Breckenridge's operational boundary to include Peak 6, the next alpine summit to the north. The plan adds over 500 acres of ski terrain, a new lift and at least one new lodge structure. There is a healthy opposition to the plan in town and for good reason. The Peak 6 area has long been one of the few easy access touring areas for Summit County backcountry skiers. It's not exactly world-class gnar, but it is an undeveloped area close to town that offers quick access to several day tours and holds one of the few healthy spruce forests in the area. Many view the expansion as resort marketing fodder, so Breck can claim new terrain and more lifts to help boost visitor numbers versus truly offering improved or more varied ski terrain. I'm not sure how the decision will play out, but you can read the details and follow updates at the Summit County Voice. They've got details, draft maps and ongoing coverage of local opinion related to the Peak 6 expansion plan.
Finally today, you may have read back in June or July about the closure of June Mountain Resort in California. June Mountain is one of those small ski hills that offers access to incredible terrain for touring. The resort is, however, owned by Mammoth Mountain, and from what I can infer from reading a bit of the details is that the closure may well have a politcal component that revolves around the desire to expand real estate development in the area (imagine that), but that might just be the conspiracy theorist in me coming out. Eitherway, local residents are not happy about the closure and a Save June Mountain group has rallied to well, you guessed it, save June Mountain.
Ski bumming is a rite of passage among dedicated skiers. Ski bumming, however, is not as easy as it used to be. Ski towns have gone highbrow, and these days you literally need a real job in order to finance a ski pass and ski town housing.
I don't have the answers to the ski bum equation, but creating your ski bum name is easier than ever. Somewhat akin to the concept of your pornstar name, I introduce you to the Ski Bum Name Chart. I'm not especially pround of my ski bum title, Old Liver Bailey. Anyone who knows me well, understands that I take it pretty easy on my liver, but maybe that's the point of the name. Kind of like my friend Baldy, who's got a full head of hair.... share your Ski Bum Name with us if it's a good one . . .
Here's a simple website for dreamers and lovers of cabins, page after page of quiet places. Be sure to scroll down and page through to browse through all of the images . . . many a ski cabin is represented from BC to NZ. Happy time wasting . . .
Off-Piste Mag Issue 52 (January 2012) featured an article about Chic Scott, pioneering Canadian alpinist, skier and now historian of all things mountain in Canada.
Scott and a crew of ski partners were the first skiers to complete several of Canada's great ski traverses in the 1960's and 70's. He's also the author of many books including Powder Pioneers, Deep Powder and Steep Rock as well as Summits and Icefields, which has become the bible for skiing Western Canada's vast snow-covered ranges. Now in its third edition, Summits and Icefields has been split into two volumes, one dedicated to the Canadian Rockies and one dedicated to the Columbia Mountains. The first volume, focused on the Rockies, was released last winter, while the second volume, focused on the Columbia Mountains, is due this fall. You can read our feature article about an evening with Chic Scott here.
Chic Scott's dedication to documenting the history of Canadian skiing and mountaineering is impressive. Check out this great short meditation on mountains, culture and history featuring conversation with Scott.
Help us focus our efforts for the 2012-13 winter season by taking our short survey (only 10 questions). We're keen to learn a little more about you, our backcountry skiing reader, to hone our focus for the upcoming ski season . . . thanks for your time.
Despite recent heat waves and waning snowfields around the country, the ski industry machine moves along in the background. Recent news includes that of Salomon signing Revelstoke, BC-based ski mountaineer Greg Hill to their athlete roster for a three-year deal that includes product research and development. For those familiar with Hill and his fast and light exploits, the partnership sounds like an unlikley pairing. Hill, formerly a Dynafit athlete, is the guy who climbed and skied two million vertical feet in a season and was a driving force behind Dynafit's Stoke ski model - he's fast and light all the way. Salomon, on the other hand, as venerable as they may be, is not known for their lightweight backcountry ski products. Sounds like they may have plans for the future...read the full news piece on Greg Hill signing with Salomon.
Along with grabbing Hill, Salomon has hired Dynafit's former boot guru, Federico Sbrissa, too. Fede was the man behind the Dynafit Zero and TLT boots as well as the Garmont MegaRide prior to working with Dynafit. Salomon admits they are investing in the lightweight backcountry market and according to an interview with SkiingBusiness.com, they have plans for boots, skis and bindings - potentially by 2014-15.
Moving to Utah and a little politics, Peter Metcalf (CEO of Black Diamond) resigned from the Utah Ski and Snowboard Industry working group last week. Metcalf cited his opposition to Utah Governor Herbert’s proposed legislation regarding federal public lands and R.S. 2477 litigation as the primary reason for his resignation.
Governor Herbert’s administration is currently suing the federal government for the transfer of federal public lands ownership to the state. Critics view Herbert’s plan as a short-term sell off that almost exclusively benefits private developers and the oil, gas and coal industry, without regard to the value of conservation and recreation interests. Additionally, Metcalf is strongly opposed to Herbert’s plans to litigate over the titles to several tens of thousands of miles of non-existent road claims, many of which reside in national parks, monuments, and wilderness study areas.
“The current administration’s pursuit of federal land transfers and their proposed battle to wrest title of remote trails could open up pristine wilderness, national parks and monuments to drilling and extractive uses, let alone destroy human powered recreational values. These policies would saddle a heavy economic burden on Utah taxpayers and be detrimental to sustainable management of public land. They are hostile to the interests of the outdoor industry and ignore sizable contributions to the state’s economy.”
Let's hope that Metcalf's actions and those of others fighting to keep Utah wild have an impact on Utah's future.
Interesting news for California skiers; June Mountain has announced it wil be closed for the 2012-13 ski season. June Mountain, although owned by Mammoth Mountain, is one of those little hills with big access. Overshapdowed by Mammoth for most mainstream skiers, the smaller resort has hung onto its underdog atmosphere over the years, and although the closing of a resort is sad news, it does open up some great terrain to ski touring. Apparantly, Mammoth has run June at a deficit since purchasing the resort in 1986 and has finally had enough. June Mountain will be shuttered through the 2012-13 while Mammoth works with the USFS to devise a plan for the future. Here's the official release from June Mountain.
Finally, if your'e jonesin' for some winter conditions, the southern hemisphere is off to a great start to their ski season. Valle Nevado, in the central Andés outside of Santiago, Chile, has a majority of their terrain open, and Portillo reports almost two meters of new snow. Over in Argentina, Las Lenas reports over two meters at the upper elevations, too.
We just got word about HR 4089, a House Bill that could significantly impact our National Forests. The bill, called the Sportsmen's Heritage Act, would give hunting, fishing and fish and wildlife management aimed at bolstering hunting and fishing top priority in Wilderness.
HR 4089 has the ability to fundamentally change the 1964 Wilderness Act by allowing the construction of roads to facilitate hunting and fishing, and it could be used to allow the construction of dams, buildings or other structures within Wilderness as well as habitat manipulations in Wilderness under the guise of "wildlife conservation" or for providing hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting experiences.
Specifically, it strips away the Wilderness Act's prohibitions on the use of motorized and mechanized vehicles, motorboats and aircraft, other motorized equipment, and structures and installations for any activity related to hunting, angling, recreational shooting, or wildlife conservation. It would waive "any requirements imposed by the Wilderness Act" for federal public land managers or state wildlife managers for any activity undertaken in the guise of wildlife management.
The current spell of great weather has created some fine snow conditions on Mt. Hood and other Northwest volcanoes. Still sporting near full winter coats of snow, spring conditions are evolving nicely, and the coverage is great. For skiers, now is an ideal time to climb Mt. Hood, attempt a summit ski or simply ski some of her more prominent features like Barret Spur, the Wyeast Face or even the killer circumnavigation of the full mountain.
Of course, cold nights are best for setting up safe and primo skiing and climbing conditions, so keep an eye on the weather before you pull the trigger for a day on the hill.
Thanks to the hardwork of WSDOT crews, the North Cascades Highway 20 is scheduled to open at noon on May 10 (today!). Crews started clearing the 34-mile stretch of closed highway on March 26 with their sites set on opening by the first week of May. Although they didn't quite meet their goal, we are psyched to see the road opening tomorrow. Thanks to a March and April flush with storms, the snowpack is sure to serve up excellent spring skiing for many weeks to come.
For those in the know, Highway 20 allows some of the most extensive and varied roadside attraction skiing in the the lower 48. From the classic chutes and lines out of Hairpin Valley and Washington Pass to extended tours from Rainy Pass, the North Cascades have it all.
Last fall, Garmont moved their North American offices from Vermont to Portland, Oregon. I recently had an opportunity to visit the new headquarters and meet with President David Fee and Marketing Coordinator Ashley Powers. Located in Northwest Portland, the new digs offer a nice relaxed but professional atmosphere, replete with the requisite Portland bike rack (in the office).
Garmont is more than just a ski boot company. They have a long history of hiking, walking and climbing footwear, too. The Portland office now houses the full North American staff for their footwear and ski boot programs, and although their warehouse is still currently in Vermont, Fee expects to have a new Portland warehouse open in the next few months. Of course, Garmont's Italian HQ remains firmly planted in Montebelluna, the well-established ski and climbing boot capital of Europe.
Why the move to the Northwest? According to Fee, several factors led to the move including a change in the company's structure where the Italian owner assumed 100% ownership of the North American operations and Garmont's desire to maintain and expand on their current North American market presence in part by revamping their office and establishing a presence on the West Coast like may other leading outdoor companies.
Once dominated by Garmont and Scarpa, the telemark and alpine touring ski boot markets have seen pressure from several new players including Black Diamond, Dynafit and La Sportiva and even longtime alpine boot manufacturers like Salomon and Tecnica. Revamping their office and reestablishing their presence in the Western US is part of Garmont's big picture planning to keep the brand's ski boot line in the forefront of the market.
Looking ahead, Fee is excited about the new three- and four-buckle AT boots (as are we): the Cosmos and the Orbit. Having been a strong player in the AT boot market over the years with the MegaRide and more recent Radium, as well as in the stouter freeride category with the Delirium, Garmont saw it was time to turn their focus to the growing lightweight, performance oriented AT boot sector. The new Cosmos and Orbit boots fit the bill nicely. We will be testing boots in this growing category on Mt. Hood in late May and are excited to get some quality up and down time in Garmont's newest boots.
Garmont remains committed to telemark and NTN boots as well, and although the telemark boot line is unchanged for next season, the new NTN Freedom binding will be available this fall. The Freedom offers increased touring performance and a lighter weight construction for the NTN system
Garmont also distributes Bridgedale socks and owns the Life-Link brand. Life-Link, once a primary player in avalanche rescue shovels and probes, adjustable ski poles and even ski packs, has seen little branding or marketing in recent years. Fee said that the Life-Link brand remains an important part of their quiver, and recognizes the need to revamp the brand and suggested we should see some changes in the future.
It's nice to see Garmont embracing their new Northwest home and their dedication to the sport we all love. We'll be sure to post details about the Cosmos and Orbit from our boot testing in May.
Thanks to everyone who subscribed to Off-Piste for a chance to win avalanche safety gear and skis from Genuine Guide Gear this winter! We gave away G3 shovels, probes, skins and snow saws in December, January and February.
Robert Ray of Helena, Montana was the lucky winner of the G3 Skis. He got himself a pair of G3 Saints! Congrats Robert!
The Saint was one of our all-mountain touring picks for the season. Here is what we said about the Saint in the 2012 Ski Review:
G3 hit a sweet spot with the newly revamped Saint. It may not be a big fat powder gun, but it has remarkable power and stability for a light, touring biased ski. The new early rise tip and traditional camber come together for a smooth, balanced and very capable ride that proved to be a crowd pleaser.
It's been a sensitive winter for the snowpack in many regions around western North America. Shallow snowpacks and long dry spells have added up to create some touchy conditions as the numerous Colorado, Utah and recent Washington avalanche fatalities help to illustrate. Backcountry skiing is risky business, and we are all hungry for some quality powder turns.
Times of elevated hazard make finding safe skiing more difficult, but it can still be done. Check out this article about High Hazard Touring written by Larry Goldie, IFMGA Ski Guide, that appeared in Issue 43 (December 2009).
Get your favorite backcountry skier set up with something they can really appreciate, Off-Piste branded swag! We've go our usual organic cotton ball caps, and this year, we added Trucker style ball caps, too. If that's not enough, check out our organic cotton hoodies with embroidered logo. These heavyweight cotton hoodies are the perfect apres ski wear. They run true to size and shrinkage is minimal, so a large is a large and medium stays true to medium etc. Finally, we've got the ever useful 18" Voile straps. These babies are the ideal do-it-all ski strap and repair kit safety tool. I've seen Voile straps used to repair bindings, hold packs together, and even in splints for broken limbs, not to mention they are great for bundling skis for transport. They're awesome, and we sell 'em in pairs for ten bucks. Price per goes down, the more you buy. Of course, there is always the gift subscription to the mag, too. You can just enter the gift subscription address before you check out in paypal.
For the backcountry ski zealot, we have the Full Off-Piste Kit featuring the ball cap of your choice, hoody, four Voile straps and a sticker pack! All for $55.
The Ski Area Citizen's Coalition just released their 2011 Environmental Report Card. It's not exactly related to backcountry skiing, but it's good that someone keeps tabs on ski resort practices.
Here is what they have to say . . .
"Ski resorts across the west for the first time in five years did not significantly increase their activities related to renewable energy and energy efficiency . . . ski resorts did very little degrading activity during the same period. The good news is that ski areas for the second year in a row had minimal increased impacts to endangered species and wetlands on public lands . . . The bad news is that ski area investment in renewable energy and implementing energy efficiency measures has declined compared to the previous season."
There is a new backcountry ski hut in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, the Opus Hut. After years of dreaming and searching for a suitable scenario, longtime Colorado-based skier and craftsman Bob Kingsley has made it happen.
The Opus Hut, Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski Hut, is located at 11,765 feet near Ophir Pass, Colorado. The 1800-squarefoot, three story solar powered structure was years in the making. Built on a mining claim that Kinglsey was able to purchase, the hut is open for its first commercial season this winter. Its location affords access to a wide range of terrain from nearby gentle slopes to the steep, challenging terrain and features that define the San Juan Mountains.
There is quite a story to the construction and design of the Opus Hut. Using salvaged materials and a 120-year-old hand hewn hardwood timber frame adapted form a Wisconsin dairy farm, the structure blends mountain craftsmanship with eco-minded design, materials and sytems.
Access is about a three-mile skin from highway 550 (Million Dollar Hwy) between Ouray and Silverton or directly from Ophir Colorado. This season, rooms are available on a nightly basis, or you can rent the full hut. There is a hut keeper who tends to chores and keeps the fire stoked.
