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Osprey Athlete Alison Gannett’s favorite places to ski…or MTB?

March 28th, 2015

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“My Favorite Places to Ski, Part 2″ was to be the subject of this post.The weather has been so strange this year (I’ll save that rant forlater), that I pondered writing my favorite places to mountain bike instead. Then is started snowing again! So instead I’ll write about where I’ve skied and biked recently. Quite a year it is when you can do both in the same day!

Whistler, BC, Canada has long been a favorite place for me. Big alpine lines, impressive backcountry access, beyond-stellar views, big big big…the list goes on and on.

 

Since I’m a small town girl, I adore staying in Pemberton, BC instead of in the fancy Whistler resort. Only a half hour away, Pemberton’s lush valley is surrounded by animal, veggie and berry farms, with mountains like Mt. Curry rising 8,000 feet above. For food, don’t miss Mile One – burgers with local Pemby Beef that are to die for, especially with toppings like handmade goat cheese.

The Whistler/Blackcomb resort is so massive that finding a local guide is essential to link the goods together. They do offer free guided tours (check the map/grooming report/big boards for info) or just post on Facebook before heading there and find a friend or friend of friend to guide you. Unless you want to spend a lot of time on lifts or looking at vistas, choose either Whistler or Blackcomb to ski for any given day.

The backcountry is vast, and often requires a sled, but I’ve found plenty great stuff via skins as well. The Duffy is one of the local classic places to go tour. This video below is of Alaska, but it reminds me of the alpine terrain in that area:

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So while there last week, the skiing was, well, just ok. Temps had gotten so warm the week before, going above freezing in the valley and all the way to the summits way above. BUMMER. Alas, Whistler and Blackcomb are so extensive, that we even had fun cruising all the groomers. I had fun testing my new Meier Skis – a new women’s prototype that we are working on together that will launch next season. Like our new graphic? Its in the photo above. Venturing off piste was sketchy, slide for life conditions to say the least. So we puckered ourselves just a bit anyway – why not?

Since our backcountry plans got stuffed (no snow on the approaches), we turned to mountain biking those areas instead. Why not? Since my plush Juliana was at home in Colorado, I demoed a more appropriate gravity bike 65 degrees of slackness and 6 front and back to ease my fears from Bike Co. Even though I make a living teaching Mountain Bike camps with Osprey Packs, I wanted to push my own riding. So my friend Susan set me up with Pro-Downhiller and MTB Coach Sylvie Allen and Sweet Skills Mountain Bike Coaching. Whoop, whoop! She took my riding to a new level, with a bit of boosted confidence from my plush ride. One line in particular, to the side of the main Cream Puff trail, had me puckered with its slanting fall line but with some help, voila! Thanks Sylvie! Here is a short video of some of the splendor:

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Up next this year: KEEN Rippin Chix Mountain Bike Camps with complimentary Osprey Packs hydration pack demos. I’m hoping the new Osprey Zealots will be in the mail this week, so that you can try them in my upcoming MTB skills and singletrack camps in Fruita, followed by Eagle/Vail, Paonia, Crested Butte, and Moab.

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This hydration pack not only has all my favorite great looks and features (bite valve/hose magnet, rigid reservoir, helmet carrying fixins, special tool compartment/carrying system, etc), but also enables carrying of your more gravity oriented equipment.

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The Story of a Backcountry Underdog: Ski Blades

March 6th, 2015

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Here in Colorado the snow has been hit or miss, with heavy storms in December and basically non-existent snowfall in January for much of the west. As a result of the poor to mediocre skiing a dialogue began between myself and a couple co-workers. We began discussing couloir skiing and how reasonable it is for the time of year and how we might make it even better. Naturally ski blades were introduced into the conversation. If you’re not familiar with ski blades, simply imagine a pair of skis that instead of making it to your nose, barely make it to your hip.

A few days later the ski blades were on order and plans were made to pull touring bindings off of an old pair of skis to mount on the blades upon their arrival. All the while, heated discussions were had regarding the pros and cons of ski blades. Sure they’ll be more maneuverable in tight couloirs where jump turns will be made easy, but how will they do in powder, mixed snow conditions, how well balanced will they be for touring, will the bindings rip out? After chatting with another co-worker that happens to shoot professionally we decided it would be only reasonable to made a sweet short film about the future of backcountry touring and mountaineering.

