Sunday, March 28, 2010

My Geek Out: A day with a legend

In the days of VHS, decent Saturday morning cartoons, and an appetite for as many pizza pockets as I could pound into my adolescent stomach, I got my hands on my first snowboard video. It wasn't the first I had seen, but it was the first that I got to borrow from my friend's older brother. TB7... I still have the whole soundtrack and entire movie so permanently engraved into my brain I am watching the opening sequence in my mind as I type. We would watch it over and over and over, day after day. It never got old.

When my boss Ben asked if I wanted to go ride Brighton with Dave Downing, one of the guys in that movie, I kind of geeked out a little (I held it in pretty good I think). Nonetheless I was stoked. Dave Downing is a legend, not to mention that I had known his name and seen all of his snowboarding movie parts since I was probably 12 years old.

There aren't too many people that I would geek out on like that but Dave was one of them for sure. All of them probably aren't on the radar of half the kids on the mountain anymore. The "celebrity" of snowboarders expires faster than a carton of milk. So to attain legend status like Dave takes a lot. My 12 year old self would have totally been so jealous. Jeremy Jones (another legend) showed up for a few laps as well. All in all it was a fun day and I was stoked.

This is Dave, my buddy Uri, A kid that works at Blindside, and Jeremy Jones. I was on the chair behind when this pick was taken.

"I go walkin' after midnight"

As the snow began to pile up and the thick flakes carried on the wind began to swallow up the mountain ahead of us we decided to call it a day. As Parker and I rode down from the mountain we realized the forecast for the next morning was blue skies and a foot of fresh. We had been wanting to do an overnighter for a while and we figured this would be our best opportunity.

After a few hangups we got a late start up to our desired destination: Twin Lakes Pass. The morning goal was to get a few lines before I had to get into work. Stepping out of the car onto a thick layer of fresh snow we surveyed the evening. Expecting the night to be filled with wind and snow, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised. The clouds had cleared and the full moon bathed the surrounding terrain in silver making everything look just a little more majestic. We walked up without our headlamps because the moon cast more than enough light. It was even bright enough to get some good riding done but Parker and I were fairly exhausted from carrying our brutally heavy packs.

We woke up in a war zone. Bombs going off all around us. Some were faintly heard and others felt as if they might we coming for us. The 4 resorts that were within earshot spent about 2 hours blasting. Snow was falling and the clouds had returned. We stayed in our sleeping bags for a bit longer than we had planned. When we finally dragged ourselves out of the tent, we went to get some lines on Mt. Wolverine. I had mine picked out and I dropped in. Half way down I had a good sized wind deposit sluff off which took my feet out from under me. That was all I had time for.

As we packed up and rode down I became a little frustrated. This was my first winter camping trip since I was 12 without snowmobiles. It is a really different experience carrying all that gear and then riding out with it.

The lessons I learned about camping on my splitboard:
-If I am going to camp for just one night, I am just going to sleep out under the stars. Forget the tent (TOO DANG HEAVY)
-Don't bother camping unless you are going to be there multiple days...It is way easier to just do an early morning tour with a really light pack.
-I need a lighter sleeping bag. I have an amazingly warm sleeping bag that might just weigh a million pounds.
-I love my camping stove. JetBoil. Get one.
-Parker needs a splitboard. Snowshoes are not as efficient.

That is just a small sample of what I learned. Next year we will get after it and go deeper. This was just our test run. The more time I spend out there the more I love it.

Parker wrote an awesome post about the event. Check it out.

Night time cruising.

So much snow. I loved the walk.

Parker with his new touring poles.

The summit of Mt. Wolverine.

David Kaplan met us in the morning.\

I really wish I would have dropped somewhere on the cirque instead of from the summit.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Deadliest Warrior

Do you ever watch that show Deadliest Warrior? Well I have. I have been wondering who would win in a battle between a mountaineer and a ninja. In all actuality the gear used in mountaineering is about as vicious as anything used on ancient battlefields. What do you think? Either way it would be a pretty good match up. It would take a few chops to get through all the layers a mountaineer wears. Gore-tex is probably the real life equivalent to Mithril (The elvish armor that Frodo wears) So I think the Ninja has his work cut our for him.

I just bought the Black Diamond Contact crampons and the Raven ice axe. So basically if you are a robber and you were thinking about breaking into this place think again. How 'bout a kick in the face with two inch stainless steel spikes? Yeah. Don't even.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Man Behind the Pipe

Large flakes came to rest on my increasingly foggy windshield making it hard to see as another Sunday evening drew to a close. Photographer Parker Cross and I were waiting for Tyson Goodrich, the man behind Park City Mountain Resort’s superpipe. Tonight we were to get an insight into what its like operating one of the few 22 foot pipe Zauggs (a massive $112,000 snowblower backed with 190 horsepower that attaches to the front of a cat and is specifically for shaping halfpipes).

