Thursday, February 28, 2008

Upcoming: Adirondack Backcountry Festival

It’s the season for festivals… a great chance to get out and demo some new equipment, expand your skills through clinics and just share in the community of skiers. We’ll be bringing you a wrap-up of last weekend’s Kootenay Cold Smoke Festival soon, and next week traveling to Vermont for the NATO Telemark Festival at Mad River Glen, but first wanted to plug a unique one this weekend in upstate New York.

Heading into its 6th year, the Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival celebrates the up and the down in the Northeast. Sponsored by The Mountaineer in Keene Valley, NY, the Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival will have guided backcountry trips on High Peaks tours and Adirondack slide descents led by the local backcountry gurus and the Keene Valley’s own Cloudsplitter Mountain Guides. Don’t miss out on the guided Karhu Traverse:

Karhu Traverse ($90) (novice-intermediate nordic) – Guided point-to-point cross-country ski tour through the rugged Avalanche Pass. This is your chance to do the classic traverse with a great group of skiers and without the need organize a drop-off. Participants should be prepared for a long (13-mile) day, and are encouraged to use lighter weight XCD touring gear rather than heavy-duty telemark/AT gear. Karhu XCD ski demos are available as well as limited boots – if you have your own boots please bring them (3-pin compatible only if you are using our demo skis).

The Adirondack Backcountry Ski Festival also brings the community together in the evening, with a presentation from Backcountry Magazine Saturday night at the Cascade Touring Center, featuring Nils Larsen and his new film, “Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan.”

The Backcountry Ski Festival is a benefit event, with proceeds supporting the New York State Ski Education Foundation’s Nordic racing programs and the Adirondack Ski Touring Council, stewards of the Adirondack Park’s backcountry ski trail system, including the famous Jackrabbit Trail.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Karhu Joins Winter Wildlands

If you watch the blog closely, you may have noticed a little tweak to our layout the other day. The addition of “Our Partners” gives us a place to link to organizations we proudly support for their efforts in education, outreach, and advocacy. Here’s the official announcement on Winter Wildlands Alliance, and you’ll see a lot more in the coming weeks from Karhu and WWA together on

PRESS RELEASE - February 15, 2008
Contact: Charlie Woodruff

Karhu Joins Winter Wildlands Alliance’s Advocacy Efforts for Human-powered Winter Recreation

Boise, Idaho – Karhu, a leader in the backcountry touring and telemark ski industry, is teaming up with Winter Wildlands Alliance to advocate for the responsible stewardship of public lands and for balanced access for quality human-powered winter recreation on those lands.

With their innovative XCD skis Karhu launched the renaissance of the telemark turn and opened up the doors for backcountry exploration. In the three decades since, Karhu has specialized in touring, backcountry and telemark skis for skiers looking to make their own tracks in winter. Their XCD Series of skis and boots today is all about versatility – the perfect bridge between Nordic kick and glide and downhill-oriented backcountry.

Karhu embodies Winter Wildlands Alliance’s mission of promoting and protecting winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands. “The synergy between WWA’s staff, members and constituents and Karhu’s staff and customer base will really have a positive impact on our public lands work” says Charlie Woodruff of WWA. “We’re excited to promote quiet backcountry recreation with Karhu and to utilize our combined resources to grow our movement.”

Karhu’s generous cash donation will directly support WWA’s Grassroots Program and National Policy work to advocate for the responsible stewardship of pristine winter wildlands across the country and in very special places such as Yellowstone National Park.

For over 30 years, Karhu has innovated with skis focused on the wilder side of winter, from Nordic touring through XCD, telemark and alpine touring. For more information about Karhu products, programs and adventures, visit or

Based in Boise, Idaho, Winter Wildlands Alliance is a national nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting and preserving winter wildlands and a quality human-powered snowsports experience on public lands. To learn more about WWA visit

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Low Snow Gems

It’s tough to match the excitement of a historic snow year, when impassable chutes barely cleaved in vertical rock get choked with enough snow to have a go. That kind of energy takes a full season to build and savor. For the more impatient skiers among us, the real salvation comes from the low-elevation storm. They’re far from frequent, but can be counted on to happen a lot more often than a 10- or 25-year snow season. But what makes the low snow so gratifying is that the lines it occasionally fills in, are the ones that often taunt you day-to-day – within easy sight, within easy reach, if only it would just snow enough to fill it in. Just beyond town, behind the office, off the side of the road, the eye picks up the right undulation of terrain that seems to have the perfect profile to wind turns down. The demands are not huge – a wet start to cement over the rocks and weigh down the shrubbery, cooling temps to transition to powder, and reliable winds to fill in the perfect zig-zag of a gully or chute through completion. And when it goes, well, the window is short to leave your tracks for everyone else to admire.

