East Face Descent & Mountain Goat Herding - Mt Helen

Tenmile Range

Mt. Helen (13,164')

East Face

Kristin and I took advantage of a nice April refresh and headed to the Ten Mile Range, looking to head up Mt Helen's east face.  The snow coverage was impressive and allowed for a long 2700' descent from the summit proper.  We shared the summit with about two dozen mountain goats who followed us up the NE ridge.

Mt. Helen ( broad face left of center)  as seen from across Goose Pasture Tarn, after our tour.  We soaked up the sun all tour right until we arrived back to the truck to enjoy our snow cold beers, then the clouds started to roll in.

Curious fellas, these guys seemed to be the bravest of the bunch.  As far as I could find there had only been one attack/death from a mountain goat.  Once they got about 6 feet from me I got out of my crouch and started walking towards them and they slowly started backing away.

Ahh spring skiing:)  Dont forget your skin wax


The afro hair anemone in full effect!  Sadly it was all chopped off today, just in time:)  The wifey was about to leave me:)

Looking west from Mt. Helen at Father Dyer Pk. and Crystal Pk.

Notice the herd

Almost too close for comfort

 Some good looking lines

Our days work

Kick'n Off Spring - West Elks, CO

Grandma Debbie and Liam hold down the fort back home.  Thanks Guys!!  While Anson jumps on a plane from AK to come hang with K, Drew, SB and I.  We spend a few glorious days among the west elks, welcoming spring to CO with perfect conditions under endless sun.  After each day we would drive down to these perfect hotsprings and soak our skied out legs for hours!  Perfect.  

Cant wait for next weekend...Liam's first roadtrip, heading down to the San Juan's to ride some more. Meeting Grandma Diane this time......CHEERS to amazing family!

This about sums it up!  What a perfect few days in the West Elks with some of my favorite peeps and some amazing conditions!

"C-Bass" aka Colleen Bad Ass

What a gem these hotsprings were! Treating us all well for several apres tour soaks.

Anson, comes down from Alaska to get some in CO

A little private summit pump session for our little Liam back at home with grandma.  Thanks grandma for the amazing weekend get away it was perfect!!

Sara Beth sporting her malfunctioning helmet.

Kristin back touring and shredding only a few days after the doc's give her the go ahead!  She's amazing its like she never missed a beat

For our return trip to the hotsprings we thought it would be more fun to change into our swim wear at the trailhead.....COLD:)

The ladies cheers to Liam's full-term birthday (March 7)

Liam breaks 6 1/2 pounds during his two month checkup!!  "Hey mom i weigh as much as you when you were born"

Oh San Juan ' ness - How Good You Are

Wrapped up 2013 with good friends and several crystal clear days among the always spectacular San Juan mountains.  We experienced rather stable conditions for the San Juan's allowing for us to safely enjoy the alpine. 

It had been quite a while since the last major loading event and the snowpack was largely settled and generally nonreactive.  While the snow structure remains poor in most areas with our lovely CO persistent slabs. Slides appeared to of become more and more difficult to trigger.  All but southerly aspects below treeline seemed to mainly be made up of very weak faceted snow.  Which will likely cause a problem during the next major snow event. But for now the SJ's were Good to Us.

Here a view of the Sultan group which we we enjoyed on day 1 of the trip, riding three of the summits seen in the pic.

We started the amazing alpine tour at Molas pass with an ascent of the Grand Turk followed by a descent of a northern couloir to the basin in between the Grand Turk and Sultan Mountain. Next we climbed the SE face and ridge of the Sultan, then dropping into the basin via the Northstar Couloir. Followed by a final ascent north to pt. 12300', and a final run down the "Python" and back to HW 550.

Kendall Mountain seen from Mineral Creek after our decent of a northern couloir we called "The Bear Claw" off Bear Mountain 

An old ore Bucket Tram from Mayflower Mine upto Arrasta Gulch with the Sultan group lurking high in the background

Nia and Todd crossing the NW slopes of King Solomon Peak.  We spent a lot of the climb gawking at the impressive Turkey Chute seen just left of Nia. Coming back for this one in the spring for sure!  Sultan's summit is also seen on right edge of photo 

Our first decent off the Grand Turk seen from the SE ridge of the Sultan  (The widening chute in the middle of the ridge line in the background)

John on the SE ridge of the Sultan with Silverton barely visible down below

Unloading our gear from the sled after Jack and his boy graciously gave us a bump up Arrasta Gulch on their way to their beautiful alpine cabin.  Saved about an hour climb and 500 vertical feet:)    

Nia with the days final climb up pt. 12300'.  Seen in the background is our descent down Sultan's Northstar Couloir ( directly above Nia's head)

Todd making his way down the east ridge of Bear Mountain towards the "Bear Claw" chutes, with the Sultan and the Python in the background

Todd with first tracks down the "Bear Claw" with Red Mountain Pass in the background

My Venture happy to be back in its birthplace.

