Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dogtooth Dash and Vert 180

I apologize to my regular readers for the delay, I just have not been very motivated to write when there is TV to be watched, Facebook feeds to be scrolled through, and bikes to be ridden.

This year, the Dogtooth Dash began a day early with a vertical race. Having sat out the vertical race at world championships last year, this would be my first crack at the format that favours efficiency and power rather than technique and fearlessness (other than laying it on the line!)

The race started with the usual mad dash on some appropriately angled terrain, then the course hit a steep wall! I was actually doing quite well here, relying on skinning technique (keeping those skis flat on the snow rather than edging), getting in a good rhythm and being able to go max out JUST to get up the hill! Then as the course crested onto the 10 road cat track, the angle lessened and classical diagonal stride technique became very important. I broke the instep buckle rivet on my boot trying to get a good kick and glide going. I put in a strong effort, and had a really good sprint in the run towards the finish, but lost some ground on the flatter sections. Looks like I'll have to spend some time on the classic sticks next winter. Roller skis? Mmmmmmaybe...

Nice and sunny at the finish.
The next day was the main event. I felt like I had recovered well from the vertical race the day before but a hard effort had taken the very top end out of my legs. This actually led me to race with a different strategy, rather than starting out hard and blowing up, I would just race at a reasonable pace. Now I'm a big believer in the slingshot effect of getting a good start and then recovering, but oh well, let's give this one a go!
I was feeling good and sitting well but suffered on the leadup to the tunnel vision bootpack roughly halfway into the race. After having the race of my life and finishing 3rd last year in just another highlight of a wonderful season, I was in tough shape. My mind was tormented with thoughts of self doubt, emotion from an event that happened the previous weekend, that had me really questioning why I had been burning vacation days, weekends, and dinosaur turds to head to these races. Then on the next climb I looked up and could see that the battle for 3rd place was not too far ahead and I was just a skin failure (not unrealistic with dry snowy conditions and lots of transitions) or blowup away from really being in race. I'll take that as a consolation prize for this Weekend Warrior.

With a flawless transition and excellent skiing on the last descent, I really lit a match under the wick of those in front of me and I was ready to battle for the next couple of spots. I didn't have much left to make the catch, but I was happy with that.
So yeah, definitely feel like there is some work to do to get back to the level that I think I can race at: I've got to get more intimate with staircases and XC skis.

A couple of weeks later was the Vert 180, rescheduled after being postponed in December due to cold weather. Normally this race is a great time to work on transitions and get 3hrs of hard effort to kick off the season. Now moved to the end of the season, where my mind was craving spring skiing and rest and I had no reason to practice transition skills that I would not need for 9 months, I was not terribly motivated.

But with the sun shining, soft snow, and my sleeves rolled up, I actually enjoyed racing on last time this season. We bombed down the slalom pitch which got icier and icier as the night progressed. I settled into 2nd position. Travis was untouchable, not even a broken boot cable and stopping to fetch a Voile strap could allow me to reel him in. The course got faster as the night approached and the snow froze. I felt like I was able to maintain a good cadence the whole time and so I can say that I had a lot more fun than I thought that I would have.

So a great season capped off. I've got my work cut out for me if I want to hang with the lead group next year!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mistaya Week!

In February of last year, I made a short compilation out of the best clips that I had gotten up to that point. At that point, I was well into E-SKIMO episode 8 and I had lots of great video to chose from. I ended up winning Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association's monthly prize, a week at Mistaya Lodge!

Fast forward to earlier this month and I was pumped, and although the average age of that week's clients would exceed 55 as estimated  by the lodge manager, the weather was looking good. Weather-wise, I picked the perfect week. After a week of frigid weather, the skies opened up and it snowed almost 1m of snow while I was there!

On Sunday the fly-in day, I was a little hungover and I knew I had to bring my 'A' game if I was to sit shotgun in the helicopter for my first ever ride. Fortunately the flight went fairly smoothly, but with some clouds obscuring views of the high peaks of the Freshfields and Mt. Forbes. Mistaya Lodge is just on the other side of the divide from Peyto Hut, in fact it is not uncommon for motivated groups to exit to Bow Lake over the Trapper-Baker col.

Upon arriving at the lodge, I was hit full force with the smell of warm cinnamon buns, in a warm, spacious lodge complete with composting toilets and 4 person bedrooms. A definite step up from the ACC huts.

