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Hakuba Sanzan

September 15th, 2014

 

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Unless you’ve been living under a very big rock, you’ve heard the tales of Japan’s surreal terrain, neck deep powder on tap — day or night. The hype was buzzing extra strong this season and we were itching to go get a taste of it one way or another. When the plans finally took shape, it was May! Not exactly the prime month for free refills of pow, but if we didn’t pounce on the trip this year, it might have never happened, right? So we went with the flow and booked a ticket.

Touchdown Narita airport where the culture shock began. In a bustling world far from home, we circled through security not once but twice, but it worked out for the better. Our extra lap bumped us right into a Japanese snowboarder wearing a Canada toque, fresh off a winter in Canmore. Turns out our new friend Yuske (last name), local snowboard legend, also rode a G3 split and represented the Caravan crew we were trying to meet. Off to a good start. Yuske led us and our bulky bags through the maze of Tokyo train systems to a meet up with the Caravan crew, G3’s Japan distributors. After food, drinks, and a classic night in a ‘capsule’, we were eager to escape the bustling city for the mountains. Our bus to Hakuba pushed us upstream through nonstop currents of cities and people in constant motion before dropping us at the source…the mountains.

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A world apart, we found mountains quite reminiscent of our Coast Mountains back at home, with multi-peak linkups just waiting to be skied. After a week of fun, we were ready for the bigger days. Fortunately our pension owner in Gakuei-kan was an instructor, guide and pro back in his day, with a wealth of Japanese ski touring history to share with us, shaping ideas for where to head next. The plan hatched for the Hakuba Sanzan, linking the 3 highest peaks in Hakuba in a day.

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Meeting at precisely 6:00am on his orders, we hopped in the van and headed up with a vengeance. With only a brief pause before the off-road section, he pinned it and we held on for the ride. This wasn’t his first rodeo. Even the river wouldn’t have stopped him but we insisted on saving his car (and us for that matter), so we jumped out and let our feet do the rest. Most people enjoy the luxury of a 2 day trip with a mountain lodge overnight stay, but with our fine thread budget it wasn’t an option. So we slogged in the spring heat and enjoyed it for all it was worth, transition after transition – hike, skin, ski, repeat.
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But even we were hardly roughing it. With a cafe 500 ft from the last summit, we couldn’t say no to a soup and coffee before bagging the last peak. Solid weather, fun skiing, and our unstoppable shuttle driver all made for a great trifecta of the three high peaks of Hakuba.
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With one amazing Japan ski trip in the bag, we’re already plotting a mid-winter return for the legendary winter conditions. With any luck we’ll once again land in the hands of friendly,  seasoned locals, and the powder refills will flow as constantly as the sake from our first night in Tokyo.
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Story: Andy Traslin

Active Lifestyle, adventure, Osprey Athletes, Outdoor Activities, photos, Snowsports, Travel , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

They said it was the storm of the century

March 17th, 2014

This story was written by a KEEN Rippin Chix camper, Osprey Packs enthusiast and professional writer, Rachel Walker on Facebook. Special thanks and kudos!

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They said it was the storm of the century.

On Wednesday we watched the weather as it fell by the feet, crossing our fingers and hoping it would roll into Colorado. On Thursday, the storm blew east, dropping over a foot in 24 hours in the Colorado mountains. Powderhounds throughout the state rejoiced—us included, with reservation. We were stoked that the ski areas on I-70 were getting dumped on, but I-70 wasn’t our destination. Our sights were set southwest of Summit County, way southwest. So far southwest, in fact, that we would be closer to New Mexico than to Vail Pass.
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Can you guess where we were headed? Silverton Mountain, Colorado.

The storm flirted with us. It was headed to Silverton, and then it wasn’t. And then it was. And then it stayed. And stormed. And stormed. And stormed.
The storm coated the roads and blocked the visibility and made us—a pack of women, of powder whores, of chicks—giddy with excitement. We threw our fattest skis and warmest coats in our cars and trucks, kissed our people goodbye, and drove into the blizzard. Read more…

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Okanagan Stashes

February 20th, 2014

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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Pow: Alaska Ski Adventure

April 24th, 2013

If a picture is worth a thousands words, then you’re in for a real treat. Check out the following album, with shots taken by the amazing Ken Lucas during his travels in Alaska, which, in his words: “included backcountry skiing and some snow-kiting. We hit both the Chugach Mountains and the Kenai Mountains, including a great ski-plane segment.”

