Posts in Category: Skiing

Transitions

Not too bad of a view - the Tetons on Julia's Birthday

Not too bad of a view – the Tetons on Julia’s Birthday


As the days now grow shorter (yet again, how crazy!), I reflect upon a winter and spring that brought new peaks, new lines, and an abundance of good skiing. Julia and I recently got back from the Tetons where I put in a last hoorah of sorts for the season on skis. Had to hike em 2700′ before skinning but I still eked out a couple K’ of big mountain corn skiing. And we got to celebrate J’s 30th B-Day in one of our most favorite places!

Not a bad place to bivy. Julia and the Middle Teton

Not a bad place to bivy. Julia and the Middle Teton


Iceflow Lake and into Idaho

Iceflow Lake and into Idaho

It’s now running season for me – having just completed the Old Gabe 50K for my second year and looking forward to a couple other mountain ultras before the short lived Montana alpine running season is re-blanketed in white. For the few months of summer that we have here, I do my best to run the hills as much as possible. But when I feel the need to ski, there’s usually snow to be found if you walk far and high enough.

About 30K into the 2015 Old Gabe 50K. Thanks for the morale boost Julia!

About 30K into the 2015 Old Gabe 50K. Thanks for the morale boost Julia!

Skiing off of the Middle Teton. Photo: Julia

Skiing off of the Middle Teton. Photo: Julia


The flowers are out and stunning as usual. Wildlife is moving about. Things are generally opening up in the high country and the trails are mostly runnable. Not a complaint here. I hope that the solstice was enjoyable and the ensuing summer treats you all the best!
A colorful explosion in my own backyard at June's end

A colorful explosion in my own backyard at June’s end

A Teton birthday grizz

A Teton birthday grizz

It makes one quiver

A quiet moment in the backcountry.

A quiet moment in the backcountry


As spring arrives here a bit early I thought it would be a good time to revisit the skis I’ve been on over the last year or two. Last season, I chimed in on what variety of skis I was utilizing for various human powered backcountry adventures. Again, I have found myself with a similar quiver and corresponding outlook on such setups. Not much has changed but I’ve been on a bunch of skis in the interim – some good, some bad, and some indifferent. Luckily, I have a ski partner who has the same BSL as me, which has helped facilitate the amount of ski testing I’ve had access to over the last few years.

Said ski partner, Adam, high in the Crazy Mountains

Said ski partner, Adam, high in the Crazy Mountains

For a quick background, I am 5’10”, 145lbs. I love big mountains and fast lines but more often than not, do my fair share of wiggle turns. Bridger Bowl is my hometown ski area although I’m usually there in the pre/post-season. My average day is somewhere between 3000′ and 7000′ vert in the 5-15 mile range here in Montana and Wyoming. Going into spring, this season has me at over 50 days of backcountry skiing with hundreds of miles and hundreds of thousands vertical feet. October-July is usually our season with everything from knee+ deep cold smoke to spring corn and all points between. Most of the winter here often entails some form of deep powder skiing.

Snorkeling. JaPOW?! Nope, just some mid-winter MT blower

Snorkeling. JaPOW?! Nope, just some mid-winter MT blower

An equally important piece of the pie, I ski on a couple different boots and bindings. Some of this is dictated by cost and/or availability but it all is part of a system. I use a mix of bindings – all tech (Dynafit) style. Currently I have a some Plum race bindings, Dynafit Speed Superlights, and Speed Radical toes/Speed Turn heels. For boots, this is my second season on the TLT6 Performance. I can’t say enough good about this boot, with a few minor nitpicks (cuff pivot!) that have already been hashed out on WildSnow/TGR. I’ve also just taken the plunge, and snagged some Aliens. No, not the 1.0, but a damn light and sneaker-like ski shoe all the same. My horizons just may have been expanded yet again.

Aliens, GTR, and sastrugi. Going up

Aliens, GTR, and sastrugi. Going up

On to the ski quiver. I’ll start with the skinny and work my way to the fat. I’ll also include skis I’ve skied over this last year but don’t currently own.
(My current quiver of three will each have an * to denote).

