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I had the honor a couple of weeks ago to sit down with Bill Briggs- arguably the father of ski mountaineering in the US. I interviewed him for Powder over a cup of coffee at the Virginian. I must say, what an amazing character. Check out the full interview here.
It has been an all-time winter at Jackson Hole. So good, in fact, it’s been hard to leave. It’s not that we’ve had a ton of big storms, just a lot of eight or ten inch days. This has been ideal both from a sanity stand point (not waiting long between storms) and a stability standpoint (not a lot of heavy dumps stressing the snowpack).
We’ve been taking full advantage, to say the least. We’ve run through a solid hit list of Jackson classics as well as getting some firsts that have been pretty rowdy.
Nick Martini checking out the sea of dreams
At this point, filming has kind of taking priority over competing. After all, the whole reason I got into competing was to have an opportunity like this. That said, since focusing on filming I haven’t been able to bring the same A-game to the contests. It’s just hard for me to rationalize putting my ass/season on the line throwing down in a contest when it’s less than ideal conditions. The contest scene has gotten so good that if you’re not there with your a-game, your probably not ending up on the podium.
A lil’ chucking
Shooting so far this year has been awesome. It’s a different game when you’re trying to do something unique/special every day you go out. I just feel like you bring your level of skiing up a notch. What I didn’t expect is the level of frustration I have sometimes. Messing up or not stomping a film line has been as frustrating as messing up or not stomping a comp line. A lot of lines- because of how long they take to get to or the fact that there’s significantly less snow after you go through- you only get one crack at, and when you don’t ski it perfectly you can rarely go up and try it again. But, at the same time, you always have the chance to redeem yourself somewhere else- which you can’t always say for competing.
Now for the good part: getting detained (not arrested!)
So, there I was, sitting on a couch in a city, state, and country that will remain nameless. I hear someone talking on the front porch and then a knock on the door. Figuring it was UPS or FedEx, I mosey to the door and open it, and nobody’s there. Then, I hear from the side of the house a very authoritative voice say, “Sir, step out of the house.”
Pretty confused I say, “what?”
Then I hear again, this time a little more firm, “Sir, we need you to step out of the house.”
Dumbfounded I step out, and on the porch and around the house are three cops, all toting Assault Rifles. I’m thinking to myself, holy S#%t, this is not good. They ask me to put my hands on my head (which obviously I do). One of the cop starts talking, telling me there’s been a shooting in the area.
“Sir, there’s been a shooting in the neighborhood and we have reason to believe the shooter is in your house, do we have permission to enter the residence,” he says, not a hint of jest in his voice.
“Of course, I say,” totally shocked.
The cop continues, “Sir, we need you to put your hands behind your back.” I do, and they cuff me and start leading me away from the house as several cops storm the house, ARs drawn. At this point I’m totally blown away at what’s happening. Now that I’m cuffed, the cop continues telling me what’s going on, “The suspect was also was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.”
Standing there, in my black hoody, completely matching the description of the “suspect,” I’m just thankful they didn’t open fire when I opened the door. The cops search my house for five minutes or so and are on the radio, referring to me as the “suspect,” when it appeared that they started getting information that they might be at the wrong house.
They question me a bit longer, and finally conclude that they are indeed at the wrong house. They un-cuff me and apologize for the inconvenience. I laugh it off and head back inside, blown away that the most intense moment of my season may have just come on a leisurely weekday afternoon.
With the “Extremes” kicking off tomorrow I thought I’d post last year’s winning runs. It was deep then, and with two days of snow in the forecast, it should be deep again tomorrow. Since they already used the weather day, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we get at least one day off. If you’re around, come check it out!
Okay, so there’s no crazy airs or hucks, just good ole fashion pow skiing in December at Jackson Hole. Delicious!
Disclaimer- This is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek post. And yes, I realize the irony in the fact that I do most of these, and you probably got here via Facebook or Twitter.
T.J. Burke’s famous line from Aspen Extreme, “Skiing is the easy part,” may never have rung truer than today. You know you’re awesome, and so do your friends, but how to get the millions of other skiers to realize your prowess? Well, thanks to technology, people can practically instantaneously know of your exploits on the hill, with these easy-to-use tools:
Don’t be fooled! Both these tweets are equally useful and necessary!
The people need to know what you’re doing and where you’re doing it, every moment of the day. I know what you’re thinking, “Griffin, if you really think about it, isn’t the only reasonable use for twitter for mobile businesses, like roach coaches, to inform customers their location for the day? And last time I checked I’m not slinging Korean-Mexican-Fusion slopeside.” Nonesense! People everywhere are curious as to what you’re doing- from the mundane to the extreme- all the time.
