Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lobster Christmas

Eating Lobster is just about as good as it gets, especially for Christmas dinner. Ah New England.. and look at all that snow!
mmm lobster..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Spanish Sucks... Mexico.

With my spanish at this point hardly any better than it was first attempting to communicate in South America, it was only fit to try it all over again in Mexico. Two days in Utah then it was back to the airplanes for the wedding of two very good friends in Playa del Carmen. Congrats Adam and Deb!!! Nice work on the destination wedding!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Buenos Aires and Uruguay

After returning from the antarctic I had some time to travel around Buenos Aires and the coast of Uruguay. Big city, cheap, great food in BA and some wild sand dune towns to the east in Uruguay. I was able to meet some great people along the way that felt sorry for my terrible spanish. Ha! well more or less.. the pictures tell most of the story.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Skiing with Penguins, Antarctica

When in the mountains it is easy to let the fast pace world pass by, one day blends to the next and personal priorities become very simple. Snow covered mountains see no effect from wars on the other side of the world or even with domestic or personal issues for that matter. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, Mother Nature has no agenda.

I was excited to go to Antarctica for I knew it was a place that I may have not been able to easily reach otherwise in my lifetime. It was an amazing opportunity to go and I was excited about going skiing in a new place that was as far away as you can get from most anywhere else on the planet. I wasn’t however going there because I expected great skiing and this fact was a tricky one for me. Lying on the beach in Western Samoa on a short reprieve from a particularly dreary then dry late season in New Zealand, at the conclusion of my eighth back to back season between hemispheres, the idea of travelling for several days to a relative alpine wasteland left me with some mental issues. It seemed like I might be punishing myself….again!
Five days after leaving Samoa I was on skis again, for the first time in South America, skiing powder in Tierra del Fuego. The terrain, the snow, the immediate company and the local culture all combined were about as much as I could process and I began to have a really good feeling for what was to come.
Growing up on the coast has left me with an affinity for the water. Seemingly limitless and all consuming we can enjoy the oceans just as we can enjoy the mountains, under specific terms. We were going skiing in the mountains in a far removed ocean off of a boat, a ship for that matter, but it might as well have been just a boat for how unique and potentially precarious what we were doing really was.
Late in the evening and underway as the final glimpses of sunlight faded past the horizon the boat began to roll as we faced the open ocean, south of the final guarding pieces of South America. Sixty hours after departure, some passengers still writhing with seasickness, we caught our first glimpses of the white continent. It was exactly what I planned on seeing: steep, broken and white mountain sides rolling into the horizon with ice everywhere, a land devoid of most everything. I began to realize that it was theses obvious facts about Antarctica make it such an incredible place.
Perhaps the greatest difficulty of skiing from a boat in Antarctica is actually getting ashore. Being that the continent is primarily covered with glacial ice cap, ice headwalls of varying height line the shoreline. Many of the areas which provide some sort of reasonable access onto the ice cap were also noted by native wildlife. Consequently we had to jockey for space among the thousands of penguins which decided to make some of these landings their rookeries. Not incredibly afraid of humans Gentu and Chinstrap penguins would approach us and walk casually past us for whatever their purpose. Many of these same landings which the penguins were so fond of have also been used as locations for remote bases, some more elaborate than others, from countries around the world.
The Antarctic Peninsula juts out to the north into the brunt of the furious Southern Ocean. Weather conditions are normally poor with high winds, limited visibility and rain and snow occurring in a near perpetual manor. Hours of direct annual sunshine are measured in hours. As far as the weather goes, for whatever reason the cards were on our side. Of the week we had in Antarctic waters the majority of every day was spent in sunshine, with calm winds. We even had a shot of a few inches of new snow overnight after our second day skiing.
We started on the Northern portion of the peninsula and travelled south down the Gurlache straight and into the Lamar channel where the impressive Mt. Francois falls precipitously for over 9000 feet into the water. The terrain on the peninsula is a ski mountaineer’s heaven. Steep rock, ice and snow faces rise on all sides of the horizon with no features to reference size except more snow, rock and ice. Straight from sea level you are in the alpine, there are few approaches to terrain as that is what the boat is used for. It was sort of like a hut to hut ski tour except the boat was doing all the work shuttling supplies and overnight gear.
Under bright blue, calm skies we landed on Wiencke Island to start a day of touring. There was a wide variety of terrain and on a far corner of the earth life seemed pretty limitless. Over 600 miles from advanced medical care the best treatment for an injury was to not have one at all, but part way into the day one skier did. A lower leg injury was enough cause for an evacuation. Eighteen hours later under fair skies a Brazilian aircraft aided in the transport effort from a rendezvous point in the South Shetland Island, 200 miles north of the accident site.
Antarctica patiently waits at the end of the earth is without bias. It is a land without a parent governing it as no country possesses it. No towns exist for children to learn the unique politics which drive the course of the modern world. There is no industry for people to make money off of here but only a reserve for research. It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is in Antarctica, it doesn’t even matter what year it is, nor does it matter what religion you are or the religion of your neighbor. It is a virgin landscape seen like nowhere else on earth and a reprieve from the rest of the world.
We steered toward Livingston Island, a nearby island in the South Shetlands for some more skiing. As we entered the flat calm bay on the east side of the island, we quickly became surrounded with alps, covered with new snow and glistening under bright blue skies in fading afternoon light. No one was around other than us. I can honestly say that I have never been as jaw dropped as I was when I came onto the top deck for a look at where we were. As a skier, it was heaven. The following day we climbed several objectives and skied powder.
The journey to and isolation of Antarctica was much of my experience there. With no planes jet-setting the skies above it is a removed land like no other. Just as negative space in a paining outlines the emphasis of the positive; Antarctica is a haven which allows all humans a place to reflect on the rest of the world without actually leaving it. And yes there is good skiing there too.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Have you ever heard of Taro? No? well, its the potato of the Pacific. The leaves are often eaten and are deliciously prepared with coconut as a wrapping which is then baked to a steamy goodness. As it is called locally, palusami is about as good as it gets for local flavor.
Only a day after having some palusami during a traditional Sunday feast I went for a walk into the interior, alone on a walking track that happened to cut through what else, but large tracts of taro. Five km from the nearest village on my way down the hillside I wondered what these delicious taro leaves tasted like raw. As I took a small bite into the leaf of my choice it briefly crossed my mind that what i was doing might have not been the best idea. Right as I took a second bite I began having an incredible burning sensation in my throat. SHIT! I thought, as I began to panic slightly. The pain only got worse and I began the wheeze. I tried to focus, took my vitals as best as i could and slowly continued walking. I thought that I might have been having an anaphylactic reaction. There was nothing that I could do however other than continue walking and hope that if i passed out due to a lack of oxygen that someone would find me in time. The pain and swelling in my neck got progressively worse for about fifteen minutes before I ran into some local plantation farmers. I tried to tell them what I had done but there was a stout language barrier. They thought that I wanted to buy some taro, as I was going back and forth between pointing at the plans and at my mouth. Eventually they called over a friend who spoke english a bit better and shortly after he then cracked a young coconut which leaked juice that helped sooth my scorched throat. In the end I wasn't going into anaphylaxis, I had just burned my throat and esophagus with a highly toxic chemical. Samoan jungle = 1, Dumb white American = 0.