John catching some air halfway down the Sultan's Northstar Couloir

Turkey Chute in all its glory

Island Lake Basin seen in background just left of center.  Kristin and I got engaged here in the summer of 2012 after riding our mountain bikes to the lower basin.

Todd topping out the steep climb up Grand Turk's SW col

AK Livin'

When the McQuade's head to AK its to enjoy the near perfect hilariously deep snowpack of the Chugach.  Typically enjoying long tours with friends supplemented with summit top beers or....mini shooters?  Usually we trade in Colorado's incomparable bluebird days for a week of AK Livin' and amazing split tours.  Key word being USUALLY...This trip was wild!  There was no trading of clear blue skies here.  We toured all 6 days underneath the definition of bluebird skies! Colorado you would of been proud.  So what did we trade in for a week of Ak Livin' We needed to trade something in... right?  So we decided to sacrifice hours of skinning.  You know that fun but sometimes painfully continuous climb up endless vertical feet, to gain that super-long untouched white canvas to carve up.  Yup yup we traded it in for a day...for a snow machine bump.  That's right...Sled-Necks for a day!  Great fun! and hey babe by the way....if ...your looking for that perfect Christmas gift idea :) :)

Livin' It Up AK Style

3/15 - Manitoba to Silvertip Traverse:

An overview of the tour can be seen below, followed by a few different views of the endless terrain of the sector.  The day however turned into a few laps off of Manitoba thanks to a monster of a cornice looming over the apex of the ridges connecting the two peaks.  Once we all reached the summit of Manitoba and spotted the short-bus sized cornice, plan B started going through all of our heads....summit mini's?  

Overview of Manitoba to Silvertip Traverse

Ridge Traverse

East Face Descent off  Silvertip


Cornice Crux

click on photo and zoom in at the meeting point all the three ridge lines

The Ladies Plan B


Sarah Beth and K

Give Me Back My Tequila Rose


Sarah Beth and Anson

3/16 - Tenderfoot Ridge

Awesome new sector, away from the Turnagain Pass crowds, with easy access and a wealth of options from tree skiing to steep narrow couloirs.  Below is a overview of the access point from the tip of Summit Lake, allowing for a ski back to the car if one returns to the lower half of Tenderfoot after skiing back further in the basins.  We skied a few laps of the SW face of upper Tenderfoot Ridge, then skied W traversing out of the basin back towards the lower section of the ridge, which allows for another nice run back down to the car.  

Overview of Tenderfoot Ridge Sector

Tenderfoot Up-Track Recycle



Cloudless Reflections

3/17 - Sled Neckin' Pyramid Peak

Pyramid Peak is the eye catching peak often noticed as you fill up your car......oh ya and sled at the Girdwood Tesoro gas station.  Pyramid Pk rises roughly 3400' right from the waters edge of the Turnagain Arm.  Its west face provides a perfect 3000' shot.  Well almost perfect....minus yet another monster of a cornice.  Even though the cornice killed the chances of bragging  to the guy next to me during the next Tesoro fill up..."see those lines on Pyramid?"..."yup my wife rips"  We still got to cut out those long miles skinning, got to play sled-necks for a day, had a near 3000' vert run off the SW shoulder of Pyramid Peak, followed by two more long runs as we worked our way back to the car being picked up and escorted to the next drop point by our friends.  Who by the way probably skied 16,000 vert as they ghosted their sleds down the mountain. 

Ghost Riding:

basically push your sled down the mountain, once it comes to a stop you ski down after it, then ride it back up and repeat.  Awesome

Overview of Pyramid Pk


intended W face in red - rode yellow line

Sled-Neckin' -

Darcie Badass and K

aspect skied on pyramid pk in background

Wolverine Sector


n from summit of Pyramid Pk



Yang A

K Style -

Wolverine Pk with Shadows crawling from Sharksfin and Eddies

taken from Seattle Ridge

at sunset during final run back to the car

3/18 - Peterson Creek

Can't wait to go back to this sector!  So many lines!  The ascent is a bit of a booger, involving creek crossings early on at lower elevation, then choosing to ascend the steep head wall below the upper basin, or heading back along the drainage and wrapping back to the right to the upper basin, both approaches keep you among avalanche terrain for the majority of the approach. 

