Saturday, December 31, 2011

A rough start to the season

Well, I haven't taken the time to sit and write anything about this season because we haven't really had one yet. While we did enjoy some exciting early, and I mean early, season snow and powder skiing, we haven't really gotten much of anything since. In fact, the month of December was the 9th snowiest month of 2011, meaning that May, June, October and November were all snowier. The only months this year with less snow were July, August, and September...
Both Squaw and Alpine are now open and the only skiing available at either resort is on man-made snow. What little skiing we do have has been fun and I've been enjoying relearning tricks in the park and really getting into my carves. I know that it doesn't always snow and that weather is cyclical in nature, but the complete and utter lack of natural snow is defeating and a very stark contrast from this time last year, or any of the past 10 that I've been living in Tahoe... The tourists have been here in force regardless of the lack of snow and open ski terrain making the ski resorts nearly unbearable.
I am hopeful that it will eventually snow around here and I look forward to skiing powder again sometime. Here's a quick video from October 7th, 2011, the best early October powder I've ever skied, and the best powder un of my 2011/2012 season so far... Happy New Year!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More May fun, and Pow!!!

So, Its late May. Our coverage throughout the state of California is truly without precedent. Interestingly it won't stop snowing. In fact, we got 10 inches of snow overnight last night up high. Toiday was yet another great May powder day. Alpine Meadows is closed for the season and that is actually great because it makes for a great place to go touring. I spent the morning up there today and got 6 or so runs of really good powder skiing, especially for late May!!!


Prior to our recent powder storm I went down to the southern Sierra with the hopes of getting it good for a couple days. Turns out that my timing wasn't great and it was windy as hell. Tioga pass opened for the season on Thursday and on friday morning it was so windy that no one was willing to go up there. We changed our plan and headed farther south where the winds were supposed to be mellower. It was our first time to Onion Valley/Kearsarge Pass and the winds were still incredible. We toughed it out and in the end we had a pretty good ski day in a new part of the range that none of us have ever explored. We almost made it to the summit of University Peak, 13,632 ft. but we were thwarted by the insane winds. Regardless we had a pretty fun ski..

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Last week in the High Sierra

Last week the weather finally broke for long enough to get out an a long tour in the eastern Sierra. The weather window was only a couple of days and with work I only managed to head down south for a day and a night. That being said, our one day tour was big enough to tide me over for several days...
We headed down to Bridgeport, CA on the night of the 11th and crashed at our friend Tina's house. We got up and had a casual morning while we juggled our options for local ski tours. We decided on skiing the north couloir of Twin Peaks out of Twin Lakes. It seemed like a reasonable objective with options for extra shredding if we wanted. We blasted up to the bottom of Twin Peaks and completely changed our minds and headed much deeper into the range on a mega-tour. The photo above is of the east face of Virginia Peak, one of our objectives for the day, that's 2,000 vert...
Glen, Oscar, Andrew, Tina, Mark, and myself walked up the Horse Creek drainage and up to Burro Pass, between the Matterhorn and Twin Peaks. We crossed over onto the western slope of the Sierra briefly as we traversed to the west side of Virginia Peak, an obscure and rarely skied peak. We scrambled up some rock and wrapped around to the east slope of the peak and bootpacked up the slope to the summit. We reveled in the view and beauty of the day on this narrow fin of rock in the middle of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.
After a brief rest we dropped in on one of the steepest skiable slopes in the Sierra, for a couple turns at least... Other than a bit of loose wet snow sloughing down the slope the skiing was better than expected. Fun steep turns on a mountain that none of had skied before, not even Glen!
After skiing the east slope of Virginia Peak we weighed our options and decided to head back to Twin Lakes via the Cattle Creek Col, only a couple miles and few thousand vertical feet away. What's a couple miles and thousand vert when you're already on the biggest ski tour of the season anyway?
A little while later we found ourselves atop the Cattle Creek headwall between Twin Peaks and Monument Peak. Luckily there was great north facing chute for us to ski that was full of, you guessed it, powder!!! And only 5,000 vertical feet back to the car. We all enjoyed the heck out of the run and despite our tired legs everyone ripped the shit out of it.
After a couple miles of downhill skiing we found ourselves back to the cars at the shore of Twin Lakes with ice cold beers and really big smiles. 17 miles and 8,000 vertical feet, not too bad for a bunch of out of shape tahoe skiers. It was great to check a couple cool new lines off our lists and another great day to spend in the mountains with friends...

