Wednesday, March 4, 2009

We've Moved!

We’ve been busy keeping Where Will You Ski Today updated with stories and adventures for the past year and a half, and the time came to make some changes. We've relocated the Karhu Blog to our own URL with a new platform, so please update your bookmarks with the new address:

New Karhu Blog Address:

Rest assured we're still updating as frequently if not more so, but the new platform gives us some cool new toys, and lets us present more content. We’ve also added some new stuff. Keep your stoke engine running with some Karhu wallpapers for your desktop, or click on the Cinema of Snow category and see all posts with video.

Be sure to click over and check out the XCD History Project, where starting in March and running throughout this season, we will bring you interviews, stories, a look at archival gear, photos and video, and much, much more. Join us as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of XCD, and share in our vision of mountain energy.

We’re pretty excited about the new look for Where Will You Ski Today, and we hope you'll update your bookmarks and keep reading over at our new URL:

Be well and ski well,
Graham Gephart

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Monday, February 23, 2009

High Pressure Pow

One week out until a bunch of our office heads up to BC for a week of hut touring and shooting photos. VMT guide and Karhu athlete Evan Stevens sent us this update to start off the week, with more snow starting to fly just in time:

Well, the high and dry has set in up north in British Columbia, which means it has been dumping down south. I don’t mind so much, because it means its time to get back into the alpine and ski the BIG lines in more stable snow. When things set up right, you can really tuck your way up into the mountains inhospitable nooks and crannies, and do some amazing skiing.

Here is a video from last week of me and a bunch of skiers from the Reno area…enjoy!

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Powder in the Sierra

A quick post with a little teaser of the new snow that hit the Sierra Nevada in the past week...

I was lucky enough to join Karhu rep Justin Singer and a group of California and Nevada Karhu retailers for a day of cat skiing with Pacific Crest Snowcats yesterday. After a week-long storm, the skis cleared up, and we enjoyed a full day of fresh turns on cold north-facing slopes. Glad I brought the Team 130s... it was deep! Here's a quick tease, more video to come:

Karhu - Powder day in Tahoe from Graham Gephart was shot with a VholdR helmet cam.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another Adventure Ski

Another weekend, another adventure. We finally broke out of the corn cycle in the PNW last week, but not by much. A mid-week storm left 6-10” of new snow across the Cascades, mostly at the upper elevations. Without the dedication to drive a couple hours south to Rainier or north to Baker, we set out to find what we could locally. Saturday backcountry from the resort gave us some beta on aspects and elevations, and on Sunday we headed off to a new zone looking for the goods.

The trailhead started us low, and we knew we’d be in for hiking for a while. The snowshoe trail took us back up a river valley, making good time in spite of slippery hiking and multiple stream crossings. Doubts grew, as we knew that eventually we’d have to bushwhack off the trail up to the ridge above us, an uninviting prospect with firm snow and thick trees. After gaining some ground up a few switchbacks, we finally found a stand of old growth that might allow access to the ridge.

(No new snow down here, Lulu Bael and Chris Barchet start to go up. Photos by Graham Gephart.)

One foot after the other, we set our bootpack. Firm snow slowly softened to a thinner crust with a dusting on top, and the steps became easier. The forest thinned and eventually the sky became visible ahead, as we burst out of the trees just below the ridge. After a long morning and a stop for lunch, we were finally able to put our skis on for skinning.

(Breaking out of the trees, looking back at last week's ski on Granite Peak.)

Wind had hammered up high the night before, leaving a variable pack from a few inches of hard slab to mid-shin drifts. We covered ground up the ridge quickly on skins, getting a read for the new terrain, and trying to evaluate the snow around us. East-facing chutes looked enticing above the bowl, but an initial pit changed our plans to ascending a west-facing line of trees instead. Getting near the top, thick fog beset our skin track, and our minds could only imagine much of our new surroundings.

(Tempting-looking chutes on the east-facing ridge, but too much wind.)

(Lulu and Chris skinning up in the fog and rime.)

The topo placed us on a high shoulder two-hundred feet from the true summit, but with nothing visible directly in front of us, it was clear that our climbing had come to an end. We’d scouted some routes down while climbing, and we’d positioned ourselves well over a diagonal chute that held good snow.

