Friday, December 31, 2010

Volkl Skis

After six years with Elan skis I've switched ski sponsors to Volkl Skis and Marker Bindings. This is a great switch for me since I've always loved the way Volkls ski. I got a pair of Katanas and pair of Gotamas. I took my Katanas out for a few laps on Hidden Peak the other day while it was storming and it appears that they ski Powder very well. Avalanche Danger was really high so we kept it in the trees and took three really fun runs. Keep the snow coming!!!!

Home again, Home again

So we rafted down the Grand Canyon for 25 days. It was one of the most amazing adventures I've ever been on. More about that later on. Since we got home on the 18th of December the skiing is as good as I've ever seen before and around Christmas. We've got 200 percent of our usual snowpack for this time of year, and that is making for some great skiing. Both the resorts and the backcountry have been absolutely going off and my first week of skiing for the season included plenty of runs that often don't fill in until February. Pretty much everyday that I've skied this season has been a powder day and thats a hell of a way to start the season. Here's a little video I shot the other day on the 27th of December at Alpine Meadows.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Opening Day at Mammoth

Thursday, November 11, 2010 was the opening day of the season for Mammoth Mountain. Luckily ESPN wanted me to cover the event for a web post and I was happy to oblige. I lined up tickets for myself and Jason Abraham and we cruised on down to do some skiing. The recent snow and cold temperatures made for an exceptional opening day.

November 10, 2010 Powder day?

Just the third day of the winter with snow on the ground and we're already skiing POW!
A little settlement coupled with another foot on top made for some great early season turns. Mike Vaughan and I went back to Alpine and hiked around for a few hours. I made a little video.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Skiing! First turns of the season

Just a couple days ago we were enjoying the best mountain biking conditions of the year here in Lake Tahoe. Consistent rains and nice warm temperatures made this fall one to remember on the trails around the Lake. That being said, once November hits I'm usually ready for it to start snowing in earnest, or at least go one way or the other, indian summer or winter. A couple days ago it started raining and winter flexed its muscles. We only got about a half inch of snow at lake level, but up high there was anywhere between a foot and eighteen inches. I went out for a tour of Alpine Meadows and found some fun snow to ski. It was definitely some of the thinnest cover I've ever skied, but was fun nonetheless.

I used my GoPro POV camera to catch some interesting video of the action. This was one of the rare times of the season when speed is not your friend and you defintely don't want to take any chances. It was great to get out and move around on the snow regardless. If you decide to go, bring your rock skis....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Back at it!

Welcome back to fall. Its been a long summer for me. Since the beginning of June I've been working like a madman to pay off last winter and prepare for the coming one. The colors are changing, temps are dropping, the ground is wet, and the mountain biking has been just incredible for the past month. We've finally made it to magazine season and I've recently found some published shots from last season. The Skiing Magazine Gear guide came out and I found 2 shots of me and a shot of Lynn in there.Here's a half page of me on P.17A full page on Pg. 27.
Lynn scored a full page shot on P.57. It was good issue of Skiing for the two of us. Be sure to check out the Skiing Magazine gear guide for the most legitimate ski test in the industry.We also got the most recent issue of Mountain Sports and Living Magazine where there was another full page shot of me at Alpine Meadows in their resort guide. The day we shot this photo at Alpine Meadows was a great day of skiing and we were lucky to have been able to get a shot like this.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Birthday to me

