Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Video from JT Robinson

Great new video today from Karhu athlete JT Robinson. From deep powder to monster front flips and big air, the video showcases some of JT’s best moments from last season, from Utah to Europe. Great stoke to get you pumped up for the New Year and the storms on the way.

J.T. Robinson...Skier from J.T. Robinson on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Loving Old Man Winter

Big snows across the country this week. Seattle has been snowbound for the past week, and skis have been better than cars for getting around town. On the other side of the country, it will be a deep white Christmas in the Northeast this year. Brian Mohr checks in after a winter solstice ski:
He makes us shiver. He makes us sweat. He also brings incredible joy to our lives...

Welcome back Old Man Winter.

We love you.

Brian and Emily
Moretown, VT

(Skiers: Andy Weis, Dylan Crossman, Emily Johnson - Mad River Valley, Vermont - Winter Solstice 2008)

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tree Skiing in VT

Forgetting a few days of rain and ice, the Northeast seems to have gotten off to a great start this year. Surfing around last night, I found this recent helmet cam video from Stowe and the Adirondacks last week. Definitely some skilled combat skiing and technical lines up high at Stowe from these guys…

POV Skiing Stowe/Dacks 12/9/08 from Allen Taylor on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold, Cold Smoke

Things keep getting better up in the Valhallas, where Karhu ambassador Evan Stevens is trying to stay warm in BC.

The arctic air mass has taken over British Columbia. I know what you're thinking. It's Canada, you all live in igloos and it is cold all the time. But alas, no, SW BC is actually quite mild in the winter, and that is what makes skiing here so great-it's not frigidly cold! Right now it is so, so, so bitterly cold here that we can't even really ski on shady slopes. The snow is so cold that your wax just doesn't work.

It has made for some interesting plan changes for me this week. Originally I was supposed to be skiing in Roger's Pass. We did two days there, and it was literally some of the coldest outdoor recreation I have ever taken part in. We skinned up to treeline one day, only to be met by 25km/hr winds at -24 degrees Celsius. For you math majors out there, that equals a -40 degree Celsius wind chill (and -40 is where Fahrenheit and Celsius are the same!). This arctic front also brought with it heinously strong winds, jacking all the snow at treeline and in the alpine.

We decided to pull the plug and head a bit south to the family's lodge in the Valhallas. A bit of protection from the wind and slightly warmer temps tempted us and Valhalla Mountain Touring has delivered yet again. We have just spent the last 2 days tracking out the cold powder, first a bit in the trees, and then today in the blazing sun. I gotta tell ya, it might be freezing cold out, but that is the bet time ever to ski the pow in full sun, the snow just stays as cold smoke all day long!

So, a video here to keep you psyched, and some photos from today as well...

(Benny and Jas racing for freshies. Photos by Evan Stevens.)

(Richard heading towards sunny powder on Rugged Peak.)

(My Karhu Storms getting psyched for 2 grand of cold smoke.)

(Richard steals some of Benny's powder.)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

First Tour in the PNW

Rain was still falling in the pre-dawn darkness on Saturday morning, but the chill in the air confirmed what we’d seen on the mountain telemetry data. The arctic system that blew in on Friday packed a punch, leaving 18” of snow down to mid-elevations and bringing a much-needed start to winter in the Pacific Northwest.

Crystal opened the lifts to the south, but we gathered the troops and swung north to follow the heaviest part of the storm. With little existing base, we headed to the closed Stevens Pass ski area, with the hopes of a tune-up tour and some powder without too much damage.

(Karhu Brand Director Charlie Lozner checks out the liftline on the backside. Photos by Graham Gephart.)

We certainly weren’t the only ones with the idea, but there was enough snow to go around. Winter suddenly felt very real again, and I realized how much I’d missed the patter of snowflakes falling on my steaming head and shoulders while skinning. From the top, we skied a couple laps, the muscles coming back into the groove more and more each time.

(Bruce Jahnke from the test lab crosses a water hazard.)

(Development engineer Chris Barchet goes exstream skiing.)

The lack of base meant enough hazards – rocks, down logs, open water – to break up any real long flow of turns. But there was enough to link a few together, and we even found one little pillowy section that teased at the goods to come.