Thanks to the ubiquity of FB, the site is no longer just a tool for stalking people you hardly know. Unlike twitter where the follower/followee relationship can be very one-sided, with FB the relationship is mutual from the get-go, so friend everybody! Because the more friends you have, the cooler you look and the more people will see how rad you are. It’s like being able to go into a crowded room and high-five total strangers – and never have to see the “do I know you,” look on their face.
For those people that you don’t know, or at least have no mutual friends with on Facebook, the internet forum board is the easiest way to get your radness to the masses. In a world where coolness is determined by quantity of posts, not quality, this can be your ticket to cyber-respect. This does require some thick skin, however. Be prepared for a bunch of people that you’ve never met before to Monday morning quarterback your decision making, skiing abilities, photo abilities, and overall worth as a human being.
The “Vote for Me” Powder Video Award Video
Even though you haven’t landed that breakthrough segment with TGR or MSP, this shouldn’t dissuade you from getting your radness to the masses. Once they see the video you shot on your point-and-shoot and edited in iMovie, they’ll undoubtedly pencil your name in for the PVA and…BAM!! What fools the producers at major film companies will feel like when they see the likes of you edging out heavy hitters like Sage and Seth. A little personality and a little creativity will undoubtedly overcome the legions of fans those guys have.
Wait, scratch that, nobody uses MySpace.
Starting November 1st, if you own a sled and a truck they should be together at all times. Screen shot from Teton Pass shows outdoor advertising being executed perfectly: high traffic area of core target market, bonus points for parking in front of a web cam.
Unfortunately, the internet does end somewhere, so for those folks that you can’t reach regardless of how hard you tweet, blog, or post, you need to take the show on the road. I know what you’re thinking, “Griffin, that billboard by BCC with that super annoying Oakley ad (is that current) must cost a fortune?” True, but be a little resourceful. Just throw your sled in the back of your truck and drive around with it everywhere! This way, everybody that drives by your house, you see in traffic or in the parking lot will know how awesome you are because you own a sled and ski.
If all else fails, try skiing really hard every day, pushing yourself, enjoying yourself, being humble and letting everybody else talk about how rad you are…but that method is kinda dated.
Play by play of a good comp run
I’ve seen a lot of skiers come and go from the competition scene. It’s not for lack of talent, either. A lot of skiers get turned off because they don’t really understand all the nuances of competing- it’s a bit more complicated than just pointing it off something. I get a fair amount of emails this time of year regarding pointers for contests, so I thought I’d compile the ones I’d emailed out over the years in one place.
For me, competition is still one of the best parts of the sport. Sure, I get nervous to all hell before every event, but there’s nothing like the feeling of nailing a competition run. Conversely, if you’re into it, there’s nothing worse than blowing a competition run. There’s a start gate and a finish gate, and it’s all about going out and doing the best you can with the conditions you’re given. People often forget how special it is- you get an entire mountain to yourself to show off what you got, sometimes in front of thousands of people. Pretty cool.
So, if you’re thinking about going for it this season, here’s what I’d consider.
You have to assume about 1/3 to 1/2 of the fields is going to fall each run. So in a three run comp it’s likely that 2/3 of the field will eventually fall.
Nobody is really that gnarly. Guys may be talking about some crazy shit in inspection but they’ll either not do it or crash trying.
The comp isn’t won on the first run, but it sure is lost. So don’t try to blow everybody out of the water day 1, run 1.
In a qualifier, with three runs particularly, play the numbers game a bit. I’d ski a little conservatively, making sure you get through each round, and let the other people eliminate themselves. If, before the third run you’re in fifth, then you know to maybe go for it a bit more.
A not so good comp run. You’re probably doing it wrong if you’ve inspired a judge to come up to you and ask “what the hell were you thinking (thanks Jon!)”
The judges like fast, in control skiing (think GS turns through the crud). A lot of guys struggle with this I think.
Don’t crash on the extra credit (last small feature).
Don’t let any French people beat you, I can’t emphasize this enough.
Different angle of the same run. You’re also probably doing it wrong if someone you don’t know posts a video of your crash on the internet.
When you inspect, look for landmarks that you can pick out from above your features. This way, you can ski right up to them smoothly. Also, if any of your airs are blind, pick out fixed positions in the distance (i.e. mountains, lifts) and align your direction when skiing up with them. This way, you can take off without hesitation- it shows you know what you’re doing and you’re confident.
