The Black Lake Chute took me ten years to ski. All that time it teased me from Anchorage. Above my home it looked like a thin white thread tied to the summit of O’Malley Peak. It hung down the north face and draped off of the lower wall. It became my White Whale. Sometimes, between attempts, I’d try to talk myself out of it. It’s too dangerous. There’s plenty of other stuff to ski. But I wanted it so bad….
After winter finally showed its snowy face through most of February and March, a weather-window opened and we were eager to take advantage of it. It would be my first time up Mt. Baker in March, (although my 20th time summiting Baker and Andy’s 21st time) so I was keen to make the trip happen.
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.
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…
“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…
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.
While I may be a champion freeskier and competitive ultra-mountain biker, I suck at running. I’m not sure if it brings back bad memories of being tortured by sports as a fat teenager in high school, or that I’m just not genetically bred for it, but I will certainly never be good at it. Yet now that my knees are recovered from eight knee surgeries and my brain is healing from tumor removal, I suddenly am drawn to this silly sport. Having never been good at meditating, it feels like an opportunity to clear my brain without all the rush and concentration of the speed of skiing or biking. My Akbash livestock guardian dogs also provide intense motivation, as they love to stop working on the farm and do what dogs do — explore, sniff and trot.
And that is exactly what I would rather call my form of running: “trotting” because it’s not about speed. I just plod along, sometimes for hours at a time. I love the sense of adventure I get out of it — exploring a new area or trail, watching the leaves turn, the snow fall and generally just enjoying the little simple things in life.
In fact, I’ve almost never enjoyed the little things in life more than right now. After brain surgery this summer, I was just hoping to live and breath. Then I was re-learning how to walk and talk. Then I got to experience the joy of being outside for the first time, feeling the sun on my skin, breathing non-hospital icky sick air. And so, on the 29th of September, I wanted to make a statement about my return and appreciation of this wonderful life I have. For the second time in my life, and first time in too many years, I entered a 10k, with my doggies of course! That day, I woke up and my scar was sore, but I pried myself out of bed and went for it.
The run was steep and challenging, which reduced the dogs to walking even before I felt the need. My goal was not placing, but just doing. I wanted to soak in the view, enjoy my happy working dogs, smile and have fun. If only we could all teach kids this at a young age, especially in this age of over-competitiveness! One third of the way into the run, I realized I did not see any markers and was lost — a couple extra bonus miles later, I was back on track and climbing the steep Jumbo Mountain trail, leaving third place far behind and now solidly in last place.
But I was LOVING IT. This run/walk represented my return to life.
It was supposed to be an epic tour, but it turned into more of a epic base camp tour, just like the Tour de France that was happening at the same time. Our goal was to ski as many kilometers and climb as many vertical feet as we could in three weeks. The vertical was a little more difficult as our home was around 8,000 feet and the mountains go up to 17,000 in the High Andes, requiring a lot more distance to gain any altitude.
We were given an amazing opportunity to ski in Chile. The original plan was to bus to Argentina, but sometimes is just ain’t meant to be. Our flight was late and we missed our bus-taxi connection. So with little knowledge of the language or currency, we got trapped into taking a taxi to nowhere, and had to return to a hostel in Santiago with nothing gained.
Luckily we had a local contact at Valle Nevado/El Colorado/La Parva and made good use of it, staying in a little snowy undisclosed hideaway for the remainder of our trip. It might have been a rough few weeks for the locals staying at the hut, because touring a minimum of four hours for 20 straight days wasn’t exactly good for foot odor!
Jumping back to the first day on the hill, we scored a classic side country lap of Santa Teresa. It was great to connect with the G3 engineers and be shown some local stashes, namely a 45-minute tour for a 2,000′ run. Then we could hitchhike back for another lap or ski tour back to the hut, over and over. Hitching back up to Valle Nevado was a safe bet, but be warned, you don’t how fast the driver will go! Hold on.
Unlike at the strict resorts in North America, we were pleasantly surprised that we could tour on the rope line up to the tops of the lifts in La Parva, El Colorado and Valle Nevado and not get hassled. Just stay out of the way.
The skiers we met were classic, but dare I forget my favorite tours with the local wild dogs. Pedro followed us up Tres Peuntes and summitted a 12,000′ peak, even breaking trail for us in the new snow. Zudnik toured with us from Valle Nevado to La Parva and scared every single skier along the way.
