Thursday, April 3, 2014

Out for a Stroll in the Tetons

This season we decided to do a little backyard exploration in the Teton Range for Backcountry Mag, so we took a few days to wander around the more untrammeled parts of the Tetons in between Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee. We crossed the range to the northwest heading from JHMR and ending at GT; three skiers, three days (we had to speed it up a little due to weather) and about 30 miles. Fun! 

The lines we saw were big amazing, and abundant; while a big trek to access, and the snow and weather conditions were not conducive to skiing them this time...but definitely worth putting on the list for the future! In the meantime, we had an awesome traverse, some weather and route finding adventures...and the best tasting beers ever at the Trapp Bar when we finally got to Grand Targhee on Wednesday night. 

These photos don't quite do any of the scenery justice, but luckily my photog friend John Slaughter came to shoot the action for the magazine. 

We started with an apres lift-served skiing beer at the Moose...

Heading out the gate and up Cody!

Then we skipped the Arch due to...not amazing snow. The first of a few intended, but skipped descents along the way.

A lovely morning at Marion Lake! 

Miles and miles of the massive Death Canyon shelf! 

Some clouds, precipitation, and hellacious winds joined the party on the second morning!


Shoulder of Table Mountain

Hitching back around the range to Jackson

 Could there be a better sight at the end of a multi-day, heavy-pack laden ski boots mission!? 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Reconnaissance mission in the Swiss Alps

Even though the European Alps dominate ski lore, history and culture, I'd never made much of an effort to go check them out. When you are operating on a, erm, slim-type budget and looking for extended trips, Canada, Chile and Argentina offered plenty of bang for the buck! Six weeks in Argentina would equal out to about a week or so in Switzerland or France cost-wise, with plenty of huge peaks and deep snow to boot, so I kept heading south and north (plus, no jet lag and all I need to know to speak with everyone are English and Spanish. Easy peasy travel).

But! every now and then it is time to expand horizons, so when the opportunity to work with ISPO in Munich came up earlier this winter, I extended the trip for a few weeks to wander off from Munich to Verbier, Switzerland and Chamonix, France, and see what all the hype was about with skiing in the Alps. I also ended up with a super fun day in Courmayeur, Italy. I find I may have erred in not making a trip happen sooner! Skiing in continental Europe is mind-blowingly awesome - plus, lots of new friends and friends from Jackson who were over there made the trip even better. So now that I am full of story ideas and armed with a couple of assignments, I'm looking forward to heading back in April for some more organized adventures.

Castles in Munich
Muenchen metro

A little waiting for trains
Switzerland = punctuality. 
The famed Clambin! 

A mountain spring with a champagne cork floating in it, naturally. 

My first day in Chamonix, strolling off the Aiguille du Midi

Wild Bill and Meredith! 

Back to Verbier! My homebase while in Europe this time, I really loved this place! 

Hasta muy pronto, Alps. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Sleeper Stars of the Ski Lift World

Recently I had the distinct - and really entertaining - privilege of writing a fun story for The Wall Street Journal on one of my favorite things - old ski lifts. Sure they are slow, creaky, and often cold but they are awesome, fun, full of character and history, and to me, an integral part of skiing inbounds. The premise of the piece was really that skiing inbounds isn't just about speedy, high capacity lifts and every luxury amenity - but being out there on a dawdling lift, swinging above the slopes, checking out the next line to ski and ample time to chit-chat with friends.

There are two lifts that are favorites of mine that did not quite make it into the piece, but that I want to mention: the Summit Chair on Snow King Mountain, in Jackson, Wyoming, and the Pallavacini Chair at Arapahoe Basin in Summit County, Colorado (which is one of the best all around ski hills, to boot!).

These are both awesome chairs that I have skied a ton, and access super fun, steep, terrain that will seriously give your quads a run for the money if you keep on lapping them. I pretty much learned to ski at A-Basin, and the Pali chair instilled a love for steep, double fall line bumps and gave me just about all my skills, airing into and pounding high speed bumps (or GS-ing them, rather) tight, steep trees, and cliffy sections for lap after lap. You can get quite the day in if you spend it all on Pali.

This is the view of the town of Jackson from the top of Snow King - priceless and beloved by all Jackson locals!

Summit chair and ticket office!

