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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