Peterson Creek Cirque

center of pic


n from summit of Pyramid Pk

Peterson Creek Goodness -

after ascending the lower head wall

AK Livin' at its Best

Peterson Creek Head Wall


Dan In Route from Upper Basin Goods to Creek Approac


Notice the

shadow being cast by Pyramid Peak

in the background

3/19 - Tincan Ridge "Todd's Run"

It was Day 6 and time to return to CO thus we needed a familiar tour...as priorities were 1) a rad long line 2) time for

midnight sun brewery

après beers and 3) try not to miss our flight as we both worked the same day we landed in CO.  A recipe for "Todd's Run" as called by the locals, was named after Todd who was killed on the line as the entire bowl ripped out.  I don't dynamite could even get anything to move during our week visit.  Stability was like nothing us Colorado-ans will ever see:) 

K and I had skied it a few years back

, and it was still well a "rad long line"

Overview of  "Todd's Run"



All 3000' of Todd's -

pic's center


n from summit of Pyramid Pk

Notice the peak

in lower right corner - the tracks are from the gang Ghost Riding

Tincan Ridge

- Sarah Beth and K



Tincan Ridge

Til Next Time

OPUS Shindig-Ski

OPUS short for Ophir Pass Ultimate Ski hut, sits in the midst of the magnificent San Juan's of Colorado Owner, designer and operator Bob Kingsley spent numerous years guiding amid Colorado’s renowned 10th Mountain Division Huts.

During this time the game plan was put into motion... Bob's dream to find the perfect location to build  his own dream hut. In 2006 he purchased a 10 acre mining claim on the east side of Ophir pass.  After five years of hauling materials via helicopter, snowcat, and countless human powered trips to the remote location, the hut was finished and opened its doors for the 2012 winter season.

Its kinda of hard to call the OPUS a hut, perhaps a mega-hut is more appropriate.  As its 3-stories and 4 bedrooms are able to comfortably sleep 16 guests.  The entire structure is built from both locally sourced and reused timber, some as far away as an old dairy barn in Wisconsin. The amenities and completely off-the-grid design are what makes the OPUS the ultimate ski hut.  No need to boil-water to fill your water bladder for the days tour, as  melt-water is the main source of water. A series of copper gutters and pipes collect snowmelt from the southern aspects of the pitched roof.  The water is filtered multiple times before being stored in one of two storage tanks (350 and 500 gallon).  There are also solar panels on the roof, which provide electricity, water heating capabilities and in floor heating.  Two wood burning stoves help keep the hut at a toasty 70 degrees. The kitchen is equipped with both a gas stove and a large flattop wood burning stove, which is also equipped with a heat exchanging oven.

So whats missing you say....showers?  Well just recently Bob finished a sauna about 30 yards from the lodge.  After drawing straws for fire stoking duty, give it about 45 minutes then strip down thrown on those slippers and brave the cold before achieving complete relaxation in a balmy 160 degree wet sauna.  As for the shower part, once you've reached cooking temperature, take a snowbath.       

As for the skiing and terrain options...lets just say its world class and endless!   

Shitshow Sledding

During our stay we witnessed Bob's cooking for other groups....lets just say next time this sled may only have beer loading it down :)


Icicles and Spindrifts

Notice the copper gutters for the snow-melt water collection

Moon over Crystal

Todd - Below Pt. 13200'

With Paradise Basin, "Camel Hump Glades", and "Crystal Fortress" in the background


Mike - Eying "Crystal Fortress"


"Camel Humps" Transition


Todd- Riding the "Camel Humps"

Our tracks from earlier in the day are seen descending ridge-line at right edge of photo (see pic below)

Contemplation of Descent - "Crystal Fortress"

Roni- OPUS mascot and ultimate ski dawg

Thomas - "Yellow Pants" Scores a Rest

Suit Up

Thomas - Paradise Basin looming Overhead

Day 4 - OPUS Fills Up


Da Crew OPUS 2013

See ya next year, Who's in?