Delicious breakfasts preceeded days of skiing deep snow that had refilled skintracks intertwined with digging into our lunch bags for home baked goodies, then followed by tasty apetizers, sauna time, massive dinners, and sweet deserts.

We explored zones like Heather Ridge, Mista Vista, Leprechauns, Wildcat Moraines, Grindal Moraines, Red Cliff, Mohawk Ridge, the Abyss, the Waterfall, Shroom Room, Sarah's, and Leah's Lane. Runs below the lodge (Shroom Room, Sarah's, Leah's) were definitely the highlight of the week as they were full of partially submerged boulders where we could bounce over the pillows.

I really enjoyed the skiing, and I found that lodge owner, Dave, and assistant guide Ken had an excellent handle on the area and were able to get us into some fun terrain even during elevated avalanche danger.

I found the guided pace to be almost excruciatingly slow. There were probably some of the best ski conditions that I would find all year (comparable to Valemount), but collectively, we just didn't have the speed, endurance, or quick transitions required to make the most of it. A couple of days into the week, I resorted to breaking my own trail to keep things interesting for me. There was a 6-4 split of slower skiers to "better" skiers, and there were days where we skied as a 10 person group!

Cave at the top of Sarah's

Spacious lodge

After my first heli ride. shot gun!

Skiing to the Shroom Room. I would get to punch this track in on Friday!

Pillows everywhere in the Shroom Room.

Leah's Lane funnels into an avalanche path, very much like a ski run at the hill.

Awesome glacier runs would certainly be a highlight if the weather, group abililty, and stability stars align.

My handiwork. A new track every lap!

Sky cleared up so we could fly home and what did we see!

It does snow in the rockies!
The food and terrain knowledge of the guides has made me a believer in the catered and guided experience, but I think it is important to roll up with at least half the lodge consisting of shredder buddies to make the most out the skiing experience! Or I should check out Selkirk Mountain Experience or CAPOW's Fit and Furious week.

Coldsmoke ROAM Rally

This one was interesting. With both HWY's 3 and 3a scheduled to be shut down on our travel day, we opted to instead head to Nelson via Revelstoke, and unknown route for me, but an excellent adventure.

"3 BONErs is enough for today"
We stopped at a small ski hill just outside of Nakusp with the intent of skiing a couple of laps to keep the legs from getting too stiff. We skied up and down an untracked run on the far side of the ski hill...until we got kicked off! Apparently the run was closed, and an obviously annoyed patroller wanted us to pay to continue to ski there. And she was not impressed that we were from Alberta. Supply of BC bud must be tight! Is Summit Lake on public land? I guess it's better to ask for permission than to beg for forgiveness and we rolled out. Anyways, those were my first real runs on the Gignouxs, they skied awesome, I was stoked to race in them!

Logs coming across one way, logs heading back the other. I guess they are probably 2 different types of wood.

Lots of ski lines visible from the ferry.
At the meeting, we were presented with a course that would avoid the corniced ridgeline skiing and skins-on descents of previous years. And there were lots of big guns attending (except for Nick Elson). Giddy-up!

It was cold the next morning and it took a while for everyone to get lined up so I was freezing in my skinsuit! I got my trademark fast start, but lost some places where the track steepened after leaving the groomed run. I skied the next descents well and enjoyed the climb up to the aesthetic bootpack. Things unraveled when I lost the flags on the 2nd to last descent, skied by the unmanned checkpoint and lost some time (but caught the guys in front of me, who also got lost) skinning up then descending back down to the checkpoint once we finally found it.

Fortunately that extra transition didn't lead to any skin failure issues as I was prepared with my secret weapon but knowing that the people who I had put some time into at the top of climb #4 were now well ahead of me, I mentally shut down, and went into "get to the finish mode". I ended up 7th whereas I was sitting in 5th before that mishap. Fortunately, I snagged a good draw prize from ROAM for my troubles!
Gignouxs. Enough to drive some 187 G3 Districts. Note the G3 ion binding. The toepieces did not play well with the Gignouxs.
On the way home, we stopped at Kootenay pass for a couple laps in the Baldy rocks area. We enjoyed our day, but that enjoyment was short lived after we arrived home and learned that there had been a fatality on the adjacent Lightning Ridge. So sad.

