Thoughts

The greatest virtue of man is perhaps curiosity ~Anatole France~

 

T.G.W.O.T.Y

What is T.G.W.O.T.Y. you may ask. Well, T.G.W.O.T.Y is obviously an acronym meaning the greatest week of the year. Ambitious right? This acronym was first used when describing Powder Week prior to a fairly dismal curling match. 

What is Powder Week you may ask. Well, Powder Week is an annual migration of ski brands, ski bums, ski techs, ski nerds, and ski groupies to a predetermined ski destination. Hosted by Powder Magazine, the roots of Powder Week are steeped in skiing fast and taking chances to ascertain what skis and ski brands are leading the pack for the coming year. 

For the 18th annual Powder Week, Powder Magazine looked to our neighbors to the north; Canada, Red Mountain. 2.5 hours from Spokane, Washington, Red has a lot of everything; steeps, bumps, groomers, drops and poutine. 

"I think we will be like the Beverly Hillbillies in that place" - Aspen Extreme

In a stroke of good fortune, my ski partner, Ryan, and I were invited to this festival of fun. In a state of euphoria we packed the car with a legal amount of canned beer, denim, and clothes we would never wear. Having zero idea of what to expect, we arrived to find Powder Magazine staffers had created a skiers nirvana at the base of Red Mountain. White tents full of every dimension of ski imaginable. A locally owned brand brought in their arsenal of skis savagely harvested from the owners property, kilned and laid up in his shop with all kinds of space age materials. From big name brands to boutique, limited production, boards you could feel the stoke. As an outsider I felt as if I was watching a family reunion of juvenile delinquents. Bird calls and high fives were the call to arms for the opening ceremonies. 

It is not easy to plan a cocktail hour with your neighbors, but 130+ ski reps, pros, staffers, friends, party crashers, and testers seems like a nightmare, but Powder pulled it off with style and grace. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and after parties were impeccably hosted. Apre beverages flowed at Rafters. For four days some 35+ testers throttled the Motherlode, Red and Grey chairs to determine what skis stood out from the cocky quiver. 

Each day of bell-to-bell skiing was followed by Rafters Lager and a legitimate debrief on the days skis. Each tester was given a list of skis, times, and intense notecards to complete for each brand and ski. Terms like torsional rigidity, poppy, planky, and graphene were thrown about like loonies and toonies. Although feeling a bit daunted by the fact of having to standup to pros, reps, and legit ski bums, after a few misfires, double ejections, and my first #assfart day*, everything seemed to fall into place. 

As I physically and emotionally re-enter society I find my face is sore from smiling, my quads muscles feel like beef jerky, and my voice is still hoarse. It is hard to find 130+ people with like minded interests, from diverse backgrounds, who can get along, doing what they love, together, with not bullshit, no assholes, and not too much 'peacocking'. 

I now find a bit more clarity in T.G.W.O.T.Y. Powder Week truly is the greatest week of the year.  

*a.s.s.f.a.r.t. - all ski something fast awesome rad together.....preferably in a costume. I was a cowboy, if you could not tell, Ricky was a red armed yeti. 

*a.s.s.f.a.r.t. - all ski something fast awesome rad together.....preferably in a costume. I was a cowboy, if you could not tell, Ricky was a red armed yeti. 

 

 

#waterskiwednesday

Ryan Ricard waking up the neighbors at Clear Lake, Washington. 

I am a desk jockey. I am, generally, "working for the weekend". 

As an attorney, I arrive early in the morning. I do my work, which is similar to studying for finals. I return phone calls and then head home or to one of my other jobs. I like what I do more than I thought I would and I think this is because I have the opportunity to be a professional on my own terms (within reason of course). Wearing many hats helps my ability to stay motivated and to also develop relationships outside of my professional circles. However, the fact of the matter is, I am a lucky guy.  With a devoted crew of people who like to, in the beautiful prose of Ryan Ricard, "do rich guy sports on a poor guy's budget", I always seem to have something active to look forward too and someone to join in the mission. 

