Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wet slide city

This week we've gotten two really warm, wet storms that dropped 16 and 12 inches respectively. While our snow is usually heavier than most, this is starting to get ridiculous. Today, everything slid, everything. Things that don't slide were sliding, and going through the forest to boot. It was a waste of time to ski anything steep because as soon as you got into it the whole thing was going to slide. Its the nature of the beast I suppose, and its days like these that you gotta love low angle powder. Lucky for me I'm not too proud to ski some mellow slopes... The visibility today was also quite poor, so I only pulled out my GoPro POV camera for a few shots, and here they are.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Please hit button to Refresh

As it was finally starting to get a little ugly around here we got just what we needed. Somebody hit the refresh button, and just like that we've got six new inches of good quality snow to smooth everything out. With a bit of a nagging foot injury I can't really ski anything but really smooth snow, so I headed up to Mt. Tallac today to see how the snow was. The recent snow has made the skining conditions much better and more grippy making for a much easier climb than you would have found out there a few days ago. Only three people were out there in front of me today, and I thank them for a great new skin track. I was also impressed by their especially gnarly drop-ins to the top of the cross, way to get after it whoever you are. Luckily for me, two of my favorite ski runs in the world were completely untracked... While the new snow was very stable it was sluffing pretty fast, not deep, but fast. The sluff made me a little tentative, but I still had a great time up there today. I toyed around with a new GoPro POV set up today and I was pleased with the results. I basically mounted the camera on the top of a telescoping ski pole which I securely strapped to my pack. In the future I think I might try and put it up a little higher, it was a fun experiment nonetheless.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mt. Tallac with Jason Abraham

A few days ago I headed up Mt. Tallac with Jason Abraham to see if we could find some good snow. At the time it hadn't snowed in probably 9 days or so, and the typical route down was so heavily skied it was almost moguls. The snow on south faces was perfect corn, and on the north and northeast faces we found some great shallow powder. We were hoping to snap a few photos, so we decided to head over to the south side of the mountain, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that side of the mountain almost completely untracked. Thanks to everyone out there who skis in everyone else's tracks....Coverage on Tallac is the best it has been a couple years, all of the really gnarly lines are filled in really well. While we didn't opt for the really aggressive skiing that day, the open powder slopes we found offered up some great snow conditions and worked well for getting a few pictures... It was Abro's first day on Tallac, and he just got a tiny taste of the possibilities that are up there.
We had another relaxed but successful photo day and it seems like we're on a roll. It is snowing lightly here in Tahoe again, and our weather looks unsettled for the next couple weeks. Bring it on!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trying something new

After nine winters living in Tahoe and skiing the backcountry I am always stoked to get out and do something new. Since I'm somewhat of a creature of habit there are way more things that I haven't done out there than things I have. I suppose that I tend to get into a groove with the places I ski, and I often I find that I just do what is easier, or closer. This was not the case yesterday. A friend of Lynn and I suggested that we go ski Pyramid Peak in Desolation Wilderness. In the photograph above, Pyramid is on the left, Mt. Price is on the right, and Jack's peak is in the foreground, pictured from Dick's Peak in the center of the wilderness. At 9,983 feet, Pyramid Peak is the highest point in the wilderness and one of the most aesthetic mountains in the region. We chose to access this peak from the closest main road, and we parked our car around 6,000 feet at the Horsetail Falls parking area off of Highway 50. The hike brings you up a southeast facing ridge to start and at that elevation the snow was a little thin... We had a bit of an interesting bushwack to start out our day. After ascending about 500 feet or so we were out of the thinly covered rocks and bushes and up onto a prominent ridge that would lead us all the way to the top of Pyramid Peak. While the summit isn't very close to where we parked getting there was quite straightforward and the navigation was simple, once you were out of the bushes. In the photo below Lynn approaches the Southeast side of Pyramid Peak about 3 hours into the approach...
After hanging out at the summit for a while we dropped in on our objective, the north face of Pyramid. Having only viewed this face from a distance I always thought that it was way longer and steeper than it actually was. The snow on the north side was still nice and powdery despite the unseasonably warm temperatures that we've had lately and the skiing was great. Here's a shot of the north side of Pyramid with good coverage, many seasons this doesn't fill in well enough to be able to ski it without walking over rocks...
After skiing the north side we traversed back around and skied a variety of terrain and snow conditions near the route that we came up. Coverage was great and the terrain interesting most of the way back down to the car. Things got a little spicy once we got back down below 6500 feet or so, but with some good route finding, a little bit of bush skiing, and some questionable creek crossings we made it out of there with no problems at all.
It was a beautiful day in tahoe yesterday and going out to try something new with a mellow crew made for a fun and relaxing day in the backcountry. Its always fun to ski something you've never skied before and a mountain like this that stares you in the face is nice to check off the list. This peak is deep so if you plan to head out there be prepared for a long day or take it easy and make it an overnight...