The snow picked up as I got word from Tyson that he had his cats in place. Parker grabbed his bag and we made our way across the vacant slopes to the base of the pipe where Tyson, a man with more than a decade of experience behind the controls, drove down to meet us.

After the handshakes and “nice to meet yous” were out of the way we climbed aboard started into the routine that Tyson goes through 7 nights a week for the length of the season. So far he has had only one day off since getting this enormous pipe up and running. As the light continued to fade the prep work began.

According to Tyson, grooming the decks and the flat bottom are key to keeping the pipe walls smooth and free of bumps. If there is a bump in the bottom of the pipe or up on the wall it will hang up the Zaugg and cause it to dig deeper into the wall.

Park City’s superpipe is the longest running 22-footer in America, opening December 19, 2005. It has been a long time spot of progression bringing the top names in half pipe from around the world. The roster of those that call this pipe home reads like a snowboarding version of the original 92’ Dream Team.

With a parched start to the season this year’s pipe relied solely on the snow making capabilities of the resort, which doesn’t come cheap. According to Alex Divers, of the resorts snow making team, they put all extra capacity into it for two weeks, blowing the 91 acre foot (meaning if all the snow was in one acre it would be 91 feet deep) necessary for the halfpipe.

Tyson pushed and shaped this massive pile of snow for weeks waking around 5 a.m. to the dark frigid mornings, and then working a superhuman shift lasting far into the night only to do the same thing the next day.

Driving a cat during these early stages of building is about as much fun as being at your local theme park stuck in the bumper cars with a group of little miscreant kids for a full day. The stop and go, back and forth, non-stop jerking and positioning of literally tons of snow can take its toll.

After finishing the prep work we made our way to swap cats. Climbing out in the darkness I looked over to see the massive piece of equipment which made me think of an ant holding some disproportionately huge leaf in its grasp. The trick that goes along with driving the massive Zaugg is finding where you can fit as you head down the hill, minding the chairs hanging overhead.

After weaving our way back down to the bottom of the pipe Tyson revved up the Zaugg. As it warmed up he pointed out the dials that allow him the ability to shape the walls almost an exact 5 degrees off of vert on an 18 degree slope. With the inhuman level of difficulty riding has reached, the pipe has become a matter of inches, which is no easy task for something longer than two boeing 747’s end to end.

Starting our way up the Olympic length of 550 feet he added some extra RPM’s and with minor flicks of the joystick we began to creep up the pipe. Having only seen the Zaugg in action 3 times from the outside, he goes off of feel and sound stating, “you can hear when you are cutting too deep.” The first portion of the wall is where you have to get it dialed in, sometimes leaving a few waves in the wall. When I asked how many passes it takes Tyson simply stated, “until it’s done.” On a good night with fresh snow he makes at least four passes on each wall.

As my time with Tyson drew to a close we climbed down from the tool he uses to move mountains, we thanked him and we said goodbye. He returned to his routine, pushing his way back up through the snow.

The Life of a cat driver is thankless. You arrive as the day draws to a close and the crowds are all heading home to rest. You sit alone in a dark cab as the night swallows the mountain. Hardly ever does anyone think about what you have created for them, or the time you have taken to get it to perfection. They show up to ride while you try and catch up on your sleep. There you watch, from the sidelines of your creation, as the kid with the trick of the day lays another step forward in the progression of the sport.

The next time you go to drop in, stop and admire what these sculptors have shaped for you. Their art is not in stone, it is a temporary tribute to fun and progression and it melts away every year. Their names don’t grace the pages of magazines or grab headlines, but they are there, working the graveyard for our enjoyment. So here’s to you guys, to all the Tysons hard at work each night. Thanks for being so good at what you do.

Meeting Tyson

The Zaugg

Tyson in front of his cat.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

At least the hike was fun...

Stepping into my newly finished splitboard in the crisp dark air at 5:00 a.m. was what I had been craving since finishing the thing. The morning had the promise of fun and a hope for some nice turns down the enormous south face of Mt. Superior. I met up with Forrest Gladding and Pouchy for the venture. I have ridden with Forrest a couple times at the Bird and this was my first time meeting Pouchy. I was definitely stoked to be there to tag along.

The morning was clear and the stars worked hard to be seen. Forrest stopped periodically for some star gazing and caught a couple shooting stars. We had plenty of time to get to the top and ended up being well ahead of the prime part of the day where the snow would be soft enough to ride and hard enough to still hold together.