In the winter, #dawnpatrol. Each week we meet at 5:30am to cruise up the local ski hill for a tour and turns. Returning to the desk by 8:30am, coffee in hand, ready to switch gears.

In the summer, #waterskiwednesday. Each Wednesday we meet for a quick drive to Clear Lake for soft water turns, double americanos with steamed cream, I know fancy, and a mid week download.

As my Dad is always ranting, in the wise words of Uncle Virgil Criscola, "Variety is the spice of life". 

And that, my friends, is gospel. 

Here is to you #waterskiwednesday............

 

Skiing the Emmon and Inner Glacier - Mt. Rainier National Park

After watching the weather for a month it was time to pull the trigger on Rainier's Emmons Glacier. SNOTEL, NOAA, and Mount Rainier Climbing were all showing good climbing conditions with low wind and fantastic visibility. The one variable was snow pack. There were no trip reports for the Emmons route but the White River campground road was opening nearly a month early thus eliminating an added 5 miles of walking. With limited ski reports on the glacier and a record low snow pack, usually there is between 5'-8' feet of snow at White River campground in early May, we hit the road. 

Rainier's East side from White River campground

Rainier's East side from White River campground

Leaving from Spokane around 3 p.m. we arrived at White River just in time to watch the alpenglow fall over the majestic mountain.  We had a enjoyable fire with two fellow climbers and hit the hay relatively early for a long, hot, day of glacier travel to follow. 

Brett preparing gear for the climb

Brett preparing gear for the climb

From White River to Glacier Peak campground it is about 3.1 miles of mostly dirt mixed with the occasional snow patch. Choosing to hike up the river drainage as opposed to hiking up into Glacier Basin required 4 river crossings each way, however with low snow pack and cool evening temperatures the river was easy to cross.  (Be aware that in the next month it could be impassable).

Crossing White River on the way out.

Crossing White River on the way out.

As we ascended onto the Inner Glacier the temperatures started to rise and our skins started to pick up snow. With climbing and camping gear our packs weighed around 40 pounds without our skis thus the going was slow but steady.  Thankfully a group of Seattle folks had put down a great skin track, albeit steep under pack weight, we weaved our way up the Inner Glacier to Emmons, passing Camp Curtis, and onto Steamboat Prow.

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Some 6+ hours later we arrived at Steamboat Prow hoping to access Camp Schurman from above seeing as the Emmons Glacier route was far too crevassed out for late afternoon travel.  With the access to Schurman cliffed out from up top and a rappel in too sketchy with a short glacier rope we set up camp with beautiful views of Rainier, Little Tahoma, and Russel Cliffs.

Perched between Camp Curtis and Steamboat Prow

Perched between Camp Curtis and Steamboat Prow

As the sun set the alpenglow ignited Glacier Peak and Mt. Baker far in the distance.  We enjoyed our dehydrated dinner, Alpine Aire Chicken Gumbo is delicious by-the-way, and discussed the next days plans. Knowing that we were not going to make a summit bid but instead rip turns on 4,000ft of pristine spring corn from Steamboat Prow to Glacier Basin we watched the full moon rise over the plains and highlight Mt. Rainier. The next morning Brett did a little crevasse rescue training with a group of fellow mountaineers who were learning about glacier travel and I relaxed on a warm rock thinking about the turns we were about to make. 

After breaking down camp we loaded our bags, which seemingly felt heavier than the day prior, and clicked in. The top 600ft of Emmons was still frozen making for chatter but as we rolled over into the gut of the Inner Glacier we picked up speed and were able to connect tip-to-tail in the soft snow making for some of the best May turns I have ever had. As other mountaineers paraded up the glacier we raced pasts throwing up rooster tails of slush; smiles from ear-to-ear. 

We forged the river, without incident, back to where we had left our hiking boots and transitioned our skis and boots to our bags and stripped off our ski gear to summer hiking attire. As I hiked back to the car with beautiful views of Rainier at each switch-back  I thought about a quote by John Muir...

 "In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks".