October 31, 2010

Halloween skiing (now we wait and see what happens)

I'll take this for October!

The Snowbird snowcam was showing another 7" last night, so we decided to head up LCC for some Halloween turns. There were quite a few folks out skinning and hiking. We skinned up to Wildcat ridge, and then a few hundred more feet of vertical up towards Mt Baldy. By that point it was snowing and visibility had dropped, so it was time to drop in and ski. Conditions were pretty darn good for October... 6-7" of fresh snow over a pretty decent base! No rocks were encountered, either!

Now we play the wait and see game. Warmer, drier weather is on the way. That means that the snow from this past week could create a unstable, dangerous, avalanche-prone layer at the bottom of the snowpack a few months from now. Or, ideally, it will get warm enough for everything to melt, and then we'll just start from scratch in a few more weeks and have stable conditions in the backcountry all winter. Time will tell.
In any case, its great to be back on skis!

South face of Superior... top in the clouds

Skinning up Wildcat Ridge

Looking back towards Alta

Andrea skiing

Showing some nice early season form

Clearing up and we headed back down to the valley

Happy Halloween!

"Now let me sleep!"

October 30, 2010

First turns of the season

Andrea skinning up the slopes at Solitude

Earlier this week, the Wasatch (and a lot of other places in the mountain states) got bombed by a huge early season snowstorm. Four feet was reported in upper reaches of our mountains. The conditions, for early-season, were truly epic. Unfortunately, due to having real jobs and a puppy to take care of, Andrea and I weren't able to take part in the midweek powder frenzy. Today, though, we got out for a quick skin up at Solitude and made our first turns of the season. The warmer weather of the past 2 days consolidated (and even melted a lot of) the snow, but it was still great to be out on skis. And hey, its October... its just great to be skiing this time of year.

Some pics from today. The light was flat, so it was a good day to snap some pics in black & white...

Skinning up

The north side of BCC

Diet Dew and Dynafits

Andrea enjoying the creamy recycled powder

Jake skiing down

Andrea leading the way

Mt Raymond & Gobbler's Knob. Can't wait until we have enough snow to head up that way!

I guess we could put one color photo in here! :-) Here's a toast to a great season of skiing and doing the dew!!!

October 27, 2010

First Snow, Winter Training

Thunder Bowl (left) and Lone Peak (right) looking coated from the valley yesterday evening (Oct 26) during a brief hiatus in the storm

Several FEET of snow have fallen on the upper reaches of the Wasatch Mountains, and I was running through ankle deep snow early this morning in the valley, so winter is clearly only a few weeks away! We probably won't get up to LCC to ski just yet (Mia isn't allowed up at Alta/Snowbird), but some guys are already getting after it. No word yet on total accumulation, but I'm consistently hearing FIFTY INCHES up high on the mountains as of this morning, and its still going to be coming down for a few more hours. While I'm betting we'll get a few more weeks of milder weather before La Nina really starts cranking, this storm definitely has everyone thinking winter.

Training (if you are a runner) during this season is definitely a bit more challenging, so I've been trying to come up with a plan and some goals for the upcoming months. Obviously, backcountry ski touring will take precedence on the weekends starting after Thanksgiving, but I want to approach this winter with the goal of being in excellent condition for the start of the spring 2011 mountaineering season.

The last two years in Vail were a mixed bag in terms of fitness during the winter. During '08-'09, I got off to a good start, but then sprained my MCL and bruised lots of ribs in separate ski crashes, so if anything, I lost quite a bit of fitness during the winter. The bruised ribs (not the concussion) from my "St. Patrick's Day crash" was the worst; it was just too painful to run for a nearly a month. Last year ('09-'10) was better: I did a lot more dawn patrol hikes up Vail mountain, I was more consistent with running, and I didn't have any major ski crashes. When May rolled around, I felt really strong climbing and skiing 14ers, and that carried over to getting in good running shape by June, which gave me the endurance for the John Muir Trail.

This year, now that I'm in SLC, I'll have the advantage of doing all my running ~4500 feet of elevation. For me, 8000ft (Vail's altitude) was just too high to really get in consistent, quality running. So, the plan for this winter is to shoot for an average of 90 minutes of running per day during the week; weekends will be dependent on the difficulty and extent of our backcountry ski tours (no season passes this season, we're working for everything that we ski!). Full days in the BC usually end up being very tiring, but the hope is to do more post-ski running (which is more of a mental challenge than a physical one). I'm also hoping to put together a "dawn patrol" group that's willing to get out one day a week for some 5am skinning and skiing. Andrea and I are going to put a couple longer trail races on the 2011 calendar to help keep the motivation high when its freezing outside.

