“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: (more…)
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.
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: (more…)
Andy Traslin, backcountry, backcountry skiing, BC, Canada, earn your turns, first descents, Grouse Mountain, Japan, Mike Traslin, Mt Logan St Elias, Mt. Baker, Mt. Fuji, Pacific Northwest, powder, ski, ski mountaineering, skiing, Snow, Traslin bros, Traslin Brothers, vancouver, whiteouts
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.
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).
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.”
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.
#OspreyAthlete, Andy Traslin, Apex, BC, British Columbia, Brothers Traslin, CSGA, downhill skiing, Kingfisher, kootenays, local love, Mike Traslin, Monashees, Okanagan, Osprey athlete, Penticton, powder, roadtrips, Silver Star, Traslin, Traslin Brothers, Vernon
Eagles soar overhead, and I fixate on countless coves I wish to build my dream cabin on as we sail across the scenic Strait of Georgia to the isolated northern Sunshine Coast on the BC Ferries Queen of Burnaby. Powell River is a town that has ridden the tumultuous wave of boom and bust for years, starting when the first pulp mill was built there in 1908. With the last downturn in BC’s forestry industry, the town saw significant job cuts, and another cycle of depression. More recently, Powell River has turned to other forms of industry, such as eco-tourism. The BC Bike Race is the perfect fit, as proven by our reception upon arrival. We depart the ferry on foot, walking up the main street toward the start line, crowds of locals cheering us on. Tiny cheerleading squads toss each other in the air while teenage boys smash out rhythms on drums. Storeowners hand out watermelon to racers, while bagpipers stand at attention on a street corner. We make our way to the start line, which is also our campsite for the evening, located right beside the ocean on the green grass of the town park.
The singletrack of the day’s stage proves to be equally welcoming. We quickly dive into flowy singletrack winding through the temperate rainforest surrounding Powell River. The riding demands full concentration, but whenever I raise my focus from the task at hand I am rewarded with a beautiful view of a pristine lake, river or some other natural wonder. The community spirit overflows onto the trails as well. On the first of two timed Enduro sections of the day, hundreds of people line the freshly-built track called Death Rattle, yelling encouragement and smashing cowbells. There’s even one fellow railing out rock anthems on his guitar and battery-powered amp. The energy is electric as I rail turns down the mountain, carving up berms of dark coastal dirt, cascading my way through some of the most enjoyable trail I have ever ridden. The stage ends right where it began, next to the ocean, and many racers take advantage of that fact, soaking tired muscles in the cool waters of the Pacific.
That evening we convene for dinner at the local sports complex. The hockey rink is devoid of ice, and now features cloth-covered tables and silverware, complete with candles and decorative white lights adorning the sides of the rink. Girls on rollerskates float around serving local craft beer and wine while we dig into barbequed pork roast, shrimp and asparagus pasta, local organic veggies and caramel-glazed cake for dessert. While we loosen our belts and sit groaning from the herculean amounts of food we have just ingested, local talents hit the stage for the evening’s entertainment. The night is capped off when an awkward, chubby teenager shuffles on stage to sing. He starts off with Cee Lo Green’s “Forget You” and has the crowd on its feet cheering incredulously after the first few pitch-perfect notes, like a scene out of an American Idol audition. Later, as the sun sets over the ocean, and I fall asleep to the sound of waves on the shore, I marvel over how this was just one of seven amazing days of this race. Each day is an experience unto itself, and the whole week an incredible adventure.
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
With the arrival of spring comes the introduction of new trails, poking up out of the melting snow like so many April flowers. They may have been lovingly crafted over the previous summer, granting a lucky few passage before the winter took hold, or they are a result of a trail builder’s many dark, wet, cold days digging and sculpting while others are riding powder on the higher reaches of the mountains (myself included).
Regardless of when they were built, these fresh nuggets of mountain biking pleasure reveal themselves to us in the spring, bringing exciting new experiences to share with our friends. New climbs to conquer, gaps to clear, or technical DH lines to master, these handcrafted pieces of dirt artistry hold in them the potential for another season’s worth of adventure, fun and challenge.
Nowhere is this celebrated more than at a trail opening. I grew up in Nelson, a town where these events were revered, looked forward to. The trail builder was not asked about certain nuances of their work in progress, but rather the details of the celebration that would take place once the trail was complete.
The openings would be a raucous affair, including all the characters that made my home what it was. More frat party than group ride, entire crowds would gather around key features on the new trail, cheering on the local legends and heckling others that timidly approached the line. Riders, spurred on by the crowd, took their risk taking to a whole other level, greeted by loud cheers upon success, and catcalls and laughter with failure. This would continue all the way down the trail, adding an element of spectator sport to the ride.
At the trail end, the rowdy group would then spill out onto the beach, or backyard, or backroad and the real trail opening celebrations would commence. My few friends and I were youngsters amongst this motley group of mountain freaks, and we would watch from the fringes, content with the ride we just had the chance to share with this crew. Eventually we would pull ourselves away, resigned to a curfew imposed by parents, riding away from the crackling bonfire, skunky clouds of smoke, and laughing voices recalling trails of the past, and talk of ones in the future.
I was happy to see that the trail opening tradition is being revived here on the Coast, perhaps in a slightly more commercial fashion, but managing to keep the raw excitement and spirit of a new trail launch party. Ted Tempany in Squamish is dropping the ropes on his new masterpiece, Full Nelson, on May 5th. With support from the Province of BC, SORCA, Anthill Films and Red Bull, Ted and others toiled over this berm and jump-filled snake run all winter, and are launching it to the public this coming weekend. The Red Bull-sponsored party is an all-ages celebration, unlike the trail openers of my youth. Lawlessness aside, the spirit is still there: a party to commemorate the hard work of some dedicated and visionary trailbuilders, and a chance to have some fun with your buddies on a brand new mountain bike trail.
From my last post you might think that all it does is snow up here in the Selkirks of BritishColumbia. Well, usually it does and for most of January it sure did. Alas, last week the snow hose shifted its focus, and squinty eyes and sun burned noses returned to the mountains of BC.
With my father in law, the original owner of my backcountry ski lodge Valhalla Mountain Touring, in place as the hut keeper, I knew I needed to get out of my neck of the woods and go play in the big peaks of Rogers Pass. A quick 2.5 hour drive from home (not including the snowmachine ride to my truck and the half-hour ferry ride inland), Rogers Pass is the number one place I go to play when I have some time off. If you haven’t been, its time to change that, as it is host to some of the best road-accessed ski touring in the world, hands down.
What constitutes a great day?
Is it the people you spend it with, or the activities that conspire on that “ultimate day?” Or is perfection attained through carefully laid plans or fortuitous timing and good ol’ luck? The best day ever is the holy grail that we all search for; that little thing that gets you out of bed, wondering if the sun is rising on your best day ever.
But I don’t claim best days. There are too many things I enjoy in life to fit them all into one day. I would rather spread them out over a series of days, weeks, years. Best life ever, maybe.
There is nothing quite like standing on an untouched mountain ridge surrounded by friends and looking down at untracked powder-laden rib lines that beckon for a descent.
Last week my team and I were embedded in the Esplanade range, less than a two-hour ski tour from a warm, large ski lodge, where no person had ever skied before and no other person was to be seen for miles around. We were alone in the vast expanse of the backcountry.