(There's a summit out there somewhere.)

After nearly 6 weeks since the last powder in the Cascades, the first turns felt great. The heavy, wind-blown snow held the perfect consistency down the double-fall line of the diagonal, with thin breaks of trees holding deep drifts.

(Lulu looking down the diagonal.)

Before bottoming out the basin, we traversed back out to the ridge. We hit our ascent track nearly perfectly, and looked back on our line with some pride and amazement. We’d found our way up to someplace new, changed our plans after evaluating the stability, navigated the zone cleanly in tough visibility, and found some great turns along the way.

(Finally, Lulu gets some fresh powder turns.)

There was still more descent to come, a fast dust-on-crust ski through the old growth that returned us to the hiking trail. We tried skiing out the luge run, but too many stream crossings and teeth chattered loose from the tree-littered, frozen hardpack kept us from getting all the way out on skis as we had the week before. Skis back on our packs, we walked the final stretch back to the cars with tired legs and big smiles.

(Fast tracks out the luge run.)

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Learning Early

Great photo via email last week from Drew Hardesty of the Utah Avalanche Center, of his son Wyatt “laying the blue on thick.”

I have a lot of fond memories of doing the same on cold mornings out in my dad’s barn in Vermont. Looks like Wyatt knows what he’s doing!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ski What You Climb

When the long days of spring hit, eventually the unbalanced tour becomes inevitable. High snowlines force long approaches, and suddenly half the descent moves to foot instead of ski. A reality of spring, yes, but not one that I was mentally prepared for in early February in the PNW.

Nonetheless, on Saturday we found ourselves looking at the likely end of a beautiful-looking line only halfway between the peak and the car. The open corn gullies on Granite Peak towering above us dwindled into an alder-choked abyss with open waterfalls. It looked like we’d be bootpacking 4000’ feet up, and skiing only 2000’ back down. But the weather was nice, and we were desperate for good turns in the midst of the northwest’s dryspell.

(Lulu Bael, Elizabeth Lozner, and Charlie Lozner geared up for the climb. Photos by Graham Gephart.)

We headed out the hiking trail on foot, leaving our skins in the car. The hiking trail alternated between dirt and snow, but off to the sides the snow offered a hint of promise. It was thin, dimpled like a golf ball, covered with a layer of evergreen branches and needles, and threaded with cascading streams, but the ground cover sparked the thought that perhaps it would be linkable all the way out to the car. The challenge was on.

The warming air turned to hot sun as we cleared the gully into the alpine two-thirds of the way up, sweat pouring off down our backs with each step on the bootpack... up and up to the top, the highway fading far into the distance below.

(Charlie and Elizabeth climbing to the sun.)

(Looking south to Rainier, the road far, far below.)

From the summit, the day rang clear blue, with visibility from Mount Baker to the north all the way to Adams in the south, and the Olympics rising above Seattle’s persistent fog to the West. The full month’s consolidation of snow had softened perfectly, that smooth, soft thin surface corn that allows precision hero turns. After several spring jaunts in knee-deep schmoo, February would turn out to offer the best corn skiing I’ve had in Washington yet. Make do with what ya got, I guess.

(The view over to Snoqualmie Pass.)

(Karhu's Charlie Lozner enjoying the corn.)

(Lulu Bael loving life, a long way still to go.)

Descending far down the gully, the smiles never faded even as the brush closed in. The challenge was on, and pulling every adventure skiing move out of the bag – the forearm brush block, quick wheeling pivot turns, exstream skiing, short dirt hops, hooking trees to turn or stop.

(Then, things got thick.)

(Lulu Bael, exstream skier.)

(Graham on an imposing, rocky stream crossing. Photo by Charlie Lozner.)

The descent eventually slowed to a crawl as we crossed the last obstacle, picking our way through a snowy marsh beset with massive deadfall. But one last tree to cross, and we skied out right to the bumper of the car. It may have been a spring approach and skiing in February, but we still managed to keep our skis on for a full descent that matched our climb. All in all, a great day in the mountains.

-Graham Gephart

(Lulu skis it out to the end.)