(Elizabeth Lozner makes short work of the pillows.)

By the time we climbed up for our third lap, the snow picked up again with urgency. In no time flat, we were all climbing with shoulders covered in a solid inch, and a light puff emerged from under step as the skis slid forward on the skintrack. All in all, a great warm up to start the season, and looking forward to more to come.

(Chris leads back up for more turns.)

(Acculumation on the skintrack up, can't wait for more.)

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

K2 Tall Mountain – Mixed Emotions

This morning we have a pretty special post from Dave Watson, who spent his summer climbing and skiing abroad in the high mountains of Pakistan. Dave’s K2 Tall Mountain Expedition was covered on the blog throughout the summer, with weekly and sometimes daily reports on the conditions, their adventures on Broad Peak and K2, and general life on a mountaineering expedition. They faced challenging weather, conditions and watched emergencies unravel firsthand. While Dave’s group was preparing to move from Broad Peak to make an attempt on K2, tragedy struck several climbing parties high up on the K2. The K2 Tall Mountain team assisted where they could, and stayed on an empty mountain afterward, hoping for improving conditions that never arose before making the decision to hike out. Dave sent over this entry a couple weeks back, after his return to the States had allowed some reflection on the ever-changing balance of risk and reward as we pursue adventure.

As I start to gather my ski gear and take inventory of what I need for the upcoming winter in the Himalaya, I think back to last winter in Kashmir and the past summer in Pakistan. I feel incredibly fortunate to have spent 6 months of the last year in the Pir Panjal and Karakoram ranges of the Himalaya. And now, 5 weeks away from another 3 month adventure in Kashmir, I can't help but think of how these trips are affecting my life, especially my marriage.

Shane McConkey and Jeremy Jones joke about the Gone Husband Award. They keep track of how many days they are away from their families and my days away equal more than both of theirs combined. Not proud of it, in fact I think it's really lame, leaving my wife to take care of the house, yard, bills, vehicles, food shopping, loneliness, happiness, horniness. She is incredibly supportive and also incredibly busy, working over 100 hours a week. It is so unfair of me to put this on her, to leave yet again. I feel like such a douche. But the mountains, especially the Himalaya, keep calling me back. Is this addiction? The desire to do things in excess, especially when they are potentially harmful to you. The feelings I get in the high mountains are as nourishing as the love of family and friends, feelings so strong they can not be put into words.

(Broad Peak basecamp, K2 in the background. Photo by Dave Watson.)

It used to be that when I got back from a trip I would feel recharged and ready to jump back into the rat race once again. The feelings of renewed motivation and change of perspective have waned over the years and now it is hard to find the motivation to compete even the simple tasks of the western lifestyle. Scrubbing the tub seems so lame as I daydream about skiing breakable crust at 25,000 ft in no-fall terrain or trying to clip into Dynafit bindings while hanging off of an ice screw on a 70 degree slope.

(Dave Watson takes XCD Guides over 20,000 feet on Broad Peak. Photo by Chuck Boyd.)

These expeditions let me experience and explore nature and the human psyche in ways only found in survival situations. As I am not-so-slowly finding out, these incredibly intense situations are becoming the most satisfying moments in my life. I am not a gambler in the traditional sense, and I do have fear, but to be breaking trail at 28,500 ft with the world below gives exhilaration beyond words.

These moments can also have incredible consequences. This past summer on K2, 11 men never went home, and their wives, children, parents and friends must some how come to terms with how a person that they loved had put their own "selfish" desires above the responsibilities and obligations of being an active participant in a life that they themselves had built. Death is a very real possibility when recreating in alpine terrain, it isn't fair that something that gives me so much joy and a feeling of purpose (which is ridiculous) could cause the people I love the most to lay awake at night in fear and worry that I may not come home. If those fears are realized, lives are changed forever.

(Sunrise on K2. Photo by Dave Watson.)

It isn't only those who are left at home who are affected by the loss, witnessing your partners death will have the same outcome. I met an awesome couple this summer, same age as me and my wife, married the day after we were, many common friends and interests. They were climbing K2 together, and he'll never be seen again. I could hardly look her in the eyes, overwhelmed with incredible sadness. I couldn't help but see Audrey's face with same expression of shock and pain, eyes red and rocked to the core. Since then, I've had many nights alone in a tent, thinking about why and how I should change my life, but when I step out of the tent in the morning and look at the South face of K2 in the cold crisp air, I want to ski it even more.

