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  • Our Office Jocks Can Shred! Our Office Jocks Can Shred!

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      The office jocks here at TGR are by and large a pretty mellow group when it comes to outdoor adventures. We cruise the blue squares and even the black diamonds over at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort or Grand Targhee, do our little cross-country bike laps, and will occasionally turn on our beacons and do some meadow-skipping up on Teton Pass. But some of the people we work next to do not mess around; they're here to shred, and they do it at 100%. 

      Ryan Halverson, TGR's Logging Manager, spends his office time managing the army of folks we bring in to sift through every video shot that comes through the door and analyze, organize, and label each one for the production of the final films. But when he's off the clock, he's hiking 5,000 vertical foot lines in Grand Teton National Park and filming his group of absolutely ripping friends for his homegrown production outfit, Full Room Productions. "I started doing in back in Wisconsin, shooting park skiing on VHS and chopping it up at home. Since then, it's always been about going in the mountains with your friends, shredding, and coming back home and seeing what you got on tape."

      Last spring, that ethos took them up to Thompson Pass, Alaska, where Halverson and his die-hard ski bum buddies were intent on bagging some of the state's legendary snow-and-spine-littered walls for the filming of their new film, Frosty Flakes (see the trailer below), which was a collaboration between him and another hardcore Jackson local, Darrell Miller and his Storm Show Studios. But in the world's most infamous helicopter zone, there wasn't going to be a drop of jet fuel burned to get them to the top of any of their lines. "The biggest reward in the past few years has been hiking for lines under your own power. It’s been a ski bum lifestyle as a logger for me; there was never any money for helis or anything."

      Undaunted by the prospect - years of day-long ascents in the Tetons had conditioned the crew to an astounding ratio of sweat and tears to powder turns - they walked for three hours on their first day of good weather to get to the base of a perfect ridgeline of steep AK gnarliness. Despite the 70 mph winds that had scraped most of the local peaks of decent snow, this ridge remained deep and pristine... until a helicopter came hovering in overhead to drop a group of clients on top of the same ridge. "We had one heli come in for one run and we got all concerned they were going to lap this zone," Halvy said looking back. "But they saw us and took off after one run of skiing probably the only route we wouldn't have considered that day." Respect for their physical labors were rewarded, and after spending an hour setting a bootpack up the face, the crew were able to get three laps a piece without another soul in sight. "Granted, we didn’t get seven runs in a day, but we got three, and we didn’t have to pay a dime for 'em."

      "Granted, we didn’t get seven runs in a day like you would in a heli. But we got three, and we didn’t have to pay a dime for 'em."

      On the third day of decent weather, the crew set their sights on Mt. Dimond and it's Gun Barrell Couloirs. Ever since Doug Coombs made the first descent down its 50-degree slopes, the mountain has been a right of passage for visiting pros ever since. After four hours of skinning, including Halvy's first experience with AK's unique glacier travel challenges, including false snow bridges and a bergschrund with a bottomless crevasse, they booted straight up one of the 4,000-foot couloirs, and two hours and a few harrowing icy steps later, they were atop a legendary Alaskan peak. "Todd Ligare and Griffin had skied that in The Dream FactoryTo actually summit that mountain, one that was known for heli-skiing, on foot was pretty awesome. I don’t know how many people do that on a yearly basis."

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  • Sony Mind's Eye: Angel Goes Ca Sony Mind's Eye: Angel Goes Camping

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      In this episode of Mind’s Eye, Angel Collinson showcases the POV footage from the ski mountaineering trip she, Mark Carter, Griffin Post, and Max Hammer recently completed while filming for Almost Ablaze in the Tetons. Their trip to Mount Moran relied on 25 people—including 10 porters—to haul 1,500 pounds of gear seven miles across a frozen Jackson Lake and to the base of the peak’s most famous line, the Skillet. Angel’s edit puts us behind the scenes of what will certainly be the most sweat-and-tears intensive runs of this year’s film. Filmed entirely with Sony’s Action Cam, this edit transports us from setting up base camp in the dead of winter to scaling 5,400 vertical foot lines on foot—and then it gives us a sneak peak of what those lines will look like in the film.

      Sony's Mind's Eye is a 10-episode series of self-edits that give an insider's look at the team of TGR athletes as they documents their adventures with Sony's Action Cam. Check out the new Sony Action Cam, with its next-level image stabilization feature, snow-proof body, and A-grade audio recording at: http://bit.ly/1lygvzX

      Want more Mind's Eye Episodes? Check out: http://www.tetongravity.com/videos/channels/sony-minds-eye-series-111/

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  • A Fresh Teaser for Ian McIntos A Fresh Teaser for Ian McIntosh's Sony Mind's Eye Episode

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      TGR veteran Ian McIntosh gives us a glimpse (and an earful) of what’s to come in his new Sony Mind’s Eye episode, which will debut on April 29th.  This episode is all about skiing fast in steep and narrow chutes in La Grave, France and then popping over to Italy to get in some crazy—and scenic—base jumping.  The Sony Action Cam captures the roar of the insane elements, but we’re pretty sure we could hear all the “dudes” and “yeah buddies” from right here in the States. These guys are pumped up on life.

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  • Last Call: Skiing The Grand, C Last Call: Skiing The Grand, Candide Does Chad's

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      YoBeat's Hateline Celebrates the Big 2-1!

      Snowboarding site YoBeat has been putting together a new series with their up and coming sense of humor (his name is Justin Leville), which for the first time in recorded history has made a news-style video series covering snowsports that is actually funny. They celebrated their 21st episode this week by phoning in a fake live studio audience... these guys are the masters of using garbage editing techniques to further enhance how funny their shit is. From viral videos to Obama talking about snowboarding tricks, Leville covers the gamut of wacky shit going on in snowboarding on a weekly basis.

      Candide Over Chad's Gap

      Fourteen years later, Candide's picture-perfect D-spin 720 - crossed-up, no grab, Y2K-style - remains one of the most impressive feats Todd Jones' ever seen go down on skis. Somehow, the Frenchman makes just as much of an impression on those who watch him ski in 2014 as he did back then.

      Coast Gravity Park Set To Open In May

      If you know The Coastal Crew, you'll be pretty excited about this recent bit of news (if you live within striking distance of Vancouver Island). The Sunshine Coast's legendary video crew is about to open the area's first public bike park in early May, featuring a dozen of some of the most anticipated trails in downhill. The Coast Gravity Park will offer options for beginners all the way through to full-fledged pros, will offer shuttle rides back to the top (there's been some murmurs of a future chairlift), will limit the number of riders on any given day a la Silverton Mountain, and, most importantly, will be open year-round. We'll be sending a contributor out to do a spot check this summer, but in the meantime will mostly be wishing we lived in Canada...

      George Hein Climbs the Grand Teton 

      Local "financial analyst" George Hein is just another one of those crazy Jackson Hole locals who don't quite fall under the title of "pro skier," but who nonetheless do things in the mountains that are just mind-boggling. Grand Teton National Park, which is effectively down the street from our HQ here in Wilson, is the kind of playground people like George orient their working lives around, and home to such an astounding number of lines that take all day (like 17 hours) to get up and down, you could spend multiple lifetimes in it and only scratch at the surface of the possibilities.

      Ingrid On Climate Change

      Why does Ingrid Backstrom care about climate change? After a record low-snow year in her hometown of Squaw Valley - a harbinger of the normal snow year of the future - she started to worry about the effect on the jobs of her neighbors dependent on mountain tourism. Why do you care?

      Grom Contest Heats Up

      The 5th Annual Grom Contest is heating up, with the entries getting better and better every week. We've gotten a number of entries from super-talented Euro shredders like Switzerland's Alex Moorhead above, who demonstrate serious prowess and balls in challenging big-mountain terrain for a high-schooler. Under 18 and want to give it a go? Check the link and put up your entry!

      Snow Summit To Open Bike Park Next Weekend

      Snow Summit, Big Bear's less park-obsessed neighbor, is claiming they will have the first open bike park in the nation when they let mountain bikers onto the chairlift next weekend, and dropped this snow-to-dirt hype video to get all you SoCalers stoked out and biting for a season's pass. Here in the Tetons, our best downhill trails won't be open til next September after the snow year we've had. Is it starting to dry up where you live?

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  • The Cook Can Shred - Higher Un The Cook Can Shred - Higher Unplugged Episode 6

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      For nearly two decades, Jeremy Jones has traveled to Alaska in the spring to explore new zones. During these trips—which often require being dropped in remote areas by a bush plane—space comes at a premium. Consequently, Jeremy and Teton Gravity Research must carefully calculate the resources needed to support and film their expeditions. When selecting team members, they look for people who are as versatile as they are dependable. No one embodies this better than the crew’s camp cook.


      During expeditions to Alaska, the camp cook is tasked with more than making oatmeal. Essentially serving as the base camp manager, the cook assists with everything from melting snow for drinking water to belaying snowboarders during descents. As a result, these individuals tend to have “the most dialed mountain skill set around,” explains Jeremy.

      And as much as cooking over a camp stove is rewarding, Jeremy reveals that “The real payout for the cook is to shred.” During Jones’ most recent film projects, the crew’s camp cooks were especially strong riders. While filming for Further in Wrangell–St. Elias National Park, Canyon Florey turned heads with his descents. Similarly, Lucas Merli surprised Jones and his colleagues during a trip last spring to the Eastern Alaska Range to film for Higher. In addition to impressing the crew with his cooking, Merli satiated their appetite with his riding.

      Check out the Higher trailer here: http://www.tetongravity.com/films/jeremy-jones-higher/

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  • Last Call: Slomo Bladin', Jere Last Call: Slomo Bladin', Jeremy Jones Bikes, Dreamy Euro Pow

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      Welcome to Last Call. Dropping every Friday, this column serves as a wrap-up of our favorite stories and videos from the week—some old, some new, but all worthy of attention.

