Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Holidays

With good snowfall abounding, most of the Karhu office is taking advantage of the timing of the holidays to get away from the desks, computers and phones for a welcome break. The forecasts look good, from Vermont to Colorado, California, Washington and more. So with that, the blog will be a little quieter for the next 10 days, until we return in the New Year. I hope you take advantage of the same to shut off a little from the wired world, and take a leisurely tour, work up a sweat, or just make some turns with friends. Enjoy the time with your family, and admire the wonder of the mountains in winter that always seems to feel a little more special when the flakes fall this time of year.

For anyone who does check in, here’s one more little treat before signing off… a clip from Nils Larsen’s Journey to the Source. Nils just finished up his latest project, “Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan,” the culmination of several years of travel and skiing in China, exploring the roots of skiing in the Altai region.

Says Nils, “I had a great first showing of my new film, "Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan" on November 15th in Tahoe, Sponsored by Alpenglow in Tahoe City. We had a standing room only crowd of 150 people at the Sawtooth Ridge Cafe and the show was a benefit for Project MANA. Karhu donated a pair of XCD 10th Mountains to the benefit for Project MANA and we raised more then $600.”

Enjoy the clip, and take the time over the next two weeks to share some of the many smiles shown by Nils and his friends in the Altai. We’ll see you on the other side…

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

First Day on Skis

Powder clause was in effect this morning with 22” of new snow at Alpental. Coverage was great with faceshots in the trees, and the slopes were pretty empty for a Thursday morning. Sometimes it’s tough to make the transition back into the office after a good powder morning, but a nice email from Chuck Waskuch brought smiles for the afternoon. Chuck is the photo editor at Backcountry Magazine, and his photography choices and own imagery pulled many of us into the sport we love. Like a good Vermonter, Chuck knows to start ‘em young, and he pulled another one into the winter world this morning when his son Zander got first tracks on his new K’Booms.

(Zander appears to be scouting out the next line with a little help from Dad. Photo courtesy of Chuck Waskuch)

Another sick day of skiing in the morning then baby-duty in the afternoon. I figured I got some so Zander should git some too. Seven and a half months old, and his first day on skis he ripped the driveway up and down twice. He even dropped a knee at one point, and I shed a little tear.

–Chuck Waskuch

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Dads with Day Jobs

The pictures weren’t coming out so well I thought to myself as I scrolled through the camera’s review screen. Well of course they weren’t coming out very well – it was dark out. It was the second darkest day of the year, and we were just getting ready to ascend Mount Mansfield.

For Jim, Justin and I – dads with day jobs – skiing comes when we can get it; even if that means lithium ion headlamps lighting the way through the night. The hour and a half skin up was hypnotizing. Once we topped out, we mounted the big boy lamps on the top of our helmets, and we were ready to shove off. Popping through a tight hole in the pines, we were happy with the early season coverage. Stumps that were visible most of last season had already disappeared, and we were ready to celebrate this much snow pre-solstice.

(Big lamps light up the transition. Photo courtesy of Dave Bouchard)

Past the waterfall the forest opened up into a series of unspoiled glades. Bluish light pointed out the lines like lasers as our skis made incisions into the wind-buffed snow. True telemark turns were tough to come by. Getting both planks out in front was necessary as parallel turns let the skis rise to the surface only to dive once again into the next turn. Midway down the semi-stubborn snow turned to a consistent creamy texture and became more cooperative. Too bad at this point we had pretty much exhausted the vertical.

Living in a world of tunnel vision, high on Vermont’s tallest peak, with temps hovering around 0 is a great place to be on a winter’s night.

–Dave Bouchard

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Good Day in the Woods

Storms just pounded Colorado, Tahoe and New England over the last week, and another system might be lining up off the Northwest soon. In light of the powder season picking up steam, Nils Larsen sent us a clip from a backcountry trip to Valhalla Lodge a few years back:

(Skiers: Steve Gladstone, John Seibert, John Bird, Nils Larsen. Video courtesy of Nils Larsen)

We were at Valhalla Lodge for a week, and the snow was pretty good boot-top powder on north faces when we arrived. It started dumping about day four and snowed hard for two days. The powder was incredible - some of the best and deepest in recent years. We skied trees and edges for two days as it was snowing hard, and the hazard was on the uptick. The tree skiing there is fantastic with lots of 1500-2000 foot runs, and we worked them until dark every day. The day we left a big wind came up and scorched it; I'm afraid the next group came in to extreme hazard and bad skiing.