That’s the spirit captured in the photos on a recent post from localcrew over at The Bacon Strip blog. If you haven’t seen The Bacon Strip, check them out. It’s a solid trail adventure – be it on skis, bikes, whatever – based loosely in Reno, Nevada. When the snow fell low in the Reno valley, Team Bacon Strip let lie the jewels of Tahoe backcountry and went right for a rarer local gem. Nice line!

(Peavine Peak, Nevada. Photo courtesy of localcrew at The Bacon Strip)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Apres Ski Meets Tradeshow

When the crowd of ski and outdoor retailers, manufacturers, media, athletes, and enthusiasts come together for the annual industry tradeshow, it’s no surprise that certain aspects of mountain town life might follow. Product pitches rarely begin before important conversations of trips, tours and turns are covered in detail. Walk around the show floor at 5pm, and it starts to feel remarkably like the après ski scene at the base of the local mountain or trailhead. Jackson blog TheSnaz captured the après OR party one evening as Smith faced off against Mountain Khakis in a “Gelande Quaffing” competition. As explained in the clip, gelande quaffing was a tradition begun by members of the Jackson Hole Air Force (big mountain and backcountry pioneers of the Tetons), and this particular evening’s event was part of the introduction for “Swift, Silent, Deep,” a film being produced about the group.

(Video via

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Vermonters – Wild People, Wild Places Slideshows

This week and next, EmberPhoto presents two more shows of their Wild People, Wild Places Slideshow Series. For beautiful photography and inspiring backcountry travel, these shows can’t be missed (plus a chance to win some new Karhu skis).

SHOW #5: "SAILING AND SKIING ICELAND: A Backcountry Skiing Adventure"
When: Thursday, Feb 7, 2008 at 7:00pm (show goes til 8:30pm)
Where: UVM's Billing's / CC Theatre - Burlington, VT

Cost: FREE (Raffle tickets for sale $5 – Proceeds to benefit conservation efforts in Iceland's West Fjords)
Sponsors/Prizes: Outdoor Gear Exchange, Patagonia Inc, Karhu, Garmont USA, Life Link, Mountain Hardwear, Backcountry Magazine, Vermont Sports, Mad River Glen, Isis, Ibex, VT Artisan Coffee and Tea, Bumble Bar and the Green Mountain Club
More info here: EmberPhoto

SHOW #6: "SAILING AND SKIING ICELAND: A Backcountry Skiing Adventure"
When: Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2008 at 7:00pm (show goes til 8:30pm)
Where: Inn at Long Trail - Route 4 (between Killington and Pico)

Cost: FREE (Raffle tickets for sale $5 - Proceeds to benefit conservation efforts in Iceland's West Fjords)
Sponsors/Prizes: Mountain Travelers, Patagonia Inc, Karhu, Garmont USA, Life Link, Mountain Hardwear, Backcountry Magazine, Vermont Sports, Mad River Glen, Isis, Ibex, VT Artisan Coffee and Tea, Bumble Bar and the Green Mountain Club
More info here: EmberPhoto

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Pioneer Yurt Trip, ID

AND WE’RE BACK! What a whirlwind on the road. Thankful for a successful and fun tradeshow season, and very happy to be home with the bulk of our ski season just starting. The PNW picked up over 6 feet of new snow last week, and we sampled a lot of it out on Sunday, sweating out some laps to cleanse the body after Vegas. More on that after getting caught up, but a dispatch for now from Andy Jacobsen and Jay Beyer on a Powderwhore yurt trip in mid-January to the Pioneer Mountains of Idaho.

Never trust the British when it comes to judging distance and difficulty of a hike or climb, went the saying – a joking after-effect of a long ago climbing trip to Peru. Somehow it came back to mind as I skinned alone through the night, my backpack bulging from the -40° sleeping bag, bottled beer, running shoes and other useless nonsense that I was carrying. “Fifteen-minute approach,” was what I was told. I can carry a house for 15 minutes, and I carelessly decided to pack that way. The Brit was the only one of the group who had ever been to the yurt, and it seemed clear that perhaps his perception of time and space had become a little askew.