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Expose Yourself to Winter: Backcountry Film Festival is Accepting Submissions!

March 15th, 2013

The annual Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival is an outright celebration of human-powered winter adventure. What’s more, it honors environmental preservation while working to showcase the pure beauty of non-motorized recreation. And to put the cherry on top, the Backcountry Film Festival expressly promotes the work of grassroots filmmakers who tell these inherently awe-inspiring stories.

If you spent the winter months playing in the snow, now’s the time to submit your footage of it because the 9th annual Backcountry Film Festival is now seeking entries! Here’s are the requirements for — as well as process of — submitting your quality footage:

Your film should be short—no longer than 30 minutes—and tell a thought-provoking, interesting story of backcountry, nonmotorized recreation or environmental preservation. Your film should take place during or otherwise relate to the winter. We’re open minded about what kind of films we’ll show:
documentaries, fiction and experimental films are welcome.
The Film Festival premieres in Boise November 2013 and travels during the winter months to more than 100 locations worldwide.

Submissions must be in DVD format. Your submission must be received in our Boise office by September 15

Mail package to: Winter Wildlands Alliance, Attn: Shelley Pursell
910 Main Street, Suite 235, Boise ID 83702. Contact Shelley Pursell at
spursell@winterwildlands.org or 208-343-1630 for details.

adventure, causes, Conservation, Events, film festivals, Osprey Culture, video , , , , , ,

Rippin Chix Steeps Camp at Crystal Mountain

February 20th, 2013

Crystal Mountain, Washington is one of those iconic ski areas that many skiers would wish to call home. Its got it all – steeps, trees, airs, accessibility to a big city (Seattle), and best of all for us last weekend – POWDER!

25 KEEN Rippin Chix students and five coaches, including free skiing champions such as Kasha Rigby, Karen Reader, Susan Medville and Molly Baker all converged to Crystal February 9th and 10th for a steeps camp run by founder and Osprey Ambassador Alison Gannett.

Gals attended from all over and ranged in age from 14 to 59. Goals varied from overcoming past tumbles, to building confidence and skills, to learning Alison’s five fun ways to catch air. Four ability groups formed, with the “lower” group working introduction skills for steeps and the upper group charging out the gate demanding to “jump off more stuff.”

The hardest part about running Rippin Chix is always my worry that gals will push it too far and too fast. I have always believed that the best way to jump off a cliff is to learn how to jump a snowball on the groomer. Once the skills are solid, then the terrain can be pushed, and always on stuff with lots of runout room should things not go as planned. Crystal Mtn is perfect for this, with lots of fun north-facing powder bowls and zillions of chutes that fan out into big aprons. Luckily I had nothing to worry about, as these gals were fast learners and keen students.

Big smiles abounded on Sunday as we organized a group introduction and shared what everyone’s favorite skill was from Saturday. While I have adored my PSIA and race coaching training, I’ve never connected with terms like “functional tension,” and instead teach gals things like “squeeze the thong,” get rid of your velcro butt or tyrannosaurus arms and instead focus on “pouring the wine” and smushing the grapes.

Sad to say, we had quite a few flurries and clouds that prevented much video for this particular camp, so I’m going to attach the video from this year’s KEEN Rippin Chix Steeps Camp at Silverton Mtn, Colorado:

Powder Video of KEEN Rippin Chix Steep Camp at Silverton Mtn 2013

Next up on the powder seeking agenda? The Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Festival located in the heart of the legendary Selkirk Mountains at Whitewater resort near Nelson British Columbia, Canada. See you there?!

adventure, causes, Events, Osprey Athletes, Outdoor Activities, photos, travel, Uncategorized, video , , , , , ,

JAPANUARY

February 18th, 2013

Bullet train in Tokyo

I have spent the last 20 years trying to check off every possible place on my skiing bucket list. Some years I would tick off more than others and some years I actually added more places to the list than I could cross off. A few years ago there was a lot of hype about Japan and people that had been told epic stories of copious amounts of light and dry powder, tree skiing that never ended and a really unique cultural experience. Every athlete and photographer I knew had gone to Japan and nailed it for powder. Being more of a realist than an optimist, I figured that eventually someone was going to go to Japan seeking the dream and get completely skunked. I didn’t want to be the one that came home with nothing to talk about but groomers and carving.

