With 20cm of new snow in 3 hours on Friday night, 15cm on Saturday night, and another 10cm last night, my days have been a blur of high speed powder runs at Red. The classic lines are all filled in with a mid-winter snowpack – perfect conditions for dropping the Waterfall, floating through the Powderfields, or fall-line charging down the Hourglass. The incredible positive energy of sharing these times with a crew of stoked people (Camo, Jordy, Cindy, Nicole, Ben, Jeff, Karen et al.) keeps me charged. I do feel blessed – for there is truly nothing else I’d rather be doing
I’ve been busy skiing pow at and around Red. Had a couple of sweet runs yesterday, down the Hourglass and Field of Dreams, both creamy and carvable. Didn’t bother taking any pics (poor light) so I’ve posted this sequence of a fat powder pillow line from my last trip at Roger’s Pass.
I’m just back from a few days of ski-touring adventure at Roger’s Pass. Andrew and I scored 40cm of new snow, some strenuous trailbreaking with knee to thigh deep penetration, and epic powder skiing. The avalanche danger rated high at all elevations and 40 – 80 cm fractures ripping out all over the place (especially in the valleys and low elevation glades) kept us thinking, but we were still able to ski some classic lines on Grizzly Shoulder, Glacier Crest, and Uto Bowl.
Compared to what I’m accustomed to, Roger’s Pass is a popular, even crowded place to ski-tour, but there really is nowhere else that provides such convenient access to such incredible mountains.
Over the past few days I’ve had a far more intimate encounter with the Red-bull Cold-rush than I could have anticipated. Despite my unapologetic denouncements of the event, I was engaged to help put in the up-track for the ski-touring portion of the event – actually getting paid to check out the proceedings. Lapping Mt Roberts I was astounded at the incredible and ultimately futile effort that went into constructing a massive jump at the base of Center Chute.
With powder snow and good visibility I can imagine how the Cold-rush might have succeeded as a media spectacle, but the deep pockets and slick promotional machinery of Red-bull and the desperation of Red Resort couldn’t do a thing to overcome the heinous (hard and lumpy) skiing conditions.
The ski-touring race component went off without incident on Friday morning. Challenged by Red’s ski-patrol director to best 90 minutes (Andrew and I had established a time of 79 minutes), six athletes succeeded and scored a bottle of vodka for their efforts. The winning time was 77 minutes – an impressive effort in some pretty heavy gear.
Both planned skiing events (Big Mountain and Big Air) were sensibly cancelled, and as a rather contrived substitute, a Chinese Downhill style race was held on one of the beginner runs after the lifts had closed on Saturday. The winners of both completed events won bar-tabs valid at the wind-up party, a Red-bull fueled dance-athon at the Base-lodge. The competitors I talked too seemed to have enjoyed their time, especially the parties. Nobody got injured and they all scored a pair of new Fritschi free-ride bindings for their efforts, but I doubt either of the Reds are feeling as good about how things played out.
I admit a perverse satisfaction in watching another high profile hyped-up marketing experiment not realize expectations, but it’ll take more than a couple of failures to get Red Resort’s management to overcome their addiction to sales and spin, and concentrate on the substance of actually enhancing the skier’s experience. It’s no small irony that the Paradise chair has been broken down (gearbox) for 4 days now, without any indication when it might again be operational.
It’s snowing and I’m off to ski pow at Wildhorse.
“When you can walk the rice paper without tearing it, then your steps will not be heard.” -Master Kan
I’ve been focusing on my ski-touring technique these past few days, shortening my stride a little, trying to be as light as possible with each step to maximise efficiency, visualizing the initiation of young grasshopper in Kung Fu, walking the rice paper, floating forward and upwards without impact or effort.
Apparently it’s been out for a while, but yesterday was the first time I’d seen a new brochure hyping Rossland as quickly becoming the premier location for investment opportunities in western Canada. It looks great, with high quality paper stock, striking photos, and stylish graphic design, but the text is your typical advertising hyperbola and misrepresentation (amongst the usual drivel claiming that Old Glory is one of the highest peaks in the Selkirks – it’s not in the Selkirks and is far from the highest). Though focused on directing prospective buyers towards Red Resort’s real-estate, by ostensibly promoting the town they’ve clearly been able to get public money to fund the effort.