AK'n IT - Turnagain Pass to Valdez

Given Colorado's worst ski season on record, K and I were about to hang up the snowboards for life.  Man do we owe it to the AK, if it weren't for the two Radtadicle trips to the Chugach this season we probably would of become year around climbers:)  This trip we brought with us an AK newbie...can we have a round of applause for Drew Ignizio (aka Rack City) Drew provided us with this theme song (edited version) for the 12 day trip, by the end of the trip we were all mathematical whizzes :)

The month of March provided us with what I like to call CODE BLUE conditions.  That's blue bird in AK tongue.  Unlike CO, AK doesn't get 365 days of blue bird sunshine.  And when it days...well sound the alarms and get after it!  Ill let the pics do the rest of the talking:)

March 17th, AK style - "The Irish Stout" packed in and consumed on the summit of cornbiscuit Peak

oh ya that's Drew for those who don't recognize 

Breaking through the Inversion - spent all morning in low visibility conditions, then once above the clouds...


Well above the clouds - Kickstep Peak from the summit of Sunburst

Our previous days work still lies visible -  On this epic day we ride back below the clouds, then head over to the pk in the far background (Pastoral) for some UNTOUCHED BEAUTY!

"The best day skiing of all time" - per Chip Serns coming off Pastoral Pk

CHU CHU CHUGACH - This view would make anyone stutter - from near Pastoral's summit

The Pastoral crew + Chip behind the camera

Cracked Ice - The highpoint just below the sun, 4300 vertical feet right back to the car door:)

Drew & Python

Cracked Ice summit shot

Rack City himself

Noel - notice the figures on the saddle in background, they were intending to drop on Cracked Ice summit, but when the pilot saw us earning our turns he dropped them off on another sector - we saw the pilot back at the parking lot as he waited for his clients

K making it look purty

Matthu Pitchu Arena - High above Port Valdez, our days goal (pt 4572') is behind the pointed peak at 11 o'clcok

Gaining the summit of point 4572' - about to get our ski to sea on

Annie of the Ptarmigan B&B - Its our second stay with her in Valdez, cant wait til the next.   She even sent us back to Anchorage with a huge hunk of Moose :) YUM

Til next ski AK season:)

OH CANADA - Garibaldi Provincial Park

Day 2:

OH CANADA... OH CANADA... whyfore art thou in my backyard?  Every backcoutry skiing enthusiast  needs to experience the Garibaldi's, this way Im not the only one seeking counseling for Canadian backcountry withdrawal! :) The opportunities are endless, next season larger packs and tents are to be brought along!

Peaks Skied:

1) Spearhead

2) Decker

3) Blackcomb Glacier 

Overview of our day via GPS tracks

Decker after Riding Spearhead's SE face. For perspective note the skiers putting in the skin track for us:)

Our line off Spearhead

K here as we make our way up Decker Glacier.  Spearhead and Run 1 in the background

View from Decker : Left to Right = Trorey, Overlord, Whirlwind, Fissle

Fissle and our future line:)

Another perspective shot, note the skier traversing under Trorey, heading towards Pattison

Our line off Decker

Kristin's entrance off of Decker.  I pee'd and tightened my boots before her run was over. LEG BURNER

Our last run of the day, down Blackcomb Glacier.  This thing was TOO long!  There is an additional 3 miles of to be skied, crossing through Blackcomb resort, finally dumping out at the famous Whistler village

Yet Another Bites the Dust - Joffre Group

Day 1:

Kristin, Drew and I rendezvoused in Seattle for what we hoped would be an epic trip up to Whistler,  British Columbia.  Sunday morning we popped into a Whistler village gear shop and equipped Drew with a splitty.  Hence the title "Yet Another Bites the Dust"  :)  I believe this is victim # 3...As Drew was jones-in to purchase a splitboard after his first split tour of: Joffre Group, Pemberton Area, British Columbia.  I'm not sure if I like spreading the love for the sport or if I just like increasing my odds of finding partners to dig us out on any given weekend:)  The Joffre group is accessed via the Sea-to-Sky Highway, about 1 hour beyond Whistler or 20 minutes beyond Pemberton.  The iconic

Anniversary Glacier sits between Joffre and Matier Peaks

, and provides a rather safe ascent route to either Joffre's W couloirs or Matier's N face.  At the base of the glacier also sits a hut

(Keith's Hut)

that is rumored to sleep 15+ people.  So next year... hut trip for sure!

