Thursday, January 28, 2010

Making the Most of the Mountain

The past few days have been some of the best that I've had here in JH. Yesterday I met up with Anna and we took some runs in the fresh 5 inches of powder. Stuff was good all over the mountain. We stopped for lunch at the Moose and a little Bailey's and coffee to get us going.


After, we prepared for my first trip out to Four Pines. The avalanche conditions were definitely a little more questionable out there than in the comfort of Rock Springs. The journey required passing over Rock Springs and then hiking up a steep knoll. Soon we dropped down into a small canyon, shadowed by the line called "Breakneck". Don't think I'll be hitting that anytime soon. Looks gnarly.

Parade to Four Pines
Anna on hike #1 to Four Pines

Cody Peak
Cody Peak looming in the fog.

Four Pines
Our destination: the knoll in the left upper corner of the photo.

The line called Breakneck. Yikes!

After a second mellower hike, we reached the top of Four Pines, along with several other go-getters. We looked down at the awesome powder below us and couldn't believe how epic it looked. The sun even started peaking through on our descent.

Hike #2 to Four Pines.

Anna's Line
Anna on the descent.

View from where I was about to drop -- fun chute!

We reached the flattened area at the bottom and proceeded to take the long, tiring traverse back to the resort. All of the hard work hiking and traversing was totally worth it.

Some Fresh Tracks
Looking back at the goods.

Today was another hard hitting day. I got out to the resort early with David so I could show him Rock Springs. It was sunny and the avalanche danger was supposed to increase as the day went on. It was pretty tracked through there with some heavy sun-soaked snow, but it was still a blast. A parade of people were hiking up the ridge to Cody Peak...good idea since this was one of the first sunny days we've had in weeks! I bet that was a good time.

After Rock Springs, we headed up the elevator shaft hike up the Headwall from the top of the Gondola. We met a snowboard instructor named Steve who also had the day off on our way up. Turns out we have lots of mutual friends, so when David took a sweet line down through the trees so he could go to work, I showed Steve the chute David and I had gone down in Casper Bowl a few days before. The snow was lots heavier today but still nice and soft. I ended up meeting with my friend Helena as well, and we had a small crew roaming around the mountain for the rest of the day. Another hike up Headwall and a Saratoga Bowl run later, I was spent. Now here I am writing this and soaking up the afternoon rays that are pouring through my window.

I have to go back to work tomorrow, but the days off I had were amazing, and I think I'll be able to power through while I look forward to some more adventures!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lifted Spirits

Today put me in a much better mood than I was yesterday. I did have the day off though, so that helped a lot. As usual, David and I caught the bus bright and early to catch some fresh turns out at the resort. With our surprise, we peaked around the corner of the Bridger Restaurant to find the gates OPEN to Casper Bowl. I strapped my board to my pack, and we raced to the top, only to be trailing behind three other guys.

Casper Bowl
Me, about to drop into Casper Bowl. Look at all that pow!

I stared in awe at the endless field of powder below me in the bowl. We dropped in through a narrow chute and reaped the benefits of our strenuous morning hike. Soon after David had to leave for work and I met up with Anna.

Freshies in Casper Bowl
David's first turns through Casper Bowl.

I was a bit skeptical after the insane amounts of recent snowfall, but headed out to Rock Springs with Anna anyway. When we got there I was surprised at the amount of people who had already gone though. I guess that's the story of Jackson people though -- always pushing their limits. At least it made me feel safer.

Rock Springs
Quick shot of lower Rock Springs.

We ripped through the fresh powder, happy and tired after the long run down. I have the next two days off and can't wait to do it all over again!

Rock Springs Paradise
Anna, finishing out a lap through Rock Springs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

You Have to Work for It

I've come to many realizations during these past few days. It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride for me lately. With four feet of snow falling in the past three days, and me having to work during all of them, it's been a little bit tough. While everyone else went and rode pow, I watched hopelessly as my board gathered more and more snow on it as it leaned against the side of the lift shack. I got many comments such as "Not a very good day for pictures huh?" or "Bet you're not getting much business today!". I just want to let all know that those comments are better left unsaid. It's almost like saying "You look tired." or "Pretty slow tonight huh?" to a cocktail server. On commission based jobs, it's very tough to keep spirits high in slower situations. I don't really have a choice but to stand out there and get people stoked on taking photos, blizzard or not.

Don't get me wrong, I love photography. Especially snowboarding photography. There's nothing that gets me more stoked than capturing that perfect moment in a shot where the rider is right at the peak of their trick and I am able to capture that 1/1000th of a second for them to look at forever. I get so excited, and so do they. Snowboard photography is art to me. It's a way that I can take the sport that I have such a passion for and turn it into a beautiful self expression, even if it's not me in the shot. It's a way of combining the human element with the powerful forces of nature and being able to capture the moment forever. A moment that will never occur in the same way again.

