I've been on the road enjoying the March snow in the greater Northwest. Black Diamond Equipment hosted a crew of ski journalists up in the North Cascades to check out the latest Black Diamond backcountry skis. The crew ripped it up on the new Carbon Megawatt, Justice, Drift and the all new Revert. The Justice was my pick of the litter as a great do-it-all backcountry powder ski. Black Diamond has done a fantastic job lightening up their touring line while maintaining downhill performance. The new Carbon Megawatt drops two punds over the traditional Megawatt and delivers a Cadillac feel on the descent, while the more responsive Justice was every bit as capable but with a bit more of a turny personality.
I'll give a better debrief on the skis (and packs) when I get back to the office in April. In the meantime, check out the highlight show below....
I just returned from a trip to Smithers, BC to check out the Hankin-Evelyn Backcountry Recreation Area. It's a new concept in backcountry skiing - a dedicated backcountry ski tenure complete with a great day-use hut, gladed runs, an overnight cabin and lots of cool locals out skiing.
The project is the work of many people from Smithers, BC, but it is lead by local resident and skier, Brian Hall and includes support from the regional Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (aka the Forest Service equivalent in Canada).
Brian was nice enough to show me around for several days and introduce me to a great collection of local skiers. Look for a full article on Hankin-Evelyn and the Smithers backcountry ski scene next fall. In the mean time, check out the slide show of backcountry skiing at Hankin-Evelyn and enjoying Smithers, BC.
Taking advantage of the curent high pressure system, I made it up for a climb on Mt. Hood yesterday. Moody Mt. Hood never fails to keep you guessing when it comes to snow conditions and weather. Despite the mild valley temps and a nearly cloudless sky, the summit of Mt. hood remained shrouded in cloud all morning, while sustained east winds kept us bracing.
Nonetheless, it was great to get on the upper mountain mid-winter. Blue ice and the quintessential cloud cap kept us from the summit, but we salvaged the day with a velvety ski descent from about 10,000 feet.
Although I am sitting in the office and would rather not know how good the skiing is everywhere, we have been receiving a variety of vids highlighting the November skiing around the western states and Canada. Aaron Cooperman, Sol Mountain Lodge co-owner and ACMG Ski Guide, just sent us this short clip of skiing up in British Columbia's Monashee Range on Monday. It takes the prize for best skiing in November that I have seen this year.
Skiing Blind Faith with the kind of blind faith normally reserved for mid winter turns is pretty impressive . . .
Well, I wish I could say I was with these guys for what looks to have been an excellent day of skiing last week, but alas, I will have to live vicoriously through their vid. Our pals at North Cascades Mountain Guides had a great day up on Mt Baker on October 13. October skiing is normally a bit of a farse, but this looks damn good.
Fresh brewed coffee in hand, I sat on the deck at Cloup Cap - the morning light illuminating Mt. Hood. Taking in the glow of the mountain, I slipped into my ski boots for the first time in almost two months this weekend. The usual razzing about why my pack was so small, and whether I needed help getting my boots on filled the air. Playing off the sarcasm, I pointed out my favorite credo, "Pack light, mooch heavy," and then asked if anyone had room to carry my jacket.
Tempted by the robust summer snowpack, I motivated a couple of Hood River pals for a mid-summer ski up on Mt. Hood over the weekend. The mountain bike and the family have been keepin' my mind off of skiing the past couple of months, but with summer temps finally here, our still relatively good snowpack is disappearing quickly. It seemed like the time get out, while the gettin' was still relatively good.
We stepped off the deck at a civilized half past six and began our hike up the East Moraine. There are a few lingering snow patches around 6,000 feet, but the snow has receeded to the upper mountain for the summer. Aside from firm conditions at the toe of the Eliot Glacier, the snow was already soft as we booted up along the Cleaver to the base of the Snow Dome.
We topped out at about 10am with snow consistency pretty damn good, but looking at more runnels and sun cups than I might have guessed. There are also more crevasses than I recall down where the Dome merges onto the Eliot. Still, it was very skiable and very fun to be ripping turns down the hill on July 30. If you are keen to get out, I recommend you get soon....
The North Cascades Highway is scheduled to open today, Wednesday May 25, at noon (WA DOT website updates here). The road offers access to some of the best roadside attraction skiing in the lower 48. Classic ski tours such as the Birthday Tour, Easy Pass and Cutthroat Basin are all accessed from the Washington Pass area.
This year's late opening is due to above normal snowfall in March and April. Under normal cicumstances the pass opens in April. This week's weather forecast is not real inviting for spring ski touring, but with the road open, it is time to make room in the schedule for some spring touring. Be sure to touch base with North Cascades Mountain Guides for local beta.
Winter is hanging on in the mountains. Mt. Hood continues to be in the storm path, and I just returned from a winter-like week of touring up at Powder Creek Lodge in central British Columbia.
April in the mountains can serve up quite the variety pack of weather, but Powder Creek lived up to its name last week as Ullr delivered fresh cold snow all week. As usual, I had a variety of skis for testing including the new Volkl Nunataq, Dynafit Stoke and Voile Charger. Conditions were ideal for getting to know big skis.
Here is a quick slideshow of the skiing over the week. We are working on wrapping up our ski testing, so look for some beta on next year's boards in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the last days of winter...
March is roaring in like a lion here in the Northwest! The powder skiing is the best we have had all season. I just spent the week up in the North Cascades with the crew at North Cascade Heli and North Cascades Mountain Guides. I am not sure what I did to deserve it, but we hit the storm cycle of the season. The North Cascades have received over a meter of new snow and the ski conditions are outstanding. NC Heli offers an incredible heli-touring program that includes a morning flight into the mountains and an end of the day pick-up with their A-Star B3. The skiing is incredible right now. It looks like La Nina has finally kicked in!
Winter has returned to the Northwest. A fickle La Nina has not deliverd the epic winter that everyone was hoping for, but the past week has seen a major turn around in snow conditions here in the Northwest. The current forecast for Mt Hood calls for 2.5 inches of water equivalent in the next two days. The National Weather Service is calling for 30-36 inches of snow at Hood today alone. Better late than never...
The Mountains of Eastern Oregon delivered the goods last week, and the North Cascades are calling this week.
A week or so back I posted a clip of some rather uncharacteristic conditions in the Wasatch. There was a fair bit of disbelief that the clip was truly shot in the Wasatch. It was in fact shot up in the Maybird Creek area of Little Cottonwood Canyon. To be fair, we also found some decent snow the same day. The crust was prevalent on ridge tops and windward slopes. The following vid shows the snow on leeward aspects. Conditions in the Wasatch have improved considerably in the past few days. Get the latest on Wasatch snow conditions from the Utah Avalanche Center.
I should be writing up the interesting gear from the trade show, but instead I am learning how to process video off a GoPro Hero HD Cam. I have had the GoPro Cam on a couple of trips so far, but I have just taken the time to process the video. Pretty nice little cam. Llittle being the key word, the GoPro Hero fits in a jacket pocket . Of course, it works best when not in your pocket.
