Category Archives: Skiing
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.
A week at Skeena Heli Skiing- somewhere between a little kid in a candy store and a bull in a china shop
I might be the luckiest guy ever. After a long season of non-stop competing, marginal snow, and non-stop travel I get to decompress with eight days of exploring new terrain at Skeena Heli Skiing in Northern British Columbia- what!? Needless to say, it’s unreal up here. Located an hour and a half from Smithers, B.C., Skeena gets the snow, but not the socked-in weather typical of operations on the coast. Skeena has as many down days all season as most operations have in a week (four so far this year). With spines, pillow lines, and couloirs as far as the eye can see, I’m somewhere between a little kid in a candy store and a bull in a china shop.
So, what have we been doing all week? Here’s a peak at some of the zones…more action to come.
Well, I’m about two months behind on editing my POV, so here’s a quick edit from the Euro travels earlier this winter with my extremely insightful commentary (talks are in the works with Morgan Freeman to narrate, but nothing has been finalized at this point). As a note, I didn’t end up with a bunch of banger shots, so there’s a lot of time lapse. Not super gnarly, mostly pow; I’ll get the gnar this week…promise.
I love Jackson. Like sex and pizza, even when it’s bad, it’s still good. Case and point was this last week. Although there wasn’t blower pow anywhere in bounds, there’s still lots of stuff to do out the back. This couloir is off the backside somewhere.
On good years, the entrance is manageable without a rappel. This year, one could probably sneak by off-belay, but it may be a little dicey. Eric Seymour, Jess McMilan, Tanner Flanagan and I dropped into this last week. Eric dropped in first and made quick work of the top section and went down to the second belay station. Tanner went next followed by Jess and I. Although it’s been pretty warm this past week in Jackson, it was like a freezer within the walls of the north-facing couloir.
The second belay station was a bit tight- all four of us barely squeezed in there. The second belay is a bit longer and definitely mandatory- probably even on the best of years. About a pitch from the anchor, the descent rolls over a sheer ledge, to an overhang, which makes belaying on skis particularly tricky. From beneath the cave, one can shuffle over to a thin fin that exists skiers right, or go all of the way to the bottom. The fin is pretty narrow, but makes for a more legitimate ski.
By the time we were ready to descend most of the team was freezing. I tried to lighten the mood with some uproarious jokes, however, given our situation I don’t think the jokes were fully appreciated. Once we were set up we made generally quick work of the second belay.
Once safely below I made a b-line for the sun on the other side of the valley before even I lost my sense of humor (I’ve discovered I become quite irritable when I’m cold). Once in the sun shine it felt like full-blown spring again. In my typical fashion I was rocking a pretty serious junk show on the way out Granite- harness on, ATC dangling, rope half in my pack and jacket around my waist. Yeah, I was looking pretty extreme and I’m pretty sure I blew some tourists minds that were also traversing out.
It’s days like this- when everybody everywhere is complaining about how bad it is and how there’s nothing to do- that make me appreciate the fact that I have Jackson and motivated friends that much more.
Well, what can one say about Kirkwood? The venue is unreal- it’s the only stop on the tour that we’re guaranteed permanently closed terrain. It’s big, the snow’s good, and the vibe is great. Unfortunately, I ended up a less-than-impressive 10th at Kirkwood after a monster back-slap second run. Dylan Crossman and came away with the “W,” which I couldn’t be more stoked about. Janina Kuzma crushed it on the ladies side of things, and took home the sickbird to boot! Of the runs I saw both days, Crossman and Kuzma were the standouts- they crushed it.
Furthermore, Dylan was really skiing big mountain lines- not just hitting a bunch of small features really fluidly- but dropping-in over exposure, being controlled, and airing big out the bottom. Guys like Dylan, Lars Chickering-Ayers, Julien Lopez, and Josh Diek go out there and ski the film line- the lines that aren’t necessarily the highest scoring, but the lines that leave spectator’s jaws dropped. These lines don’t score as high, sometimes, because they’re difficult to execute smoothly, harder to put down that four-point landing, and any mistakes are magnified due to the exposure one’s on. Maybe it is harder to ski a bunch of smaller, well-traveled airs fast and fluidly, but I don’t think that’s really big mountain skiing. I’d rather go ski these exposed, difficult, and rarely skied lines and lose- going home knowing I pushed the sport- than win skiing a run-of-the-mill line quickly that’s still going to leave spectators wondering what big mountain skiing is and why I won.
Way to do both Dylan, cheers to you!
The idea of skiing the Tram Face is amazing- it’s big, it’s gnarly, and it may have the best spectating of any venue in the world. The reality of skiing tram face is, unfortunately, very difficult. It needs to snow a lot, stabilize over approximately 24 hours, all the while maintaining it’s integrity (not wet slide and pin wheel) in the hot Tahoe sun. The organizers had the ambition and it could have been a phenomenal event, but based on the snow and stability , I can’t say I was disappointed when they called off Tram Face after the slide. Although the avalanche wasnt’t the reason for the event being canceled (it was because of the hard debris piles nearly everywhere), I look at the incident as the mountain simply saying, “no guys, not today.”
So, Monday we headed to Silverado for the second year in a row. I won’t lie, I’m not a huge fan of Silverado for a big mountain competition, but we kinda had to take what we were dealt. I picked a fairly aggressive line- a standard air up top and a tight chute with a mandatory and an incredibly small transition. The air up top went fine, I dropped into the chute- that was tighter than it looked- made a hop turn and then got tip-to-tailed between two rocks. I went to make another turn and my skis stayed put and I just began tomahawking down the chute toward the mandatory. After two rolls I self arrested before I went over the edge. I sent the mandatory and skied to the finish in frustration. I’ve never crashed like that- in rocks in a place you really don’t want to be tumbling. I don’t have too many bad days on skis, but that was a pretty bad day.
For sure it’s a bummer that I didn’t once rise to the occasion on this years Freeride World Tour, but truth be told I’m not super worried about it. The tour gave me three years of amazing experiences traveling the world with some of the best people I’ve ever met, skiing some of the greatest mountains I’ve ever skied, and generally having the time of my life. In the end, isn’t that the point anyway?