In conclusion of these contrasting thoughts, I've realized that life never really goes the path that you expect. To get to one place, you have to work through another, even if it's a place you don't want to be. Right now, I feel a little bit stuck, but I know that if I just keep my drive up, I will get to where I want to be someday. Most successful and creative folk don't get the luxury of skating through life and achieving their dreams. Doctors go through countless hours of school, lawyers study tirelessly for tests, writers may move to a big city only to hear the word "no" for years, high school seniors may apply to 20 colleges only to get into 5, etc. Everybody fails. The only ones who succeed are those who take those mistakes and learn from them.

With that in mind, I'm going to fall asleep, and start a new day. A day without work and drama that goes along with it. A day with photography that I love. A day with snowboarding, friends, and the love of my life, in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I've got a lot going for me, and it's time that I start acting like it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Stoked on Snow

In a normal winter weather pattern, I wouldn't be excited about 3" of fresh snow on the ground. In fact, I would probably stay home. But when faced with the disadvantages of and El NiƱo year, one will definitely jump out of bed for a meager three inches. Today was one of those days. It seems like the storms have finally started reaching Wyoming.

David and I made it out to the Village just after opening. With so many options, we decided on some Thunder laps. I took a few photos of David hitting a drop called Surveyor's. It's roped off right now but it's still possible to slide off of the smallest part of it. With a few more storms, and no ropes, this drop will be pretty fun.

Surveyor's Drop
Snowy day on Surveyor's Drop. Rider: David Duffy

When David had to go to work, I ran into my friend Anna down at the bottom. We ended up having a pretty epic day together. First we took a "warm-up" lap down Granny Chutes over to Thunder and then up to Sublette. We decided at Headwall hike was in order. (I really need to get out hiking more. That type of altitude is a killer when you're used to hiking at sea level.) Needless to say, we gained significant distance between us and the dude not far behind us so I still felt pretty good. The snow on the Headwall was awesome and it was due time for a lunch break. I ran into my friend Trevor at 6311 and he suggested we go into Rock Springs.

I've been itching to get out into the backcountry since conditions started settling after the Wally incident. Problem is, I don't know my way around back there and it's hard to find somebody to show a newb around. I even have my Level I Avalanche Class done so it's not like I would be a safety hazard. Luckily Anna has been living here for four years and she was stoked to go out there.

We dropped into the second gate and were amazed to see a big bowl full of deep powder. It was so peaceful and beautiful out there. At times I felt like I was in the resort with the amount of tracks I saw, but the snow was still surprisingly deep and soft. After seeing a few people out there, I felt even safer. We took the sketchy traverse out (there's actually a fallen log right in the middle of it), navigating our way around the brush and dirt patches, and decided we would do it all over again.

After lots of turns, laughs, a questionable log ride and high fives, it was time to hit the Moose for some hot cider beverages. I was so stoked to be out there in the backcountry (finally), especially with another girl who was having just as much fun. Until next time...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Making the Best of What You Have

It's getting to the point that the snow level is so low that people are just starting not to care. Most I've talked to are looking forward to spring already. We haven't gotten snow since that 10 inch drop two weeks ago. Anyone who comes here is either a tourist or a local who has nothing better to do than cruise groomers all day. David even took up skiing yesterday! (He did really well too and wants to get good at it this year). With rocks starting to reveal themselves again in the middle of the runs, I thought it was time to work on my park skills and take some more photos.

Thursday was my first day off last week so we decided to go hit up the park early while it was still nice and groomed with no crowds. David pulled a few backside 540s and backflips, along with a sick method. I got in front of the lens as well!

Backside 540
Spins in front of Sleeping Indian.

Camouflage Method
Camouflaged Method.

Snowboarding Photographer :)
First a snowboarder, then a photographer. Me hitting the small jump.

After David left to go to work, I started hitting one of the bigger jumps. I was pretty proud of myself that I worked up the courage to do so. The park is scary sometimes but there is no point in living at a resort and not progressing. You have to scare yourself a little in order to get better :)

Balancing Act

**On a side note, yesterday I was in charge of taking photos of the JH Ski Club North Series Super G ski race here in Jackson Hole. These kids are only about high school age and they were going nearly 60 mph! It was pretty incredible to see. We could see them in the Olympics someday. Check out the photos I took of the men's race and women's race by clicking on those links. All were taken with my Canon 1D Mark II N.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Sad Day at JHMR

I am sad to bring you the news that Mark "Big Wally" Wolling, ski patroller buried in an avalanche at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, has passed away. I never knew Big Wally personally, but I've seen him around in the locker room and such. Even though I didn't know him, it's a huge loss to the resort and his family. Please send your prayers their way. RIP Big Wally.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Upper Mountain Madness

Cody, No Name, Rendezvous
Our majestic backcountry peaks: Rendezvous, No Name & Cody

Because the tram never opened on Wednesday, that meant that there were fresh tracks to be had on Thursday. We got up early (ugh, again) and caught the 7:24 am bus. Yet again, the bus was packed with UVM kids and we were forced to stand while the bus driver nearly knocked us over with his frightening slam-on-the-brakes habit. David and I jumped in line as soon as we got there. The resort opened on time with bluebird skies and frigid temperatures. I think it was -27 when we got to the resort. To much disappointment, we were cut off right at the end of the first tram box and had to wait at the front of the line for tram box #2. Pretty much a bummer. So much for taking the earlier bus.