I ran it in this video using the headband attachment. I do not ski with a helmet, so the head strap was very handy and easy to use. It takes a test or two to nail down the proper angle for the camera, but once you figure it out, it only takes a single button to activate the cam. I ran it on the default settings for size and frame rate.
Check out this vid of skiing up at Mount Carlyle Lodge in British Columbia a couple weeks ago. We had plenty of snow, and the terrain was excellent, too. The lodge is under new ownership. Brian Cross, aka the Bald Bomber and co-owner of Valhalla lodge (see crazy, flying bearded guy in banner ad to the right), took over the lodge this fall. This footage is from one of my favorite runs in the boulder field.
Northwest-based skiers see a wide variety of conditions over the course of a season, and Northwest snow quality is often the butt of jokes for skiers from the Rockies and the Wasatch. Well, a recent trip to Utah offered some interesting snow conditions in the Wasatch backcountry . . .
I have been traveling and skiing the past ten days and have not been able to update the blog. Below is a quick slideshow of some of the skiing the past week up at Caryle Lodge in the Kootenays in BC. I will be at the Outdoor Retailer Show the next few days and will post some gear and event highlights from the show in my next post.
In keeping with a tradition of sorts, I managed to rally for a dawn patrol session up on Hood to start the new year right. Conditions on Hood are exceptionally good right now, cold snow and cold temps. I could rant about the existing skin tracks, but in an effort to greet the new year right, I will save my skin track critique for another day.
Thermometer at the trailhead read a paltry 5 degrees Farenheit. Skiing was boot top blower, and the snowpack measured in at 235cm (92 inches) around the 5,600-foot level. What a great way to start the year. Here are a few shots of the day.
La Nina may not be famous for delivering the early season goods to Interior British Columbia's prime powder playgrounds, but the Southern Monashees did not dissapoint last week. I have been up to Sol Mountain Lodge a handful of times in mid and late December, and once again, their snowpack proved to be in prime shape for skiing.
With the first significant snowfall each season come the phone calls, emails and photos of many a friend who has made it out for their first turns of the season. Given my role as the publisher and editor of Off-Piste Mag, the barrage of first turn tales is inescapable and helps fuel the fire for the season to come. Personally, I try to hold back the urge to get out with the first flakes of the season and like to wait for the snow to cover the stumps and downed trees.
That said, I only managed to hold off until the second significant snowfall this season before venturing into the hills on skis, and it was at the urging of my offspring that I decided it was time to check it out.
With an eight and four year old in tow, I did not hold lofty aspirations of peak bagging or record setting vertical, rather the day was about the basic task of hiking for a few turns, something neither of my kids has ever done.
Blue skies and cold snow were the order of the day, and the kids suited up with contagious enthusiasm. Our turns were modest, but the level of enthusiasm was off the hook. What a great way to start the season. Let it snow.
Well, I wish I could claim that I made it out yesterday and took this shot, but alas, I was not able to rally for the snow window, but Jason Leslie, a regular contributor to the mag, was kind enough to share his turns with us. Mt. Hood received 30+ inches of snow this week and kicked off an early start to the season. Here is what Jason had to say about the first turns of the 2010-11 season;
I only ski because I have to, and yesterday was purely a required solo brain-storming session. And while I tried my hardest to have as little fun as possible, the skiing was actually quite nice. Three plus feet of wind compacted snow with a nice layer of ankle deep fluff . . .
In classic Junuary fashion, old man winter has been slow in leaving this year. June is often a little colder and wetter than it seems like it should be, but this year has been even cooler than normal. Given the unstable weather, I have not been too inspired to get out skiing, but as a member of the Hood River Crag Rats Search and Rescue group, I did participate in a local rescue operation here on Mt. Hood this week. It was full-on winter storm conditions in June. Check out the video of me pulling half of a two-piece cascade rescue sled. These conditions were not isolated. It was like this all day. Hard to believe it is June. Thanks to Reuben from Portland Mountain Rescue for recording the moment. Of course, as soon as it hits 85-degrees, I will complain that it is too hot.
I have been testing AT boots from Scarpa, Dynafit, and Garmont this spring as well as new XCD skis from Rossignol and Madshus. May has offered a bit of a bonus season here in the northwest, but it appears we are now headed for a more classic spring cycle of corn and sun. Here are a few shots of some recent jaunts up on Hood. I will follow up next week with info on the Scarpa Mobe and Maestrale boots, as well as the Dynafit Zzero, Garmont Radium and Garmont's new svelt LiteRider boot. Also look for details on Rossignols new BC125 (a 90mm waisted XCD ski) and the Madshus Annum (replaces the Karhu Guide). Photos by Nils Larsen and Dave Waag
Winter knocked on the door here in the Northwest last week. Incredible conditions were had throughout the Cascades. I made it out around Hood for several days of skiing and here are a couple of reports from Central and North Cascades that saw winter-like conditions as well. North Cascade Mountain Guides Cinco de Pow report.
Don Pattison and friends made out in the North and Central Cascades as well. Below is Pattison's trip report and a short video clip skiing near Alpental, WA.
THE BONUS SEASON ... THREE PASSES - THREE BUDDIES - THREE DAYS
When you're in your 50's, it's not easy pulling college buddies together for a ski-mountaineering safari. Jobs (or lack of), kids, wives, girlfriends, and out-of-shape excuses all pile on to damn the phone call and e-mail plans. After a two year hiatus from the the trip, I drove to SeaTac, picked-up my Duluth, MN buddy Dr. Woody and we powered on to Green Lake in Seattle to intervene on, our pal, Ralph's soccer coaching obligations. Slug-belly Puget Sound skies gave way to broken clouds and frosty peaks as we ascended Rainy Pass and made that epic hair-pin turn on Washington Pass. The Birthday Tour is a classic for good reason. We ascended the Spire Gully, instead of the Blue Lake approach and the required car shuttle. Mild weather and snow conditions allowed for a good descent of Madison Avenue, and although dark clouds threatened rain, we skied down a nice powder-to-crud staircase, via Hidden Gully, to the car.
The hospitable Klipchuck Campground, with no snow, open restrooms and a no-fee-yet policy was an easy deal. It rained and then snowed all night, however, so WSDOT closed the the Pass at Silver Star Creek the next morning, thereby changing our plans. Not to be shut down completely, we opted to move passes and hatched a three pass quest. Born from the denial of access to WA Pass our new plan was to hit Stevens Pass and Snoqualamie. Ralph and I have fond memories of Big Chief lift at Stevens Pass Ski Area. The lifts were closed for the season, but it was snowing like a bastard and the lift line run was our call. No tracks, a solid snowpack and no people are the best reason to ski closed ski resorts. It's a short hike for some great (ok pretty good) powder turns.
Lured by beers, showers and beds, we returned to Seattle, for the night, and casually rolled I-90 up to Snoqualmie Pass the next morning. A foot of new May snow was predicted and appeared. Four cars were in the Alpemtal parking lot. We railed the up-track to the top of International lift, and dropped International run like ski patrollers at dawn. Plenty of crotch shots, all round. Apparently it's true...it's not over till it's over!