It is almost like a mid-life crisis for my ski mountaineering career. I can see the end closing in on me, babies. Once we have children I've vowed to not attempt extreme lines on 8000 meter peaks. And with children on the horizon I feel this is my only feasible chance to send something this big. I hope the challenges of fatherhood can provide an alternative outlet for my focus and energy, and I'm sure it will. But for now I see the next couple years as my last chance to ski K2. I'll never be younger, stronger and faster than I am now. I just need the opportunity to try it.

(Dave Watson and his Spire BCs in front of K2. Photo by Andy Selters.)

Last summer I went to try it, but because of the weather, I never got a shot at it. In the three months spent on the Godwin-Austen below K2 and Broad Peak there were only about 10 days of good weather. Much of that was spent acclimatizing to the extreme altitudes only found in the Himalaya, the other days were spent making an attempt on the summit of Broad Peak.

(Sunrise in the Karakoram Mountains, Broad Peak summit day. Camp 3 (7000m) is visible in the distance. Photo by Dave Watson.)

I didn't summit Broad due to fatigue. That fatigue made me concerned for my safety. Trying to ski the summit ridge in a tired state would be a mistake, so I decided it wasn't the right time and I turned around for the first time in a really long time. I had 1 more month in the area, more than enough time to make and attempt again on Broad Peak and on K2. The weather never allowed another day of skiing.

So as I gather my gear and tune some skis in anticipation of another awesome winter of powder skiing in the Himalaya, I have mixed emotions. My last run started at over 25,000 ft on the 12th tallest mountain in the world, and was AWESOME! Huffing and puffing while negotiating breakable crust and 2-foot-high sastrugi on 50-60 degrees then onto wet cement "powder" at 30-40 degrees then to frozen corn at 50-70 degrees then to shave-able corn at 50 degrees and then to rock strewn slop and cramponing down another 3000 ft to the bottom. So epic! So enjoyable! A true BIG mountain line.

I also think about Audrey, as I gather my Avie gear. Where I'll ski this winter has incredibly huge and destructive slides that go every storm cycle. The risk is manageable and acceptable. But the thoughts of her working 16 hour days then having to shovel snow, do the food shopping and all else that I can barely muster the motivation to tackle, it doesn't seem fair. I go from the high of reminiscing of high-mountain skiing to the lows and feelings of lameness for putting such a burden on my awesome partner.

I don't know if I'll ever get comfortable with these feelings or situations, I'm sure things will change, they always do. Will I find some other, safer and more responsible way to fulfill the need to be satisfied with my youth? We'll see, but for now I just want to ride powder.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Finally, Winter in BC

From the office in Seattle, we were greeted by a glimpse of new snow blanketing up high this morning. It looks like the snow line is still too high to make good use of yet, but perhaps the season is getting closer to its start. After a few weeks in Coastal BC, Karhu ambassador Evan Stevens apparently got too antsy and headed inland for snow at Valhalla Mountain Touring. Here’s an entry from him:

Living on the coast of British Columbia has its pluses and its minuses. The rainy fall, when the snow line hasn't lowered down, can be quite tough. I have spent the last two weeks desperately trying to find some winter outdoor recreation: 3 skiing attempts, and 1 ice climbing attempt. Actually, the 2 days of clear and dry weather were some of the best days of bouldering I have had in Squamish!

(First turns at Valhalla Mountain Touring for 2008-2009. Video courtesy of Evan Stevens.)

But quietly in the interior of British Columbia, winter has started, and about a meter to a meter and a half (3 to 5 feet for the yanks) has slowly started to pile up, and just this last storm cycle a good half a meter has just been added. I did all that I could in the face of more rainy weather on the coast and packed up my truck to drive to the interior.

As my friend pointed out today, I luckily married into a backcountry ski lodge in this zone, and guide their full time in the winter. So I took advantage of that with my wife, father-in-law and dog to go test out the ski legs in our own private backcountry ski paradise at Valhalla Mountain Touring. I shot some video of the day, so I will let that speak for itself. Winter is in full swing here, and the powder is dry and fluffy. Besides we have to start training our new puppy for his winter of ski touring - as you can hear from his yelping in the video, he was having fun.