Once we got in the groove and acclimatized, we were able to step up and ski some of the higher peaks, Cerro Parva and Pintor. They yielded endless ski lines on all aspects, including some mandatory ice sheet ski lines for good measure. That, and with the low snow levels and spring like weather, rock sharks were lurking all over the place, and they bite. Helmets highly recommended.
The highlight of the trip was a much-needed dump of light, dry snow that we milked for five days with bluebird sunny skies.
250 km of ski travel
55,000 feet ascended on skis
80,000 feet descended on skis
I would like to thank some sponsors and people who made the trip possible: G3 Genune Guide Gear, Eddie Bauer/First Ascent, Osprey Packs, Ryder’s Eyewear, Intuition liners, Innate bottles, Suunto watches and Dissent Lab compression socks. Another big thanks to the G3 crew, Ben Dill, Martine, and the drivers in Chile for the rides up to Valle Nevado.
Story by Andy Traslin
Nothing like an alien brain tumor the size of tennis/baseball to spice up my summer! For the past two years, I had noticed that my coordination and memory were just not spot on, but I attributed it to stress and my insane work, play and farm schedules. But starting in February, things began to get very strange: First I fell asleep at the wheel about a hundred times from the Outdoor Retailer show to Silverton, Colorado. Then I forgot to pack entirely for my three week Canadian adventures and my KEEN Osprey Rippin Chix Camps at Crystal Mtn, Red Mtn and Whitewater. I ceased to pay all house bills, insurance or do any invoicing or sponsor updates and, what’s worse, didn’t even notice. I actually forgot to catch a plane to Reno where I was the keynote speaker for Microsoft and a roomful of CEOs. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was on June 30th when I almost burned the house down cooking our piggy’s bacon for breakfast. While I was oblivious to my actions and just moving through life like everything was normal, Jason was most definitely freaked out by my behavior. It was if there was another person who now inhabiting my body.
After I just about killed myself with the now infamous bacon incident, Jason called our local rural Paonia doctor and begged for something to be done immediately. Dr. Meilner obliged and called every hospital within a two hour radius to see who could perform a CAT scan at midnight on a Saturday night. Finally Saint Mary’s in Grand Junction could take us, and Jason coaxed my almost lifeless body out of bed and into our ancient Subaru. Strangely, the alien tumor made a potent move at that point, and about the last thing I remember was directing Jason to where the hospital was located. Next thing I knew it was two days later, I was suddenly entering surgery at the Ann Shutz neurosurgery center at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. I couldn’t understand why all my family had flown or driven in to see me — luckily I didn’t comprehend the papers I signed, as this surgery is most deadly (hence the sudden arrival of all the family). Next thing I knew, I woke up in the ICU, which was a scene out of the bionic woman TV show, and my brain was clear and sharp. Immediately I demanded my dental floss, much to the glee of the hospital staff, my friends and family, and especially Jason who had not left my side; my feisty normal self was back! Again, I had not known that many people take several years to recover their memories and often have partial paralysis, although I did have amnesia from the bacon moment onward and most of June was a more than a bit blurry.
I’ve been out of the hospital for just over a month now, and can’t believe how fast the recovery is — way easier than it was for eight ACL/meniscus/articular cartilage knee surgeries! I’m back to working planning the upcoming ski and bike seasons, which I love (thanks Osprey!), walking and hiking, lots of farm work and joyous harvesting, fracktivating and planning a big keynote speech next week for the EPA, The Whitehouse and The Green Sports Alliance. More than anything, I notice the wonderful little things in life — a great night’s sleep in a comfy bed, petting the dogs, eating our amazing food and kissing my amazing guy. I’ve reflected on how amazing my life has been — how I have gone after everything like it could have been my last opportunity. And even though I am a bit petrified for my full body PET scan and three spinal MRI’s on September 6th, I feel confident that my neurosurgeon, my naturopath and my naturopathic oncologist Dr. Nasha Winters and my Ketogenic Diet with the Namaste Health Center in Durango will take me to a whole new level of health and well-being. Cheers to this wonderful life — the sky is blue and there is a big puffy white cloud that is so pretty, and I’m actually able to go eat four squares of organic dark baking chocolate right now!
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