October 26, 2008:
It's how I define the start of a new ski season; the first time I ski on fresh snow, rather than on something that fell last winter or spring. Yesterday on the Muir Snowfield was a treat, with Michael T. (in from Zürich for the week) and Kevin, we headed up through the drizzle and emerged above Paradise in sunny weather. A few inches of fresh from Monday had transformed into nice corn and shielded our skis from the glacial sand that had coated the snowfield until recently, and almost no one but perhaps a dozen skiers and three climbers made it up to Camp Muir. We took advantage of the sunny afternoon to take a nap behind one of the 10,000 ft. outhouses before skiing down to just above Pebble Creek.
Here's a few things to jot down on your mental calendar:
Snowbash, the annual party at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard to benefit the Nortwest Weather and Avalanche Center, goes down on Saturday, November 8th from 8:00 PM 'til midnight, right after the Avalanche Summit. Attend one or both, and get your tickets here for $20 ($25 at the door). Price usually includes two beers and all the music and companionship you can stomach.
Turns-All-Year.com, the Seattle-based nerve center of backcountry skiing in the NW, is holding an auction for a pair of Trab Freerando Light skis (171 guaranteed to be available, other sizes may be as well if you win and really want another length). I've skied this ski, and it's incredible - almost as light as a rando race ski, and it rips in marginal conditions like something way bigger. It would be the next Trab I'd add to the quiver if I had the $$$$. Watch this space for more info.
October 15, 2008:
The first day of fall was a sign. A cold front combined with moisture laid down several inches of fresh snow in the Cascades, temporarily closing the Artist Point road at Baker and bringing out the skiers to sample the first offering of the new season. The road closed for the year on October 6th, with a fresh blanket of white over much of the Cascades, including a good 4 inches at Stevens Pass.
For many skiers, the first snow of the season brings with it a sharp realization, "Wow, I need to get back in shape!"
It doesn't seem to matter how much hiking, climbing, cycling or whatever you do through the summer. Skiing works the body in ways that no other activity is able to match. It's common to see very fit people brought to their knees (literally) by aching lower backs and quads after the first hard day of sliding. Unless you're one of the few who spend their summers training in Chile you probably are familiar with the feeling, so it's long been a struggle to find activities that simulate the physical stress of skiing and don't actually require snow.
These days the preferred method of preseason training is increasingly becoming CYCLOCROSS.
If you're not familiar with the sport, it's a combination of equal parts single track mountain biking, road biking, running on the beach and carrying your groceries into the house, all done at speed and often in the rain and mud. Once considered the exclusive province of Belgians who lived on frites and Trappist ale and never put on leg warmers if it was above freezing, 'cross is spreading like wildfire in the States (well, at least the NE, Colorado and Northwest). It also gets the nod from the tat and nosering crowd, at least until they find out how frickin' hard it is.
Look carefully at the results on the Seattle Cyclocross page, and you'll see plenty of famous backcountry skiers in the mix. Along with XC skiing and of course rando racing, it's one of the most strenuous sports you can find and, like skiing, works your body in unexpected ways. Here's some pictures of Russell Stevenson, who helped drag me out of the woods when I ruptured my achilles tendon in the Alpental BC a few years ago and is arguably one of the best people in the Northwest to watch if you want to improve your 'cross technique.
The second annual Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit is set for this November 8th at the Epiphany School, 3710 E. Howell in Seattle. Last year's event was a huge success, stimulated much thought and some spirited debate, and was a great chance to catch up with what some of your ski friends had been doing over the summer. Buy your tickets in advance at http://www.brownpapertickets.com
Previous Incoming Pages:
"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the randosaigai.com link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .
© 2008 Gregory C. Louie