Ultimately, Kingsley would like to see the Opus Hut run European style with a resident hut keeper serving meals and drink. There will be a feature story on Kingsley and the building of the Opus Hut in the print mag later this winter. In the mean time, you can learn more at opushut.com
As backcountry skiers from Alaska to New England and beyond get in the rhythm of winter, the December 2011 issue of Off-Piste Mag, Issue 51, is at the printer and scheduled to ship next week. Issue 51 includes features that range from a profile of Brian Cross - aka the Bald Bomber to confessions of a couloir junkie and the continuation of our four-part regional skier interviews. The December gear feature takes a look at five new three-antenna avalanche beacons, and the Avalanche 101 article discusses when to dig.
In other news, thanks to all the new and existing subscribers who entered into our November subscription promo sponsored by Genuine Guide Gear (G3). We will notify the winner of the G3 avalanche safety gear on December 1 and announce the new December subscription promo too! Entry for the November promo is now closed, but you can still enter the December contest by subscribing or, if you are already a subscriber, by sending us an e-mail asking to be entered. Anyone who entered the November contest will automatically be entered into the December round.
We just got a note from John Lehrman at Downing Mountain Lodge in Montana. Here is what John has to say about the lodge and the approaching winter season.
The sub alpine larch are passed prime color and the western larch are glowing on the mountains. And while I have been eagerly rock climbing and mountain biking, soon it will be time to relax and switch to skis.
Up at Downing Mountain Lodge, we are almost all set for the upcoming season. With ten cords of wood, we have plenty of fuel for the grand fireplace and skiers relaxing around the lodge. It has been exciting this last week in the snow showers. It has been a great reminder of the good times to come skiing on the mountain. And while I stumble around in hiking boots on uneven, frozen ground, I think of the smooth days of breaking quiet trail and easily shussing back to the lodge. With another La Nina winter in the forecast, we are in for a great season of backcountry skiing at Downing Mountain Lodge.
We are planning to have an open house at the lodge again this season, likely on Saturday, December 17th. We hope to have the band Free Range to play, while we host a potluck of sorts for a good time and for folks to experience the new lodge layout. It is usually too early for good skiing, but I will come armed for a run if conditions allow!
We recently heard from Tannis up at Sorcerer Lodge near Golden, BC. She and a crew of folks just wrapped up their 21st annual (more or less) fall work trip (repair, replace and repaint) up to Sorcerer Lodge to finalize their project list for the coming winter season. Here is what Tannis has to say . . .
"Projects this year included sprucing up the sauna, refinishing the pantry and power system room, building new shelves, and pretty much painting and varnishing the whole lodge. We also continued our experiment with outhouse composting. With the help and advice of Geoff Hill, a UBC PhD candidate who is carrying out research on human waste management systems located off-grid and at elevation, we are trying to incorporate worms into our system. Although we are fairly confident that the worms will not survive the extreme winter temperatures up at the lodge, it is possible that their eggs may be able to survive. If that’s true, we can hope to find a new population thriving throughout each spring, summer and fall. Goodness knows there is enough for them to live on! I’ve decided that ski tourers eat more than anyone else on the planet (except possibly sumo wrestlers). We will let you know of the fate of our worms next summer.
We would also like to report that the big snows of last winter were treated to an extremely cool and wet spring and summer up here. Much of Nordic Glacier retained a covering of snow throughout the season, and with early snowfall already, we’re heading into this winter with very good coverage on the ice. Check out the picture, it’s a great start to the coming season.
And finally, I never miss an opportunity to chastise all the mountaineers who quit skiing early! We did a May 17th – 24th trip in powder this year! If you really want to get up the big peaks and travel fast and easily in long days of sunshine, you need to keep your mountain bike hanging in the garage and your skis on your feet. You don’t get to be barefoot, drinking Margaritas on the deck in the sunshine in February in the alpine! Check in for some screaming spring deals!"
Many mountain areas have already had their first round of winter storm cycles. Wolf Creek Ski Resort in Colorado even opened for skiing on October 8. For those of us who don't have snow, or are not actually ready for it, there are plenty of pre-season events happening in the coming weeks.
Ski movie season and Avalanche Center Fundraiser season are in full swing. Be sure to head out and support your local avalanche center by attending a movie night or social event sponsored by one of the many Avalanche Center Friends groups that are out there.
Regionally, The Powderwhores are headed for the Northwest with their new film, Breaking Trail. Catch a show near you this October and November: Seattle, North Bend, Hood River, Portland, Bend, Eugene, Ashland and south to the Bay Area and Tahoe. Get their full tour schedule online. The Sweetgrass crew is also nearby with their new film, Solitaire. They have stops in Washington, British Columbia, Oregon and California in October and November. Thier full movie tour schedule is here.
Next up is the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit on November 13. This event is a great gathering of avalanche pros and avid skiers. Immerse yourself in avalanche talk and science for the day, you will be glad you did.
Finally, Portland area backcountry skiers should put OMC's Backcountry Expo on their calendars. This event offers 20% off of all store merchandise and a used gear sale including rental telemark and AT skis and boots. November 19, 10am-6pm 2975 NE Sandy BLVD Portland www.e-omc.com.
Along with the recent shift in the weather comes the first issue of Off-Piste Mag - The Backcountry Skier's Magazine for the season. The October issue features the 2011 Ski Review with over 50 backcountry skis included. We also debate the merits of ski quiver, pay respects to dedicated backcountry skier Mark Nelson, profile the stereotypical Northwest skier and more. The cover image comes from Grant Gunderson.
The October issue is our 50th printed mag and marks the start of our 13th year of publication! It is hard to believe that we have been publishing the mag for so long. Thanks for all of your support in helping us make it happen. If you are not a subscriber, fuel the stoke for the upcoming ski season with a subscription or set yourself up with some of fine swag - hoodies, ball caps and voile straps.
It is also ski movie season. Be sure to keep an eye out for the various ski films headed your way the next few weeks. The Powderwhore crew will be here in Hood River on October 12 - 7pm at Dog River Coffee. Come on down and get fired up for winter. Here are few backcountry ski movies you should look into:
Expedition planning is an exciting time, but raising money is never easy. Over the past twenty years, Polartec has supported hundreds of expeditions around the world through the Polartec® Challenge, an international grant program encouraging outdoor adventure. Applications for Polartec® Challenge grants are now available for 2012 expeditions.
"Since 1991, Polartec has assisted some of the world's greatest athletes and explorers," states Polartec Global Director of Marketing, Nate Simmons. "From next-to-skin, to insulation, to extreme weather protection layers, Polartec builds performance fabrics to keep you comfortable in every kind of climate and we're proud to support adventures that put our products to the test."
The Polartec® Challenge Grant seeks to assist low impact teams who respect the local culture and environment and serve as role models to outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. Applications are evaluated on the basis of vision, commitment, educational and cultural value. The Polartec® Challenge is not the appropriate venue for projects that involve competition or fund raising.
Past recipients of the Polartec® Challenge Grant include outdoor pioneers and adventurers such as Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Steve House, Marko Prezelj, Andrew McLean, Greg Hill and John Shipton. Some of the latest Polartec Challenge Grant recipients include Kate Harris and Melissa Yule who are exploring environmental conservation while cycling from Europe to Asia, and Jon Turk and Erik Boomer who recently completed the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island - regarded by many as one of the last great Arctic expeditions.
We finally have all of our Off-PisteMag logo swag back in stock. This year we have two ball cap styles, trucker and traditional, as well as our 100% organic cotton hoodies with embroidered Off-Piste logo. Our Voile straps are back in stock, too! We went with 18" straps this season to fit your favorite fat boards.
Support the best in grassroots backcountry adventure, and set yourself up with some styling gear at the same time.
Who has not dreamed of designing their own ski top sheet? I know I have. Too often I find myslef staring down at the skis on my feet thinking, I could create cooler graphics than these. Have I ever done it, not yet. But you should try!
For the fourth ski season in a row, G3, Vancouver BC-based backcountry ski gear manufacturer, is teaming up with various sponsors to give you four chances to see your graphics atop a pair of limited-edition G3 skis. Last year’s G3 Skigraphiks contest saw more than 250 entries.
The Skigraphics contest runs in four segments, each with an affiliate sponsor who promotes the contest. Here are the details:
Sept. 1 - Sept. 30, Backcountry.com.
Oct. 1- Oct. 31, MountainGear.com.
Nov. 1 - Nov.30, BentGate.com
Dec. 1 - Dec 31, Backcountry Magazine
The contest started in September this year, rather than October, which means you should be able to ski on your own design this season.
Winners of each contest get their graphics used on a current ski from the G3 2011 line. The graphics from the winner of the Backcountry.com contest will be used on the Highball, the MountainGear.com contest of the Saint, the BentGate.com contest on the ZenOxide, and the Backcountry Magazine contest the Infidel. We have skied all of these boards and G3 has really stepped up their performance. The Saint was a big hit with our test crew.
G3’s logo must be used in all entries, while affiliate sponsor logos must also be represented in the respective contest that they are sponsoring.
Submit your designs at www.g3skigraphiks.com, where the public gets to vote on them. Four winners, one each month, will receive a free pair of custom designed skis with their graphic on the top sheet. The grand-prize winner, chosen two weeks after the last contest ends on December 31, will receive a ski package valued at over $1,400. The package will include a pair of skis with their winning top-sheet graphic, as well as G3 skins and G3 bindings.
Check out last year’s winning graphics (posted above) and keep tabs on current entries on the G3 Skigraphiks website. Of course, vote for you fave or enter one and get all your pals to vote for it!
It has been a while since I posted a random clip to fill the time. I recently read in the news that Facebook is the number one time waster in America. Well, to be fair the article said it was the number one social networking site where Americans choose to spend their time. So, in an attempt to provide more time wasting opportunities on Off-Piste I offer you the following video of Ueli Steck. It is not backcountry skiing, but it is some pretty dramatic mountain adventure. This guy is an animal.
Warm weather and east winds have favored the expansion of the Mt. Hood Dollar Lake fire. The fire is now approximately 4,500 acres in size. Most of the growth has been to the west, but changing winds today could again impact fire behavior. The USFS is reporting 10% containment with a high probability of continued growth, which is better than the previously rated extreme danger of growth.
From a skiing perspective, the fire may well be opening up some interesting terrain, but much of the area burning is relatively inaccessible come winter. There could be some new skiable lines in the Stranahan and Pinnacle Ridge areas. Here is a link to a full size map of the burn area.
Word from the Northwest Oregon Incident Management Team is that the North East side containment line is in place. Given this work and the proximity to the 2008 Gnarl Ridge burn area, protection of the historic Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane areas is looking good. The next few days, of course, will determine what is to come. The short term forecast is for warm weather and light winds. You can get updated fire information by visiting the Inciweb.org website and choosing the Dollar Lake incident from the menu on the upper right.
The Dollar Lake fire on Mt. Hood continues to burn today, but with less intensity than on previous days. Yesterday's smoke column was less impressive, and there was much less visible flamming in the eveing. The official USFS update reports that the size is estimated at 1600 acres (see map of fire perimeter) and that fire fighters have begun constructing a fire line and have fininshed wrapping Cloud Cap Inn with fire-resistant material.
The USFS report goes on to say, "Today, the focus of suppression efforts continues to be directed toward the northern and eastern flanks of the fire. Helicopter water bucket drops and construction of fire line will continue today. 328 fire fighters are currently assigned to the fire, and more fire fighting resources are still arriving. A task force of engines is assigned to the protection of structures in the vicinity of Cloud Cap Inn and the Tilly Jane Historic District.
Today, the weather is expected to cooperate with the fire suppression effort. 50% relative humidity and cooler temperatures are expected. Although some gusty winds are also expected."
A Parkdale community meeting is scheduled for tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Parkdale Fire District. Link to Flyer.
Wildfire season is in full swing here in Oregon, and even Mt. Hood is proving to be ripe for fire. A wildfire on Mt. Hood's northern flanks believed to be started by lightening on Aug. 26 has grown to over 1500 acres. The fire started in the Dollar Lake area near Elk Cove on Mt. Hood's north side and grew quickly on Sunday and Monday fueled by steady west winds and warm temps.
The fire's rapid growth has closed numerous trails, campgrounds and roads on Hood's north side including:
Vista Ridge Trail
Gnarl Ridge Trail
Elk Cove Trail
Cloud Cap Campground
Tilly Jane Campground
Kinnikinnick Campground at Laurence Lake
Word is that the fire has burned accross to Stranahan Ridge just NW of the Cloud Cap and Tilly Jane historic areas. Historic structures at Tilly Jane and Cloud Cap, which narrowly escaped being destroyed by the Gnarl Ridge Fire in 2008, are being threatened once again by this fire. The USFS reports, "Firefighters are wrapping the historic Cloud Cap Inn with fire resistant material. A task force of engines is assigned to the protection of structures in the vicinity of Cloud Cap Inn and the Tilly Jane Historic District."
More photos and updates as we get more information.
We are into the hottest days of the summer here in the Northwest, but we all know that ski season is approaching. It might still be a little early to start waxing your skis, but it does not hurt to start planning your winter’s adventures while the sun is still high in the sky. We just got word from John Bell up at Golden Alpine Holidays that the Selkirks in central BC recently got their first official dusting of snow and that Golden Alpine's Sentry Lodge is back in full service following a fire in 2009.
With Sentry Lodge back in action, GAH has four backcountry ski lodges in the legendary Northern Selkirk Mountains a short helicopter flight from Golden, BC.<> GAH has been busy renovating their three other lodges - Sunrise, Meadow and Vista – to update the comfort level while maintaining their rustic vibe. They even have a live webcam up at Sentry that gives you real-time weather data and a sweet view.
Last December GAH held the first fully sanctioned International Ski Mountaineering event to be held at a backcountry lodge, called the Selkirk Classic, attracting competitors from all over North America.
These guys have a variety of events planned for this season including an early season XC Nordic training option for teams, clubs and anyone wishing to get a jump on early season conditioning starting in October.
The regular backcountry ski touring season at GAH kicks off on December 2, 2011 with new freeride touring camps at Sunrise Lodge. These three- and four-day trips will combine the forces of Matchstick Productions superstar athlete Eric Hjorleifson and GAH ski guide Russ Lyabarger and are designed to take advantage of early season powder while emphasising snow safety and route planning.
With Sentry Lodge back in service, GAH has their full four-lodge traverse back on deck for April 2012. This guided and catered trip is a seven day tour that travels across the entire Esplanade Range and visits all four GAH lodges.
The following ediitorial comes from the Wenatchee Mountain Coalition in Central Washington. The Wenatchee National Forest is not alone in its user conflicts. Read on . . .