Monday, February 15, 2010

It had to stop sometime...

Well, it hasn't snowed here in about a week, and considering the month we had leading up to this I don't think too many people are complaining. Having the sun back for a few days is fine by me. I think most people, including myself, could use a little rest. Since it has warmed up we've gotten right back into a spring corn cycle. I skied powder 2 days ago, and I'm pretty sure if you looked around you could find some nice cold powder hidden in the North facing pockets above 8,000 feet or so. Today I decided that we might have some corn, so I went to my go-to corn laps and I was not disappointed. My first run was really good, but by the time I dropped in for number 2 the temperature was almost 50 degrees. While it was a beautiful sunny day the sudden warming that we now have is a little much. By about noon it was downright hot out and the snow got a little mushier than I would have liked. A few more melts and freezes and we'll be skiing some perfect corn...
Here's a quick video that I threw together, today I experimented with some alternative angles with my POV cam, the reverse was pretty cool...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A day in Ward Valley with Jason Abraham

Yesterday was one of the first truly sunny California days we've had in quite awhile here in Lake Tahoe. While I love the sunshine, I think I love powder even more, so I'm not really complaining. My friend Jason Abraham, Elevated Image Photography, and I headed up the road and into my big backyard of Ward Valley to see if there was any powder left out there... After a leisurely start we found good quality snow on east and northeast exposures above 8,000 feet. It was our first time shooting photos together and the clear skies and good snow helped us get some great shots. The best shots are being saved for publications, so here's a few of the rest.
This winter, it has been especially hard to shoot ski photos. While we've had tons of snow and great conditions, the light has been relatively non-existent. We all love good skiing, but people like me and photographers like Jason need to get shots to keep sponsorships and make a little money. Needless to say, getting out with good light and a great photographer really made my day, especially after taking the previous 5 days off to rest my ailing heel. We had a great time hiking around and skiing lines, and the laid back feel of the day made this one of the more enjoyable photo days I've ever had. I look forward to working with Jason more in the near future. The photo below is of the fun spine zone that we sessioned for a few runs before the light went away. I skied three new lines this day, and all of them heavily guarded by some massive cornices...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Elan skis 2010/2011 preview

I've been skiing on next years Elan Olympus and Boomerang skis for the past three weeks or so. While they are similar to the current line-up of Elan skis there have been some subtle changes. Most notably is the graphic change on the Boomerang. The ski itself remains unchanged from last year's award winning design which many people, including myself, absolutely love. This ski is floaty with a waist of 120 mm, easy to turn in its 190 length due to the early rise tip and tail, and now it looks even cooler than it did. Not only has the topsheet graphic been updated, but the base graphic as well. This ski will also be available in two shorter lengths for those who may have been too small for the 190 length.
The summit series is new this year and is an updated version of the popular triple series from last year. One of my favorite skis of all time is the Elan 1010 which has been replaced this year by the new Olympus. The Olympus has the same exact dimensions as the 1010 but has a slightly lighter core and a slightly rockered tip. Both improvements have made an already awesome ski even better. The summit series also features a hole in the tip to accomodate a skin hook or to make a rescue litter while in the backcountry. If you choose not to use the tip hole for any reason the skis come with an insert that keeps it covered. At 110 mm underfoot this ski can do it all, and is my ski of choice on all but the deepest days, and all the time in the backcountry.
The current line up of Elan skis is the best they have ever produced, and next years skis are even better. The photo below is of me dropping into the white-out gnar on my new Olympus, the fall line has got nothing on me...

