Monday, March 31, 2008


Spring time brings with it some of the greatest snow conditions around, at least for learning. On second thought, even not for learning. The warm sun, the softer snow, and the ability to sit out on the slopes in a deck chair while enjoying a beer. How much better can life get?

Oh maybe checking out the fresh vegetation growth going on. For example here we see a very rare species of tree native to the area sprouting.

This beautiful tree known as Picea Pungens Braticus sprouts a yearly collection of bras that come to full bloom during the time frame that coincides with spring break. Look at the natural hues of red and tan in full display. A very rare sight indeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In-bounds Avy

We received a good bit of snow over the past few days, and once again I was there for the early morning dawn patrol clearing out the instructor hut. Once again I was invited to do some early morning Avy patrol, which was going to happen a little later due to the delayed opening that day.

We have two major areas of concern in this process, the east and west facing cliff zones. On this particular morning we started on the west side and were moving towards the east. Within the first few blasts, we were able to see the east side was not that stable just from the sound waves on the west. Small powdery slides were happening occasionally. While we were on the path over to the east side we got a fairly clear view of the east wall area where most of the slides occur. Sitting above the wall were three guys on snowboards, who had obviously hiked up, and were now scouting out lines down. We watched in horror as one strapped on his board and cut his first line running it out towards the trees.

The second guy strapped in but was not nearly as lucky. As he dropped beyond his buddies cut line, the entire slab came free underneath him. I watched the entire thing oblivious to the activity going on around me. One patrol member was already on the radio calling in for a search crew, while another was keeping a visual marker of where the boarder was within the slide. He eventually lost sight of the boarder as the slide pushed him towards a wooded area.

The third guy apparently had some common sense and started making calls to get a rescue crew and find out what happened to friend #1. He informed us none of them had an avy beacon on because they thought in-bounds would have been patrolled already.

The following few minutes were very rushed and my recollection spotty. I've taken the avy training before, but this was the first I'd witnessed with any human participants involved. It was a much different feeling then the search for a beacon. A lot of probing, searching, and a few false leads. The good news is we did find the snowboarder, who was very lucky. Buried in the snow, his face was exposed, although he was knocked out. His board had broken between the legs and semi-wrapped itself around a tree. His ankles were broke when the bindings did not release and his crotch was firmly pressed into the splintered board section.

Lesson to be learned, despite the fact that in-bounds is avy patrolled, it does not mean it has been yet. The area was roped off before we started hand charges, and the resort as a whole was very closed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Power of One Run

I was given the chance of a lifetime this past weekend. Arriving very early to start cleaning up the ski school and prep the area for customers I was approached by a few members of Ski Patrol. This is typically not much of an issue as the school usually talks a lot with them early morning to know what the run schedule will be like. I've typically have always offered to join them for an early morning of checking the runs, but have historically been declined. Apparently this was the day. With the amount of snow we'd received over the past week, the seasonal shift (a lot of the Volys are starting to do other things now), and the expected lower crowds I was invited to join the early morning avy patrol.

I had my boots, gear, and skis ready in 3 minutes.

Once at the top, I was paired off with two veteran patrollers who were assigned the back country area. A few boot packing moments later we're at the top of the ridge looking down on a pure white blanket of fresh snow. While I never was given the chance to throw the hand charges, I have to admit it was a blast to watch the snow go flying and set forth the rumbling of snow down below.

When all was said and done, I was offered first tracks down a section while the other two took first tracks down other runs. As I approached my run, I spotted another skier who was on dawn patrol coming up the backside of the mountain and figured I'd ask how the hike was. His paced quickened when he saw me come to a stop, check out a line, and look back over at him. A minute later he was at the top, out of breath, and standing about 100 yards away from me. I glanced back at him, he pulled out a huge smile and I just shook my head in a yes motion. We took off down the run enjoying the fresh few inches of powder and met at the bottom. He thanked me for waiting and joined me for another couple runs. All said, it was a great day!

While our morning didn't get any slides like these guys do, still it's a good view on what happens in the early AM hours....

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Gaper Day teaser?

Not sure if it's from the same group of fine folks who brought us the great Gaper Day 2007 video, but it seems to be making the rounds as "Gaper Day 2008 teaser"... or at least it's been passed to me that way by a couple of people. In any case, it's a little long, not very well edited yet, and clearly does not have enough gaper-ness in it. It still made me laugh. :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Ides of March

Is it really March already? The sun is out, the weather is getting warmer, there are flowers beginning to bloom, and the snow is still falling. What?

I'm convinced that every resort dreads the beginning of March for a couple of reasons. First, many of the big money spenders are now disappearing to watch their March Madness basketball series. The hard core riders are still out there, but these are not the demographic that resorts are looking for. Second the seasons begin to change, many of the younger kids are being pulled into sports like tennis and baseball practices on the weekend. The crowds begin to thin out rather dramatically.

Even some of the hardcore riders begin to have thoughts of not coming to the mountains to play. I'm not sure what causes it, but everyone seems to notice it. Including SKIING, The Professional Skier, The Professional Snowboarder, and the trip sites. Truth is there is still some killer snow out there waiting to be run over. Better yet, there are some amazing deals to be found that will let you go and visit many of the mega-resorts for super cheap.

Welcome to spring season! God I love it!