Look at your line from the judge’s perspective. Can they see you? Does that big feature look as big from this angle? Does your line look fluid? Perspective can change a lot from place to place, so be sure to check out the judges perspective.
Above all the judges like safe and strong skiing- you don’t have to go out there and do the gnarliest thing on the venue. This is a great way to get hurt and/or lose the respect of the judges if you get sketchy. Maybe tone it down and just ski it stronger than anybody.
It’s hard to rate your own skiing. Although it may have felt like the run of your life, it may not have looked like that to everybody else. Take into consideration the crowd’s reaction before claiming the run of your life.
And remember, it’s a subjective sport, sometimes you get hooked up, and sometimes you get burned…so get to know the judges.
I love SNOTEL. On the right day, I check it more often than Drew Tabke checks the TGR forum (okay, I’m exaggerating, I don’t check it that much). The point is, SNOTEL is not only a great tool for backcountry users, it’s also a great distraction from the monotony of daily computer work. Also, you can use it to call out ski areas when they reports 30” overnight, when the SNOTEL at the resort reports only 14” (cough…Alta….cough). Anyway, for those not familiar with SNOTEL, here’s an overview of what it is and how to use it.
Managed by the USDA, SNOTEL is a series of sensors that manage snow pack information in remote locations where access on a regular basis is difficult or impossible. The intended purpose of the sites is to provide real time snow pack information, from which information about the condition of the watershed can be derived (i.e. percentage of normal). From this, use of water management decisions can be made; hence it’s overseen by the USDA. However, for backcountry users it’s an incredible tool for getting unbiased information about snow conditions in the backcountry. Much like surfers can use information from nautical buoys to predict swell characteristics, skiers can use SNOTEL to assess snow pack and storm characteristics.
I should note here that although it is an incredible tool, it’s also very ROUGH information about the snow pack. Obviously, by no means is it a substitute for normal backcountry safety protocol. It can help you decide where to go, but once you’re there, you need to make your own decisions.
How SNOTEL works:
The measurement of temperature is pretty straightforward. Snow water equivalent and snow depth- factors that are fairly important to your backcountry decision- are a little more complicated. Snow water equivalent is measured by assessing the weight of snow that falls on a 4’ x 5’ “pillow.” Pressure sensors beneath the pillows calculate the snow-water equivalent, based on the pressure exerted on the sensors from the weight of the snow. Snow depth is calculated by sonic sensor. Basically, a sensor that measures the distance from a set height to the ground- the shorter the distance, the more snow there is.
Using SNOTEL info:
Take the last 24-hour period from the Togwotee Pass Sensor:
I cropped this photo from roughly when the storm began yesterday morning. What can you tell from this?
The storm came in warm-to-cold, with quite a bit of precipitation (almost 2″ of water content). The temperatures obviously tell you this but, more importantly, the snow water equivalent and snow depth tell you what’s going on within the storm cycle- about an inch of water content and only eight or nine inches of snow in the first 12-hour period (0900-2100). Then, temperatures drop and snow water equivalent and snow depth increase- but at a different rate. From 2200 to 0700 roughly the same amount of snow falls as in the first period, but with 0.6” of water. About half the density of the first 12-hour period. You should also consider the fact that the additional snow is likely condensing on the pillow- increasing snow-water equivalent but keeping snow depth the same.
How the storm came in might effect where you choose to go ride in the backcountry, or maybe you just go where it’s the deepest. The point is, by keeping an eye on SNOTELs around your favorite spots, you can tell a lot about the snowpack. It’s usually pretty easy to tell when the storm arrived and how the snow fell. Once you get familiar with it, SNOTEL is a pretty cool tool for the backcountry, and an awesome distraction if you regularly spend all day in front of the computer.
Ah, Fall. Leaves are changing, football is back in season (go BSU!), cheap bear companies are once again producing camouflage cans, and, most significantly, winter is ever closer. With each passing day, discussion about how epic the winter is going to be becomes more and more fierce. Let there be no doubt, THIS IS THE YEAR. The year where that one line comes in, the year when you might get sick of powder (like that could happen) and the year that you finally join the century club- and I’m not talking in some frat-boy-drinking-game kind of way. Yes, the prognosis is in: it’s going to be good. How you may have arrived at this conclusion, however, may differ greatly. Below is a handy reference to the people you meet, and some of the weather prediction methods they used to determine it will be the best winter, ever.
The Hippie- There you are, rubbing Patchouli Oil all over yourself and petting your Malamute/Husky that’s likely named after some mountain/town/river in Alaska, and what’s this? Denali’s coat is coming in extra thick this year? Confirming what you’ve suspected- a long, cold, powder-filled winter is ahead.