After a 2-3 hour approach, the skies started to clear, giving us a view of Anniversary glacier and encouraged a change of plans, which involved skiing Anniversary glacier as opposed to Vantage Pk.  So we started the the climb up Joffre's East ridge to gain access to the Anniversary glacier.  It was here during a lunch break that Drew poised the question..."Do you hear that"...and I answered "ya its a plane".  ERRR wrong it was a rather HUGE av, originating from Joffre's NE steep rocky face.  We scrambled for our cameras and tried to catch it on video

(see video below)

. I was only able to catch the final runout. the whole basin then filled with a snow cloud.  The "jet roar" was preceded by a large bang.  Which leads me to think rockfall caused by the intense warming was the trigger for the slide, as there was no signs of stability in the snowpack itself.  The Anniversary Glacier's skiers right provides a long powder filled shot right down to its base, resulting in a ~ 3000' foot run.

Anniversary Glacier, Joffre Peak on the right

Vantage Pk

Matier Pk and the line down Anniversary Glacier

Joffre Peak

The man of the day DREW DAWG - Put on his big boy pants and rode the split - soon to be addicted

K DAWG showing how the treacherous icy bridge crossing is done:)

"The Ghost Rider" - Wolf Peak Zone

Finally a bluebird day at ol Kootenay Pass!  Its amazing what a little vis can do,  even after yesterdays long tour, the group was ready to get after it.  Maybe it was the sun maybe it was electric energy buzzing overhead in the powerlines.  Finally figured it out...the reason the locals call it Buzz's ridge.  The goal was to explore the massive bowl at the end of Buzz's ridge, after our tour yesterday we figured it would be more efficient to access the bowl from the Creston side of the pass, rather then dealing with the mile plus of ridge travel across Cornice Ridge Peak. So we made our way up Pristine Pass to just under Wolf peak.  From here we traversed under wolf to try and gain the east lip of the massive bowl.  Well that turned out to be less than an easy task.  After finding a steep but safe route to the bowls east lip, we ended up not able to access the bowl due to what were questionable lines, it was hard to tell if any of the shots underneath our noses would go.  Thus we skied the east face from the lip back down towards wolf peak.  Still amazing conditions. After this drop we decided to stop for a bit of a food break.  This was when the ghost rider broke out of hiding.  My unattended board decided to cruz down the mountain without me, first at a crawl, then gathering speed it took a rather aesthetic line down the bowl underneath wolf peak.  Derrick and Julie jammed after the runaway while i started postholing to my crotch!  After about a 400 foot run, the ghost rider got caught up in two trees at the edge of what would of been a steep shot with no barriers for another 400 or so feet...and surely the end of our day.  However it ended up being a slight detour...:)  oops!  After climbing back out of the bowl, we worked our way south around the edge of the bowl, trying to find another way to access the massive bowl.  Unfortunately visibility started to get worse and time was slipping away.  Thus we decided for the long shot back down to the power lines, starting from the termination of buzz's and the beginning of the massive bowl.  What a line it was, the conditions were great....ooh I can only dream what the north aspect of the massive bowl would of been like.  NEXT TIME    

Just short of 8 miles, with a huge tease... the large bowl was well guarded by steeps and cornices

our elevation profile

Wolf Peak and a few of our lines skied (blue dots)

Julie and Derrick scouting the area from our high point. 

Looking east to Wolf Peak

The massive north bowl, which sits at the termination of Buzz's ridge.  

This bowl is FOR SURE the focus of our next trip to Kootenay Pass:)

Derrick waiting below, Julie getting 2nds

The zone we skied the day prior...Cornice Ridge Peak

A look back up our final run

"Appropriately" Named - Cornice Ridge Peak

Derrick, Julie and I (friends from Spokane) decided on a ass-crack of dawn departure from Spokane Saturday morning allowing for two full days of touring among the Kootenay's of Canada.

The weekends plan was to ski the zones north of Kootenay Pass.  Saturday unfortunately ended up being one of those all to common low visibility days.  Between the visibility and the miles of heavily corniced ridge, finding safe lines to ski was a challenge. At one point in the day I cautiously crept towards a cornice that ended up snapping off in a blink of an eye.  The result of the cornice break was me flying through the air in the opposite direction, kinda like a cat.... well a cat with a stoned like reaction.  Lets just say, your not going to jump off a cornice before it breaks:) Later on in the day on the west face of Cornice Ridge Peak we noticed a

huge fraction line

that appeared to originate from a large rock outcropping, then managed to propagate for about 100 yards, likely the result of a warm clear Friday.

