Saturday, March 08, 2008

Snowmass, Colorado

Maroon Bells from Snowmass.
~A brief history~
Ranchers and homesteaders had settled in what is now Snowmass Village by 1890. Mostly farm land then , it was not until May of 1955, Pitkin County zoned the area to include forestry and residential, and established a minimum lot size of two acres.The Hoaglund Ranch was purchased by the Janss Colorado Corporation around 1958. Janss continued to make land purchases and prepared a development plan for the area in 1964. The natural assets of "Snowmass-at-Aspen" would be developed into a profitable year-round resort, linked to the Aspen areas' lodging and amenities but including its own unique ski-in/ski-out residential opportunity. The Janss Plan integrated 8,145 dwelling units into several small, alpine pedestrian villages on the slopes of Burnt and Baldy Mountains. Building materials would come from the natural wood and stone available in the immediate area. Internal circulation would rely on pedestrian trails and an effective, accessible transit system. Less intensive residential use and recreational open space separated the planned villages.The formation of the Snowmass-at-Aspen ski area attracted growth and investors to the area. Commercial and retail construction began in the West Village. The first lifts began operating up Fanny Hill and Sam's Knob on December 16, 1967.As Snowmass Village evolved, the Pitkin County Commissioners favored a less intense buildout, preserving open space and buffers around population centers. The Snowmass Corporation, now the major landholder, favored higher density pockets throughout the area. The result: West and East Village would be oriented toward visitors and Sinclair/Meadow Ranch toward permanent residents.In 1977, Snowmass-at-Aspen officially was incorporated as a Home Rule Town under Colorado law, and became the Town of Snowmass Village. via AllAspen

Patrollers with Avy Dog on morning patrol.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Feature: Hand Cut

"Sweetgrass Productions LLC is a Colorado-based film company rooted in the winter backcountry and mountain lifestyle."

This British Columbia Teaser blends the hand-fired days of the Canadian Pacific steam trains with blower skiing on Rogers Pass and Revelstoke. From these early railroad days to the miners of Colorado's San Juan mountains, Hand Cut will convey the rugged, calloused-hand history of North American mountains. The film will focus on the purity of backcountry travel, blending self-propelled skiing with the rugged western history.

DVD release September 2008, and check out for tour dates.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Colorado Backcountry: Northern Rockies Sled Access

Sled access above tree line in “spring like” conditions, Northern Colorado.
Lots of gooping up with Sunscreen today, it was a beauty! I spent most of it on and off the snowboard, taking turns shuttling up and down the ridge on the sleds. The snow condition today we call “hero snow”, because it is stable enough to allow the sled to go pretty much anywhere but soft enough to maintain great turns on the boards. The sun helps this along, as long as it doesn't get too warm. If temperatures get too high the snow starts melting and destabilizes in layers. "Wet slabs" have been known to slide in the heat of the day making the "hero" snow considerably more dangerous and sloppy to get around in.

Khyber via Apex Mountain and the crew, 2008.
We stop at the top for morning snack and/or smoke break and some avalanche assessment. Conditions looked great so we get to work cutting in the "sled road" for snowboard laps at the top. Most of us were shedding layers as the day warmed up, by mid day I was in a single layer and a windbreaker, no gloves or hat. We guesstimated the temperature today at noon to be near 50F. Got to love that at 12,000 plus feet in early March.

Tandem taxi to altitude on the sled road.
We take turns dropping riders at the top of the mountain on the sleds. One guy get "short bus" duty and drives the sled back down the hill, another guy is the spotter (usually takes pictures too), this is me today. the spotter makes sure that if there is an avalanche the rider's location is pinpointed on the slope for a speedy recovery . The other guys in the crew are diggers, most of the time they just hang out and watch the shralpage, but really they are all on "standby" just encase there is a slide and the rider needs immediate assistance. We all carry avalanche gear and try to maintain a level of awareness even on days like today. As anybody who has been out here long enough knows, a ski slope can go from being perfectly safe to a death trap in a few degrees.

The ascending taxi roars to ridge road, a hard right follows.

Jordon "points" the first run of the day.

Our different riding styles appear in the morning lines.
(From left to right: Me, Jordan, JP(pictured))

Jp riding near the summit.

