Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Reluctant Arrivederci to Winter

A friend told me recently, “all good things come to an end”. Being a fun-seeking, hedonistic person I dedicate most of my time and energy to ensuring that my life is chock full of good things all the time, thus if one ends, another quickly takes its place. In the case of winter 2010/11 it seemed like a great thing that really never would end. In fact, I am being dragged away from freshly powder dusted steep skiing in the coast range by a pre-planned climbing vacation to Italy. Sob story right? Your heart is just breaking for me right now, I know it.

But seriously, what a winter! Before I can feel good about entirely switching seasons, I feel compelled to pay homage to what was a truly amazing winter in terms of snow quality, mostly good stability (at least where I spent my winter), and great days in the mountains with friends and clients alike. This post is a series of images, beginning with the end of the Valhalla Mountain Touring season in late March and ending with my last day on skis for this winter.

Last day at Valhalla Mountain Touring – Solo skiing sunshiney pow with my furry pal Benny and good tunes. Although it feels wrong to wrap up with dry snow on the ground, it’s always a relief to complete another safe season and move on to other ski venues.

First stop after leaving VMT was a quick hit at Rogers Pass to ski for a day with friends training for their AMGA Ski Guide Exam. We skied some great runs off Cheops in fantastic snow AND both friends subsequently passed their exam, bringing them coveted IFMGA status.

Peter and Silas emulating Euro ski guides in every way including fashion. I think their pants could have been a bit tighter to really capture the look though...

Silas raps in to the STS Couloir on Cheops

Peter keeping a serious eye on the anchor as Silas raps in

Apparently the anchor is bomb-squad because it held me and my end-of-season quads in overhanging terrain. Silas Rossi photo.

Part way down the STS couloirs. Great line, great snow, great views.... great BIG hands. Are my hands really that huge? Silas Rossi photo.

After Rogers Pass it was time to head home to Squamish and some Coast Mountain fun. First stop on the coast was the Aussie Couloir on Mt. Joffre with Cece Mortenson and Andrew Rennie.

Cece skins up next to the Matier Icefall

Endless bootpack up the Aussie Couloir. Luckily for us there were literally 7 people in front of us to stomp in the bootpack. Unfortunately they also skied all the snow off the run too... but let's face it, the bootpacking is really the best part.

Andrew on the upper section of the Aussie Couloir

Three climbers on the cloud-shrouded ridge of Matier as viewed from Joffre.

Cece and Andrew getting ready to drop into the licheny-rock lined entry to Heartstrings on Mt. Taylor, our bonus lap after skiing the Aussie Couloir.

The next mission was also on the Duffy Lake Rd. with Cece. Because the weather was looking iffy we decided to bring Benny, who was going into powder withdrawal after a few weeks absence from Valhalla Mountain Touring where he porpoises the pow daily. It's always tough on the coastal ski days to leave him at home, but since many of the tours involve time on glaciers I just can't justify risking him wandering into a crevasse. Benny pretty much always listens to commands.... unless there are other dogs, rabbits, pine martens, wolverine, goats, food or animal tracks of any kind within sniffing distance, not that you would ever encounter ANY of these things on a ski tour. I do find it pretty funny that I choose objectives with his safety in mind, and then he proceeds to straight-line everything even if there are 20' cliffs. He also likes to dig out his resting spots right on the edge of cornices... best vista point for scouting rabbits I guess. Yup, he's kind of the client from hell, but he just LOVES to play in the snow, gives unconditional love, and he's really, really cute so I just can't resist bringing him most of the time.

Howling winds on Mt. Slalok and the Matier Glacier

Cece and Benny leaving their distinctive signatures in the valley after a sweet run on Joffre’s North Shoulder.

Cece and Benny celebrating on the tippy-top of Mt. Chief Pascal.

Cece and I enjoying each other’s company AND enjoying our tunes out on the slopes. I feel so fortunate to belong to a community where finding motivated partners who are willing to get up at 4:30AM to play in the mountains OR stay out till 4:30AM dancing is not usually much of a challenge. Cece and I may have done both in the same day together once this winter...

Finally after two weeks of waiting I got a day off work that the weather was good enough to ski the north face of Slalok. Accompanied by Katy Holm (not to be confused with the married to Tom Cruise Katie Holmes... this Katy is way cooler) it was an amazing day with face shots the whole way down the huge run.

North Face of Slalok. Yummy.

Katy skinning up the ridge on Slalok, with Joffre’s numerous couloirs in the background.

Katy partway down Slalok

Next two-planked outing was a rare day of skiing the lifts at Blackcomb and Whistler with my Dad. He has spent the last few winters in warm, snowless places so despite countless past ski adventures and misadventures, we haven’t gotten out together in a long time. While riding the chairlift up he told me about the first time I tried skiing. I was around 3 and he strapped tiny plastic skis on me and slid me down the pile made by snow sliding off our metal roof. Apparently l giggled like crazy. It’s nice to know that 27 years later skiing still has that effect on me.

My Dad. I hope I'm still shredding like him when I'm almost 60!

At the Peak Chair in Whistler, a strange spring phenomenon was witnessed....

Hey, quack here often?
I guess the lifties are getting bored by this time of year...

Next up in the family fun department was a visit from my Mum for a few days. We embarked on the Spearhead Traverse which she easily rocked in a 9 hour day. Her remarkable endurance never ceases to amaze me.

My Mother rocking the cotton tee on the Spearhead Traverse. If it's Patagonia Organic Cotton, is it still death cloth?

Note the cowboy in the background. I hired him to carry and serve our picnic complete with wine. Actually I didn't, but that would have been a great idea. There's always next time!

My last day on skis for the season was pretty special because it involved guiding three teenage rippers on their first day of backcountry skiing. We ventured into the Blackcomb slackcountry and did some basic avi training, talked about mountain travel and skied some cool runs.

First skin up: big smiles, fresh legs, "backcountry skiing is awesome!"

Second skin up... the boys were whistling a slightly different tune.

Well winter 10/11, I guess that’s it for us. Our time together is really over. Thanks for the deep turns, the steep turns, the stormy skies, the bluebird days, the shot-ski sessions and dance parties and thanks especially for the opportunity to enjoy time in the beautiful mountains with great co-workers, guests and friends.