Monday, March 26, 2012

1971 Ski Stoke

These guys rip! They're all in their 60's and 70's now and I bet they STILL rip!

Super fun to watch!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

May I have more potatoes, please?

Sometimes, I just guess wrong.

With the recent snow and excellent conditions, I thought we might be able to eke out one more day of powder and hit one of my favorite lines in the Rubies, Snake up at the top of Snell Canyon. Mike, being the good sport that he is, agreed to give it a shot. We probably should have stuck to Plan A.

The forecast said that it wasn't supposed to get above freezing up there, but I swear to God it felt like about 50 degrees! In any event, all of our lovely powder turned into mashed potatoes at best, gnarly mank at worse, even in mostly north-facing and beautifully-treed Snell. That's usually a consistently excellent line, but not today.

At least we got out on a gorgeous day, got good exercise with good company in a spectacular place. Who's to complain? I could have actually achieved work today.

Things started auspiciously, with a cold and gorgeous morning out my back door.

My wonderful husband agreed to pick Mike and me up at the end of the day, saving us from having to shuttle trucks. Good lord, how much worse would this have been an hour later! It didn't take long for the snow to start getting heavy and for the up to turn into a lot of work.

Even so, it was a glorious day to enjoy a Great Basin winter view.

Cody enjoyed the up. Hell, Cody enjoys most anything.

It was nice to take a break and watch this critter for a while up near the top. We couldn't get very close to him and I was wishing I had a better camera... pretty sure he/she was a bighorn but I can't be sure. If it was, we were lucky to see him, as there's been a huge die-off of these guys in the Rubies recently. Click on the picture to make it bigger, you can see him a little better.

When we finally got to the top, we were treated to some welcome cloud cover... and rollerballs. Not auspicious. I was hoping the more northerly aspect would be a little colder, but no such luck.

Even so, after a quick sandwich and a call to my sweetie to let him know when to pick us up, we got ready to head on down.

The first few hundred feet skied pretty well. The snow was heavy but turnable.

We had a bit of a discussion about how we wanted to get out of there. The best line heads off right to the heliski's landing zone - but it takes a pretty good bushwhack to get out of the canyon from there. I generally opt to avoid the bushwhack and head off skier's left, which means a big traverse and missing some of the best snow of the run. With the mank and thin cover, we opted to go for the best line, bushwhack be damned.

We could use a few elk around here to improve the skier habitat.

Even with the conditions, Mike made some quality turns above the LZ.

And then paid for the pleasure with a mank-snow bushwhack out... that got worse as the day went on. Ugh.

I'm not a PBR fan, but it sure tasted wonderful by the time we got down. It's been a long time since I've been that tired. I'm glad we got out but I hope I guess more accurately next time around.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Current conditions info

Seems like everybody in Elko County is involved with mining in some way, myself included. I mine for data rather than gold, though, particularly when I'm trying to figure out if it's worth heading up to catch a ski day.

Here are a few of my favorite internet haunts when I'm trying to get an idea of what's happening in the Rubies:

SNOTEL - The Lamoille #3 SnoTel site is handy for figuring out how much snow's fallen recently, as well as for seeing what the temperature is up to (or down to, as it were). It's located at about Thomas Canyon, at 7700' or so, so you have to extrapolate a bit to figure out temperature higher in the range. Keep in mind that snow totals here may be completely off from higher up, as the wind has a tendency to blow things to hell up there.

Lamoille #3 SnoTel

SNOW COURSE DATA - The Lamoille #5 Snow Course measurement site is located just above Road's End in Lamoille Canyon. They update it manually and only once a month, so read the info with that in mind. It's a lot closer to accurate the first week of the month than later on, obviously. It does give you an idea of how the season is stacking up compared to previous years, what the base depth is at the time they checked it, etc.

Lamoille #5 Snow Course

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE - There are a couple of different places I go for info from these guys. The first link is pretty handy as it gives you an idea of what they think it's going to do over the course of the day. It's a point forecast which, right now, is set up on a ridgeline near Mt. Gilbert. You can move the point around as you like to see what it is forecast to look like pretty specifically around the range.

NWS Forecast Table

Here's another good one. This graph shows, among other things, wind speed and direction, forecast temperature, forecast wind chill for the point you select.