Will it be Snowmobile National Forest, or expanded wilderness? What is the reasonable middle ground? The short answer is, please, U.S. Forest Service, manage the winter forest for multiple recreational uses, in some reasonable balance, in consideration of the impacts to nature, and for all of the public owners...
Breckenridge Ski Resort is pushing to expand its lift-served terrain into an area known as Peak 6, threatening a popular area for backcountry skiing. If you are unfamiliar with the proposal you should read the article on the Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion (2mb PDF file) that ran in the March 2011 issue of Off-Piste. Following is the note from Friends of Peak 6:
In a couple of short weeks, comments will be closed for what could be one of the most destructive proposals ever seen in modern-day Summit County. Sixty football fields worth of HEALTHY spruce and fir: Gone. Precious habitat and endangered species: Displaced. Quality of life for residents and guests: Diminished. This is the last chance to prevent a PERMANENT destruction to one of the last dense forest parcels in the Tenmile Range.
Your voice has made them notice. Now, more than ever, we need your letter to stop this project. It is designed to do little for crowds and everything for ski area marketing. Full details and info on how to comment.
Garmont North America announced they will be relocating their headquarters to Portland, Oregon, not far from Off-Piste Mag's North American office (our only office). The press release goes on to call Portland an "outdoor and footwear capitol," likely due to the fact that NIke, Adidas, Columbia, Montrail and Ice Breaker call it home and not because Off-Piste Magazine is located in the nearby Columbia Gorge recreation corridor.
Either way, we welcome Garmont to our local 'hood and look forward to having the venerable ski boot manufacturer nearby for easy access to testing their telemark and alpine touring ski boots - not to mention we love Bridgdale socks, too.
Check out this incredible video made from 12 months of footage taken by a motion trigger wildlife camera in Banff National Park. It looks like just about every critter in the area passed by this camera over the 12-month period including cougars, wolves, black and brown bears and moose - pretty darn cool.
Back in 2005, I was able to join Nils Larsen on his first trip to the Altai Mountains in Northern China to meet and begin documenting what is believed to be one of the last remaining cultures to rely on primitively made skis for travel and hunting. The skiers of the Altai Mountains represent the roots of skiing. Their skis are handmade from local spruce trees and literally look ancient.Traveling to the Altai was a trip of a life time for me. Nils has subsequently been able to return five more times to continue his documentation of the Altai ski culture.
Nils has also been working on developing a new ski company inspired by the utilitarian nature of the skis used in the Altai Mountains. Appropriately called the Altai Ski Company, the new skis are geared toward a unique blend of do-it-all utility that speaks to the way skis are used in the Altai Mountains. We are not talking descent oriented backcountry or mountaineering skis like we normally feature, rather the Altai Ski company skis are short skis with permanent skins that enable a blend of walking and sliding.
I have actually been able to use the skis a few times as Nils has been working on the design. I have skied them with 3-pin bindings and plastic 2-buckle tele boots. They are a lot of fun. We have found one of the best ways to ski them is to use the single pole style of the Altai skiers
The Wallowa Avalanche Center (WAC), the non-profit avalanche information hub based in Joseph, Oregon, just wrapped up its second season of operations. The center provides high quality snowpack reports and promotes avalanche safety in the Wallowas and neighboring mountains, providing a valuable service for the backcountry skiers in Northeastern Oregon. WAC just announced that they have received a $4,000 grant from the Oregon-based Wildhorse Foundation to fund avalanche information and education outreach efforts.
According to board member Penny Arentsen, "The grant funds will help further WAC’s mission: to provide winter travel safety information for winter recreationists in Northeast Oregon. These dollars will support a number of new education and backcountry safety programs WAC is launching in 2011/2012. For education and outreach, WAC will develop a program to teach the general public and schoolchildren about the dangers of avalanches, as well as how to recognize avalanche terrain. The goal is to instill the desire to learn more about safe travel in avalanche terrain in all backcountry travelers, from motorized to non-motorized travelers. The Wallowa Avalanche Center also provides weekly current condition summaries on its website."
The Wildhorse Foundation supports a range of programs in Northeast Oregon on behalf of the Wildhorse Resort and Casino and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
WAC is currently looking for proposals to develop an avalanche awareness and snow safety program for the general public. If you are an experienced avalanche educator, check out WAC's request for proposals at www.wallowaavalanchecenter.org/RFP
Spring weather is slowly settling in here in the Pacific Northwest, and the corn snow is starting to ripen. Volcano climbing and skiing season is upon us! It is the ideal time to climb Mount Hood or other volcanoes with the intent to ski down (why else would you climb anything).
If climbing Mount Hood is on your radar, check out our Mt. Hood Climbing Poster. They are only $12 (with shipping in the USA). The poster shows all of the classic climbing routes on aerial photos and gives their first ascent dates.
Mt. Hood offers a quintessential volcano climbing experience, and many of Hood's climbing routes make excellent ski descents. If you have ever thought about standing on the summit of Mount Hood, this season's healthy snowpack should make for a great climbing and skiing season on Hood.
Mount Rainier National Park just announced their new 2011 climbing permit fees. The new fee is now $43 (up from $30 last season). The permit is valid until December 31 of the year purchased, so if you are a regular user or are shut down on your first foray above 10,000 feet, you can try again with the same permit. According to Park officials, the price increase was needed to cover the rising costs of administering the climbing program. Nearly 11,000 people attempted to climb Mount Rainier in 2010. Read the full explanation of Rainier's cllimbing fees here.
The climbing program at Rainier is more extensive than any of the other Cascade volcanoes. But almost all of the volcanoes require a paid permit to climb or ski above treeline. The exception is Mount Hood. Hood requires registering for a permit, but permits are free. Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Shasta all require paid climbing permits.
Volcano skiing season is not far off. Pick up the lastest issue of Off-Piste for a full spread on skiing the volcanoes from Mount Rainier to Mount Lassen. Or Subscribe and we'll send you a copy...
We have begun our annual ski testing for our 2011 ski review. March has proven (once again) to offer some of the finest skiing of the season around here, and we have been running skis through the ringer up at Mt. Hood.
Our testing focuses on touring minded skis. In addition to the usual suspects, there are several new players this season with skis constructed to cater to the touring market. Kastle, Volkl, La Sportiva, Faction and Movement all have new skis for 2011 that are touted as light construction.
Also new into our testing mix is Hagan, a long standing European ski brand that has a new North American distributor. Hagan has several skis in the mid 70's-80mm waist category, but they also have a new ski called the Daemon that measures in with a 93mm waist. The Daemon has proven to be a versatile ski in our testing and it is light at 6 lb 10 oz.
Other standouts in the line-up thus far include the new G3 Saint and Zen Oxide, both of which use light construction and new early rise shape. The new G3 Saint is modest at 93mm underfoot, but one tester described the Saint as one of the nicest telemark skis he has been on in years.
Faction has two new boards with light construction: the Agent 90 and the Agent 100. Although not as light as a Dynafit or similar, the skis are lighter than lastyear's Faction boards and have many of the same excellent on snow qualities - lively and confident. Both skis also have nice modest rocker in the tips.
The new Volkl Nunataq is also garnering a lot of praise. The new light construction backcountry ski from Volkl has its roots in the Volk Gotama, but it weighs in at 7 lb 12 oz per pair - not bad for a ski that measure 139-107-123.
We have been able to ski the new Dynafit Manaslu, too. We have been huge advocates of the original Manaslu. The new ski features new core construction designed to stiffen the ski up. The new ski is definitely stiffer throughout. The resultt has been that bigger skiers (175+) have found it more responsive to their needs, while smaller skiers (150 and below) have been less pleased with the new construction.
We still have loads of telemark and alpine touring skis to test and will follow up with more deatils as we get out and ski in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is a short slideshow from behind the scenes of our testing - all taken with various i-phone cameras.
Backcountry Access has announced an update for its Tracker2 Beacons.
BCA is offering a free update to their version 4 software. This update prevents the Tracker2 from entering reprogramming mode if there is an interruption to the power supply. Along with the new software, you will also receive a new front with anti-static material and stiffer action on the return-to-transmit tab.
This update is available to both retailers and consumers. For fastest results, it is best for the customer to work directly with BCA. BCA will pay for all shipping costs.
To determine if you need this upgrade, disconnect and reconnect one battery while the unit is off. After displaying “t2,” the unit will display the software revision number. If it displays “R01,” “R02,” or “R03,” then you should upgrade to R04. Instructions:
1. Contact BCA at 800-670-8735, ext. 0 or email email@example.com with your current T2 version, phone number and mailing address.
2. BCA will provide you with a return authorization (RA) number and e-mail you a UPS call tag for free shipping.
3. Please write the RA number on the outside of the box.
4. Ship the unit(s) to BCA at 2820 Wilderness Place, Unit H, Boulder, CO 80301.
Once they receive the unit, they can turn it around in one day.
I wanted to take a chance to thank all of the new and renewing subscribers this year. Subscriptions to the print mag are growing at a great pace. We appreciate your support and words of encouragement. This is our 12th season of the mag! The January issue is in the works now and is scheduled for shipment by January 15.
In the meantime, here are couple of interesting stories that are going on in the world of skiing and snow. First, is the Bear Creek access debate in Telluride, CO. It is an intersting battle over public lands where pressure from private land holders have shut down access.
We are in the midst of a serious pineapple express here in the Northwest. Skiing has gone form great to downright soggy in the past 36 hours. It's a good time to do some housekeeping chores around the office.
First off, we get many inquires about buying a subscription or swag with a credit card rather than Paypal. Our online checkout system now allows you to pay with a credit card or with your Paypal account! Just follow the same checkout link listed for Paypal and it will offer you both credit card and Paypal options.
Second, anyone looking to buy a gift subscription, simply follow the online checkout system and just before you "pay now" or "send payment", you can edit the shipping address. Simply change the shipping address to the receipient's information. It's that easy.
Finally, December 17 is the last date to send us an order and have it shipped before Christmas. Orders that arriver after December 17 will ship after Christmas.
Winter seems to have gotten up to speed mighty fast. The first powder turns of the season are already old news and the first avalanche fatalities of the season have already made the news (Colorado and Utah), and it is only November. British Columbia has issued a high avalanche hazard warning for the South Coast and storms appear to be lining up in the Pacific, ready to deliver more snow. It sounds like a good time to ask if you are ready for the season and to evaluate your skills. Make this the year that you take an avalanche class, hone your route finding skills or take your avalanche education to the next level.
There numerous qualified sources to begin or further your backcountry skills. We ran an article about choosing a quality avalanche safety course a couple of seasons ago, and the information holds true today. Ultimately, the quality of any course is determined by the experience and training of the instructor. When looking for courses, ask whether instructors are affiliated with organizations such as the American or Canadian Avalanche Associations (CAA) or the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), and find out if instructors are certified members of the American Mountain Guides Association or the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Detailed content standards and certified instructors can be found on the American Avalanche Association website.
Several of our supporters (look to banners on the right - a little shameless promotion for our supporters) offer certified AIARE courses and many of the Canadian backcountry lodges offer CAA affiliated courses. From Payette Powder Guides and Sawtooth Mountain Guides in Idaho to Three Sisters Backcountry and Wallowa Alpine Huts in Oregon to North Cascades Mountain Guides and the the Northwest Mountain School in Washington, there are numerous quality options for in depth avalanche safety education.
If a straight up avalanche class does not tempt you, consider a general backcountry skills workshop, a course to expand your comfort in the backcountry and help build your general skill set, including staying safe in avalanche terrain. What better way to build your own skills than to spend several days with veteran ski guides. Skiing with guides is always educational. North Cascades Mountain Guides even offers a women's specific backcountry workshop, run exclusively by women. The workshop pulls together the Northwest's top female instructors and guides for a long weekend clinic, run by women for women.
Clear your calendars, book a course and ramp up your skillset. If November is any indication, it looks like this is going to be a winter to remember, and the skiing is always better in the backcountry.
Our November subscription spiff ends in two weeks. Now is your chance to win a sweet pair of trousers from Mountain Khakis.
Subscribe before November 30 and you will be enetered to win one of 15 pairs of pants from Mountain Khakis. You can select any pair of pants from their website, men's women's or even kids. They make a great pair of trousers. We have been sporting their Alpine Utuility pants for the past year and highly recommend them.
We all value our regional avalanche centers. The resource to backcountry users provided by the network of avalanche centers is invaluable. We get the best in weather forecasting, snow and climate data, not to mention professional snowpack and avalanche hazard analysis. Most everyone is also probably aware that funding for our avalanche centers is often at risk. Most centers operate on budgets that rely on funding from a variety of resources with the bulk of funding coming from the U. S Forest Service with some state and private funding. The now ubiquitous "Friends of Avalanche Center" groups provide an important advocate and revenue generator for almost all of the avalanche centers in the United States, but there is currently an opportunity for you to help put the need for additional avalanche safety funding on the Federal Government’s radar.
Although it was raised in 2009 without action, Senate Bill 2907 is aimed at providing Federal funding resources for avalanche forecasting and research. Dubbed the Federal Land Avalanche Protection Act of 2010, the bill is out of committee and awaiting votes in the House and Senate. The Bill is sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R - Alaska), Mark Udall (D - Colo.) and Mark Begich (D - Alaska) and would appropriate funds to support avalanche safety information, research, education and coordination on avalanche-prone National Forest System land.
To voice your support for the bill, write your local representatives and senators. There are many ways to contact your representatives and senators, but here is a direct link to a website that lets you voice your opinion and, if you like, share the process via various social media outlets. www.popvox.com/bills/us/111/s2907
We have hooked up with the crew at Mountain Khakis again to offer a November subscription spiff.
Subscribe before November 30 and you will be enetered to win one of 15 pairs of pants from Mountain Khakis. You can select any pair of pants from their website, men's women's or even kids. They make a great pair of trousers. We have been sporting their Alpine Utuility pants for the past year and highly recommend them.
We just heard from Chuck at Payette Powder Guides, a relatively new backcountry hut operator in Idaho. Sounds like they have been gearing up their operation for the season and have had the first significant snowfall of the season to boot. Here is what Chuck has to say:
Winter has arrived in the mountains! Last week we received a foot of snow at Lick creek Summit, and we made a trip to the yurts to shovel and make final preparations for winter.
Fortunately, we had our annual wood party in early October and, with the help of lots of hard working friends, managed to stuff every nook and cranny under our yurt platforms with plenty of fire wood for the upcoming winter. Located about 15 miles northeast of McCall, Idaho in an area that burned heavily in the 1994 Blackwell fire, we have plenty of standing dead trees to choose from.
Skiing the burn is surreal and unique. We love it. There are just enough snags left to help anchor the snowpack and provide much needed definition for good visibility on a powder day.
With a moderate to strong La Nina weather pattern forecast for the Pacific Northwest, we just might be skiing this month!