What really caught me attention though was the use of a photo of my ski fence on the cover (the same shot was used on Red’s real-estate web-site). My ski fence and ramshackle cabin of a home are an expression of my personal values, style and history (they’re my skis, with years of memories associated) but have been recognized and appropriated by marketing types as an idealized representation of real ski town culture. That my fence is being used to lend some funky authenticity to a monstrous premium priced apartment complex (Slalom Creek) is of course absurd, but hardly surprising. With so much money on the line, and far from spectacular sales and skier visits, I expect Red Resort will do and say anything. What could be next?
The Red-bull Cold-rush is coming to Red. Part ski-touring, big-mountain free-skiing, and slope-style competition. It’s pretty clear that Red-bull’s stated objective: to find the most versatile and best all-around skier, is secondary to the their primary goal of increasing the net worth of their billionaire owner through sales of a carbonated beverage laced with synthetic oxen bile, but I think it’s interesting to consider their claim at face value. (I must be clear that my cynicism about this event is rivaled by my displeasure that they’ve appropriated a favorite backcountry stash for their venue).
Red-bull are bringing in an invite only crew of young free-skiers for the event, all of whom have demonstrated a willingness to push their skills and bodies to the limit in pursuit of the self validation they think is to be found in skiing celebrity, a phenomena captured in the title of (ski-bum extraordinaire) Andy Stafford’s long threatened free-skiing expose – Did you see me? These guys have focused for a few short years on being noticed for skiing fast and taking big-air, and from what I’ve seen they’re pretty good at it. This contest will give them another opportunity to put on a show, and provide bragging rights for the most impressive on the day. It’s pretty obvious that this is a regional event with a roster of b-list competitors (none with any proven competence as competitive ski-tourers), but I question that any event could ever determine who is the most versatile and best all around skier.
We all know skiers with exceptional obsessions, a guy who charges the same small gnarly section of terrain every run, all season, another who does little else but ski, all day and often through the night, but as with launching hospital air or charging down an icy race course, to me such specialization falls short of any all-encompassing assessment of what might constitute best. I’ve spent the past 20 years living out my personal vision of what constitutes the best in skiing, and I’m surrounded by a community of people who are doing the same, people who’ve configured their lives around a passion for skiing. Out of the limelight you’ll find us flowing through the incredible terrain of Red Mountain, adapting to the vagaries of snow and weather, expressing a particular style, exploring the back-country, waiting for a long coveted line to come into condition, finding ways to balance commitments to friends, family and community, sharing our skills and enthusiasm. At it’s best skiing becomes a focal point around which to build a simple and authentic life, to practice patience and humility, to balance the physical and the ephemeral. I realize that such a multi-faceted definition defies quantification, but that’s how it should be. Let’s leave the hype and the commercial exploitation to the Red-bull Cold-rush.
Since traversing through the Goat Range in 1999, I’ve been thinking about going back to Mt Cooper. It stands above the surrounding mountains (10,151ft), an imposing and remote multi-peaked massif with a 6500′ skiable north face. Last Spring Jordy and I we’re repelled by a melted out road, Grizzly tracks and a lightning storm , but we’d worked out how to get in there, and were just waiting for clear skies and a stable snowpack to try again.
The snowmobiles made light work of the logging road access, and by noon Jordy, Randy, Kelly and I were setting up camp and drinking a beer in the sun.
It turned out that was the only hour of the trip we weren’t dealing with arctic tempertures. To keep warm and occupied we established a skin track into Spokane creek and marvelled at the old-growth forest, but were in our sleeping bags by 6.30pm.
We started our approach by moonlight at 5.00am, reaching the base of the north-face for sunrise.
Snow conditions transitioned from hoar-frosted powder to windpack as we ascended, ski-crampons coming in handy as my companions resorted to boot-packing through the seracs of the Spokane glacier.
A blustery north wind scoured the summit ridge, but we topped out at 1.00pm on a cloudless day, with several lifetimes of ski-adventures extending in every direction. Despite a few sketchy turns at the start I managed to ski off the summit, leading to smooth firm conditions, and 6500′ of variable wind-buff, compact powder, and hoar crystals, all the way down to McKian creek. Tired but very satisfied.