Sunday, March 27, 2011

An amazing March

It's hard to believe it's the end of March, at least when you're up in the mountains. Down here in the valley it's full-on mud season, and I wish it would either dry up or freeze solid. Anything but mud. Up in the mountains, though, Old Man Winter is giving it all he's worth.

Conditions were a little "wonky" today, to use Kevin L.'s term... there's been a lot of wind with all of this new snow and it was easy to set off some soft wind slabs. I set off one that didn't run anywhere, Kevin set one off that ran for 80 feet or so. Enough to get a person's attention, at any rate. There were long-running sluffs coming off of steeper, rocky terrain, with a few crowns evident in the usual places.

It's all making for excellent, fluffy skiing, just not a day for taking chances with steeper, more windloaded stuff.

Can't take credit for this photo... Brett took this great photo of Kevin L.:

Dave in Mini-Me:

and into the trees...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Powder everywhere

Amazing up there today. Light was flat so pix aren't up to standard.

Skiing was off the hook.

Dave and I took a few laps in the Dollars, waiting for the light to get good enough for a shot at Liberty Peak. No such luck, I'm afraid. We did take one run off of the shoulder into a steep little chute, but other than that stayed a bit lower where the light was sorta kinda better.

Man - the snow this AM was amazingly light and non-wind-affected. It was snowing with enthusiasm when we left... should be untracked again tomorrow.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ridiculously good out there

The ongoing wind and the sketch avalanche conditions have made this an interesting season, to say the least. Sometimes, though, God just sends us a big old pile of powder, as if to say "stick it out, you know the great days make it so worth it."


We had quite a bit of new snow last night... the skin track was knee deep, with 325 cm at the snow stake. There was 311 cm when I was up there on Tuesday. It wasn't the lightest snow we've ever had but it was quite skiable and neither the wind nor the snowmobiles had torn it up. There were a lot of sluffs everywhere, a few crowns but mostly on very steep rocky terrain with thin snow.

Brett and I had a ball. What a day to catch it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lots of snow

Some pics from a fluffy day. 311 cm at the snow stake.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chututorial 101

Had a fun day skiing in Ely on Sunday - location undisclosed in an attempt to keep it open for skier access. There's been some talk about this area potentially being closed to the public because of concerns from the private property owner at the base - it's his right to keep people out if he wants but I sure as hell hope he doesn't follow through, that's some of my favorite spring skiing anywhere.

I shot video rather than stills, and so will post up when I get a vid of the day put together. In the meantime, here's this:

Andrew McLean put this together and posted it on his Straight Chuter blog - a well-done look at the thought process of an excellent skier in very technical terrain.

The nice part about that video for a weekend warrior like me is that it reaffirms some of the choices I make and techniques I use when I'm out there. Thanks, Andrew, for sharing - I for one am happy to learn at your knee.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I don't know if it was the conditions, or the avalanche rating from the Utah Avalanche Center, or if it was the story I posted up yesterday... but it was a spooky day for me in the Rubies today.

Mike and I headed up to Madigan's Chutes, with an idea of peeking over the top of the second chute into the Colonel Moore drainage... some good spring skiing in there and plans are cooking. We saw a little slide activity on the way up - a crown on Flake Off, a new slide in Terminal Cancer, several small fractures and sluffs on both sides of the road as we headed up. The wind had hit the snow and turned it into a foot-thick slab, on top of some weaker layers, with January's death layer lurking underneath.

I used my poles on the way up to test the snow, and we took precautions on the uptrack with routing and spacing. No whoomps... but still... while it was safe for today I was spooked enough to be happy to switch locations after the first run.

Gorgeous place, though, and decent but stiff skiing, even on a flat-light windblown day.

I took my time on the way down and had my spookiness confirmed... Ice Capades had slid big while we were up there. Mike later heard from the heliski guys that there are huge natural slides all over the range right now.

Think it's a good time to take a short break from skiing and ride my road bike for a while, give the snowpack a chance to settle down.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sobering write-up

This didn't happen here, but it could. The Rubies are slide terrain, and as such can be a dangerous place to visit.

This is a thread from TGR (Teton Gravity Research) started by a gentleman who was part of a party involved in a recent fatal avalanche incident. He was the only member of the group not buried. Two people died; he was able to save one life through level-headed thinking and action.

A note that he had written to the families of the dead was circulated rather quickly around the Internet, and as such he thought it appropriate to give people the opportunity to learn from his experience. A brave choice.

Anyway, read this:

Smithers BC Avalanche Fatality Incident Report

A good opportunity to assess the choices we make every day in the backcountry, and to do some very sober introspection about what any of us would do in that man's boots.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Another day, another Dollar

Took a short tour up to the Dollars today with Mike and Kevin - hard to argue with beautiful fluffy snow, glorious sunshine, and NO (count 'em) NO snowmobiles, other than those using sleds to get to the bottom of ski terrain. Didn't take many pictures as I've posted a lot of them over the years of the Dollar Chutes. Just a couple for fun. The last shot, down Ambrosia, lived up to the name in every single respect. Blower face-shot powder on a steepish pitch. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.........

Here's the real news of the day, though -Terminal Cancer slid yesterday. Pretty big. Big enough to kill somebody, if they were in TC when it went.

A lot of folks are pretty damned cavalier about this shot, and it pisses me off because it's going to get somebody killed someday. Hell, somebody was even making their way up it today, even with first hand evidence that conditions were unstable above the couloir! They were above the debris, below the huge cornice and ice-crusted rocks, late in the day while the temperature went up, just asking for it IMHO.

Darwin Award candidates. Maybe it'll take killing somebody to give this terrain trap the respect it deserves.