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After the ski blades arrival we quickly got to work on grinding down screws so they wouldn’t go through the base when mounting new bindings, figuring out where on the ski to place the bindings (ended up mounting them 1cm back from center) as well as adjusting some kicker skins to fit the new setup. After a couple hours of work I was ready to set off on a three-day hut trip outside of Aspen, CO.

 

Three days later after dozens of miles of touring and skiing slopes up to 50 degrees psyche was higher than ever. Slapping the blades on my Kode ABS Compatible pack and boot packing up ridges was a breeze. Sure I fell many more times than I usually do, it took a bit more work to figure out the powder turns…but once I did I got twice as many as my friends. And don’t even get me started on the tours to and from the hut, those puppies weigh next to nothing and are not afraid to go fast.

 

In short the trip was a raging success, I anticipate spending many more days on the blades and I expect to start seeing more and more ski blades appear in the backcountry because they are the future.  DSC_9332

 

My name is Sam Feuerborn, and I have spent the last three years living in various vans in order to pursue my passions on my own schedule. Having grown up traveling and spending much of my formative years with my family outside hiking, camping and skiing it has been DSC_9344-Edita natural transition to embrace the dirtbag lifestyle.With many of my adventures fueled my coffee and stoke, I like to keep the van well stocked. With this addictive I have spent months at a time climbing in the desert, hitchhiking through Africa, mountain biking through the San Juans, backcountry skiing in the Elks, climbing in Yosemite as well as countless games of Settlers of Catan around the world. I have been lucky enough to embrace this lifestyle and make it work thanks to the support of countless friends and strangers alike, encouraging me to think outside the box and play as often as possible.

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Earn Your Turns: 101 Months in a Row

March 1st, 2015

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From suncups to blower pow, huge peaks to bunny hills, North Vancouver brothers Mike and Andy Traslin have been consecutively earning their turns every month of the year for the past…wait for it… 101 months. They’re not alone in the endless pursuit of ‘turns all year,’ but they sure are passionate about it.

The quest for earning your backcountry ‘turns all year’ is especially popular with zealous skiers and riders in the Pacific Northwest of the United States and of course here at home in BC. With huge peaks holding snow year round, especially the Cascade Volcanoes, it almost makes you wonder why every skier doesn’t do it.

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Like Mike says — if you’re really jonesing for some ski turns in the fall, why wait? Just go do it!

In celebration of Mike & Andy’s 101th month (and hopefully hundreds more to come) here is a quick freeflow of thoughts from Mike, and some image highlights from the last 30 or so months: Read more…

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Around the World: Alison Gannett’s Favorite Places to Ski

February 4th, 2015

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I’m often asked about my favorite places to ski, so here are some of my recommendations from around the world:

Kootnay Mountains, British Columbia’s Red Mountain Resort and Whitewater Resorts:
While I love almost all of the skiing in BC, I’m choosing this area because of the consistently great snow that adheres to rocks, GREAT ski towns, the friendliest locals, phenomenally varied steep terrain, affordability and easy access (flights to Spokane,Washington,USA and short drive across border). When folks ask me if and where I have a pass, I respond that I don’t, but if I did I wish it was here and I wish I could live in Nelson or Rossland! Almost nowhere in the world have I experienced pillows like those in Steep Roots at Red Mountain, or powder that felt like backcountry but was actually inbounds like in Whitewater. It’s no wonder I choose to spend most of my season at these two places and that I run most of my Steep Skiing Camps in the Kootnays. What I also adore is the non-resort vibe at these towns/ski areas – reminds me of my childhood at Crotched Mountain New Hampshire. This is skiing as it should be.

Tip: Don’t miss the $25 dorm rooms at the Adventure Hotel or pay-as-you can or trade for rooms at Angie’s B&B. Don’t forget about the great slackcountry — bring all your backcountry gear almost every day to these areas.

