Storm Skiing at RotaRun in Hailey.
A dream came true the other day–I was able to take my oldest kiddo, Kaia (9 years old), out on her first backcountry ski tour! We went up to Galena Pass and skinned up a few hundred vert to the top of a mellow slope, dug down to the ground (a whoping 1.5′ of snow) for some snow analysis, and then enjoyed our first turns together as backcountry partners!
We had a blast and Kaia, on her own, mentioned how she enjoyed the quiet and the spectacular views. Since this trip, she’s been begging to get out again!
I don’t know if it’s part of “Global Wierding” or the simple fact that random back to back storms left Idaho’s high country with about two feet of snow? Regardless, as bizarre as it was, being able to ski over 1000′ of snow in the alpine region of the Pioneer Mountains on October 5th was a welcome treat.
South Central Idaho recently received a few early season snow storms that have covered the alpine region of some of the nearby ranges with early snow. Christopher Cook, Russel, and I made plans to take “our skis for a walk” this morning in hopes of making a few turns.
When I woke up at 4:30 today, it wasn’t because my alarm sounded, rather, it was the rain that was pelting our metal roof. Rain is not welcome on ski days and I wondered if I should stay in bed. I rolled out and into the kitchen where I realized that I was up early and had beat the coffee machine’s timed brew. After getting the coffee started, I walked upstairs to grab a rain cover for my camera bag and almost stepped in a puddle of green and sparkley diarrhea left by my dog, no doubt caused by her having eaten a bowl of my kids homemade magic-sand. Not the best start what could be the first day of the ski season, but, minor considering the larger picture.
I cleaned up the dog mess, cooked a few eggs while the coffee brewed, and then checked the snowtel sites to see if it was snowing up high. Two of the higher snow sites were recording temps in the high 30′s. Enough said, might as well keep with the plan and head up into the alpine to see if we could link some turns.
Leaving Ketchum the temperature was 42 and by the time the truck was on the trail in 4-low, it wasn’t dropping like we’d hoped-still just 40. Though we were passing patches of snow, we were stuck in the rain. That said, looking up canyon looked revealed vistas that gave us hope and we kept on with each roll of the tire, step of the boots, and finally slide of the skins until the temps fell and the precip morphed into its beloved frozen crystal state. Then, at that magic moment with the skins off our skis, goggles on, and boots buckled tight, we all enjoyed the return of that ever addicting, phenomenally fascinating, feeling of skiing. This time, for the first time, in Idaho in September!
I’ve been wearing my flip flops around town the last few weeks and I can’t really see any snow from my house other than little patches which are nestled in shady north facing nooks and crannies. With such amazing weather here in the Wood River Valley, I started tuning up my mountain bike by rebuilding the front fork, and lubing up the chain and derailleurs. Yes, my mind began to wander away from the snow covered peaks that lie just 30 miles north. But, thankfully, Danny Walton reached out and helped me pull my head out of my ass! Winter may officially be over, but, Spring skiing is just beginning. He and I headed up to Mushroom ridge today for some turns. Though the wind was nuking, snow swirling, and north faces scoured, we found some nice turns up high and survived the breakable crusts down low.
Yesterday morning K2 and Mammut athlete, Danny Walton, and I had a few hours to ski together and sessioned the aptly named “Coyote Creek” area just south of Galena Lodge. The entrance to the Coyote drainage is littered with features including: pillows, tight lines, and tree runs. While the runs are short, it is a fun place to play and as in Native American lore–it always feels like Coyote is right around the next rock outcropping ready to play some tricks on you!
This morning, Laura and Drew were married and signed for their lives in a way most people don’t think of doing–at least on their wedding day. These two signed a release form stating that their wedding ceremony might cause bodily harm, or, perhaps even kill them! You see, Laura and Drew went Heli-Skiing for their wedding! After an introduction to helicopter and avalanche safety, we were flying deep into the Smoky Mountains for both their ceremony and the backcountry ski runs that followed.
Up on a 10,000 foot mountain in the middle of Idaho, Drew’s brother married this firefighter and paramedic. It was a beautiful and windless Sun Valley day. The ceremony was emotional and none of the birds or other small creatures objected to their marriage! Sun Valley Heli Ski and their pilot were incredibly accommodating to the request for a portrait with the helicopter in the air which happened just after their “I do’s.” Once the ship was gone, the group skied off the peak and spent the rest of the day heli-skiing! Congrats to Laura and Drew–such an amazing and memorable wedding!
Between a rock and a hard place is a pretty good description of the Terminal Cancer Couloir, except the connotation of the phrase is opposite the experience of skiing this unique line. Rumor has it that the two founders of Ruby Mountain Heli Skiing saw the line back in the days of skinny 210 skis and one said, “I wouldn’t ski that thing even if I had terminal cancer!” They skied it the next day!
One thing I’ve come to love throughout the years of backcountry skiing, is the phenomenal places you find yourself. True, with hiking and traveling in general, there are moments when the landscape truly envelops you and the scene blows your mind. But, add the experience of skiing in such a moment and it’s a sensation unparalleled. Couloir skiing is all about finding long lines of snow isolated between two rock walls. The Terminal Cancer Couloir is unique in its consistent length, width and pitch. Yesterday was perhaps the most unique skiing experience I’ve had thus far.
It’s said that a good story needs confict, however, ours has none: I slept in the back of my van; we met at the trailhead at dawn; the road had yet to be plowed so our hike in would be four miles longer; up, up, up the couloir we went switching from skins to bootpacking and then back to skins again; lunch on top; and an amazing descent in new, soft, powder. Regarding backcountry skiing, no conflict is good conflict; it simply means you had a great day, in a great place, with great friends.