It’s April.  Things are warming up and the ski season is winding down, or so we all thought.  Memories of last year’s monstrous month of April have taunted the loyal folks dying for some fresh storms in what has been a lackluster season.  Splitting storms and odd cycles have left much to be desired by the spoiled skiers in Little Cottonwood.  I myself was even beginning to give up and shift focus towards warm weather activities.

Despite my lack of faith, Mother Nature came through in spades over the last two days.  Several feet of snow transformed the inbounds skiing of Snowbird and Alta from sun-baked and refrozen garbage into a pillowy powder paradise.  Early mornings, effective timing, and dumb luck yielded ridiculously deep skiing in places yet untracked this season for me.  Staring down the steep tree-lined pillow field, I found myself glowing with an excitement that is hard to explain and even harder to replicate outside of those woods.  Thankfully, my Smith I/O goggle lenses (at backcountry.com, shameless!) are easily changed in order to deal with this alternate universe.

Dropping from pillow to pillow, entering and exiting the white cloud of cold smoke being kicked up with each turn, I remembered exactly why people are prone to shaping their entire lives around skiing.  I’m simply glad I had a good friend along to enjoy it all and receive a high five.  My legs are fried, my back feels like an unfolded lawn-chair, and all of my stuff is soaked.  The forecast says 12-18 more inches tonight.  I couldn’t be happier and I will be up with the sun to do it all again.  Pictures and video soon to come.

It has been far, far, far too long since I last checked in, and I wish I could say that I was just a slacker.  Somewhere between the sciences, graduate school applications, and the fall/summer semesters taking over my life, I was unable to write.  I don’t mean that I was physically incapacitated, I just didn’t want to burden anyone with the minutiae of boring school work.  I highly doubt that anyone has vested interest in reading about yet another evening spent buried under a stack of papers in the Marriott Library.

I’ll sum up the last few months since the snow stopped falling and the textbooks began calling:  I have learned a lot.  Here is a brief smattering of what I have managed to garner since I last posted.

1.  I really love milk.  I don’t think I ever drank it when I was a kid unless I was forced to do so.  In an effort to gain weight after the typical ski 10 lb. attrition, I have become a born-againt milk drinker.

2.  Money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does buy a World Series Championship.  To the victors go the spoils.

3.  24-Hour Fitness is not so bad, but the world in general needs a lesson on etiquette in the gym (tips so you don’t look like a complete clown, which you currently do.)

4.  Getting hit by cars flat-out SUCKS.

5.  The only way to feel at home in a new place  is to commit to being there, and go with the flow.

5a.  However it is absolutely essential to bust a geographical move in order to stay on your toes and generally keep yourself sane.

6.  Nothing is more impressive and more humbling than the study of human anatomy.

7.  Taking people at their word is just that.  Actions speak far more loudly, and I am as guilty as anyone.

8.  David Letterman is coated in Teflon.

9.  Dry heat is far more easily dealt with than humidity.

10.  Lacrosse exists out West.  The summer league in the Salt Lake Valley and the Park City team afforded me a lot of fun and friends this summer.  I am never surprised  when lacrosse brings good folks together.

11.  Podcasts are not just the wave of the future, they are the new currency.  Endless possibilities.  So long annoying morning radio DJ!  (A few gems: Adam Carolla, The Scott Van Pelt Show, The Tony Kornheiser Show, This American Life, Destination DIY…)

12.  No matter how deplorable he was in his later years, the world still posthumously loves Michael Jackson.  He made Thriller!

13.  All I need to survive anywhere in the world is one solid friend who is down for anything.

14. The phrase “makes ends meet” refers to two pieces of string.  I always thought it was “make ends meat”, like people who were short of cash could only afford the crappy throw-away parts of meat.  I am 27 and I am just figuring this out?  That is pathetic.

15.  No matter how burnt out the ski season may have left you (as it left me), there is still excitement by the time winter makes its return.

It’s getting cold and the snow is starting to fly.  Glad to be back.  Stay humble – stay hungry!

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why do dogs always look demonic when the flash goes off?