As usual on my birthday I headed out to go and get some turns on snow to celebrate the fact that I am now older than I used to be. This year was no exception and I went out to get some of the sweet pow that has been falling over the past month. We headed down south to the High Sierra to get our powder fix and we eneded up at Tioga Pass which was open for the first time this year. We hiked up Mt. Dana and headed straight to the Solstice Couloir for some steep pow. This is what the entrance to the Solstice looked like... That cliff under the spine of snow was over 50 feet tall and pretty intimidating to drop in on... I cut a big notch into the cornices so we could side slip in and it was pretty manageable after that.Here's what our entrance looked like after the cornices got chopped away, again the cliff beneath me is over 50 feet, and the cornice to the right is probably 25 feet tall. Once on this slope everything was great and it was powder for 2,000 vertical feet. May 29th might be the latest I've ever skied powder...
Here's a shot looking up the line I just skied down. You can see my tracks on the left of the frame, and you can see how massive the cornice we had to drop beneath was, it was huge! The tiny notch you see on the ridge is the notch that I chopped out of the cornice with my ski, and you can see the cliff we were above while dropping in. Exhilarating to say the least.
After scaring the crap out of ourselves dropping into the solstice couloir we hiked over to the Powerhouse chutes. In the photo below Pat makes a big slash on the dust on crust pow heading down to the car we parked for this shuttle run. It was pretty good snow...
Mike Vaughan and I decided to drop into a different line in the Powerhouse zone and Mike went first and ripped it. I didn't ski this as fast as he did, I was impressed.
The next day, 5/30/10, we went down to South Lake to ski the couloirs on Mt. Thompson. Pat, Je, and Mike had never skied Thompson before so I put in a nice bootpack, thn realized I needed to ski neighboring Mt. Gilbert and headed that way to ski a new line in epic conditions. It was a beautiful, albeit warm day, I guess it gets warm this time of year...
After skiing a quick run on Mt. Thompson I booted up the north couloir of Mt. Gilbert by myself to take another line off my growing list. It was steep, possibly the steepest line I skied all year in the Sierra. In the photo below I am standing straight up, so the chute below is how steep?...
No one was watching as I skied this, but it was among the steeper things I skied all year, and those are definitely some of the shortest turns I made this season. There was a lot of snow moving and getting caught in my own slough was not how I wanted to celebrate my birthday...
Overall, I was really happy to have finally skied this line, I've been in this area so many times and not skied it... The conditions were good, although a little sketchy, and for May 30th, probably the best conditions I've ever had... This is one for the books, I don't think I'll ever ski powder this late in the year ever again...not on a line like this
Happy Birthday to me, nothing in the world makes me feel like skiing something like this.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The winter that will never end

Since I last posted about my adventures on snow it has continued to snow and snow and snow here in Lake Tahoe. All the resorts have been closed for almost two weeks and our snow pack has only increased in that time. With Lynn being injured I've been staying close to home and trying to get out skiing as much as my work schedule will allow. There is very limited mountain biking to be done since all of the good trails in the area are still snow bound and will remain that way for some time. Lots of people are "over it" around here, but those who are willing to enjoy whatever mother nature has to throw at them are still out getting it good in the mountains throughout the state of California.
Luckily for my friends and I, we are of the mind that when there is snow, you go skiing. This is especially true when there is powder, and even more so when there is powder in late May. The other day my friend Joe and I headed out to Ward Valley(my backyard) and found great skiing conditions on all aspects, including powder on north facing terrain. In the photos above and below Joe enjoys some of the best May powder turns he's ever had.
Today was quite similar, it started raining at lake level last night and we got another 6 inches or so of new snow up high. I skied a few laps up at Alpine and, considering the time of year, I was pleasantly surprised by the conditions. It was snowing hard all day and looks to keep up through the day tomorrow.... Looks like tomorrow might be another powder day. The only drawback to getting all this new snow this time of year is that as soon as the sun comes out, it is all over for a couple days, nothing escapes the sun and it's radiant warmth this time of year.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Photo day at South Lake

After getting throttled by the wind down off Tioga, Abro and I met up with Mike Vaughan and headed down to South Lake to shoot some pics for my upcoming article in Backcountry Magazine. The conditions have been great, so getting shot for the article was easier than it could have been. The South Lake area is one of my favorite spots to go skiing this time of year so shooting pics there was great for me. Mike Vaughan approaches the Gilbert Thompson Cirque with a beautiful ridge in the background.After hours of shooting pics and hiking around we tried to find a good slope for sunset light. In the photo below Abro tiredly hikes for another lap late in the day with Mt. Johnson and Mt. Gilbert in the background. South lake rules!
Abro put the camera down for a few minutes while we shredded this ini chute with some nice cold snow in it. South Lake is in the background and out car is a mile down the hill from there. This season's snow pack is way different than last year. Last year at this time the lake was melted and there was almost no snow or ice on the banks of the lake. What a difference a year can make.