More May Powder

My calendar may say May 17th, but is sure still feels like winter here. Maycember, Maybruary, call it what you will because its snowing to beat the band here in Tahoe. The ski areas are closing and you can't really blame them. People are done skiing for the year. Flowers were blooming, snow was melting off at lake level incredibly fast, and then it started snowing, again... Overnight we got 8 inches at my house. I expected very little from this storm and we got quite a bit more than I bargained for. America's biggest professional bike race, the Tour of California, came to Lake Tahoe for the first time over the past weekend. The first stage was called off due to snow, the second stage was cut by half the distance and the start was moved from Squaw Valley to Nevada City. I can't blame them, there's no way I was going to ride a road bike either, I was too busy skiing powder...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

May skiing

videoMay in Lake Tahoe can mean any number of things. Generally it means the end of the season, the transition to working and mountain biking. This year we've got unprecedented snow coverage and the ski season is far from over. The ski areas are starting to dial back operations regardless of the coverage and we've been driving to the foothills to shred on our bikes. We will be skiing well into the month of July this year, the high peaks of the Sierra and even the mountains around Lake Tahoe should probably offer good skiing for quite some time. That being said, I've never had a chance to ski M1 in munchkins during the month of May, so this afternoon I went ahead and skied it a couple times. It was pretty good.

Tallac 4/26/11

videoOn Tuesday April 26th I headed up to Mt. Tallac with John Morrison for a few laps on some of the sweet steep terrain up there. We'd gotten some new snow over the previous few days and the conditions were great for some steep skiing. There was a little ice in spots, but mostly sweet wind buffed powder. Unfortunately, two of our good friends, Kip Garre and Allison Kreutzen passed away while skiing on Split Mountain on the same day. More on this later...

Monday, April 25, 2011

More snow.....?

Yes, this is the winter that will not end. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I'm really psyched that we'll be skiing well into the month of July this year. It has been a challenge, though, to get consistent snow conditions with the weather changing on an almost daily basis. We got a little new snow last week and we enjoyed some powder-like conditions around the resort and in the backcountry. On Friday I headed up Mt. Tallac, for only the second time this season, and enjoyed the day with Mike and Oscar. I finally got to ski the Babycham for the first time this year and I was relieved to check that one off my annual to-do list. It was pretty good too...

Friday, April 15, 2011

East Side

The past week I headed down to the big mountains of the eastern Sierra to ski some powder with my buddies Oscar and Andrew. We went down Sunday night and got up really early to ski Red Slate Mountain on Monday. We pulled up to the Convict Lake parking lot around 5:30 am and quickly got on our way. The summit of Red Slate is 8 miles and 6,000 vertical feet from the parking area, so we hustled around the lake and started skinning once we hit the snow. There is an incredible amount of snow for this time of year and I can't believe the coverage on pretty much everything. About 6 hours after leaving the car we reached the summit. We skied the north couloir in incredible powder conditions, check out the video below:

That evening we met up with Andrew and headed a little further south to check out a line on the north side of Mt. Tom. I'd eyed this line before from a chute on the opposing side of the valley but I could never tell if it actually went through. Someone posted a photo on the web from the week before opening my eyes to the fact that it was actually a go. We got up earlyish and started hiking around 8 am. We were able to get on snow about 2 feet from the road. The snow down low was firm and the chute we were skiing was relatively steep, so we put our crampons on at the very bottom and kept them on the whole way.
Oscar and I were wiped out after our huge effort the day before so Andrew spent a lot of time up front kicking steps. I shared in the bootpacking duties for a bit and we made it to the ridge, 5,000 vertical feet from the car, in about three and a half hours. The view was incredible and I was stoked to be skiing on Mt. Tom for the first time.
Like the day before the snow conditions were great. The upper 2,000 vertical feet of the chute were good quality powder. In the middle of the chute we had a few hundred feet of challenging snow conditions, and the bottom half of the run was smooth fun corn snow. We skied straight to the cars exchanged numerous high fives and dried out our gear in the sun while we enjoyed some cold beers.
We had plans to ski the following day, but we woke to strong winds and stormy conditions on the ridges. After a couple of great days we decided to head home instead of suffering in the elements. Its gonna be a great spring, and there are so many things down south for me to ski...

Monday, April 4, 2011

What a run

Record breaking March!!! It wad the snowiest March on record in Lake Tahoe, and my back can attest to that. I even had to shovel the roof of the house because the doors weren't closing properly anymore. All the snow came to an abrupt end about a week ago and since then we've had unseasonable high temps, making for some strange snow conditions and weird avalanches. I've been taking some time to rest my heel and my body and do some spring cleaning and home maintenance. I also took a little time to throw together a sweet little video from the past month. What a run we had...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh My God

Its hard to believe how much powder we've skied lately. I couldn't be happier, looks like a record breaking year for us this year. I haven't seen anything like this in the 10 years I've spent here... We've been hitting airs and lines that have never been possible before, and much more on the way...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The hits just keep on coming

After an almost spirit crushing 6 week dry spell we have been back in the powder here in Tahoe for the past three weeks or so. Looks like it might stay that way for a while with the jet stream lining us up and high pressure settling in the Gulf of Alaska. A few days ago we got a warm wet storm that left us with 15 inches of dense awesome powder. Great snow for everything, especially skiing some steeps, short Tahoe steeps, but tons of fun nonetheless. Check out these little video clips of some of the fun I've been having lately.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

recent skiing fun

The snow has stayed incredibly good and we even got 4 more feet through the past week. Here's a few little videos I put together from the past several days...