Valemount long weekend

After the cold snap, the high pressure was pushed out and it started dumping. With the family day long weekend upon us, I thought it would be a good opportunity to check out Valemount instead of scouring my brain looking for places to find good, safe skiing around Canmore. Clear skies and moonlight through Jasper was great for staring at mountains I haven't seen for almost 10 years. It started dumping as soon as we crossed the BC border but we arrived in Valemount late with the full moon showing. Reiner and Karen played wonderful hosts, showings us the goods, and good food.

Heavy trailbreaking slowed Reiner down...for the first lap!

A 3000m day, deep snow, and steep trees. My best day of ski touring ever?

Out of the parks and into heli ski territory!

Monday in the Rockies. Skiing 3 different mountain ranges in 3 days. Monashees, Cariboos, Rockies!

Stoking the fire
Delicious homemade sushi, not as hard to make as you think!

2014 Schedule and Results

Castle Mountain Ski-mo January 11. 4th
Whitefish Whiteout January 25. 5th
Whitewater ROAM Rally February 22. 7th
Dogtooth Dash Vertical and Individual March 21, 22.
Vert 180 April 5

Royal River Valley Rumble XC May 24, 25
Deadgoat Summer Solstace XC May 31
Iron Maiden XC June 7 or MS150 Leduc to Camrose. Sadly I will miss the Kootenay Krusher, also on June 7th
Canmore Enduro June 15
Stoke to Get Spanked June 22
Fernie 3 June 28-30
Devon River Raid XC July 5-6

Kicking Horse Cup July 19-20
Perogy XC July 27

Canmore MTB Festival August 9-10

100k Galena Ghost ride August 31

Monday, February 10, 2014

Into the icebox

Of the 4 ski mountaineering races that I have wanted to do so far this year, 2 have been cancelled while the other two have gone on with some course modifications. This time the Ken Jones Classic was postponed due to cold temperatures.

Doing some urban skimo training!
 With a relatively stable but thin snowpack, we had some options. With the cold temperatures and crust on the solar aspects, a traverse involving climbing the south slopes and descending the north seemed like the best way to make use of the conditions.
The top of climb 1.

crossing tracks where the descent funneled.

Staying in the sun on climb 2.

Getting a little zesty in the scree!

Downclimbing on belay into descent number 2. Prime conditions!

Craig slaying the excellent conditions on his new skis!

Descent 3. Craig had to sit this one out with skin failure that can be traced back to the EU limiting imports on toluene.
Great day, although we were not able to complete the full traverse as intended and missed out on the last climb. I was struggling to come up with more options, so day 2 was a bit of a bust, though nice to get out and be comfortable in the cold.

I've been quiet for the past little while
3rd time in this zone this season. The snow makes the slog worth it!

Skiing off the top on Super Bowl Sunday!

Getting some deep turns in the same spot earlier in January.
And how could I forget, some real Edmonton skiing!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Whitefish Whiteout 2014

Once again, I made the long solo pilgrimage to another race. The Whitefish Whiteout is always a good time, the resort and the community really stand behind the event, the fields are always deep and full of "wild cards", and I like the layout of the course with decreasing climb lengths, which makes it easy to mentally break the race down.

Thick fog...er "low cloud"...er "adverse visibility" blanketed the mountain, and lack of precipitation and warm temperatures in the weeks preceding the race meant more bootpacks and dodging glide cracks.

My last report was full of plenty of excuses, most of them not holding much water. In the days before this race, I would wake up with a sore throat, and I'm not sure my legs appreciated a day of inactivity + a long drive the day before the race. But, hey, why not try to throw down!

I started hard, making sure I was at the front of what was a long line of skiers on light gear. A couple of steep sections later, the pack was whittled down to just 3 with newbie Travis Brown (not to be confused with mountain biking legend Travis Brown) lurking behind. Everything was going well for me according to plan until we hit a flatter section near the top. My legs (noteably my right hip flexor) was screaming, and I watched Ben and Eric creep away from me.

I started the first descent cautiously to make sure I dropped into the crunchy chunder at the right spot. The hip flexor cramped up in the transition. Fortunately, maybe halfway up the climb, I was back in race mode engaged in a solid battle for 3rd place. In the end, I slid into 5th place pushing through the screaming legs.

After another night in the 2nd biggest house up at the mountian, which was packed full of young adults consuming adult beverages, I woke up early to go for a short tour just past the ski area boundary. Carl showed us the goods, which delivered some surfy snow, even on the race skis.

Pete Siudara's Pictures

Myke Hermsmeyer's pictures