Winter is making a late season push here in the Northwest. Double digit totals at Hood were the norm last week with more on the way this week, and this is all on the heels of my return from a backcountry hut trip to Powder Creek Lodge in BC. Not sure what I did to deserve it, but the new snow has been great for our annual ski testing that began last week and continues next week.
Powder Creek served up seven fine days of human powered touring. The lodge is one of the finest set-ups in BC; all the amenities of home served up with inspiring backcountry simplicity. Although we never got the epic dump we have enjoyed in past years at Powder, we managed to enjoy ourselves without any trouble. Lodge co-owner, Heather Smith, joined us for our week, and we did our best to ski all day and keep Ullr happy by night. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words . . .
Anyone who has been out touring recently in British Columbia, and some western US locations too, might be interested in checking out this gallery of avalanche activity. Incredible how low angle a lot of these are and how many look like pretty reasonable ski terrain... buried surface hoar avalanche gallery
I spent last week in the North Cascades at the Yurt operated by North Cascade Heli-Ski (NCHS). A quick flight from their base in Mazama, WA, the Yurt, a well appointed, 30-foot diamater structure, offers out-the-door ski touring in the North Cascades bordering the Pasayten Wilderness.
The Yurt has been part of the NCHS operation for many years, but has seen some excellent upgrades in the past couple of seasons. It is a comfortable set-up that served our crew very well. I took the opportunity to participate in an AIARE level II avalanche class at the Yurt. Larry Goldie, IFMGA certified mountain guide, lead the course.
We had excellent skiing and a great snowpack for avalanche education. As luck would have it, the upper meter plus of snow offered at least four distinctive and relatively reactve layers, all sitting on various layers of buried surface hoar.
In addition to sharpening my snowpack study skills, I was able to spend time on two new skis for 2010; the Dynafit Stoke and the Voile Charger. Although we did not get any epic deep days while a the Yurt, there was plenty of boot-top and better skiing that brought both skis to life. Both are light, touring-minded boards with mild to moderate tip rocker.
The Stoke is a big radius turner, but responds to smaller turns when needed. It is all around stouter than the Manaslu, and is sure to please folks lookin' for more in a touring-minded ski, both in width and flex. It is right at home in big terrain.
The Charger has more tip rocker and offers up a silky smooth, big radius ride. It is perhaps Voile's best ski to date (we still have yet to ride the new Vector), and it is incredibly light-weight for its 112mm waist. I have posted on the Charger before and spec'd it at 110mm underfoot, but the pair we have in hand says 112 on the top sheet. I will follow up with Voile to confirm the dimensions.
Both boards are solid midwinter powder skis, and could fill out the quiver nicely. The Stoke is a bit stiffer and responds well to aggressive input. The Charger has more of a hedonsitic powder personality and responds well to all levels of input.
I've got a few more weeks of testing ahead, and a whole line-up of boards from BD, K2, Prior, Drake, G3, Praxis, Faction, and more on the way. Next week it is off to Powder Creek Lodge in BC for more ski and boot testing.
Larry Goldie from North Cascades Mountain Guides and I just spent a day out touring on the new Voile Charger (134-110-123) and Dynafit Stoke (129-105-119) skis. Both skis are light, touring minded boards with rockered tips.
The snow was excellent with north aspects holding the goods. The skis lived up to their names proving that fat, rockered skis don't have to weigh in at 10+ pounds. Both boards are silky smooth and encourage big radius turns with speed.
We have a number of days ahead to get on the skis as we are headed into the North Cascade Heli Yurt. More details on the trip next week.
While visiting the Wallowas back in January, I had the opportunity to hook up for a ski tour with Keith Stebbings, the director and lead forecaster of the newly minted Wallowa Avalanche Center. Keith posts condition summaries online each Friday at www.wallowaavalanchecenter.org. Keith’s reports give a detailed synopsis of the current snowpack along with snow profiles and photographs illustrating layers of concern. If you’re looking for a no-brainer, color-coded hazard rating, this might not be your type of report. But if you like snow science, then Keith’s are as good a read as any.
With January’s unstable snowpack under our feet, getting in turns was not necessarily the objective, but hanging out with the local avy pro sounded like a good idea considering the conditions. Keith was heading out to check on the Mount Howard Snotel site, and to scout out some areas for an upcoming search and rescue training in addition to gathering snowpack data for the weekly report. The skin up Mount Howard is about 4 ½ miles on an access road that climbs to the top at 8250’. The narrow road winds through dense forest as it gradually ascends an east facing drainage. The rounded top of Howard is relatively open granting views up McCully Basin and East Peak to the south, Wallowa Lake and Chief Joseph Mountain to the northwest, and the Blue Mountains in the distance to the north. The open slopes around the summit are low angled enough that we were not concerned with the almost constant settling going on under foot.
While Keith took care of WAC business, we explored around. From our vantage we spent quite a bit of time pointing out tasty looking ski lines all around. Given the poor stability at the time, our best line of the day was a mere 400’ vert on a 20-degree slope. But with a good layer of pow on the surface, I was quickly reminded how easily I’m amused with skis on my feet. Smooth turns through sparsely spaced saplings are always fun. We then met back up with Keith, did a little digging around in the snow with him (always good to take advantage of someone who knows more than you do), and took one final run off the top. The day finished with a quick decent back down the access road.
If you spend any time in the Wallowas, consider donating to the Avalanche Center. The Wallowa Mountains are a unique range with a snowpack that is not well represented by other forecasting centers. Especially if you only visit once or twice a year and cannot regularly follow conditions, the Wallowa Avalanche Center provides an invaluable resource. – Jason Leslie
Telemon and his crew of freeheel skiers are up to their usual pursuits in Vermont's NE Kingdom this winter. The crew recently sent us some shots of life in the NE Kingdom. According to the e-mail note, "...it has been a low snow year, but we are making the best of it. Been skiing our collective asses off, taking whatever nature serves us."
Tam-McArthur Rim Backcountry Skiing - Three Sisters
In early February we spent three nights in the new Three Sisters Backcountry yurts at the base of Tam-McArthur Rim on the edge of the Three Sisters Wilderness. Given the El Nino weather pattern influencing our winter weather, we knew good skiing would require high elevation and north-facing aspects. With the yurts situated at 6600’, the Rim pointing almost due north, and ski terrain extending above 8500 feet, Three Sisters Backcountry delivered.
The snow quality was excellent, right-side-up pow, with a beautiful layer of surface hoar that grew bigger each night. Tracks from previous days were not so much filled-in as they were grown-in. Like grass growing on an unused dirt road, crystalline feathers of frozen water vapor covered our paths overnight. Not only did this add to the stunning beauty of the volcanic landscape, but it also provided skiing that defined the onomonopidic schuss.
We were lucky to hit a weather window that allowed us to tour as far as we thought we could make it before dark (with the help of owners Shane and Jonas showing us around). This gave us fantastic skiing around Broken Hand and the Snow Creek drainage. The Rim itself is a choose-your-own-adventure playground of terrain features – bowls, couloirs, slots, and no-fall zones abound. There is no shortage of high quality terrain.
