How about a little time traveling today? We’re setting the WayBack Machine for some skinny-ski fun in Northern Arizona’s beautiful San Francisco Peaks. You might think I’m crazy, but the Peaks have some of my all-time favorite backcountry skiing terrain. Plus—in this video—fantastically light and dry powder snow.
The San Francisco Peaks are the remnants of a big volcano that blew its top long ago. Geologists speculate the mountain stood around 16,000′ high before the big boom. On the plus side, the explosion created Inner Basin, a giant, horseshoe-shaped basin which is what remains of the original volcano’s crater. Inner Basin is easily accessed via the Arizona Snow Bowl’s main chairlift, which gets you within 500 vertical feet of the rim. Drop down the backside into backcountry skiing paradise, including Core Ridge, which features the steepest terrain on the entire mountain (for more color on this exciting part of the Peaks, check out Falling Headfirst Down an Ice Cliff ).
The video features me (red and blue jacket, teal pack) and friends skiing Inner Basin back in March 1990(!), including a traverse along Core Ridge to a very steep north-facing couloir we named “Powell’s Prayer” in honor of a big fall our friend took down it on what might have been the first descent (there is also the possibility that another Flagstaff skier beat us to it and skied it all the way back in the 1970′s; however, there are many north facing couloirs off Core Ridge, so there was some confusion as to which one he’d actually skied).
During this trip I set my all-time Big Air record, which remains around 30 vertical feet. I know—not much by today’s standards. On the first pass, I approached the headwall tentatively and barely cleared the snow. So I hit it again, this time determined to take flight by ramping up my speed. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), I flew well beyond the landing zone and bombed into a flat but thankfully powder-covered slope. This inspired two friends behind me to go big as well, with mostly similar results. After that, we traversed to the couloir, which probably averages at least 45° in steepness and pinches down to right around 205cm at the choke point—coincidentally the length of my vintage Rossi GS boards. Ah, good times. Enjoy the video!
Posted in Skiing, video | 6 Comments
Okay, I kid you not, as I was driving to Mt. Baldy this morning for an early-season training hike, I was bemoaning the dearth of scantily clad women in the backcountry. I mean, I’ve been hiking a long, long time, and while initially in my hiking career I was convinced I’d one day hit the jackpot and find a mountain covered with lovely lasses, time has taught me it never (more…)
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Time to enable the snow script! Mammoth reports 14″ of new snow in the past 24 hours, and down here in the Basin we’ve been soggy since yesterday morning, making this a very, very impressive October storm for California—and much needed!
This Saturday, October 17th, the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter Ski Mountaineer’s Section kicks off the coming ski season with its annual pot-luck get together. Along with food there will also be a gear swap, as well as trip planning. As always, this is a great opportunity to meet ski partners, find mentors, and just generally have a good time with folks who like to ski the backcountry. The SMS will be 75 years old this November, surely making it one of the oldest ski clubs in the U.S. (and evidence of the unexpectedly rich ski tradition here in sunny Southern California). Happy Anniversary SMS!
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Oh no it’s a slide show! While waiting for the new ski season to start up, I’ve put together a recap of last winter’s highlights. Last year wasn’t the big winter I was hoping for in terms of snowfall, but it did offer an unexpected bounty of unforgettable moments, including that trip up Mount Harwood’s Northeast Ridge, with its challenging ski conditions, sublime powder skiing on Mount San Jacinto, and of course (more…)
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Well, as ski season draws near I’m starting to think up my annual list of things to do. On the website front, I’m hoping to finally update my long-neglected photography gallery section, which hasn’t seen any new work (I believe) since 2005. The photo section is the only holdover from the first-generation sierradescents site. Just never got around to fixing it.
In other photography-related news, I’ve been busy this summer hashing out the details with my two new hd video cameras. The hd transition has been a positively brutal one. I’m intending to write more about that in the future, either here or on my friend’s tech site, to hopefully save others some of the formidable grief I’ve gone through in putting together a viable hd workflow. I remain very excited about the payoff, however. I’m really looking forward to getting out this winter with the hd cams and putting some ski movies together. That’s going to be super cool!
As far as actual trips (excluding of course my top-secret projects!), number one on the list has to be skiing Mount Whitney from the summit via the north couloir and mountaineer’s route (more…)
Posted in Skiing | 8 Comments