Myself on a Montana classic, close to home. Photo courtesy Jon Cummins

Myself on a Montana classic, close to home. Photo courtesy Jon Cummins

SPECS:

[Sidecut (mm), Mfg spec weight per ski (g), Turn radius (m), My verified weight per ski (g)]

Dynafit Cho Oyu 174 (125-88-111, 1190g, 16-12-15, 1208g)
Sportiva GTR 168* (114-82-104, 1250g, 22, 1253g)
Voile Vector 180 (121-96-110, 1560g, 23, 1550g)
Voile V6 173* (121-98-107, 1499g, 18, 1503g)
Voile V6 183 (124-100-109, 1675g, 19, 1698g)
Dynafit Huascaran 177* (134-112-123, 1780g, 35-19-30, 1794g)

Adam styling a surfy exit from another MT classic

Adam styling a surfy exit from another MT classic

As I had considered about a year ago, I broke down and purchased the much hyped Dynafit Cho Oyu in a 174cm length late last season (13/14). Skied it a bunch of times and couldn’t wait to sell em. Mounted center with Speed Superlights and rear adjustment plates. The Cho was a squirrely ride, even in near perfect boot top pow. My aforementioned ski partner, Adam, also skied them in the same great conditions on the same slopes/aspects and came to the same conclusion as I. Despite this I continued to try to make them work in various terrain but was time and time again left unimpressed. That’s the game though – can’t really know until you try. I’m sure the Cho works for some, but not for me. I believe that Coast Steep Skier has used them in dicier conditions than I’ll ever ski, so please take my dislike for this ski with a grain of salt.

Adam skiing the Cho's smaller more stable sibling - Seven Summits 2.0 on ice

Adam skiing the Cho’s smaller more stable sibling – Seven Summits 2.0 on ice

So moving on to what works for me: Sportiva’s GTR (168)

La Sportiva GTR 168. On the up

La Sportiva GTR 168. On the up


Bomber. My go-to “edged alpinism” ski. As a nod to the GTR, both myself and Adam have owned/extensively skied the GTR and give it high praise. Steady, stable and fairly traditional. A bit of tip rocker and a straight tail. Not super light, but not porky either. And damn dear shreddable in most terrain. Also, now discontinued if I’ve done my math correct. I guess I’m a bit late for the boat but am nonetheless stoked on this inaugural ski from Sportiva. A keeper.

Other thoughts on the GTR:
skimolife
Cold Thistle

The best of show/workhorse: Voile Vector (180)

Voile Vector 180. Handheld with real camera on the fly

Voile Vector 180. Handheld with real camera on the fly

Lots of previous internet thoughts on this rad little number. Get it, ride it, shred it. Smile. And repeat. Thank you Voile.
I skied two pairs over the course of three years and have not a bad word against the Vector. A great balance between weight, durability, and ski-ability. In all reasonable terrain. From steep lines to spring corn, this handles everything but the very deepest. I believe it demands more from the skier than the V6 but the results can be quite pleasant. It’s definitely not as playful as the V6 but it still has enough rocker to make it surf when need be. My trusty workhorse.

Voile V6 (173 and 183)

Voile V6 173. Late season skinning with bear spray

Voile V6 173. Late season skinning with bear spray


I snagged a couple of these in different lengths and ended up settling on the shorter 173 as my quiver of one length. The 183 was a better length for my style of skiing but I made a choice and learned my lesson. The 173 has been seeing use this end of winter and into spring as what I thought would be a wider and lighter replacement to the 180 Vector. I was also wrong in this assumption.
Voile V6 up in the Tobacco Roots

Voile V6 up in the Tobacco Roots


Both the Vector and the V6 have characteristics that make them unique skis in the quiver. I should’ve known but had to ski it to believe it. The larger turn radius and narrower profile of the Vector I find to be better suited for ski mountaineering and opening up the throttle, while the playfully shorter radius and wider platform of the V6 makes it better suited for treed powder and trickier, variable snow. Although I’ve skied some steeper technical lines with the V6, I would likely choose the Vector for said terrain given another round.

Last but not least, the venerable land shark: Dynafit Huascaran (177)

Dynafit 177 Huascaran. Looking down at two very memorable solo lines. The next photo gives some perspective

Dynafit 177 Huascaran. Looking down at two very memorable solo lines. The next photo gives some perspective


If there is a quantity of snow, this beast of a lightweight plank keeps me grinning all day long. Two years of use and I’m sold. They turn big, turn small, shuck and jive when needed, and smear like a modern 5-point ski is supposed to. I have to really try to break their speed limit in deep snow – which is quite pleasant for such a relatively short ski. Too bad that Dynafit is doing away with this offering and replacing it with a more “freeride” (read: HEAVY) oriented ski. Oh well, at least these exist and should now be on steep discount online. Get em while you can!

First of two deep btb north face lines. Huascaran and my signature

First of two deep btb north face lines. Huascaran and my signature

In a nutshell, ski it and find out. After, of course, sufficiently exhausting your online resources for pre-game honing. Then, go spend some of that hard-earned loot and forget that it ever existed! Human powered bc skiing is far more valuable than any monetary figure (obviously) and I’m pretty enamored with the whole process (again, obviously). Despite a quirky snow season here, this ski year has brought me more skiing and more summits/lines than I could have imagined. I hope that yours was just as enjoyable and that spring brings what you are looking for!

Summit bunny dance!

Summit bunny dance!