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breakfast at 10pm

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tyson - king for a day

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Southern sunset

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finn doesn't have bitter-beer-face

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SV Jazzfest isn't just for octogenarians

 

The North Shore as seen from Cody Peak

The North Shore as seen from Cody Peak

Choose between these two options: 1) Relax in Salt Lake City and recover from a week of comp skiing in Crested Butte, or 2) Go to Jackson Hole and test skis for Powder Magazine.  I of course chose the latter and hit the road.img_1735

Powder Magazine is a tight knit family of passionate skiers who take pride in their work.  30 ski manufacturers brought dozens of ski models to be tested and reviewed by the contributors and advertisers of Powder, and I was just lucky enough to tag along.  It snowed about 18 inches while we were there, and when coupled with high winds created some unbelievable conditions.  Thanks to Derek Taylor and all the staff at Powder for letting me be a part of it.  Hiking Four Pines, Pine Dale, Granite, and countless other OB areas at Jackson yield the steep and deep as well as the best feeling of tiredness imaginable.  I’m glad to be back in SLC after a few epic days, but I can’t wait to go back.img_1737

 

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We arrived late monday night in Crested Butte, CO for the 18th US Extremes freeskiing competition, the first stop on the Freeskiing World Tour.  This place is pretty special.  A tight community that beams with pride about its super steep terrain and often brutal conditions.  The rocks are sharp, the temperatures are cold, and the crowds are rowdy.  Needless to day, It’s great to be back in CB.  Thanks to Tyson Bolduc‘s cousin Sean Norton, I again had a bed a place to call home for the week.

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The World Tour event can’t begin until a lot of skiers have been weeded out by the qualifier process on an area known as the Headwall. Headwall is a fun but limited venue, most prominently featuring the “Angle Gully” where most skiers will pick their way through some rocks in order to gain a high line score. Ask any local and they will proclaim that you “just have to” ski the gully to score well. Naturally, I thumbed my nose at those folks and greased a 30 second line down the right side, took both of my airs deep and qualified just fine without the gully.

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Dead End chutes and Bodybag

Mixing skiers who qualified on thursday with those who were pre-qualified from last year, day one of World Tour competition venues included Crested Butte’s Dead-End chutes, Body Bag, Staircase, and Slot Rocks. I chose a hairy line down Dead-End and ended up getting slightly lost. I skied what was under my feet which happened to be a lot of rowdy pillows and technical airs. That run put me into finals on Saturday.

Finals were held on the Big Hourglass and Bermuda Triangle zones, areas which have only been opened from permanent closure 4 times in 18 years. I was lucky enough to ski this area last year in finals and I couldn’t wait for another chance. Steep doesn’t really do it justice. Skiing becomes more of a controlled fall when one enters the more difficult parts of the venue. With only an inspection from the bottom, I chose a very rowdy line down the center of the Bermuda Triangle. I went too fast, and ended up only 10 feet right of the entrance that I wanted. I found myself on a fin of rock with no exit but to air off to a tiny pillow that only held one ski, and then off a blind cliff. I almost pulled it off, but when one of my skis dove under the snow, I tumbled and took myself out of the chase for the podium.

 

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Hourglass from the top

The level of competition was unbelievable as every competitor upped the ante with each run. Cliff Bennett blew the doors off of everyone with his comeback from 6 points down to win, and Pip Hunt impressed her home-town crowd with a 2nd place finish that could have easily been 1st.  Watching someone who has worked as hard as Pip has be gratified by a long-awaited podium in front of friends and family is pretty satisfying.  I am glad I got to see it.  I am always so happy to be arrive in Crested Butte, and a bit sad to leave.  Great people, great skiing, and a feeling that some places don’t change no matter how long you leave them re-enforce the fact that it certainly isn’t my last time in in CB.

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The rowdiest town around

 

 

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Nothing says “welcome home!” like a huge southern storm that slams into Salt Lake and doesn’t let up for 4 days.  After a grueling but good few days in Telluride, I came back with the full intention of laying low and skiing later in the week.  The weather began to move in and I was made aware of why I had moved to Utah.  A combination of cold temperatures, light wind, and extremely dry snowfall made for perfect skiing.  The Ski Patrol with whom I rode the lift on monday informed me that the water content in the snow that had fallen was 3%, meaning that for every inch of water that fell from the sky, it produced well over a foot and a half of perfect powder.

