Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Evan Stevens - A Day in the Office

There are a few vocations that send normal introductory banter right out the window. The question was standard - "What do you do?" - but with the answer, I could care less about describing my own life. I just want know what it's like to be a test program pilot, open ocean whale researcher, professional skateboarder, or backcountry ski guide. Those conversations spur the most of my curiosity and admiration - and admittedly a little jealousy, too.

Along those lines, let me introduce a new Karhu ambassador, Evan Stevens, whose life might inspire some of the same thoughts. Evan brings strong mountain credentials as a certified ski mountaineering guide and board member with the AMGA, and counts his day job as the operations manager and ski guide at Valhalla Mountain Touring, a renowned backcountry lodge in British Columbia. Forget talk of commutes and corner offices; this is a world is filled each day with winter wonder, open skies, skintracks, snow analysis, and finding powder turns with Valhalla's visitors. When the schedule takes him back home to Utah, you'll find him with Exum Guides deep in some Wasatch Powder.

No stranger to writing as a graduate of Middlebury College, Evan tracks the season on his own blog, and his post below, "Another Day in the Office" is a good introduction to his working life. Throughout the season, Evan will be sharing entries with and the blog, and we're excited to welcome him!

Well, now I am back to work up here at Valhalla Mountain Touring, tucked away in a secluded powder skiing paradise. Getting here wasn't with out its adventures though, so here is a bit of a recap, and an insight look into the guide's life.

I flew in to Spokane, Washington to pick up my car, and make the 4 hour drive north via Rossland, BC. I must have brought the snow with me from SLC, because it stopped snowing there and started dumping up here, which is all great and dandy, unless you have to drive at night through it. I know you have all been there, trying hard to get to your destination, but being hypnotized by the Millenium Falcon hyper-speed snowy night driving. Luckily in this part of the world one car passes you in the other direction every hour!

(Night driving BC Style - should I be on a snowmobile?!?!?)

I made it to my destination safe and sound and unloaded my gear on to the snowmobile for my 'commute'. A little bit later I am back at the lodge, my office if you will, unloading, unpacking and getting ready for the next 28 days in a row of ski touring guiding. At an average of 5,500' vertical of touring per day, I am glad my fitness level is high, and that I have been resting for a few days and eating as much as humanly possibly - kind of funny that I spend my days off sometimes resting and eating...

1 pm and the new group of 12 skiers are at the lodge. The frenzy begins: unpack, eat lunch, beacon practice, rescue drill, and a quick 1,200-foot lap of powder bliss out the lodge's front door to whet the appetite for things to come. Everyone is psyched, the snow is good, and more is on the way, time to ski!

Luckily with this job I don't have to fly solo, and I have an
ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides) Assistant Ski Guide with me - Jonny Simms. He is also one of my good friends and climbing and skiing partners. With our level of training and certification and high amount of trust in each other, it is easy to keep safety as priority number one. And right now there is a lot on our plates in that department. 6 am and we are up talking snow and weather observations for the day to come. The snowpack in British Columbia is plagued by some persistant weak layers right now, and we need to map them out and keep track of their relative strength all week. So while one of us is up front route finding and trail breaking the other one has their nose in the snow, digging pits, poking around and radioing the other guide with the latest scoop on conditions. Decisions have to be made about where and what to ski, as we try and track down the best and safest runs we can all week.

(Skinning up amongst the BC snow ghosts)

Jonny and I work together to keep each other in check and make sure neither of us are missing the million little things we need to watch in the snowpack, weather and terrain to make the right decisions. But after all, that is our job and that is what we love to do: be out in the mountains and make it happen for these folks skiing with us.

(Delivering the goods - 25cms of boot top cold smoke)

Today we woke up to 25cms of new snow with a bit of wind. Up here there is no avalanche bulletin to check out, or at least it covers an area the size of Utah, and is only updated every 3 or 4 days-we are our own avalanche forecasters. So, we venture out to see how the snowpack is acting and figure out what we can ski. More pits, some ski cuts, and careful poking around lead us to the goods, as we skied 6 grand today in boot top cold smoke. Jonny and I even found time to sneak in a few pillow lines and 20 foot cliff drops with the stronger skiers in the group.

(Pillows - so soft and nice)

Ho hum, another day at the office...

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