Saturday, January 30, 2010

A post for the K2 blog

Here is a blog post I wrote up to kind of introduce myself and the lodge for my new ski sponsor K2. If you haven't skied on the new series of K2 skis you are truly missing out. Right now I am starting to amass my quiver, and the first two pairs are in the rotation. My slugger of the line-up is definitely the Sidestash. Not for the faint of heart, it is a bit beefy for weight (a little over 9lbs) but with tip rocker, metal, and some side wall/cap construction, this ski delivers no matter what you are doing. High speed GS turns, quick reaction tree shots, mega float in the deep pow. I am very excited about these skis. I have them mounted with Dyanfit TLT classics for weight savings, and ski them with my Scarpa Spirit 4 boots. The other pair I have is the Waybacks. Super light at under 7lbs, I pair these with my Scarpa F3's for the long, far and fast tours. These skis still float really well at 125mm at the tip, and I barely notice them on my feet. Check out the whole backside line, you won't be disappointed...

Any way, here is my blog post, with some great photos from a few weeks ago by Fred Marmsater, amazing shots!

If you are reading this, you are a die hard skier. And if you are a die hard skier, then you have, or should have, a dream to ski in the backcountry of British Columbia. Long since my youth, I have flipped through the pages of ski mags, and more and more photos of the skiers Shangri-la have graced the pages of those mags. There are a few good reasons for this, and I have come to fully appreciate them over the last 5 years as the manager, lead guide, and now owner of a backcountry ski lodge in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia.

Tucked away in a sub range known as the Valhallas, Valhalla Mountain Touring sits along the west side of the Selkirks. About halfway between the powder skiing meccas of Nelson and Revelstoke, we are graced with the perfect ingredients for backcountry bliss.

First things first, skiing is nothing without the mountains. Even if it snows just a little bit, people will ski the hills, just look at Colorado! The Valhallas might not be the tallest peaks in the world, but the deep lake filled valley bottoms are up to 7,000’ vertical below craggy summits. A few neves and glaciers dot the big peaks, and the snow starts to pile up in October. Not too far from the coast, so the moisture can make it, but far enough away that the storms cool down in temperature, and the air is not arctic cold. High enough mountains for snow to fall all winter, but still low enough that you aren’t sucking wind. Spruce and fir grace the hillsides to give you shelter and soft snow in the gnarly storms, but treeline is gained quickly for widespread vistas on the days when the snow isn’t flying. And the best part of it all? Hardly anyone around to enjoy it. This ain’t Was-Angeles, and there is no fighting the I-90, I-70, LCC, Sea-to-sky highway parking lots.

Every week of the winter a group of about 12 people make the journey up to our place in the hills. And what they get is what I just preached about. In my mind the resorts give us the skills, the ski area boundaries give us a place to test our skills and push ourselves, and the unexploited backcountry of the world, like the Valhallas, is where we go to have our adventures, to make memories and to fulfill our dreams that we started to have when flipping through the magazine pages...

Here’s a few shots to inspire you to get up to the Promised Land of British Columbia. Take a vacation, quit your job, win the lottery, marry a cute Canadian girl (like I did). Do what it takes to lay down some tracks in BC! And stay tuned…I will keep you posted on how it goes up here in powder Mecca.

Skinning up to Rugged Peak

Crown Jewel delivers the goods

First turns off the summit of Rugged with Big sister in the background

Steep pow on Ruby Peak

More quality turns on Rugged

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Lately...and thoughts

Last week was yet another stellar week of skiing at VMT. Often times I repeated my mantra of why the interior of BC is the best place on planet earth for ski touring: mountains + climate + lack of people = UNBELIEVABLE. I mean really, can you name somewhere else with the terrain and snow quality that we consistently have in the Selkirks? Blows my mind away all the time.

Wednesday and Thursday some cold high pressure settled in on us, and we took advantage of it by tagging some summits and skiing endless and effortless powder in the cold January sun. Here are some shots:

So much snow, so little time...

Blair tagging a summit above Shannon Lake for its 2nd known winter ascent

On the way up to Rugged - "5 star day for the highlight reel"

Fred going for the summit of Rugged

Do you trust this man with that tool? I don't know if I do

So now we are settling in to a new week at VMT with some long time locals. I think it is one guests' 10th or 11th time up here. He is 71 from Rossland, BC, retired and can't out ski most of you reading this post. Right on!

But to continue my ramblings...I find my self surfing the web for good sites with ski touring adventure on them. There are a few quality ones like Andrew Mclean, Greg Hill, Lou Dawson, Steve Romeo, Joe Stock, Jason Kruk, my wife and Andrew Wexler. But I am always on the look out for some good climbing/skiing adventure content...any one know of some good blogs I am missing? And on another note...I read and see lots of stuff on the web and in magazines about tips and techniques, but not too many from certified guides. Ya, there is great stuff from these people I mentioned before in the ski world, and their experience speaks volumes, but I get alot of the same questions out there sometimes, and maybe I will try and answer some of the common stuff I see come up here, if anyone out there in cyber-landia gives a shit!

The one that came up this week was from a relatively novice backcountry skier who was expressing her fear and intimidation of the backcountry. How to grasp all of that when you can only get out there 10-20 days a year? The obvious is to take an avalanche course, but what are the most important things to take away from a course like that? I came up with 2 really important things to keep close to you for getting out there and coming home safely:
  1. Know how to recognize avalanche terrain. If you aren't in avalanche terrain, then you won't get caught! Use all of your tools, like maps, photos, history, local knowledge, inclometers, tree flagging, etc, and determine with out a doubt that you are in a place that most likely will not be avalanche terrain. Have your tools and your identification techniques and know how to use them.
  2. Choose the right people to go out with. The human factor is one of the most important parts of staying out of avalanches. Go with someone who will listen to your fears, explain what they think and see (and listen to what you think and see) and who will stick with you no matter what. Even though I often guide groups of 12 in the backcountry, I often recommend people to be in no larger than a group of 4 or 5 in the backcountry with 3 or 4 being ideal. That way no one is left lagging and decisions are easy to make.
Those are my 2 tips for those starting out in the backcountry. If all else fails, take a course, or higher a CERTIFIED guide to take you there!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rugged Peak

I always tell folks who ask when to come to VMT that January is one of my favorite months of the year. Why they ask? Is it the short days so I have an excuse not to ski 6 grand plus everyday? Is it the cold temps so I have an excuse for sleeping in and not getting outside until it warms up a bit? No and no, it is all about the cold smoke on south aspects. And Rugged Peak is home to some of my favorite ski lines here. Yesterday we spent the day skiing perfect pow from summit to the valley bottom for 2,000' vert thigh burners, all in the sun, with no warm coat on, while it was a high temp of -12c!!!! Hopefully I can steal a couple of shots from my buddy to post up, but in the mean time here is a vid from a few weeks ago that I have been slacking on editing...enjoy!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year's at VMT

Lots of friends and lots of skiing big lines lately at VMT...a few first descents last week before the surface hoar and facets were buried, and then heaps of great powder skiing. But not too much rambling from me today, just a few photos from last week. One of these days I will catch up with a video or two...lets hope 2010 is a good one!!!!!

Jas, Benny and Theo making their way to the summit of Rugged Peak

On the way up to the top of the Shannon Ridgeline...with the Wragge drainage in the much to ski, so little time!

A rare view from one of our highest skiable spots atop the Shannon Ridgeline...first time I know of anyone skiing from here!

A virgin couloir no more...what a great new line from the obvious notch...can't wait to ski it again!