Game Plan

The past few weeks were rough. I had to focus on school, but I couldn’t keep my mind off skiing. As it was getting colder outside, shops were slowly transitioning from biking to skiing and the ski community has been gathering more and more to celebrate the beginning of a new season. For many weeks now, my Instagram and Facebook feed have been loaded with ski movie trailers, new gear and ski related events in Quebec like the “Salon du Backcountry du Québec” or other movie premieres.

It is now the time of the year where I start planning my ski trips and set my goals for the season. It is usually something that I would send directly to those who support me (thank you so much Peak Performance and Meier Skis, you guys rock!), but I know sharing this plan here with you will definitely motivate me to make things happen!

So here it goes.

1. Chic-Chocs, Gaspésie. L’Auberge Chic-Chac is the place to be! I had the opportunity to get there twice last season and I’d like to hit it three times this season: one early season trip during the Christmas break, a second one during late January or early March and hopefully a third one during late March or April. I’d love to ski Mont Albert, but the real deal would be the Mines Madeleine, at the end of the season. The chutes over there are gnarly!

Chic-Chocs, last season

Chic-Chocs, last season

Lines I want to ski this winter

Lines I want to ski this winter

2. Tuckerman Ravine. I skied it once before (2 seasons ago) and it was super fun. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it happen again last season, so I’d like to ski it at least twice this season during March and April. I'm also going to keep that place as a plan B if I’m not able to get to the Chic Chocs again at the end of the season. 

Lines surrounding Tuckerman's Ravine, 2 seasons ago

Lines surrounding Tuckerman's Ravine, 2 seasons ago

 

3. Mont Avila. Back to the roots. About ten years ago, I quit the mogul skiing team and bought a park pass at Mont Avila. I started freestyle skiing there with my childhood friend and loved it! This season that same friend and I decided to get a season pass there and we’ll try to get some park laps about once a week, if we’re not touring. I consider myself pretty good on any kind of terrain, with any kind of skis clipped to my feet, but jumps are my weakness and I really want to get better at it this season. The ultimate goal is to bring tricks to natural features in the backcountry. Mont Avila is also where the Akamp takes place in June, which is the only summer ski camp on the East Coast. It's super fun and I would love to do it again next summer. 

 

Following this plan, winter should go like this:

November: Early season park laps whenever the ski hill opens

December: Studying for finals (school) then Chic-Chocs after Christmas

January: Park laps and hopefully 2nd trip to the Chic Chocs

February: Park laps and Studying for mid terms (school)

March: Chic-Chocs and/or Tuckerman and park laps

April: Chic-Chocs and/or Tuckerman and park laps

June: Akamp!

Akamp is sick!

Akamp is sick!

 

I hope this will work out. I’ll share most of it on social media so make sure to follow Chasing Snowflakes on Facebook and Instagram (new insta account!).

See you on the slopes,

Vincent

Sure, why not?

I said wouldn't be going to the local pocket glacier on Mcrea this year. Sure it's skiing but it's flat, short and it's a bit of a walk for 100m of vertical skiing. Revelstoke has had a few good early season storms that built up the base in hurry.  With sun on the forecast and nothing better to do with my day off David convinced me to go for a walk out to Mcrea . At least the views would be worth the effort, they always are. 

The view from the road is pure magic. 

The road was generally snow free all the way to the rec site parking lot and while some might argue that what we did was skinning , we did skin right from the car.  We took the high route through the cut block and through the forest because it would " save time ". It didn't. We trashed through thin cover until we reached the meadows, eventually. Once in the alpine it was obvious that there had recently been a rain event follow by below freezing temperatures. Normally this would be a major bummer but when it's October and the snow pack is 50cm or less this is freaking awesome. The crust was super dooper sportive and was covered in large surface hoar crystals. This meant we could ski anything that was snow covered without worrying about rocks and that meant no boring glacier today!

This snow has a lot of traction!

Finally out of the woods

Mcrea

Mcrea peak

Surface hoar

So we had a look around and decided to stick to the zone just off the summer trail. This offered some exciting skiing over steep terrain and we spent the afternoon mini golfing. I will keep the words short and substitute photos and a quick edit because who wants to read anyways?  

dude, do a method. 

Signs of intelligent life

Arrow lakes in the distance looking majestic AF

October?

Sluffing surface hoar

Second run

All and all it was probably the best skiing I have ever had in October and I can't believe I almost didn't go! It's easy to become the jaded local snow snob over the years and be too cool for " skiing on grass and rocks" but  hey, it's just skiing. Go have fun and you might get rewarded or not. Whatever.

 

  

Sol Mountain Biking

This is fast becoming one of my favorite places on earth.

Sol Mountain touts itself as easy off the grid, backcountry living that has been designed by backcountry skiers, for backcountry skiers. If you take a look at their winter availability calendar, you’ll see that they are doing something right, with over 75% of the 16/17 season booked solid.