      The Story of Slomo The Pacific Beach Blader

      The New York Times made a sweet short documentary about Dr. John Kitchin aka "Slomo," who was inspired to leave his job as a wealty doctor to "fly" to the rhythm of music while cruising on rollerblades down the Pacific Beach boardwalk in San Diego. The inspiration? Sitting in line for lunch behind a 90-year old man who had piled enough food on his plate for a college football player. When asked how he could eat so much for "such a healthy young man," the elderly gentleman's response was simple and powerful: "Do what you want."

      Jackson Hole Gaper Day Big Air

      If you didn't catch Social Media Editor Joni McGregor's photo recap earlier today from this week's Gaper Day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, this video from professional filmer Jake Strassman, set to the legendary '90s jam "Free Falling," pretty much captures it.

      Dreamy Euro POV Pow from The Mags 

      One of our TGR forum members from Europe, sqikunst, made this heartening video of him and a buddy skiing some slow-motion low-angle untracked pow on the slopes of Stubai, Austria. It's nothing that's going to win any awards for gnarly action, but the product of skiing powder in slow motion with some smooth camera work only inches away is as close to art as sliding on two goofy sticks will ever be.

      Jeremy Jones Shreds A Mountain Bike! 

      ...well, not the Jeremy Jones you know and love (Big Mountain Jeremy Jones). This is actually Jibber Jeremy Jones blasting his local trails around Salt Lake City last fall, and for a guy that mostly does crazy pop shuv-its down stairsets on a snowboard, he sure knows how to throw around a 29'er!

      We Don't Always Post Park Edit, But When We Do...

      ...they usually involve double backflips gapping over halfpipes. Sweden's Jasper Tjader went for it over the biggest gap the insane course at the annual Nine Knights contest offered, which measured out at a clean 180 feet, with likely the same distance to the ground if you came up short.

      You're Not Where You Think You Should Be

      Hong Kong. You know, that place where they filmed the Rush Hour movies. Damn Chris Tucker is a funny ass dude! "Fifty million dollars? Man, who do you think you kidnapped? Chelsea Clinton?" At any rate, it's probably not high on your list as far as mountain biking destinations go. But as this artful video from the gang at Bike Magazine shows, it just might should be.

      Want more Last Call video action? Check out:
      -Last Call March 28th: VT Backcountry, Urban Downhilling in Mexico, Pow Wow Recap
      -Last Call March 21st: Blacking Out, Climate Change, and Surfing Saunas
      -Last Call March 14th: Tuckerman Ravine, the Art of the Carve, and Japanimation

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  • Local's Guide: Mt. Bachelor an Local's Guide: Mt. Bachelor and Bend, Oregon

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      MTBlandscape_small_for-FB.jpg

      By Tess Weaver

      There’s no off-season in Bend. Storms pound Mt. Bachelor, 22 miles from town, while mountain bikers peddle dry singletrack in shorts. That’s the beauty of life in the high desert. Bend sits comfortably on the banks of the Deschutes River surrounded by ponderosa pines and sagebrush, while the Cascade Mountains line the western horizon with year-round snow. Here, the snow doesn’t stack up in the driveway, it accumulates where it’s more useful—at the ski resort. With one of the longest seasons in the country, Mt. Bachelor offers skiing from November through late May, while Bend’s lower elevation and mild climate keep multisport aficionados content year round. 

      Kirt Voreis and Tyler McCaul's explore Bend's singletrack. The town is a national destination for mountain bikers.

      Bend’s population is up to more than 80,000, but stranded along in the middle of the state, a mountain range away from Oregon’s main populous, Bend feels much smaller. With a historic downtown, more breweries than you have nights to drink and some of the best restaurants of any ski town in the country, Bend has the amenities of Portland without the crowds. The town is surrounded by 2.5 million acres of Forest Service land and offers 484 miles of singletrack within an hour's drive. 48 miles of those trails are in town and 11 of them run along the Deschutes. Smith Rock State Park draws rock climbers from around the world with more than 14,000 climbing routes, the Deschutes offers world-renowned fly fishing, and many of the town’s 25 golf courses are open year round.

      As for Mt. Bachelor, an isolated 9,065-foot dormant stratovolcano on the eastern flanks of the Cascades,it’s a storm magnet. While Bend sees less than a foot of rain annually, Mt. Bachelor receives an average of 400 inches of snow at the highest elevation you can ski in Oregon or Washington. When the winds are calm and the mountain is open to the summit, all 360 degrees of the peak are skiable. The winds that plague the area are also what add to its interesting terrain. As legendary surfer and Bend resident Gerry Lopez says, you “surf” Mt. Bachelor. Ancient lava flows created the mountain’s numerous natural halfpipes and unique wind lips while natural trannys and terrain features litter the resort. High–speed quads access 3,000 of the 3,683 acres and efficiently space out crowds—which aside from Christmas break and the occasional holiday weekend, are slim to none. Surrounded by wilderness, Mt. Bachelor’s base is devoid of condos, shops or even a scene. People are here to ski. 

      snowboarder-slash_for-FB.jpg

      Unlike Mt. Hood, at Mt. Bachelor you can shred lift-accessed terrain straight from the top of the volcano. Just ask this dude - it gets good, and it's available all the way through May! Mt. Bachelor photo.

      If Summit Express is open, head right to the top of the mountain. On a clear day, you might be able to see as far south as Mt. Shasta and as far north as Mt. Baker. The hike-to lines in between the rock pinnacles at the top of the bowl offer the mountain’s steepest skiing. Take your pick of the bowls’ corniced entrances and work the wide open volcanic feature all the way down. Next lap, drop off the backside. Traverse north for long enough and you’ll be atop some of the most fun and feature-laden alpine bowls in the Northwest. These lines offer the most vertical on the mountain, as they take you all the way down to Northwest Express.  

      Lucas-Wachs_Feb-24-2013_pete-alport_for-FB.jpg

      Bachelor has a reputation as one of the more naturally jibby mountains in North America, producing locals like Lucas Wachs, above, who can jump and spin as well as they can shred lines. Pete Alport photo.

      On a powder day, take Pine Martin Express and ski towards Outback chair. Choose any of the fun tree lines between the groomers, ski right past the base of Outback and ride Northwest Express. Exit looker’s right and traverse west for a seemingly endless line up of alpine bowls and old growth tree lines. Traverse farther and farther west for fresher and fresher lines. You’ll feel lost, but it doesn’t matter where you go. All the bowls funnel into perfectly spaced lichen covered Douglas firs and all the lines empty onto a cat track that marks the resort boundary and takes you back to Northwest Express. If there’s a lineup at Pine Martin, do as the locals do and ride nearby Red Chair, one of the resort’s last two remaining triple chairs. Ski the lift line for one of the best fall-line, steeper runs on the mountain. The other triple, Rainbow Chair, marks the eastern border of the resort and offers tons of snowboarder friendly surfy terrain. In between, Skyliner Chair accesses Bachelor’s main terrain park. Don’t miss the hike-to cinder cone in between Pine Martin and Outback where a 10-minute bootpack accesses a wind scoured sub summit from which fresh tracks are always possible. 

      david-scaffidi_pete-alport_for-web.jpg

      Mt. Bachelor also has a mean park, and has hosted Snowboarder's Superpark at the end of the season the past few years. Here David Scaffidi models the local airtime. Pete Alport photo.

      Your hardest decision will be where to après—Bend has the most craft breweries per capita in the country. The town’s first, Deschutes Brewery, is now the fifth largest craft brewer in the country. You’ll want to check it out, but save room for the dozen others that have helped create Bend’s beer town reputation. The food scene isn’t that of your typical ski-town (and thankfully neither are the prices). Bendites have sophisticated palates and the area’s eateries don’t slack off. On the snow, on a plate, or on tap, Bend offers no shortage of adventure.

      1966176_10152243562614509_325937428_o_for-web.jpg

      Downtown Bend is loaded with breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants to match its hipster-cosmo cousin, Portland. City of Bend photo.

      When it comes to food, here are some of Bend’s best bets:

      Lodging: McMenamins

      Ski shop: Skjersaa's

      Coffee: Backporch Coffee Roasters

      Smoothie/Juice: Mother’s

      Breakfast: Chow, The Victorian Café, Sparrow Bakery

      Lunch: New York City Sub Shop, Parrilla Grill, Longboard Louie's

      Dinner: Jackson's Corner, Kebaba: Brother Jon's Public House, 5 Fusion & Sushi Bar, Pizza Mondo

      Food Cart: Real Food Street Bistro

      Brewery: 10 Barrel Brewing, Crux Fermentation Project, Deschutes Brewery

      Bar: Velvet

      Dive Bar: D&D Bar & Grill

      Want to know more about your next shred destination? Check out:
      -The Ultimate Dirtbag's Guide to Vail
      -The Local's Guide To Aspen
      -The Mountain Bike Guide to Revelstoke, British Columbia
      -The Local's Guide to Leavenworth, Washington

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  • Last Call: Slomo Bladin', Jere Last Call: Slomo Bladin', Jeremy Jones Bikes, Dreamy Euro Pow

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      Welcome to Last Call. Dropping every Friday, this column serves as a wrap-up of our favorite stories and videos from the week—some old, some new, but all worthy of attention.

      The Story of Slomo The Pacific Beach Blader

      The New York Times made a sweet short documentary about Dr. John Kitchin aka "Slomo," who was inspired to leave his job as a wealty doctor to "fly" to the rhythm of music while cruising on rollerblades down the Pacific Beach boardwalk in San Diego. The inspiration? Sitting in line for lunch behind a 90-year old man who had piled enough food on his plate for a college football player. When asked how he could eat so much for "such a healthy young man," the elderly gentleman's response was simple and powerful: "Do what you want."

      Jackson Hole Gaper Day Big Air

      If you didn't catch Social Media Editor Joni McGregor's photo recap earlier today from this week's Gaper Day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, this video from professional filmer Jake Strassman, set to the legendary '90s jam "Free Falling," pretty much captures it.

      Dreamy Euro POV Pow from The Mags 

      One of our TGR forum members from Europe, sqikunst, made this heartening video of him and a buddy skiing some slow-motion low-angle untracked pow on the slopes of Stubai, Austria. It's nothing that's going to win any awards for gnarly action, but the product of skiing powder in slow motion with some smooth camera work only inches away is as close to art as sliding on two goofy sticks will ever be.