This link shows forecast conditions up at road's end at the head of Lamoille Canyon:

Road's end weather chart

This link shows you what they think is going on up on the ridgelines west of Lamoille Lake

Ridgeline weather chart

There is all kinds of good info on that site... click around and see what suits you best.

UTAH AVALANCHE CENTER - While our conditions aren't a direct correlation with what's happening over in Utah, they are the closest avalanche forecasting center and we do often have a similar snowpack. Checking here doesn't replace digging your own pits and doing your own research, but it is a good place to look for ideas. According to the guy who taught my last avy class, our snowpack tends to be most similar to that in the Uintas.

Utah Avalanche Center

RUBY MOUNTAIN HELISKI - CONDITIONS PAGE - Last, but a long ways from least, I check out RMH's "Conditions" page. There's a lot of info to be had there if you're familiar with some of the terrain they ski. Besides, the pictures are generally excellent.

Ruby Mountain Heliski - Current Conditions

Finally, I look out my window. By the time I'm done cruising around all of these sites it's generally light out and I can see if there's new snow, spindrift on the ridges, etc. If the wind's howling at my house there's an excellent chance that it's howling up there, too. Handy to live this close.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


So, the good news - it was good fluffy light non wind-affected excellent skiing out there today, with a bunch of friends I've not had the chance to ski with before.

The bad news - no pics. Sorry. I can come up with a whole bunch of excuses, but the bottom line is that I was having way too much fun to want to stop mid-run today and take photos of other people's face shots. I was too busy enjoying my own.

Here are a couple of photos from previous ski days that represent the flavor of what today's photos would have looked like, had I not been so intensely selfish. Bottom line: about 10" of very light and fluffy non-wind-affected snow (at least in protected places), flat light, significant wind in less protected places.

I did a number of laps in Ambrosia with some friends. A couple of other folks headed into the Dollars and set off some slabs in 2 1/2 (not unexpected). First Dollar skied beautifully, as did the Ambrosia Trees.


On another note - how small does a person's life have to be for him to want to purposefully mess up somebody's else's fun? "Gee, those guys look like they're having an excellent time - let's go fuck it all up for them!" We were skiing in Ambrosia today, and some jerk of a snowmobiler high marked right where we were skiing. And then he came back and high marked a few feet over.

It must be tough to have such a small penis.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In celebration of bluebirds

It's been windy as hell the last couple of days, which only suits when said wind is blowing in a big storm system. The weather guessers say that is, indeed, the case, and that we should have a big fat dose of freshies by the end of the weekend.

We'll see.

In the meantime, here are a couple more photos from last week in the Rubies. If we can't have powder I'm happy to have bluebird skies, gorgeous surroundings, and good company.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A sad day for the BC community

Very sad news from the Jackson, WY area, as Rando Steve and his partner Chris Onufer die in an avalanche.

They were extremely experienced folks up on a day the local avalanche forecasters called "moderate."

A tragic day for their families and friends. Sobering for those of us who are regularly out on "moderate" days. It can, and does, happen to the very best of us.

Steve Romeo

Chris Onufer

Coverage from

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Well, it's better than it could be...

One of the genuine joys of being a local is that I don't have to play Russian roulette with my ski days. If it's nice out and it just snowed, I ski. If it's been a while since it snowed, I don't. That doesn't guarantee good conditions but it does at least give me a shot at them.

This year, as craptastic as it's been snowpack-wise, has yielded up some pretty sweet skiing. Have I had the huge blower powder days I've enjoyed in the past? Well, no. But that's not to say that excellent turns can't be found when one goes looking.

The USDA's measurement gnomes tell us that the Lamoille #5 Snowcourse site is at 48% of normal this year. Any way you slice it, that sucks. It means that lower-altitude, non-sled-access skiing requires a real PIA of an approach. It means that there are a whole lot more of those "unmarked obstacles" that seem to want to eat a girl's skis. It means that it takes longer for old tracks to fill in, whether they're made by skis or snowmobiles. It means that some of our favorite lines may not fill in to the point that they're worth skiing at all this year.

That said, even a make-do year in the Rubies beats just about anyplace else on Earth. At least in my opinion.

By the way - click on the pix to make them bigger. It's worth it. The first three are of my friend Mike Glasgow, the last one is a pic that Mike took of me.