A few years ago, Steve Romeo and I set out early one snowy morning with the intention of skiing the Nez Perce Trifecta - a link-up of the Sliver, East Hourglass and West Hourglass Couloirs. We hauled a couple of ropes and some hardware up Garnet Canyon prepared for anything except for the thigh deep powder we encountered. We bailed. Steve got the mission done last year with a different partner but the project has remained on my list since that first attempt.
There is no arguing the fact that ski mountaineering racing is a gear-intensive pursuit. The equipment is highly specialized and there is a small segment of the ski industry dedicated to developing gear for racing. As the sport grows we are seeing more niche companies entering the fray and grabbing a piece of the market. Much of this gear and the technology used to create it has started trickling back to mainstream skiers.
There's a life time of steep ski lines in the Tetons. Some are easier to get to than others. Many are on every backcountry skier's hit list and see frequent descents while others never come up on the radar for one reason or another. After skiing one of the more obvious gems in the range, the Apocalypse Couloir on the north side of Prospector Mountain, a couple of weeks ago another line in the same area came up in conversation. The Vee Couloir is one of those runs I have heard little about over the years. Steve Romeo at TetonAT.com posted a picture of it a few years ago during one of his "Name that Couloir" posts. I hadn't thought of it since.
After something like 35 years of climbing and skiing in the mountains I've been reminded over and over that the best outings are the ones filled with the most uncertainty. Sure, heading out on a typical Teton powder day is filled with anticipation of fun but the conclusion is nearly certain most days… cruiser skin tracks, blower powder and, generally, good times. Tons of fun but minimal adventure and little uncertainty.
Now that my skimo race season is over, it's time to take my race fitness to the mountains and ski some fun lines. One of the short comings of competing is ski mountaineering races is that training needs to happen and, depending upon your degree of commitment, should be specific to the demands unique to the racing format. It's not that you can't come off of a program of shralping the gnar in the backcountry and still perform well in competition. It's just that you probably won't do as well.