They've hit the nail on the head once again with their new summer offering; alpine single track mountain biking. Lodge owner Aaron Cooperman and his crew have put some serious work into the now 20 Kilometers of single track trails that start mere feet from the door of the lodge and take you through alpine meadows filled with wildflowers, across ridge lines and eventually towards Mount Fosthall along South Cariboo pass.

Located a two and a half hour drive south from Revelstoke, getting there is a breeze. You will spend 30 minutes on pavement while making your way down Highway 23 to the entrance of a well marked Forest Service Road just North of the Shelter Bay ferry. At every junction on the FSR you will follow the highly visible, well marked signs all the way to the lodge that is nestled 1950M above sea level in a cozy alpine meadow.

Sol’s bike trails are what I would consider engaging. It is rare on the way down that you’ll be heads up looking at the stunning view while cruising along, so take lots of water breaks. The trail switches quickly between hard pack dirt, stone or wood bridges, and slabby rock sections. Whether climbing up or bombing back down, you will never get bored at Sol.

After putting in some work climbing the 350 meters of vertical over 5 KM of trail from the lodge you will be standing on top of the Ridgeline trail. This is a must do climb while you are here. The trail requires a short section of hike a bike on the way up and then the views from the top are almost as stunning as the trail is fun on the way back down to Sol Lake.

If you find yourself at Sol Lake mid afternoon on a sunny day, it’s probably a good idea to strip down and go for a swim in the cool alpine water. Nothing makes you feel more alive than a quick dip followed by a beer that has been chilled by that same alpine lake you just plunged into (drop one on your way up to ridgeline!).

After a sit down, you can make your way out the ever expanding 2KM (at time of writing) South Cariboo pass trail towards Mount Fosthall, before turning around and making your way back down towards the lodge. If you are looking for the fastest, flowiest way down, stick to the Sol Lake trail until you hit beacon check. If you are after some more heads up hockey, check out Bunny Slope Slabs and Crazy Train on the way down, both are incredible trails with technical sections. No matter where you choose to ride, make sure you hit Beacon Check at some point while you are up there, its a super flowy, fast cruisy trail with a couple little drops and tons of stuff to pop off of the whole way down.

If you haven’t been up to check out Sol’s offerings yet this summer, make the drive the next time you have a free day or two, you will thank yourself!

- Jay Morrison

Skinning Up the Ice Coast - Part 1

Part 1 - Laurentides

Here I am, Canada, Quebec, Montreal. 1 676 km east of Banff. My mission to get deeper in my French speaking touring community is going pretty well. I have to admit; I am truly surprised by the amount of people who are now gearing up to ditch the chairlifts. Touring is the new “big thing” here.

On top of my touring destinations’ list is the Laurentides, which is a bit north of Montreal. It took me a while to start my little skinning journey this season for one simple reason: no snow. El Nino is not my friend. El Nino doesn’t have any skier friends close to Montreal. Screw you Hell Nino! December 29th was our first snowstorm. It was late, but great: 25 cm of fresh, natural, deep, white, snow. This means two things. First, our season started way too late. Second, our season started with a bang!

My first destination was Mont Avila, where I learned how to ski 16 years ago. That place is now the Mecca for park riders. I remember being a little kid and hearing about plans of building a massive snowpark in my favorite run, from top to bottom. I was pissed! A couple years later my best friend Pierre brought me into it and I fell in love with freestyle. I bought XL clothes, sagged my pants, and shredded the park (well, I tried my best!) every weekend of my high school years. This time though, it is with a GoreTex jacket, handcrafted powder skis and a pair of skins that I rediscovered that place.

Mont Avila

Mont Avila

My sister Marie and I drove from Montreal to Saint-Sauveur on Dec 29th. My parents own a condo there that they rent every season, but unfortunately they weren’t able to rent it that month. So we stayed there and started skinning the very next morning to take advantage of that deep snow. The mountain was still closed due to Hell Nino and the staff working on the snowguns didn’t seem to care about us skinning up, which allowed us to enjoy our best East Coast pow ever! Avila isn’t steep so we lapped a few different pitches and then finished our pow day with a massive smoked meat poutine at La Belle Province! What a day.

There are two other options to consider, other than closed ski resorts, if you want to tour in the Laurentides. The first one is using trekking/snowshoeing trails to go up a mountain and then ski down. Mother Nature didn’t give us the base we need to fully enjoy that option without buying loads of P-Tex to fill undesired core shots. I can’t tell you how it is because I haven’t tried it yet. I’ve heard about some secret stashes that offer good terrain, but many other people told me that it's all about tight turns, which I’m not a fan of.

The second option consists in using the skinning and snowshoeing trails around the ski resorts to go up and then ski down using the same trails as the regular skier do. I tried it a couple of times. It doesn’t give you the excitement of skiing somewhere “wild”, but it still gives you a reason to skip leg day at the gym! You also skip lineups at the bottom of the chairlift, get away from the crowds for a decent amount of time and it allows you to feel proud about the mountain you climbed yourself, which is a feeling that never gets old. Mont Tremblant, Mont Garceau, Mont Avalanche and many other resorts offer those trails.