Three Sisters Backcountry has perched their two yurts (with accompanying sauna) at the edge of the wilderness boundary on the shore of Three Creek Lake. The yurts are beautifully constructed, custom structures. The yurts are accessed by snowmobile (a service provided by Three Sisters Backcountry) and the skin track leaves right out the door, and with some advance planning, tours end with turns descending right back to the yurts. - words and photos Jason Leslie
We heard from Tannis up at Sorcerer Lodge near Golden, BC last week. Here is what she had to say about the conditions in January...
My week in Jan at Sorcerer was excellent! We had better than average stability, excellent skiing and sunshine! What more could you hope for! The following week, however, was a bit more of a challenge. The Dec 29 surface hoar layour was hammered by over a meter of heavy new snow and became very reactive. The group had great tree skiing for the week but was unable to push up onto the glaciers as the weak layer was reactive.
Things seem to be settling out now and improving with time so the skiers were up on the ice yesterday in excellent conditions. They are being conservative and cautious still but enjoying better weather for sure! Please refer your readers to www.wisegoat.ca for details on Sorcerer’s conditions etc. This is a valuable link to several lodges in the area as well as a few more sprinkled across the province. Updated daily – at least for Sorcerer!
Four years ago, I travelled to the Altai Mountains in northern China to help Nils Larsen document the remnant use of primitive skis as travel and hunting tools. We spent six weeks in the area exploring and connecting with the local, semi-nomadic people of the Altai Mountains. Our trip exposed us to a very small slice of a ski culture that most people thought was long overcome by the modern world and the evolving lives of remote populations. Our trip is documented in the film Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan.
Nils has returned to the area several times since our first trip in a effort to further document the use of skis and the importance of skis to the culture of the people in the Altai Mountains. In fact, Nils is in the Altai again, right now. I got word from hime via email last week that he had arrived safely in Beijing.
Here is what he had to say upon his arrival in Beijing:
...the most snow I have ever seen here - They have cleaned the streets by hand (shovel and push cart) and continue to shovel the piles in little carts and haul it away. Cold too.
I head to Urumqi tonight and Ayken (interpreter) will pick me up and hopefully head out with me tomorrow for Altay City and the first ski race (traditional). Lots of snow and lots more in the forecast for the next 4 or 5 days - looking forward to it. We are winging it from there, but it appears Ayken will head into the mountains with me. I have heard the roads are all close to vehicle traffic again due to heavy snow so we will be doing the chana (horse drawn sled) thing.
I hope to get an update from him once he returns from the mountains.
The Burnie Glacier Chalet, B.C.'s most northwesterly backcountry ski lodge, recently hosted a CAA Level I Avalanche Course. Last week's weather was horrible for skiing, but in combination with an uncommon widespread buried surface hoar layer, the weather made for ideal avalanche course conditions. When can you observe size 2.5's running before your popping eyes (from a safe distance, of course). Where can you see avalanches flying over cliffs, exploding on the glacier below? And where can you see the correlation between fancy new tests like a propagation saw test with natural avalanches?
Well, you could last week at the Burnie Glacier Chalet. We had students from Whitehorse Yukon, Valemount BC and Davos Switzerland. Yes, a veritable meteorologist working for the famous Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research did his Level I with us - and came away impressed. Not only with Canadian professional avalanche courses, but also with our terrain, and of course, Monika's cooking.
I'm happy to say that while last week saw some major carnage, the
Howsons snowpack has now healed itself. The surface hoar is gone and we
are back to our usual storm snow concerns. On Saturday, I guided
the Solitaire Ski Peak and skied 1200 vertical meters of powder with no
avalanche activity in sight. And over 350 cm of snow at the toe of the
IFMGA/ UIAGM Mountain Guide - Bear Mountaineering and the Burnie Glacier Chalet www.bearmountaineering.ca
Connelly Brown (CB) from Wallowa Alpine Huts just sent us a field report from a recent Guides Skills Course held up in their Norway Basin camp.
Like much of the Northwest, the Wallowas has seen below normal snowfall numbers thus far this season. That said, the Norway Basin Camp is, once again, proving to be one of the snowiest places in the state with a snowpack of five to seven feet (160-220cm)!
CB sent us the following Southern Wallowas snowpack summary and photos from their Guides Course. He also mentioned they still have a few dates open for trips to Norway Basin. The bottom line in the snowpack report is that stability has improved considerably, trail breaking is easy, and the skiing is very fun right now.
You can read more beta on the Wallowa's snowpack at the new Wallowa Avalanche Center website www.wallowaavalanchecenter.org. The new center has a great forum, routine snowpack updates, and great weather links. They could also use your financial support! Check 'em out.
North Cascade Heli and North Cascades Mountain Guides
The slideshow function is my new favorite tool for the blog. I will be back working on the mag and posting some gear realated content next week, but in the meantime, here is a short slide show from a couple of days of heli-assisted ski touring up in the North Cascades with North Cascade Heli and North Cascades Mountain Guides. I know heli-assisted touring sounds like an oxymoron to some folks, but these guys serve up a pretty sweet day of skiing: jump in the machine first thing in the morning, tour all day under your own power, and catch a final ride back to the barn at the end of the day. check it out...
I just stumbled on some new functionality with our website - the ability to put up a slide show. Here is a tester from my mid-December trip to Sol Mountain in the Monashees. Oh Canada...Happy Holidays. Let it snow!
I managed to slip out of town and into British Columbia last week for a little hut trip to Sol Mountain Lodge in the southern Monashees. I have been up to Sol Mountain numerous times in mid to late December over the years. As usual, Sol delivered the goods.
We were greeted by temps hovering around zero degrees farenheit and a settled snowpack pushing the two-and-a-half meter mark. The combination served up some fine skiing that could well be some of the finest of the season.
Aaron and Dave (the lodge proprietors) were on hand to serve up some fine BC hut hospitality. They opened Sol Mountain Touring six years ago, and the lodge has developed quite a reputation for deep snow skiing. This year is no different. With over two meters of settled snow, we were able to hit the usual haunts with incredble conditions - and it was only mid-December.
Seeing as though I am a hard working professional, we had a variety of skis, day packs, and assorted puffy coats on hand for testing. The real treat of the week though was when Aaron called me over, "Hey Waagy, you should give these a try..." and handed over his spanky new Prior Husume skis for testing.
I will not go into detail, but the Husume rocked. Once I clicked in, Aaron was unable to get them off my feet and I squeezed in a couple of fine days on the 181cm Husume (125/104/112) and have a whole new perspective on backcountry ripping. More details to follow...
I got a call a couple weekends back to join some buddies on a jaunt in search of turns. Unfortunately, I was otherwise obligated. Fortunately for Jason and Andy, they did not need me to get after it. Jason put togther a great report on their adventure.
