Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Vallee Blanche

Tom, Dom, Amanda and I had a coulple extra days to play tourist and explore a little.  On our last day of sunshine we decided to ride the lift to the top of the Aiguille Du Midi.  It's about a 9000' ride and ends on top of an impressive spire with amzing views of Mont Blanc and the rest of Chamonix Valley.  We hung out for a while on the observation decks, took a few photos, and then Tom and I left our women and skied out the classic Vallee Blanche.  It was incredible.  Nice mellow skiing through some pretty amazing terrain.  After, the women "shredded Cham."  Yep, they're extreme skiers now.  Here are a  few pics from the day.

Cosmiques Couloir
Monte Bianco.  I think I liked the Italians more than the French so now I'll call it Monte Bianco.
The Chileans wanted a photo with a skier
Tom in the upper Vallee Blanche
Tom and Ice
Half of the team skied the Vallee Blanche with Glen Plake.  We joined for a second, here are the Simmons and Plake about to get rad.

Taken on the way back to Martigny from Chamonix

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Aiguille d'Argentiere - Y Couloir

Andy, Teague, Billy, and Collin raced the relay in the morning which meant we would be getting a late start.  They came in 10th which was a few spots lower than they would have hoped but everyone raced hard and I think they were happy with the effort.  Immediately after the race we pilled in a car and headed for the steep skiing Mecca of the world.  Andy had scoped out several of the Aiguilles off the Argentiere Glacier and was able to navigate us quickly to the base of the Y Couloir on the Aiguille d'Argentiere.  From there we debated the safety of climbing through the small rock band guarding the entrance to the Y.  There was a little debris funneling though the band and given the spring-like temps we were concerned about wet activity.  Scott Simmons didn't seem to mind so he poked his head through and found a skier high in the chute who was the cause of our worries.  
Teague coming through the lower rock band
The rest of the crew following
Once he passed, we tried to rally up the chute to top out before the wet snow refroze.  We didn't quite make it.  We were close to the branch point be still had about 1000' to go.  Not wanting to slide to our deaths we flipped it and headed home, content with the experience.  It always sucks bailing before completing an objective but for our skill level it was the right call.  As it was, the icy skiing felt a bit treacherous and I can only imagine it would have been straight scary if we would have kept going. Oh well, add to the list.  

Teague racing the sun
Scott with Andy and his new camera watching
Scott down climbing while the boy rig up a rappel

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Verbier- Vertical Race

The Vertical Race felt like the Tour de France.  It started about 500' below Verbier, went through the town on a path of snow that was plowed into the street, and then headed up the resort and ended 2700' above the start.  As always the pace started hot and then field strung out quickly.  Hard to say what happened in the throughout the race since I only caught 2 spot but it's safe to say everyone suffered.  Killian Jornet dominated the field with a 40 second win.  Eric Carter was the first American to finish in 39th place.  Rory Kelly was close behind in 40th. Complete results here:

Billy Laird
Killian celebrating with no one in sight
Eric Carter
Rory Kelly
Post race posing with Flat Stanley
Waiting for the train
Before the Vertical Race started,  Andy, Teague, Simmons, and I were able to get out for a little ski.  We were at the train station at 7AM waiting for the 7:10 train when we realized the first train on the weekend isn't until 8:24.  While wondering aimlessly through the streets of Martingy we were approached by a local who asked what we were doing.  He showed us a local coffee shop and then said, "don't go there, you should come to my house instead."  How do you turn that down?

Turns out he was the two time former president of Switzerland, Pascal Couchepin. We sipped on tea and listened to stories about Vladimir Putin, Clinton, and Romney before we headed back to our train.  Initially we were bummed about getting up an hour early but it turned out to be quite memorable.

The Verbier resort is kind of ridiculous.  We got on a lift in the town of Chable at roughly 2600' and ended up on top of Mt Fort at almost 11,000'  From there we dropped off the back side of the resort and found ourselves in the middle of the Swiss Alps.  We keep the terrain mellow and head to the top of Rosa Blanche.  From there you could see the Matterhorn along with endless other peaks that made Utah look small.  
Mt. Fort
Heading toward Rosa Blanche
Andy near the summit
After Rosa Blanche we skied several miles down Valley until we hit another resort and took yet another lift back to Verbier where we found untracked powder about a week after the last storm.
Scott Simmons back in the resort

Friday, February 6, 2015

Verbier - Sprint Race

The Sprint race was earlier today and it was awesome! The course was roughly 90 vertical meters and was splint up into three sections; 40 meters of skinning, 20m of booting, and then another 30 meters of skinning. 