      Jeremy Jones Shreds A Mountain Bike! 

      ...well, not the Jeremy Jones you know and love (Big Mountain Jeremy Jones). This is actually Jibber Jeremy Jones blasting his local trails around Salt Lake City last fall, and for a guy that mostly does crazy pop shuv-its down stairsets on a snowboard, he sure knows how to throw around a 29'er!

      We Don't Always Post Park Edit, But When We Do...

      ...they usually involve double backflips gapping over halfpipes. Sweden's Jasper Tjader went for it over the biggest gap the insane course at the annual Nine Knights contest offered, which measured out at a clean 180 feet, with likely the same distance to the ground if you came up short.

      You're Not Where You Think You Should Be

      Hong Kong. You know, that place where they filmed the Rush Hour movies. Damn Chris Tucker is a funny ass dude! "Fifty million dollars? Man, who do you think you kidnapped? Chelsea Clinton?" At any rate, it's probably not high on your list as far as mountain biking destinations go. But as this artful video from the gang at Bike Magazine shows, it just might should be.

      Want more Last Call video action? Check out:
      -Last Call March 28th: VT Backcountry, Urban Downhilling in Mexico, Pow Wow Recap
      -Last Call March 21st: Blacking Out, Climate Change, and Surfing Saunas
      -Last Call March 14th: Tuckerman Ravine, the Art of the Carve, and Japanimation

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  • F.I.G.J.A.M.: Silverton Mounta F.I.G.J.A.M.: Silverton Mountain

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      F.I.G.J.A.M. (Fuck I'm Good, Just Ask Me!) is a new column from TGR Contributor Greg Fitzsimmons inspired by a tradition at a certain Colorado ski shop where the obnoxious bragging of chest-puffing visitors is captured in a jar of fig jam on the shop counter. We’ll be highlighting a handful of ski locales and experiences where you’re sure to see some F.I.G.J.A.M. being spread liberally. If you have a place that has to be included in our list, let us know - tweet to @TetonGravity and include the hashtag #FIGJAM!

      silverton-figjam_3_fb-size.jpg

      With terrain like this and a self-selecting group format, the impetus to roar the FIGJAM cry is high. Silverton Mountain photo.

      Story by Greg Fitzsimmons

      It was an idea born in a ski shop in Aspen. If you look closely behind the ptex, wax and Pozidrivs you’ll see a jar of fig jam sitting on the tuning deck next to the binding jigs. At first glance it seems to be out of place in a ski shop, but the jam was placed there a few years before us by an alumnus of the shop and it’s part of everyday life. Even though the seal on the jar has never been broken, “jam” is constantly being spread in Aspen—and throughout the ski world. 

      Customers strut through the door fresh off the plane to rent a setup for their winter holiday. What type of skier are you? Type I, Type II or Type III; skis cautious, skis moderate or skis aggressive, respectively. “Is there a Type IV?” the standard vacation skier will ask. Or, “Yeah, I like to get air and I need my DIN set for an expert skier. Will you crank my binding to 7 for me?” Or, “I like a really stiff ski, that's why I love the S7." Or, “I’m a super aggressive skier, I ski black diamonds.” While these skiers aren’t fixing PB & J sandwiches, they are spreading the jam. 

      F.I.G.J.A.M. is an acronym that was hatched in this Aspen-based ski shop years ago; hence, the jar of jam sitting next to the Wintersteiger machine. FIGJAM stands for “Fuck I’m Good, Just Ask Me!” but more often than not people will start spreading the jam without any prompt. 

      By now, you’ve either been to Silverton Mountain or heard about it. The place is legit! A lone chairlift climbs out from the dirt parking lot at the base of Silverton Mountain, accessing some of the country’s most serious lift-accessed terrain and lines. Boasting arguably the best big mountain ski area skiing in the lower 48, Silverton is a spot where people plan pilgrimages to tee-up heavy lines and weasel down limitless runs of untracked pow. The place is rustic—an old school bus serves as the ticket window, rental shop and après bar. The experience is unparalleled—nearly all the goods are hike-to accessed. Instead of a cat track back to the base, a gutted milk truck greets you in the valley after more than 3,000 vert of skiing. A helicopter beckons chargers looking for a bump for a mere $159 a hit, and the snow is Colorado cold, smoky, and uncharacteristic for the state, extremely deep. Their website sums it up best. “Imagine a place where the average total snowfall of over four hundred inches exceeds the amount of daily visitors. Advanced and expert only riding, no groomers, no clearcut runs and a real mountain experience with plenty of adventure on tap. All thrills, no frills.”

      silverton-figjam_4.jpg

      Sizing up each other's equipment is a critical aspect of the Silverton FIGJAM act. Silverton Mountain photo.

      Groups of eight are the protocol at Silverton Mountain. If you show up with a buddy or two, you’ll be tasked with finding a handful of others to round out your crew for the day. Everyone shows up to Silverton with different expectations. Ranging from “I’m here to see what a bootpack is” to “I’m going to bang out hot laps and crush this place,” the impetus for marking the trek to the San Juan Mountains varies from person to person. And, if you’ve been to the place before, you know that aligning yourself with seven other people who have a similar approach to skiing is integral in nailing the Silverton experience.

      Every morning in Silverton, before introductions are ever made, skiers start sussing each other out. People are checking each out as everyone’s booting up next to their pickup trucks at the base of the mountain like it’s a Boulder bar on a Friday night. Does this guy rip? Is he here to get after it? Those skis are sick, he must know what’s up…mustn’t he? That crew has a Jackson Hole sticker on their back window—that place breeds blasters; or, those two have a Vail sticker on their bumper—don’t get grouped with them (JOKE). 

      silverton-trail-map_figjam_2.jpg

      "Are those 195s, bro? Let's partner up; I don't want any beaters ruining my run down Mandatory Air!" Silverton's trail map gets the FIGJAM juices going.

      Once people are booted up and their mandatory beacons are beeping, the day’s clientele gathers in the parking lot at Silverton to break into groups of eight. This is where the FIGJAM-ing comes in. Every morning, without fail, a copious amount of FIGJAM is spread (or sprayed) in the Silverton parking lot. People introduce themselves to a group of seemingly like-minded skiers with a lame fist bump—because that’s always the right play with guys who ski well—and a comment like, “My name is Joe, and I am the best skier I know.” 

      The typical Silverton parking lot FIGJAM intro goes something like: 

      Four friends from Telluride made the two-hour drive to Silverton after a foot of snow buried the San Juans. A bro in brightly colored Orage walks up, holding his skis like Wallisch, the toe piece of a binding in each hand, tails dragging on the frozen parking lot. “Yo guys,” the bro says. “You mind if I join your crew today? I saw you at your truck and it looks like you guys know how to ski. I’m no gaper, for real. I can ski switch. I’ll be boosting some airs today. And, I hike fast.” He spreads the FIGJAM thick and strong over the bread of the dirt lot.

      Silverton-FIGJAM-4_Chairlift.jpg

      Having thrown out the FIGJAM elevator pitch, the slow double chair offers ample time to further size up your bro-partner-in-crime. Greg Fitzsimmons photo.

      The Silverton FIGJAM is like an elevator pitch for a tech start-up in an episode of Shark Tank. You have to sell your product succinctly and connect with your target demographic quickly. The goal is to be clear and concise without going overboard.

      The group of four from Telluride then needs to find four more guys who are keen to give’r, eager to skip lunch for another lap, psyched on making quick work of the bootpacks and motivated to bag vert. But, do you really want to spend a day in avalanche terrain with a dilby who can “ski switch?”  

      “For the most part, the people who visit Silverton that are cool and not pumping themselves up are the ones who can ski,” says Mike Barney, who spent about five years guiding at Silverton Mountain and now guides in Alaska and throughout the world. “Silverton is a good place to put people who spray in their place, and that happens quite a bit.”

      Silverton-FIGJAM-6_Eating-PBJ.jpg

      Aspen skier Greg Ernst comprehends the proper ratio of peanut butter to FIGJAM during his brown bag lunch. Greg Fitzsimmons photo. 

      The truth is that the spreading of FIGJAM is a necessary evil at Silverton, and the spreading of the fruit is a means to identify beaters instead of honest experts. It’s the counter-intuitive means by which skiers get the experience they’re looking for. And even the skiers that could or should be spreading JAM can get humbled in this San Juan big-mountain mecca. Silverton’s a place that will throttle and spank you, but it’s also the place in the lower 48 where you’re nearly assured to have the run of your life.

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  • Upstarts and Underdogs: Strafe Upstarts and Underdogs: Strafe

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      By Tess Weaver Strokes

      Strafe Outerwear founders Pete and John Gaston might be fraternal twins, but their skiing philosophies greatly differ. John dominates the domestic ski mountaineering-racing scene (he’s the North American Ski Mountaineering Champion two years running), while Pete likes the adventure skiing scene—technical couloirs, ridgeline traverses and speed ascents of peaks. Both are accomplished endurance athletes who regularly win mountain bike races and uphill events in their home of Aspen, Colorado. 

      The 27-year-olds from Connecticut grew up skiing Aspen Highlands, where their family owns a home. They didn’t race or compete in freestyle events. Instead, they skied Highlands Bowl. Hiking fast and skiing hard, they never found the perfect ski apparel, so John decided to make it. With an engineer’s mind, he had a knack for designing gear. After graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder, the brothers founded Strafe in the fall of 2009. When the first round of clothing came in, they realized they didn’t have any sales or marketing experience or many contacts in the ski industry. They still managed to turn heads with what many called the most durable, full stretch, three-layer technical apparel on the market.

      Whit Boucher by Patrick OrtonPhoto by Patrick Orton

      During its first  three seasons, Strafe stuck to a direct sales model and sold everything through their storefront at Aspen Highlands. This year, however, they have twenty-five key accounts in Colorado, five accounts in Utah and sales reps in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the East Coast. In terms of volume, the company has grown by 175 percent in the last three years, which averages out to a growth rate of about 58 percent a year.

      Strafe now offers two product lines: its original three-layer pieces that provide bomber protection from the elements and a Polartec Neoshell hybrid softshell that’s perfect for sidecountry skiing and ski touring. 

      Though Polartec Neoshell has been on the market since 2011, very few ski companies are putting the air permeable textile to use. While the waterproof/breathable apparel of today doesn’t transfer moisture until it’s too late, Neoshell offers industry standard waterproofing while moving moisture out before you’re hot and clammy. And it’s still ninety-nine percent windproof.

      SrafeWeb4-Nomad-Jacket-in-Navy.jpgPhoto by Mike Basher 

      “If I had to pick any fabric on the market for ski touring or a Highlands Bowl lap, it would be Neoshell,” says Pete. 

      The Strafe Winter 14/15 collection will offer Neoshell in the Cham jacket and pant. The Nomad pant and jacket and the Sickbird one-piece return with new fabric. Their eVent fabric offers 30,000mm waterproofing and venting properties that greatly aid in maximizing breathability. Strafe’s Gamma Ray jacket features Polartec Alpha breathable insulation and the collection will also include two Polartec Power Dry active mid layers.

      “We’ve developed a signature Strafe look,” says marketing manager Whit Boucher. “It’s easy to spot people in Strafe. It’s a taller, slimmer cut. Our pants could almost be considered a straight leg fit with enough room for dynamic skiing. The cool thing about our gear and its fit is that it can accommodate different styles. If you want a baggy park fit you can size up or you can go for fitted Euro steeze.”

      Strafe continues to rely on grassroots marketing, building its brand presence in key communities like Chamonix, France and Revelstoke, BC. Strafe athletes span the sport, from ski mountaineer Max Taam, who is known around Aspen for his endurance feats, to big mountain skier Oakley White Allen, who competes on the Freeride World Tour. The brothers are in contact with their athletes on a weekly basis, getting feedback on fabric, cuts, and more. 

      “We want more than just results and photos from our athletes,” says Pete. “We want them to be part of the brand. There is a distinct difference between an athlete and an ambassador. Some of our athletes aren’t the most ripping freeriders, but they are adventurous and inspiring in what they do.” 

      StrafeWeb3.jpgPhoto by Tom Zuccarino

      The company has made mistakes along the way and learned a lot. Like when they printed a hat label upside down on hundreds of hats. 

      “We take everything we’ve learned from what’s working and what’s not and every year the product is able to evolve,” says Pete. 

      They’ve dialed in the fit, pocket layout, color palettes and durability.

      “We’re pretty much on track,” says John. “We didn’t have any illusions about growing this huge brand in three years. We knew that wasn’t the right course of action for us. We’ve always wanted responsible growth.”

      StrafeWeb5SICKBIRD_LAYDOWN_YELLOW.jpgPhoto by Mike Basher 

      Future plans might include a lightly insulated two-layer piece, a women’s line, and a few price point pieces. 

      With an office and showroom at the base of Aspen Highlands, Pete and John still ski most days. They rely on a small team of employees that includes Boucher, to ensure that between the hours of nine and five, someone is at the store and office everyday. 

      “There are definitely days that are strict with meetings and conference calls, but it does allow for a freelance job feel in that as long as I can get the work done I don’t have to do it during ski hours” says John. “I work early and work late. More than a dream job, it’s a great way to be actively involved in the community and industry on a much larger scale.” 

      StrafeWeb1Photo by Mike Basher 

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  • Last Call: VT Backcountry, Urb Last Call: VT Backcountry, Urban Downhilling, Pow Wow Recap!

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      Welcome to Last Call. Dropping every Friday, this column serves as a wrap-up of our favorite stories and videos from the week—some old, some new, but all worthy of attention.

      Working For The Weekend: Vermont Backcountry

      We've posted every one of these East Coast edits produced by Ski The East starring Portland, Maine lawyer Ben Leoni - a long-standing Meathead Films star who is currently doing his best to reconcile life as a full-time lawyer and his passion for skiing. In this episode, Leoni & others explore the woods of northern Vermont, which, uncharacteristically for New England, are open enough to link legit turns and are blessed with snow totals similar to the those in Colorado (really!), and sometimes even more (the 2007/2008 season brought 423" to Jay Peak). Still to date, some of my best days on snow have come in tight hardwood lines like these ones, where narrow little slots get loaded with way more than the storm total making for tunnel-vision faceshots. 

      We look forward to the crew hitting up another uncharacteristically awesome New England zone - Mt. Washington and the surrounding high alpine terrain. Bring it on!

      Brothers in the Backcountry

      Kevin and Mitchell Brower are Salt Lake-based brothers who have been at it in the Wasatch for a long long time - if you remember Kris Ostness' short film for Atomic, 44 Days, you'll remember their skiing. Well, they're still at it in this year's The Brothers Brower series, and followed up their seriously awesome urban edit with an all-backcountry version. In between managing their own kids and running Salt Lake's own ski & snowboard training facility, Snogression, Kevin and Mitchell grab the sleds and throw down in the Wasatch backcountry, adding a bunch of massive tricks and one rediculous cliff wallride into their bag of accomplishments this winter.

      'Tis The Season... For Summer Winter!

      It's about that time of year when us skiers and snowboarders start considering one of two outlandish expenses: a new drift boat/mountain bike/climbing setup/whitewater raft, or a trip down South somewhere to keep the winter going all summer long. SASS Global Travel, a backcountry ski and snowboard camp placed in Bariloche, Argentina, caters to that second group with the promise of deep pow in August and every kind of conceivable terrain to shred while cold snow slaps you in the face. What's your plan? 

      Urban Downhilling in Mexico

      The phenomenon of urban downhill races in Central and South America is wild as hell. Free from the constraints of American-style litigation, course organizers are free to build race courses through sinewy alleys and down city streets in places like Taxco, Mexico. Instead of rock gardens, berms and tabletops, the obstacles instead include dozens of stairsets, hairpin turns in people's back gardens, and gnarly wooden jumps up and over brick walls and through town squares. Slovakian rider Filip Polc has the sack for it, but the office crew here at TGR? We'd rather fall on dirt (and from a much lower height)...

      Jackson Hole Pow-Wow Recap

      The Pow-Wow, which Managing Editor Mike Sudmeier did a nice written recap of the other week, is a chance for many people involved in the snowboard industry to get together, test funky new boards, and celebrate the lineage of snowboarding with OGs like Jeff Grell and Steve Link, and the most soulful snowboard maker in all of the world of Keeping It Real, Gentemstick's Taro Tamai. Here's a nice little recap from the event.

      One of the board sets being given in a run around JHMR was that of local guide Mikey Franco, who's established his own brand of boards with Franco Snowshapes, who's been designing beautiful handmade snowboards right here in Jackson Hole at the Igneus factory. Ever wanted to build your own board? Here's a little visual insight into the process.

      Want more Last Call? Check out:
      -Last Call March 21st: Blacking out, climate change, and surfing saunas
      -Last Call March 14th: Tuckerman Ravine, the art of the carve, and Japanimation
      -Last Call March 7th: Local's Edition exposes boozing on the slopes, Travis Rice returns, and Fernie pow from the air

       

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  • Fear & Loathing At The Hill Cl Fear & Loathing At The Hill Climb World Championships

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      In this fictionalized tongue-and-cheek account of the 39th Annual Hill Climb World Championships, an annual event in Jackson that pits snowmobilers against each other in a race up Snow King Mountain while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity, Associate Editor Ryan Dunfee portrays the grossly oversimplified, stereotypical, and indelibly sarcastic point of view of a hypocritical, self-important, and wholly ignorant ski bum.  THIS IS NOT A REAL LIVE ACCOUNT OF THIS EVENT, NOR DOES IT REPRESENT THE AUTHOR'S PERSONAL VIEW POINT OR THAT OF TETON GRAVITY RESEARCH. To read an accurate journalistic account of the event, please see the excellent article by the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

      facebook-sized-fear-and-loathing-pic.jpg

      As we troll along Virginian Avenue in West Jackson searching for a place to park, it’s plainly obvious we are no longer in ski country. From the cockpit of my cute little diesel German wagon, I can actually see the underside of the dozens of lifted oversized pickups that line the avenue like some sort of motorcade for the leader of some backwoods Montana militia. We squeak in between two such personal tanks and, upon exiting the vehicle, surmise that the top of our ski rack is barely as high as the license plates on the vehicles in front of and behind us. I think about putting together some sort of sign to display on my dash so someone doesn’t mistake my VW for a Prius and intentionally run it over, but just decide to go ahead and drink anyways.

      We’re at The Virginian Saloon--Ground Zero for the celebration of winter redneckery known as the Hill Climb World Championships. We aim to find out what happens when people other than rich ski dorks take over Jackson Hole during the winter months. To do this, we position ourselves in the heart of the mob and see how long we last before we’re found out as the middling suburban ski folks we really are. Through a veil of cigarette smoke, we stumble into line before paying our cover to a lady with a manicured brunette mane topped with a deer camo baseball cap. A large Hawaiian gentleman I understand to be the bouncer waves us into the saloon, and into the heart of darkness we go.

       

      They must have a collective half-foot on the average skier, which would explain why all their trucks are lifted. The gentleman we stand behind in line for whiskey is so tall there are cirrus clouds floating around his deeply sunburnt face.

       

      The first thing that strikes us is the sheer size of the humans in this place! They must have a collective half-foot on the average skier, which would explain why all their trucks are lifted. The gentleman we stand behind in line for whiskey is so tall there are cirrus clouds floating around his deeply sunburnt face. Sunscreen is not on the accessories list for this crowd. Pasty men wear the sun’s bright pink ruination of their faces as a badge of pride, the outline of their sunglasses neatly delineated in white. They owe their makeover to endless hours spent pounding Budweiser in the sun while ogling over neon graphic tees covered in skulls and gearhead catchphrases like “Octane Addiction.” Such wares are peddled in a sort of NASCAR-style infield beneath the slopes of Snow King, up which hundreds of snowmobilers adorned in bright one-piece suits toil with the ceaseless pull of gravity. 