Snow King also happened to turn 75 years old this season. This is their New Year's eve torchlight parade. So charming!  I don't have any photos of Pali lying around - I'll have to look around and add some!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Northern Norway: Lofoten and Senja

Oh, Norway. I can't help but sometimes get fixated on incredible places and just want to keep going back - although in the case of this little northern outpost, I am a little tempted to pack it up and just move there for a while. For now, another three and-a-half weeks must suffice...and I traveled back there in April of this year for some more of the endless exploring and insane skiing. The crew and I skied on Senja Island, starting out at the Senja Lodge, and then in the Lofoten Islands, and around Narvik and Harstad. We flew via Oslo on SAS into Harstad/Narvik, the shared airport about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

The main reason for this trip was an assignment for Backcountry Magazine and Snow Magazine, along with some smaller stories that should all be out in 13/14. I mostly wanted to check out and bring attention to the Den Norske Turistforning (DNT) hut system that they have in Norway.

DNT was started in the mid-1800’s as part of an effort to promote Norwegian nationalism – and outdoor adventure and fit citizens is something that Norway holds in high regard as a cultural attribute. DNT is still expanding today. Its 509 huts are complemented by another approximately 700 privately run, similar huts, which along with DNT locations are all marked on this map: (scroll out and up to see the northern regions). This trip, I went with Rachael Burks, Brandyn Roark, and Re Wikstrom came to shoot.

Snowy mountains and blue fjords!

I found this drawing in a book in one of the huts, it means "on the roof of Norway." 

This was our first couloir on Senja, which is a relatively undiscovered backcountry ski heaven - and from what else I could see, ice climbing and mountaineering as well.

Fish drying, a traditional food in Norway

A view of some peaks surrounding the tiny fishing town of Mefjordvaer - one of plenty of towns on Senja that was accesible only by sea until recent and aggressive road tunnels were put in under the mountains. 

It was difficult to leave Senja, and the lovely and entertaining little Senja Lodge, as the island was filled with peaks and couloirs and powder and beautiful things, but we had to keep on track to investigate the DNT huts. So we drove down six hours south to Lofoten, and headed out to Trollfjordhytta from Svolvaer. One good thing about Norway is that each place is just about as spectacular as the last, and this was true for Lofoten.

 I wanted to do the six - eight hour overland ski mountaineering route first, but avalanche conditions were fluctuating and so we opted for a safer way - hire a boat and approach the hut from the water. It was a one hour boat ride, and I was in no way sad we had to go the easy route. It was super fun and spectacular line scoping...for the next trip, I guess. 

We hired a local fisherman to take us to one of the more remote huts, called Trollfjordhytta, in the Lofoten Islands. Before we hopped in the boat he was still hosing out fish guts and blood, so we didnt get it all over our gear. It was pretty awesome. 

See you in four days, Nigel! His boat was the No Problem II. He is from Britain, originally, and was totally hilarious. He was very worried about leaving us out in the middle of nowhere.

 Some terrain at Trollfjordhytta

Burks took this iphone photo of me skiing some Trollfjord pow

Our ice bench outside the actual, awesome little hut

Basically - the huts are a ticket to get out and ski the most incredible terrain and days you might ever have on skis, making a ski trip to one of the world's most expensive countries entirely doable. And then you may even meet other skiers or mountaineers in the huts, which is always fun. And in this case, unpredicatable: the DNT runs on a no-reservation, honor payment plan. It's been working for the last 145 years, the DNT spokeswoman told me, why change it? "We trust our visitors," she said. 

It was so amazing - Norway does know how it get it done in the outdoors, that is one sure thing. 

After that, I went to visit an architectural beauty: Juvet Landscape Hotel, a gleaming, glass-cubed, minimalist hotel in the West Norwegian Fjords. I heard about it from a friend on the Freeride World Tour, who competes with the owner's daughter on the big mountain ski circuit. The glass cabins are built to inspire you to get outside, not stay inside. I've now decided to write some best-sellers and make millions so that I can fly this architect (Jan Olav Jensen of Jensen and Skodvin) over here to build my house. 

I finished up with a visit to see some old friends from when I lived in Canada, who are back in Norway and living in Ål, and then a night in Olso and a metal concert, and then it was so fun - I was entirely exhausted on my trip back to the States. And still kind of scheming about a move to Norway....