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Monday, February 9, 2009

New England Deep

Two photos for Monday stoke from reader Peter Wadsworth…

The 2008 Christmas Eve melt-out is well forgotten now in New England. It’s been cold, brutally at times, and snowing for several weeks straight. As the creeks and stream beds have firmed up and the Mt Mansfield snow stake has crept up over 70” we’ve been trying to hit some of the backcountry lines that are only open for a short time every year. This particular day was an 8+ hour tour that yielded tons of steep and deep turns, finishing by headlamp well after dark.
(Jessie Willow-Janowski puts in the work. Photo by Peter Wadsworth)

(Jessie Willow-Janowski reaping the rewards. Photo by Peter Wadsworth)

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Friday, February 6, 2009

World's Biggest Karhu Skis?

Jeremy in customer service emailed me this photo this morning... quite possibly the world's biggest Karhu skis?

(Photo from Katharine on Picasa)

Looks like they're from 100 Mile House, in British Columbia, between Lillooet and Prince George. They're billed as the world's largest cross-country skis, not just the world's biggest Karhus.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

High Pressure, High Routes

Our recent trip to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer gave us a good chance to catch up with many of the Karhu athletes and ambassadors near and far, chatting about upcoming plans, getting out for some skiing, gathering product feedback, brainstorming on new ideas, and much more. We had to split to Vegas for the SIA show immediately after, but a few of the crew hung out in the Wasatch for more skiing. The storms have long passed, but Evan Stevens stayed on and took advantage of the recent high pressure to tackle some Utah classics:

All of you VMT devotees...I am in Utah right now, so some trip reports from down there. The word at VMT though is snow, and more snow. Probably close to a meter in the last week, with Dale telling me that there was close to 30cm of new snow this morning and more on the way.

Some folks in Salt Lake City see the high pressure on the weather map, hold their breath and hang up their skis. Others like Andrew McLean charge 10 in 10 days, or myself, I try and get after some longer higher tours that I haven't done in a while, especially since I live in British Columbia these days! Back home in BC, the storms are rolling in, with lots of weak layers being preserved by the more northerly colder temper regime (I am snow geeking out here!). But part of the beauty of the high desert is the strong high pressures and rapid stabilization of the snowpack in these warmer temperatures.

Blah blah blah. You can log on to the Utah Avalanche Center website, and see for yourself, the decreasing avalanche danger. Not that it is fully greenlight out there right now (is it ever?), but things are pretty good and I am slowly building my confidence in the snowpack here and ramping up some tours in some bigger areas.

Sunday we started off with a tour from Big Cottonwood Canyon to Mill Creek via Reynolds Peak, the Wilson Chutes and Gobbler's Knob. Lots of ridge walking in the sun, and great settled, soft and consistent powder on the north facing shots. With a car stashed in Mill Creek, we got to ski out over 4,000' down the NW side of Gobbler's in amazing snow as well. I'll let the Google Earth image and the photos do the rest of the talking.

Google Earth image with our tour drawn in

Walking along Gobbler's Knob Summit Ridge

Richard drops into the Wilson Chutes

Looking 4,500' down the last run of the day to Porter Fork!

Today (Monday) we decided to tackle the crown jewel of the Wasatch, Mt. Superior, with some skiing in Cardiac Bowl and a long and beautiful ski out Mineral Fork. We went for the long ascent of the East Ridge of Superior for the added ski mountaineering aspect of the day and summit climb. Once again some great north facing settled powder and some billy goating on ridges and entrances so we can sneak into Mineral Basin where hardly anyone had been. Maps and photos will give you the full picture instead of my babbling...

The East Ridge of Superior. Classic.

Hiking up the East Ridge.

Dreamy and creamy turns down from the Summit of Superior.

Poking around to find the entrance into Mineral Fork

Mineral Fork void of tracks

Get out there and enjoy it while you can, I have 4 more days until I head back up to the land of snow (Canada). The weather forecast says at least 2 more days of high pressure here in Salt Lake though... hmmmm.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Skiing With Friends

Posting a quick note from ski pioneer, longtime friend, and Karhu supporter Chip Chase of Whitegrass, WV:

“Faith is never lost when skiing with friends.”