Come join the fun! We still have a few spaces left on trips this winter...

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Avalanche Risk Study

Interesting news story on Ski Press this morning on a recent study completed by Albi Sole at the University of Calgary Outdoor Center. From the story:

…Albi Sole, program co-ordinator for Public Avalanche Awareness Programs at the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre, has just completed his masters degree research profiling who’s at the highest risk of being involved in an avalanche incident. According to Sole, the most likely subject is a male backcountry skier, 25-29 years old, with a bachelor’s degree or higher and earning about $10,000 over the provincial Alberta average. Being accompanied by a woman tends to reduce the risk, while having taken avalanche training does not.

“The risk was at least as high among those who had training as those who didn’t,” says Sole. “The message here isn’t that avalanche training is the problem. It’s just that training opens the door to a recreational activity that is very valuable to this group. For these people the risk they take is more than compensated by the rewards they get. It would obviously be far more dangerous to do these sports without proper training.”

Read the full story at Ski Press here.


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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks – 2008

It’s been an incredibly busy fall, but we at Karhu are finding much to be thankful for as we head into a couple days off with family and friends. We wish all of you out there a happy holiday and great turns in the mountains. Signing off for the long weekend, here are a couple thoughts from Karhu folks on what we’re thankful for:

I am thankful for my amazing wife who has supported my love for mountains and encouraging my career choice in the snow sports industry! Thanks, Denise!
-Ryan Lilly

What an easy thing to do, to be thankful, yet we often take so little time to do it. I have always had a love-hate relationship with holidays, the consumption, the commercialism, the materialism, yet, when I learned to make it what is important to me I realized how great Thanksgiving and Christmas are. We take time from our busy lives to find our friends and family, spend time together, show our love, and enjoy life.

This year I am most thankful for everyone who tries a little bit to be a better person, who inspires me to want to be a better person, to give back more to impact less, to tread lightly, to meet a new culture, to live outside of my comfort zone.

I am thankful for a new era, hope, less violence and a new President.

And lastly I am thankful that it is already snowing in the mountains in Chamonix, France, and winter fun is on its way!

Hugs and happy holidays,
-Zoe Hart

Thanksgiving.... what a wonderful thing to celebrate. Here in the west we have much to be thankful for this year. A new president will soon take the reigns and hopefully guide us towards a more sustainable future, one that will still include the cold snowy days of winter that we as skiers love.

On a personal note, I am thankful that my family - mother, father, sister, and one daughter - will join Lisa and I in our remote corner of the world for the Thanksgiving holiday. There's only a dusting of snow here now but it is cold, sunny, and beautiful....
-Nils Larsen

It’s been an incredible year full of great skiing and trips, and I’m thankful that the New Year brings the opportunity to do pursue more adventures. I am thankful for having friends and family close by this holiday, and as always, for the support of my amazing fiancĂ©e, who shares the same deep love of mountains and snow.
-Graham Gephart
(Charlie Lozner, Jeremy Roper, Larry Goldie, Justin Nyberg, Steve Barnett and Nils Larsen, thankful for good turns in the North Cascades. Photo by Graham Gephart.)

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

North Cascades Pic of the Week

Snow’s getting a little closer here at our home in the Pacific Northwest. Larry Goldie from Karhu partner North Cascades Mountain Guides sent us his picture of the week:

NCMG Picture of the Week: Paul Butler laying down some tele turns on lightweight gear on Slate Peak 11/22/08. Given that the approach required several miles of skiing on the Harts Pass Road and conditions were kind of thin, XCD gear was the obvious way to go. We skied over 3000 vertical feet and never once put on skins.

For more on Karhu Partner North Cascades Mountain Guides and their skiing programs, visit http://www.ncmountainguides.com/

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Deep in VT

It looks like the Northeast has much to be thankful for this week, after a big storm up high in the Green Mountains left outstanding conditions for skiers at Jay Peak, Stowe, Mad River Glen and Sugarbush. Photo tip from Where Will You Ski Today reader Peter Wadsworth over the weekend:

More photos from Peter here.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

More from Whitegrass

After last week’s first big storms around Whitegrass, WV, Karhu rep Doug Reilley made the trip over to Chip Chase’s legendary touring center to make some turns. Looks like great fun, and much to be thankful for as we approach the holiday.