Halfway up Noah and I switched packs, my overstuffed backpack for the monster-sized duffel bag full of food. Each step forward the low-hanging duffel would bang annoyingly into the back of my thighs, the thin duffel handles digging into my shoulders, and I wondered how Noah got this duffel this far. Eventually I wondered long enough and the yurt came into view. Perhaps 15 minutes for Lance Armstrong, in the summer, on his bike, on a nice paved road! Inside the yurt the thermometer read -10, and the wind was howling outside. It was not summer, and Lance Armstrong was nowhere to be seen.

(Cozy and comfortable, yurt life in Idaho. Photo courtesy of Jay Beyer)

The next morning I awoke feeling warm and refreshed. The toasty bag had been worth the extra pounds, as Kyle’s lips looked slightly blue in spite of wearing his ski bibs inside his sleeping bag. The stove soon raged though, as we prepared for breakfast. For food, we had salted pork, salted pork and salted pork. So we cook up some bacon for appetizers and breakfast burritos containing large amounts of sausage for the main course. With eight guys in the yurt, two pounds of bacon went frighteningly fast, and by the third round of coffee we were ready to tour.

It is always interesting exploring new mountains. You never know what is over the ridge until you go look. The sky was clear with a cool wind, and we wandered around searching for some good snow. The high winds of the previous days had scoured most everything, but we eventually found some widely-spaced trees on a somewhat wind protected slope. We cranked out some laps and enjoyed some variable windbuff. It is impressive how quickly eight skiers making laps can track up a slope. Cold beer back at the yurt began its call, but not before finding the best snow of the day on the return, stalling our return for another lap of fluffy wind-blown goodness!

(Andy gets a wind assist on the uphill. Photo courtesy of Jay Beyer)

Back at the yurt for lunch, the menu was summer sausage and a big block of cheese. Jay continued to blow my mind with the huge slices of sausage he chose to cut off and then eat in one or two bites. Life at the yurt means working for your heat, so we rested for a bit before chopping wood and brewing up some tea for an evening tour.

Evening brought renewed cold and wind on our tour to a nearby peak named the Peanut. On its rounded peak, the wind raged as the eight of us watched the sky scream its final oranges and reds of the day over the Sawtooths to the west. We had to yell to hear each other through our hoods and over the wind, so we shared few words but all quietly enjoyed a fine moment in the mountains.

(A quiet evening in the mountains. Photo courtesy of Jay Beyer)

Skiing in the dark is usually quite difficult, but this night the moon was bright. The snow was soft and forgiving, floating us effortlessly back to the yurt through the dusk to share some tea and beers. A fine ending to a fine day, and the best part was that we would get to walk out our front door and do it all over again the next day.

-Andy Jacobsen

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Coming Home to Powder

In less than an hour, SIA08 comes to a close, and we’ll begin the final teardown of the tradeshow season. The anticipation and anxiousness is building rapidly though, as we’ve continued to follow the snow conditions in the Northwest. Since Monday, over 6 feet of snow has fallen at our home hill of Alpental, all sitting unskied as I-90 up to Snoqualmie Pass has been closed since Tuesday due to large natural and controlled avalanches and heavy snow that has yet to let up. After evaluating the road and conditions this morning, the Washington DOT has decided to keep it closed until at least tonight to undergo massive avalanche mitigation measures.

From the WSDOT blog:
It’s the same story it’s been all week -- the avalanche risk is still too great. 19 more inches of snow have fallen on Snoqualmie Pass in the past 24 hours, bringing the season total to 347 inches. Craig Wilbour, WSDOT’s avalanche expert, says he’s seeing historic levels of avalanche risk along I-90. In fact, the avalanche control workload is so massive right now we’ve had to call in reinforcements from the Alpental and West Summit ski resorts to help out. We’re also bringing in more snow blowers from all over the state.

To give you an idea of the firepower it takes to control these avalanches – as of Jan. 31, avalanche crews have detonated 3,650 pounds of explosives (152 individual shots). They’ve also fired off 36 rounds from the 105mm Recoilless rifle.

Video from Wednesday of a slide crossing the road sheds well down the east side of Snoqualmie Pass:

We’re all itching to get back home tomorrow and get as many turns in as we can over the weekend, because it’s been a long time coming. Still, a reminder of caution to everyone going out this weekend: With natural releases along the I-90 corridor and an incredible volume of new snow over some buried weak layers from last week, do not let the temptation of faceshots lure you into dangerous terrain in the backcountry. Check the forecast, let things stabilize where they haven’t been controlled, think safety, and use extraordinary levels of caution. There’s a ton of new snow, and plenty of time to ski it. We’ll see you out there soon.

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