GEAR REVIEW : Khyber Splitboard

My Khyber and a Colorado sunset.
After a decade or so of research and development, today's splitboards are the harmonious fusion of both ski and snowboard. When used as skis (with their climbing skins), the split-skis allows you to ascend slopes very effectively, the same way an alpine touring or telemark ski would. The width of the split-skis is beneficial. The added float in deep powder helps save the legs when packing an overnighter. However the real fun begins when the two halves are combined to form the snowboard.
Descending on a snowboard is why Splitboards were invented. The fat mans way to slide; snowboarding deep powder seems effortless on these mountain guns. Even your Tele friends will agree, splitboards have arrived and could even change some perspectives on “Those damn Jibbers”.


Height: 5'11"
Weight: 205lbs
Boot size: 10.5
Stance: 23 inches (20,20)
Riding Style: Powder hound, steep and deep, tree junkie.

Make: Prior
Model: 08 Khyber
Size: 170
Hardware: Vole
Skins: Vole

Backcountry riding in all conditions during the Colorado 2007-08 season.

~Snow Conditions for this review~
Mostly Powder! (The snow is awesome this year). But also some wind crust, zipper crust and scoured drifted bullshit.

Overall comments.
Pros: I can climb like a mountain goat on the split-skis! The super-wide skins and the increased surface area had me well in front of my Tele-friends most of the day. I found that the split-skis are about the same or in a few cases a little lighter than AT or Tele setups especially if you consider boot weight. They float and break trail very well even with a full pack (mine is ~30 pounds), and in light fluffy powder. On steep aspects the climbing heel bar is handy and easy to flip up and down.

Cons: This might be because my gear is relatively new but, I found the breaking down and building up of the bindings and interface on the skis was sometimes difficult in cold, icy conditions. Any snow or ice that builds up can interfere and affect the conversion. The fit is very precise and tight which adds to the board’s stable feel, but getting there can require a little poking and scraping. This may be the nature of the beast with the interface, but chipping off ice and snow buildup from the bindings, board interface, touring bracket, as well as the tip and tail locking (Chinese) hooks took some time for the board to fit together properly.

Pros: I really like the ride of this board. The Khyber absolutely slays big mountain! I haven't noticed any chattering or wobble at speeds. The board feels solid, responsive and floats very well. It handles the occasional chop and crust the edges are burley and the board seems well crafted. The side-cut, shape and stance options allow the rider to tweak the setup to perfection. I was carving the steeps and weaving through tight trees effortlessly the first day on mine. I didn’t notice any sluggishness or sign that it could be converted into skis…what splitboard?

Cons: This board rides awesome, getting there takes a little practice. When the board is iced packed and your frozen fingers fail to convert the board completely you’ll notice a little slop in the ride. Take the time to bang off ice and snow so that the conversion fits snuggly, there is really no other way it will fit together.

...then hold on to your hat!

~Product outline by Prior snowboards ~
The Khyber Splitboard is a performance backcountry powderboard whose popularity continues to grow as word spreads about its amazing ride. Its wider nose, generous sidecut and increased taper provide improved float and maneuverability in powder conditions compared with standard freeride shapes. Drop into chutes, pillow lines and trees with quick-turning confidence.
Riders The Khyber splitboard is designed for snowboard enthusiasts who desire a performance snowboard that provides unparalleled, self-propelled, backcountry snowboard access combined with a great ride over all winter snow conditions - with an accent on tight trees and terrain requiring extra maneuverability.
Ride The Khyber splitboard trims up in the powder with ease and exceeds all others in tight trees. Its ride is quick turning, stable and predictable. Its tapered shape performs extremely well on hardpack conditions and varied snowpack - something all splitboarders have to deal with at lower elevations at some point during the season. The side-cut is slightly set back due to the width of the nose giving it a "surfy" feel.
Recommended length We suggest you ride the Khyber either the same length as your standard freeride board or a few cm shorter.
Conditions The Khyber excels in powder of all kinds. The Khyber also performs surprisingly well on groomed runs, ice, crud, and all-mountain conditions. It also rides switch with ease.
Design Shape: The Khyber has a longer, wider, more gradually shaped nose than our regular freeride boards for improved float in the powder. A combination of a narrower, shorter tail, setback inserts and significant taper, complete the powder profile. Note there is still plenty of width through the rear insert pack to minimize heel and toe drag.

Turning radius: Moderate for quick edge-to-edge transfer and turning ability.

Flex: The Khyber is stable underfoot with a slightly softer nose and tail for powder performance.

Strength: All Prior splitboards have steel edges and UHMW sidewalls around each board half. This feature combined with Prior's handcrafted sidewall construction and new resin system, results in board longevity- the Khyber splitboard retains its camber and delivers a high performance ride even after several years of hard use.