Another Year of Heli-Boarding

I was fortunate enough to go heli-boarding with my dad for the fourth time last week in British Columbia.  Unlike most of the US, Canada has been getting dumped on, and every day we were up there we got snowed on.  This year may have trumped last year, which somehow seems impossible.  Anyway, they say pictures speak a thousand words, which means videos must speak millions of words.  Here’s the video from this year.  I’m reminded how much I love snowboarding and adrenaline sports in general.  Snowboarding inspires me just as doing a startup does.  (I’d suggest viewing the video on youtube in HD – for some reason I can’t embed the HD version.)

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Heli-boarding, The Best Week of my Life

Last week was the best week of my life.  My dad and I spent the week at the CMH Galena lodge, where we had perhaps the best heli-skiing and heli-boarding experience imaginable.  Seriously, I want to cry tears of joy and excitement just thinking about it.  I’ll start with a highlight video I made, followed by the story, and conclude with my photos.  Fuckin’ A I need to do this again.

Foreplay

The trip started Friday night.  My dad and I flew into Calgary and stayed the night at a nearby hotel.  The CMH busses left Saturday morning at 6:00am, each en route to its respective lodge, ours headed towards Galena, an area just south of Revelstoke, British Columbia.  We were accompanied by several of my dad’s friends and lots of other CMH customers, to make a total of 44 boarders and skiers.

The bus dropped us off at the snowy helipad sometime around 2:00pm.  The helicopter shuttled all of us to the lodge, along with our luggage, 12 or so people at a time.  Around 4:00pm we were all at the lodge, a beautiful, quant place only accessible by helicopter and snowmobile during the winter months.  Before sunset we all had our snow gear on while we attended a snow safety course explaining the use of avalanche transceivers, probes, the helicopters, and everything else.

Go Time

Sunday was the first of six and a half days of untracked, seemingly endless tree skiing/boarding.  Each full day was more or less the same.  My dad would wake me up at 6:45am for a 7:00am stretch class lead by my dad’s 75-year-old friend, Dick.  After stretch class I’d return to the room, shower, and read a little.  At 8:00am we’d all eat breakfast prepared by the awesome CMH chefs.  And the first 11-person group of skiers and boarders would leave at 9:00am.

For the next three-to-four hours we’d ski and board untracked, deep powder on steep and interesting gladed tree pitches.  Each group of 11 is joined by at least one guide.  The guides know the terrain so well they’re able to make sure we get the best line every time.  They’d often point out cliffs, pillows, and mushrooms that they knew I’d be interested in hucking.

Sometime between 12:00 and 1:00pm the second helicopter would bring the 44 of us lunch, which was usually composed of awesome sandwiches, chocolates, cookies, soup, and bars.  Then, after a short lunch we’d return to skiing/boarding, returning back to the lodge before 5:00pm.

Upon arrival at the lodge we’d hang our gear in the drying room, which is equipped with glove, boot, jacket, and pant holders designed to help your gear dry out. I’d put my compression tights on, snack and have a beer at the bar, read a little, then join the group for dinner at 7:00pm. We’d eat, drink wine, and enjoy a (usually) leisurely dinner. Then, most nights I’d retire to my bed and be asleep at 9:00pm, completely exhausted from the day’s fun.

The second Saturday of our journey started with a half day of skiing and ended with a helicopter shuttle and a return 8-hour bus ride.  We flew home from Calgary first thing Sunday morning.

Holy Shit

The boarding was absolutely stunning.  Every run I couldn’t help but laugh, hoot and holler, and scream at the top of my lungs.  Lungs filled with excitement, adrenal, and pure joy.  We had a particularly excellent week, with new snow, stable conditions (less avalanche danger), and only a few visibility problems due to some lower fog.  In the 6.5 days we hit the hill, we descended 130,000 vertical feet of untracked tree skiing.  Thousands of turns, hundreds of face shots, tens of hucked cliffs, and two busted bindings.  The terrain couldn’t have been better — steep, interesting, different.  I hit a few 40-foot cliffs, greeted at the bottom by soft landings.

