Sunday, March 30, 2008

Winding Down at the Lodge

Well, the last full week of the season has come to an end. Mother nature was really working for us lately, with January like conditions. All week the temps were cooler than normal, with partly cloudy skies and 5cms of new snow everyday. By yesterday, we were getting cold smoke face shots-it was too good to be true.

For me, the week was a good one. It is my last full group that I am guiding here at the lodge this season, and with the way the snowpack has been here lately (really scary!) the fact that we skied 45,000 vertical feet this week in all corners of our terrain safely means that the season was a full on success. We also checked out a few new runs that I had never skied before, opening up some soon to be classic areas to ski for years to come.

Monday was also my 30th birthday, which for me, and many others is a milestone in itself. Any hints of feeling like I was getting old though, were fully washed, I should say snowed, away this last week though by my new hero Pierre. Pierre is a guest who joined us from Reno, NV and he skied more than anyone else this last week. He was also the oldest member of the group, as he turns 69 this year, and he had at least 10 years on everyone in the group. Everyday he toured for 7 grand and the only thing stopping him was the sunset! A true inspiration for us all - you are only as old as you feel, and I hope I feel like Pierre when I am 69!

It was a snowy week, but here are a few shots from the last few days...

Pierre working the powder above Shannon Lake

The group looks for their lines under the cliffs of Mt. Vingolf

Perfect powder under the spires above Shannon Lake

Now I have just a few guests for 5 more days at Valhalla Mountain Touring, and then I get to hang out in the sun in Utah for 2 weeks, and hopefully remember how to rock climb!

Alas, ski season is far from over...April 20th I fly to Valdez, AK for a week of guiding and 12 days of training potential ski guides as I work a course for the American Mountain Guides Association. I will be sure to keep posting through all of these trips. Valdez is an amazing ski venue, and you do NOT need a helicopter to appreciate it! The roadside skiing of Thompson Pass is unrivaled - check back in to see for yourselves!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Homefront Explorations

Well, I finally have some time off. Not much, just 9 days, but man does it feel good not to be guiding for a few days. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my job, you see what I get up to! But 33 days in a row is alot of work, even if it is my dream job. I think I tallied something close to 200,000' vertical feet in that stint of works-that's a lot of steeps, glades, bowls, pow and chutes so I am definitely not complaining!

I came home to Jasmin (my wife) who I have been missing lots lately...hopefully she will just be my assistant guide next season, so we won't be apart too much. My first day off I spent watching her take second in the Powderkeg Ski Race, way to go! (you can track her adventures at!) My other week off treat was getting really sick. Funny how I have seen every sickness come in from all corners of the continent with each new week of guests at Valhalla Mountain Touring and my body holds on to its health until it knows it doesn't have to anymore. Work is done? Okay, lets get sick!

So I fought the sickness and went ahead with our planned 3 day yurt trip up to the Blind Hollow Yurt near Logan Canyon, UT. Tommy from organized the trip to get some photos to work with, and just to get far away from his desk for a few days of 'field' work. We scored it just right with 3 days of cold smoke and Tommy got some killer shots, as you will see at the end of the post. If anyone in the Northern Utah area is looking for some great skiing, with no one around close to home, check out the Blind Hollow Yurt, run by Utah State. A quick 2 hour drive from SLC and you are in your own little powder oasis!

Enjoy the shots, courtesy of Tommy Chandler, and go get some adventure close to home!

The Blind Hollow Yurt

Terrain out the backdoor!

Quality snow-quality skiing.

Jasmin tracks down some untracked

More quality terrain and snow

Jenga, the ultimate in Yurt recreation!

A few Pillow on the way home

And remember if you are really trying to kill some time at work, you can keep track of the rest of my adventures at

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Skiing Pow in the Sun

Just a quick post with some great photos from today.

We picked up another 25-35cm of snow on Monday and Tuesday with a cold front blasting through last night. In its wake we had partly cloudy skies, and cool temps keeping the snow light and fast on the sunny aspects. Nothing like skiing powder in the sun in March!