A Mid-Summer Night’s Scheme
By scheme, I’m referring to the cockamamie variety. And as any endeavor to ski in August clearly falls within the scope of a cockamamie scheme, this one was right on target.
Wy'East Nordic's annual Mt Hood Summer Telemark Ski Camp just wrapped up on Sunday. The weather held for three great days of freeheel skiing on Mt Hood's Palmer Glacier.
Shelley Hakenson runs a great camp. This year marks the event's 26th year, which should tell you something about its quality. Skiers come from all over the country to attend the clinic. This year's long distance travel award went to Andre from Manhatten, NY. Instructors included, Nils Larsen from freeheels.com and Stuart Craig from Snow Performance. This year's group of skiers and instructors made for a fun crew. Thanks to Jarl from Berg's Ski Shop in Eugene setting up the waxing bench and offering his technical expertise on wax and binders - and for taking some good natured grief for his dedication to the NTN gear.
The skiing on the Palmer is in good shape with full skiability all the way to the lodge. Conditions were warm and soft by 2pm when the lifts close, but the upper elevations remained fast and fun all day long.
Thunderclouds threatened each afternoon, but never materialized. The alpine race camps are getting into full swing this time of year as are the park and pipe freestyle camps so there is plenty of action on the hill. If you are jonesin' for a ski fix, a day on the Palmer is a unique experience - big wide-open terrain, fast and carvable snow - it is a hoot.
Summer is here in the Northwest and the snowpack is holding up well. A quick tour on Mt. Hood this week proved the skiing is still in fine shape. Long days make for some fine summer outings in these parts, and it is a great time to take advantage of the conditions.
We were on the casual tour program and simply explored from Illumination Saddle to Zig Zag Canyon on Hood's southside. The snowpack is holding up well and looks good down to between four and five thousand feet. Access for Mt. Adams and Hood's northside are still long with the roads yet to fully open, but that is changing quickly with the warm temperatures.
I spent the day on a pair of G3 Onyx bindings. It was my fourth good tour with the binding this spring. The heel unit is excellent, and moving between tour and ski modes is accomplished by a quick flick of the heel lever with a pole tip. It is a clean and easy system. I still find the toe unit to be the most stubborn aspect of the Onyx. Opening the toe requires a significant amount of pressure (applied with a pole tip, pole handle or by hand). Once open, you can hold it open with relative ease, but overcoming the initial force to open requires effort. The toe unit is secure and functional, but does not get any easier to get into or out of with time/practice. The binding I have is a "beta version". In fact, G3 has a fleet of "beta" bindings out on the snow this summer. Hopefully, feedback from folks will help refine the final production unit. It skis great and feels as secure and positive as any binding on the market.
Remember, skiing is not just a winter pursuit. Take a road trip and enjoy some summer turns.
Here is a guest post from Andy Roof, a regular Off-Piste contributor (Ask the PT). Andy and friends made a day of it on St. Helens last weekend....
To celebrate Memorial Day, we headed up to Marble Mountain SnoPark on the south side of Mt. St. Helen's on Saturday evening and camped in the lot (along with an entire troop of boy scouts who pitched their tents on top of us). We had a clear, cool night, and got up at 4 AM to be skinning by 4:45. We hopscotched a few bare patches between 2700-3000' before hitting mostly-consistent snow just below treeline. For the most part, the skinning was good, but we did put skiis on the packs for one steep, boot-tracked-to-hell pitch around 4500'. We saw a fair number of climbers (including the 16 boy scouts) but only a handful of skiers. Skies were clear with a steady breeze with periodic gusts that kept the temperature perfect for uphill travel. Our friend Kim is the mother of a six month-old and is still breast feeding. That meant that she had to stop for 25 minutes at 6500' and hand-pump breast milk before continuing to skin. Could this be a first for St. Helen's? We all topped out around 11:30, snapped some pics and then dropped into the wide-open corn window between the summit and 6400'. We stayed right off the south rim and hit the southeast facing bowls to skiers right.
Perfect corn on the descent before hitting consistent mashed potatoes below 6400'. We were able to traverse left and find a little gulley that fed out to the main approach trail. The snow here was slightly less sun-punished and was carvable.
It was a zippy out track for the last two miles with a little bit of dirt skiing and one or two sections where we removed skiis to preserve some base. Back to the car at 2 PM after a great day of skiing.
One other note: I had skiied the same route nine days earlier and was impressed by how much snow had melted in the following week---not only on the trail below treeline, but also on and around all exposed rock and ridgeline. There had previously been no bare patches on the skin in, and the snow was untracked everywhere before the boot-packers turned out with a vengeance.
LODGE: noun; Etymology: Middle English loge, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German louba porch. 13th century
1. a rude shelter or abode 2. a house set apart for residence in a particular season (as the hunting season)
HUT: noun; Etymology: French hutte, from Old French hute, from Old High German huttahȳd skin, hide. 1655 hut; probably akin to Old English
1: an often small and temporary dwelling of simple construction :shack2: a simple shelter from the elements
I went on my first backcountry hut trip close to twenty years ago. For me, little matches the sense of being in the field for multiple days, living and breathing skiing and snow. There is a civility and level of comfort in even the most modest of huts that sets the experience apart from camping in the field.
My first hut trip was to a modest Colorado Mountain Club Hut. It was hard to beat for character and my characteristic last minute planning skills. And it served up some fine high adventure skiing the nearby terrain.
Since that first trip, I have enjoyed huts from Alaska to South America, the Himalaya and beyond. Hands down one of my favorite and arguably the most hedonistic of hut trips is the classic heli-accessed hut in British Columbia. Hut is a bit of a misnomer for these trips as most of the heli-accessed operations deserve to be called lodges. Running water, wood fired saunas, gas cooking stoves, and warm sleeping accomodations warrant the lodge terminology.
From BC's private lodges to the Alpine Club of Canada Huts, these trips are worth planning a winter around to make happen. From the group experience to full days of touring and over the top meals, a weeklong heli-accessed hut is a must-do experience for any avid backcountry skier. Consistent snows, remote locations and mind blowing terrain all go hand in hand when hut skiing in BC. Here are some images to get you scheming for next winter . . .
While I was up at Powder Creek in British Columbia, Nils Larsen took an afternoon to test out a pair of Altai skis that he built in the traditional style of skis from the Altai Mountains of China. If you have not heard about Nills' trips to the Altai Mountains and his building of Altai skis, check here for an interview with Nils or check his website at www.freeheels.com.
The skis are about six or seven feet long, made of spruce, and the bases are covered with horse hair skins. I travelled with Nils on his first trip to the Altai in 2005 and watched the local folks make a pair of skis. Nils has been back to the area several more times to learn more about and to document the culture of skiing in the region. The skiers of the Altai offer a window into the roots of skiing that we thought was long gone. Nils' film, Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan, offers a great perspective on the culture and roots of skiing in the Altai Mountains and he is getting to be damn good at skiing in the Altai style, too!
Winter continues here in the Northwest. Some of the best skiing all season has been found in the past few weeks. Gotta love March cycles.