Monday, February 21, 2011

Snow-maggedon!!!

After six weeks of the driest winter weather I think I have ever experienced, the pow has returned to Lake Tahoe. Winter has returned with a vengeance. Most people couldn't be happier, I for one, am overjoyed. I wrote a little article for ESPN.com and got into a few photos with local photographers. Check it out here:
http://espn.go.com/action/freeskiing/blog/_/post/6144605/return-pow

The snow has been staying really cold and we're still skiing powder all over the place. Here's a short little video of me trying out my new Volkl Shiro's. Best skis ever made, quite possibly...

video

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Milking the Powder

After pretty good success finding reasonable snow conditions yesterday I went out on a little tour on Stanford Rock with my buddy Oscar. We found some more good snow, still dust on crust and transforming into a thinner and denser layer of powder. We explored a few lines that we don't regularly ski in an attempt to search out some untracked. We found good open slopes but some discontinuous fall lines. It was pretty fun to ski some more powder and play around with POV camera.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A little tour with Lynn

Today Lynn and I went out for a little tour in Ward Valley, just outside the ski area boundary of Alpine Meadows and roughly up the street from our house. It was pretty good, considering that the powder we got a few days ago is super light and on top of a hard crust, and the east wind was blowing about 60 mph threatening to blow away or ruin all of our new snow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A couple more shots

I recently found a few more published shots that have just come out. As I was walking through the airport the other day on my way to British Columbia I stopped to check out the most recent issue of Skiing Magazine. It was their Resort Guide and there are beautiful shots from all of their favorite resorts. It just happened to be me on the Alpine Meadows page in a cool shot by Will Wissman from last year. I don't get to shoot with Will often but it seems like every time we do get a chance something ends up getting published. In my ongoing quest to become a writer I recently had an article published in Tahoe Quarterly Magazine. This article is about"sidecountry", or resort accessed backcountry, skiing in Lake Tahoe. I think its about 2000 words and they even put a shot of me in there... This photo is from last year, just up the road from our house in the year round playground of Ward Valley.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Icefall Lodge