Whitegrass Touring Center is open with snow that skiers don't usually see until mid-January! I met up with my friend Dave Barnett and his family (wife Robin and 2 boys; James 12 and Ben 10) for a day of freshies at Chipper's

(Heading up 3 mile towards Cabin Mt.)

We ascended to the top of Round Top where the snow was about 18" off trail, then headed to the top of Baldy.

The snow was pretty incredible with about 6"-8" of fresh powder over top of the base that had been rolled and frozen overnight. We skied through some pretty cool trees and drifts on the way up and over Baldy (about 4300' in elevation) as the snow got better and better!

(West Virginian snow ghosts.)

(Top of Baldy (4300') with Canaan Valley Ski Resort and National Nordic in the background.)

(Drifts on Baldy Boundary trail.)

The snow on the section of Baldy Boundary below Baldy Steeps was a bit thin but very skiable and led down to some premium powder at the right edge of Springer Orchards

Looks thin in places but turned out to be the best snow of the day! Laurie's incredible food at the lodge capped off a great day of WV ski touring in November...a rare treat!

A short video clip from Doug of Springer Orchards, definitely storming!!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Whitegrass is Open!

My favorite ski report in the US brought good news today for Mid-Atlantic skiers. Longtime Karhu friend Whitegrass is open for business with a good cold spell in West Virginia’s Canaan Valley.

(Photo courtesy of Whitegrass and VisitCanaan.com.)

Here’s what the Whitegrass report says:
All trails are open and skiable with some 6-12" on the ground, it will pack down to an inch or two yet it is dumping again this morning! Hard!!! Will start grooming any minute now and plan to be fully operational until mid April! Hot soup is on. Schools are closed. Open this weekend for skiing, likely in powder conditions. Early is soooo good!

We are at least two weeks ahead of any year of our history; the trails, bridges, snowfarm, ability to groom, rental and sales shop...

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

WWA Action Alert: Protecting Winter in Yellowstone

Over the wires from Karhu backcountry partner Winter Wildlands Alliance, a new Action Alert on public comment for winter use in Yellowstone National Park. WWA recently won a victory in the US District Court that struck down the dramatic increase in the number of snowmobiles allowed each day in the Park. The National Park Service is now working on a temporary plan for winter use, and the public comment period ends on Monday, November 17. Take a few minutes and help WWA in its support for a quiet backcountry in our most pristine settings:

Next Step for Protecting Yellowstone

We are making significant strides in restoring clean air and quiet in Yellowstone National Park and we need your help to make sure these healthier conditions for visitors and wildlife continue.

For nearly eight years, the Bush Administration has refused to follow laws that would best protect our country's first national park. After more than ten years of scientific study, the administration decided last year to propose a plan that actually would have grown back a larger number of noisy, polluting snowmobiles than Yellowstone has seen on average during the past five winters. We took the Administration to court and won. In his ruling, Judge Emmet Sullivan found the Interior Department negligent in its duty to be good stewards by allowing increased air pollution, impacts to wildlife, too much noise, and most importantly, not abiding by its mandate to conserve the park unimpaired for future generations. That plan was ruled illegal.

Now, the Park Service must develop a temporary plan for this winter to make sure the public can visit Yellowstone and it is still proposing more snowmobiles each day than the daily average of the past five winters. You have a chance to comment on it, but the window to do so is short.
The deadline for comments is November 17, 2008.

This should be and can be another step towards phasing-out snowmobile use in favor of snowcoaches, which offer a more environmentally-friendly way to access the park for skiing, snowshoeing and other winter adventures. Your voice can make a difference.

Please, take a few minutes right now to urge the Park Service to heed its own science and protect Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Read the full Action Alert here, and below is the procedue to make your comments known to the National Park Service:

Go to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/, then select Yellowstone NP in the "Choose a park" menu, then click on "New Temporary Winter Use Plan and EA," then click "Open for Public Comment" from the menu on the left, then click the "2008 Winter Use Plans Environmental Assessment" link, and finally click the "comment on document" link. How's that for a streamlined government process?