Quick plug for an amazing meal after skiing at the pass.  This little gem of a restaurant sits amongst a handful of liquor stores and a gas station based SUBWAY in the quiet mountain town of Salmo.  Derrick said it the best "Why cant the US give a shit about their food like these Canadians".   Check it out: 

The Peppercorn Bistro

8 mile day tour ( yellow is lines skied)

elevation profile

A view of Cornice Ridge Pk taken from near Wolf Pk (Sundays Tour).  We skied the lookers right face of the  lower rounded sub peak 

An inviting chute.  Notice the large fracture line on the face in the background

The best visibility we had all day, unfortunately we are back in the truck and heading to Salmo

Shut Down - Left with Pineapple Pass

With our shortened weekend (working on weekends should be forbidden), we decided to check out Snoqualmie Pass.  It wasn't more then 10 minutes into the approach climb to source lake basin under

Chair Peak

, that plan B was put into motion.  Mother nature decided to be on our side and started throwing up red flags left and right.  Visibility sucked as yet another front had arrived a tad earlier then expected, thankfully with the low vis we were still able to note natural slide activity on most aspects, and at lower elevation.

Note the crown

 We crossed countless av debris piles from the previous days warming.  Most of the slides appeared to originate from near rock outcroppings, which makes sense giving Fridays clear skies and warm temps.  Most of the slides involved what appeared to be 12" plus crowns, probably near a hoar frost layer that presumably formed sometime last weekend during some very cold clear nights.  Then almost every day last week came a series of fronts crossing the Northwest causing periods of strong winds and snowfall. Temperatures had generally been warming preceding the fronts and cooling following the fronts.

Not visible on the pic, but top center in the clearing with larger trees on either side is another large crown.  This area was going to be crossed as part of plan A

 Plan B:

Included a tour upto

Pineapple Pass and the Tooth

.  Followed by a long shot down to Denny Creek.  After a climb back to Pineapple Pass, we tried to enjoy the near perfect from the pass, however visibility was well....ZERO, resulting in what felt like DRUNKEN snowboarding.  It was borderline comical, we ate $H!T countless times thanks to the vertigo and the inability to see ANYTHING.     

Pineapple pass with the tooth visible as the sharp formation lookers right of the pass

blue are actual GPS tracks

The tooth and Pineapple pass

The tooth as seen from top of Pineapple Pass

K enjoying the improved visibility provided among the trees

"Thigh Highs" - Kootenay Pass Style

POWDER DAY!  What an amazing day 2/27/2011 was.....the lightest deepest conditions of the season hands down!  After a huge dump throughout the night we arrived arrived at Kootenay pass ready for an epic day.  Plans were to run a lap on the frontside of Baldy Pk before returning to its summit for a descent down towards Crags Pk. basin.  Our third run of the day was from near the summit of Crags Pk.  The pics will tell the rest. 

GPS tracks in blue, approx runs in yellow (Crags Pk left, Baldy Pk right)

A little giddy

Choker- Andrew

Blower - Chuck

Needed a snorkel- Andrew - he was actually doing a "freestyle" stroke through the POW..it was that lite

Faceshots - Kristin

Whiteout - Chuck

My friends - needed the trucks heat, pulling off before they are ready...hurts

Boulder Basin - The "Beretta" Bowl

Upon the conclusion of last weeks D U M P!  The crew and I decided to head up to Willow Creek for what would undoubtedly be the best conditions of season at our favorite local spot.  NOAA called for something like 15-20 inches for the storm total....they were off...just a little...there ended up being  3-4 feet at 6000'!

We started the day off with a warmup run in the Lucky Friday Bowl (named after an active mine which is seen down in the town of Mullan from the bowls top)  It was tempting to stay here all day as the conditions were DEEP.  The group was excited to check out a new area, although we knew the Lone Lake basin and Stevens peak were going to be off limits as stability was likely to be...well unstable.  We climbed over West Willow peak and continued along the ridge towards Stevens.  Wind was 20-25 out of the East, there was a solid wind slab being formed on all east facing aspects.  We stopped short of Stevens summit and ended up skiing west into

Beretta Bowl

and down to Boulder Basin.  What a great shot this is, takes some effort to get to when starting at Willow creek but well worth it.  After Beretta bowl we climbed up to a peak a bit further west and enjoyed another line back to boulder basin.  Skiing 3 feet of new, exploring boulder basin, being with some good peeps, cant think of  a better way to spend 9 hours on a Saturday.   