I enjoyed the Laurentides for touring. It forced me to enjoy the same sport I already love for different reasons. When I was living out west, I used to skin up analyzing the mountains surrounding me trying to gauge avalanche danger while looking for the best lines to ski down. The reward would be unforgettable turns with my friends. Here I simply skin up in the trees thinking about random stuff, not wearing any avalanche gear. The reward doesn’t come after, skinning up worry free becomes the reward.

The Reward

The Reward

I noticed that many places sell touring bindings, but no skins. I guess it shows evidence of skiers’ motivation to get into the sport, yet shops’ reluctance to adjust their inventory since this whole “earn your turns” vibe is kind of new here. From what I saw so far, the best place to stop an ask questions for skiers and snowboarders who are curious to learn more about touring is La Cordée, in Montréal. Many other shops are, themselves, learning at the same pace as the costumers are, which is less than ideal.  Split boarders, you might also want to check out Alternative Skate and Snow’s website and give them a call if you don’t live near Rimouski, Qc.

I am really happy to see the amount of events advertised on Facebook which offer the opportunity to get a taste of this variation of regular skiing. It is an expensive sport and trying it on top-notch gear without having to buy it is great. It gave me the opportunity to put my girlfriend on skins and spend a day sharing my passion with her. Thanks Groski Fest for that!

GROSKI FEST

GROSKI FEST

Always happy to skin up another mountain!

Now, on a more serious note… Although I am very excited to see where the sport is going, I also feel the need to share my thoughts about some lack of avalanche education upon us. Surprisingly, I think that proximity, as a factor, is the problem. Since we are not surrounded by avalanche terrain, we feel safe and we don't take enough time to learn about avalanche safety. Which is fine… Until we go on a trip and step into avalanche terrain, which is what most of us are looking forward to. That problem comes with the way the sport is being promoted here. We don’t talk about touring in the Laurentides as “touring in the Laurentides”. We talk about it as the first step to learn how to access the legendary powder-filled mountains of Bristish Columbia or Gaspésie. Yet, too often we do so without even mentionning the avalanche danger as an aspect to keep in mind. It makes us think that it's the same thing, but it ain't.

I am looking forward to an event introducing skiers/snowboarders to touring/splitboarding where people will be allowed to play hide and seek with beacons and where Avaluators will be handed out. I am truly hoping to see movies like “The Fine Line”, or books like “Snow Sense” on the shelves next to any books about the Chic Chocs or about Tuckerman’s Ravine. I think any staff member in a ski shop selling touring equipment should ask the clients where they want to go with that, ask them if they would be interested to see their avalanche safety equipment. Maybe shops could offer discounts for Avalanche Skills Training 1 class with any purchase of touring equipment exceeding 300$? It seems like touring is gaining popularity much faster than people's will to learn more about avalanches. I think we should do our best to promote one as much as the other.

Despite my safety concerns, I think touring has a bright future in the Laurentides. People here always seem stoked to put their skins on! The terrain is safer than pretty much anywhere else and many shops are willing to support customers in this new avenue. It is, for skiers and snowboarders, the best way to enjoy their passion with a new and more dynamic approach. I personally had a lot of fun! If ski resorts keep clearing out some skinning trails to get to the top, I wouldn’t be surprise to see more and more people using them every season.

On my destination’s list:

- Laurentides: √

- Next Stop: Chic Chocs!

 

Author : Vincent Hamel

 

 

Patagonia. A family trip.

About 6 months ago I realized that my past season has been the shortest of the 21st century. And even worse: it was in the Laurentides. You know that place? It’s a place where hills are called mountains, where charging only exists on groomers, where ski shops don’t sell skins, where artificial snow is what keeps you going all the way down to that crowded chairlift full of extreme skiers who brag "en tabarnak" about skiing a double black diamond while eating their "esti de bonne" 9$ slice of pizza with their rental boots undone. Vive le Québec! [It's not THAT bad, but you know...]

Ouch. Identity crisis. I’m a big mountain skier. What Am I doing in Montreal? Should I move back to the Bow Valley? Or join some friends in Revy? Who needs education anyways? Right?

The real question is: How can I stay here and complete my degree without ditching my powder skis?

The answer is: Patagonia.

The problem is: Money.

I looked at my bank account and realized that I could almost afford a trip to South America, but then all my savings from the past 4 years would be gone. So I took a couple days to think about it… (or not!). Then I started to look for the best prices on flighthub! Half an hour later, I was trying to find a ski buddy to tag along. And then my sister showed up…

Marie (my sister) and I get along pretty well and she is an awesome skier who loves travelling. Last time we skied powder together was in Banff (May 2014), just a couple months before she left for Japan, skiing waist deep powder and eating sushis (wise decision Marie). Yes she is my sister, and travelling with her will definitely not be the same vibe as if I was travelling with a bro, but, she speaks Spanish (I don’t), she is really organized (I’m not), and she actually is pretty cool (me too).

That's her.

That's her.

So I told her what was my plan and we both worked hard all summer to afford this trip.

