Friday, November 29, 2013

Asulkan training camp

Last weekend the Canadian nat’l skimo team ascended up to Asulkan hut in the Rogers Pass area for what has become our annual early winter training camp. With heavily laddened packs it’s about a 2.5 hour ski climbing 1000 vertical meters to the hut. Once there, one can ski so many wonderful lines. We stayed off the glaciers surrounding us though, as the recent storm cycle produced a lot of fractures and long crown lines. Additionally, the snow pack was enough to cover cravasses, but only thinly, so we left the glacier safety gear in the car.

morning beacon check at the hut (above); some nice powder pillows on Moraine Triangle

Really, the point was to rack up some long days, big total verts and slay some pow. We achieved all these objectives.

Canadian super skier Melanie, joined us a couple days into the camp, skiing up with her race gear. The rest of us were on fatter, heavier touring gear. Mel knows what she’s doing and displayed great skill in navigating powder on her short 160cm skinny skis. My USA friend Scott Simmons once shared he only owns 2 pair of race skis, so does all his skiing on the light sticks. It’s probably great training for moving the legs fast, plus Scott, like Mel, can really make those things work in all snow conditions.

After the camp, I needed a day of rest, but jumped back in on Tuesday with some skimo intervals. First race only a week away!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Great Times at Tent Ridge. Short & Fat?

As I awoke and peered out the window it looked as if the weatherman’s prediction of snow, high wind and blizzard conditions was coming true. Being very tempted to pull the plug and turn back into bed I made a call, but to double check the plan. It turned out one of our skiers had a 4 wheel F-150, so knowing we would at least not get stuck we decided to duck back into the mountains and hopefully avoid the storm. Sometimes these storms are on the prairies and don’t seep up into the mountains. That is exactly what happened to us.

Our destination turned out to be Tent Ridge. A first for all of us, but we’d previously scoped it out in the guidebooks. Tent Ridge is known for sliding and this week it stayed true to that depositing a sizable avalanche right down the middle. With this knowledge, and observing the already formed cornices all around (ridge top is quite exposed from every direction and had cornices from every direction), we made for the trees. On either side are nice stands of well spaced larch trees. We made about 6 runs on one side, then bolted for the other.

Unlike the previous week, we didn’t see a single other skier. They were either all slugging it out on Highwood (a.l.a. last week-see previous blog), or hunkered down fearing the weather report. By the end of the day the sun even poked out. So much for the predicted blizzard.

On this day I dug into my quiver and pulled out the 163cm Atomic Kailas skis. Their dimensions are 125-85-100. Short, fat, shapely, kinda like a Maryln Monroe of skis (well at least the shapely part). With the short length they turn so well. The sidecut gives them a nice carve and there’s enough width to float well over pow. I got to wondering if I should have ordered the 167cm Dynafit Huascarans instead of the 178's last year. I’ve often felt a short, fat ski would be a lot of fun. Many of my friends get longer skis so they can "charge hard" they say, but I sure like the turnability of a shorter ski and the reduced weight.

That elusive quiver of one is still out there somewhere, yet to be discovered.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Not a Whole Lotta Love at Highwood

Led Zepplin’s hard driving rock song "Whole lotta love" cranked from the car stereo as we pulled into the unbelievably full Highwood pass parking lot for some early season turns. Usually that last song is the one that sticks in your brain for the day, so I was glad the music matched the stoke my Skimo world’s teams race partner and I were feeling. Unfortunately I was soon to learn that there wasn’t a whole lotta love in the backcountry scene that day.

First off, as we were staging our gear in the parking lot, a very slow moving large pickup truck proceeded to run over one of my skis. I quickly ran over, protesting loudly so the rear wheels wouldn’t find the same target. It was to no avail. The bandits seemed to uncaringly ignore me. I’m so glad K2's light paulonia wood core was up to the task as any foam core certainly would’ve been damaged for sure. I yelled at them, "you guys must be snowboarders. Did you know you just ran over my skis?" They didn’t care, no apology, nothing. Then when they got out I noticed they weren’t using split boards or snowshoes..hello post-holing on the skin track.

The next encounter featured 2 hikers. We saw them leave the parking lot and wondered why they’d travel all the way to the pass to hike in 3-4 feet of snow when the valley trails were still pretty usable. We quickly caught up to them. One glanced back when I was only 4-6' behind him. At that point he squarely positioned himself in the middle of the trail so I couldn’t pass. I didn’t feel like opening my mouth as I wasn’t sure I could resist chewing them out for walking/wrecking the skin track. As I attempted to pass he squeezed over to try to keep me from going around. I went anyway. As I did he sarcastically said, "excuse me". As if that’s what he was expecting me to say. I joined his game and sarcastically accepted his non apology and said, "ok".

Pter at the Pass

The next group was tailed by a snowboarder (he at least had a split-board and wasn’t screwing up the track). I politely asked to pass on the right. He didn’t budge. I patiently skinned behind him for a bit at a 1/4 of the speed I was previously travelling at. A 2nd time I asked to go around. No budge. Finally with just a bit of space I busted a move and got around him. As we passed his other slightly more cooperative ski mates, they gave me a look that said, "how dare you pass me?".

On the zig-zag uphill to the start of the run we passed a couple other guys. They were obviously a little more experienced and we had a nice chat. As we shared our stories I had the thought that these newbies need to understand the ethics of the bc world a little better. I wondered aloud if they’d even bother to help in a possible rescue scenario...or if they’d even be able to.

Once we got away from the masses though we got some great turns in. 10 runs in all. Stellar weather, great company (the more hardy that went a little deeper in the bc were great-even the snowboarders). Great to be in the back country and on the boards again!