I’d been thinking about getting this shot ever since I first bought my Contour helmet cam: a continous clip skiing Telluride from the top of the Revelation chairlift, elevation 12,570′, all the way down to the Gondola station in the Town of Telluride, elevation 8,750′. Getting the shot proved trickier than expected, thanks to the weather and the many quirks of the Contour, but I love the result (more…)
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Lots of fresh snow here in Telluride, Colorado, where I’m taking a little lift-served vacation. Video is helmet cam footage from the ContourHD 1080p. I upgraded from the 720p ContourHD to check out the new model. Interestingly, after a week of testing the camera, I decided I like the 720p better. There’s just too much shutter roll in the 1080p mode (you can see that here as distortion in the treetops whenever I hit a bump) (more…)
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Ah, where to begin? In the immortal words of Tech and Talk’s Chad, ‘A bad snake charmer always blames his snake.’ So I guess I can’t blame the snake. I knew, going in, that a ski traverse linking Mount Baldy and Iron Mountain via San Antonio Ridge was definitely pushing the limits. But still, something about staying close to home always makes me more inclined to be ambitious (more…)
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The Problem with Telegraph Peak is that it’s way too easy to access. The typical San Gabriel Mountain approach serves as a fine gatekeeper to most of the range’s technical adventures, but not so with Telegraph. This little shark tooth of a peak sits just beyond the rope of a popular (if quirky) Southern California ski area, and when there’s snow on it you can practically hear the siren song calling (more…)
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Driving across the L.A. Basin on Saturday was like being transported to a new and wintery world. Snow levels were down around the 3000′ mark across Southern California, putting snow atop nearly all the foothill ranges, and coating the major ranges in vast sheets of gleaming white. I confess I actually felt a bit of anxiety looking at it (more…)
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Back home in California now and watching these upcoming storms to see what develops. Here’s video of my day skiing the Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona—the mountain, for all practical purposes, where I grew up and learned to ski. I still love skiing the Snowbowl, and conditions were excellent, if a bit chilly. The day started out around six degrees F.
This video probably isn’t exactly scintillating, I know, but I’m continuing to play around with my two HD cams and trying to figure out how to cut together good ski footage. So, these are kind of little training flicks for me. At some point I’ll probably do reviews of all the video gear I’m using, including my much hated but also indefensible indispensable Sony Vegas software. This time I was skiing with my Canon Vixia HF200. Image quality remains stunning with the 1080i Vixia, though it unfortunately only records interlaced video, which means we lose resolution when we create a progressive mp4 for the internet (this clip is mixed down to 720p).
The blue-jacketed skier is my brother, employing his typical bullish form. Red jacket is my dad. I asked him to get some shots of me skiing, but he ended up filming the sky for five minutes. Just a reminder that it’s always a good idea to befriend a photographer.
As you see above, I was actually doing some hand-held shots to emulate helmet cam footage. This was of mixed success. Following my dad and snowplowing slowly, for example, you can see that I’m doing a reasonably good job of getting a stable image. But as soon as I point the boards downhill and start turning, the picture jumps around. Exposure all in all is pretty good here. I am using Vegas to tweak the levels in real time, which is a slow process, but that way the snow stays white rather than gray when it dominates the frame. I may try setting a fixed exposure next time to see if I can get away with that approach. Anyhow, comments are welcome on all this.
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It’s boot review season here at Sierra Descents—I’m currently trying out pairs of Garmont’s Radium and Helium boots, Scarpa’s Spirit 4, and the much-anticipated Black Diamond Factor. Along for comparison were my trusty Lange L10′s and Garmont Mega Rides. I should have reviews up on all of them after the holidays. In the meantime, I had fun and thoroughly wore myself out mixing and matching boots inbounds today at Mountain High East ski resort. Video shows me on one Lange and one Factor going down Gold Rush, shot via the Contour 720p helmet cam. Tricky thing with the Contour is mounting the damn thing. Today I was using the goggle strap attachment, which is why the video is both crooked (listing right) and so jiggly. Maybe the goggle attachment works better with a helmet? Ah well, I’ll keep working at it…
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As Forest Gump might say, Mount Baldy Ski Area is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. Made it up today to the ski area for some early-season inbounds turns—or so I hoped. Turns out yesterday’s storm rained ruthlessly on the mountain even above the notch, coating everything with ice, ice, ice, including the chairlifts. Snowpack other than ice could hardly be called ample. There was quite a lot of bare rock, which blended nicely with the ice motif. I amused myself by playing around with my Canon Vixia HF200 (hence the HD footage) and testing out some new gear.
As the Ski Patrol worked to clear the lifts and get something—anything—open, and crowds of patient skiers and boarders milled aimlessly about the lodge, I took matters in my own hands and started hiking up. Got about 3/4 of the way up Thunder Mountain when a ski patrol was kind enough to tell me the lift had just opened. I topped out just to be thorough, and then skied a few runs. In between sheets of ice there were patches of some very nice and fluffy snow—fresh from last night, when the snow level dropped a bit. To be honest the patrol and ski area crew were working hard to shape things up today, including making a very focused grooming effort. Call me crazy, but there seems to be a spark of life about Mt. Baldy’s employees this year. Maybe they’re flush with cash after selling all those $49.00 ski passes. Or maybe it’s the promise of an El Nino year.
Despite the ice, it felt good to get up in the mountains and get on some snow. When Mt. Baldy’s (aka Mount San Antonio’s) 10,000′ summit popped into view, I saw what looked like very impressive coverage from about 9500′ on up. For those of you thinking about hiking and/or skiing Baldy Bowl from the Manker Flat trailhead, be especially wary of ice. It’s going to be a skating rink out there for a while, I fear. Manker Flat, by the way, was just about the start of the snow level. There is probably no skiing or even skinning possibilities below, say, the elevation of the Ski Hut. For now, backcountry skiers may want to look to the San Bernardino or San Jacinto Mts.
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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!
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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…)