Booking with SASS Global Travel was the easiest way to access great terrain and deep snow without wasting anytime. It’s expensive, but you won’t regret it. You meet awesome riders from all around North America and you don’t waste any time trying to find the good snow / good terrain. They know exactly where it is and they bring you there. Personally, my idea was book with them and learn. Get to know the backcountry, and then, for my next trips I’ll know where to go and if I’m short on money I won’t have to pay for guides.

We stayed in the Soulmax lodge which is about 2 minutes away from the base of Cerro Catedral. It’s pretty much like staying in a hostel, except you are with a bunch a sick riders (Garrett Russell, Michelle Parker, Piers Solomon, Chris Coulter, Robin Van Gyn, Andrew Burns, etc). Our typical day was: get up at 7:50, eat breakfast and get your gear ready, find Pete (he’s the one in charge of the groups), talk about your goals for the day and he would assign you to a group (4-5 people per group). Leave the lodge at 9:10 and go to TAGE. TAGE is where you learn how to order a sandwich “jambon y queso” and a chocolate bar in Spanish. Order a “budin de limon” (lemon loaf) if you feel fancy. Then you walk to the gondola (9:30) with all your gear. That’s an awesome part of the day because you get to walk in front of everybody with pro skiers and pretend that your are just that cool like “yeah, that’s Michelle Parker following me. No biggie”. But in your head you are all like: “OMFG that’s crazy!! Selfies selfies selfies!”

TAGE : "Un sandwich jambon y queso"

TAGE : "Un sandwich jambon y queso"

Then you tour around in the backcountry and ski chutes, bowls, trees, hit cliffs, watch your buddies rip, discover new zones, rip harder, etc, until 4. Between 4 and 5 = Cervezas! Patagonia Weisse was my classic. Oh, and don’t forget the empanadas. Then it was “merienda” (a.k.a. teatime). Then you eat dinner, drink more beer, play ping pong and go to bed! Sweet life eh?

Marie and I skied inbounds the first day. There was 20 cm of fresh snow so we skied it until it was mainly tracked out and then we did some beacon drills with our group just to get ready for the next days. Cerro Catedral offers awesome terrain. We skied open bowls and chutes in the alpine and open trees below tree line until the bamboo forest. Bamboos are exotic, but they can be tight as hell! If you ever bushwacked you way out in The Bow, you are qualified for this. If not, don’t worry: there’s a sledding trail that you can find easily (after crossing 3-4 creeks) and it will guide you back to the resort. Unless you go on a big mission, there’s always Frey Trail that you can use to go back to the lodge (yes, Frey Trail, the trail that brings you to Refugio Frey).

I won’t lie to you. Weather is an issue in Argentina. Wind can shut the chairlifts down for multiple days in a row, sun can screw up your snowpack and the clouds are thick. Be prepared for alternative options (beers). Marie and I had amazing weather the first 3 days. Good weather on the 4th day (a lot of wind and clouds so we stayed in the trees) and then during day 5, visibility was none existent. You could see your hands and the tip of your skis. We did short radius turns following each other with our group for about an hour before we called it. Day 6 = strong winds. Lifts were shut down except the lower ones, but it got hot the day before so everything below treeline was icy. It felt like the Laurentides (home sweet home). Day 7 was great! It was a Saturday and Saturdays are the guides’ day off. We stayed inbounds and skied casual terrain. That day was all about fresh snow, big fast turns, high fives, smiles and cervezas!

Weather...

Weather...

Day 5

Day 5

Why did we stay inbounds? Because. As much as I love going in the backcountry, explore further and learn from my friends’ knowledge, it’s also great not to worry about safety sometimes. The snow was good: the wind gave us a nice soft blanket to shred on. That day, my deepest turn was about 12 cm deep and my biggest cliff was less than 8 feet. Still, it was amazing. Marie and I chased each other down the Patagonian bowls like we use to do when we were 8. I guess that's what skiing is all about: just having fun on the mountain with your friends (or family) and forget about everything else. Forget about the money, forget about work, and forget about responsibilities. Just play and laugh.

Scoping lines inbounds on Day 7. Yes, all that terrain is inbounds.

Scoping lines inbounds on Day 7. Yes, all that terrain is inbounds.

Big turns! Can you spot me? (bottom right corner)

Big turns! Can you spot me? (bottom right corner)

Patagonia was one of the best trips of my life. Despite how bad my bank account got this summer, I know I need to go back. The souvenirs I came back with make me richer than I was. Special thanks to Marie (sister, you rock!), Meier Skis (www.meierskis.com) who made sure I was equipped to make the most out of each lines and the SASS family (www.sassglobaltravel.com) who made us feel more than welcome in Patagonia.

Whoever is reading this, if you are wondering what to do with your savings, Patagonia is your answer. Until then, have a great winter here in North America!

Author: Vincent

After The Sky Falls

Reviewing ski movies isn’t something that we really do here at Chasing Snowflakes. That being said, the guys over at Nimbus Independent just dropped an incredible movie that we think you should buy.