We'll see how it goes... I'm thinking this is going to be an exceptional winter for skiing and running!

Broads Fork Twin Peaks on Oct 26

Mia enjoying the cool (cold?) fall weather

Mia attempting to play with a giant Great Dane

October 25, 2010


Right now, the view from my office window is snow-covered mountains. Everything above 6,000 feet is white, and the national weather service is calling for 20-30" of fluff up at Alta/Snowbird by tonight. Winter, it seems, is making its first appearance in Utah.

This weekend we allowed the ski excitement factor to make a big jump. The Black Diamond ski swap was on Saturday morning (along with the REI garage sale... what a morning!), and what really stood out to me was the backcountry enthusiasm present here. I would guess that over 75% of the skis for sale at BD were mounted with AT or telemark bindings. I love that earning your turns is the norm here! Andrea was able to pick up some AT boots for basically nothing, and I got a good deal on Dynafit bindings.

On Saturday night we headed downtown (yeah, we went out after dark!) to see the new Warren Miller movie, Wintervention. In addition to the typical ski-porn footage of huge gap jumps and ripping up perfect Alaskan spines, this movie had some great destination segments. My favorite was the ski mountaineering trip to Antarctica, but what really made me feel a connection to this film was the footage shot in areas where I have skied (Beaver Creek's Royal Elk Glades and Vail's Northwoods) and hiked (the Telluride region of Colorado's San Juans and Southern Utah's Bryce Canyon).

Mia recovering from surgery. She was back to full steam ahead the following day!

Mia the puppy was spayed earlier this week, so we've been trying to keep her from running too much, but she's a bundle of energy and was back to her normal self almost immediately.

For a sendoff, take a look at this video clip below. You've probably seen (or visited) Bryce Canyon in the summer... but most people don't think about what that place would be like covered in snow. Last year, being an El Nino, brought record snow to Southern Utah, and this was the result...

October 17, 2010

Meet Mia!

Our foster puppy, Mia!

Meet the newest member of the Wasatch & Beyond adventure team: Mia!

We've been going back and forth on getting a puppy for a few months now, but for now we decided to bring home a foster dog for a while and help her find a new home. We picked up Mia yesterday (the rescue agency named her Miette, which is French for "small", but we are just calling her Mia) from the Perfect Pointers rescue operation in SLC. She's not a purebred (probably half German Shorthair Pointer and half "nobody knows"), but she's super sweet and lots of fun. Mia is about 8 months old and weighs 30 lbs. We took her on her first mountain hike today (Mt Aire, 8602 feet) and she did awesome! Now she's just relaxing on the couch. Hopefully we'll find her a great home soon... but not too soon, because in the meantime we're looking forward to having a ton of fun with this little sweetheart!

Mia's first stroll through the park

She was exhausted after her first day with us


Mia resting with me on the top of Mt Aire

Andrea and Mia

Puppy's first mountain!

Mia taking in the views

Looking East from Mt Aire

Andrea and Mia relaxing after our hike

October 11, 2010

A quick jaunt up Flagstaff Mountain

Fall colors in the Wasatch

October 10, 2010
Distance: ~3.5 miles
Vertical: ~2400 feet
Peaks: Flagstaff Mountain (10,530 ft), Reed & Benson Benchmark (10,561 ft)
Route: South slopes from Alta

Since the "Superloop" hike 2 weeks ago, Andrea and I have both continued to battle our foot injuries. Mine has made significant progress; Andrea's not so much. We still wanted to get up Little Cottonwood to check out the progress of the fall foilage, so yesterday (after sleeping in AND running) we did a short hike up to Flagstaff Mountain from Alta. This was a super-easy hike, but absolutely worth it because the fall colors and really starting to come into form! The weather was spectacular, and that is something I am consistently loving about this time of year in SLC compared to the Vail area: its 20 degrees warmer!!!

I think we'll officially be in the "shoulder season" soon, that time of year between the end of warm-weather hiking and making the first powder turns. So that means lots of running, to get ready for earning those turns... AND we're getting a foster puppy tomorrow, so the dog will probably be dominating this blog for the next month or so!

Yellow Aspens... the Wasatch colors haven't even peaked yet

On Flagstaff Mountain, with the Unicorn Tanktop

The ridge from Flagstaff to Reed & Benson

Andrea with Twin Peaks behind her... some snow up there

Mt Superior

In a few months this will be some super-fun ski terrain

A few more pictures of the fall colors...

I like this sign near the trailhead

The route from Alta

Ahhh... an easy day!