Adam one fine winter's day

Adam one fine winter’s day

Winter camping in the Greater Yellowstone

The ever stunning Lamar Valley. New Year's Day 2015

The ever stunning Lamar Valley. New Year’s Day 2015


Over this past holiday season, Julia and I went out on a couple of backcountry camping trips in the Northern Gallatin range and also along Slough Creek in the Yellowstone Park. One trip to the alpine and the second to high grassland/coniferous forest. Both different and bolstering in their respective offerings. There are multiple ways to go about it, but the name of the game is to stay warm and dry while out overnight in the winter. That’s my sage advice 😉
Julia trying to stay warm among the pines in the Park.

Julia trying to stay warm among the pines in the Park.


The art of staying out in lower 48 winters isn’t beyond reason and as per the norm, practice always helps. Emerald Lake just before Christmas was accompanied with marvelous powder and moderate temperatures in the high teens/low twenties (°F). What we didn’t bargain for were the all-night and into morning gale winds. We woke concerned that our previously secured packs/skis/poles outside had been ripped from their perches. But all was well. Lesson learned here was to be prepared with the correct shelter and campsite for the situation. We chose a 9000′ alpine cirque to perch and paid only the small price of a loud night’s sleep. Julia and I have weathered similar winds in the BD Firstlight on previous occasions and can attest to its classically stout design. Prior to the night’s wind, it was dead quiet and lightly snowing as we warmed ourselves around a glorious winter fire.
BD Firstlight's wind shedding curves

BD Firstlight’s wind shedding curves


Confetti sparks. (photo: Julia)

Confetti sparks. (photo: Julia)


Yellowstone was, as always, expansive. The north and northeastern parts of the park are held closely in my heart for many a reason. And winter, dear winter… The forecast for Mammoth and Cooke City were to be in the single digits. New Year’s eve in the park yielded temps down to well below zero. It was -5°F around 9pm as a reference. Chilly, and just manageable. Insulated pants, booties, and jackets were worn in conjunction with our amazingly crafted Valandre Mirage sleeping bags to keep us from freezing in the late night/early morning hours. While not necessarily warm, we weren’t shivering either.
Waking to a frosted tent on Jan 1. (Photo: Julia)

Waking to a frosted tent on Jan 1. (Photo: Julia)


A fresh wolf kill on our ski in. Quite the big elk. Howling commenced close by in the foothills soon after we skied off. (photo: Julia)

A fresh wolf kill on our ski in. Quite the big elk. Howling commenced close by in the foothills soon after we skied off. (photo: Julia)


Ringing in the New Year amongst Yellowstone’s wildlife and under the blanket of the Milky Way is well worth dealing with a bit of cold. It also helped to have a bit of leeway in our systems to allow for deviation from the expected temperatures. All of our gear worked as planned, with the exception of a blown seal on my rehydrated dinner. The glue melted away from the zipper and I soon found this out with the bag tucked in my layers, while leaning over to tend to melting snow. With Julia’s patient help, dinner was largely salvaged and I got most of the beef stew out of my clothing. What an ordeal at the time but a lesson learned all the same. I can safely say that after smelling the spilled remnants on my clothes for the remainder of the trip, I no longer have any desire for said stew! And it was nothing that a New Year’s bubbly couldn’t fix!
Backcountry bubbly to help ring in 2015

Backcountry bubbly to help ring in 2015


Besides this, I’ve been skiing these rolling and relatively flat trips with a fairly lightweight AT rig and my TLT6s while Julia has been using her Fischer XCD setup. Both work just fine, with reliability, stability, and warmth points being awarded to my setup. Julia’s XCD ski ensemble wins for overall weight and kick/glide. If money were no object, Julia would most likely have a Voile Vector BC or similar with simple tech bindings and TLT boots. But the XCD skis fill that void in the meantime. As for the rest of our gear, I’ll give shoutouts to the NeoAir X-Therm and the MSR Reactor. Both are arguably gold standards of winter recreation and proven in our usage.
Cold and crisp New Year's ski. (photo: Julia)

Cold and crisp New Year’s ski. (photo: Julia)


These recent winter camping trips in the Greater Yellowstone were learning experiences that continue to shape and mold our day-to-day existence. Drops in the well. I look forward to more of these in the future. We’re pushing our boundaries and gaining ground, one day at a time.
East Fork Hyalite. Shining.

East Fork Hyalite. Shining.

One for the books…2014

Northern Bridger winter coat. February

Northern Bridger winter coat. February


2014 was a year of large life events for me.
Teton Crest Trail in-a-day. Tetons peeking from some of the best displays of wildflowers that I've seen. August

Teton Crest Trail in-a-day. Tetons peeking from some of the best displays of wildflowers that I’ve seen. August

Julia and I got married July 5th. It was the absolute best of times. Really though, words can’t describe.