If you haven’t been following along, Nimbus Independent has been around since 2007, featuring the skiing, shooting, editing and artistic abilities of Eric Pollard, Chris Benchetler, Pep Fujas and Andy Mahre. In fact, after watching the Hunting Yeti series I was inspired to pick up a camera that wasn’t a point and shoot for the first time in my life. (You can find thier entire back catalog for free on Vimeo at http://vimeo.com/nimbus)

Chris getting all... Title Screen

I have to say, that while I am a huge fan of the roots of nimbus and their early work that focused as much on the road trip as it did the skiing, their new 29 minute feature film After the Sky Falls is cinematically probably the best ski movie I have ever seen. You can hit pause at almost any given point during the film and you will see an almost perfectly framed still photo. The music selection was spot on for what they were trying to portray, and the flashes of other activities including surfing, mountain biking and rock climbing give a snapshot of what it’s like living in the mountains. There are no down days, just other sports to explore.

Lollipop Pillows. Like a Dream

As always with Nimbus, you are left with a feeling that everything you have just watched is attainable. This movie feels exactly like a highlight reel of you going out and hanging out with your buddies. You ride some gnarly technical lines, you build some kickers, you screw around on the cat tracks. This doesn’t feel like a movie with paid skiers pushing the limits of the human body on the spines of Alaska, or pushing the sport of skiing a little further in the park at Mammoth. These guys aren’t the typical crew of acquaintances that get to ride together for 2 weeks every other year. They are friends, and they leave you feeling stoked to get together with your crew and go bag a peak and a new gnarly line.

Head on over to Amazon or Vimeo to purchase!

Find out more about the Nimbus crew over at nimbusindependent.com

 

-J

Mind the gap

Every year it's the same. The calendar flips from August to September and our focus flips with it. The leaves begin their metamorphosis from vibrant greens to dreadful browns, the signs of decay and death.  It's the proverbial turn of the page into a new chapter, into a new season and we just can’t help but to get stoked about it. Like super stoked bro. With September comes the pipe dreams, passed between friends via facebook and texts. Always joking about the approaching rains;  "If only those freezing levels could drop a few hundred meters". Yes, if only. Of course the freezing levels never seem to drop quite far enough, or days off never seem to line up with opportunity. As we all know, 95% of the early fall is spent spitting pipe dreams back and forth between friends.  When the snow level does creep down and precipitation is incoming you just need to make it happen if you can. You've just gotta. 

Getting... less wet.

This week, as freezing levels looked like they might creep down just far enough, work called. “Hey, can you take the next few days off?” Time off on a long weekend? I took it as a sign from ULLR. I sent out another batch of facebook and text messages, this time seeing who among my friends from seasons past were up to turning a pipe dream into a reality. We were going to find Winter in September. Fast forward through an 8am start, Timmies run, thirty or so kilometers of logging roads, and we were slinging backpacks loaded with our skis over our shoulders heading towards Mcrae Peak. The Ministry of Forests has deactivated the last portion of the road and created a new parking lot. This adds an extra kilometer walk to the route before you reach the old trailhead. Two and a half km up a well established trail, we took a right at a fork that broke us into the subalpine. Shortly after the fork we found snowline. A light dusting covered the slopes above, but not nearly enough to make any ski friendly turns. We were looking for the actual glacier which on the approach was obscured by cloud cover. Trending left, with a little route finding, we eventually found ourselves at the toe of glacier. Pools of glacial melt water line the final hundred meters of the approach and comments about how nice it would be if they were in fact hot pools were made. About two minutes later Roberto is up his waist in the drink after walking too close to what he assumed was a puddle. He promptly confirmed they weren't in fact hot pools. A quick change of socks and lot's of swearing/laughing later, and we were all in our ski boots looking upward at the glacier.

 

There are 2 very obvious slots at the very top and few more smaller openings on both the left and right side. Further down the center of the glacier there are a few less pronounced sags in the snow, indicating possible danger. Another party was just ahead of us and the last person in their group was about to drop in as the sun was beginning to poke out . As soon as we saw him, we started hooting and hollering, stoked to see our first run of the season up close. He quickly built up some speed, aired over a crevasse with an exaggerated jumping motion, caught an edge, bounced and tumbled behind a roller that was blocking our view. Although we had lost sight of him, we all knew in the pit of our stomach that he had just rolled right into the second slot... shit.  “Did he just do that” one of his friends exclaimed. “Did that really just happen?” After what felt like 5 minutes of everyone scrambling uphill towards him, he finally reappeared. Needless to say we were all quite relieved. A closer look at the crevasse later determined he landed head first on a snow bridge that was covering a slot in the ice that we couldn’t see to the bottom of. Unbelievable luck that he managed to escape.

Now it was our turn. The sun quit ducking in and out of cover and came out full force, making for a bluebird afternoon. While the sun was great for visibility, it was also threatening to turn our field of powder into a field of shmoo.  Lucky for us the temperatures remained fairly low, around 5 degrees Celsius for the remainder of the day. We skied a few laps, boot packing some sections and skinning others. We took our time playing in the sunny snow covered playground for a few hours, taking some photos and sharing a whole bunch of laughs and high fives. The feeling was surreal, skiing powder while just a few hundred feet below us it was still late Summer. I could describe the skiing but it's like they say, a photo is worth a thousand words. So here's several thousand words. 