-Nils Larsen

If would like to let us know where you skied today, drop us a line at The season is on, so get out there!

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Friday, December 7, 2007

Stowe, VT – EmberPhoto Slideshow Dec 8

Ski season is in full session in Vermont, with new photos and video emerging every day from the slopes of the Greens, like Drew Simmons’ lunchtime runs at Mad River Glen:

(Via WickedOutdoorsy)

If you’re skiing in Vermont this weekend, bring a change of clothes for apr├Ęs and get over to Stowe and the Vermont Ski Museum for Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson’s multimedia Wild People, Wild Places show on sailing and skiing in Iceland.

Brian and Emily are the creative talents of EmberPhoto, and the images from their pioneering trips on Karhu skis have long been part of our ads, catalogs and website, most recently with posts on their trips to Patagonia’s Rio Baker. On exotic trips throughout South America, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and always across New England – from mid-winter remote descents of Katahdin and Washington to deep powder days at MRG and skiing anything down to moss and ferns late in the season – Brian and Emily’s skiing and photography captures the spirit of adventure that we hold dearest. Saturday’s show promises to be a real treat, featuring the imagery and stories of this year’s sailboat-based couloir-skiing trip to Iceland’s West Fjords region. With tickets for only $5 and a chance at winning some new Karhus, you can’t miss out on this.

(Adventure skiing sometimes means carrying your skis on a packhorse in weather that requires garbage bags. All geared up in Patagonia, photo courtesy of

For more information on the 3rd Annual Wild People, Wild Places program and remaining show schedule, visit EmberPhoto.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

XCD in the Kootenays

Charlie and I weren't the only ones who got out for some turns after the sales meeting. For reps traveling from the East Coast, a few extra days usually go on the schedule for an early season ski roadtrip. Doug Reilley of Mountain Lake Marketing checks in from the road in BC:

(Skis out for bluebird. Photos by Doug Reilley)

After crossing the border at Nelway on Friday, we headed up to Salmo/Creston pass (aka Kootenay Pass) and toured with XCD gear around the Ripple Ridge area. Cover was a bit thin on the south facing slopes, but we did manage to do a nice descent to a logging road, which we followed back around and up to Ripple Ridge. Heading back to the cars we managed to find some fresher and deeper snow by cutting off the switchbacks. Good food and drink in Nelson that night!

(Bill Love and Mike Kaz appreciating the day.)

On Saturday we skinned up and over Hummingbird Pass which is on the access road leading to Whitewater Mountain Resort – again more logging road and single-track touring (although with wider boards this time). The cover was still rather thin but we managed to do some 'Adirondack style' trail skiing on the way down. Once the trail opened up, we were able to pick up the speed and get some nice, long, flowing turns.

(Smooth tracks and steady pace.)

(Kick and glide back out late in the day.)

Sunday, we woke up to find 8 to 10 inches of new snow with more coming down. We decided to head up to the ski hill and skin up the Summit side (about 1300'). It seemed like half the town of Nelson had the same idea as the parking lot was pretty crowded. The snow continued to dump as we ascended ski trails and access roads that wound to the top. No views this day with snow and high winds swirling about. The descent proved to be quite challenging as we couldn't tell what was under the snow.

(No better way to end the ski day than Alpenglow across the sky.)

Some of the mounds were tops of rocks hidden from above and others were merely piles of windblown snow. Mixed among the lumpy terrain were weed stalks, small conifers and alder. One lap was plenty as we got bogged down more than a few times on the descent in the deep, unconsolidated snow. After cleaning up and repacking, Bill K, Kaz and I made a treacherous drive back over the border to Spokane where we would catch flights back East in the morning. After talking to Bill Love the next day, we found out an additional 8 to 10 inches had fallen overnight!

-Doug Reilley

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Monday, December 3, 2007

How Deep is Too Deep?