The "crew"

Stevens Peak up in the clouds

Bower entering Beretta Bowl

A look back at Beretta Bowl


Peak on right looks like a future trip

A look at our next line from the peak on the left

From Sea to Shining......Rain Crust !

Oddly enough this past Saturday was our first time skiing in the state of Washington other than a few November laps up at Mt. Spokane.  Friday night we drove through a warm and soggy

Snoqualmie Pass

, on our way to visit a friend in

Blaine, WA

or is it Blaine, Canada...?  Our visit rocked...it literally rocked as we spent the night on a sailboat (MARARA) in Dayton harbor about a rocks throw away from the US/Canadian border.  

Water Skies or Snow Skies?

The next morning we drove east on HW 542 to its dead-end point beneath the massive glaciated

Mt. Shuksan

. This was our first time in the area, and knowing that the conditions were going to be less then awesome... thanks to the

January thaw

!  Thus we planned on climbing to the saddle between Mazama Dome and  Table Top Mtn, which


(the key word as it was lightly snowing) provide a view of two north cascade "icons"

Mt Baker

and Mt. Shuksan.  

Our skin track in yellow.  After a brief but timely revealing of the "icons" we rode a similar line back down to the car through a nasty breakable crust :( 

Mt. Shuksan

Mt Baker

Enjoying Seattle after the less then awesome conditions on Saturdays tour

The Elusive Stevens Peak

Today, K had to work so rather then another solo job I met up with a local skier (a shovel partner just in case) and traveled to Willow Creek of the Bitterroot Range. 

On Christmas Day I skinned up St Regis Basin

and was rewarded with amazing

views of Stevens Peak

, which happens to be the highest peak in the immediate area, and probably the most interesting terrain within an hour and a half of Spokane.  My goal today was find an easier way to the summit and do some recon on some lines.  Unfortunately it snowed all day and the sun never broke through.  We were within a half mile of the summit along the summit ridge and still no cheese.  However the approach beat the 6.5 miles up St. Regis Basin.

After our turnaround point spotted what appeared to be our best line down to the bottom of West Willow Basin, taking us back to the summit of west willow peak to ski its east shoulder.  During the skin back to its summit we came across another group of skiers, including John Latta, a professional photographer who frequents the area.  He suggested

his website

as a means to contact him, if looking for a skiing buddy in the future, friendly guy.  Anyway I'm borrowing one of his pics of Stevens Peak, which appears to be taken from just beyond our turnaround point.

John's photo of Stevens Peak

and all its attractive chutes, just begging to be skied by K and I in the near future.

John Latta's photo of the north face chutes of Steven's Peak

Today's tracks

The "JAMMER" as called by my ski partner today, been there since logging stopped in the 80's.  Appears to be a sticker magnet for passing skiers

Its boom is made out of a tree

The top portion of our run off of West Willow Peak

New Year's Canadian Style

Epic start to the new year!  Kristin and I arrived in Nelson at 11:47pm and run into Mike's Place Pub.  Goal: to get a tasty beverage in hand for the ever important toast as the ball drops.  We get the tops popped from 2


(Nelson Brewery IPA's) as the 5 second countdown begins! 

Day 1, A recon day of sorts:

  Beginning with single digit temps at the car sucks!  The burning sensation in our hands as we struggled to equip our boards with skins was almost enough to call it quits for the day and head to

Ainsworth Hot Springs.

The day ended up being awesome, near bluebird skies with all world stability within the snowpack.  We figured out the lay of the land, and fine tuned our approaches for the zones to be shredded on Day 2.   Oh ya and we did get in a 1800' and 1000' run on this "recon day"

Day 2, Sick Sick Sick:

  After leaning our lesson in the single digit tmeps the morning before, we equipped our boards and got everything completely ready from the comfort  of the


We then spent the next  7 hours touring Five Mile Basin / Half Dome, climbing and riding over 6000 vertical feet over 8 miles.  The best part of the day was climbing out of Five Mile Basin as the sun was setting over the Bonnington Range, and wondering if we were going to get down to the pub before it closes!  Both days we skied the final 1000' line through Ymir Basin eventually ending up "in-bounds" at the Whitewater ski resort, with a final destination Johnny Coal's Pub.