The format is a four round qualification.  The first round was a time trail where every racer started 20 seconds apart. From that, the fastest 30 racers made it into the quarter final.  In the quarter final, the two fastest from each of five heats made the semi-finals with the fastest 3 from each semi making the final. No American had ever made it out of the first qualifying round before.  

Last championships Andy was the 31st and missed the quarter finals by a couple tenths of a second.  I'm pretty sure making it out of Qualifying was one of his goals.  
Andy passing his teammate Matt and catching the Women's World Champion who started 40 seconds earlier.
The Qualifying round went well for the US.  Andy was 27th and Max Taam was 30th so the both moved on.  Max looked strong in his quarter-final heat and was mixing it up with the best in the World until the boot pack when the other guys slowly pulled away.  He ended the day with a respectable 30th.

As Andy lined up for his heat the announcer was commenting on the American turn out and while Andy was waving to the crowd the gun went off.  We're not sure if there was any warning but if there was Andy certainly didn't hear it.  I think he was expecting a track and field style start where the starter quiets everyone and then gives a few commands before the gun goes off.  Anyway, after the gun went off and everyone had a few steps on Andy he frantically started.  The following picture will tell the story.

The American goes down!
He then untangled himself and finished.  He had this to say about the day.  

"Well, today went just as planned in some ways and was a disaster in others but that's sport and life. I made it through the prelims and was psyched to see how I'd do against the big boys. As I heard my name announced, I waved to my teammates who were out en force to cheer. The gun suddenly went off without warning while the announcer was still talking. Frantic, I crashed right out of the gate and worked hard to get butt naked last (in my heat but 24th overall). Not much to say other than I had a good time, made myself hurt, and learned a lot. Now I can cheer on my buddies and go ski!"

All in all I'd say it was a good day for the US.  If nothing else, everyone will be able to make fun of Andy for a LONG time!
Cringing while watching the video of him falling
After the race Scott Simmons and I were able to preview the Individual course.  This place is beautiful!
Previewing the individual course

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Triangle Couloir - Video

Here's a lame edit of our day in the Triangle Couloir.  I burned through most of my batteries before we topped out so my masterpiece, compete with horrific skiing, was not to be.  Oh well.  It was still a great day and re-watching the limited footage I took makes me laugh.

The Triangle Couloir from Jason Dorais on Vimeo.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Gobbler's and Raymond

Lars and I ran up the Bowman trail to Baker Pass(in between Raymond and Gobbler's) a handful of times over the summer. Each time, right before the pass, we'd look up at Gobbler's and dream of snow and skiing. With both of us having the day off we figured Saturday was the time to give it a go. Noah Howell and Jason Prigge joined and we made out way up Butler Fork during a cloudy, beautiful sunrise.

The avy report made it sounds like conditions were a little grim. Everyone I talked to also seemed to feel like there was no good snow left. They were wrong. The north west facing shot of Gobbler's was soft and dry as was East Raymond.   Turns out it takes A LOT of high pressure to turn ALL of the snow bad.
Lars and Prigge heading up Gobbler's
Lars with Raymond in the background
Big tree on the Raymond ridge
The crew obliged when I asked them to pose
Prigge scrapping rocks

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Lone Peak - East Couloir?

We've heard of Aaron Smith for sometime now but never actually seen him.  His Instagram name is Seldon_Seen_Smith so I guess it makes sense.  Yesterday we finally met up and decided to head up Bell's and check out a couple East facing lines off Lone.  Just to the south of the NE Couloir there are a series of lines that look intriguing.  Yesterday we chose the one farthest south.  
Aaron Smith with Bighorn in the background
Andy casually crossing his legs as he rips skins
The mid section of the chute rolled over to what we're guessing was 50-55 degrees.  This was maybe only 20 feet but it also happened to be the iciest part of the day.  I guess we should have payed more attention to the blue "snow" as we were booting up...

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Grunge

Tuesday was another good day to be out and about.  It's hard to stay away from Timp so Lars, Teague, Andy and I made our way down to the County once again.  Lars and Teague haven't skied the Cold Fusion so were hoping to check it out but as we approached the north end of the mountain the Grunge kind of lured us in.  
Low in the Grunge
Andy topping it out 
We were happy to find a reasonably mellow ski in from the ridge.  Every time we've been there in the past there a scary cornice that's caused us to tuck tail and down climb.   Not this time!  The skiing was mostly firm with a little crust.  Powder's overrated.  Stability's where it's at.
A breezy transition
Teague thinking about turning his 170cm into the 165cm wide choke

He decided to turn after the choke