      They hammer the gas out of the gate and peel over a number of man-made rollers, the shriek of gasoline-fed adrenaline piercing the Sunday quiet. They then bounce in fits and starts up the nearly vertical top of the mountain, the studded tracks of their thousand-pound steeds shredding the hillside to pieces as they try desperately to maintain control over their steel animals. 

      guy-on-snowmobile-up-snow-king_fb-size.jpg

      "Cloud of smoke and oil belching into the air as they struggle to maintain their mechanized wildebeests." Jackson Hole Snow Devils photo

      As the afternoon wears on, the track is turned into a series of deep ruts and moguls, and the men jump left and right across their machines, clouds of snow and oil belching into the air as they struggle to tame the mechanized wildebeests.  The announcer, who is either drunk or exhausted, breaks into random spurts of fast-paced auctioneer babble, making us wonder if there is  a live cattle auction taking place in the venue. He yells at some guy in an orange jacket to come to the stage. Did someone out him for drinking a Sierra Nevada? We’ll never know.

      dudes-at-hill-climb.jpg

      As the Budweiser goes down, more and more individuals enact the bizarre postures of the tribe.

      After finishing all the Budweisers I’d packed into the venue, it is time to wander. I spot several individuals feasting on corn dogs. I want one now, and make my girlfriend retrieve one from a vendor whose food cart looks like a forgotten Dip ’N Dots courier. The difference in style between these slednecks and my tribe of non-motorized snowsport aficionados is plainly evident. Knee-high Bogs boots replace skateboard shoes. Flexfit hats replace slouched beanies, deer camo and neon orange replace made-up kinds of camo and neon blue. Oakley Oil Rigs replace Ray Bans, and Mavi jeans are everywhere; a glance across a horizon of bejeweled back pockets reveals this brand of jeans to be the marquee item in one’s effort to conform to the culture of the snowmobile. And nary a single dreaded lock of hair can be seen.

      hill-climb-sled-pit.jpg

      Across the fence from more greenbacks worth of gear than the richest skiing dentist could shake a stick at. Jackson Hole Snow Devils photo.

      We explore further and stumble upon a snowmobile whose price tag appears to be $16,500. Nearby a welded shelf is on sale for $413. It appears several families even own their own full-length trailers, stocked with sleds for mom, dad, and mini ones for the kids, along with full-service repair bays and flashy paint jobs. The grandeur of the expenditures required to be a full-bore sledhead make skiing look like an activity as affordable as ping-pong, yet snowmobiling is largely maligned as the past time of the white rural poor, while skiing is cast as the pastime of rich suburbanites. How could this be true when the cost of getting kitted out to participate in an event like the Hill Climb is hovering somewhere around the cost of a down payment for a house?

       

      Years later we turn around and find out that, shit!, the cost of a new home in town is four times the state average, and that it costs $65 to get the ingredients you need at the organic grocer to make the prized braised kale crostini appetizer you and your health nut friends all salivate over.

       

      “Cost of living,” my girlfriend muttered as she returned with my corn dog while I wondered aloud about some of the more pressing socio-economic questions of our time. Could it be? Us ski folk like to hunker down in tiny mountain valleys with little to no buildable land in cute little towns full of character. We want to enjoy the view of the breathtaking mountains surrounding us and recreate in the copious national park land that further constricts the availability of housing. We then entice rich city folk to come visit, get some fresh air, and drive the cost of living up further—all while we prey on them for tips. Years later we turn around and find out that, shit!, the cost of a new home in town is four times the state average, and that it costs $65 to get the ingredients you need at the organic grocer to make the prized braised kale crostini appetizer you and your health nut friends all salivate over.

      Meanwhile, the good folks over in St. Anthony, Idaho—a hometown cited frequently over the Hill Climb loudspeakers—have no use for yuppie tourists from Long Island or Nob Hill. Consequently, their median home price is barely averaging $100,000, while the idiot skiers in Jackson Hole are paying seven times that. That means a lot more loose cash for a snowmachine that can out-accelerate a Porche—and the corresponding monster truck needed to carry it to the unmarked expanse of your choice.

      hill-climb-crowd.jpg

      An unlikely venue for finding enlightenment. Jackson Hole Snow Devils photo

      Socioeconomic revelation achieved, I approach the last few bites of ground-up pig product wrapped in cornbread with a satisfied grin. At the bar now, I sit by the fire with my woman and a Makers and ginger, watching contentedly as a very wide man of Mexican descent dances with a skinny young girl in Mavi jeans around the bar. The color of their smiles peaks with each passing verse of the LMFAO song that cracks over the maladjusted speakers.

      A QUICK NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

      Wow! So it's very clear I did a disservice to our readership, and to the many folks I've now offended, by not framing this article as the completely fictionalized piece of tongue-and-cheek satire that it is. I've recently added a bit of a disclaimer to the introduction of the article so that future readers of the piece will understand that this is a fictionalized account from "the grossly oversimplified, stereotypical, and indelibly sarcastic point of view of a hypocritical, self-important, and wholly ignorant ski bum." If I read this and understood it to be in any way serious, I would be OUTRAGEOUSLY offended as many of you are. The views of the fictional character depicted in this piece do not reflect my views nor those of anyone here at TGR!

      In reality, I had a blast at the event, met some very nice folks passionate about their sport, and was very impressed with the sense of community present and the efforts made by the Snow Devils and the event staff (many of who are volunteers) to give back to the sport and to the town of Jackson. I'd like to recognize some of the organizations benefitting from the event's selfless initiatives and their relevant donation links. This year's beneficiaries include:

      -$100,000 to St. John’s Medical Center for an Oncology Exam room, which will be used to examine patients suffering from tumors. The website for the St. John's Hospital Foundation can be found here: http://www.stjohnshospitalfoundation.org/

      - $72,000 to the Jackson Hole Shrine Club to benefit the Shriner’s Children Hospital in Salt Lake City, who provides the best specialty care for children suffering from oprthopaedic issues, burns, spinal cord injuries (of which I myself have been a victim), and cleft lip and palate issues regardless of the family's ability to pay. The Shrine Club's website with a donation link can be found here: http://jhshriners.org/

      -$50,000 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wyoming, which has sent a young leukemia patients scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef among countless other wishes they've granted to young children. Their website can be found here: http://wyoming.wish.org/

       Again, I apologize to those who I have offended in not having the foresight to frame this article in such a way as to make it understood as complete fiction and satire! If you would like to read an accurate and very well-written piece about what actually went on at the 39th Annual Hill Climb World Championships, please check out this great article by the staff of the Jackson Hole News & Guide: http://bit.ly/P1Fz4A

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  • Exploring Antarctica - A Scene Exploring Antarctica - A Scene From Deeper

  • A Welcome Farewell to Winter A Welcome Farewell to Winter

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      In surf-starved regions of the country like New England, winter brings with it great irony. The same storms that (very occasionally) blanket the region in deep snow are also the ones that produce some of best waves of the year, leaving local adventurers with the difficult decision of whether to turn on the 4x4 and blast through the newly-fallen foot of snow up to the mountains, or turn around, mount up in thick suit of inflexible rubber, and march through that same foot of snow to the beach to go surfing. 

      Winter surfing in the Northeast takes a little bit of insanity to get used to. I mean, it's cold enough to justify building a towable sauna just to warm up in between sessions. Duck diving under an approaching wave means subjecting your face and forehead to freezing sea water that dips below forty degrees in January and February, incuding a near-catatonic ice cream headache that left weaklings like me feeling like their right brain had detached from their left brain for more than a few minutes. So while winter's end is no welcome sign to the area's skiers, come March when the ocean temps start to climb and the sun is warm, local surfers rejoice. This video from Joe Carter of the infamous Get In The Van crew is filmed along the coast of both New Hampshire and Maine and should leave you with no doubt about why these guys arent' crying over the arrival of spring.

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  • Blue Collar Pro: Susan Mol Blue Collar Pro: Susan Mol

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      By MacKenzie Ryan

      Every scene in snowboarding has people who stand outside the fold. People who don’t care about what other people think. People who ride the rowdiest shit. People who cheer for you even if you aren’t able to ride the same gnarly lines that they can. People who travel where they want to, pay for their trips themselves, and don’t care if anyone is filming. They do it because they want the challenge and want to push themselves as far as they can go. Podiums, money, and photographers are an afterthought. 

      In freeriding, these athletes are the OG splitboarders, snowboard mountaineers, and billy goats. They started hiking, rapelling, and making powder turns in the backcountry before Jeremy Jones turned away from helicopters. 

      SusanMol1Web.jpg

      Susan Mol pretty much won every major big mountain snowboarding title, including the North Face Masters and Freeride World Tour, while she was a ski patroller at Crested Butte. Known for fearlessly riding exposed, technical lines, Mol is a legend in the freeride community. 

      She isn’t someone whose Alaska shots make TransWorld Snowboarding. Yet most people would tell you she rides bigger, scarier lines than any woman alive—whether it’s on skis or a board. 

      We caught up with Susan in the midst of a busy winter of riding and traveling. She shared her insights on why she competed, living with an athlete’s mentality, and how she paid for her powder search with a seasonal window-washing business. 

      How It All Began

      I grew up as a snow bunny, for sure. My mom taught skiing in order for us to basically have free babysitting. While she and dad were dancing at the bar till late my siblings and I were sledding on cafeteria trays with all the other unattended children!

      I started snowboarding when I was 16. My little brother, Mark, was snowboarding and for some reason that looked like more fun and I became jealous. It was a bit rebellious to slide sideways at that time. I was ski racing at the time and was getting bored. I took a lesson and my initial experience at Big Boulder Ski area in Pennsylvania changed everything. Snowboarding was my freedom and social outlet throughout high school. Then I tried to do the college thing but all I yearned for was to be in the mountains. I traveled the USA looking for “mountain colleges” landing in Seattle for a stint and then Crested Butte, Colorado. 