3 weeks ago I got a call to go on a trip up to the Icefall Lodge north of Golden, BC for a magazine article. Since I had pretty much nothing going on at the time I said "yes" to this and planned my travel last minute to meet the crew for this once in a lifetime adventure. The Icefall Lodge is BC's newest backcountry lodge and offers access to the highest peaks and largest skiable terrain of any lodge in BC. I met Rico (the writer), Doug (the photographer), Jeff (skier), Erica (skier), and Jimmy (Rico's buddy) at a motel in Golden the night before we headed out to the lodge. We drove about 40 minutes north of Golden, BC to rendezvous with the helicopter for a lift into the lodge. We ditched our cars and jumped in the helicopter for a 20 minute flight straight to heaven. After flying past hundreds of mountains we finally rounded the cornner and caught our first glimpse of the lodge. In the photo below you can just make out the lodge directly in the middle of the shot nestled in the trees to the left of the most prominent avalanche path.
This shot is slightly closer to the lodge and shows the several structures that Icefall Lodge has. The old lodge is off to the right and the new lodge is the larger building to the left. As you can see, the Icefall Lodge is situated in the heart of some awesome ski terrain. Three feet of snow fell in the 2 days prior to our arrival and the skiing was incredibly good the entire time we were there.Here's the view from the 2nd floor of the lodge with another load being brought in from the heli. The heli pad is about 20 feet from the building making for some really dramatic heli drops. Sometimes we'd even start our ski runs from the heli pad in the morning.
Here's the main Icefall Lodge from the heli pad. This lodge is about 2 years old and has more than doubled the capacity and comfort level at Icefall. The building is three stories tall with a drying room and the woodstove on the ground floor, kitchen and dining area on the 2nd floor, and bedrooms on the 3rd floor. It is important to note that this roof was great for jumping off and Jeff and I took advantage of that later in the week. Our group stayed in the old lodge which was about 100 feet to the right of this one and was no less comfortable, just smaller... In the photo below people are getting ready to head out for a clear day of powder skiing.Our first day at the lodge was spent skiing powder around the lodge getting a feel for the snow and terrain. Our second day broke bluebird and we headed off to the Lyell hut which iss located about 8 kilometers and 4500 vertical feet from the Icefall Lodge. The basis for the article is the hut to hut traverse that is an option at Icefall. There are actually three huts operated by Icefall lodge including the Icefall, Lyell, and Mons huts. The Lyell and Mons huts are at much higher elevation than the Icefall and are both located near some serious glaciated terrain. So we set off with the goal of reaching the Lyell hut. We hiked up into the alpine and got some incredible views on our way...Early morning in January lends itself to some long shadows. Here we're looking at Mt. LaClytte and our route towards the Lyell Icefield. Lots of terrain up here.Hours later and we're almost up to the col (pass) where we'll head over a ridge and onto the Lyell Icefield. In the photo below Rico, Jimmy, and Erica make their way up the skin track towards Crampon Col. The views of the mountains only got more incredible the higher we got.Jeff Annetts nears Crampon Col after hours of hiking through some unbelievable mountains and glaciated terrain. One the other side of the low spot on the lookers right is the Lyell Icefield.After going up and over the Crampon Col we hiked straight across the Lyell Icefield and up the Lyell Hut. In the photo below lodge owner Larry Dolecki takes the last few steps towards the Lyell hut. This hut sits at about 10,000 feet just west of the continental divide. The lodge is quite rustic but it has a propane heater and stove making it surprisingly comfortable, even when its -10 degrees outside...We spent the night at the Lyell hut and headed out for a ski the next day. It was really, really cold the next day and the winds had picked up making for some barely tolerable temperatures. We decided on a quick and easy objective in Lyell 5 or Christian Peak, 11,154 ft. We made quick work of this summit and decided to head back to the Icefall lodge for some more deep powder skiing and more comfortable temperatures. While the Lyell hut was truly incredible, the snow and weather conditions were not ideal for us to stay there and get photos. Another storm was rolling in and we had some powder to ski... In the photo below you can see the amazing scenery as well as people swinging their legs in an effort to prevent frostbite to their toes... This was the coldest I have been in years.
After another long day of touring to get back to the lodge we found ourselves back at Icefall and sweet comfort. Here's a shot of the second floor of the lodge. The kitchen is just out of sight to the right and the common area/dining area is where everyone is sitting.Just downstairs from the dining area/kitchen is the drying room and wood stove. This wood stove keeps the entire three story building warm with no problems. There is a drying room for your boots and gear that can accommodate everyone's gear and then some. Directly out in front of the door is the heli pad and the start of some of the ski runs.We were getting absolutely dumped on while we were up there, almost 4 feet of snow fell while were there, on top of three feet the week before! The conditions were incredible for shooting ski photos and just begged for the obligatory roof huck. Since the building was three stories high we figured the roof jump was about 30 feet. We also jumped off the other roofs, but the main lodge had the best landing and biggest drop. Getting onto the roof was scarier than jumping off it. This ladder was straight up and climbing it in plastic ski boots was no easy task. After climbing up we had to pull our skis up on a rope as seen in the photo below.
All around the lodge was great skiing, and since the snow kept coming the skiing only got better and better. We enjoyed the pillows, trees, and chutes that were easily accessible from the lodge and played it safe with the increasing avalanche danger. Luckily the lodge has a good deal of protected tree skiing that is right near the lodge, we had plenty to do while it was storming... In the photo below Rico (look closely) shreds the crap shoot in epic conditions.

We were busy shooting photos most of the time, but Jeff and I found some fun cliffs to jump off of. I'm pretty sure we got some good shots for the magazine, but I could barely see anything the whole time we were there since the snow was so deep, so I'm not really sure. In the photo below Jeff takes a little air...
Jeff Annetts get a deep turn in some of the pillow near the lodge. I didn't take too many pictures of the skiing since we had a professional photographer with us the whole time, but this photo is a good representation of what the skiing was like the whole time. Deep, some of the deepest snow I have ever skied.After days and days of heavy snowfall we finally got to see the raw power of mother nature. While we were skiing in the trees, to avoid avalanche terrain, an enormous avalanche swept down the Kitchen Chute just feet from where we were skiing. It was an unexpected and shocking thing to have happen, and luckily we were all well within the old growth trees for just that reason. I've never been that close to an avalanche this big and it definitely was a little scary. The photo below shows the avalanche path and just how close we were to it. There's 20 foot tall trees in the debris... Not only was this scary but it was also awesome to see something like this up close while being completely safe and out of its way. My trip to Icefall could not have been any better. It was definitely one the best trip I've been on in years. I can't wait to go back, there's so much more to explore...