Subsscribe or renew your subscription to Off-Piste Mag before September 30, 2010 and you'll get a FREE "heli ski strap" from Brooks Range Mountaineering. Quantities are limited, so subscribe now and support the best in grassroots ski media.
I got an e-mail this spring about a group called 40 Tribes. Organized by Ryan Koupal, 40 Tribes is laying the groundwork to facilitate backcountry ski touring with local accommodation in the Tien Shan Range in Kyrgyzstan.
Having spent time in western China (directly south of Kyrgyzstan), I found the idea of traveling and skiing in the Tien Shan Range on the Kyrgyzstan side very intriguing, let alone the idea of some guys running backcountry hut trips in such a remote, little known area, so I got in touch with Koupal to find out more about 40 Tribes and what he hopes to do.
Off-Piste Mag: Why KGZ?
Koupal: At the beginning it was all about the intrigue: heading to a place that very few Americans knew about, to explore mountains that I myself knew very little about. Before Kyrgyzstan ever came into the picture, friends and I were pursuing similar adventures in parts of China/Tibet. In 2006, we spent 6 weeks in the Heng Duan and Kun Lun ranges in historic Tibet (present-day Sichuan and Qinghai provinces). We traveled with our skis and splitboards, pulk sleds, pounds of food and insane amounts of gear, and attempted a couple of wintertime circumnavigations of sacred peaks along prominent Tibetan pilgrimage routes. The trip was difficult to say the least - partly because of conditions (consistent -20F temps and a shallow snowpack), and mostly because of the bulls%#! we dealt with given the bureaucracy of the Chinese government (permits, fees, corruption, etc). Though inspired, we were physically and financially wrecked.
But by 2008, we were ready for another adventure. We considered Mongolia, northwest China, and India, and finally settled on Kyrgyzstan - due in part to my rooted interest in the nomadic cultures of Central Asia, and also because I was just so amazed to find out that such an obscure country, with its muddled past, was actually home to more than a dozen developing ski resorts utilizing the original infrastructure that was abandoned by the Soviets in 1991.
Off-Piste Mag: When did you first travel to KGZ?
Koupal: In 2008, after years of traveling/adventuring in China, I decided it was finally time to explore Kyrgyzstan proper. In the spirit of the earlier expedition, I convinced a few close friends to head into the heart of the Kyrgyz Tien Shan with our skis and splitboards to see what the place was all about. We set out in December and spent the next six weeks scouting backcountry routes across the country, with video cameras at hand to document our journey. The terrain that we found was spectacular, and the conditions far better than what we had found in China. Inspired, I decided to round up an even larger crew of friends for a return trip in 2009/10, and over a 3-month period from January-March we laid the groundwork for a community-supported hut program and wrapped up our documentary filmwork with this exciting new objective as the focus. This fall we will head back over to set up the yurts, facilitate trainings for our village partners, and usher in the inaugural season.
Off-Piste Mag:What is 40 Tribes? / What is the KGZ project?
Koupal: The 40 Tribes initiative is an evolved version of "The Kyrgyzstan Plan" development project, which we created and promoted following our first trip. What we found in Kyrgyzstan was indeed a developing ski industry - set very starkly against a severely depressed economy. Kyrgyz resorts are attracting Kazakh, Russian and European ski tourists, and increasingly, wealthy locals from Bishkek, but very few profits appear to be reaching the community level. As is the case in many of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries, corruption is widespread, and much of the money generated through tourism and development of any kind remains in the hands of an elite few. In addition, most of the resorts are owned by foreign parties from Russia, Europe and Korea.
Kyrgyzstan is also home to one of the most successful ecotourism programs in the world, called Community Based Tourism, or CBT. The program came to life shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union through aid from the Swiss development organization, Helvetas, and has (remarkably) withstood corruption and nepotism and developed into an entity that supports a wide network of rural families through simple home-stays and ecotours (trekking, hunting, fishing, etc). What caught our eye, however, was that CBT's operating season lasts only 4 months, from June through September. With such a short season, the income opportunities generated through the program are just not enough to sustain many families' involvement in the program.
Thus, TKP/40 Tribes was developed to provide rural Kyrgyz families with an alternative source of income during the winter season, an otherwise long and difficult time of the year. The project introduces yurt-based backcountry skiing as a viable option for increasing the length of the ecotourism season in select mountainous areas, taking advantage of both the country's growing prominence as a destination for skiing, and also the momentum towards socially, culturally, and environmentally-responsible travel that exists in the wake of CBT tourism - all of which is very new to Kyrgyzstan. The project trains and employs local villagers as the hosts of our mountain "lodges," and pledges to introduce additional livelihood diversification opportunities to those who are interested, such as ski/mountain guide trainings, in an effort to help them sustain their involvement in the tourism industry.
Off-Piste Mag:Tell me a little about the mountains/terrain, snowpack, huts/yurts, etc.
Koupal: Kyrgyzstan is 94% mountainous, so just about everywhere you look, you face a new breathtaking alpine vista. What's better is that the country is criss-crossed by an extensive network of roads, many of which are maintained through the winter (not to say that they are safe or in good condition, by any means...but they do provide amazing access to backcountry terrain!). The climate can be likened to that of Colorado - i.e. continental, warm summers, cold winters, lots of sun, and huge temperature gradients. The snowpack is most volatile in March, and shallowest in December/early January. Late January-February and April are the ideal months for hitting the backcountry.
Our first yurt-lodge will be set up this coming October, just before the snow begins to fly. For the inaugural year, we will lease two traditional Kyrgyz yurts from our local partners, which will be placed on wooden platforms, insulated with reed mats and felted rugs, and outfitted with wood-burning stoves. One of the yurts will be used for cooking and the other as the sleeping quarters. Yurts were, for a long time, the year-round homes of Kyrgyz nomads, but these days, occupying a yurt in the winter is a thing of the past. We have indeed had to work hard on selling the idea to our local partners.
Off-Piste Mag: How is the current political situation? What’s your take on the future there?
This is definitely a pertinent question. On June 10th Kyrgyzstan's south erupted with violence, leaving hundreds dead and thousands wounded, and sending hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uzbeks across the border to seek refuge in neighboring Uzbekistan. At first, and for some time, the international media reported that the Kyrgyz were killing the Uzbeks, when in fact there were causalities on both sides. There's no doubt that the violence was inter-ethnic, but it is still unknown who, exactly, went after who, and what, exactly, ignited the violence in the first place. The story (and the history behind the story) is too complex for me to dive into much detail here, but the whole scenario was undoubtedly influenced by politics - in some way or another - given that the ex-President, Kurmanek Bakiyev, was forcefully overthrown from his post and replaced by a "pro-democratic" interim government a few months earlier, in April.
In the north, including the Lake Issyk Kol region and the mountain village of Ichke Jergez (home to our inaugural yurt-stay program), rural life continues at this point without many concerns over safety, much as it did during the events of early April in Bishkek and the events of early June in the south. While the situation in the south remains volatile, with hundreds of thousands of refugees returning to cities that were almost entirely destroyed, the north is calm and violence-free - not to mention separated from the south by the huge geographic barriers of the Tien Shan.
As told by our local partners in Bishkek and Ichke Jergez, a more poignant concern is regarding the current prices for diesel fuel and other commodities, affected by the frequent and prolonged border closings that have taken place in the wake of each event. The surge in fuel prices means that many fields have not been planted, leaving many of Kyrgyzstan's already-depressed agrarian economies to brace for an even harder hit this year.
Amidst all of the recent political upheaval, violence, and hardship, however, there is finally hope that Kyrgyzstan is on a path towards stability. Voters recently adopted a constitutional referendum on June 27th that makes the interim government legitimate as Kyrgyzstan's "caretaker government" until presidential and parliamentary elections can be held next fall. Kyrgyzstan's new government will be the first parliamentary democracy in Central Asia, a remarkable feat given the history of autocracy and despotic rule in the region.
Looks like the weather is finally going to cooperate with a little volcano climbing in the northwest, but now the avalanche center is flying the avalanche caution flag. I have not been out in the past 10 days, but it sounds like caution is advised. Curious how the snow conditions are holding up with all this record moisture.
If you have ever thought about climbing Mt Hood or have climbed it, check out our Mt. Hood Climbing Routes poster.
The poster shows all of the classic climbing routes on Mt. Hood, significant geographic feature names and lists the dates associated with first ascents. It is 18"x24" and is printed on high quality 100# card stock.
The 2009-2010 season's Off-Piste Mag issues are now available free online in PDF format. We post back issues online each spring. This year's issues are 42-45 and include the 2009-10 ski review, interviews with Sweetgrass Productions and PowderWhore Productions, skiing on Alaska's Mount Foraker, Dynafit Splitboard hybrids, ski pack reviews, alpine-touring bindings, the boutique ski movement, and much more.
High pressure was in full swing here in the Hood this last week and spring is now fully in the air. I am off to British Columbia for a final hut trip of the season. Hopefully this next Pacific front gives us a little refresher.
I will be testing a variety of skis, boots, and skins while up in BC. I have been using a new set of Colltex Extreme mohair skins on the various boards over 100mm underfoot that we have been testing. The skins have been excellent - offering the best glide of any skin we have. Given the width of skis today, glide properties are more important than ever. Seems like skin widths have hit the "critical mass" so that mohair is now able to compete with synthetics on the ascent, too.
With spring on deck here in Hood River, check out the Mt Hood Climbing Route Poster we put together a couple years ago. It offers aerial shots of Mt. Hood from all aspects with climbing routes marked and first ascent dates noted. Spring special $17 including shipping.
Cool Slideshow of Skiing and Ski Culture - Kootenay Style
If you have ever travelled through interior British Columbia and skied in or around the Kootanays, you have likely seen Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine (KMC). It is an artfully created print mag that revolves around life in the Kootenays - life inextricably linked to mountains and the pursuits therein.
West Kootenay based ski photographer Dave Heath, well know for his work in Powder and Bike magazines among others, put together a creative and funny slideshow for a KMC event this winter. Heath's brother, Bill Heath, is the man behind ski movies Sinners, Nine Winters Old, and Ski Your Ass Off. Talent runs in the family . . .check out Dave's Groovy Little Slideshow.
“This photo contest is for those who have a reputation for babbling on about the deep powder days, meandering summer hikes and chance wildlife encounters they’ve experienced in British Columbia's world-renowned backcountry.” said Brad Harrison, BLBCA’s Executive Director.
The Grand Prize includes backcountry education with a vehicle for adrenaline:
CAA approved Avalanche Skills Training course for the winner and three lucky friends, plus a pair of G3 El Hombre skis, G3 skins and more.
Winning submissions will be judged on how much the image and accompanying tale exemplify someone’s best day in the BC backcountry, the submission’s visual energy and how much it aligns with BC’s adventurous spirit. Canada's highly respected mountain image experts Pat Morrow and Roger Laurilla will act as final category judges.
The contest is open until February 15th, 2010. To submit an entry, learn more about the contest or check out the full category prize packages, www.bcbackcountry.ca or check the press release here
The Ski Area Citizens Coalition (www.skiareacitizens.com) has been publishing the Ski Area Environmental Report Card for the past 10 years. The report evaluates the environmental policies and practices of ski areas in the western U.S. based on a system of 35 criteria including: preservation of sensitive lands within the ski resort area, actions related to water conservation and quality, and demonstrated commitment to green programs such as recycling and alternative energy...
December is here and snow is a flyin'. The December issue of Off-Piste Mag (Issue 43) is at the printer and will begin shipping 12/2.
Subscribe or renew now to get the best in grassroots backcountry adventure. Subscribe, renew, or buy some Off-Piste Schwag (hoodies, hats, voile straps) for the holidays and you will be entered to win 1 of 10 pairs of Mountain Khakis Alpine Utility pants (men's or women's). You must subscribe or purchase on-line to qualify.
The crew over at Backcountry Access has produced a series of informative avalanche rescue technique videos. The videos cover beacon searching, probing, and shoveling techniques. All of the videos are worth checking out. I chose to post the shoveling technique video here, because shoveling, one of the longest steps in avalanche rescue, recieves very little attention relative to search protocols.
Obviously, keen search skills are vital to a rescue, but given the stats on avalanche rescue, the minutes and seconds spent shoveling are also vital. An average one-meter burial requires removing between one and one-and-half tons of debris. This equates to between two and three thousand pounds of snow. The video from Backcountry Access promotes strategic, efficient shoveling techniques. Take a look - your partners will be glad you did.
While some lucky folks are out enjoying the early arrival of winter (see above photo of Ray Thomas courtesy of Larry Goldie at NCMG), we are working on finalizing the next issue of Off-Piste. All of the computer time making the issue happen results in some good time wasting fodder like the Bond clip from earlier in the week. well, here is one more to help lighten the mood of the hours spent in the office....
Skiers bound for Eastern Oregon's hidden gem known as the Wallowa Mountains can add the newly created Wallowa Avalanche Center (WAC) to their list of resources. Until now, avalanche conditions in the Wallowa Mountains were not officially monitored and the nearest center to the Wallowas was the Payette Avalanche Center in Idaho.
With an increasing number of winter visitors enjoying the Wallowa Mountains and the Eagle Cap Wilderness, there is a critical need for an efficient way to share information about backcountry conditions,” said Keith Stebbings, Director of the new Wallowa Avalanche Center. “We intend to bring online by this winter a Web-based tool anyone may use to gather weather data, learn the latest snow conditions, and to report the conditions they observe for others who may follow. We also will be offering avalanche safety courses or links to them.
The fledgling WAC received a start-up boost in the form of a donation from the family of a local skier who died in an avalanche in the Wallowas last winter. On March 7, 2009 a quarter-mile wide slide released on three skiers near Lookout Mountain in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Roger Roepke, 50, died while his 15-year old son and another skier escaped serious injury. Roepke’s death was the first avalanche fatality in the Wallowa Mountains since 1982. Roepke’s wife, Lisa Armstrong-Roepke, was interested in supporting local search and rescue efforts in her husband’s name and was connected with the group launching the new avalanche center.
Keith Stebbings, director of the new center, brings many years of backcountry travel experience and avalanche safety training, including work as a contract field observer with the Utah Avalanche Center, to the WAC Director position. Stebbings is joined by a board of five other skiers including Roger Averbeck, founder and former owner of Wing Ridge Ski Tours in the Wallowas and several advisors including Don Sharaf, of Driggs Idaho. Sharaf, a professional member of the American Avalanche Association, has spent years guiding, forecasting and teaching in Alaska and the Tetons and brings a wealth of professional avalanche experience to advising the new center. The new center is a 501c3 non-profit, but it is not affiliated with the United States Forest Service (USFS). According to Stebbings, the forest service is receptive to the new center, but there is no official relationship with the USFS at this point in time. This year the center will provide online weather data resources, a field observation forum and resources for avalanche education, but the center will not issue avalanche hazard forecasts at this time.
Connelly Brown, owner/operator of Wallowa Alpine Huts (WAH) is excited about the new center. Brown says, “Destination travelers, the majority of Wallowa backcountry skiers, will greatly benefit from WAC's mission. Brown and his crew at WAH will play an important role in the WAC as it is outfitters like WAH who will be providing weekly snowpack data from various micro-regions in the Wallowas.
In addition to data provided by local outfitters, WAC will collect and present data online from numerous SNOWTEL weather data sites. Stebbings hopes to be able add additional weather stations and wind sensors in the future including the possibility of a new site at Salt Creek Summit. Fund raising efforts for the Wallowa Avalanche Center are ongoing and resources will be directed toward more features on the center’s Website, installing weather station instrumentation and developing an observer network. www.wallowaavalanchecenter.org
Anyone obsessed with skiing enough to be reading this blog probably does not need an academic paper to prove that ski resorts often embellish thier snow report numbers, but the following report from a couple of Associate Professors in Economics from Dartmouth College is a pretty entertaining read. In addition, it raises the i-phone issue again. Apparantly, there is yet another application that allows folks to send reports live from the field (given reception - can you hear me now) to some popular resrt snow condition website. As hard as I try to escape the pull of the oracle (read - i-phone), its reach is tough to escape...
Here is the Abstract:
Casual empiricism suggests that deceptive advertising is prevalent, and several classes of theories explore its causes and consequences. We provide some unusually sharp empirical evidence on the extent, mechanics, and dynamics of deceptive advertising. Ski resorts selfreport 23 percent more snowfall on weekends. Resorts that plausibly reap greater benefits from exaggerating do it more. We find little evidence that competition restrains or encourages exaggeration. Near the end of our sample period, a new iPhone application feature makes it easier for skiers share information on ski conditions in real time. Exaggeration falls sharply, especially at resorts with better iPhone reception.
I posted a blog referring to the Ski Bum contest sponsored by a consortium of BC ski areas a couple weeks back. The contest is a take on the widely successful campaign run by Queensland Australia Tourism last winter. I just checked back on the Ski Bum site and am surprised to see only two entries thus far, and they are lame. Basically, they feature some simple ski footage of the person applying. I know there are some creative folks out there. Seems to me the idea is to sell yourself as the most deserving of the ski bum award (90 days of free skiing in BC). I am hoping for far more ceative works than the few thus far. My wife is threatening to create a vid of the haggard housewife/mom who's husband is always off skiing. Deadline for entries is November 22 - one month from today. Don't let my wife win. I am the ski bum in this family. Maybe in classic ski bum fashion, everyone is just waiting until 11:59pm on Nov. 22...
October is here and snow is gracing the high country once again. The latest issue of Off-Piste Mag (Issue 42) is at the printer this week and will begin shipping next week.
Subscribe or renew now to be in the loop for a full season of Off-Piste Mag delivered to your door. If you subscribe online by October 11, 2009, you will be entered to win 1 of 10 pairs of Mountain Khakis Alpine Utility pants (men's or women's), and you will be on the list to receive the first issue of the season.
Issue 42 includes our annual ski review, an interview with Powderwhores co-founder Noah Howell, and more. We've got a full season of inspiring backcountry ski culture and adventure in the works. Get your subscription here and you might just get a sweet new pair of pants from Mountain Khakis.
Leave it to the good folks in the Kootenays to run this campaign - The Ultimate Ski Bum Contest. You know the situation, the collection of lift passes, flexible jobs, road trips, failed relationships, and all that beer, check . . . now you just need to create the video for a chance to win THREE MONTHS OF FREE SKIING on the Powder Highway....you've got until November 22 to produce a 90 second vid that proves you are the ultimate ski bum...put the bubbler down and get to work!
Skiing may be scarce in the northern hemisphere right now, but there are plenty of options for staying tuned up. My latest pursuit is slacklines. I am no pro in pursuit of heart dropping highline antics, but I was keen to get good enought to actually walk a decent line. I have set up a few lines with one-inch webbing, but have never been terribly succesful. I recently got a "packaged" slackline kit from Gibbon Slacklines and have had a lot of fun with it.
What's a packaged kit? In this case, it is essentially a 50-foot tow strap with a mechanical tightening system that makes setting up the line a piece-of-cake, and makes getting and keeping the line tensioned super easy.In addition, the Gibbon line is two-inches wide versus the standard one-inch width of basic climbing webbing. The added width makes for an awesome trainer line.
I have gone from struggling to walk a line to being able to jump on and spin around with the Gibbon line. The balance required is akin to skiing fast pow through tight trees - moving from balance to recovery mode as you walk the line . . . check it out. The Gibbon Site has some great video on it.
Jarl Berg from Berg's Ski Shop in Eugene, OR has been traveling in Norway and had a chance to visit Sondre Norheim's home. Norheim is recognized as a pioneer of modern skiing. He lived from 1825-1897 and helped to pioneer early ski techniques and equipment.
Jarl sent us a couple video clips from his visit to Norheim's home and workshop. Check it out . . . Thanks Jarl!
Following 20 years of litigation, White Pass Ski Resort has begun clearing and construction for its 700+ acre expansion this summer. White Pass is located about 50 miles west of Yakima, WA, and cleared the final hurdles for the expansion back in September when US district Court ruled in favor of the Resort in the last of a string of lawsuits that began over two decades ago.
The expansion adds over 700 acres of terrain (map here) and adds lift access to Hogback Basin, an...
Spring arrived in force this weekend in the Northwest. The bike was calling so I do not have a snow report, however, the lower elevation mt bike trails around Hood River are primo right now.
Benj Wadsworth from the Friends of the NW Weather and Avalanche Center (FOAC) reports that "...NWAC was able to provide forecasts throught he end of April and is still publishing special warnings as needed. While funding for next season is still somewhat tenuous, we are hopeful that the cooperating government agencies and the ski areas are going to continue to fund the Center at their current levels..."
FOAC was successfulin raising close to $30,000 at their Seattle based Snowball bash in April (check out images and list of supporters for Snowball here), and will be able to help with funding gaps while pursuing permanent funding solutions.
Other news from FOAC is that the new joint NWAC/FOAC website, which previewed at Snowball, will be ready to launch this summer. The summer launch will allow bugs to be worked out before the busy season hits. The new site will provide a more user-friendly interface, and will offer advertising opportunities.
Finally, FOAC has published the 2008-09 avalanche and weather summary. Check it out here. Thanks to NWAC and the FOAC for providing their valuable services.
WyEast Nordic is hosting its 26th season of Summer Tele-Camp June 13-14. Summer on Mt. Hood is an excellent time to take a ski clinic. Creamy corn snow, mild temps and a variety of instructors make for a great weekend of skiing.
The clinic includes tour days before and after that offer a chance to explore some of the summer backcountry skiing on Hood, too.
I have participated in and tought clinics for WyEast and should be up teaching and touring this year too. Come on up and hone your freeheel form. Get the full details here
The Bend Backcountry Alliance (BBA) has been working to protect human powered access around Bend, OR with recent efforts focused on a non-motorized Tumalo Butte.
Here is the latest update from the BBA.
We're making headway toward a quieter, cleaner Tumalo. We are writing to thank you for your continued support for the preservation of winter trails and to give you a status update regarding our Kapka Butte efforts.
The Bend Backcountry Alliance recently sat down with Marv Lang of the Forest Service to discuss public comments made on the Kapka Butte recreation plans and we were delighted to learn that our grassroots efforts were very fruitful. Of the 579 comments on record, over 200 were in support of the Backcountry Recreation Zone and a non-motorized Tumalo!
As you know, the Alliance recently launched a substantial grassroots effort to offer guidance to the Forest Service on how to better serve our non-motorized backcountry community. We emphasized the regulation of motorized recreation on Tumalo Mountain and the adoption of the Backcountry Recreation Zone.
The story doesn't end here. There are many steps to this decision making process. The Forest Service must next file an Environmental Impact Statement that includes a list of possible alternatives for the proposed expansion of parking at Kapka Butte. This will include a 45-day public comment period, which will help determine the ultimate decision. As with the initial proposal, we intend to encourage backcountry users to weigh in on the plan with their comments.
In order to make sure the voices of skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and other fans of quiet forest recreation are heard, the Bend Backcountry Alliance will need the continued support of you, our backcountry community. We thank you for your support so far, and look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure our local backcountry is managed for the benefit of all users, not just those with the biggest machines or loudest voices.
Your friends from the Bend Backcountry Alliance
Join their mailing list here (links to constant contact mailing list form)
I just posted the current season’s issue as PDF’s on the site. All back issues of the mag are available online as PDF’s. To help encourage you to subscribe, we wait until our publishing season is over before posting the current season’s issues. We now have ten years of Off-Piste Mag available online for your viewing pleasure. Most of the PDF’s are between 5 and 15MB in size. Get pdfs here
Check them out, and if you like what you see, support us with a paid subscription so you can get the mag delivered to your door next season!
On the subject of PDF’s and anniversaries. The Alpine Club of Canada recently released a DVD with 100 years of the Canadian Alpine Journal (CAJ) in PDF format. The collection includes all text and images from the CAJ from 1907-2007. The collection is indexed and searchable by text. It is an impressive collection of Canadian mountaineering history and is a veritable tome of information.
I have made a few forays into the archives in search of notable ski history and hope to share some tidbits soon.For the mountaineering history buffs out there, you can get your own copy from the ACC here.
In other news, Washington Pass (highway 20) between Marblemount and Mazama is now open. DOT crews worked all month to get it done and now it is the time to ski North Cascade Classics! Check out WADOT photos of the process here.
I just read an interesting article describing the various dynamics at play on the SB 22 - the public lands bill that failed to pass the House a couple of weeks ago. It sounds like the bill is now an amendment to another low controversy bill that is pending vote any day. Rather than pretend I know what I am talking about with regards to the process, check out the article here
We get a lot of inquires for back issues. Rather than charge money to ship them out, we offer them online as PDF downloads. All back issues are available here. We only offer PDF's for previous seasons. Current season issues are available at ski shops or by subscription. The idea here is to encourage you to subscribe and support what we do!
Some of the more popular back issues for download are typically the most recent seasons, but there is a solid collection of older issues that seem to make the top ten list every month. These include Issues number, 1, 15, 18, 19, 23, 29. Also popular are all of our ski reviews, ten season's worth.
We appreciate all the web traffic and interest in back issues. Help yourself, and spread the word! If you feel inclined to show your support, subscribe or pick up some Off-PisteVoile straps or a sweet organic cotton ball cap!
Ball caps are only $16 and the price includes shipping. Voile straps are two for $9 (including shipping), and are one of the most useful items you can add to your bag of tricks. They are functional on a day to basis to bundle your gear, and they make a great repair kit item, too.
There is currently a bill in the Washington Senate (SB 5596) that helps provide funding to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. The Bill adds $2 onto snopark permits and $2 onto snowmobile registrations. The revenue generated from the added costs would be dedicated to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.
The Bill is not rolling through the Senate as was hoped. Please e-mail the members of the rules committee to let them know that NWAC is important to you. Senator's e-mail addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org. It is suggested that you use these e-mails over the ones listed on their own websites.
Here is a sample letter.
Dear Senator ______________ ;
I am writing in support of Senate Bill 5596. Passage of this bill is a critical element for funding of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC). The center provides a necessary service that helps save lives. There has been one avalanche related fatality in Washington State this year and there were eight fatalities in Washington last year. Without a stable source of funding, winter recreationists will lose the only source for avalanche forecasts in the state.
Senate bill 5596 provides a stable source of funding by targeting the very groups who use the forecasts. The added fees for snopark permits and snowmobile registrations are inconsequential ($2), and provide an equitable solution for NWAC funding. SB 5596 will fill a large gap in NWAC funding, thus providing a service directly to those who helped fund it.
Given the high profile resort and sidecountry related avalanche accidents this year, The Canadian avalanche Association and Simon Fraser University are collaborating on a survey related to out-of bounds skiing.
The goal is to develop better avalanche awareness material for this specific user group. If you participate in the survey, you get entered into a drawing for a variety of gear including, beacons, probes, packs, etc.
In late January, an avalanche near the Eisman Hut in Colorado's Gore Range buried three folks (one skier, two boarders) out touring. All three survived. The story is pretty interesting and worth reading. The guys involved did a variety of things wrong, but obviously, given their survival, they did a few things right, too.
Hopefully, the incident report does more than sell Avalaungs. Check it out here
The Bend Backcountry Alliance is working to protect human powered access in the Century Drive corridor around Mount Bachelor. The Forest Service is proposing the construction of a massive sno-park at Kapka Butte. This will add more snowmobiles to the Century Drive corridor but will not address the safety, parking, and access needs of skiers.
If you are familiar with the area, your comments are valuable in helping to shape the future of the area for skier access. Get all the details here: Bend Backcountry Alliance
The third issue of Off-Piste is off to the printer and is scheduled to ship next week. If you subscribed in the past couple of weeks, your subscription will begin with the new issue. The new issue includes, shovels, an interview with Wally (founder of Voile Equipment), cautionary avalanche tales, cloud microphysics, great imagery and more. Subscribe now to get the issue shipped to you next week.
This weekend is the annual Tele-Fest at Hoodoo in Central Oregon. Sponsored by Bergs Ski Shop in Eugene, Tele-Fest is, as you might expect, nothing short of a wild pack of nordies out for a good time. Jarl puts alot of energy to running the event and there are demos and activities all day.
The wild winter in the Pacific Northwest appears to be mellowing for the moment. It has been from one extreme to another around here this winter. From big snows to big rains, we have had seen it all, and it is only early January. Mt Hood appears to have weathered the extremes relatively well. Skiing yesterday proved that we have recovered qickly - coverage is good, and although the forecast for high freezing levels this weekend may take their toll on ski quality, we are looking pretty good for the next round of snow.
The HSMF Exploration Grant offers a unique opportunity to receive funding assistance through a program designed exclusively for ski mountaineers. Grants are awarded to projects that expand the realm of ski mountaineering through technically challenging routes or uniquely inspirational exploration. Recipients are individuals whose goals reflect Hans Saari’s belief that mountains are an integral part of the lives of the people who live amongst them and that physical achievement is only one component of the ski mountaineering experience.
For 2008, the Fund awarded four grants totaling $15,000. Expeditions visited the Kamchatka Peninsula, Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountains, and the Caucasus Range straddling the Republic of Georgia and Russia.