Shut down by the wind

Sometimes, even when everything has been going your way for a while, you get reminded that mother nature is in charge. One morning last week I was meeting up with photographer Jason Abraham to shoot some pics down off Tioga Pass and South Lake. The wind was so incredibly strong that there was no way we were going up onto the plateau, so we went with plan B. Plan B was to take our time and just ski something on the lower slopes below the plateau. Here's an black and white grainy shot of the plateau. From this spot you could barely tolerate the wind, being 2,000 feet higher up and it would have been impossible to stand...We settled on a sweet looking 3,000 foot chute that was our best option for soft snow on this day. Here's a shot of Abro shredding the corn on this lower chute off Tioga.The lower third of this chute became a big dirty debris filled channel of snow. The upper 2/3's of the chute were great snow, but from about here down was pretty terrible skiing. You can see the power plant road still far below us in this shot.
After descending this chute we decided that it was, in fact, the best snow we could have skied on this particular day. It was just one of those days that if you were at home you might not have gone skiing... We ended up on the other side of Lee Vining Creek and had to find a spot to cross, Abro went for it on this questionable log jam. Lets just say that I didn't choose to follow him. A moment after this shot was taken he was standing knee deep in the creek. I did a little backtracking and found a good clean spot to cross. Luckily we got a ripping fire going later that night and he was able to dy out his boot liners...

Mt. Thomson

After our big day on Whitney and Russell, Oscar and I chose to head up to South Lake to enjoy some good snow conditions. The South Lake area has some of the easiest late spring access in the range, and generally speaking, peaks lower than 14,000 feet have better snow conditions... The lake was frozen solid so we cruised right accross it on our way to ski Mt. Thomson. A little while later and we're right below the awesome north/northeast facing chutes on Mt Gilbert on the left and Mt Thompson on the right. The summit of Mt. Thompson is about 13,400 feet, and the bench we are hiking across is about 12,000. I'd never skied on either of these peaks before, so we headed for the trident(three chutes) on Mt. Thompson. In the photo below I'm skining toward the base of Mt. Thompson, and I am glad to be there. After skinning as far as we could I set a nice bootpack up the mellowest of the three chutes. This bootpack would come in handy once we decided to ski all three chutes that day, the snow was so good we just had to...The first chute I chose to drop in on was the skiers left. The wind had created a funky rock/cornice crux that had to be negotiated to enter from the top. I suppose I could have downclimbed this with my skis off, but I felt the need to spice it up a little. Definitely the most difficult moves I had to make that day.After entering the chute safely, phew..., I enjoyed some of the best snow I've ever experienced in the High Sierra. Top to bottom, great snow, I'm pretty sure I hooted and hollered at least three times during my first run, and second run, and my third run too. After we successfully tracked out the chutes on Mt. Thompson we enjoyed the long run back down to South Lake. The snow was great the whole way.... It was an awesome day in the mountains, and after two 8 hour days in a row I felt the need to take a day of rest...

Whitney and Russell in a day

Last week I headed back down south to meet up with some friends and ski some more peaks down on the east side of the sierra. Last Sunday I hooked up with Oscar, Andrew, Allison and John to try and tackle Mt. Whitney and Mt. Russell in the same day. Since both of these peaks are over 14,000 feet tall, it was sure to be a big day. We started in the dark at about 5:30 am, I shot this photo about a half hour into our ascent just as the sun was rising. After about an hour we caught a great view of our first objective. The summit of Mt. Whitney isn't too far from our break spot here. I was surprised how easy and quick it was to get back here...
A little while later and we're still headed up, the Owen's Valley sits almost 10,000 feet below us. At this point we're about to head into the Mountaineer's Route to start the steeper part of the ascent.
This shot is looking down the Mountaineer's Route from the top of the snow. This day was one of the windiest days I've ever spent in the mountains. The wind was so strong that it was actually blowing us over. I physically got blown over at least 4 times this day. From the top of the Mountaineer's Route chute there is a technical mixed snow and rock climb onto the summit Plateau. It took us about 5 hours to reach the summit from the Whitney Portal parking area. Once on the summit plateau it is completely flat, creating an interesting juxtaposition to the sheer cliffs that make up the eastern face of the mountain.
Since it was so windy we were freezing cold on the summit. We quickly made our way to our descent route which was not the way we had ascended. Normally people ski down the mountaineer's route, since we had the plan to ski Mt. Russell, we descended the north side of Mt. Whitney into the basin between the 2 peaks. In the photo below you can see our descent route, kinda. Its a little hard to tell how we linked this face together, but it was actually pretty easy...
As I might have mentioned, it was windy, in this photo, Oscar skis the north side of Whitney, you can see the snow being blown up and over the ridge behind him. It was brutally cold on the ridge, and this wind was relentless. Once we got down the face and into the basin between Whitney and Russell it was much more tolerable and pleasant.
Our next objective was to get as high up Mt. Russell as possible. Since gaining the summit from any interesting ski line on the peak involves technical rock climbing we chose to ski from the highest skiable point. The photo below shows Mt. Russell as seen from the summit of Mt. Whitney. Our line is the ribbon of snow that makes it close to the summit. Truly a beautiful mountain, not much in the way of sweet skiing, but I hear there are some incredible big wall rock climbs up there.
We climbed straight up the line we wanted to ski, and you can see the north side of Mt. Whitney behind us. We were all psyched to be out of the wind and took our time climbing our 2nd 14er of the day.
And dropping. Jon drops in on the weird snow on Mt. Russell. Jon is a machine and he skied 12 of the 14 peaks above 14,000 feet in the state of California in the past month. Unfortunately he broke his leg after being hit by rockfall just the other day so completing his 14er mission might have to wait til next season...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tioga Pass

