Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wild and wacky winter 2009

I brought in 2009 with a group of friends from Utah at Valhalla Mountain Touring, my family's backcountry ski touring lodge. Tired from long days of epic deep powder skiing and arduous trailbreaking, we celebrated east coast new years with a shot of Bushmills Irish Whiskey, dressed in costumes that can only be described as... synthetic, colourful, tight where they should be baggy and baggy where they should be tight. I hadn't brought a costume, so just rooted through my duffel of ski clothes and found some Norweigen fishnet thermal longjohns, a rainbow print buff and called myself dressed for a night of apres ski shenanigans. Photographer Tommy Chandler had brought the evening's entertainment, an armload of fireworks that we enjoyed outside the lodge, shivering in the chilly temps as the snowflakes drifted down.

New Year's Eve flex off with the ladies in costume

Geared up for a chilly snowmobile ride on a -20 degree morning on New Year's Day

Sunday brought a new cat-load of guests to the lodge as well as a huge storm that began pummelling us with snow. By Wednesday morning we had received over 70 cm of snow and temperatures spiked to zero at the lodge elevation. Skiing was a downhill and uphill slog and avi conditions kept us in the mellow glades close to the lodge. By Thursday morning there was another 35 cm of snow but temperatures were dropping and rapid settlement was improving ski quality: it was classic deep powder skiing, face shots and fun tree lines all day.

At around 3:00 in the afternoon, a loud rumble and the vague outline of a powder cloud in the mist awoke me from my powder schlaedeling revelry... "BIG MOMMA IS RIPPING!!!" is all I could say to Evan over the radio. Big Momma is an avalanche path that carves a thin line through 2000 ft dense oldgrowth forest to a runout zone a few hundred meters below our huge timberframe lodge. The path hasn't produced an avalanche since sometime in the '70s and in terms of ski safety we treat it with a lot of respect. Unfortunately, the turbine that supplies our lodge with 24-7 hydroelectric power, internet, all the good stuff, is located on the far edge of the Big Momma runout zone, and when Big Momma ripped, she literally blew the building that housed the turbine apart.
When Big Momma is pissed, you'd better get out of her way

Big Momma wasn't the only path that slid on Thursday afternoon. Her cohort and neighbor to the east "Big Pappa" also ripped and dusted our snowcat road with debris despite the fact that it is around 100m straight uphill from the valley bottom. On Friday we realized we were literally trapped at the lodge until it was safe enough to build a road through the debris with the snowcat back down to civilization in the Slocan Valley. So while Evan took the guests skiing, I skied down the road to meet my Dad who was coming up from the community of Hills on the valley bottom on a snowmobile. His snowmobile got stuck with still around 7 km to go to the lodge. So while I trudged down the road in 1m of heavy snow towards him, he skinned up towards me. I passed over 4 huge piles of avalanche debris from paths that normally slide in the spring. When Dad and I finally reached the lodge, we skied over the Big Momma slide debris to the former site of the hydroelectric power house. The following video shows what we discovered...

The final 2 days of my week were spent excavating the power system. Picture me as a snow archeologist... dusting off artifacts found in the snow around the former site of the building. We hastily erected a makeshift shelter over the turbine and brought the recovered control panel (with teeny tiny wires that haven't even been disturbed!!!) down to our resident micro-hydro expert Jeff Ankemann for repair. We are currently running a gas generator in the mornings and evenings for the necessary services (lights, internet, etc.) but it will be great when we get our fossil-fuel free source of 24-7 power back on track!

My Dad peers in the hole, incredulous that the turbine is still there and still running!

Seven new guests and my friend the cook Theresa Calow arrived today. Looks like a high pressure is heading our way which means lots of cool tours to see the extent of damage this avi cycle had on the mountains. One thing is certain, once Big Momma fills back in it's going to ski really well with all those trees plucked out of it!

1 comment:

Perry said...

I noticed on your profile that you like 'hip hop and gangster rap with bad lyrics that I feel guilty for liking.'

Ratatat's Remix albums are wicked badass, and they have the added benefit of being FREE. Google "Ratatat Remix Vol 1" (or vol 2).

They remixed rap songs from a bunch of different artists.