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

South America Stoke

Back in May, Where Will You Ski Today reader Scott Fennell sent us a killer report of a fly-in touring trip into the Neacola Range in Alaska. Fast-forward six months, and Scott dropped another email, this time with a trip report packed full of stoke from about 8,000 miles to the south. Here’s a little taste of Scott’s adventures in Chile and Argentina. Not a bad year for Scott’s well-traveled Jak BCs

South America, 05OCT-28OCT 2008
It´s time to go skiing. It´s time to go skiing like you mean it. Looking for an appetizer to our main course of skiing adventure in Antarctica, Kellie and I planned a trip to South America…

(Bears in paradise. Photos by Scott Fennell)

…My bears were asked to do a lot of different things on this trip: GS turns when wet slough was chasing me, couloir jump turns when sandstone was squeezing me, and lots (and lots) of uptrack time…

…Three weeks of skiing hard on this continent was an amazing experience. But looming over us the entire time was the prospect of skiing in Antarctica on Doug Stoup´s Ski Cruise 2008. As it turned out, our boat, the Lyubov Orlova, failed it´s inspection with the Argentine port authorities and the expedition had to be cancelled. It´s really sad. But I´m excited to go next year, I´m happy we skied the living heck out of South America. I suppose my life is pretty good if the worst thing that can happen to me is my Antarctica trip getting postponed and me having to go home and ski cold Alaskan powder.

Read on here for the whole report (lots of great photos).

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Friday, November 7, 2008

A Dozen More Turns

It’s especially hard to resist the temptation of a fresh powder slope when you haven’t skied for six months. The anxious excitement from a fall spent ski dreaming has whipped your mind into a frenzy, and the last thing you want to do is turn away from the first untouched line of the winter, the one you’ve waited so long for.

The early season excitement can act like a blinder on your normal backcountry sense. That’s why it’s so important to keep your avalanche knowledge and backcountry protocol in mind at the same time you’re daydreaming about that first run.

If you’re in the Seattle area, kickstart your avy savvy for the season by attending the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit (NSAS) on Saturday with Karhu and NWAC. If you live in the Rockies, Wasatch, Sierra or elsewhere, check your calendar for an avalanche seminar in your neighborhood, or take a few minutes to watch Amber Seyler’s A Dozen More Turns.

Take 30 minutes to watch the film, and then send it to another backcountry skier you know. Seattle skiers, I hope to see you at NSAS on Saturday to hear Sam Kavanaugh (from A Dozen More Turns) talk about his experience.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Rocktober in the Adirondacks

After a spate of recent storms, the trip reports are coming in from all over the country. Last week, the Northeast caught an early Arctic blast, and the storm was especially gracious to the skiers of the Adirondacks in New York. Karhu rep Mike Kaz seized the opportunity to run out for early season XCD turns at Whiteface…

Rock-Tober 29th 2008

"After a few days on the road clinicing I received a phone call from my wife. "Did you hear how much snow we are supposed to get? Feet. I've blocked out my schedule in the morning to get the kids to school so you can get an early start up to the mountain." I knew I married the right woman! I raced home from Buffalo Tueday night through snow squalls and wind arriving at 11pm. I was up and out the door by 7am to head to Whiteface Mountain for a solo tour up the Toll Road on the backside and get some early season turns.

An annual tradition for the local ski crew, the Whiteface Toll road ascends a gentle 8-9% grade for 5 miles and takes you within 300 vert of the summit. A quick hike sans skis gets you a 360-degree view of the Adirondack Mountains. Not today though!

At the Toll Road gate there was anywhere from 6-10" of packed and blowing snow, but quickly as I toured up on my XCD Guides, accumulations looked to be more like 12-14" in places and even deeper (thigh high) in wind-drifted corners.

It was VERY windy and cold. It felt more like late January than October. I reached the upper slide of the road-side shots and it almost looked skiable. I packed my skis, threw on my crampons and booted up the shot to give it a look. Bottom half was fine, but we still needed a bit more up top to make it go. I'll give'r another time.

Near the top of the slide, a little bushwacking through to the top of the road, then on to the summit.