Over the summer, I started thinking more and more about Japan, so when an offer to go shoot with elite photographer Grant Gunderson came up, I jumped on the chance. As the trip approached I surfed the internet looking for an accurate weather report. We were heading to Myoko on the Honshu peninsula of the main island. Although this area is believed to get more snow than anywhere on the planet, the forecast I found called for a dusting of snow during the 10 days we were slated to be skiing there. Grant said to ignore the forecast and told me that it always snows in Myoko in January. Our tickets were already booked so I figured I would just take what I got and deal with it.

Epic snows of Myoko. All that and 5% moisture content. Heaven!

We arrived in Tokyo, hopped a bullet train and started the three-hour journey to Myoko. We drank beer served from vending machines and had our first of what would become endless meals of sushi. We arrived in Myoko under starry skies. Day one was clear and the locals were calling for light snow. We took advantage of the weather and toured above the highest lift at Akukura Onsen ski area. We skinned for 30 minutes and set up shot one of the trip. Within minutes, fog rolled in off the Sea of Japan and climbed up the mountain, engulfing us in a misty shroud. We skied the birch forest for some depth of field until we ended up back in the ski area. We were all tired and jet-lagged so we took a few laps to get our ski legs and headed to the hotel for afternoon tea, an early dinner and bed. As I looked outside I could see snowflakes picking up in intensity and size.

Our second morning couldn’t have been more different than the first. As I pulled open the curtains, I was shocked to see a full meter of new snow. I had never seen it snow so much in such a short amount of time. It was 7 a.m. and I had to control myself for 90 minutes until the lift opened to deliver us to the goods. In North America, a storm like this would almost guarantee a huge line-up for the chair. We found the ski area completely void of anyone but lifties waiting to brush of our lift seat.

A chariot into the powder heavens of Myoko.

For the next week, I skied the best and deepest powder of my life. We had more than 9 feet of snow during the trip and a bluebird day following each major storm. Myoko had some other skiers eventually show up, but they were not there for the powder. All the hype about the tree skiing in Japan is true. The forests are made up of birch trees that have no branches near the ground so you just line up a lane you want to ski and drop in. The trees are perfectly spaced and the snow is hero snow so you can just charge all day long.

Maybe the best tree skiing in the world.

I wasn’t expecting super gnarly terrain in Japan, but I quickly found out that you can get into trouble quickly if you get too adventurous. Nothing in Myoko is off-limits, except skiing under the chairlift, and little is marked so going off-piste is the real deal. Plenty of pillow lines, spines and steep gullies waiting for those with a nose for adventure.

This is noon and lift served. Where is everyone?

The routine of eating sushi for breakfast, slaying powder all day, soaking in the natural hotsprings (called onsens), and then feasting nightly on a bounty of seafood and sake did not grow old. Now that I have been and tasted the nectar of Japanese skiing in January, I’m not so confident that anyone will get skunked, but I can gladly tell you that it wasn’t me. If you keep a bucket list, I highly recommend Japan be added to the docket, unless of course you are averse to powder and sushi.

Dinner was a feast of seafood nightly. If it lives in the sea we probably ate it.

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Reliving a Short Season

February 15th, 2013

Well, whether or not I can comprehend it, my season ended two and a half weeks ago. If you follow my posts at all, you’ll remember that it was a questionable start, after getting an ankle joint infection from a cut from climbing that required surgery and three weeks on the couch. I fought back more slowly from that than I had anticipated, with five weeks of antibiotics and a few weeks of doing nothing while they took their toll on me more than I would have liked. But about three weeks later, all of that had faded into the background of being immersed in the life of running our ski touring business.

It’s a routine that makes the days fly by, including a  5:30 a.m. wake-up to do the weather, chop wood, prep breakfast and lunch, attend guide’s meetings, help guests with gear issues, and finally get out the door to ski at 8:30. That’s when the day gets simpler, lodge maintenance fades into the background, and the purity of one step forward at a time and snow assessment take hold. Your skis grant you the freedom to escape from the grind, whether you are a guest on holiday or a guide/owner/operator for a day at work. We all lose ourselves in the moment of striding uphill and flying downhill, from valley to mountain top and back again.  Smooth and fast, we slide back to the lodge, the tasks take hold for me again, with a mirror image of the morning routine, but its great to watch the guests stay in that zone, melting away in the sauna, replenishing the burned calories and continuing with the simple life.