 

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Verbier, Switzerland + Chamonix, France or La Grave + Serre Chevalier, France:
I’m mushing these together because different folks may want one over the other or, ideally, both. Both are beyond words when using the lifts to access the backcountry. When I want to scare myself, I go to ski the couloirs in Cham. Besides Argentina, I don’t think I’ve ever almost peed my pants like when we skied the Rhonde when icy, and a guide died that day in the couloir next door in the same hour. I’ve also skied almost 7,000 feet of blower snow in a chute almost all to ourselves. Verbier also has epic backcountry off the lifts, but it is more wide open peak to peak adventure skiing and if you want to end up at a place with a bus or train back where you started, hire a guide or make a good friend at the bar. Another strong contender in this category is La Grave (pucker factor even higher than Cham) and Serre Chevalier (OMG steep trees/spines).

Tip: Be prepared to always wear a harness/crevasse rescue gear and use a rope frequently. Make sure to have great maps and at least two ski touring guides.
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Manali, Indian Himalayas:

Typical response, “what Mountains are there?” Duh, they’re the HIMALAYAS, only the greatest, tallest and most epic mountain range in the WORLD. But great mountains don’t always make for a great skiing experience. Case in point, I adore skiing in the Chugatch Range of Alaska (Valdez, etc), but the rest – grey weather, greasy food, epic down time, heli expense, lack of trees for backcountry hiking on gray days, etc.) don’t contribute to my absolute favorite overall experience. Manali is an breathtaking Indian honeymoon destination, which changes everything. Epically tasty and inexpensive cuisine, no AK47’s like Kashmir/Gulmarg, colorful and almost weekly Buddhist and Hindu  festivals, 5-star lodging and service at a budget hostel expense, Colorado-like weather/snow with Utah-like Intercontinental snowpack, and the mountains? Well, need I say more? Don’t leave home without: CR Spooner’s book “Ski Touring India’s Kullu Valley.”

Tip: Use airline miles for dirt bag trip sidetrip and go surfing in Sri Lanka!
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To Be Continued…

 

Osprey Athlete ALISON GANNETT is a self-sufficient farmer, World Champion Extreme FreeSkier, mountain biker, award-winning global cooling consultant and founder of the multiple non-profits. In addition to being an athlete, ambassador and keynote speaking, Alison runs KEEN Rippin Chix Camps which offer women’s steep skiing, biking and surf camps around the globe. She has starred in many movies, TV shows, and magazines receiving many awards for her work including National Geographic’s “Woman Adventurer of the Year,” Powder Magazine’s “48 Greatest Skiers of All Time,” and Outside Magazine’s “Green All-Star of the Year.”  In 2010, she and her husband Jason bought Holy Terror Farm, kicking off their next chapter of personal health and self-sustainability.

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Learning to Catch Air with Osprey Athlete Alison Gannett

December 19th, 2014

 

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One of the main reasons I started KEEN Rippin Chix Steep Skiing Camps was frustration. There was no information out there regarding catching air, let alone doing it well. In order to win freeskiing competitions, I had to up my game and my airs were just not consistent or confident. I even landed on my face jumping from a tramway in a ski movie. Embarrassing!

So I started asking the top male pros how they did each air, and why did they choose different ways to catch air off of different obstacles. Most responses consisted of “I just go”, “don’t hesitate” and “all air is just the same.” Needless to say, this didn’t help one bit. Clearly there must be certain muscles flexed and not flexed, focal points for the eyes that would increase success, better places to put my hands/arms/shoulders/knees/ankles/ass/etc.

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Years of observation, success and failures have enabled me to develop my own special way to catch air, which ultimately led to my step-by-step process to teach ANYONE to be successful catching air if the desire is there. A memorable moment was teaching three 80-year old ladies and their 90-year old friend – I’ve never seen smiles so large.

So what are the keys to catching air? Read more…

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Hey Utah! Vertfest is coming to you!

