Tag Archives: Big Mountain 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.
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.
The people of La Parva, Chile, love two things: Condors and freeskiing. While I can’t really explain their obsession with the former, their obsession with the latter is pretty understandable—amazing terrain and meters upon meters of annual snow. For this reason, it’s no surprise that the Freeskiing World Tour is kicking off there next week from September 2-5. Their obsession with the sport is further reflected in the fact that they recently renamed a large chunk of their mountain “McConkey’s,” a run which will serve as the first day’s venue.
McConkey’s is most similar to Snowbird’s North Baldy—a lot of features that are well spaced. The venue will favor faster, more fluid skiers that prefer bigger airs, rather than more technical skiers. Made up of “La Chiminaya,” and everything to the looker’s right, skiers should have no problem teeing off up to 70 feet should conditions permit. Also, to make things more challenging, McConkey’s has a nasty rollover at the top. In other words, skiers can’t see their lines from the start, so they better know where the hell they’re going.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, Day Two consists of “La Chiminaya” and everything to lookers left. Similar to Crested Butte’s Freeskiing World Tour venue, this terrain clearly favors the more technical, billy-goat style skiing of the early ‘90s. While the far left portion of the venue will once again allow skiers to open it up, the real meat of the venue lies just to the looker’s left of La Chiminaya. Expect the highest line scores of the event to come from this area. Not only does the Day Two venue also have a rollover, but it has numerous closeout lines, so athletes really better know where they’re going.
I only met Shane a couple of times, and I can’t say that I made a lasting impression on him. However, I, like thousands of other skiers throughout the world, am intertwined in the community that he helped create—the IFSA. It will be an honor to compete on a venue named after the man and speaks to his influence and continued legacy in so many dimensions of our sport. I’d like to think that Shane would be quite pleased with what his organization has become: A family of skiers that essentially throws down for the sake of throwing down, and the event in Chile will be exactly that.