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday and called for six more weeks of winter, which is a great thing for skiers in the Mid-Atlantic. The forecast for Whitegrass is calling for 4-8” of snow in the higher elevations on top of the current base there. Get out there and ski with Chipper!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday Stoke

Sorry for the radio silence, but after two weeks on the road in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas for the Outdoor Retailer and SIA tradeshows, we’re finally back in the office. There’s a huge backlog of emails, messages, blog entries, and skiing to be done, but here’s a little “good to be home” stoke.

We caught up with Karhu athlete JT Robinson at OR, freshly home in UT from a trip to Japan with Sweetgrass Productions. JT described some incredible powder during his trip, and Sweetgrass just released a little teaser from their January filming with a couple shots of JT in it. Without further ado, your Monday stoke:

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Quick Pic from the Road

We're on the road in Utah this week for the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market tradeshow, and then in Las Vegas all next week for the SIA tradeshow. We had great weather yesterday for the OR Backcountry Basecamp at Snowbasin, UT, with lots of folks psyched on their Karhu ski demos.

Things are pretty busy on the road, but I thought I'd share this photo from the weekend's sunny weather in the Northwest. The snow was pretty poor skiing, but Saturday's views from the Tatoosh Range just south of Mount Rainier National Park could not be beat:

(Chris Barchet, Charlie Lozner, and Elizabeth Lozner looking out at Mount Rainier. Photo by Graham Gephart.)

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Alta Stoke

Photographer Stephen Gelb sent us these three snapshots from Alta recently, of Matthew Tosi from Alta’s Rustler Lodge ripping on Karhu Team 100s just after New Year’s Day. Great images, and great stoke... love how the cold smoke and the clouds hang together against the blue sky background. Thanks Stephen and Matthew!

(All photos by Stephen Gelb.)

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eastern Sierra Avy Center Kick-Off

From Karhu friend Nate Greenberg at the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, just after the New Year:

It’s been a few weeks since the Season Kickoff event for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, and I finally feel like I have caught my breath. The event itself was a great success, raising over $4,000 for the Center and getting folks psyched for another winter of great skiing in the Sierra.

Putting this event on every year takes a tremendous amount of work, and is a constant learning process for us. It is an extremely rewarding process, though, serving as a reminder about why we do what we do. Giving back to our community of supporters – friends & family of years past, and those new ones that just keep getting added – is really what it’s all about for me, and is where I draw most of my energy from. Support from the Industry at large is amazing as well, and without this, our job would be impossible. Many thanks, again, to Charlie & Graham and the entire
Karhu staff for their continued support of the Center… we owe you guys. Mammoth Mountain Ski Patroller John Trusdale is now a proud owner of a brand new pair of Storm BCs – courtesy of you guys. He needed them. Badly.

(John Trusdale with his new rides.)

Like the past two Season Kickoffs have done, this one brought the second major storm of the season that really got things going for us. As with most everywhere in the west, this season has been a bit weird. Most people haven’t been skiing for more than three weeks, yet somehow we have managed to rack up 15 avalanche fatalities already in North America. [Since Nate's email, that number has sadly jumped to 23 fatalities in North America.] Call it what you will – early season anxiousness, funky snow-packs due to slow season start, whatever – but we’re in the double digits and just reached 2009. People continue to make decision making errors and put themselves in situations in the backcountry which threaten their life.

What really scares me though, is the wrath of in-bounds accidents that have occurred so far this year. Outside of the deaths and major incidents that have taken place at a number of west-coast resorts in the past couple weeks, Mammoth (and others) has had several moderate size post-control avalanches hospitalize patrollers and friends for broken ribs and internal injuries. Having family and friends on patrol here and at other resorts, I know how much work they put into control measures and trying to make the area safe for skier & riders. I also know that there is only so much they can do, and given the market pressures to get things open quickly, there is always going to be a certain element of uncertainty out there.