We hit the summit just shy of 9 a.m. having taken it easy across the ridge line. A skier passed us in a hurry for the summit. We let him go ahead and summited just behind him. The ride down was not the highlight so I won't dwell on that, but I'll never get tired of watching the sun rise while perched atop a ridge line.

We got done early enough for me to make it to Canyons by 11 a.m. I originally went up for a contest but was so mentally done from the lack of sleep and the climb I just ended up goofing of until I had my fill. It was a long fun day on my snowboard, hopefully next time the conditions will be better.

Morning gear check. Is it all there?

yep.... way too early.

Forrest and Pouchy just down the ridge from Cardiff

Early Morning exposure. I wish I could have gotten some with the lights below before the morning twilight set in.

Still a ways to go.

Forrest and Pouchy

Forrest Gladding

This Knife was pretty sketchy. A lot of snow had melted of making it narrower than it was previously. Breaking trail across it was no easy task. On one side you had about a hundred foot drop across a rock strewn slope, and on the other a steep pitch of frozen snow with no ice axe in hand to arrest a fall, which would eventually find the cliffs below. I took my time getting across making sure my foot placements were good.

Stole these from Forrest Gladding. Click on his name to see the rest of his photos. He snaps some good ones. Pouchy also blogged the event check it out here

Me dropping in. It was about as loud as snowboarding can get. It isn't very often that you snowboard such hard snow on this type of slope.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Splitboard: Skin up, Ride down

Recently I have had a lot of people ask me how a splitboard works. There is a really easy explanation. You have a snowboard, you split it in half, slap some skins on the bottom, and put your bindings back on the top sheet in the middle of the board on the attachments. Bam! You have what skiers call A.T. gear. A chair lift that runs on human power.

There are hooks that allow your board to slide together and then pucks that you slide your bindings onto.

There you have it. A splitboard. Hope I don't break this one.

This is the kit I used from Voile. Check it out here

Wolverine Cirque=heaven?

This may be one of the most amazing places I have ever been. There are so many possibilities it makes my brain roll around inside my skull just thinking about it. Yesterday morning my good friend, Eric Montandon, and I decided to go on a quick hike to check this place out. I had to be back by 1 p.m. for a Spanish test so we wouldn't have a ton of time to linger up in the Cirque. It was only one run, but I have never been so excited to go back to a spot. Needless to say I will be there again later this week.

Eric and I arrived up top pretty early so we just practiced with our avalanche beacons for a while until we were ready to drop into our lines. I had picked out this nice fairly steep chute and dropped in. I am not all that happy about how I rode it, but it was an amazingly fun piece of terrain. I took it a bit slower than I wanted to.

All the pictures are in reverse order because I am lazy this morning. I got up at 4:45 yesterday, so give me a break. The above picture is when Eric took a nice tumble.

Eric dropping into our chute.

Our line from above.

Such a nice morning.

We met up with this guy on the left, Baldwin, for the hike up. He is from Montana and is just visiting the area. It was nice to have him along for the walk.

Eric and Baldwin


Our first glimpse of Wolverine.



I love the sunrise.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"Hey soft slab avalanche, thanks for not burying me."

4 a.m.: Wake up
4:15: Pour a bowl of cereal only to realize there is no milk.
4:35: Meet up with Parker
5:00: Roll through McDonalds for some breakfast (Basically today I ate everything I could get a hold of.)
6:00: Start the hike, I forgot my trekking poles. Not stoked.
9:00: Summit of Mt. Superior.
9:05: Break loose an avalanche.
9:06: Decide, "hey... I think it is time to leave."
12:00: Arrive at the Canyons resort for a fun time with some fun guys.
4:30: Leave the park to get home and take a shower because of my putrid smell.

Arriving at the summit of a mountain I have wanted to do for more than a decade brought with it an awesome feeling and then it was followed by another new experience. I had picked out a few chutes that I wanted to hit further down the ridge line from the summit. The snow pack seemed good and seemed stable and I had planned to ride down the main chute in Cardiac Bowl to gain access to the other lines. It was a lot lower angle than what I was planning on riding further down so I figured it would be fine. I did my cut across the top of the chute to see if anything would rip out. Suddenly I was traversing out of a river of snow. I stopped and watched a soft slab slide run a few hundred feet down out of the chute below. Needless to say that pushed the idea of riding steeper terrain right out of my head. I was lucky to have not gone for a ride.

We headed down the face of Superior and then headed up to the Canyons resort for some lazy park laps. As I sit here and write this, my brain is crying for me to go to bed. Today was amazing and I am thankful that nothing happened. Luckily I had on our new helmet camera so I will be able to share the experience with you all as soon as the new podcast comes out.

Parker at the trailhead.

Here come the sun.

Probably one of the best sunrises I have seen in a long time.

Making the summit push.

The summit.