The Long Time Local- Your prognosis of the current state of snow (or lack there of) likely starts with “you know, this isn’t that unusual,” and concludes with some sort of statement about the truly big winters not having snow until Christmas.
The Scientist- Every fall, NOAA comes out with long-term forecasts to ensure that their government funding is kept at a maximum. Unfortunately, these forecasts contain little more validity than the Farmer’s Almanac (see below). Referencing these will only win you appreciation amongst your similarly nerdy friends.
The Native- It has been said that pinecones can predict the strength and intensity of the upcoming winter. Lucky for us, you’ve been keeping pinecone size/quantity/color data for your Douglas Fur for the last ten years, and can accurately inform us about the upcoming winter.
The Farmer’s Almanac Guy- Produced yearly since 1818, the farmer’s Almanac is your go to resource for weather information- that’s 100% bulls*%t (note: they claim an 85% accuracy rate.) The proverbial Ouija board of weather forecasting, the almanac predicts countrywide weather forecasts based on whims.
The Gut Feeling Guy- You can “feel it” and you’ve been “feeling it” for quite some time now. What exactly you’ve been feeling is debatable.
This clip just brings up so many emotions
La Nina/El Nino Guy- Yes, ocean temperatures play a large role in general weather patterns. Conversations relating to El Nino (at least amongst my friends) usually go something like this:
Me: Wasn’t (insert year here) an El Nino year.
Friend: Yeah, and that winter was amazing.
Other Friend: Yo soy El Nino! That’s Spanish for…the Nino.
Friend: Man, that sucks Chris Farley died.
Me: Yeah, bummer.
I’m not going to pretend I’m the most organized guy. You can usually tell what season it was three months ago by looking in the back of my truck- skis will live there until July, mountain bikes until December, and, for whatever reason, I carry two-stroke motor oil for my sled year round. In fact, I have sleeping pads that I have no recollection of ever owning, and I’m starting to think they came with the truck 100,000 miles ago. The point is, despite my lack of organizational prowess by American standards, I could teach clinics in South America on responsibility.
I sometimes get the feeling that the entire country is one flat tire away from completely imploding on itself. But, somehow, they manage to squeak by, and are some of the happiest people you’ll ever come across. However, dealing with said A-Factor and C-Factor may take a bit to get used to, so here are some pointers:
Here’s a quick translation from South American Time to Greenwich Mean Time
Shortly = within the next 1-2days
One hour = one day approximately
Next week = next month
Eventually = never
Being an American, by default I only know one language. This doesn’t work so well for my traveling exploits. One great icebreaker I’ve found that works in any country is to say something to the effect of how beautiful the people are there. While this works in Argentina and Chile, you’re probably better off going with the phrase, “the Condors are amazing here.” As crazy as it sounds, this phrase will melt even the coldest, most reserved souls.
Don’t be fooled by the locals that are “taking it easy” because they “have to work tomorrow.” Both these phrases need to be considered relative to local customs. “Taking it easy” means going to bed at some point and “work tomorrow” means that they are scheduled to work tomorrow, but always have the option to take the day off (see below).
It is completely acceptable for someone to not show up/quit in the middle of his or her shift, with no real repercussions/explanation. Therefore, expect closures of lifts/lodges/restrooms with no explanation. I was once on an eight-hour shuttle between cities when we pulled over an hour from our destination. When I asked what we were doing, my fellow passengers explained to me that the driver was tired of driving so we just needed to find our own rides from there.
On Being a Gringo:
Despite how good you think your Spanish is, and how sweet your “I-hate-my-dad” facial hair is, you’re probably going to stick out like a redneck at an STS9 concert. Indeed, your outfit/body language/demeanor will scream, “take advantage of me.” My advice: watch your back, and be weary of anything “free.” If nothing else, just say “no nintendo.” “No entiendo” means “I don’t understand,” but “no nintendo” will really get the point across.
South America is amazing, and can deliver the time of your life, but you have to be able to roll with the punches. Expect hang-ups, delays, and closures with little explanation. Don’t let these get you down though, because, it’s likely completely out of your control. Should you find yourself frustrated with the A-factor or C-factor, take a deep breath, a step back, and gaze at a Condor…and somebody will probably come help you.
Just had some time to put together footage from Chile. Video is from Day 1 of The North Face Chilean Freeskiing Championships presented by Subaru. I tried using photos this time so you get a better idea of the venue and the main features. Also, you get to hear my beautiful voice narrate. Feel free to turn the volume off. Check it out!