Skied the Dynafit Manaslus today. They rip. It is one of the best do it all backcountry skis available. The ski powder, the ski mank, and they are great in tough technical terrain and firm snow. Truely one of the most versatile dedicated touring boards i have used.
Winter is finally taking shape here, in March. We have had another string of good cold storms. It sure beats the dry spell we endured in January and February. It must be my friends who sacrificed their ski season by heading to Nicaragua, thanks guys.
Got another day on the Karhu Storm BC. Still stoked on its performance. We had boot and knee deep conditions. The ski is quick to initiate, holds a variety of turn sizes, and has a good round feel to it. It is a different ski than the Jak BC, a bit stouter in overall flex, but it shares some of the Jak's versatility in turn bias and initiation. At 96 underfoot, the Storm is wider than the Jak. Despite its extra width, the ski weighs in at only one ounce more than the Jak BC.
The forecast has continued snow early this week. Here's to March.
Mt Hood is in the midst of a storm cycle right now. I got out this morning for a few turns with F.J. from Pistil Designs. We hit the old secret stash, which is less than secret these days, but given the wind, we had the place to ourselves. It is puking toonies as they say up north, but the wind is making short work of anything that is not protected. It was a classic NW storm day, and the trees were the best bet for soft snow.
I took out a pair of Karhu Storm BC's today. I skied them a bit last spring during our annual ski review testing, but this is the first time I have been out touring on them. The ski underwent a little bit of fine tuning last summer before it was put into final production, and it skied great. It has a nice damp feel, a relatively soft tip, and was more forgiving than I remember it last spring. I weighed the Storm BC side by side with my Jak BC and it came in at a mere two onces heaveir per pair than the Jak, hardly noticabl, really. The Jak BC is definitely one of my favorite all around soft snow touring ski picks and i happy to say that the Storm BC held its own very well today. The snow was variable in places, and it did not waver. My first impression is that it is a bit stiffer flexing than the Jak BC, but it still offered a good round flex, and the tip worked the soft snow very well.
I will get some more time on them in the next couple weeks and try to give a few more details on the skis overall personality.
Aside from some good early season snow, the powder skiing at Mt Hood has been a bit sparse this season. Hopefully the renewed westerly flow seen over the past week will continue through the month of March. Historically, March can be one of the biggest snow months of the year in many parts of the West.
I managed to time a recent trip to the North Cascades pretty well. An earlier visit in late December was less productive. Their snowpack, although lower than recent years, is really shaping up now. The current cycle brought in a good foot plus of new snow and good cold temps on the east side of the range. We were able to ski a variety of aspects and had some of the bbest skiing I have had all season.
I put in several days on a pair of Voile Insanes and am happy to report that they have proven to be excellent. They make short work of wind effected snow, turn on a dime when needed, open up for bigger radius turns with ease, and, ofcourse, ski pow with ease. The insane is the first 100+ waisted ski that I have used for touring. At 6.75lbs/pair, they are lighter than many narrower skis and tour very well. Touring with the a ski this wide makes perks my interest in the new BD split skins though. Anyway to reduce the skin drag on the uptrack without compromising the skins ability to climb would be nice.
Following a couple of productive weeks of travelling and ski touring, I am back in the office for a spell. Kootenay Coldsmoke was a blast and the ski touring was excellent, despite the lack of new snow. The Whitewater backcountry remianed cold and faceted for the duration of the event providing some excellent touring conditions.
Arcteryx and Mountain Gear put on a great event. Loads of clinics, tours, demos, and a lively social scene made for a great event.
After the Coldsmoke event, I moved on to the North Cascades for some more skiing. Winter has been a bit unpredictable this year, but the conditions in the North Cascades are excellent right now. The crew at North Cascades Heli showed us an excellent time and the skiing was incredible. They have some time open for heli touring days in March, and if you have been waiting for a window to get out, now is the time. They can drop you in the high alpine, you can ski tour all day and get a pick up before the sun sets. It makes for a killer day of skiing. More images and details on the way.
I finally had a chance to edit down a vid clip from the Wallowas. I am still learning the ins and outs of the POV cam - like where to put it. I guess they call it a helmet cam for a reason. I took this one with it attached to my pack.
I just pulled back into the office after a few days in the Wallowas in eastern Oregon. I am happy to report that winter is doing well there. There is about meter to a meter and a half of snow on the ground at seven to eight thousand feet.
Although the wind played a pretty significant role in the weather while we were out, there was plenty of good skiing to be found. Word from the crew at Wallowa Alpine is that they have a few openings left this season and they are offering an unguided option at their McCully basin camp. If you have been looking to get out there, now is great time. We day skied from Joseph, but there is more terrain to be had if you head up to McCully Basin.
Here are a few shots of the conditions. I will put up a link to a video that I took with a pov cam strapped to my pack as soon as i get it edited. My video skills are not the best, but I am learning. I have several vids from this trip, but need some more time before I can get them posted.
I am back out the door to head to Coldsmoke up in Nelson, BC. Coldsmoke is a great event if you can get away this weekend. February is a great month for ski festivals as Vertfest at Crystal Mountain in Washington is Feb 28th. I'll be back with more reports soon.
Since we have not had any new snow in the past couple of weeks, i thought i would post a vid from back in late December when we were able to ski the east hills here in town. The terrain is pretty basic, but it is a real novelty to be able to ski it - especially with nice boot top pow . . .
Winter has gone from zero to sixty in a matter of days here in the west. Avalanche fatalities are in the headlines everywhere. Even inbounds, resort based terrain is getting hit hard with avalanche activity - whistler - jackson - jacksonII - telluride. It is shaping up to be a year of sensative snowpacks accross much of the west including the often relatively predictable Cascade snowpack - newsI - newsII - newsIII
Locally, it would appear that the nearly five inches of water which fell on Mt Hood in the past 24 hours could make for a good "reset" of the snowpack, but not all regions are getting hit with the same warming we are.
Appropriately, we are in the midst of an avalanche shovel review that is pending for the January 15 issue. It may not be the most glamorous piece of gear we carry with us, but when the time calls for one, there is no substitute for a good shovel.
The weather continues to hammer us here in Hood River. I have often said that if the state was just a couple thousand feet higher, there would be so much ski terrain here. Well, the storms this past week have blanketed the entire area with enough snow to open everything to skiing. No sense in driving up to Hood when there is excellent skiing to be had in town.
Here are some shots from an area better known for its mountain biking, than its skiing . . .
Well, ten days ago we had no snow. Today, we have two to three feet in town depending on where you are. Hood has been hammerd with over five feet in four days. The touring in the high country has not been so great given the amount of new snow. Hazard is high, trail breaking difficult at best.
The return for busting out a good track was minilmal as the terrain that is safe to ski is not steep enough to yield good turns.
However, the local hill skiing rarely gets better than it is right now. No drive and no crowds, pretty sweet.
Forecast shows the weather cylce continuing for another week or so. . . looks like a white christmas . . .