Blue = GPS tracks, yellow = our lines

Our 2000' line off of Half Dome

Our 2nd zone / line of the day

Evening Ridge (lookers right) was popular this weekend, Whales Back (lookers left)

K on the skin up

Half Dome in center of photo, with Ymir peak to the right. Our Five Mile Basin "playground" under Half Dome

Ymir Peak

White Queen and the Valhalla range in background

Nearing the summit of Half Dome

Slightly after the summit of Half Dome

K shredding Five Mile

An awesome chute as we near the bottom of Five Mile Basin

K leaving the headwall between Half Dome and Enma Peak, on our second run

The headwall run again

Our tracks at sunset after the headwall run

The Boddington's at sunset, now 1000' left before it gets pitch dark!

Christmas Day - St Regis Basin

A solo jaunt (10 miles roundtrip) up St. Regis Basin, MT.  A recon mission of sorts, turns into a fan-tabulous bluebird day in the BC.

Skin track in blue

A subtle reminder of the dangers one may encounter in the BC

 I would later find myself on top of the ridge seen at the top of the photo

 Stevens Peak and its surrounding terrain, which we will be skiing this season for sure!

 Which line first?

Here I am standing on the border of ID and MT, eying my line back down to St. Regis Basin

Nelson Newbies: Evening Ridge

Kristin and I ventured into British Columbia, Canada seeking our first exposure to what backcountry enthusiasts call "Canadian Cold-Smoke"  And YES we will we be returning!   

Evening Ridge near Nelson, British Columbia. Ymir Peak the prominent peak to the East is going down this new years :)

The typical evening ridge  tour includes the balder peaks lookers left of our skin track (

see this photo taken on 1/2/2011

).  However due to limited time, visibility, and a shallow snow pack, we figured it safest to tour among the trees and lower angle slopes

The Whitehouse Backpacker Lodge in Nelson, was awesome, a hostel full of backcountry skiers! Awesome. We have a date this coming new years:)

Ymir Peak in the Background is the goal for the 1st of 2011 :)

"I feel like we are in Narnia" says Kristin at this very moment

Some of the goods!

Schweitzer Area Backcountry

Day #4 of 2010-2011 season: Kristin, Andrew, Brian, Kyle, Alex and I.  Head into the Selkirks of the Idaho Panhandle. Snotel stations in the area, report that the Schweitzer area of the Selkirks with having the most snow fall with a base nearing 5 feet. Plus a bluebird day was on the schedule. 

Our day consisted of skiing un-tracked ( of course its the backcountry) knee deep powder in two different bowls! About 6 transitions from ride to skin mode throughout the day. AMAZING!

Now that's bluebird for ya!

Bryan and Kyle our new BC buddies....skiers?

Andrew, enjoying his brand new splitty, which allowed for me to upgrade to a ROCKER!

Bower trying to figure out the splitboard transition

K, enjoying the Sunshine...it was hot for DEC

DAY 15: Davis Creek Drainage - Corner Pocket Area

Back on DAY 2 we skied one of the north facing chutes off of Cornbiscuit PK (summit on right side of photo seen below). We liked the looks of the bowl at the termination of the drainage (Davis Creek) when standing on cornbiscuit's summit, it looked steep / deep and shaded from the intense rays. So we decided to check it out on our final day of touring.

Cornbiscuit Pk on right,  point 3600' the saddle at pictures center.  Our goal for the day

Kristin saving the day as I felt like crap, from a head cold! That women can break a mean trail in 30" of freshies!

Black dots represent our line skied from point 3600'

A persistent buried surface hoar (~2-3' down) had our attention so we strapped on the ave lungs for the steep (I measured on average 40-45 degrees) skin/climb up the bowl to its saddle

Kristin waited below for a bit to create some distance between us in case something released. No signs of instability was noted during the steep ascent, I dug a few cat holes every 300' or so all negative for shallower weak layers.

Shows the steep exit onto the ridge. The ridge was very broad limiting wind loading at the bowls lip. A soft slab of 5-6" had formed on top

Our 3100' exit back down Davis creek to the road. The lip of the bowl/ridge is seen at photos bottom, majority of the bowl is not pictured due to its steep nature

View East from pt. 3600' our high point saddle: locals call these 1) in the foreground "Superbowl" - it gets a lot of sun and was sliding, 2) background is Granddaddy couloir, a crown can been seen upon zooming in from a natural slide a few days ago...too bad this one also remains on the todo list.

White-room Powder Baby!

A look back at our hard work as we fly back down the drainage

70 miles later in 13 days, and we are still smiling!