I was lucky enough to ski with my friends Lars Chickering-Ayers and Ryan Hawkes, two extremely creative and adventurous skiers from Vermont.  These two are the genuine article, living in their van and chasing the storms as they compete on the World Freeskiing Tour.  Along with a few others, we all spent several days wearing out our legs and choking on waist deep freshies.

As the storm let up for a brief time, I found myself searching new places and taking chances in hopes of finding more untracked snow and new lines through Snowbird.  Luckily enough, my friend Chopo Diaz took the same chances and it paid of for us in dividends.  These lines are in plain sight and now one seems to want to ski them!  Click the link below to watch the footage…

Lines From Planet Utah


img_16421In a last second decision before leaving SLC for Telluride, I woke up at 3:45 am and climbed Superior with a photographer and a couple other athletes in the hopes of catching the soft golden light that a clear sunrise brings.  The photos speak for themselves.  Superior kicked my ass all the way down, but just seeing the sunrise from that elevation is pretty magical.  The lines were rowdy, and the skiing less than optimal, but it was completely worth the effort.img_1648

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I have a love/hate relationship with Jackson Hole, WY.  I love going there, and I hate leaving.  Ever since I drove to the Tetons 3 years ago, they have been calling me back.  I get the sense that I probably won’t make it though this lifetime without living there at some point.  Great friends, skiing, and memories all reside just over the Teton Pass.  Several times over the last 3 days someone would ask me “So wait…do you live here?”, to which I answered “I wish.”  My friend Errol has lived all over the globe at this point in his life, and I have never seen him more happy to be where he is.

Jackson fosters a culture unique that has been lost in many ski towns.  It has a hardcore population who are deeply committed to their lifestyle.  Work hard, play hard.  They play very hard.  The Tetons provide a natural playground for all those activities that make everyday worth while, and the relaxed WY alcohol laws make partying a clear priority.  JH seems to embrace its youth more than most places I’ve visited.  It is a town that is filled with people who live there simply because they are committed to making the most of their free time.  A lot of them have to work twice as hard to afford to live where they do, but that only solidifies the town’s identity. 

I spent a few days with Crystal and Brian in a picturesque A-frame in the woods.  She stands behind her statement that everyone should ski a winter in Jackson because it will truly make you a better skier.  Crystal is a perfect tour guide because she is as native as it gets.  Born and raised in Wilson, she grew up rodeoing and racing with serious skier parents.  It helps to have someone who knows all the ins and outs of the mountain as well as she does, because there is so much more to Jackson than what you would find on the surface.  Duck out a gate, bootpack a ridgeline, and disappear into one of the many aptly named backcountry options that JH has to offer and you won’t be disappointed.  Anyone can ski the “baddest” inbounds terrain by following signs.  But when the dangers are real and the visibility is poor, stepping outside the gates and exploring is something that can only be done with someone who knows their way around.  It feels like being let into a secret club.  I can rave all day about all the great lines to ski in Jackson, I may even move there some day, but in order to truly appreciate it you have friends like Crystal who know it all to show you where to go.

The competitions are soon to be underway, and they will no doubt bring a lot of good memories and changes of scenery.  Leaving Jackson yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret.  Maybe that is scenery that I could get used to.  Maybe they have figured it out, a way to have your cake and eat it too.  I guess I will have to find out for myself.

See you in Telluride this weekend…

ANDY

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures, I swear I will get better at actually having my camera with me.

The last few days have been unreal in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Approximately 3 feet of snow has fallen in 3 days, giving way to a crystal clear blue-bird sky.  In addition to the thigh deep fresh, I have been lucky enough to play tour-guide to my great friend Travis around Snowbird.  Travis decided to delay his visit due to the high-pressure system last week and we have both been obsessively watching the radar, waiting for something to change.  The storms lined up, and he drove here to experience Utah first hand.  What a choice time to visit.

