Saturday, August 17, 2013

2012-2013 Season Retrospect - Drought, Injury, Blower & Spines

August is here, and as usual, it brings with it the itch for winter. At the same time, I'm reminded of just how awesome last season was. Looking back, it was filled with:

new terrain,

big terrain,

broken sleds,

Photo: Nick Matisse

the joy of life,

a healthy dose of flat landings,

an even healthier dose of suffering,

Photo Nick Matisse



more stoke,

breaking trail through feet upon feet of new snow,

more stoke,

sunsets miles from the trailhead,

well, lots of stoke,



long days,

and more important than anything, the best friends anyone could ever ask for!

Last season was my first winter working a traditional desk job, and it kindled more inner drive than I've ever felt. Unfortunately, mother nature was on a different page. Jordan and I headed out for our first tour in mid-November:

It was a bit thin, so we went to the desert:

Back in Colorado, I decided it was time to get back into the park. Feeling stronger, faster, and more on point then I've ever felt; it took two hours of park to separate my shoulder:

Three weeks later, the snowpack in the Gunnison valley was getting deeper. My shoulder was still too weak to drive my sled, so I bearhugged Sam 9 miles into the backcountry. Ironically, I was with Sam when he snapped his collarbone on a stump.

At Christmas, after years of hearing about the incredible backcountry north of Steamboat, Rachel and I decided to check it out.

We should have done so years ago.

An early January snow event produced an awesome and unique condition in the backcountry: with such a dry fall, new snow on south facing slopes was sitting on the ground, not on depth hoar. With Frank's guidance, we were able to ski a zone I would never have dreamed of touching.

Photo Nick Matisse

Several weeks later, Conor and I tried out our early season go-to on the Front Range. It still felt like October.

But, the next day outside of Crested Butte, Brittany and I tagged another line in spring-like conditions.


The next day we headed deep into the snow zones of the Ruby Range.

20 miles later, Matt was in the white room:

Finally, there was enough snow to leave the ground, even if the landings were a bit flat.

Photo Nick Matisse

And, there was definitely enough snow for Nick to get his sled on edge.

In February, after spending years drooling over Bourassa's secret Steamboat zone, I decided I knew where the zone was. So, we sledded in 10 miles, parked our sleds next to his, dropped into the zone, and spent the next three days there.

Day threee in Steamboat we woke up to 6 inches of new snow in town, and 12 inches up high.

Photo Nick Matisse

The nice thing about sled skiing in cat operations is that most of their clients aren't into jumping over trees,

Or stacks of pillows,

Nick, on the other hand, is.

Or, really having any fun,

Photo Nick Matisse

nor do the cats touch the fun sledding terrain

Photo: Nick Matisse

Our last day in the zone through Nick's eyes:

In February, Rachel took a job in Cordova, AK. In March, I took the plunge, quit my job, packed my car, and headed north.

Needless to say, I couldn't leave CO without saying goodbye to our great friends in CB. As a goodbye present, Nick showed us an awesome zone:

Photo Nick Matisse


From there, I headed to Jackson Hole, where I met up with IFA teammate Erik Mehus.

After Jackson, I headed north,

and SubaLodge was born:

The drive through Canada was quiet, cold, and beautiful:

In Anchorage, the awesome people of the Sunflower House took me in and showed me around the Mat-Su Front Range.

From there, I jumped on the ferry in Whittier and started the final leg of the journey to Cordova.

Cordova greeted me with a bluebird skies, a full moon, and the northern lights:

Rachel and Mike showed me around their backyard:



Their "backyard":

There's just something special about skiing over the ocean at sunset.

I checked out the incredible Mt. Eyak Ski Area sidecountry,

and in the process got nice and scared.

In April, I met up with the Crested Butte crew in Anchorage.

They brought their massive Colorado lungs with them:

With the sun high in the sky, the maritime zones were getting cooked, so we headed north to Hatcher Pass. Matt:

The sled terrain at Hatcher is like a big mountain comp venue:

After Hatcher we checked out the monster Turnagain zone. We hit the huge spine walls of TT43. Matt:

Which are 1 km tall.

Rachel gave us a lesson in slough management:

And we got in a couple days on the walls of Twin Peaks. LP:

We checked out the beautiful maritime zones of Whittier:

Skied right over the ocean,

and hit the steepest wall I've ever seen. Matt making it look easy:

Then, we headed back to Cordova. Where it snowed 4 feet in 24 hours.

A day later, we were skiing in the stable alpenglow bathed alpine. Danny:

Danny, stepped up and CHARGED through raging sloughs.

By the middle of April, the snowpack around town was beginning to suffer. So we got on our sleds.

And sledded 30 km out to the Scott Glacier.

Which is what my dreams are made of:

I don't think I have room in my dreams for all the radness on the Scott.

I watched Leo and Rob, who are close to twice my age, drop into terrain that made me shake.

By the end of April, mud season was in full swing in Cordova. I had some time before work started, so I headed back to CO. The altitude absolutely destroyed me, everyone else felt just fine.

My skiing was also a bit off point:

Photo Brennan Metzler

Truly terrifying stability tests and recent new snow had me freaked out, so we did some jibbing:

Photo Brennan Metzler

Jeff and I got in some awesome mixed climbing:

And, with one last storm at the beginning of June, Jordan and I skied a line that is almost never in.

Last, but not least, a few special moments from throughout the season:

In retrospect, this was quite a season. My early season injury reminded me why I had a desk job. But, I dumped more than my fair share of exhaust into the atmosphere fleeing my desk on weekends. We all make choices for the things we love. I certainly don't know what I want in life; one thing is for sure: its the wonderful friends and the experiences that we share that make life so sweet.

And of course, I'm so thankful about what others, particularly Frank and Brittany Konsella and Rachel Ertz, have taught me about snow science and backcountry travel. Also, I can't express my gratitude for the amazing moments that have been preserved forever through the amazing photography of our friends, particularly Nick Matisse.

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