Back off the summit, skis on and down I go through a solid base and boot-top powder. Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday morning. As I skied down, at least a dozen or more Adirondackers were on their way up for some October stoke. Welcome Ski Season!"

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Skiing in Mammoth and the ESAC Fundraiser

A great entry came in last night from Karhu friend Nate Greenberg down in Mammoth. Nate brings the news of Mammoth’s opening and the start of the season, as well as a big event coming up next month for the Eastside backcountry community. Nate and his wife Ali work incredibly hard with a group of dedicated backcountry users to lead the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC), and it sounds like they’re putting together an incredible celebration and fundraiser for ESAC for Dec 12 & 13. We're proud to support ESAC and their cause at the Season Opener with some killer new skis for raffle, so mark your calendars now, and don’t miss out!

(The storm clears at Mammoth. Photos courtesy of Nate Greenberg)

When I woke up yesterday, the first major winter storm of the season was rolling in and shrouding the upper elevation peaks. By the time I went to bed, it was raining in town…

It’s funny how it always seems to happen this way, regardless of the year, or the exact time of year. Mentally, I am still transitioning out of summer mode, hanging onto the last pools of warmth – chasing sunlit climbing spots, enjoying some fall weather mountain biking, or getting in some last minute hikes before the preferred mode of travel becomes the ski.

At the same time, it seems that most of the rest of the world surrounding me is jonesing for the flakes to fall. There is an immeasurable, but clearly present excitement, buzz, stoke – call it what you will. People start talking about how big a winter they think it will be. The superstitions come out; ‘Last one was a dry one, so this one’s sure to deliver…’, ‘The pine cones are sure big on this year…’, ‘The squirrels sure seem busy…’

People start asking me what I think too; “What are the models saying?”, “La Nina?”, “El Nino?”, “Cold & Wet or Warm & Dry?” I’ve got my own superstitions though – I try not to look at the weather this time of year… at least not until that first storm has landed and dropped some snow in the hills.

Waking up this morning, I realize that the time has come though. While the first cup of coffee is still brewing in the kitchen, I pull open our blinds to a crystal clear morning and about a foot of new snow blanketing the hills surrounding Mammoth. If you had told me two days ago that I’d be skiing November 3rd, I probably would have scoffed at you. Powder turns on Mammoth Mountain this morning, however, made me a believer. Here we go again!

Being on the board of the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, this time of year is also particularly funny for me. While everyone else around is getting fired up, waxing up gear, and writing season tick-lists, I’m working with a small group of dedicated souls to get the Center ready for the season. Though we’re coming into our fourth season (third season as an official USFS Avalanche Center), there are still a set of nagging questions and issues out there that face us every year – the largest of which is surely funding.

As I write this, my dedicated wife is making phone calls and trying to flesh out the details for our Season Kickoff Event, scheduled for December 12th & 13th in Mammoth Lakes. Last year (the second year we put the event together), we brought our homegrown adventure photographer friend, Gordon Wiltsie back to the Eastside and drew a crowd of 250 people to Mammoth Mountain on a stormy day in early December. The event raised $5,000 for the avalanche center and got the stoke going throughout the local community.

This year, we hope to up the ante a bit – growing both the event and the Center – by hosting a two-day Kickoff Event. December 11th will be the local premiere of ‘Harmless’, a Telemark ski film by Stephane Riendeau (Tough Guy Productions) featuring the exploits of Karhu athletes Lorenzo Worster and JT Robinson, among others. December 12th is the main event – beginning with on-hill educational activities sponsored by local guides including beacon searching, companion rescue techniques, terrain evaluation and a seminar by our local avalanche dog program, Eastside K-9. That night, we’re bringing in renowned snowboard mountaineer Stephen Koch from Jackson to talk about being the first person to snowboard the Seven Summits, and his experiences along the way.

The Season Kickoff Event is really our way of giving something back to the community. Of course, it is a fundraiser for us. But more than anything, it’s a way to get the people who love the backcountry as much as we do together to celebrate the beginning of another season. It’s a way to remind people to stay safe while getting it done out there and that the Center is there for their support.