On the third day of our trip down south we headed up to Tioga Pass to ski a line that I've been looking at for years. While this may technically be the end of the Dana Plateau, I refer to this peak as North Gibbs. The line we went to ski is on the lookers left skyline right off the peak. The ascent route to access this line is a little different than climbing up to the plateau like you would to ski the coke chute, the ripper, the third pillar, or kidney lake. Instead of climbing the coke chute we headed up the chute to the lookers left, right above Oscar's head in the photo below.
After skining up to the base of the chute we switched to crampons to boot up the firm snow. After topping out on the chute we still had a ways to go.
Coming out of the chute the pitch eased back a little and we were able to skin to the top of North Gibbs. In the photo below Oscar climbs with Mono Lake and Tioga Pass Road in the background. Another beautiful day!
After several big days in the High Sierra we were wiped out and happy to reach the top of our line. I've been looking at this one for years so I got to ski it fresh. Oscar captured a good shot of me dropping into this one... This line was huge, once it goes out of view it just goes on and on, I'm glad to have finally skied this.
While we were on the top of North Gibbs we looked over at the north side of South Gibbs, and it looks good. I think we may have found a few more things to hit the next time we're down in that area... Another great day down in the High Sierra, spring in California, does it get any better?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

South Lake

The day after we skied the Matterhorn, Oscar and I drove on down to South Lake, just outside of Bishop, CA. The past weekend marked "Fishmas", or opening weekend for fishing season in the Eastern Sierra. This event is celebrated not only by anxious fishermen, but also by backcountry skiers excited to gain easier access to unbelievable ski terrain. The parking area at South Lake is at 9,500 feet making it a breeze to hike the 5 summits above 13,000 feet in the area. In the photo below my friend Oscar hikes across a still frozen South Lake with Hurd Peak dominating the skyline. Our first objective for the day is out of sight behind the peak in the right of the photo. Be sure to look for the people ice fishing in the lower left of the shot...After several hours of hiking we finally caught a glimpse of our first objective for the day, Mt. Johnson. Mt. Johnson is 12,871 feet at the summit, and a long way from the car. This aesthetic face has a number of skiable lines, but right now the only one that goes through is the chute on the lookers right of the peak. A while later and we're almost to the top of the chute. Unfortunately someone had skied our line the day before, but the snow was still really good and there was plenty of room left for us to make nice turns. Oscar makes his way up the bootpack towards the top of Mt. Johnson, the Bishop Creek drainage heads west down the valley behind us, and notice the White Mountains across the Owens Valley in the distance. And dropping, the reward for the slog was good, very good. I actually got a shot of me skiing too! The chute was good top to bottom, and we enjoyed smooth snow all the way over to the base of Hurd Peak.
Once you are all the way back to Mt. Johnson, the east face of Hurd Peak(12,237ft) is "on the way" back to the car. The inviting steep powder slope just couldn't be passed up so we skinned around and booted up for a lap. The short bootpack was tough after our already long day of hiking and skiing, but we were handsomely rewarded with powder turns.
Oscar pillages the fresh powder on the east face of Hurd Peak. We skied good quality snow all the way to the lake.

While on the top of Hurd Peak I spied my next line in the South Lake area, it is the obvious crescent shaped chute in the photo below. I'm not exactly sure why but this just calls to me and I can't seem to take my eyes off it, maybe I'll get to ski in the next week or so...