But then my world decided to change. Just when you are hitting your stride, sometimes the world has a different path for you to follow. I had just finished a big week of guiding with a group of guests, we averaged between eight and nine thousand feet of skiing a day, a few people squeaking in 50 grand for their week.  Six weeks after having surgery, I was worried if I would pull it off, but hard and tiring as it was, it was also rewarding, considering as well that we had uncharacteristically bad snow for a bunch of days from an abnormal wind event that seemed to jack every bit of open snow in British Columbia. The next group came in and a few days later so did the snow. We settled in to the ‘normal’ five to six grand of skiing per day, which is plenty by my standards, and with 30 centimeters of fresh snow, it felt like a new world out there. So I was skiing like it was bottomless Kootenay cold smoke, but then I hit bottom. Or at least started my journey to the bottom.

In my typical, ‘I want to ski to inspire’ fast and fun style, I found the wind-jacked snow just below the surface, and my left ski decided to auger in and go a little to the right while my body kept going straight and maybe a little to the left. Then I heard the ‘pop’ you hear about and fear as a skier/athlete/guide. I instantly knew something was wrong. As is human instinct, I tried to get up and walk it off, but boom, I was right back on the ground, my left leg not working right. Deep in the backcountry, I looked at my watch and started to make decisions. I was still with a group of 12 guests and two other guides, so support was there, but that was the rest of everyone’s day, dealing with me. A few super labored zig-zag turns and collapses and I made it off of avalanche terrain and met up with the group, almost blacking out with pain and adrenaline. With cloud-building and a quality rescue sled made by Kootenay Rescue Bubble, Jasmin, my super tough wife and co-guide, made the right call to drag me out. So we immobilized my leg, put me in the sled and spent the next three hours getting me back to the lodge. It took 100 percent from everyone to make it happen, team work at its finest, but for sure Andrew (the other guide) and Jasmin worked the hardest.

Getting back to my cabin at the lodge is when it all broke down. Waves of emotion crested over me as I knew my path had changed. There will be no freedom in the hills for many months now, my endorphin source taken away. A new uphill battle through the ‘non-life threatening’ public health care system was setting up to be my fight. I wasn’t scared or upset at hurting my self, and looking at surgery and the road to recovery, I was more upset about letting down my wife, having doubled her workload at our lodge with me out of commission, scared at losing my freedom and becoming a prisoner of immobility, scared of losing touch with my wife and hound as I knew I wouldn’t be able to be up at the lodge for the rest of the winter as I battled down the road of recovery. The preciousness of the special and unique life we have seemed all too real.

We all adapt and change though, and we settle in to our new roles as best we can. Or maybe we just cope. Again and again, folks like to talk about the ‘reasons’ behind things happening. I don’t think things happen for a reason. I think we are all in control of our destinies. I think the ‘silver lining’ is something we find on our own and decide to focus on. One door closing just makes you realize that there are other doors to open and explore. I found my path and partner in life and I am going to fight like hell to get back on it and with her stronger than before. Eventually I will get in to surgery to repair my ACL and meniscus and my bruised up bones will heal. Maybe I will learn some cool things along the way, or maybe I will realize that in my mid 30s I need to stop breezing through my physical life and start making my body work harder for it and training. Either way, my eyes are open to what needs to get done and now I need to do it!

So you won’t find the deepest faceshot, most majestic views or insane physical feats coming from me for a few months. You will find me filling you in on the slow road to recovery that I know many of you have traveled down, with the small victories and defeats of the daily struggle. I know a ton of you can relate, and my strength comes from standing on the shoulders of so many of you that have hurt yourselves before me. In the end, no one died, and I should be charging in the hills again before I know it, so really it’s just a flat tire, with a busted spare, and a long walk to the nearest service station for help. And when I get the tire fixed I can continue down my wonderful path in life!

Above is a quick vid showing you the life I am now missing…

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Finding The Perfect Moment in Pig Poop and Powder

November 19th, 2012

Putting straw atop her compost pile on the farm. Photo courtesy The Denver Post

Alison Gannett is a World Champion Extreme Freeskier, founder of The Save Our Snow Foundation and an award-winning global cooling consultant who has spent her life dedicated to solutions for climate change.

A reporter asked me yesterday how I find time to shovel pig poop and run a farm with my busy schedule. In general, I avoid this job at all costs, but for some weird reason, I bonded with it this week and decided that it is extremely similar to skiing powder.

Read more…

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