Paige skinning up Sunny Sapphire

You know who, getting the goods!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Typical Week in British Columbia Powder Paradise

Last time I checked in, I was recollecting the previous high pressure cycle in BC, and how it was ending with some storms which were creating a sensitive snow pack. The last week has brought some great weather and skiing thanks to last Monday's 40-50cm of cold smoke. I couldn't believe it on the first run Monday, when I dropped in to some incredibly fast deep powder, choking on snow flakes every turn.

Needless to say, the avalanche danger was High that day and has stayed heightened for quite a few days. Lucky for us at Valhalla Mountain Touring there are tons of 1000-1500 vertical foot gladed shots right out our door. We spent Monday and Tuesday skiing lap after lap of deep fast snow, smiling all the way, and dropping into the lodge for a hot drink and soup every now and again.

Wednesday dawned clear, with beautiful fresh snow every where, and tons of fresh avalanche debris on the usual suspect slopes. No need for rocket scientists when the snowpack is like this-we just tracked down safe terrain, keeping our slope angles mellow in the big wide open spaces, our tracks away from big scary slopes and ripped around the steep trees. Lucky for me, I have about 25 square miles of terrain to find the perfect places to go no matter what the weather and snow. As you can see here, we took advantage of the blue bird days to sneak in and around the big alpine terrain of Shannon Lake:

We finished off the week exploring the amazing powder in the alpine areas, having a blast, and skiing fresh tracks everyday. The week even ended last night with a little bit of a show from Mother Nature...the first appearance of the Norther Lights for the season. At 9pm, after another great meal, we all stood around staring at the waves of green in the night sky, tired and happy from another great week in this British Columbia Powder Paradise.

This week I am going to expound on one of my new theories...consuming one calorie for every vertical foot skied!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

All Good Things Come to an End...or at Least Change!

The 9 days of high pressure in the Selkirks have come to an end. But one thing is for sure, we made the most of it up here at Valhalla Mountain Touring. Our last day of guiding with the good weather and stable snow led us to the first guided descents of some rowdy lines in the lodge's backyard. Two lines in particular were only skied for the first time just 3 years ago. Both lines start right off the summit of Ruby Peak, one of our closest ski objectives. One is a 40-45 degree north facing chute named Lily's Line because we skied the first descent with our dog Lily-she loves the steep and deep! The other is a 45 degree face of stunted trees and AK style runnels, called Whit's Wet Dream, because the when Whit did the first descent with us, he broke his ever present unemotional monotone behavior with shouts of joy because the line was so good! Both lines run for a steep 1,000 vertical feet. Guiding, let alone skiing objectives like these are all about patience, weather, abilities and timing all syncing with one another, and last week that happened. Jonny (my assistant guide for a few weeks) and I set us up, ski cut some scary features and let some of our guests rip on down these classic lines. The light was a little flat, but you can still get a bit of appreciation for it in the video clip...

But as the title of this blog suggests, big line and exploration time is closing down on us...because a big high pressure system creates a big persistent weak layer.

Throughout British Columbia, and many places in the mountain west for that matter, the snow surface has been weakening with the clear weather. Without getting too snow geeky on you all, basically the clear nights cause moisture deposits on the snow surface-surface hoar (feathery crystals in the photo), and in higher elevations recrystalize the surface snow to be a more poorly bonded sugary grains. As soon as it starts to snow, the layer is buried and protected, and acts as the future weak layer for avalanches to fail on. Right now that weak layer has 30cm of snow on top of it, with a few natural avalanches occurring the other day. Tomorrow's forecast calls for another 15-25cm of snow, so it will start to get spooky in avalanche terrain.

Fortunately for us, our backyard is loaded with steep, treed, avalanche safe terrain. We won't be skiing the big lines, but picking the small ones through the timber, as the white stuff piles up deep and builds to face shot depth. All good things...sometimes change into other good things!