Samoa, or Sa'moa as the locals say it, is a developing country with immense natural beauty, another tropical paradise amung the many. The local economy is small and slow as most families lead lives with some level of subsistence. Though most residents are poor by worldly standards they seem to be living happily. They love pretty much all western countries due to the support they lend with the exception of France (nuclear testing never really goes over well anywhere I guess).

Whether walking down the street or on one of the pop blaring, sub-woofer dropping local buses it was impossible to avoid being questioned from anyone and everyone of where I was from, why I was there and what I thought of Samoa. The Second line of questioning extended to whether I was alone, where my wife was and whether I wanted a Samoan wife. With cannibalism present in the Pacific in the not so distant past on islands that were not too far away from where I stood, I cringed at the idea of the multitude of predicaments which a local woman could have brought me. Well, I guess I would have been the one bringing it on... anyway, I took a long step back.

On my last day on U'polu, the most populated Samoan island, I rented a car with a couple of other travelers to see the damage that the tsunami had done only three weeks prior. Of all of the times to have a dead battery for a camera this was a pretty good one. The southeast side of the island was completely flattened killing hundreds, the entire country shell shocked over the ordeal. Most were in disbelief and some with a complete lack of trust in their national government, went as far as to say that the wave may have been caused by a Chinese nuclear test that their government took a pay off for. On the up side, most of these people had very little to start with as far as infrastructure and possessions so I think that the western conception of devastation may vary from what is happening in reality and the actual recovery time for the area. This isn't really a big money making area for large corporate lenders, island time is far too slow for that.
I spent a lot of time on the beach, swimming, diving, meeting folks and getting from place to place. Samoa is a pretty cool spot overall and it is a whole lot different than anywhere else I have been.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back to the Southern Alps

The good thing about having lousy weather during the winter in the Cook Islands is that it can mean that its snowing in New Zealand. Upon arriving at Olympus this year there was already a meter of settled snow on the ground which allowed us open a week early. Spring came in early August however providing a good amount of wet when the skiing is historically at its best. Over-all it was a good ski season with snow on the ground through October and the usual antics.