 

It was total FGP it was by far the best early September turns any of us have ever had. At the foot of the glacier after our last turns, we sat in the sun eating the rest of our packed lunches and began reminiscing about what we had just done this labor day long weekend. The walk back to the car, although all down hill, seemed to be twice as long and the jarring of the combination of loaded packs plus the down hill travel just plain sucked. The beers tucked in the shade back at the truck were extra delicious, and the view on the way down was nothing short of breathtaking. In summary, we didn't get super rad by airing any gaps in the glacier (we left that to others), and we highly doubt redbull would be interested in covering the trip, but we skied pow on labor day long weekend in North America, and that is pretty rad. 

 

We will leave you with a picture of our new poster boy for safe glacier travel. We met a random hiker that made the ridge walk above the glacier in shorts and hiking shoes. While your're up there, you may as well traverse the glacier, because... I mean, what could go wrong?

 

Crampons Over Nail Salons!

Summit Selfie Yay!

I looked back at my touring partner as she skinned up to join me on the summit of Cathedral Mountain and with a big smile on my face all I could say after 1600 metres of vertical gain was “Dude.”  The ineffable beauty of the Rockies overwhelmed me as I looked beyond to the Lake O’Hara and Little Yoho regions.   With a stoke level as high as the 3190 metre summit we were standing on, she yelled “Let’s take some fucking selfies!”  After some hugs, fist pumps and a killer summit selfie photo shoot, we transitioned to ski mode.  It was about 5:00pm at this point – way later than we had anticipated.

Emma and I met through a mutual friend last summer while rock climbing, and after many discussions about going ski touring together the stars finally aligned for us.  There’s something to be said about an all girls adventure party.  Since I’m almost always the only female on a ski tour, this was a treat and I knew it was going to be an awesome day.

I attempted Cathedral about a month earlier, but I got sandbagged by a very unfrozen Catarack Creek. This was my chance at redemption and I wanted this peak badly!  The “log” we were told to use to cross the creek was in fact a small alder.  So after throwing our skis over the open water and gingerly inching our way across the narrow tree trunk, we started on our way.

Crossing Catarack Creek

Emma knew of two previous groups who had recently gone through, and since there was no new snow, we followed some tracks up a drainage.  Now, I know better than to follow random tracks, but we were equipped with a topo, GPS, compass, emergency overnight gear, and a hey-how-are-you attitude, so we carried on confidently.  4-5 hours of difficult travel through thick forest along some melt-freeze, chundery snow and it was starting to get hot as we finally cleared tree line.  After the bushwhacking slog, our stoke was renewed as the sun beat down on us and we looked back to get impressive views of Narao and The Watchtower.

Heading into the alpine

Feeling Small

We took a break for food and drink in a sparsely treed meadow in preparation for heading into the alpine.  Admittedly, we were a little uncertain during our route-finding process, but it turns out we somehow managed to bypass the chimney feature that would get us to the toe of the glacier.  After taking a bearing and consulting our topo for the umpteenth time we were definitely in the right spot.  I was pretty exhausted at this point and I considered pulling the pin, particularly since it was 1:30pm as we caught sight of the seriously complex terrain we needed to ascend.

After discussing the route, evaluating potential hazards, and talking about the next leg, we agreed to push forward and I took the lead.We had received mixed beta about the glacier on this tour, so we decided to play it safe – when in doubt, rope up!

 

Almost there!

The travel varied between moving over sheer ice and having to break trail through boot deep snow.  Visually, our route was bracketed on the left by a sub-peak of our objective and Cathedral Crags on the right as we took turns shouting “almost there!”  When we flattened out just before the final push, I caught sight of our line and I yelled back to her “Shit’s about to get really beautiful!”  And it sure did.

 

Cathedral summit, Mount Stephen, and Cathedral Crags

P: Emma Russell

Now the fun part!  It felt so rewarding and normal to ski down what we had  laboured through to get up.  And so, just because it hadn't been a long or hard enough day, we decided to deviate from our up route and ski down what we assumed to be the headwall that some trip reports say is a route up.  We knew it was a risk, and we were prepared that it might mean getting cliffed out…which is exactly what happened.  After some variable and exhilarating skiing, I was as far down as I could go and I yelled up to Emma who was waiting about 40 metres above me: “I hate to break it to you, girl, but it looks like we’re going to have to go back up.”  With a heavy heart I side-stepped back up to a safe spot where I could put my skins back on.  It was pretty hard and icy travel and there were big consequences if one of us fell.  “Almost there!” I shouted down to Emma.  I kept slipping out every other step, and we eventually put our skis on our packs to boot up the rest of it.  This added at least another hour, if not more, to our already long day.  There was still the option to ski down the chute we had passed earlier in the day, but we decided that we’d go with what we knew and ski down into the crappy bushwhack.  We had both been out of water for a while, so we were running on pure adrenaline at this point.  We exchanged goggles for headlamps about halfway through the forest, and after some side slipping, jump turns, and not so pretty skiing we made it down and I let out a ridiculous laugh when I heard the sound of running water.  As we sat along the creek bank taking it all in, Emma pointed to a lonely star in the sky and we just giggled, slightly hysterical from the day’s events.