Making the Center a reality is invigorating, and keeping a thriving community of backcountry skiers safe is something that is important to all of us at ESAC. Almost as much as getting out there ourselves, and crossing those items off our own tick-lists…

Have a great season!
Nate Greenberg

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit

The Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit is back in Seattle, and Karhu is proud to support this year's event and great line-up of guest speakers. If you're a backcountry skier in the Pacific Northwest, NSAS is a great way to support the avalanche forecasting of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) and to keep the risks in mind and in perspective as we start the backcountry ski season.

Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit
What: A development seminar for outdoor professionals and an education opportunity for backcountry skiers and snowboarders.
When: Saturday, Nov 8th. Registration runs from 8-9am, and NSAS runs from 9am-4pm.
Where: The Epiphany School, 3710 East Howell, Seattle, WA 98122

Details: The Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit is a full day of snow- and avalanche-related topics with speakers such as Lowell Skoog, Martin Volkken, and Sam Kavanaugh of the avalanche awareness video "A Dozen More Turns". Please join us for a unique opportunity to hear some great speakers talk about interesting, relevant, and educational topics. The cost is $25.00, either through online registration ahead of time, or by cash/check at the door. NSAS is limited to the first 250 registered participants only, so please pre-register if you plan to come.

To register go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/44301

NSAS Speakers:
Garth Ferber – NWAC forecasts: Scientific call or crystal ball?
Don Sharaf – Stability tests: An explanation of various stability tests and their strengths and weaknesses in application.
Martin Volkken – The interplay between likelihood and consequence and motivation and risk
PANEL – Decision-making in high risk environments - perspectives from guiding, highways, and ski areas. Speakers include Craig Wilbour, Margaret Wheeler, Sky Sjue.
Tom Murphy – Decision-making in high-risk environments
Lowell Skoog – Safety and success on a Cascade high route
Sam Kavanaugh – A Dozen More Turns, a story of lessons learned. The film is online here: http://revver.com/video/310519/a-dozen-more-turns/, and will give you an idea of Sam’s perspective.

After attending NSAS, keep your day snow-centric and move on to the Tractor Tavern in Ballard at 8:00pm for SNOWBASH, The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center Fundraiser. With live music, cold beer, and raffle items for participants you will be sure to have a good time supporting a good cause. Must be 21, and donation of $25.00 for NWAC at the door. For information visit avalanchenw.org.

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Snow at Baker

The rain was pouring Seattle this morning, but up in the Cascades it left a good covering at Mt Baker:

Most Recent Update:
Monday Nov. 3rd 11:30 am: 32-degrees and snowing at Heather Meadows, 5.5 inches of snow.

Winter is brewing! The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for the mountains with up to 8-10 inches expected by Thursday. Then things turn a little warmer as the edge of a whopper front moves in off the Pacific on Thursday.

It looks like a heavy hit of precip Thursday and Friday with the freezing level dropping to 3800 feet by Saturday. More snow is likely through the coming weekend. WINTER IS WAKING UP... we'll keep you posted as snow flies.

It'll take a few more storms to get Baker open, but keep your eye on their site.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New Snow and a Vivid Imagination

A few words from Karhu friend and telemark pioneer Dickie Hall this afternoon…

(Casualty of a vivid imagination. Photo courtesy of Dickie Hall.)





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Monday, October 27, 2008

Ski It While You Can

Peter wasn’t the only one out skiing last week. Brian Mohr at EmberPhoto checks in with his transition from fall to winter mode:

Weeks of surfing beautiful ocean waves on the coast and running/biking through the brilliant colors of fall in the mountains were finally capped this week by our first day of skiing this season.

Rain turned to snow Tuesday night, and shortly after sunrise Wednesday, we were enjoying a fresh 2-3" of October snow on our favorite, rock-free, moss-laden, leaf-strewn, low-angle runs at our local ski hills.

We linked several top to bottom runs together early in the morning, and then stuck to the higher elevations as the day wore on and the lowest elevations started to burn off.

Cold temps overnight made for another fine early-morning of skiing today... Ground warmth had pushed snow line 300-400' up the mountain, and by lunch time, with the sun shining strong, it was all but gone...

Still, it was a real treat be back on the skis again... If the big brown stripes on the wooly catepillars are any indication, we are in for another snowy winter.

Ski it while you can!

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