Monday 10 December 2012

Shortened December Days

From the end of a logging road at the end of a valley, we find ourselves skinning through old-growth forest with a deep ravine on our right.  As we climb, the ravine shallows and soon we've arrived at a headwaters of sorts - an elevated meadow rimmed by a steep ridgeline of trees, chutes and spines on one side and a mellower shoulder on the other.  The sky is blue and the near-solstice sun is perhaps providing just the tiniest bit of warmth.  The occasional wisp of High-Cirrus lingers off in the distance.

We gain the ridge at a low col and contour up to its crest.  Cirrus is building steadily overhead as we drop-in for a short run to get a feel for the snow.  Up for another, and then another which finds us on top of something a bit more real: longer, narrower, steeper.  These early season hurdles which we methodically surmount each year are part of the process of preparing for the months and objectives ahead.

At the bottom with heart and legs pounding, the light is just starting to fade.  With time for one more, we retrace our steps one last time, arriving at a sub-summit just before dusk.  The sky is grey and crystallized droplets blowing around us confirm temperatures are dropping.  I put on every piece of clothing I have with me and then start down for our last, and longest, run of this short December day.


Monday 3 December 2012

Getting out of the house...

The hard work of skiing during a mild coastal storm starts when your alarm goes off at 6am.  Pouring rain and warmer than ideal temperatures can tempt you into a Snooze cycle which eventually leads to more sleep and then coffee over a lazy breakfast.

But you tell yourself you could use the exercise and so get up, out of the house, and drive to the mountains.   It's just about raining at the trailhead and while there are others milling around, they're all waiting for someone else to start breaking trail through 35cm's of fresh shmoo.

Your group starts out and it's hard work, but at least you know there's no one in front of you.  5km's to the hut, and then up to the ridge and beyond.  The snow is deeper here but it's a bit lighter too.  Regardless, the exertion and freedom of making a path through the mountains is rewarding enough.

Finally you rip your skins and drop into the fog, aiming for the first stand of trees where you know you'll get some visibility.  The fall-line steepens and mid-way through your turn you find yourself chest deep in fluffy snow.  The skiing, it seems, is pretty good too :)

Monday 26 November 2012

A farewell to the shoulder season

I typically find the fall shoulder season to be tough.  Particularly on the coast where one day you're at the peak of your climbing season, squeezing the most out of the remaining dryness and ideal temperatures, and the next you're vainly trying to bundle away the dampness as it rains and rains.

Fall also marks the beginning of the busiest work season for me with winter product delivering, stores to clinic and climbing gyms returning to full-speed.  This fall, I spent a total of 6.5 weeks on the road which had me travelling through some of the most geographically beautiful territory any North American rep could have.  Along the way I got to visit a ton of great stores, meet awesome staff and talk about cool product.  I have a good job.

But it can still be hard work and part of what keeps the driving, late nights, poor eating, hotels and couches manageable is knowing that when it's all done there'll be snow and skiing back home, so long as mother natures holds up her end of the bargain.

This Sunday I finally reached that Light at the end of the proverbial Tunnel and had a great day in the backcountry with friends Martin, Ross, Corey and Dave.  Hopefully there's a few more to come.

Thanks guys, for a very memorable November ski day!

The Evolution of Touring Gear

Regardless of your outdoor pursuit, we're very fortunate to have seen some incredible technical developments in clothing and equipment over the past two decades.  This past Friday The Escape Route in Whistler hosted a community night with Dynafit Athlete Eric Hjorleifson, where the focus of the evening was the evolution of touring equipment.

Beer was on tap with all proceeds going to support the Spearhead Huts Project and there was a healthy mix of locals, visitors, athletes and staff on hand.  From waxed cotton to taped membranes, skinny skis to highly shaped pow sticks, and plate bindings to light-weight tech setups, James and Eric walked us through several generations of touring gear.

Boots, of course, were front and centre as Eric explained how the various incarnation of his "franken-boots" helped yield the newly released Vulcan and Mercury from Dynafit's Free Tour category.

All in all, a great night with fun folk.  If nothing else, I think that time spent reflecting on what backcountry gear was will help us appreciate where we're at now, not to mention where we're going to be soon!