Normally, when one travels to altitude after living at sea level, it’s best to ease into high-level physical activity. The physiologic adaptations, which allow us to tolerate exercising up high, take the better part of a week to get rolling. Certainly, several weeks are needed to feel strong. But with short vacations, it’s hard to be patient. On my recent trip to the Tetons, I demonstrated a complete disregard for what needs to happen.
While the rest of the country has been waiting for winter to arrive (finally this week for them), AK has been quietly accumulating snow and delivering great ski days for those willing to hike above the rain line. Sadly, the large system that rolled through the Talkeetnas at the end of November delivered our first avy fatality of the season. Jed Workman from the Hatcher Pass Avalanche Center described the conditions as the worst cycle in the last ten years. In spite of the dire warnings, Liam Walsh ventured out solo and never returned. His body recovery is unlikely until the spring thaw. Sobering.
Here's a quick hit of pictures from a few outings on Turnagain Pass on the Kenai Peninsula these past two weekends. The first was with a new group of partners, all hard-ass skiers, a couple with Olympic credentials. We had a great day on **** and made the most of the conditions at hand. The season is rolling but still feels a bit hesitant in really gaining momentum. We had a wet warm up this past week with lots of rain near the alpine. But if you were willing to slog through the mess down low you were rewarded with stable and perfectly acceptable powder skiing. This was certainly, "you don't know until you go" kind of skiing. How sweet it was.
As the on-line ski mountaineering dealer, Skimo.co, settles into their new store front in Salt Lake City, I feel compelled to look back at the arguably fringe sport of light weight ski mountaineering and skimo racing and how elusive the equipment was in North America just a few short years ago. My own evolution in the sport coincided with the equipment's availability outside of Europe. In the early days, part of the competition was outfitting ourselves with the best gear, not always an easy proposition. And if we couldn't afford it or find it, lightnening and modifying what we had was the next best thing. Truth be told, you can buy speed. Jason Borro at Skimo Co makes easier than ever with great customer service and beta for everyone.
The anticipation of winter is always an oddly stressful time for me. I used not give it much thought as winter always came and the skiing commenced. But that was before whatever is going on now. Global warming? Natural cycles? Depending upon your political leanings, you can choose your explanation. But the bottom line is that winter has been fickle and elusive the past few years. Each year I'd say, "....well, it can't be any worse than last year...." and then it is. Gives me heart burn. Fortunately, this season seems to be shaping up in a more positive way.