The newlywed Bride and Groom. July (photo: Shane Rickert)

The newlywed Bride and Groom. July (photo: Shane Rickert)

We purchased our first house together also in July. Seized the day, per se. Trails out the front door and mountains minutes away.

Our backyard mountains in their summer glory. August

Our backyard mountains in their summer glory. August

I raced my first official mountain ultra marathon in June and my second in September. Hooked.

The Rut 50K 2014. SO good. September (photo: Julia Truax)

The Rut 50K 2014. SO good. September (photo: Julia Truax)

I began early in the year with a desire to be in the best shape of my life. This I accomplished mainly through trail running and AT skiing. While numbers don’t even begin to tell the story, a bit helps: over 1000 trail miles ran and just about 300,000 vertical feet gained (and lost). Skiing not included and not forgotten. Many thousands of vert and ephemeral times to match.

One fine day deep in the Bridgers. February (photo: Adam Pohl)

One fine day deep in the Bridgers. February (photo: Adam Pohl)

For many years I wasn’t taking the best care of myself and decided to do something about it. It hasn’t always been straightforward, but the rewards are too great for my meager words to explain. It’s a continuing and iterative process that has me intrigued, excited, and looking forward to the future. I owe my father a huge thanks here, as it was he who introduced me to running over 20 years ago. He then pursued among other things, road running, hiking, backpacking, and overall the outdoors. I soon followed suit. I began road racing around ten years old and continued to do so for over 5 years. Other recreation took the place of running soon after I ran my first half-marathon accompanied by none other than my Dad. It’s been a while since then but now I’m back at it and loving the pursuit. So, thanks Dad for the early intro!

Alpine running and alpine forget-me-nots in the Northern Gallatins. July

Alpine running and alpine forget-me-nots in the Northern Gallatins. July

“The times…”, as Dylan so poetically coined. In all, this was a fairly eventful year in my life – one that I wouldn’t trade for a thing. I couldn’t have done it without the help, love, and support of many fine folks along the way. Friends, family, and strangers alike – I’m thankful for you all and immensely grateful for yet another trip around the sun. Thanks 2014, and welcome 2015. Here we come.

Three Cheers! July (photo: Shane Rickert)

Three Cheers! July (photo: Shane Rickert)

A Mt Blackmore spring ski

Morning stream crossing

Morning stream crossing


It may be June, but after such a banner year for snowpack here in SW Montana there is still plenty of skiing to be had. It was even snowing on me this weekend as I summited Mt Blackmore (10154’/3095m) with skis. I’ve been putting in a lot of trail running mileage lately and thought I’d break it up a bit with a quick tour of the pyramid that peeks over the Gallatin foothills.
Skinning towards Mt. Blackmore's east face

Skinning towards Mt. Blackmore’s east face

The north face and its springtime bunny ears are a siren call to glisse mountaineers here in town based on a mix of accessibility, appearance, and the mountain’s ski history. Names such as Tom Jungst, Doug Coombs, Hans Saari, and Alex Lowe are just a few that come to mind. Also, ski touring this winter has provided a great aerobic base as well as strong legs for an easier transition into spring ultra marathon training. So why not give thanks to mountain running by skiing the mountains – and visa versa?! I hope to get some summer skiing in but until then I’ll probably be running the trails these last few weeks in prep for the summer-opening Old Gabe 50k. Pretty psyched for it! Anyway, here’s my recent Blackmore trip in photos and some standout gear notes below:

First semi-continuous snow after Blackmore Lake

First semi-continuous snow after Blackmore Lake


Skinning with Elephant Mtn behind

Skinning with Elephant Mtn behind


Tracks

Tracks


Booting the east ridge in the rain

Booting the east ridge in the rain


Skiing from the summit in the snow!

Skiing from the summit in the snow!


Exit faffing...dirt skiing

Exit faffing…dirt skiing


Nearly back

Nearly back

Gear Highlights – all of the below has been with me for many miles and thousands of vert over the course of months to years. It was also all used on this trip to Blackmore. Buyer beware:

Sportiva GTR with Plum Race 145. Mounted 2cm forward. Awesome.
Dynafit TLT6 P. No tongue or powerstrap. The gold standard of LW touring boots.
BD Whippet. A little extra security goes a long ways. For the up & the down.
RAB Fusion pant. Hybrid of Neoshell and Matrix softshell. My go-to touring pant.
RAB Boreas Pull-On. 4-way stretch UL softshell/windshirt. Highly functional mid/outerlayer.
Patagonia Houdini. Simple nylon windshirt. One of my most used pieces over the last five years.
RAB VR Tour Glove. Super breathable two-ply softshell with a Pittards leather palm. So very nice.

Thanks as always for checking in and please do enjoy yourselves out there!

Gratuitous summit selfie

Gratuitous summit selfie