I’ve been skiing with a beacon in-bounds on storm/post-storm days for several years now, and just this year started carrying a small pack with a shovel and probe. As skiers & riders, I believe it’s vitally important to know what’s going on with conditions and take responsibility for our decisions and actions whether in-bounds or out. Practicing smart and safe travel and skiing techniques is all a part of having fun and being safe responsible. The resort should be a good place to keep those skills sharp – not a place to just turn your brain off and go. Obviously, neither is the backcountry.

Happy New Year to all of our extended friends in this amazing community. Let’s all work together to make 2009 winter as safe, fun and amazing as possible, while we rip it up on some new Karhu skis!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Storm Diaries

The skies opened up last week in a deluge of unimaginable proportions, at one point dropping 7” of rain on Snoqualmie Pass in a 24-hour period. The avalanche danger spiked with the weight of the saturated snow on some weaker layers underneath, and the roads and ski areas all closed. A few Summit locals passed the time stranded at the Pass by documenting the road conditions (“bare & wet”) with summer-like enthusiasm.

Post-storm, the snowpack appears to be much more homogenous, eliminating some lurking layers that threatened large slides throughout the season. However, the changing conditions during the storm unleashed unprecedented destruction in a number of places. The moderately sloped main run of Hyak ski area the Pass, a regular touring site for early season or high avalanche danger, slid to the ground on Wednesday with massive amounts of mud, taking out a couple lift tours and hitting at least two homes at the base.

The rain has now passed here, and we're setting up for warm temps but sunny skis for the near future. Skiing should be nice and soft, but we really need some new snow to fill in the holes and creek beds, and cover all the rain runnels for touring.

Further north and east, Evan Stevens sent us the update from Valhalla Mountain Touring that the lodge seems to have weather the Pineapple Express with all snow. Glad to hear, as we’re heading that way in March, and the snow keeps piling up there:

While the coast has been getting rain of biblical proportions, the interior of British Columbia has been getting pounded by METERS of snow. We have had avalanches run that have not run in anyone's living memory. Up at Valhalla Mountain Touring, we have been braving the weather in the safe tree skiing right out our door, and not stepping any further away. Making ski decisions in times like this in the backcountry is easy, avoid anything even remotely close to avalanche terrain at all costs! The clear weather is here, so now we will get to see what kind of damage mother nature has caused. Here is a bit of a video diary from last week, enjoy!

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Walloped in the PNW

It's been a storm for your "stick to the ground shoes", as someone said yesterday in the office. The PNW is getting walloped by a massive Pineapple Express right now, and most of the skiers are taking cover indoors. The snowpack has been spooky through many of the mountains, and hopefully all this moisture helps things settle eventually, or at least gets them to run their course over the next day or two.

If you've been thinking about heading into the mountains, take a look at the excerpts from the NWAC forecast from Tuesday:

...Natural or human triggered slides should become certain Tuesday afternoon.

...Extreme danger does not adequately emphasize the extent of the anticipated avalanche potential for large, destructive slides that involve most of this wint
ers snow cover.

...Slides should run full depth and range up to 6 to 10 feet deep or more, with some running full path distance, expanding or extending current paths and destroying mature timber.

Let's see how things look later in the week, shall we?

(Photo from Route 2 over Stevens Pass last year. Photo by the WSDOT. The same road is currently closed with a slide over all four lanes of the highway.)

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Getting Deep at VMT

Storm season is in full force, and the interior of BC continues to do well. Karhu ambassador Evan Stevens keeps sending us reports to drool over, and we’re getting excited for a trip up there in March. Here’s the latest from Evan:

It might sound like a joke, but lately the snow has been coming in by the foot, not by inches. The storm hose is pointed right on British Columbia, and the cold smoke just keeps piling up at Valhalla Mountain Touring. We are in full swing here, with the 3rd straight week of operations, and this week has a bunch of friends from UT and CO up here to ski the pow. But instead of ranting and raving, and storytelling, I will let the pictures from the last 2 days do the talking.Get up here! We still have some spaces for this winter! All photos by's Tommy Chandler.

(Me checking out the snow as the season starts, keeping it safe.)

(Jasmin testing out the snow on yet another storm day.)

(Lindsay Yaw asks for the snorkel.)

(Me trying to get above the snow, but that is hard to do right now!)

(Jonn Webb taste-testing the snow.)

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