Old man winter is currently making his presence known around the country. Along with double digit snow totals in the mountains comes news of the season's first avalanche deaths. Sad news at any point in the season, the current reports offer a clear indication of current consitions in parts of the western states. you can read more about the incidents from the following links: snowbird, uac, canyons, aspen, cac, vail
The Pacific Northwest is finally getting the snow that we have been waiting for. I got out to test the conditions yesterday. Skiing was remarkably good considering that seven days ago we had about six old, crusty inches on the ground. Snowpack at five to six thousand feet on Hood varied between about 16 and 36 inches depending on aspect and terrain.
Hopefully the storms keep rolling, the hazard settles out, and folks head their respective avalanche conditions.
Larry Goldie from North Cascades Mountain Guides just sent me a couple pics of skiing up near Slate Peak in the North Cascades. He and Paul Butler from North Cascade Heli headed up for an early season tour on some lightweight XCD gear. Larry reports that it was thin but skiable and that it felt good to drop the knee on the light tele gear.
It is good to see the boys can still muster a solid tele turn given their affinity for AT gear these days. It is also good to see that the snowpack is slowly working its way toward ski season. It is a bit sparse around hood right now. The mountain biking remains excellent at lower elevations and south facing terrain though.
We finally got restocked on Off-Piste Ball caps (they are due in the office early next week). They went quickly last year. I ordered a few more this time, but if you missed the last round, get 'em now. We went with a single style and color this time - but they are still 100% organic cotton and $16 includes shipping in the US.
Well, Indian summer provided for an excellent weekend, but today the fall rains are back. Jeremy from the Mountain Shop in Portland managed to take advantage of the good weather last week and checked out the new snow on Mt. Hood. Here is what he had to say:
Given the recent dustings of snow on the volcanoes, I went up to Mt Hood to see how much stuck around up high. It stayed pretty cold all day and you could tell that the wind must have been nuking earlier. From the parking lot, I followed one of the canyons east of the lifts and found consistent snow from just below the Silcox Hut all the way up the Palmer Snowfield. I skinned to the top of the Palmer and switched to ski crampons. The Triangle Moraine area was icy enough that I soon switched over to regular crampons. The Old Chute looked like it was in good shape for climbing, but the skiing would have been sketchy from the summit ridge.
As luck would have it, a rogue cloud blew in, and I was left with whiteout conditions, so I skied a gully leading southwest from the base of Crater Rock (10,000 ft) towards Illumination Saddle.
The conditions were variable: ice, windpack, breakable crust, and about
every third turn I found thigh deep powder. After two pretty serious face plants in the soft snow, I was down to the Zigzag Glacier. I skidded my way to the far west side of the Zigzag and found a band of snow between the rocks and the ice; it was wind-packed powder with just enough breakable to keep me on my toes. In keeping with my luck, the clouds lifted as I neared the bottom. Perfect timing!
At the entrance to BigZigzagCanyon (7,500 ft), I put the skins back on for a short uphill to connect to another snowfield just west of the ski lifts. After skiing that snowfield, I had to take my skis off and traverse back across several gullies into the Timberline ski area.
It was a beautiful day on the mountain, but the previous week’s snow must have been blown out to the east side of the state by the time I got there. The good news is the summer’s suncups seem to be pretty well covered.
It may be summer here in North America right now, but as the saying goes, it is a powder day somewhere. We just heard from skier Brad Lipovsky, who is in the Southern Andes of Chile where winter is in full swing.
Brad says he has heard some griping from locals about the lack of big storm cycles this season in Chile, but he has found the snow to be great. Look for more from Brad this winter in an article on backcountry skiing in the Southern Andes.
"We were in...
The North side of Mt Hood continues to hold good skiing. My buddy Dave and I made it out for a Snow Dome tour last week and the snow was perfect. Sitting in the middle of Hood's north side, the Snow Dome is favorite summer ski tour, but by late July it is often less than ideal. Well, this year it is hanging tough. There is virtually no suncupping and given an average warm day here in town, the snow was perfect from top to bottom.
Given the washouts in Eliot Creek Canyon over...
Well, just before the Cold Springs fire closed access to Mt Adams' south side, our buddy Jeremy Rooper from the Mountain Shop in Portland, OR skied the classic SW chute route on Mt Adams. In his 24 hour jaunt he managed to scoot into the Adams Glacier for a look too. Here is what he has to say about conditions . . .
. . . I got the usual "later than I planned start", leaving Cold Springs at 3:30 pm Thursday. Conditions were warm and...
With spring/summer finally kicking into high gear here it has been a couple weeks since I have skied, but yesterday I made it out for some corn on Mt Hood. Larry Goldie from North Cascades Mountain Guides was visiting so I figured he should add Mt Hood to his quiver of summits. We opted for the easy access south side route given our short window of time. It was aperfect day with a light west wind keeping the snow from getting too soft.
We summited about noon, any earlier and the snow would not have been ready for a ski descent. The upper 200 vertical feet or so remained firm but skiable while the lower five thousand feet of skiing was perfect. There is nothing like a Volcano ski when you nail the conditions spot on. The corn gave perma grins all around.
The Hogsback is a bit climbers left of past years and the primary route up this year is just right of the Old Chute. The Pearly Gates did not look like much fun this season. Despite the firm snow up top, we skied the Old Chute right off the summit ridge. For more details on Mt. Hood check out the poster we have available here.
It was nice to get on skis after a few weeks away. I do not have quite the passion for corn as i do powder snow, but it was a heck of a day. The Volcanos are in fine form this spring, i suggest getting after it now . . .
I spent last weekend with up at Washington Pass in the North Cascades with Bruce Edgerly and Steve Christie from Backcountry Access, the folks behind the Tracker beacon and a variety of other fine ski touring gear. I'm happy to report that the skiing was springlike and the snowpack is as good as it gets for this time of year.
We spent a day touring from the hair-pin on just below Early Winters Spires and Liberty Bell on Highway 20....
Here are a few more Ortler trip shots. The European huts are well known for their food and drink and the Ortler region in particular offers some of the best.
I am headed north tonight to ski with the boys from Backcountry Access, Karhu, and North Cascades Mountainguides for a few days. The North Cascades Highway opened this morning and given recent weather patterns, the skiing could well be winter like. I will have images and some beta from the trip next week.
I recently returned from a seven day hut trip in Italy through the Ortler region with our friends from North Cascades Mountain Guides. Touring between huts in Europe is much different than any North American equivilant. The rich history of the mountains and the level of comfort offered in the Ortler region huts is unmatched - even in Europe. From esspresso to the genepe, the Ortler haute route offerings are unique. The mountains are rich in glacial terrain, rugged summits, and World War I history. The huts offer excellent meals, a long history of mountain shelter and are relatively easy to access.
I will save the full experience for an article in the mag next fall but I will share a few highlights of the trip here on the blog over the next week or two. Our trip was marked by, plenty of snow, low visibility, and high instability, but we managed to enjoy some fine skiing, a variety of huts, scale a peak or two, and we even managed a tour of the Ski Trab ski factory in Bormio, Italy!