      SusanMol8Web.jpg

      Dropping into the Competitive Scene

      I moved to Crested Butte in the late 90s and was driven by extreme snowboarding. I really enjoy exposure and no fall zones. My first competition I got dead last, then third, then first. Then I think I got dead last again. I was so committed. I either crashed and burned or was on the podium. 

      Then 9/11 happened and it seemed as if the entire freeride industry flopped. I figured that chapter of my life was over. I actually started skiing again. I bought skis with some Boarderfest prize money and made the Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol.

      SusanMol9.jpg

      When The North Face and MSI brought back freeride snowboard comps my friends dared me to enter. I won the first event in Snowbird and ended the season as the North Face Masters Tour Champion. In 2009 I won the Crested Butte, qualifying me for the Freeride World Tour event in Squaw. I won that and was invited to compete in Fieberbrunn, Austria and then finally Verbier, Switzerland, where I was crowned World Tour Champion. It was quite the whirlwind! I managed 2nd overall on the FWT in 2010 and then broke my femur training early season in December 2011. I haven’t competed since.

      One Plank or Two

      I skied for income patrolling at CBMR and guiding at Irwin. The only time I went snowboarding was competing. I love skiing as much as snowboarding. I can choose whatever tool I want for that ascent or descent, getting the best of both worlds. If snowboarding is the right tool for that peak and those conditions, I will snowboard. If skiing is better for that particular tour, I’ll ski.

      Guiding and patrolling on a snowboard is difficult. I give the guides at Silverton mad credit. Snowboard guiding requires a lot of pre-planning. You can’t do a kick turn in the middle of some exposed zone or climb back up to access a different zone. Snowboarding is more committing.

      SusanMol7.jpg
       

      The Reality of Seeking Sponsors

      I’ve always really struggled with the sponsorship thing. I try really hard not to get sucked into the who’s who, or where I see friends in a magazine, or getting free stuff. I’ve never been a partier and therefore rarely met the “right” people. I took competition very seriously. I probably took myself too seriously. I think with sponsorship you have to be in the right place at right time, and super cute doesn’t hurt either. I’ve never been comfortable selling myself. 

      It’s one thing to get to product. It’s another thing to get money. Airlines don’t give a rat’s ass who you are. They want you to pay your airline ticket. Even when I was Freeride World Tour champion, I couldn’t get money. I stayed with small, local companies. Venture and Loki helped me out a lot then. I have approached quite a few sponsors. They were interested, but the human connection was missing. 

      I know I earned every iota of everything that’s come about. 

      A lot of times I wasn’t showing up at SIA and other big networking events because I was working. I wonder now if I hadn’t been so focused about making money on the outside what would have happened. There is a hard balance if you don’t have some kind of straight-up financial sponsorship.

      SusanMol4Web.jpg

      The Competitive Edge—and its Dangers

      When it comes to being an athlete and being competitive, there are a lot of highs and lows. Depression has probably driven me to be a successful snowboarder but it also can take everything away in the blink of an eye. It wouldn’t have been that way if I were a mellow person with a laid back approach to life. 

      I took my “Fuck it, you only live once” attitude to Alaska. I ski patrolled part-time at Alyeska. Darkness was a huge struggle. Alaska will eat you up and spit you out. I didn’t come back with everything. I totaled my truck 18 miles into the drive through AK, but somehow managed to get myself back to the lower 48 by April. It beat me down raw, I’m a little different now. When I decided to go to Alaska, I had lost six friends in a short period of time and the last person was someone I truly loved. I realized how short life could be, and while that’s a true statement, I now realize you have to live life to the fullest with grace and mindfulness.

      I’m on the high side now. That’s how depression works. You can use it to your advantage. You have these holes from the dark times now filled with passion and excitement. Most people would’ve stopped at average. I think honestly that’s a part of an athlete’s personality—all or nothing.

      SusanMol3.jpg

      Washing Windows to Stay on the Snow

      I have a window cleaning business. It was actually a joke with a photographer friend of mine, Ralph Kristopher. We were brainstorming, “How are we ever going to just work in the summer and ski in the winter?” 

      The second year in business we contracted a few mega-mansions. We were using his Jeep and my Honda Civic, which looked really funny with a 32-foot ladder on it. The third year, I bought a truck and made the business legit. I took over the business the fourth year when my partner wanted to pursue his passion for photography. 

      Window washing is a very feast or famine business in Crested Butte. Sometimes I will have a five-person crew; sometimes it’s just me. I operate for six months from May-October, enabling me to find freelance work in Japan or go to AK for the winter. It keeps me in great physical shape and keeps my mind sharp because monkeying around on ladders is dangerous. I do the risk-reward game even at work. It helps me judge things. If I am looking at window, I think, if that were a cliff, how high would it be? It conveniently ends at the end of October and I can’t really start up again until the snow melts.

      SusanMol6Web.jpg

      Looking to the Future

      I’ve never really been comfortable in the air. I always liked exposure and picking my way through the rocks. I’m trying not to be such a billy goat and more of a powder slut. I’ve gone to the far reaches of the planet for more snow, better stability, and new experiences. 

      In Japan, I’m not looking for exposure. I’m going for the deep pow—the deeper the better. 

      I think that Alaska will always be the childhood dream, that unattained moment in time. I still fantasize about the fluted spines. That is still the goal. Even though I am going to Japan, that goal is still there. I feel like I barely scratched the surface, twice in the spring and once all winter.

      I don’t really have a bucket list but maybe it’s time for that. Japan wasn’t even on my agenda. It was an opportunity and I am really good at taking an opportunity when it presents itself. All that working has bought me some freedom after all.

      SusanMol2Web.jpg

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  • Upstarts and Underdogs: Panda Upstarts and Underdogs: Panda Poles

    • From: sudmeier
    • Description:

      By Michael Sudmeier 

      Pandas know what’s up. Even though the bears are descendants of carnivores, they’re addicted to bamboo. And who can blame them—it’s one of the fastest growing plants on earth and apparently pretty tasty. Taking a cue from these creatures, a pack of skiers is tapping this natural material for their poles.

      With a blend of humor and humility, Tanner Rosenthal and Oakley White-Allen stand at the head of this tribe. Their company, Panda Poles, crafts poles not from aluminum, but instead from bamboo. And while these poles are inspired by the past, they also deliver a healthy dose of fresh technology.

      TanandOakResized .jpg

      Panda Poles Founders Oakley White-Allen and Tanner Rosenthal

      In 2008, Rosenthal began having visions of poles made from bamboo. As much as these dreams were rooted in the present—and a life built around ski bumming—they were also inspired by the past. Bamboo poles first came to prominence in the 1930s when more and more skiers turned to them for their durability and minimal weight. With time, bamboo became an anomaly as manufacturers turned to aluminum.

      Rosenthal kept toying with the idea of making poles from bamboo. He admired both their simplicity and their ability to have a reduced impact on the environment. “It was really simple,” he reveals. “You just take a piece of bamboo and attach a grip and basket to it.” Yet he didn’t just aim to resurrect old designs and materials—he aimed to perfect them.

      BasketDrawings1.jpg

      Napkin sketches for Panda Poles' Zero Drag Powder Baskets

      To Rosenthal’s surprise, he learned that his best friend and pro skier Oakley White-Allen had also been thinking about crafting poles from bamboo. And like Rosenthal, White-Allen was interested in exploring new designs. Soon, the two began building poles. They were especially interested in developing a new basket design, one that aimed to eliminate snags while skiing the trees.

      “Oakley and I paired up and we just started taking the steps towards making a product and after a couple of seasons of testing and developing the concepts, we felt like we had something we could bring to market,” he explains. “I pulled together some capital, we created the molds, and started building poles. By January of 2011, we had the business off the ground and going.” 

      panda poles all images 10%22@72dpi-180.jpg

      Panda Poles soon garnered attention. While skiers first noticed the poles’ bamboo construction, they came to appreciate their Zero Drag Powder Baskets. Thanks to a conical design, these baskets offered ample flotation while eliminating the likelihood of getting caught in the trees. And as much as skiers turned to the poles for their aesthetics and functionality, they also appreciated the story behind them. “Our poles are handmade to our customers’ specifications,” explains White-Allen. “I think it’s that attention to every set that makes them special.” Whether it’s length, grips, basket style, or pole straps, customers determine how they want their poles to look and perform. 

      PandaPolesGripsWebResized.jpg

      And while this approach affords customers a plethora of options, each design revolves around a commitment to craftsmanship. With the assistance of long-time friend Kody Kirkland, Rosenthal carefully builds the brand’s poles at its workshop in Pocatallo, Idaho. After receiving shipments of bamboo from Asia, they carefully wash each piece by hand, sand any irregularities from its nodes, and drill holes for attaching a basket and ice tip. These pieces are then paired “to make sure that the two pieces of bamboo are a perfect match,” offers Rosenthal. “Which, to me, is one of the most important steps because having an even keel in both hands is really important.” The two then sand the poles down to accommodate grips, put metal inserts atop the poles, apply a series of Panda Poles logos using an electric brander, and add the grips, straps, and baskets that a customer requests. Although the company sells its poles through a handful of retailers, Panda Poles estimates that eighty percent of its sales come from its website, where visitors can readily order a customized pair.

      When Rosenthal and White-Allen talk about Panda Poles, they speak of bamboo with a sense of reverence, a reverence born in a deep appreciation for the aesthetics of the material as well as its ecological benefits. They emphasize bamboo’s ability to mitigate erosion, sequester carbon, and grow so rapidly that it can be harvested frequently. In addition to minimizing its footprint through the use of bamboo and an efficient production process, the company also uses hemp and recycled materials for its straps and packaging. 

      PandaPoles.jpg

      Panda Poles Cofounder Oakley White-Allen getting after it

      Yet Rosenthal is quick to point out that perhaps—even more than bamboo—passion is the most important ingredient in crafting a pair of Panda Poles. “I’ve been a ski bum for years, so I have an immense amount of passion for this sport,” he explains. “I’m putting that energy into every single pair of poles that gets built. This whole company is built on the premise that skiing comes first.” 