About the Fund… The mission of the HSMF is to foster an appreciation of skiing by promoting ski exploration and avalanche education. The Hans Saari Memorial Fund was established in 2001, following Hans Saari’s death in the French Alps. Saari had gained an international reputation as a writer and adventure columnist. He was highly regarded for his ski expeditions, many of which yielded first descents from some the world’s most challenging peaks. In addition to its Ski Exploration Program, the Fund provides avalanche education grants and scholarships and runs its Youth Ski Camps in the Tetons and the Sierras, providing young skiers mentoring opportunities with renowned ski mountaineers.
Climbing up to 5,500 feet in the Indian Heaven Wilderness just west of Mt. Adams last week led to breathtaking views, a dusting of snow and the remains of a goose. From our perch we had unobstructed views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Goat Rocks Wilderness and shadowed peak of Mt. Hood, pictured above.
My crew was volunteering for the Cascades Carnivore Project, an initiative aimed at protecting wildlife in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Or, more specifically, “to detect rare and elusive carnivores and monitor resident populations” which is how CCP project coordinator and wildlife biologist Jocelyn Akins explains it. Akins has posted 10 digital cameras in key locations throughout the Pinchot as part of her research, and says volunteers are an important part of her effort. “Citizen science has become a really popular way for research to be done,” she said.
After a white-knuckled, 4-wheeling passage up some rutted-out logging roads (thankfully, I was not driving, so I could hold onto the door with both hands), we hiked up above Lake Comcomly to retrieve the card from the digital camera posted high in pine tree. Removing what was left of last month’s bait (that’s where the goose came in), we rebaited the trap with meat and a 16-scent cocktail that made us want to run for cover but that apparently smells like Thanksgiving dinner to the animals Akins is after.
The Cascade Carnivore Project is funded by the Oregon Zoo Foundation, U.S. Forest Service, Norcross Wildlife Foundation, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute.
December is here and our latest issue is on the street. Now, if our local hills could only get some more snow.
Word from Tannis at Sorcerer Lodge in the Selkirks and Aaron up at Sol Mountain in the Monashees is that the high elevation snowpack is coming along, albeit slowly. Tannis shared this image of skiing at Rogers Pass this week and reports that Rogers Pass has received 65cm of new snow the past few days! If only the flow would drop a little further south.
A few interesting news stories related to skiing and climbing have come accross my desk recently including this piece in the NY Times about high elevation climbing and brain cells. Seems like I have heard this before, but I have trouble recalling. Also interesting for anyone who has kept abreast of the controversial development plans at Wolf Creek Pass, the USFS recently suspended the EIS process for the development when they did not receive a new propoasl for the EIS by Nov 20th - a few more details are here.
Although not backcontry ski related, word is that Crested Butte Mountain Resort recently sold to a Florida based company. The purchase will likely not mean too much to skiers, but may facilitate new lodge construction. - read more
Other cool news reports that scientists have found some great Dinosaur tracks in Utah near the Arizona border within Vermilion Cliffs National Monument. The Jurassic era foot prints are upwards of 190 million years old and so plentiful, it is being described as a "dance floor" - read more here.
Finally, I will wrap up with a plu for our new ball caps - 100% organic cotton - low key earthtone color (jungle) and only $16, shipping included!
Well, I wish I was posting a ski trip report, but recent temps pushing 60 degrees have not been too cooperative for the snowpack.
Nonetheless, we just wrapped up the December issue and sent it off to our printer. The new issue takes a look at June Mountain, CA, a successful traverse of the Tordrillo range in Alaska, interpreting weather station data, and what to look for in your next avalanche course.
In addition, long time contributor, Nils Larsen, walks us through the building of a pair of Altai skis. Inspired in design and construction by skis Nils and I saw and used in the remote Altai Mountains of Northwestern China, the article offers a written and pictoral essay of constructing a ski modeled on a ski design that is likely more than 1,000 years old.
The December issue will ship by December 1. Susbcribe now to ensure you receive it in a timely manner. We continue to prepare for the season with gear arriving weekly and ski chatter on the rise. A new shipment of custome Off-Piste Voile straps just arrived. They are the 15" variety, and if you don't have any, you need some - two for $9, four for $17, six for $24.
Ever wanted to build your own skis? Well, John Hadley, a shop teacher at a local high school here in the Columbia Gorge, is building skis (and snowboards) with high school students in a class he teaches called Materials Science.
It is the second year he has offered the ski building class, and it is impressive. With support from local company Innovative Composite Engineering, John is able to source base and edge materials for students to build skis and snowboards from scratch in the high school shop.
Omar, our assistant editor and English teacher at the school, was able to join the materials science class and is building a pair of skis. We hope to hear more from Omar on the process, but for now here a few images from an afternoon that I stopped by to check out their progress.
The sound of chainsaws echoed off the trees in the Mt. Hood National Forest this past weekend as locals stocked up on firewood. They were getting ready for winter, but I was with three dozen people preparing for spring.
We joined Jim Thornton, Barlow Ranger District Recreation Trails Manager and Volunteer Coordinator, to help build a new section of Cooks Meadow Trail just off of Forest Service Road 44 near majestic Mt. Hood.
Volunteers dug, raked and tamped down a sweet new path that snakes through the trees, replacing the direct fall-line assault made by the old trail and connecting hikers, mountain bikers and horsemen with the network of nearby trails accessible from Road 44.
As I worked I tried not to think about the fact that last year at this time, Road 44 would have been covered in snow. Maybe talking about mountain biking instead of skiing was kind of like that old adage about not watching the teapot as you wait for it to boil. This strategy was broken by brief, gorgeous glimpses of Mt. Hood rising through the trees and throwing the sunlight back at us. This was my snow dance, for what it was worth —being as close to the mountain as I could get without being on the mountain.
Killing time before ski season is not the only reason, of course, to participate in trail building. It’s payback for all the hours of fun we get from them, and volunteering helps keep our local trails functioning. Thornton said volunteer sweat and hours make a project like Cooks Meadow cost a fraction of what it would cost commercially.
Volunteering is also a nice way to meet new and interesting people who might be willing to share their food with you when have been swinging a McCloud all afternoon.
It is easy to get involved in trail projects no matter where you live. Since 1993 all 50 states and several U.S. territories have held events on the first Saturday in June to celebrate National Trails Day. To find out what is going on in your neck of the woods on June 6, 2009, visit www.americanhiking.org.
Colorado kicked off the North American ski season today with both A-Basin and Loveland Pass firing up the chair-lifts. Although skiing groomers on man-made snow is not really my idea of skiing, it does allow for making turns, and it is fun to think that skiing is getting closer.
We got word from Aaron up at Sol Mountain Lodge in the Monashees that they have completed their final work party of the season and ready for the snow to fly. Last season, their final work party was abruptly...
Tales of snow are rolling in from around the western states. This shot of Mt. Alpenglow from the Alyeska Hostel in Girdwood, AK takes the cake though. Jeremy from the hostel had this to say about life in Girdwood this week.
Well, we got our first taste last night as the quarter size flakes started dropping at an official "dumping rate".
We woke to about 10 or so inches here at the Hostel, and Alyeska reported 17" at 250' and 24" at 2700'. It was a wet heavy coating that snapped a few leaf bound shrubs around town and caught most everyone a little off guard.
Yep, it's a little early for us, so I'm sure it will melt away from the valley floor before it becomes white for the season. A measurable snow by the end of October is more "normal". Normal that is, if you live in a place that actually is normal, but this is a good sign and we are looking forward to another 80' year.
We got a little snow on Hood too, but nothing like Girdwood. I was able to get up to the burn area on Mt. Hood while doing some work up there his week. Here are a few shots frpm the Cloud Cap Road
The first issue of the season ships next week. As usual, it includes our annual ski review in addition to a variety of other content including, Ask the PT, Demystifying ENSO, and an interview with the new manager and owners of Whitewater Ski Resort. If you have not subscribed or renewed your subscription yet, do it this week to ensure that you get the October issue.
This season marks the tenth year for Off-Piste Mag. We will have some shirts and hats to mark the occasion later this fall.
The weather has made a decisive turn toward winter here the past few days, the snow is not far off.
A winter (or at least wet) weather pattern has pushed out our sunny fall weather here in Oregon for the time being. Snow levels are forecast to bounce between say five and seven thousand feet this coming week.
Tannis up at Sorcerer Lodge in the Selkirks reports that the glaciers above the lodge have new snow on them and seem to be holding it nicely (see image of Nordic Glacier)
Sorcerer sent in a couple of work crews this summer and tore off the front of the building to expand the drying room. Tannis reports that, "We now have a bright and shiny new room. The dim (very smelly) room of the past is gone! And the sauna change room has been rebuilt. It's beautiful."
Sounds like the lodge has a few spots open on full service trips for those who can make last minute decisions. The skiing at Sorcerer is excellent.
October is almost upon us and our first issue for the season ships October 15. Thanks to everyone who has renewed their subscriptions in recent weeks or subscribed for the first time . If you ordered other shwag with your subscription, the schwag will ship first and the first issue of the season will follow on the 15th.
We just got a new shipment of Voile Straps, 15 inch with metal tabs. I am working on hats and hoodies, but we are a month or so out on those.
Locally, a fire up on Hood has been of interest and I recently got an aerial image form the USFS showing the burn around historic cloudcap and thought the image was worth sharing for anyone familiar with the area
Lowell Skoog recently sent us a note that the latest edition of the Northwest Mountaineering Journal (nwmj) is available online here. NWMJ is a great reference for northwest mountaineering accomplishments as well as a source of good indepth pieces on many aspects of northwest mountaineering. Be sure to check out the ski descents being done by Sky Sjue and friends in the short reports section as well as the Climber's Guide to the Universe by Malcome Bates.
Ski films are in the air and Adventure Filmworks will be on the road with their new film, AK the Hard Way in October. If you are in the Bay Area or Seattle check out the schedule here. Sweetgrass-Productions is showing their film Hand Cut this fall too. From Colorado to Canada to the Northwest and the east coast. Also be sure to check out the Powderwhore crew as the set off on their tour Oct 1 too.
Well, despite recent fires in our local area, winter is creeping up on us. David Begg at Yamnuska Mountaineering in Canmore, AB sent us this image of recent snows on the French Glacier in Kananaskis. Word is that the Canadian Rockies have seen numerous early dustings already this fall.
With winter approaching we are busy getting the first issue of the season ready for publication. Yeah, Powder mag has already released two issues and Backcountry has at least one out, but we prefer to read about skiing in the thick of fall so our first issue launches in mid-October. There is still time to subscribe. We have sold out of organic cotton ball caps, but are working on getting more. Off-Piste logo Voile straps are back in stock . Two straps for nine bucks, including shipping. If you have some voile straps, you know you could use more and if you don't have any, you need some.
The upcoming October issue includes our annual ski review, an interview with the new owners and manager at Whitewater Ski Area, a look at demystifying ENSO (commonly known as the El Nino/La Nina phenomena), and more.
The Gnarl Ridge fire on Mt Hood contnues to burn, although, it sounds like it is much less aggressive than it was last week. The best details on the fire's status are available here.
I received these images of the Cloudcap road area from Kevin Slagle at the Forest Service today. Pretty incredible change, but it reinforces my feeling that there will be some interesting exploring on skis in the area this winter.
Good news on the Mt Hood fire front. Fire personnel made it up to the Cloud Cap / Tilly Jane area on Thursday and all structures are intact. The fire burned throughout the area, but left the historic buildings untouched.
The fire is still uncontained, but it sounds like the worst of the danger for places like Cloud Cap, Tilly Jane, and the Snowshoe cabin has passed.
Large areas of the Polallie and Eliot creek drainages have burned and it should make for some interesting skiing...
A short update as of about 3pm Thursday: The latest report shows that Cloud Cap and the Snowshoe cabin are still ok. Also, a visual on the Tilly Jane area allowed views of the tree canopy around Tilly Jane and it too was intact. Although no direct visual on the A-frame or guard station was confirmed, the existence of the canopy is a good sign that it could be ok.
The Gnarl Ridge fire on Mt Hood that began with lightening strikes back in early August has regained new life. The fire spread very quickly up Polallie Canyon on Tuesday Sept 16 and jumped into Eliot creek today threatening the historic Tilly Jane and Cloud Cap structures on Mt Hood's north side.
Neither Tilly Jane or Cloud Cap was wrapped or foamed this time and as of about 5pm Wednesday, the status of Tilly Jane was unknown as visibility has been blocked by heavy smoke, but many folks fear the worst. Cloud Cap Inn was reported to be intact as of about 4pm according to visuals from overflights. Fire retardant was being dropped to help save Cloud Cap, but heavy smoke has limited visibility and flight activity.
I spent a couple hours watching the fire this evening as the sun went down and the scale and rate of movement is impressive. At about 2,000 acres, the fire is one of the largest on the Mt Hood National Forest in many years.
Federal Court Rules in favor of clean and quiet in Yellowstone
In response to a legal challenge brought by Winter Wildlands Alliance and four coalition partners, the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. yesterday handed down a ruling overturning the Bush administration's plan to allow more than 500 snowmobiles per day in Yellowstone National Park.
In a 63-page ruling overturning the Park Service's 2007 Winter Use Plan, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan called the plan "arbitrary and capricious, unsupported by the record, and contrary to law," and directed the Park Service to institute a plan in keeping with its fundamental purpose to conserve park resources and values.
It's Labor Day weekend in Oregon, so why am I wearing a down jacket? Because I'm standing at the base of Mt. Adams, a 12,276-foot volcanic giant in southern Washington, just across the river from better known Mt. Hood. Locals will tell you that it is always 10 to 20 degrees colder up here, and on this shivery holiday weekend I believe it.
Mt. Adams is a glorious sight today, the white summit gleaming in the sunlight and the crumbly shale visible where the snow has receded....
Off-Piste Mag is approaching its tenth season of publication and I wanted to take a moment to push the idea of subscribing. Yes, the mag is available for free in select retail outlets, but your subscription is a vote of suport for our work and ensures that you do not miss a single issue.
We strive to offer a quality alternative to the glossy ski mags and to keep our advertising to editorial content ratio in check. Your subscription is a voice of support for our efforts and helps us continue to bring you the best in backcountry adventure! We may be grassroots but our content is high quality and your subscription helps us keep up the hard work!
While I am hawking our wares, we also have Off-Piste schwag available. We have a limited supply of our 100%organic cotton ball caps in stock. At $16 the hats are a bargain and are sure to serve you well. We also have Off-Piste Croakies for the bargain price of $5 each. And ofcourse we have stickers too. Classic Off-Piste Ovals made of high quality vinyl for your sticking pleasure. These babies will season many a run through the dishwasher and years of stormcycle skiing or driving. You can have one for free if you send us a self addressed stamped envelope and a simple note requesting a sticker or if you prefer, you can buy them by the 3 pack online and have us send them out for ya.
The Whitewater ski area outside of Nelson, BC has been sold to a Calgary, Alberta based company. Whitewater is a small two chair hill with a reputation for deep snow and excellent ski touring access.
Whitewater has bucked the general North American trend that bigger and more is better and has done very little to increase lift capacity or makeover their humble, yet excellent, lodge in recent years. As a result, the place has a distinct old school feel about it, but the skiing and especially the backcountry access are well deserving of their reputation.
So far word from the ski area is limited but here is the official statement about the sale.
Mike and Shelley Adams are very pleased to announce that they have accepted an offer for the pending sale of Whitewater Ski Resort to a Calgary based company, Knee Deep Development Corp. The sale will be finalized at the end of August after a standard period of due diligence with the new owners taking over the resort operations on the 31st.
Mike and Shelley have been involved with Whitewater since 1985 and have worked hard to find a group of like minded owners that will take the area to the next level.? "We are very pleased with what we are hearing from this new group and feel that we are leaving Whitewater in good hands" says Mike.
The new owners, Dean Prodan, Andrew Kyle and Mitch Putnam, all based in Calgary, are enthusiastic supporters of Whitewater and fully recognize the importance of Whitewater to the local Nelson economy. The group intend to move forward with the Master Development Agreement that is already in place but as avid skiers appreciate the uniqueness of the area and will work towards maintaining Whitewater's culture.
The first step has been to appoint a new General Manager, Brian Cusack. A long time Nelson resident, Brian comes with an impressive resume in the ski industry. Most recently employed as the GM at Castle Mountain, just outside Pincher Creek, Alberta, he comes to Whitewater with a strong background in ski area development and is looking forward to a much shorter commute!
For more information about the Master Development plan already in place, follow this link
A small fire close to home here in Hood River has access to some popular areas on Mt Hood closed. The Gnarl fire as it is called is currently about 300 acres and the latest word is that large growth of the fire is not expected.
The location as seen on this map fron INCIWEB shows the fire between Mt Hood Meadows and the Cloudcap/Tilly Jane area. According to the latest news release from INCIWEB;
Medium and heavy lift helicopters supported the...
August is here and the snow on Hood is fading fast. Timberline still has a good summer lift ski program going, but most of the classic summer lines are becoming heavily runneled or melted away.
Smoke from fires in California and around the Northwest have been filling our airspace for some spectacular sunsets but the smoke is creating otherwise hazy skies. I spent a few day up on the Northside of Mt Hood last week and enjoyed the evening light but the smoke...
The USFS has closed access to the southside climbing route on Mt Adams due to a rapidly expanding wildfire in the area. The Cold Springs Fire, as it is called, is between seven and eight thousand acres. The latest information is available here
Fire Update July 15, 2008 6:30 PM
Incident: Cold Springs Wildland Fire Released: 15 hrs. ago
FIRE ACTIVITY SUMMARY: Improved aerial mapping has put the Cold Springs Fire at 7160 acres. Today's fire activity included continued burning in heavy dead fuel. Heavy helicopters supported firefighters with water drops. Direct line was constructed today with dozers and hand crews along the south flank.
TODAY'S ACTIONS: Crews began constructing line on the south, west and east side of the Cold Springs Fire. Several Hotshot crews arrived today and will be working night shifts to take advantage of cooler temperatures and less active fire behavior for continued direct line construction in rugged terrain.Supression efforts will continue during night shift as safety allows.
FIRE CAMP/HELIBASE LOCATION: The ICP is located at the Trout Lake School in Trout Lake, Washington. The helibase is at the Trout Lake Airport.
WEATHER: Seasonal temperatures are expected today and tomorrow over the fire area. A stable air mass will persist throughout the upcoming week with a gradual warming and drying trend. Today's forecast calls for mostly sunny. High temperatures are predicted to be 80-89 degrees in the valleys and 66-71 degrees on the ridges. Minimum relative humidity of 33-44% is expected in the valleys and 45-57% on the ridges. Winds will be west 11-14 mph.
COOPERATING AGENCIES: USDA Forest Service, Yakama Nation, WA DNR, Yakima and Klickitat County Sherriff's Office.
RESTRICTIONS AND CLOSURES: Forest Road 8040 accessing the trailhead has been temporarily closed. Forest Roads 80 and 82 are also closed at the Forest boundary north of Trout Lake, closing access to all roads, trails and campgrounds east of Forest Road 23.
DNR Campgrounds Bird Creek and Island Camp will be closed until further notice.
The communities of Trout Lake and Glenwood are not in immediate danger from the fire. There are no evacuation orders issued or planned at this time.
We recieved a note from Colorado Wild today regarding a proposed bill that would amend the Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 to allow year-round recreation at ski areas on National Forest land. Colorado Wild suggests that the proposal is too broad in what it could potentially allow as "recreation". Looks like a good one to follow up on and learn more. Check out what Colorado Wild has to say;
Contact: Ryan D. Bidwell, Executive Director, Colorado Wild, (970) 385-9833
This afternoon, Congressman Mark Udall distributed a proposed Bill that would amend the Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 to allow the construction of facilities for year-round recreation activities at National Forest ski areas. Most ski areas throughout the country, and particularly in the West, are on National Forest land. The Ski Areas Bill is available on Congressman Udall's webpage for the public to review and comment on.
The following are the comments of Ryan D. Bidwell, Executive Director of Colorado Wild, on the proposed Bill. Colorado Wild is a non-profit conservation organization that spearheads the annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard (www.skiareacitizens.com), which evaluates the land use and sustainability practices of ski areas throughout Western North America.
"Colorado Wild appreciates the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendments to the Ski Area Permit Act. Congressman Udall and his staff have invited input from the conservation community throughout this process and we appreciate their openness to feedback."
"While Colorado Wild supports appropriate year-round recreation at ski areas, we are concerned that the Bill is not specific enough with regards to the types of summer and year-round recreational activities that could be permitted under the amended Act."
"While it makes sense to allow trails, parking areas, and other facilities that are customary on public land, the Bill leaves the door open to urbanized recreation activities like roller coasters and water parks that are inappropriate anywhere on National Forest land."
"While ski areas are logical places for year-round recreation activities, ski areas and other commercial recreation permit holders should be treated fairly, and held to the same standards."
"We look forward to continueing to work with Congressman Udall on the proposed Bill to ensure that National Forest lands continue to provide non-urbanized, natural resource-based recreation in a consistent and appropriate manner."
The Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center is collaborating with NWAC to upgrade the website for NWAC forecasts and data, and we would like your input for this process! As part of the effort to better serve winter recreationists, collaborators, and other users, The Friends are undertaking a complete overhaul of this important resource to make it more user friendly, more graphical and provide better service to all. If you consult the NWAC mountain weather and avalanche forecasts or rely on the regional telemetry data to plan your trips, your input is critical.
PLEASE take a few minutes to log onto Survey Monkey and complete this user survey:
Your input is extremely important in this development. Thanks for your help.
The Winter Wildlands Alliance has a new action item of interest to backcountry skiers in the Bend, OR area. Local skiers are looking to create a dedicated non-motorized area around Tumalo Butte, called the Tumalo Backcountry Recreation Area.
TUMALO BACKOUNTRY RECREATION ZONE Proposal
Presented to Deschutes National Forest Supervisor John Allen on May 8th, 2008
Some winter recreationists (snowmobilers, dog sledders, and skate skiers for example) require marked trail systems, informational kiosks, ready-made maps, warming huts, groomed trails, and lodges. Backcountry skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers however, neither require, nor desire, such amenities. Instead, they seek the naturalness, solitude, challenge and inspiration that is an integral part of the unaltered and non-motorized landscape.
Although the Three Sisters Wilderness can provide those values, the difficulty in traveling the distance limits wintertime access. Thus, as the Forest Service works to improve recreation opportunities for user groups requiring developed sites and trails in the Century Drive corridor, it is appropriate to also improve opportunities for those desiring undeveloped terrain.
Only by addressing current and projected user conflict can the Forest Service legally pursue an increase in snowmobile parking capacity. It is suggested the following action be implemented in conjunction with the forthcoming Kapka Butte Snopark proposal:
For the sake of public discussion, this is a proposal to create the Tumalo Backcountry Recreation Zone. In reality, it is a simple byproduct of necessary actions required to manage increased snowmobile usage in the Century Drive Corridor.
Politics reach Everest. An American climber was booted off the the Nepalese side for carrying a 'Free Tibet' banner. According to the report I read from Canadian news service CVT.ca, the American climber, identified as William Brant Holland, "is the first mountaineer to be stopped by soldiers and policemen stationed on the Nepalese side of the world's highest mountain to prevent anti-China protests during the planned torch run to the summit.
The climb will take place on the Chinese side of the mountain. But the Nepalese government, complying with pressure from the Chinese government, has posted soldiers on the southern side and banned climbing near the summit between May 1-10 as a precaution.
Police and soldiers have been ordered to stop any protest on the mountain using whatever means necessary, including use of weapons, although the use of deadly force is authorized only as a last resort. "
Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center Funding is Official
It's official! After a great deal of pressure from the Friends of the Avalanche Center, funding for NWAC for the rest of this season and next year has been added to the state budget. Washington State Governor Gregoire signed the supplemental budget bill last week with a record number of vetoes, but the budget for NWAC stayed intact. The legislature added one-time expenditures of $58,000 for fiscal year 2008 and $73,000 for fiscal year 2009 to plug the budget gaps for each year. While this addition is only a short term solution, it will give us some breathing room and allow us to focus on a sustainable long-term funding scenario for NWAC. It will also allow us to use some of the funds we have raised to upgrade NWACs equipment rather than filling the gap in their operational budget. Keep an eye out for our spring newsletter, which will fill you in on the long term outlook and the work that lies ahead.
If you like reading legislative bills, the budget bill can be viewed at:
We want to express our thanks to Senator Ken Jacobsen for supporting the NWAC budget through the legislative process. Without his help, we would not have achieved this success. We also want to thank all of you who supported the Friends of NWAC this year. Without your assistance, we could not have advocated for these funds and NWAC would have closed early this year, not a good year to do so. Your support is invaluable and may well save a life this spring. Thanks, and enjoy the long spring season that lies ahead.
The PDX snowrider blog recently posted the scoping notice for Meadows' Avalanche Control Plans. Check here for the link. The scoping notice is the first step in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The act is designed to involve the public and gather the best available information in a single place so that decision makers can be fully informed when they make their choices. If you have opinions/input regarding Meadows' plans, now is the time to voice them.
As posted earlier, Meadows , our local resort, is gearing up to launch a new avalanche control program for future seasons. The program will definitely help the resort control and open avalanche prone terrain more routinely, but it will also impact backountry access in the area to an extent.
I posted a link to a letter from the NW based Snowrider Foundation last week and I came accross a second good resource on the subject from Mt Hood Meadows CEO Mathew Drake's blog. He includes some good images of the terrain they are looking to target and discusses the program at length here.
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In recognition of the dirtbag element that has driven the backcountry scene for so long, we always make back issues available online in pdf format for free. Well, we just posted this season's mags as PDF's. That's right, all four issues from the 2007-08 season are yours for the reading in digi form. Enjoy and Subscribe to get the real mag at home next season! Don't forget to check out our fine 100% organic cotton ball caps too!
The following information on a proposal for Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort to expand their avalanche control operations came accross my desk this week. The text comes directly from the Snowrider Website. There are some obvious questions regarding the proposal listed in the information release. The subject is bound to stir up some controversy from both sides of the table. This will be a good one to stay posted on if you are a Mt Hood user.
HANS SAARI MEMORIAL FUND AWARDS 2008 GRANTS
For those who are into exploring the lesser known ranges of the world the Hans Saari Memorial Fund Grants are helping to fund some good exploration. Joe Stock and Andrew Wexler received a grant to help their continued exploration of Alaska's Tordrillo Range (you can read about last year's experience in the March Issue of Off-Piste). Read about the rest of the grant recipients below.
The folks at Sol Mountain Touring just gave me a heads up on some standby rates for a couple trips in march and april - These guys are great. If you have the time - they have some good pricing on these dates - just give them a shout.
Here is what I have:
Mar 30 - Apr 6 shorter trip possible with full heli lifts (ie. 4-5, or 9-10 guests )
Apr 6-10 Self G/C, catering and guiding available, trip can be longer
Also - lodge weather and snowpack info is available on Wisegoat atAlso - lodge weather and snowpack info is available on Wisegoat
I just got a note from Winter Wildlands Alliance. They are putting together a hut trip to the Tornak Hut near Sun Valley, ID and have some last minute space available. The trip is fully catered and guided! Proceeds go to support Winter Wildlands. Check the flyer here for more details - Tornak Hut Trip Details
The 2007-2008 winter has been full bore here in the Northwest. Hood's snowpack is repoted to be pushing 200 inches at the ski areas. As I have talked about earlier this season, the avalanche fatality toll in North America has also been higher than normal. The snowpack here in the NW has seen more layering than normal and many areas of the country have had significant avalanche cycles that have taken their toll.
The Canadian Avalanche Center recently released an in-depth report on persistent weak layers that are widespread in western Canada. The daily avalanche forecast does not have the space to offer such an in-depth look at such layers so mountain guide Karl Klassen and the Canadian Avalanche Association have prepared a seperate article on this year's persistent weak layers that exist in the snowpack in many areas of the western Canadian mountains. Klassen and the CAC hope this article will serve as a valuable reference for anyone planning backcountry activities in BC or Alberta this winter. I highly recommend it for anyone heading north for a hut trip or any touring excusions. Persistent Weak Layers Article
The January issue of Off-Piste includes an interview with Chip Chase from White Grass in West Virginia. Chip is a force in the nordic ski world and the number of people e-mailing to get a copy of this issue is a good indicator of his influence on skiers. We do not typically post content from the current season's printed mag online, but given the interest in this interview, I have posted a PDF copy here. The above photo is Chip's son Morgan on a pair of no-edge waxless skis having some fun at White Grass.
Just when you think that skis are fat enough, the next round of boards comes out. I have been skeptical about needing more ski underfoot than say 100 or 105mm but several companies are offering such skis. The Black Diamond Megawatt is 153 – 125 - 130 and looks like a reverse camber spatula type board. Closer inspection shows that it is actually a flat cambered ski with a rockered tip. Believe it or not these skis are hoot and not simply in bottomless snow. They manage to be lively and skiable in a variety of conditions.
Voile also showed a super fatty at the show this year, the Asylum 159-112-144. They only had the Asylum in a 194cm length and I did not get out on them. According to Voile, the Asylum may be available in more sizes and the final dimensions may evolve a bit too. Voile is also going to offer both of their skis with the option of traditional flat decks for AT binders or with inserts for tele binders. The move back to inserts is driven by active telemark bindings and the force put on binding mounts. Inserts offer the strongest mount possible thus eliminating binding pullout. Bottom line is if it skis anything like the Insane (138-103-128), it will be a choice deep snow tool.