Luckily, only 100 people got to Rendezvous Bowl before us, so the snow was still unbelievably soft and fresh when we got to the top. Smoothest run ever. We also got to take a look at the crown of the avalanche that had pulled Mark Wolling under. It was pretty scary looking. I couldn't imagine being stuck in an avalanche of that scale...or any size for that matter.

Mark Wolling Avalanche Site
The site where ski patroller Mark Wolling was caught in an avalanche.

We rode up Sublette a few times and got some fresh tracks over in Tensleep and the Cirque. Too bad it was getting choppy by noon, but it was still a fun day. After David went home to work I met up with my friends Anna and Justin. We overheard that the lower faces were going to open up so we camped out for about 15 minutes on the South Pass Traverse right on top of South Coulter Ridge. Soon enough, a ski patroller came down and yanked the "closed" signs out of the ground. Moments later we were ripping through knee deep powder that hadn't been ridden yet this season. It was one of the best runs I've had so far! It stayed fairly fresh for another two runs and then I called it a day.

Picking the Line
David picking a line above the Cirque.

Tensleep Turns
Finding fresh among the tracks.

Today was another frigid day and I was only able to hang around for a few runs due to the extreme temperatures. Tomorrow it's back to the grind, so I'm glad that I was able to make some nice turns before that.

Looking West
Fossil Mountain and Mount Bannon from the top of the tram.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the UGLY of Jackson Hole

I anticipated this morning in the same way that a 5-year-old hopes to open a shiny new bike on Christmas. The forecast rang true and I woke up to 10 inches of new snow in Jackson Hole. David and I made breakfast and raced to the bus, only to find it packed with what seemed like 500 other sweaty people. It was a long bus ride out to Teton Village. When we got there, we hopped into the tram line. From the looks of it, we hoped to make the 3rd car up. Wouldn't have been too bad, I suppose. As usual, the resort was scheduled to open late. I wasn't surprised, considering the fact that I could here the avalanche bombs all the way from town.

Pow Day = Long Line
Waiting in a long line for a tram that would never open to the public today.

After waiting for nearly two hours (we had arrived in line at 8:15), announcements circulated that it would be at least another two hours before the tram opened, due to an "incident". The hosts chatted about it a little "hushed" at first, but the news became widespread later this afternoon.

Mark Wolling, ski patrol veteran, had been caught in a slide above some cliffs in Cheyenne Bowl. He was buried 6 ft deep, and found within minutes by his partner with no vital signs. After visiting the clinic, he was resuscitated and a pulse was found. Last I heard, he was being transported to Idaho for more medical care.

This is event is scary in so many ways. 1) It shows how dangerous this mountain can really be...not that we had any question about it after last year's incidents. 2) If a 20 year ski patrol veteran like Wolling can get caught, then us backcountry amateurs should be extra cautious. I heard some people talking about going to the Pass today and I thought that was the most insane idea I've ever heard. Danger was HIGH for today. Not worth it to me.

Needless to say, the upper mountain never opened today. I did have a great time riding what was available though. It was a little slow going in the huge lines, but the gondola definitely had some fresh snow left to ride. We met some kids from UVM while in line and ended up hanging with them all day. I am hoping to wake up and get there early again tomorrow to go get that fresh stuff that was left untouched today. It's going to be a cold clear night, so the avalanche danger should slowly subside.

Thoughts and prayers go out to Mark Wolling and his family this evening.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year from Powder Heaven

Amy on the hike

I realize all I've done for the last few weeks is complain about the lack of snow here in JH. Well folks, my prayers have been answered. David and I heard that the snow would probably be good on New Year's Day, so we decided to have a quiet night. I've always gone out somewhere to ring in the new year, but there is something kind of exciting and surreal about sitting at home in a quiet apartment when the clock strikes midnight. No loud drunks, no getting spilled on, just sipping on a glass of bubbly with the person I love while reading snowboarding magazines. It was practically perfect. We went to bed soon after and woke up to a rather satisfying snow report.

A fresh 9" of light cowboy powder had fallen out at JHMR. It was time to get our shred on. We tromped through the snow to the bus stop and were slightly let down when we saw the crowd of people already occupying seats. I guess even a hangover won't stop people from reaping the benefits of JH pow. When we pulled up the resort, I hurried to the locker room and changed, then lined up to get into the second tram of 2010! The wind was howling at the top of Rendezvous Mountain, but it didn't stop anyone. We slashed through knee deep powder in the bowl, then made our way over to the wind-loaded Bivouac Woods. It was epic. After hopping on the Sublette chair and making our way over to the Cirque, we decided to take the short 20 minute hike up the Headwall. We mush have been among some of the first to hike it because when we got to the top, there were barely any tracks!

In the Cirque
Me in the Cirque.

Top of the Headwall
Best day ever on the Headwall.

Our hiking efforts were rewarded with knee deep powder and lots of hooting and hollering. It was a blast. We decided to do it again. We were soaked and tired when it was all over, but it was definitely a New Year's that I will never forget.

Lookin Like Winter
Happy bus ride home.