It was totally dark as we made our way back over the creek, through the meadow and on to the Lake O’Hara road.  3 kilometres to the parking lot and we peeled out of there like Thelma & Louise.  Once we got into cell range, my phone exploded with messages and missed calls from concerned friends.  My roommate called just as I was about to call him, and it was his last attempt before calling for help.  I really am a lucky girl to have such awesome and caring friends!  I got word to everyone that nothing bad happened; that it was just an awesome and long day with bits of sufferfest.  But hey, it wouldn’t be a Rockies Classic without a sketchy river crossing, a heinous bushwhack, and a headlamp descent.

 

Author, Michelle Brazier

Christel Hamel - World Cup and Online School

Christel Hamel - Duties & Skis ep1

Skiing: we all share that same passion, but it’s that same passion that too many people are quitting for “grown ups responsibilities”. We all dream about living the dream, but not many people dare to pursue that goal.

Christel Hamel, a young mogul skier and student from University of Montreal found a way to do it. Her story is pretty similar to many other passionate skiers in their early twenties, except there’s a happy ending.

Christel started skiing at the age of 2 with her family. After spending about 5 years (from 8 to 12) on the Saint-Sauveur race team, she switched for mogul skiing. From then, she quickly went up the ladder: regional team for 1 year, elite team for 2 years, provincial team for 3 years (1 on the development team and 2 on the official team), national team for another few years and she is now starting her first season on the world cup team (congrats!). Obviously, training and travelling full time like that wouldn’t be an option for most of us who are stuck behind a desk working or studying all year long.

Online school has been the answer she was looking for. She started taking distance classes after high school. It wasn’t always easy for her to organize her schedule, but she had a goal and it kept her motivated to do it. So far it paid off! She is now at university doing online school and she is able to attend to all her trainings and contests. She even got hooked with Riobel inc., who’s supporting her in her skiing.

 

 

Studying while being on the world cup team keeps her mind worry free since she knows that if she gets seriously injured (the “career-ending” kind of injury) she’ll have a plan B to pay the bills. If skiing all year long and travel around the world to do it is something you’d like to try without quitting school, online school could be a sweet option for you.

Christel’s goal this winter is to get many top 10 results on the world cup tour, and hopefully a top 6. We are wishing her the best of luck for her results and we are looking forward to see her punching front flips and tricks all around the world!

Stay tuned to see her dominate the slope!


Redemption.

The day started out like the opener to a bad joke: An Englishman, a French-Canadian, and a half-Filipina pile into a car… This time last year, a different set of buddies and I went for the couloir on Storm Mountain in Kananaskis Country, but after some sketchy switchbacks and digging a pit, we decided to pull the pin that day. Fast-forward to this year: I wondered if the same fate lay ahead of us as we discussed our objective from the car, but I was also very excited at the prospect of finally bagging it. It was the second ski tour of the year for each of us, and although a tad rusty and a little out of shape, it didn’t take us long to set a good pace as we followed a very obvious up track – set a couple days earlier by a pair of local legends.

The approach

 

After some minor river crossings, we arrived at a rock garden where we were quickly reminded that it’s still very much early ski season in the Rockies. Man it looks steep. Since Mikey’s skins looked like he used them as toilet paper, both he and Vince kept their skis on to traverse the field of moraine debris. I took mine off, obviously, to test the Vibram grip on my new AT boots and, let’s be honest, because my skins are way too pretty for that! As we started up the steep switchbacks with skis back on, the three of us kept sliding out. I had a bit more purchase than the boys, so I kept going while Mikey put his skis on his back and started the boot-pack early. Behind me, for every two steps forward, Vince took a step back and as I struggled I thought to myself: “Why didn’t I bring my ski crampons?” After some of the most graceful kick turns of my ski touring career, I gave up and took my skis off in preparation for the climb. The boys joined me shortly thereafter, and we had a snack break and discussed our approach.

Feeling small

 

Perched on an upside ski, I took a sip of my herbal tea and couldn’t help but feel total happiness as I took in the surrounding peaks that we had all to ourselves. And then there’s nothing quite like the halting sensation of a full bladder to break the peace – not bad, considering I’m usually on my fifth pit stop of a tour by now. Gents, you really have no idea how lucky you are. Popping a squat in minus whatever on a 40 something degree slope with quads that are already burning, hoping that you’re not unknowingly flashing someone, getting frostbite on your lady bits, or accidentally getting wee on yourself ain’t easy, folks! With an empty bladder and a newly restored level of stoke, I met up with the boys and since I was the only one with crampons, I took the lead all the way up. Funny, it looked way steeper from afar.