I just returned froma little skiing up in the North Cascades and i am happy to report that winter is still in full swing in the mountains. It may feel like spring here in th valley but upper elevations are still producing good winter skiing.
We toured a couple days with Larry Goldie of North Cascades Mountain Guides and even spent a little time with the boys at North Cascades Heli. Wind was the weather feature of the weekend but skiing remained excellent. The North Cascades have...
Winter has been on a roll in these parts for over two weeks now with seemingly endless snow. Given the abundance of snow, wind, and varied temps, the ski hill has provided some good skiing as the touring options have been a bit limited. Early in the week I had a chance to get out on a pair of G3 Hombres. Hood had gotten 23 inches in 17 hours along with a good dose of wind. The snow was what we call full bodied in these parts. The Hombres surfed the pow with incredible ease and given the 105mm waist, my 130lb frame was well supported through the deep snow. It was comical at times, skiing a pitch and just riding the surface not even boot deep through snow that would eat the length of a pole if you pushed on it. The Hombres made for a fun morning.
I just returned from a Karhu/Scarpa Dealer Camp at White Pass in Washington where it snowed heavily both days. Karhu unveiled a couple of new skis called the Storm and the Spire as well as their "BC" counter-parts. They made for some fun skiing at the hill and I will have more details on the new skis soon. We also got out for a day of XCD touring on the Karhu Guide. The Guides skied the new snow very well and going light always feels so nice after a day of charging around the resort. Scarpa gave us a sneak peak at a few of their new boots for the 08-09 season including a new NTN telemark boot and new high-performance AT boots. We also tested a variety of their 07/08 line including the F3, a light, dedicated touring boot with Dynafit campatibility and a telemark like belows. The F3 is a stouter version of the F1 that Scarpa has offered for several years. The boot skied remarkably well and it weighs a phenomenal 1470 grams (3.2lbs).
I broke in the new year with a dawn patrol ski tour. One of my favorite ways to tour locally this year has been on a pair of Karhu skis with an Omnitrack base. The Omnitrack base is a no-wax kick pattern that allows for easy traveling on low angle terrain and snow covered roads. I have an early test pair of skis that used the Jak BC dimensions but the current model is a called the XCD Guide. The skis are 78 underfoot and 109 in the tip - very respectable measures. Matched with a 3-pin binding and...
I spent the Holidays up in the Monashees at Sol Mountain Lodge. It was my third year of trips to Sol in December. These guys seem to have a super reliable early season snowpack. The snow at the lodge measured three meters when we arrived and it snowed every day we were there. Aside from from the trail breaking issues associated with so much snow the skiing was incredible. The terrain is well suited to storm cycle skiing and despite some relatively high avalanche hazard days, we always...
I have been out of the computer loop for 10 days and what a great ten days it was. Santa smiled on our crew up at Sol Mountain Lodge in British Columbia's Monashee Range. For the third year running, Sol Mountain has served up some fine December powder skiing. We measured the snowpack at over 3 meters when we arrived and it snowed all week on top of that. All the snow made for some tough trail breaking but the skiing was incredible.
With winter kicking into gear in these parts, I got out for a little tour with a couple buddies on Friday. Coverage is really improving; settled pack was at least 3 feet deep at around 6,000 feet. With temps in the teens, the snow was cold and dry. We made a few laps and we were all surprised at how good the skiing and snow were given it was still November, albeit, the last day of the month.
It was good to get the skis sliding on snow. The pack was a little upside...
Well, I wish this was a first-hand account but I have not been up yet. A couple friends in town made it out following the last stormcycle and here is what they found.
They agreed that the coverage down at treeline is marginal but the the skiing up high was pretty darn good. Thanks to Sam Davis and Max Reitz for getting out and sharing the pics. Looks like more snow this week . . .
Tannis Dakin from Sorcerer Lodge up in the Selkirks sent us a few photos of a work party up at the lodge this summer. Snow has been coming and going up in the mountains this fall and they are ready for the winter to kick into gear. Here is what Tannis had to say . . .
Lots to talk about up here in the Golden area this fall. Sorcerer did its annual workweek this summer and finished off a beautiful new set of stairs to the second floor. You don’t have to creep gymnastically down the sides to avoid the creaks in the middle of the night anymore. . . . the photos show the day hikes I always promise the work crew - in between the sweat, bugs, dust and sawdust, we do get out for a few hours.
More interestingly for those of your readers who might come to this area, is a new initiative begun by the backcountry lodges of Golden. We’ve set up a website called wisegoat.ca. This is a venue for folks in the industry to share our weather and snowpack information with each other and with the public. Check out the link below for more details. The local newspaper published a story for us. We’re pretty excited and we want everyone to know about it! Real hard info should be getting posted around Christmas by all the participants.
Aaron and the folks up at Sol Mountain Touring in the Monashees sent us a couple images of a recent trip up to the lodge to finish a few projects on the hut maintenance list. Unfortunately for the project list, it snowed heavily while they were up at the lodge. The good news is that they actually got some skiing done.
Many areas of the country have seen good early snows this season but the Monashees is one of those locations that seems to get an early start to the snowpack regardless of what is happening in other parts of the country. Here is what Aaron had to say . . .
We had planned on finishing the siding in the first weeks of October, early snow changed our plans. 4 wheel chaining up our road with 1 meter of snow, scrambling to finish our firewood - ended up finishing the last bit with snowmobiles. Remainder of siding is on hold until next summer. We did take a break Oct 5 for a few turns.
Our struggle with snow this year is typical in every fall we have worked up there. Seems we always have to spend some time battling in it - kind've a penance I guess for getting to play in it all winter.
Mt Hood and the surrounding area had close to two feet of snow last week above about 5,000 feet. I have had several folks report that they found skiable conditions mid storm cycle, especially above 6,000 feet. Well, as the weather will do this time of year, things have changed dramatically this week. The sun has been out and the freezing levels are well above treeline.
A friend was up near Timberline for a little skiing yesterday and sent these photos. Here's what he had to say . . .
Couldn't go wrong up there given the weather. I'd say 50's with only the slightest breeze. The coverage was not great until you consider that it's still October. We stayed on skis the whole time. Snow was, of course, heavy and wet, essentially spring like . . .
Word from Alaska is that winter is setting in nicely. Steve Conway up in Anchorage sent this image of the snowline encroaching on the valley floor. He said that his daughter's friends already have a half dozen days of skiing up in the Talkeetna Mountains North of Anchorage, reportedly with thigh deep conditions. Not bad for October.
Meanwhile the snow is flying in these parts as well, although, I am patiently waiting for the base to grow before I head out. It is hard to hang up the bike just yet. . . . It is only October.
I spent Saturday up on Mt. Hood's north side searching for the bodies of the two climbers missing since last December's climbing accident on Hood's North Chutes.
It was the third time I have been up on the hill with the Crag Rats working to search for the bodies and or clues as to there whereabouts. Satuday's weather was perfect and we had SAR teams up from all over the state including, the 304th US Air Force Rescue Squad, Portland Mountain Rescue, Corvalis, Deschutes, and Hood River's Crag...