The season got underway in a big way for the Karhu office this weekend. With the sales meetings behind us, the alarm rang at 4:30 AM on Friday for the drive up to Mount Baker. Charlie headed out touring with some folks from MEC, while Nils, Eben and I skied inbounds to do some testing. It was a full day, and a successful one, running through a lot of skis and finding some great results. A lot of terrain needed more coverage to open fully, but all chairs were running. We made a mandatory stop off at Graham’s in Glacier for tasty burritos and started making plans to ski again over the weekend.

Saturday brought snow all the way down in Seattle, big fat flakes that seemed to slow down city life. Trees that shed their leaves over the fall looked beautifully adorned with white lining on their branches, and people took to walking through winter instead of driving on the snowy roads. Everyone’s mood brightened, especially holiday retailers who suddenly seemed packed by shoppers in the giving spirit. The phone chain started shortly, and we planned a tour for Sunday up at Hyak, anticipating good new snowfall with such low freezing levels.

The telemetry data said 18 degrees and 19 inches at 6:00 AM on Snoqualmie Pass, but there was more than that in the parking lot of Hyak. The drive had been slow, but we were rewarded with thigh deep snow before we’d even hit the skintrack. The snow was light and soft, with little consolidation underneath as well. Tall grass and brush occasionally poked through, but we’d chosen Hyak for its soft, relatively rock-free slopes and lack of anything dangerous looming overhead.

(Buried cars in the Hyak parking lot. Photos by Graham Gephart)

The skintrack went quickly for us as the snow continued to pour down, easily an inch and hour. Kudos go out to the employee from Summit at Snoqualmie who put in the labor to the top, a tiring task that non of us envied… many thanks for that and for lending duct tape to my failing skins on our second lap.We took shelter under the lift platform at the top and thought about how great the faceshots would be.

(Elizabeth and Charlie Lozner and Lulu Bael getting out of the weather at the top.)

(Charlie and Elizabeth partway down Hyak.)

On the spectrum of conditions that I’ve ever skied, I don’t think I’ve ever found snow too deep for a tour for turns. Well, there’s a first time for everything, and this was it. Pushing away from the skintrack meant absolutely wallowing. There was nothing to push off against, even to pole downhill, and not enough float to keep the tips up. All we could do was gather speed in the skin track and duck off, hoping for enough momentum to straightline down a steeper section of the run.

(Charlie burrowing in after leaving the track.)

We’d slingshot past each other in that fashion, inevitably getting stopped after 10, 15 feet completely stuck up to our waists or more. Getting nervous about snow immersion, we stayed close together, and more than once had to help each other out of the snow. Freeing skis and moving back to a track – even downhill – seemed like less exertion than climbing. We stopped two thirds of the way down and reskinned, climbing back for the top in the hopes that more tracks would cut it up enough to make a few turns.

(Elizabeth comes to a stop mid-lap. DEEP!)

The snow kept falling, and we quickly transitioned to downhill mode at the ridge once again. Between our tracks and a few others out for the same quest, we fared better on the second lap, picking up speed in a track and dipping out for faceshots where we could. It became comical to see how quickly someone would decelerate out in all the fresh snow, even with a full head of steam.

(Lulu goes waist-deep off the top on lap 2.)

(Lulu finding easier and no-less-powdery turns in cut-up tracks.)

By the time we hit the bottom third and flatter terrain, it was useless to do anything other than ski out in the skintrack. The weather at the lower elevation was already starting to warm, and it was time to hit the road home before the snow became freezing rain. There are major changes happening in the weather system as of last night, and the snowpack from here out will be quite different. Hopefully today’s Pineapple Express sets up a solid base for us, but anyone thinking about backcountry after these next couple days absolutely needs to attention pay to this layer of snow.

(Elizabeth finds a steeper roll.)
It was by far the most new snow I’ve ever had for a first tour of the season, and given that I made maybe three turns over the two laps, it was more about the tour than anything else. All in all, yesterday was about getting out there to break a sweat, see the return of winter around us, remember the feel of heavy flakes falling on your shoulders, and hearing the laughter of friends trying to make turns.

-Graham Gephart

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