Ok by seriously, does my butt look saggy in these pants?

 

 

At one point early in the climb, I stopped to take a selfie – as you do – and I looked back to see the boys exhausted from punching through and fighting against the snow. After a water break and some amping ourselves up, we carried on, hugging the side and eventually booting straight up the guts. Fatigue started to set in during the last third of the boot-pack as the plunge of my axe was met with the sound of metal on rock and my steps began to puncture the crust. I yelled down to the boys to tell them that I was working pretty hard, and Mikey said: “If you’re punching through, I’m not looking forward to when I get up there.” Finally, the warmth of the sun kissed my cheeks as I topped out and I let out a loud “Yew!” in between deep breaths. I turned around to cheer on the boys as they came out of the shade and joined me.

The boys catching up

 

Exhausted and stoked, we sealed our triumph with an enthusiastic high five and a mini photo shoot.

HIGH FIVE

 

It didn’t take long for the chill to set in, so we turned over into ski mode and decided that we would yoyo (read #yolo) down. Oh yeah, she’s steep. The suspicions we had during the climb were confirmed as I dropped in first: this is awful! After some heart-pumping jump turns and dodging my pebbly slough, I pulled off to the side and signaled up to Mikey that he was ok to drop in.

 

I was relieved when he joined me and admitted that he was hurting because my legs were on fire! Didn’t I spend the summer hiking and climbing? Like nails on a chalkboard, we watched as Vince skied past us and sat down for a rest where the couloir fans out. Once reunited, we shared a couple fist pumps and admissions of stoke mixed with pain, and we planned our exit strategy.

She's on the sporty side 


Remembering that it’s still November and trying to avoid sharks, we made our way back to the car just in time to make my yoga class, for Vince to get to work, and for Mikey to pick up his car from the auto shop. Overall, it was a very successful and fun day, and I’m pumped to have finally nailed it. For now, though, I’m going to wait for more snow and better conditions because if living in the Rockies has taught me anything, it’s patience.

-Michelle Brazier

New Town. New Mountains. Same Stoke.

Early season skiing is always a favorite. Everything about it is great, you are so that excited you can't get to sleep at night, you know the snow conditions are almost better suited for mountain biking rather than skiing , you're out of shape , it's warm out and it's still going to be the best day ever! 

Having made the move from the Rockies to the Columbia's and between chatting with the locals and the Google machine it was obvious that the best location for early season turns was up on mount Mcrea. Having spent the last 4 years in the national parks it feels strange being able to drive up almost any mountain via logging roads but it sure does open a lot of terrain. They offer up some insane views too!

Arrow Lakes in the morning light

Monashees sitting pretty across the valley

After a about 30 km or so of driving we made it to the end of the road, unpacked and started walking up the Mcrea summer trail. After gaining a about 100m we were able to link up the snow patches and started skinning. We had a fair amount of snow in the previous week which was followed by warm temperature and heavy rain. This made for a strong and supportive rain crust on to of 30 to 50 cms of base. This had two positive effects for us, 1. Saved our bases while skiing and 2, made for quick travel, which was welcome.

Low tide. 

Here you can see how deep it was...

Once we reached the alpine we had a few options to choose from. Our original plan was to ski the glacier located on the north facing slopes of Mount Mcrea but given the supportive crust we could ski pretty much anything that was snow covered. We gained the ridge and skied a sweeping S down the false peak ( what I chose to call it ) of Mcrea. On our approach through the basin we noticed a pretty pronounced spine which came off the col in between the "false peak" and Mcrea proper. It wasn't soft or anything but how can you not ski such a cool feature, in November no less!? Rad! 

Gaining the ridge. again, so deep! 

Gaining the ridge. again, so deep! 

Line one. Only half the line is visible. Sorry!

The spine is in the center of the frame

After skiing our early season spine somewhere in between, equipment issues , fitness and getting lapped for the 6th time by a lady skimo racer, we called it a successful first outing. Super fun day , skiing is always so much better than not skiing . We added a gallery bellow to include the photos  that didn't make the blog , because why not? 





Pic of the week, Aug 15 2014

It's been a smoky summer here in Revelstoke, with forest fires burning continuously throughout July and August. The constant smoke makes getting up high a little less enticing as the views aren't quite as clear as they usually are, if you can see the valley floor at all. 

The only thing that we can count on the smoke for is awesome sunsets! This weeks shot was taken at the top of Sale mountain, just North of Revelstoke, BC.

Sale Sunsets, Photo Jay Morrison

Stage 6 of Singletrack 6

On Thursday July 31st, Stage 6 of the Singletrack 6 mountain bike race series finished up its 2014 run in Revelstoke, BC. The race consists of six days of single track racing, with entrants competing from all over the globe. The tour this year consisted of stops in Bragg Creek, AB, Nipika Mountain Resort, Invermere, AB, Two days in Golden, BC and Revelstoke, BC. Although we weren't able to partake this year, I was able to grab a quick video of the start of the race from my work truck.

 

Congrats to all the riders, head on over to the results page to see who won!