Rocket Pocket - a Ten Year Itch

Here's a repost of the trip report I posted on TGR over the summer detailing my descent of Rocket Pocket - Sunshine Village's most notoriously rowdy line.

Some background:

In 2001-2002 I was skiing at Sunshine Village with my boss when he noticed some exit tracks on the fan of a nearby face. We both stopped and tried to work out where they were coming from as the face above looked completely unskiable, at least, as far as we were concerned.

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Red line shows the area we first spotted the tracks.

After a few minutes of wondering how anyone could make their way down this fucked up zone on skis we worked out the rough line from the tracks and wondered who had put them there.

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Zoomed in a bit with the full line marked in red.

I remember my boss simply saying “that line makes me want to throw up”. As an eighteen year old kid from England enjoying my first ski season - my first time away from home and first opportunity to ski more than a few days at a time on school ski trips or on dry slope – I was in awe.

After returning to life in England I found out the line was called Rocket Pocket when I came across a video of Colin Puskas skiing it on Biglines.com. I watched that clip over and over again until the link unfortunately died/disappeared and it made me even more amazed and obsessed with the line (I think it may have been his tracks that we had seen in 2002 but can’t be sure). The video reappeared on this website a while back:

http://live.tetongravity.com/_Puskas...543/75233.html

Fast forward a few years - I finally left England and returned to Banff in 2009 and promptly started skiing as much as was humanly possible. I would always look at the line when heading up the chair, pointing it out to people or chatting about it with friends. It was my ultimate line – the one I’d daydream about but never thought I would actually ski.

Fast forward a bit more to the season just gone and we’re in the middle of a really good year - lots of deep snow and lots of epic days. I was still fantasising about Rocket Pocket but my skiing was feeling better than ever and so it was starting to become more than just a pipe dream now – I was now starting to seriously contemplate whether I actually could/would ski it in the right circumstances and when that might be.

In early April a chance meeting with Ruari Macfarlane , a ripping snowboarder from NZ, was the catalyst and really set things in motion. After meeting we rode together and chatted about the line. He was very keen to check it out and maybe get it done and so a few days after meeting we arranged to do some scoping and then take a closer look and decide from there depending how it looked and how we felt.

The crux of the the line is the first mandatory drop and unfortunately no amount of scoping gives you any definitive answers on what it’ll be like. I asked Kevin Hjertaas about it and he gave some helpful advice but basically confirmed that the first drop just sucked. We had a long look through the binos but we couldn’t really judge the size and it looked like the tongue of snow you have to drop off may have had patches of ice and scree which would mean committing to the drop earlier thus making it even more blind than it looked and even more difficult to stop above the exposure.

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After more extensive scoping and discussion around the entrance of the line we finally decided to give it a crack and see how it looked in person.

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Trying to get a better view of the chute and the first drop from the ridge line to the left of the entrance.

Towards the right of the initial chute the snow looked fat and was a bit slabby so we cautiously made our way through the thinner snow on the left, trying to avoid some patches of loose shale lurking underneath. Ruari lead the way and we then reconvened at the point where we’d have to start committing to the final section of the chute towards the first drop. We wished each other luck and then Ruari dropped in, disappearing out of sight and I just waited for news on the radio from a friend of ours on the fan who was spotting. I soon got a call saying he’d made it out and so it was my turn.

I carefully made my way down towards the tongue which was in decent condition allowing me to take my time and get better than expected view of the landing pad. I picked my spot and dropped it, shitting my pants as I bounced off pretty firm snow towards the exposure, thankfully managing to come to a controlled stop nonetheless. A quick kickturn and sidestep to get back towards the second drop and I was in the home straight. A final short but very steep section led to the final drop where an even firmer landing bucked me towards the left hand cliff wall.

A better view of the second drop from a different angle:

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At that point I had been hoping to open it up a bit and enjoy the skiing on the exit. Alas the soupy light and patches of firm chalky snow hidden amongst deep and sluffy pockets forced me to keep a lid on things. Fingers crossed I can get back in there again next year and ski it cleaner in some better conditions. Until then here's the POV from this time around:

Michael Hall