March 6th, 2014

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“Vertfest is a multi-stop mountain festival dedicated to raising the level of snow safety education and stoke for backcountry enthusiasts, and supporting the efforts of avalanches centers everywhere. “

For the first time ever, Vertfest is coming to Brighton, UT March 07 – 9, 2014 to bring you the 11th Annual Wasatch Powderkeg Ski Mountaineering Race and a weekend full of top-of-the-line demos from different companies such as La Sportiva, Scarpa, Voile, Mammut, Outdoor Research, as well as yours truly, Osprey Packs! Read more…

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Resolve to Shred: Register for Alison Gannett’s Rippin Chix Camp & Enter to Win an Osprey Kode 32

January 7th, 2014

Here’s a resolution worth keeping in 2014: learn how to float effortlessly through powder, catch air off rocks, and shred trees and steeps. Did we mention you can win an Osprey Kode 32 pack as well? This week, World Champion Freeskier and Osprey Ambassador Alison Gannett will be giving away an Osprey Snowsports Pack to one of the lucky skiers that register for her KEEN Rippin Chix Steeps and Powder Camp. Our Kode 32 is a dedicated, technical backcountry snowplay pack that was designed specifically for the backcountry and after testing it out for their Gear Guide, Backpacker Magazine said the Kode 32 is “perfect” for both backcountry skiing or snowboarding.

 

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Read more…

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Jazzercise or Ski Touring

December 17th, 2013

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Stretching the legs out, for some early season skiing, is a good way to get yourself in shape for bigger days later in the winter. JAZZERCISE also works well… but I prefer skiing even if the snow conditions are limited. Mt Baker is just the place to get the ball rolling. Let me know if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of a ski area in North America where you can park at the base, skin past the backcountry gates within 20 minutes, and have two world class mountains — Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker — in plain sight. The North Cascades offer unlimited terrain. It would take a lifetime in this zone, just to scratch the surface.
Words: Mike Traslin

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Double-Time on Cook

May 10th, 2013

For a while now, Owls couloir has been the objective but Mt.Cook has been blocking it. I’ve been wanting to ski this line since I did the Wedge to Currie traverse from parking lot to Pemberton in under 22 hours with my brother and a couple of elite mountain bike racers back in the 90s.

It’s close, but far as day trips go. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Wedge area from the introduction to mountaineer days. Neck belays, grovelling on the south side of Wedge up the boulder fields and cornice drops on the NE arete.

So it seems interesting to come back years later to feed my couloir addiction. Surprisingly you can have some cool adventure skiing so close to Vancouver. And there’s a good bet you won’t run into many people on these couloirs.

Thanks to the weather blocking the access in the morning and afternoons, we were able to ski some fun lines on the over looked peak of Mt. Cook on the north and south side on two seperate day trips.

If you’re interested, go for it; just be prepared to do the 5,000-foot stair master approach with a pair of two-by-fours on your back.

Photographers: Alex Gibbs, Cameron Coatta, Mathew Koziell, Sam Yeaman.

Story: Andy Traslin

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Birkenstock Couloir

April 10th, 2013

I attempted this line a couple of weeks ago from the snowmobile-accessible side of the peak with my friend Naomi. Unfortunately, new snow and warming temps aren’t a great mix, so our day was doomed from the get-go. Heavy snow was sticking to our skins like you wouldn’t believe. Wax didn’t help, and after dragging those leg weights through avi debris, high winds and fading light, I was forced to pull the plug and try again another day.

The next time we approached from the Blackwater Creek road for a more direct line, with a fast and fit team that was on the same page. Liam and Adrian were as keen as I was to ski this line. With good weather and stability lined up, we just needed an alpine start to seal the deal so we camped at the road and woke up plenty early. Bringing the true style and ethics of ski mountaineering — climbing right from ground zero — we were ready to climb what we wanted to ski.

The pace was fast right from the get go, and I settled into a rythm I knew I could hold all day.

When we gained a view of the wicked couloir, we knew there were good times ahead. Step kicking was solid, until we hit a hanging snow field. Overhanging snow climbing led into a narrow section.

There was one more crux that involved climbing through the cornice with an extra axe for four points of weight-bearing contact. With one last step we had a warm welcome into the sun and were ready to ski.

We excavated the cornice to fit skis. Liam dropped in first, or rather ‘aired in’, as falls were not an option. Adrian was next, then I carved the lip of the cornice a little more for my entrance. I shuffled down, controlling my fear into the no fall zone, and once in the zone it was all good… we were through the first crux and into a classic steep coastal couloir.

Definitely a top ten ski line!

Photos: Andy Traslin, Adrian Armstrong

Story: Andy Traslin

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