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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