      And as much as Rosenthal and White-Allen are building ski poles, they’re also building a community. Panda Poles has served as a catalyst for uniting a group of like-minded skiers that range from competitors on the Freeride World Tour to local rippers. In addition to White-Allen and Rosenthal, heavy hitters like Drew Tabke, Angel Collinson, Sander Hadley, Mark Abma, Chris Turpin, and Silas Chickering-Ayers are part of the company’s team. Rather than being united by contracts and photo incentives, they’re brought together by their love for skiing. “All Panda Poles athletes are volunteers,” offers White-Allen. “With their efforts and endless enthusiasm for skiing, we’ve proved that our ski poles are as much fun as we can imagine.” Rosenthal credits White-Allen and his presence on the Freeride World Tour for helping build inroads with athletes and awareness of the brand—especially in Europe. “Without Oakley, we wouldn’t have that,” he explains. “That’s a really big role in our success—being able to get our products into the right hands.” 

      PandaPolesPortraitResizedWeb.jpg

      Photo by Brett Colvin and provided courtesty of Panda Poles

      As part of its efforts to build a community around the brand, Panda Poles releases a steady stream of edits throughout the winter. Whether showcasing the durability of its poles, documenting deep pow days, or featuring Rosenthal dressed up as a Panda, the edits remain true to the ethos of the brand and its focus on simply having fun. “One half of Panda Poles is a media outlet and the other half is the product that we sell and distribute,” explains Rosenthal. “That’s something that stresses me out like crazy when I’m behind my own deadline on getting a video out . . . I’ll push right up to the end of my limits making sure we get that Panda vid out because it’s so important to me that we don’t leave our audience hanging.”

      Definitely check out this recent Panda Poles edit featuring Sander Hadley. He's one of the up-and-coming members of the tribe and a strong candidate for rookie of the year.

      While Panda Poles has a growing following throughout the world, the brand has especially deep roots in Utah and Idaho. When Rosenthal and White-Allen were first launching Panda Poles, they routinely moved their workshop throughout the Salt Lake area, assembling poles at their homes and those of their friends. They eventually acquired a trailer that became the company’s workshop. The trailer remained parked at the house Rosenthal and White-Allen lived in at the base of Little Cottonwood Canyon for a number of years, a house simply known as the Panda House. “I was waiting for the officials of Cottonwood Heights to come knocking at our door any day,” he confesses. Luckily, they never did.

      IMG_0470.JPG

      Rosenthal hard at work. Photo by Maureen “MoPho” Rosenthal and compliments of Panda Poles

      In January of 2013, Rosenthal—and Panda Poles—moved back to his hometown of Pocatello. “Moving to Pocatello was the best thing we could have done,” he offers. “I’m living in the house I grew up in and the shop is one hundred feet away, so that’s really cool.” For Rosenthal, the move to Pocatello also coincided with the birth of his son, Moses. This latest chapter for Panda Poles is a continuation of the brand’s commitment to building relationships. The move has allowed Rosenthal to reconnect with old friends, spend time lapping his home mountain of Pebble Creek, and focus on both his family and Panda Poles—which often feel like one and the same. “Running a business is the most difficult yet rewarding experience of my life other than having a child,” he explains. “But it’s a very similar thing.”

      Tanner Rosenthal

      Rosenthal hard at work again—but this time product testing. Photo by Erik “Bro” Hostetler.

      Since its inception, Rosenthal and White-Allen have always approached Panda Poles with a strong sense of purpose. Whether selecting materials, crafting poles, or working to reduce their impact on the environment, this sense of purpose is immediately evident. It also taps into skiing’s rich history while aiming to contribute to it. “Skiing has an ancient heritage and has gone through countless evolutions,” offers White-Allen. “I hope we can play a role in reminding skiers of how our past can grow into our future.”

      PandaPolesMountainShotFinalResizedWeb.jpg

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  • Tiny House Tour 2014: Episode Tiny House Tour 2014: Episode Three - Best in Snow

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      As skiers we either have them or we have friends with them—those furry creatures that freak out in a snow frenzy anytime they're let loose on a mountain. 

       

      As skiers, we have dogs. 

       

      They're Saint Bernards, Labs, Retrievers, Australian Shepards, Poodles, mutts, and everything in between. They're big and small with long hair, short hair, tails, and no tails. And no matter what they are, they love you. They adore skiers and snowboarders because they appreciate a day in the mountains just as much as we do. They're keen to burrow in the snow and play with friends. They enjoy charging downhill with gravity as their ally and a night spent in the parking lot waiting to charge out the door in the morning to see how much snow has fallen overnight. The relationship between humans and dogs has never been as good as between snow-lovers and these four-legged friends.

       

      So, be good to your puppy. Give a dog a bone. Offer to take your friend's dog that has been in the car all day for a long run down the mountain. And every once in awhile just give a dog a squeeze. Let their happiness comfort you and remind you to be happy today. Go out and enjoy that new snow—and do it with a dog. Afterall, they are their best in the snow.

      Music by South of France

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  • Tiny House Tour 2014: Episode Tiny House Tour 2014: Episode Three - Best in Snow

    • From: TetonGravityResearch
    • Description:

      As skiers we either have them or we have friends with them—those furry creatures that freak out in a snow frenzy anytime they're let loose on a mountain. 

      As skiers, we have dogs. 

      They're Saint Bernards, Labs, Retrievers, Australian Shepards, Poodles, mutts, and everything in between. They're big and small with long hair, short hair, tails, and no tails. And no matter what they are, they love you. They adore skiers and snowboarders because they appreciate a day in the mountains just as much as we do. They're keen to burrow in the snow and play with friends. They enjoy charging downhill with gravity as their ally and a night spent in the parking lot waiting to charge out the door in the morning to see how much snow has fallen overnight. The relationship between humans and dogs has never been as good as between snow-lovers and these four-legged friends.

      So, be good to your puppy. Give a dog a bone. Offer to take your friend's dog that has been in the car all day for a long run down the mountain. And every once in awhile just give a dog a squeeze. Let their happiness comfort you and remind you to be happy today. Go out and enjoy that new snow—and do it with a dog. Afterall, they are their best in the snow. 

      Music by South of France

       

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    • 4 weeks ago
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  • Last Call: Climate Change, Hel Last Call: Climate Change, Heli-Ski Uzbekistan, Blacking Out, Surfing Saunas!

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      Jeremy Jones on Climate Change

      During a springtime trip to Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Jeremy talks about why climate change has become such a concern for him, from melting glaciers to increasingly erratic weather. Of course, this has implications far beyond less pow on the slopes - I think the collapse of modern industrial civilization was mentioned recently - but, man! Your Instagram account is going to be was less popular when the opportunity to gloat-post pow day shots declines by 50%.

      Surf Shauna for Winter Water Enthusiasts!

      With air temps stabbing at zero degrees and water temps barely above forty, wintertime surfing in New England is a violent affair that only the hardiest (or most desperate for waves) have the will power to undertake. In mid-February with ice fog curling off the surface of the water and two feet of snow on the beach, it's a challenge to stay in the water for more than an hour. But two creative souls from near my hometown in New Hampshire have put together a wild-looking "Surf Sauna" mounted on a trailer that they can tow right to the spot and heat up in time to give frozen surfers a break in some delciious heat with the aroma of cedar filering through their iced-over wetsuits. Sound nice? The first Surf Sauna model will be available for a cool $16,400, trailer hitch not included.

      Doing Cool Shit On A Bike At High Speed

      Damn, dude; Bas van Steenbergen is not messing around! The Kelowna, B.C. native must have learned how to ride a bike from an XBox, because this is some video game-level riding on a 6-inch travel bike. 

      Calling All Norwegian Engineers to Teton Pass...

      Those damn Scandinavians are always making us Americans look like a bunch of fat, self-indulgent and scatterbrained fools. This time, they tease us with their utopian "CycloCable," a sort of conveyor belt that pushes cyclists up a 426-foot hill in Trondheim, Norway after they step on what looks like a track and field start block. Could you imagine how empty the parking lot would be at the top of Teton Pass if you could simple plop a foot down and have taxpayer money ferry you to the top for your ski run or bike lap down Fuzzy Bunny? Plus, it's way cheaper than the monorail I keep advocating for...

      Smugg Hucks

      Ski The East's talented group of freeride groms put some time in last March with their young knees and copious snowfall around Smuggler's Notch, Vermont in order to see just how big they could go off the frozen waterfall drops and cliff hucks in the area's tight woods. If Dylan Dipentima, Noah Ranallo, Dominic Castine, and Carter Snow are out there listening, we highly recommend you enter our Grom Contest... we want you!

      Yawgoons 12 

      We’ll be honest—you probably won’t like this edit.  It’s full of handrails and jibs rather than powder, pillows, and helicopters. But once you get past the fact that this edit is better suited for Yobeat than TGR, there’s much to appreciate.  In addition to impressive riding, the edit showcases the importance of creativity.  Although Yawgoo Valley—the only ski resort in Rhode Island—doesn’t have an abundance of terrain, the Yawgoon crew continues to make it look fun as hell.  But then again, Scotty Stevens always makes snowboarding look so fun.

      NYC Socialite Taken Out During Local Pond Skim

      Last week the town hill here in Jackson Hole, Snow King, held their annual pond skim contest. But shriveled private parts weren't the only victim of the challenge of fording nearly-frozen waters on skis or snowboards. Julia Kirby, a young NYC socialite who starred on the reality show "High Society" before moving to Jackson to become landscape photographer Tom Mangleson's assistant, got taken out by an out-of-control skimmer as she was texting away behind the runout of the pond skim.  

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  • An Avalanche Cycle That Hit Cl An Avalanche Cycle That Hit Close To Home

    • From: ryandunfee121157
    • Description:

      greg-epstein-mira-lee-photo.jpg

      Greg Epstein, center, with Griffin Post (left) and girlfriend Mira Lee (right). Photo via Mira Lee.