A little industry news today. Spyder, known for their alpine racer clothing, has aquired Cloudveil Mountain Works, Credited with starting the modern day soft shell revolution, Cloudveil was founded in Jackson Hole in 1997. According to the press release, Cloudveil will remain a separate brand entity and operate as a wholly owned, independentdivision of Spyder Active Sports. Cloudveil’s founders, President Brian Cousins and Vice President Stephen Sullivan have signed multi-year contracts to continue in their respective roles within the new organization.
The Backcountry Snowsports Alliance sent out an alert regarding the Peak 6 area at Breckenridge in Summit County, CO. I am no expert on the area so i will let their release give all the details. The bottom line is that the ski area is proposing expansion into an area that is popular with backcountry skiers. It sounds like an example of one more area getting gobbled up by ski lifts.
Here is an excerpt from the release:
BACKGROUNDBreckenridge opened as a ski area in 1960 on Peak 8. Since then, it has expanded to peaks 9, 10, and 7, in that order, and now covers a large area. A major expansion onto Peak 7 was approved in 2000. In 2005, the Forest Service approved installation of a controversial new lift almost to the summit of Peak 8, allowing lift riders to use terrain that was formerly accessible only after an hour or more of hiking.
When the White River National Forest first issued a draft revised forest plan in the late 1990s, it proposed to confine Breckenridge and other resorts to the existing areas then allotted for ski area development. But in the final plan, Breckenridge got a huge gift - a possible expansion area well to the north of the existing resort. The plan did not, however, approve any specific expansion.
THE PROPOSED EXPANSIONThe ski area now seeks to expand onto Peak 6, to the north of the existing resort. The top lift terminal would be at about 12,300 feet elevation. There would be runs above timberline, and runs would be cut though the forest further down. The base terminal, at about 10,750 feet, would also have a large restaurant. Access for construction would be provided by former timber roads that are now used by backcountry skiers.
Get all the details and learn how to let your voice be heard here -Peak 6 pdf
More trade show fun. Here is an image of the new Garmont Radium Dynafit compatible boot. It uses the new overlap cuff/tongue designa nd weighs in on par with the Megaride. Looks interesting for sure. Seems like the price was around seven hundred bucks. They have a 3-buckle version called the Helium too, which still seemes like plenty of boot for genral hut tripping.
There are some cool packs out there this year too. Black Diamond expanded their offering of Avalung equipped packs...
I have been in Utah at the annual outdoor retailer winter show this past week. The backcountry ski world had a good showing with a variety of new skis, boots, and various gear from the usual suspects such as Voile, G3, Karhu, K2, Atomic, Garmont, Scarpa, and Black Diamond.
The word in AT boots these days is downhill performance and overlapping tongue/cuff design. New AT boots from Black Diamond, Scarpa, and Garmont all focus on more power and downhill performance. BD and Garmont are using overlap tongue design reminiscent of Alpine ski boot design. Both companies say the design still tours well but we are keen to try the new format before we jump on board with idea. On the telemark boot front, Scarpa introduced a new NTN boot, the Terminator X-Pro - bigger and stiffer than the existing Terminator X. BD introduced a new tele boot line alongside their new AT boots but the boots utilize a traditional "3-pin" duck bill. Garmont's tele boot line remains the same as 2007 aside from a change in color for the Syner-G and Venus boots. New from Gramont is the Radium, a four-buckle, Dynafit compatible AT boot on par with the popular Megaride for weight and power, although, the Radium features the new overlap tongue/cuff design. A three buckle version is due as well.
New skis from Karhu, G3, K2, BD, and Dynafit turned up as well. BD has a new one called the Megawatt that is turning heads with its flat camber, rockered tip, and big dimensions. G3 has five new skis including the Saint, a ski that matches the Reverend's 126/93/114 dimensions with new lighter weight construction. Karhu has two new skis, the Storm at 96 underfoot and the Spire at 86 underfoot. Each ski comes in a regular and BC (lighter) version. Most of the K2 line remains the same but they are introducing the Coomba (135/102/121) into the tele/At line-up as well as the all new Sodo, a twin tip board for tele and AT. I've got pics and more on the way soon.
The January Issue is on the street. At forty pages, it is our longest issue to date. I have been getting questions about downloading issue PDF's and why you can not download this season's issues. We only post last years issues as PDF's. To receive this season's mag you must subscribe or pick it up at your local shop.
The January issue is issue 36 and includes an interview with nordic/freeheel pioneer Chip Chase, a look at the new Ortovox S-1 Beacon, the Barryvox Pulse beacon, and the Pieps DSP, as well as tales of adventure from Morrocco, Tuckermans Ravine, and the Canadian Rockies.
Seems like everytime I check the news these days there is word of a new avalanche fatality. The season total is currently at 31 deaths. That is five more deaths than last season's year-end total. The 2005-06 season had 32 deaths, the 04-05 season 37, and the 03-04 season saw 34 deaths. check www.avalanche.org for details on the numbers.
Although there have been some big fatality years due to some high profile multiple burials (02-03 had 58deaths), we are well above normal numbers at this point in the season. Why so many incidents this year? Part of it is obviously that we have a sensitive snowpack and the instabilities are not limited to a single region, but there must be other factors, skier numbers, the terrain people are after? I do not have the answers but the number should serve as a sign that we need to be careful with our terrain and route choices. Be safe.
I just got a flyer from Stuart Craig, Telemark Program Director at Snowperformance, announcing his 2008 tele clinic schedule. These guys use PSIA level 3 or better instructors and offer a variety of clinics for folks looking to learn, fine tune, or extend their telemark abilities. All clinics are at Crystal Mountain, WA.
According to Stuart, they have a new demo fleet this season for folks wanting to try new gear. Demos will be available at all clinics. The skis are...
I am a music nut and always have something playing on the computer when I am at work. I wanted to recommend a skier centric (backcountry skier to boot) radio show that I have been listening to as of late. Don Darue, an Off-Piste subscriber based in Kalispell, MT, has a radio show called the Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot. He offers a very eclectic blend of music and the current program (available by podcast) has a great story about backcountry skiing that is well worth checking out. Don...
Going Green is the latest marketing ploy from clothing to cars and not to be left out ski areas are on board too. In an attempt o help us rationalize the hedonistic pursuit of lift skiing, some resorts are offering greener snow than others. Looking to spend your money at the greenest of them all, visit http://www.skiareacitizens.com/index.php and see how your favorite resorts fared in the latest report card form the Ski Area Citizens Coalition.
Mt Hood survived the 'tropical storm' this past weekend without too much harm. We lost some snow but at least the road did not washout like last season. I just got a flyer from our friend Ken at SnowAffair. He has his 2007-08 schedule of clinics and trips planned and, as usual, the locations look great and it is packed with tele and snowkiting clinics.
Better late than never, snow is falling in the NW. Mt Baker is opening, Mt Hood is open and expanding terrain available. Here's a shot from Max Reitz up in 4 bowl at meadows. They hiked up to catch the latest round of snow . . .
We also just got a couple gear items in the office this week that I am looking forward to getting out this week. First is a pair of Tremor soft-shell pants from Outdoor Research. They look very nice, Gore windstopper softshell with removable gaiters....
I just wrapped up the December 2007 issue and it is scheduled to ship out November 30th to subscribers and retail shops. This issue has a variety of features ranging from, Iran - A tale of Two Worlds to My Pet Bug and a great instructional article on tour planning. Gear coverage includes hooded softshells and there is a great recipe too.
Look for it at the shop in December or, better yet, SUBSCRIBE now and get it delivered to your door!
Mt. Hood finally got some snow this past weekend - the resorts are reporting almost 2 feet at the base areas. A little more snow would be nice . . .
We have been getting feedback that our rss feed and our comments area were not working. We did a little troubleshooting this weekend and believe we have both up and running properly. Thanks for letting us know and thanks for visiting the site.
We posted a preview of Chris Davenport's Ski the 14ers book back in September, well word is there is a movie in the works too. Check out the clip below
A recent article about a proposed resort development caught my eye. The plan, proposed by a private developer, is to create an entire resort town south of Park City, Utah in the Heber Valley. Admittedly, I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to building resorts in the mountains. It is one thing to expand and 'improve' existing areas to meet demand but when development is undertaken simply in the name of 'more is better', i get surly. Sure i enjoy my fair share of lift skiing, have spent my fair share of good times in arguably overdeveloped resort towns, but I believe the best experience is found elsewhere. The developer and, according to the article, the State of Utah claim the development is a positive asset to the state economy. I disagree. I believe that in the long-run, it is the quality of our natural environment, our water resources, and the integrity of our landscapes that will determine our economic well-being.
We have a movie set for for review in an upcoming issue of Off-Piste called Resorting to Madness. It documents the struggle for balance and growth in our mountain towns. You can view the trailer below.
I just got word from Paul Butler up at North Cascades Heli-Skiing (NCHS) that they are preparing to open the season in late December, their earliest start ever. Now before I take a bunch of heat for promoting a heli-operation in Off-Piste, these guys offer some pretty cool backcountry related adventures. Their location on the eastern slope of the North Cascades makes for some incredible skiing. Sure, they offer the standard heli-day ski options but they also offer several options for the more touring minded skier including, multiday yurt trips and backcountry drops that let you tour all day and give you a ride back to the barn at the end of the day.
To promote their early start, NCHS is offering full heli-ski days for $700 until mid January and their backcountry drops, which include a guide for the day, are $375.
It is snowing in the Cascades right now! For more details on NCHS visit their website or give them a call. www.heli-ski.com
A couple of interesting opportunities came across my desk today . . .
First is a job opportunity as an Avalanche Forecaster and Control Specialist in Washington and the second is a prime opening at Fairy Meadows for the week of Jan 5-11, 2008. Details Below
Cool Job opportunity
Avalanche Forecast & Control Specialist 2 - Seasonal
South Central Region
The Friends of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center has a host of snow related events happening this fall. First off, they are promotong the first Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit to take place November 17th in Seattle.
The event is intended for ski patrollers, avalanche forecasters, WDOT and county road maintenace personnel, ski guides, search and rescue teams, avalanche instructors, undergraduate and graduate students in snow science programs, applied researchers, outdoor leaders, and advanced recreationalists. Check the pdf link at the left for more details or visit www.alpinesafety.org.
Other events include (in order of date):
Powderwhore's PW '07, October 13th, Nectar Lounge in Fremont, Seattle, WA
Alpine Safety Awareness Program Bash, October 27th, Boundary Bay Brewing, Bellingham, WA
Feathered Friends Demo Days, November 7 at 7pm, Fethered Friends, Seattle, WA - check out the latest gear, drink a few beers and enter raffles to win some of the latest toys.
Friends of NWAC SnowBash 2007 November 17, Tractor Tavern Seattle, WA.
Lowell Skoog recently released the latest edition of his on-line NW Mountaineering Journal (NWMJ). The Journal is a quality read for anyone with an interest in the Cascade Range. Head to the Short Reports for various first ski descents and recent mountaineering accomplishments in the Cascades. or check out any of the indepth reports and articles.
In addition to the NWMJ, Lowell Skoog has helped set up the Carl Skoog Memorial Fund. Carl, a longtime contributor to Off-Piste and accomplished photoger, skier, and mountaineer, died in October of 2005 in a ski mountaineering accident on Cerro Mercedario (6770m) in the high Andes of Argentina. The Carl Skoog Memorial Fund's mission is to support educational, literary, and land-use management projects with significant photographic content that demonstrate, enhance or promote the public benefit of public lands. For full details visit www.carlskoog.com
I just got a note from the Alpine Club of Canada that they are accepting hut custodian applications for the Fairy Meadows hut in the Selkirks. This place has one of the most spectacular locations of the ACC huts. Oh to be unemployed and single. If you have some free time this winter, you should get your name in the pool . . .more info
Sometimes I wonder how it all comes together but once again the first issue of the season is off to the printer. As usual, the October issue includes the ski review as well as several feature stories. It should be in shops and subscriber mailboxes around the 15th. This issues cover shot was taken by Chad Coleman near Alpental, WA. Check out his website for more great ski images. Winter is on the way!
It seems fitting that Mt Hood received its first good measurable snows...
Backcountry Access just announced that the sixth annual Avalanche Jam raised record funds this year for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). The benefit was relocated to the CAIC’s hometown of Boulder, in the parking lot of local retail icon Neptune Mountaineering.
“By moving the event to Boulder, we raised more money through increased attendance,” said BCA sales manager Steve Christie. “And we had a massively successful silent auction. Neptune was a huge help and we look forward to working with them again in the future.”
Word is that they also managed to consume 14 kegs of New Belgium Brewing beer. Nice work. And who new that BCA VP Bruce E. could play the mandolin . . .
In other Colorado news, Loveland and A-Basin fire up the snowguns. The eternal battle of who's first to open begins . . .
Winter is in the air as photos of snow falling in the Rockies are zipping around the net. Seems like about this time last year the Summit county area saw a foot or two of snow. It has been cool here in the mornings but we are still enjoying indian summer in our Hood - at least for a another day or two. Be sure to check what the NOAA Climate Center has to say about Winter - La Nina
In other news, Karhu just announced a new blog spot and have a cool trailer to a movie called Weather We Change. You should check it out - along with their new website. Cloudveil also recently introduced a new blog site called Mountain Culture
On other movie fronts, there are several new films due out this fall. Of course the various TGR and Matchstick type productions are debuting in September and October. There are also a variety of smaller productions (our preferred type): KGB productions, Powderwhores , Thrillhead Creations, and Lipstick films just to name a few.
Finally, we are collecting hooded softshells for an upcoming review in the mag. I will have some previews and info about the various shells we are looking at soon. The first issue of the season is in the works and will be out in mid October, if you have not subscribed yet, do it now so you do not miss an issue of the finest in alternative ski culture . . .dave
These events are a great time to get fired up about the upcoming season, rally your ski partners, and have a great chance to win some schwag from all the companies that donate to make these events possible.
Having a local avalanche forecast is a valuable tool and given the federal funding cuts over the years, these fundraising events are integral to keeping the various forecast centers operating. Stay tuned for other events or let us know when your local fundraiser is and we can get you Off-Piste mags and schwag to give away at the door.
Thanks for checking us out. You have landed on our new site for the 2007-08 season.
Launching a new website is no simple task regardless of how simple the site design may be. I have been looking to update our site for a couple of years and finally found the time to make it happen this summer. My web gal, aka the wife, deserves all the credit on this one. I had made such a mess of the backend of the old site that it took some serious sweet-talking (read begging and whining) and promising...