I was able to get in a bunch of flying and have successfully gained a bit of confidence without killing myself. Probably the most memorable moment in time of the season for me was watching my friend Markus, while first learning how to deal with the lines of the wing, accidentally take flight and clear the Access Tow. Nice job buddy, good work on that landing in the rocks there. Definitely one way to learn... whatever works i guess, hey.. little birds learn to fly by jumping out of their nests, right? whats to say a 90kg German cant do the same. Hilarius!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Raro Lager and Fish and Chips

There's really nothing like going to a tropical paradise and having cool, rainy weather and feeling hypo-thermic on a dive boat. If you haven't tried it, go on.. get to it!
Rarotonga in the Cook Islands is however home to some of the most laid-back, friendly people around and it hard to call the trip a wash because of this fact. Just sit back, have a beer, eat some seafood, talk to a local and you'll forget whatever worries you might have had. Best fish and chips ever!
P.s. spend longer than 36 hrs here if possible, work calls.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The land of Zion

Whenever I end up going to the desert I think to myself, "man why don't I come here more often." There is just something about the desolate environment that brings out the immense beauty in the things that are living that is difficult to describe, a playground of negative space if you will. Zion is no exception to this, in fact it is one of my favorite places to be. Huge colored rock faces drive toward the sky under a relentless sun which scorches down on top of anything that tries to hold on. Deep in the canyons below, water flows and life abounds.

It was great to catch up with some very good friends and some new ones. It is amazing how good Tecate is when your under the limbs of a sprawling cottonwood on a rivers edge.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Winging it

Pete's pocket. Yes it looks like a mushroom, no he's not thinking about vegetables.

A speed wing now in the mix with all of my other shit that I travel with, as though it wasn't enough, all I needed was to figure out how to use it. More importantly, how to use it without killing myself. A bit of low angle practice mixed in with some skiing on Thompson Pass out of Valdez and then I knew just enough to be dangerous. A spell of perfect weather for a week and a half let me fly most days. Hiking for access on Thompson and then sledding in Turn Again Pass for some hot laps with the Marencos the flying came along nicely. And yeah, I know its a cop out, but i think its only a natural progression to want to fly.. its a whole lot less impact on the body... at least when thing go right!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Gettin is soooo good

The final week of the season allowed for a staff only day. One group on skis, one on speed wings. what a day! Thanks Quinner!!!

The Ak Rollover is epitomised by the run The Wave (above). The top is a flat glacier, the gut is 50 degrees and the pitch rolls over like a massive cresting wave. From a snow safety standpoint these types of terrain features are very difficult to safely manage, but damn they can be fun!

Full Support staff gang bang

Buddy Love, NE Face opener.

Sweet Leaf (right of center) A ski width wide 45+choke gives access to a 2500' vertical couloir. YEEEAH!!!

Sweet leafin.

Worm Glacier, The Wave in the background.

Spring Time! lets get!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ode to the Fly Boys

In the words of an Aspen Extreme ski instructor- skiing is the easy part. In Alaska just getting there is the real battle. Ak heli pilots do the impossible, flying at a standstill while on the ground... somewhat. To get out of and unload a ski basket on a perch is one thing but to balance a ship, flying, as a bunch of corn fed monkeys shift their weight out of the side door with wind blowing, snow settling, snow blowing and then take back off again without any airspeed and not rolling down the side of the mountain, is truly amazing.

The skiing has been great, better by the day, but for this pictorial try to imagine these surroundings from the eyes of a pilot.

Anything that you do a lot becomes normal, in this case i fear not because of how seemless heli operations have been. Sure its safe, load up, lets go skiing, stay away from the spinny or hot bits. Calm, cool, collected, yes he is the pilot, buy him a bottle of wine PLEASE.


Eat the Worm

Banana Hammock

Bean Pod

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Random thoughs Pertaining to Steepness

I'm sure that you have heard the tales of Alaskan skiing, largely they are true. The terrain is expansive, wide open with little to provide any sort of reference of scale, pitch, and even sometimes snow quality. Most good skiers are fully capable of skiing steep, big-mountain terrain whether they know it or not. My goal is to read what people are capable of and to push them to a new level of skiing without hurting them. I don't really see things as being steep or not so much, more of just where the snow is going to go if it slides and where a skier will go if they fall.

In rock climbing the difficulty of one climb compared to another is not necessarily indicative of whether the climb is vertical or a slab. Skiing steep slopes is much the same, steep slopes are not any more difficult to ski, there is just more to manage and the exposure makes people scared. Sure you don't want to fall in places and yes it might really hurt or even kill you if you do but the same is true of driving a car on a two lane road passing within feet of a speeding car travelling in the opposite direction. You could turn the steering wheel all of a sudden and kill yourself and everyone around you but you don't because that is not an option. Falling on a steep slope is not an option either so there is nothing to be afraid of, just dont fall then there isn't a problem.

The vertical world is an interesting place, i recommend it. Its pretty cool seeing how one person reacts when pushed past their comfort zone compared to another. The problem children are the ones that don't have fear when they should... hmmmmmmmmm.
Never mind.

Salt Lick mini-golf. yes, guides get to ski!

Salt Lick LZ

Salt Lick left, yes that is a mono-skier and yes that is because there is only one of him.

He sends it pretty good though. Dube!

Skiing on Pontoon's flanks. 2ft of 8% 47deg. 3000' vert. For those that are getting to know me, this is why!