The two best runs were Lake Avenue and No Hotties, each gladed, steep pitches through forests charred and burnt by past fires.  The black, branchless trees paired with the steep pitch made for a super fast, insanely invigorating ride over and around bumps, blazing towards the beautiful valley bottom lined on the opposite side by tall, stony mountains.

Holy shit I’m speechless and can’t possibly put into words the pure passion I’m feeling as I write this.  I’ll just leave you with photos.  I need to do this again.

HST Gaper Day

What’s a gaper, you ask? A gaper by definition is someone who dresses for looks. What that means in snowboard speak is someone who dresses strait ’70s, ’80s, and maybe even early ’90s. The colorful Husky Snowboard Team tore through Stevens yesterday, hooting and stretching. We BBQed in the parking lot and celebrated the last weekend of the snow season.

Here’s the team (minus a few people):

I can’t wait for gaper day next season.

Snowboard Down Everest 51 Times in 24 Hours

The Husky Snowboard Team just got back from Hope on the Slopes, a fund raising event for the American Cancer Society and a race for the most vertical in 24 hours at Stevens Pass. We brought back the trophy for having the most combined team vertical. Fifteen of us went down Skyline and Hogsback enough times to total a whopping 1.5 million vertical feet in just 24 hours (I had around 110,000). That means that the combined vertical distance we traveled in 24 hours could have brought one person down Mt. Everest (at 29,000 feet) to sea level 51 times (that’s 284 vertical miles).

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How did we accomplish this feat, you ask? A combination of energy drinks, coffee, no sleep, and teamwork. Here’s the story:

First session: 9:30am – 12:30pm
All 15 of us start on Skyline. We want to try and have some fun during the day, so some of us hit the park and others just bombed down. We were all feeling good by 12:30pm. Aleah is making everyone a sandwich. Chris is firing up his water boiler for a first-class on-hill lunch.

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Second session: 1:15pm – 5:00pm
Same story as first session. Some people hit the park, and others just bomb. By this time we had a good idea of what our competition looked like, and it wasn’t looking good. The Swiss Ski Club had some nasty skiers that we could barely keep up with. It was going to be a long night/morning.

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Third session: 5:30pm – 10:30pm
Pretty much same story. We’re all feeling good. None of us are that tired, but we’re ready for the BBQ. We head in for the BBQ, and some of us prepare for the free wax/edge sharpen going on at 11:00pm.

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Fourth session: 11:30pm – 4:00am
First, keep in mind that 2:00am was totally skipped because of daylight savings. This is where things start to get tough. Eight of the 15 decide to nap, and the other seven start CHARGING. By this time we had the first round of statistics (all results up to 7:00pm), and it looked like we had the lead by a narrow margin. Skyline closes, so we’re forced to run Hogsback over and over again. In fact, we’re forced to head down the same run every time. No matter. Our bomb squad figures out the fastest route and does lap after lap, only turning to avoid other people. I’m not even kidding. For 2.5 hours these 7 dudes and dude-ettes did nothing but point and ride the chairlift up. The run was recently groomed, so the snow was hard and fast.

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Fifth session: 4:30am – 9:30am
We get word that as of 12:00am, we were in first place with 700,000 vertical, leading the second place team by a mere 9,000 vertical. It’s go time. Kelly starts pumping up the team, and all 15 of us ride the entire session. In fact, we don’t just ride it; WE KILL IT. All 15 of us are charging as hard as we can – barely any turning. By this time there wasn’t any room for conversation. We all went at our own pace, rode our own chairs (for the most part), and got in the zone. We would buckle in on the chairlift to avoid wasting time at the top, and we would only speak to say “hi!” to other HST people that we saw along the way or to give a “Yeeehaw!” if we saw someone from the chairlift. This was serious business; we had to win.

We ended up winning by a margin of 100,000 vertical, which isn’t all that much. We each accepted our metals and our $100 gift certificates and tried not to fall asleep on the drive home. We all had an insanely good time.

