“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. “
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s that time of year again! Vertfest is and always will be known as “the best Festival of Freeride and Mountain Mettle in North America,” and it’s back, ready to kick off on February 16th and 17th in Alpental, WA. Naturally, we’ll be there to help celebrate. Here’s the full scope of what you can expect:
The weekend will begin on Saturday with the Monika Johnson Memorial Rally, with a race division that’ll take participants on two laps up Alpental and back — in addition to a recreational division, as well as a 50+ and splitboard division, all of which will offer up just one lap. Saturday will progress with a contest, an awards ceremony and an epic raffle with ski and pack giveaways. Saturday’s festivities will cap off with live music from Head Like A Kite and Daydream Vacation.
Sunday is the day of educational clinics, ranging from an Intro to Splitboarding with Neil Provo to a clinic focused on landscape photography to a Sidecountry Steeps Clinic with our very own Osprey Athlete Kim Havell. This clinic will take place from 9-12 and 1-4 p.m. You can check the full clinic schedule for details here, but be sure to stop by the Osprey booth on Sunday between 4 and 4:30 for a chance to meet Kim Havell, who will be doing a poster-signing!
Throughout the weekend, Osprey will be providing free demos on the Karve series of sidecountry riding packs, as well as the Kode 22 backcountry riding pack, so be sure to swing by to try on a Karve or Kode pack and get fitted by a professional. We’ll have Karve 6, 11 and 16 as well as the Kode 22 on hand for free demos. What’s more, we’ll be there with the entire Osprey winter collection and all of the new packs that will be coming in Spring of 2013. And while you’re at the Osprey booth, be sure to take the 3-minute Osprey Vertfest survey for a chance to win a brand-new Osprey pack. We’ll see you on the mountain!
Starting the 2012-2013 winter season has been a huge personal battle for me. First, our beautiful backcountry ski lodge at Valhalla Mountain Touring was trashed in a storm, requiring a huge renovation (thankfully covered by insurance!). Then when November ended and you last heard from me after climbing El Cap, I came down with a sudden and severe staph infection of my ankle joint. Weeks of home IV treatment and arthoscopic surgery kept me on the couch for almost five weeks wondering if this ski season would even happen.
Well, it has happened, and I think I am more thankful than ever to be shredding the home turf cold smoke. But enough chatter, let the moving images show you what has been going on!
Here in Colorado, we’re celebrating the first snow fall of the season and we’re excited to watch our mountains turn white in the coming weeks… yes, yes, it looks like winter is upon us and once again the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival
is answering the call. Wax those skis, tune those boards and gather your friends! There is no better way to celebrate the fun and beauty of winter than with a true celebration of winter played and lived, as told thru the seven unique films in the 8th annual Backcountry Film Festival.
When I woke up at 2 a.m., I decided I could afford another hour of snoozing. After all, my gear was packed for the upcoming day, so I figured I could spare another hour…
When I finally rolled out of bed, my first order of buisness was to pack the car, then get gas from the station across from my apartment. Sounds easy enough, but at 3:30am the gas attendant was in a deep sleep, so my brother Andy decided to honk the horn a couple of times. Poor guy launched up and out of his deep sleep, only for Andy to then decide we could drive on empty until we got across the border.
Three hours later we made our first point of Marblemount, and from there it was another hour on the Cascade River road to the start of the trip. Finally at the trailhead, we made a quick gear sort, and by 9 a.m., we were packed and ready to go.
A couple hours of walking on the fireroad brought us to snowline, then 1.5 hours of bushwacking had us back into skinning mode on the glacier. What’s a good summer ski trip without bushwacking right?
It was with a heavy heart that I left the U.S. for Europe in mid-March, but the trip turned out to be distracting and healing. I was surrounded by good people, tons of inspiration and much positive perspective upon arrival to Annecy, France. It was a necessary transition to achieve a better balance after the last few months’ tragic events in the ski community. As the tough news continues, I mourn for those we have lost and pray for those who are still fighting, and am trying hard to find the guiding light through it all, turning to the mountains and to friends to appreciate what the present offers.
Mid-March, our Salomon Freeski Mountain Collective team gathered in Annecy and La Clusaz for a spring session of gear development, talks and testing. Cheese dominated our evenings and skiing dominated our days. We were stuffed through with Raclette, Tartiflette, Fondue and more. We discussed and tested hard goods, soft goods and accessories on slope and in conference rooms. And we enjoyed exploring the magic of the stunning beauty and terrain at La Clusaz resort and its backcountry. I found myself moved daily by the talent of the people with whom I was surrounded… some of the best in skiing and, more importantly, some of the very best people.Read more…