It has been so rewarding to take him all around Snowbird.  I have been telling him how much fun and how rowdy it is, a departure from Mt. Bachelor where Travis normally skis.  I’m not knocking the Bend, OR resort, but it is a completely different ball game.  Snowbird offers so much variety in the way of steeps, chutes, cliffs, and lots and lots of snow.  Skiing with T and watching him progress through the learning curve of challenging terrain made it even more fun.  The ‘Bird is a mountain that makes you commit to your decisions.  For example, when staring down a steep chute that is about 50 feet long, you have to decided to lightly ski fast through the middle and scrub all of your speed once you have safely exited and are in an open area.  Once you decide to do this, you can’t bail midway and stop.  You would fall and compound your problems by being stuck in a highly undesirable position or falling down some exposed areas.  No fun for anyone.  But we have all been there, deciding to do something tough and chosen the easier way out at the last second.  This is not really an option.  Commit to your decision and execute is the name of the game when consequences are higher.  That is the lesson that Snowbird teaches those willing to learn.  All who ski here have experienced a bit of baptism by fire a few times by getting spanked when we decide mid-way to do something slower or more conservative.  In the end, the same sentiment is echoed by all who come to Snowbird to ski the steep and deep.  Perhaps Travis put it best, “That wasn’t that hard, it was just scary as shit!  I love this place!”  Well said T, I love this place too.

THIS VIDEO shows a lot of the lines at the ‘Bird, Cody and I shot it last week.

I am off to Jackson Hole for a few days to see some friends and get some shooting in.  See you in a few days Utah, stay classy.

PS great shout out from the MSI boys – thanks!

– ANDY

For those who don’t obsessively check the weather like most check their emails, mostof the western states are slogging their way through a high-pressure system.  These systems generally bring cold weather, sunny skies, and inversions where the higher elevations are much warmer and more pleasant than the lower ones.  They also force the smog of SLC further down and into the lungs of it’s many inhabitants.  The best thing to do is to run for high ground.  

Put simply, it feels like spring time at Snowbird right now.  Sweaty smiling skiers lapping chalky fast Baldy and Silver Fox laps are the common sight these days.  It has been an unexpectedly good thing so far as it has given me a chance to ski fast and build confidence.  Cody and I went and filmed a bunch of POV shots with our V.I.O. cameras thanks to backcountry.com the last few days including some creative follow-cam shots and sketchy back-flips.  We will edit the footage down and post it soon.

Old friends are coming back to town and new ones being made as the tram lines seem to disappear.  It is all quite short-lived as the snow looks to start falling on thursday again.  Cross your fingers.

 

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I am a seasonal person.  Not that I am sad or happy according to what season it is, but rather I am just used to having actual seasons.  Summer is hot and dry. Fall is cold, wet, and kind of gross.  Winter is really cold and really wet, and awesome.  Spring is a combination of all three given the day.  So playing golf in shorts a day after christmas throws me off a bit.  No complaints, but it is a bit odd.

img_1582img_16092San Diego is one of those places that I appreciate more every time I go back.  I used to go as a kid, but never really saw it as more than a beach, and the future site of LegoLand.  Now I get the feeling that I might not make it through life without at least spending a few months living in CA.  Put simply, it doesn’t suck.  The best part of this trip was not the weather, the sunsets, or even the Mexican food.  It was the company.

 

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As if I ever doubted it, it was made quite clear to me that I have great family and friends over these past holiday weeks packed with music and late nights.  I really appreciate all the people I rarely get to see.  My Uncle Larry, Aunt Chris, Cousins Emily, Jody, Chris, John, Robyn, Becca, Talia, Elijah, Annabelle, my sister Julie, and her boy Levi all filled the house in SoCal with love and warmth.  There is something calming about being near the ocean.  I liken it to being near the mountains.  The mountains make you feel small because of their immense size.  The ocean makes you feel small because it is miles and miles of unknown.  It’s almost as if someone flipped the mountains over and covered them in a shiny blue blanket.

Sun Valley was quite a speedy visit but I spent some quality time with many of those who I miss the most from the past 3 years.  Crashing at Tom Bobo & Brae Gove’s house made for an unexpected yet more than accommodating place to stay.  Thanks boys.

Tell your friends and family how much you love them TODAY.