      After a record storm cycle brought up to two hundred inches to the Tetons in little more than a month, local backcountry skiers and riders were hankering to get on top of lines around Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. For much of February, these lines had been getting hammered with new snow or were plagued by poor visibility. As the beginning of March brought with it some of the first bluebird days in weeks, local backcountry skiers and riders quickly fanned out into quickly-accessible terrain surrounding the legendary Jackson Hole tram. But the desire to scratch that itch produced multiple avalanche victims, including TGR’s own Supervising Producer, Greg Epstein.

      The first incident came on Tuesday, March 4th, when a skier triggered an avalanche after ski cutting the top of 7 Dwarfs in the steep North-facing terrain of Granite Canyon off the back of the resort. The slide swept the skier into trees and down a second pitch. Upon attempting a rescue, his partner set off a second avalanche that carried her down to her partner, almost burying him further. Both managed to self-rescue and exit Granite safely. The following day, two skiers set off an avalanche at the top of Four Pines off the south side of the resort that caught both but did not bury them. 

      On Saturday, March 8th, with a deep blue sky hinting at rising temps throughout the day, a highly experienced, local backcountry snowboarder attempted to negotiate the steep cliffband known as Breakneck, which is located beneath Cody and No Name peaks. Dropping in on his first run of the day, he hit an unstable pocket among the cliffs that released, raking him over successive cliffs and burying him completely at the bottom, his head three feet under the snow. Dave Miller, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's Lead Backcountry Guide, was in a different party nearby with four other ski patrollers, along with one more at the top of Green River, and readily responded.  Miller located the victim under the snow with the five others and, luckily, he regained consciousness. This close call could have ended very differently if an experienced guide hadn’t been there right at that moment.

      breakneck-avalanche-march-8th.jpg

      The result of the Breakneck avalanche. The crown where the avalanche broke can be seen high up on the face. Photo via the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center.

      “We basically had a snow cycle since late January in which we got thirty-six days of snow, and two hundred inches, before we finally got into a period of high pressure,” said Mike Ream, an avalanche forecaster at the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center. He explains that on the day of the Breakneck incident, “The snowpack was stabilizing, but immediately following that big storm cycle, people were making aggressive terrain choices. Saturday [March 8th] we had considerable hazards at the mid-high elevations with wind slabs, and persistent slabs at high elevations.” Rheam added before discussing the Breakneck incident, where he was one of the first responders. “We don’t forecast for steep, aggressive terrain like Breakneck. It’s outside of our forecasting consideration, and there’s pockets on those cliff bands that can go at any time. That guy was very lucky that he wasn’t hurt worse by trauma while falling over the cliffs and [that he] was unconscious when found and exposed. It was a big red flag—that was really aggressive terrain.”

      The following morning, Sunday, March 9th, TGR’s Supervising Producer Greg Epstein aimed to ski Granite Canyon with a small group that included professional skier Max Hammer and Patagonia’s Josh Nielsen and Glenn Morden.

      chris-figenshau-photo-of-epstein.jpg

      Greg Epstein skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Photo by Chris Figenshau.

      Epstein is a highly experienced backcountry traveler who has safely produced numerous backcountry film segments while also organizing the annual International Pro Riders’ Workshop. TGR facilitates this workshop at the start of each season to train its film athletes and cinematographers in avalanche safety and backcountry rescue and first aid protocols.

      The largely northeast-facing terrain is home to some of the area’s most challenging and longest backcountry runs, including classics like Milelong Couloir, the Spock Chutes, and Northwest Passage. Nonetheless, the area presents a unique set of challenges when it comes to managing avalanche hazards. “It’s pretty aggressive terrain—the narrow chutes especially,” said Bridger-Teton’s Mike Rheam. “The chutes in the early season are basically cliff bands, and they take awhile to fill in. When they do, the snowpack varies in depth quite a bit, being super shallow or deep depending on where along the buried cliff bands you area. But the wind loading is really the tricky thing there—it’s very difficult to predict those wind slabs. And that particular terrain is notorious for shifting wind slabs that vary from chute to chute or from the top to the bottom.” 

      Over the course of that Sunday, the avalanche hazard rose from moderate to considerable as temps in the high elevations rose from twenty-nine degrees at five a.m. to a high of 42. During a “considerable” avalanche hazard, natural avalanches are deemed possible while human-triggered avalanches are likely. But again, these kinds of hazards don’t fully account for the dangers found on steep, technical terrain like that in Granite Canyon. While the snow had settled over the course of the past few days of high pressure, persistent deep slabs and wind slabs still posed a threat at the high elevations. Greg and his party skied one run safely in Granite earlier in the day, and came back after lunch to attempt the well-known Double Dogleg Couloir, a steep chuted run that goes on a similar Northeast aspect that splits in two midway down the line, runs for 1,500 vertical feet, and has an average pitch in the high thirty degrees.

      Epstein set out to test the intricate hazards persistent in Granite with an experienced eye. “The general avalanche hazard forecast is a good way to get a general sense of what’s going on outside, but it doesn’t represent all aspects at all elevations. Granite has its own micro-aspects like a lot of places in the Tetons, and each one has completely different snow, wind—everything,” Greg said with regards to the decision-making process. “We were a day after the Breakneck incident but on a completely different aspect. We had an extra day for the snow to settle and not much solar gain on the slope—that’s why we decided to ski it. It was a group decision and we were prepared to be out there.”

      Double-Dogleg-pic-jackson-Hole-ski-atlas.jpg

      In this excerpt from the Jackson Hole Ski Atlas, the Double Dogleg Couloir can be seen towards the left of the picture. The Football Field is the unobstructed open section before the beginning of the chute.  

      Epstein made the call to ski cut the top of the first pitch, known as Football Field. This would allow the group to monitor whether or not any of the snow would release on the large open pitch before Double Dogleg began to narrow. He cut across it at a forty-five degree angle, maintaining his speed to get across any slab that might release, but nothing did. “So then we poked in a little further, “ he added. “We got to the top of Double Dogleg, and I decided to ski cut the top of that as well. Nothing moved, not even a block of snow. We started talking about the next move, and decided that I was going to work my way about fifty to sixty yards down the fall line before stopping at this island of safety—a rocky ridge that took you out of the path of the chute. I made two turns and saw cracks forming in the snow ahead of me, and immediately beelined it for the safe zone. I got up on top of it, but as the avalanche passed, it grabbed the last few inches of my tails and pulled me into the slide.

      “I pulled my airbag and took the ride for about 800 or 1,000 feet,” Epstein explained. “It was definitely fast and aggressive. I went off a pretty big cliff that made me think for a few minutes—like ‘what’s going to happen when I come back down’—and I landed and my ski hit a tree, breaking off at the binding, and that’s when I broke my leg and my pelvis.”

      “It was a fourteen to eighteen inch crown,” said Rheam, after having inspected the debris of the slide in subsequent days. The crown was thrity yards wide, and the avalanche propogated wider after the initial break. “It was a pocket of wind slab, maybe an R2, D1.5 avalanche. Relatively speaking, it wasn’t a giant slide, but in that terrain you’re going for a ride once you get caught. A lot of times, people in Granite aren’t buried; they’re injured. It was definitely an aggressive terrain choice for the heat, and a pretty bold decision due to the recent avalanche activity, the warming going on, and the terrain features in Double Dogleg.”

      Back on the snow at the apron of the couloir, Greg sat facing up hill on top of the snow—thanks no doubt to his air bag—with a broken tibia and fibia in his lower leg, which was nearly at compound fracture stage with the bone trying to poke out of the skin. While that pain was bad enough, the pain of his newly-broken pelvis was purely agonizing. As partners Josh Nielsen and Max Hammer descended with avalanche beacons, searching for Greg’s signal, Epstein yelled back up the hill to call 911. “Nielsen probably got to me within three minutes,” he said. “I told him I thought my leg and pelvis were broken and that we needed to get me turned downhill, get me comfortable, and get help quick.”

      Hammer, who had CPR training in addition to his experience training at TGR’s International Pro Riders’ Workshop, took on the responsibility of triage, checking Greg’s vitals and running his hands along Greg’s entire body to check for secondary issues. They then pulled Greg onto a line of their backcountry packs to keep him off the snow and warmer. They also called emergency services. As local patrollers and search and rescue crews organized a response and called in a helicopter, Max stayed by Epstein, repeating encouraging words while continually keeping contact and pressure on Greg’s chest to let him know he was there. After an hour, the first patrollers arrived. And after two hours, another set arrived with a sled to take Greg down to the base of the valley for a heli extract. Epstein started to get cold and shiver. This and the tension of a full bladder began to exacerbate the severe pain he was already experiencing. “It was the most pain I have ever been in in my entire life—hands down,” said Greg looking back. “But I feel luckier than shit that I didn’t die or have any back or head injuries.”

      Three hours after the avalanche swept Greg nearly 1,500 feet, a helicopter arrived and carted Epstein to an ambulance waiting at the base of the resort. After a night at St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Epstein underwent nearly six hours of surgery to insert rods into his lower leg in order to stabilize the tibia and fibia and a plate to pull his pelvis back together. Almost immediately, a flurry of support from the local community made its way to Greg’s bed, with piles of get well cards, sweets, and beers, along with enough incoming traffic to give the nurses an exhausted look at the sight of another visitor. 

      mark-epstein-photo.jpg

      Mark Epstein captures his brother Greg recovering well in Jackson's St. John's Hospital before being released last Friday.

      “It’s been amazing how supportive the community has been and how many people called or cared,” Greg said reflecting on his time in the hospital. “It’s one of the things that makes Jackson Hole one of the best communities on the planet. I really want to stress that; this place is really, really supportive.” 

      After being released from the hospital over the weekend, Greg would like to thank everyone who sent messages of support or visited him after his accident. He would also like to thank his backcountry partners. They not only had the skills to locate him with their transceivers after the avalanche, but also the skills to stabilize him, check for additional injuries, and efficiently coordinate a rescue and extraction with the emergency service personnel who helped Greg get to the helicopter and ultimately the hospital - a big thanks is owed to their tireless work as well.

      Want to be prepared for the backcountry? Here are some helpful resources to check out:
      -Higher Unplugged: International -Pro Rider Workshop recap video
      -TGR's roundup of avalanche classes, clinics, and workshops in North America

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