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Alright, it’s time for me to go to sleep. In summary, HST dominates Hope on the Slopes. Big thanks to Kelly for organizing everything, Paul for raising a GRIP of money, and Aleah, Chris, Alex, Kelsi, Michelle, Josh, Kyle, Kyle, Sena, Corry, Fareed, and Scott for SHREDDING LIKE IT’S NOBODY’S BUSINESS.

Good night.

Mammoth Mountain: Why I Think It’s the Best

I recently returned from a long visit to Mammoth Mountain. I had a few different conversations up there about Mammoth’s awesomeness and its comparison to other mountains such as Whistler, Vail, Alta, and Squaw, so I wanted to share my views on Mammoth.

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I will start by making the claim that Mammoth is the best – the best terrain, the best lifts, and some of the best conditions. I don’t travel to mountains to party, eat good food, or shop; I travel to mountains to shred. I have one goal in mind: snowboard long and hard. I go to sleep early, I eat home-cooked breakfasts and dinners, and I pack my own lunches (if I’m not lazy at the time). My time spent at mountains is centered around snowboarding, and everything I do outside of snowboarding is focused on recovering from a ridiculous day or getting ready for another sick day. Mammoth is definitely not the best place for nightlife, food, and shopping, but I don’t really care about those aspects. Oh, and I don’t spend any time in the park.

Mammoth has the best terrain of any mountain I’ve ever been to. I don’t know what to do with myself at Mammoth. There are so many ski-able acres of insanely steep alpine, insanely steep and gladed trees, huge and fast groomers, and giant hucks. In one day you can get the best turns of your life through the trees and later go faster than you’ve ever gone down an untracked alpine double-black. In that same day you can launch a giant cliff and point a ridiculously narrow chute. The terrain at Mammoth is unbeatable. No other mountain has the variety, the difficult, and the insanity. No other mountain is as accessible either, which leads me into my next point: lifts.

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Mammoth has the best lifts of any mountain I’ve ever been to. If there is a sick run, then there will be a lift going over it. You can make lap after lap on most of the terrain that I just discussed. Chair 22 starts at the bottom of Lincoln mountain and ends at the top. You can make 20 runs down the best tree skiing you’ve ever done in one day on Lincoln mountain. You can also leave Lincoln and 10-15 minutes later be at the steepest alpine you’ve ever done, gondola 2 or chair 23. You can then shred lap after lap on that alpine hill. There are lifts that let you lap the sickest runs, and there are lifts that take you from one sick run to another.

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Mammoth has some of the best conditions of any mountain I’ve ever been to. It’s true that the snow in Mammoth is typically heavier than Colorado and Utah snow, but the dumps that hit Mammoth are legendary. I’ve been at Mammoth when they’ve gotten seven feet of snow in one day. I’ve also been there when they’ve gotten over twelve feet of snow in a three-day weekend. The snow is heavier but insanely plentiful. Mammoth is also good at handling these huge dumps. A lot of resorts will shut down with a three-foot dump, but Mammoth won’t. They’ll bomb the alpine slopes and leave the tree sections alone, and they’ll have the mountain ready to go in the morning. A lot of times I will be woken up at 5:00 or 6:00am the morning after a big dump because of the avalanche control. There’s nothing like the sound of bombs going off in the morning.

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As you can tell, I love Mammoth. I think it’s the best mountain, but I naturally have a bias. I’ve spent my whole life on Mammoth, so I know it like the back of my hand. I know where to go when the snow is good, and I know where to go when the snow is bad. If you haven’t gone to Mammoth yet and you love the snow, then you should get down there. Unfortunately it’s difficult to get to because there are no nearby airports, but the drives to and from give you lots of time to reflect on the nastiest trip of your life. Oh, and don’t forget to dress like a superstar, because the image-driven Los Angeles crowd will be dressed to kill. (this is actually one of the few annoying things about Mammoth – people are dressed like idiots usually)

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