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Today we headed back down to the "halls of the gods" on Angora Peak. Its been snowing lightly for the past several days, and the current avalanche danger rating is "Low". It was perfect conditions to get out and ski some of the steeper terrain in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Needless to say, the snow was excellent, and except for some difficult visibility I had one of the best runs of my season... Check out the video, it was good. Notice that when I pull up in the middle of the line an enormous sluff flies by, good thing I knew that was coming!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Sherwood Shuttle Rules! and powder too!

One of the many benefits of living on the West Shore is the Alpine Meadows Sherwood Shuttle. The shuttle brings skiers up to the backside of Alpine Meadows which is roughly 3 miles up the street from my house. Today I put my boots on in the house, walked out to the corner and hopped on the 9 am shuttle to the ski area.
Its been snowing off and on for the past month or so, and yesterday there was about 10 inches of new snow, overnight it snowed another couple inches. Today I went for some of my old standby powder stashes and I was pleasantly surprised to find fresh powder everywhere I went. It snowed lightly all day and tomorrow looks to be a repeat performance of today. As long as it stays cold and keeps snowing I don't really care what happens...
At the end of the day I skied to the shuttle, rode it down to the corner near my house and walked the daunting 100 feet home. Unfortunately the shuttle only runs on weekends, but it sure is a pleasure to use it from time to time.
Here's a few clips from today...

A few shots from Kevin Klein

The other day when we ventured out to the Benson Hut our friend and professional photographer Kevin Klein came along for the ride. We didn't have the best snow conditions or light to work with, but we went for it anyway.Regardless of the somewhat adverse snow and light conditions we had a good ol' time skiing around and we might have even gotten a few good shots... Thanks Kevin.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A night at the Benson Hut

The Benson hut is located on the Pacific Crest just north of the summit of Anderson Peak and roughly three miles south of Sugar Bowl ski resort. One of four sierra club huts in the area, the Benson hut coincidentally shares my last name. Spending a few nights in one of the huts is a great way to spend time with friends and access terrain that is otherwise a long day hike to get to. Some friends of mine reserved the hut for Sunday and Monday nights which just so happened to coincide with the full moon... Since I was busy skiing some crazy lines in the backcountry on Sunday I didn't arrive to the hut until Monday morning. The inside of the hut is quite rustic but the wood stove heats the small space up quite nicely. There is easily room to sleep 15 people, and our group of twelve was quite comfortable. A two burner stove, pots and pans, and firewood are already in the hut, so all you really need is clothing, food, and something to sleep in. Notice in the photo below that the snow completely covers the back windows....There is a ladder from the downstairs to the main sleeping area upstairs, or you can walk to the upstairs window on the backside of the hut and enter through the window.
There is some really incredible ski terrain very close to the Benson hut. The most interesting terrain lies a little ways below the ridge. One of nicest things about the hut is that when you go for a ski you don't have to throw on your climbing skins until after you've already taken a lap. There is an impressive cirque of really gnarly lines that sits just below the hut. The photo below shows only about half of the "gnar zone". The lines in this area are only about 500 vertical feet but they are impressively steep with lots of really interesting rock and ice features. I'm excited to go back out there once we've got a bit more snow and some more of this terrain is filled in and skiable...
After two days of skiing and one night at the hut we packed, cleaned the place up, and headed north on the ridge back to Sugar Bowl. Since you're on the ridge the entire way you can skate and sidestep a lot of the way. The last little bit before you hit the ski area is uphill, and with heavy packs can really take it out of you.
If you've never spent the night in one of the huts I'd highly recommend it. To find out more about the Sierra Club huts around Lake Tahoe click on this link: