This last saturday my friend Ty hosted the Lake Tahoe Backcountry Festival. He asked me if I would present a slide show and share my experiences of skiing in the BC around the world. It was a bit nerve racking with 60+ spectators looking and listening on, all the lights off and a spot light on me. Quite fun as well. The turnout was great, and I want to thank everyone who came and supported the event. The whole purpose was to raise awareness on traveling safe in the backcountry, raise money for Sierra Avalanche Center, and raise hell and party. Over 100 people showed up to listen to a weather discussion, an avalanche forecaster at SAC speak, and a pro spotlight(me). Spotlight it was for sure. We also had some great door and raffle prizes, I think everyone in the room went home with something. Some more than others. One lucky sole went home with a new Voile split board set up. He was stoked, and we were thrilled that we could raise over $ 1,600.00 dollars for our local avalanche center. Make sure your checking the report, practicing with your beacon, and making good decisions. Live to ski another day. Best!
Below is what I presented, the writing is a little sketchy because it’s all ideas to go off.
It’s nice to see so many familiar faces out here tonight. Thank you everyone for coming out and supporting the event. Thank you Ty Dayberry for coordinating this event, and thank you Sierra Avalanche Center for your commitment to providing us with up to date snowpack conditions. Much appreciated, Thank you!
I grew up ski racing in Washington State, and I continued to do so until I was a freshman in High school. It was a successful run, and I appreciate every minute of it looking back. Eventually, I got bored with it and found myself sneaking off to free ski whenever I could. There might have been another activity associated with that as well. But we won’t go into that. I knew early on that skiing is what I wanted to do. I focused on skiing the whole mountain with my own creative outlook, and it’s led me to the point I am at. It’s my life, its self-reflection; it’s an open canvas to express me. Moved to Tahoe when I was seventeen….
Throughout my whole career in skiing I have always had a mentor. Weather it was my dad dragging me up the bunny hill for me to straight line to the bottom and wait for another pull, My race coach teaching me the fundamentals of skiing, Or ski guides showing me how they conduct a compression test in some of the biggest mountains in the world. I have learned a lot through my own personal experiences, but most of my knowledge and skill has been passed down. There is always someone that knows more than me, and I have learned to keep an open mind, and ears at all times.
I wouldn’t know a fraction of what I do without these mentors in my life, and I want to thank them as well. I do what I can to pass what knowledge I have on to others. It’s always nice to teach, or relieve troubles with a simple fix that can turn someone’s day around. Never pass an opportunity to go out with your friends, just make sure everyone is on the same page. You can learn a lot from each other, and about each other. You know someone so much better after a day of touring.
I am not up here to act like I know more than anyone else out there, because I don’t, I am simply here to share some of my experiences and what I have learned to this point. I am still learning, and every day I am in the mountains, no matter where it is around the world, I learn something new every time. There are a lot of elements that go into exploring, and playing in the mountains, and at of the end of the day, everyone’s goal is to have fun and come home to their loved ones. It’s powerful out there, and that’s why we all share so much love for it, but the moment you stop respecting the mountain is when you find yourself in trouble. It’s important to keep a level head, and avoid impulsive decisions. Take your time and think about a little bit. Let it flow! Breath!
In bigger lines, I have learned to really examine what I’m skiing If I have the option to. Sometimes that can be hard in a heli, but when I have the chance, I like to go through a checklist. Is there a safe zone, what about the run out, is there a bergstrun? Yes there is. Okay! That’s where I need to exit. How am I going to manage my slough, try to stay ahead of it up top and hop over that skiers left spine. It’s intense! But I love it! Quick story! I like to go with my gut feeling all the time but especially on bigger lines. I was at the World Heli Challenge in Wanaka, New Zealand. A helicopter accessed big mountain contest in Mt. Aspiring National Park. Lord of the rings type stuff. Beautiful!
Anyway, during my run, I got on top of this really pitched out double, it looked like death if you didn’t stick it, I opted out of it which killed my fluidity, but none the less I was down safe to ski another run. Sure enough, a few riders later, Ted Davenport ends up on top of this same line, you could tell that he was debating whether to go or not, but he went ahead and sent it, caught a shark on the first stage of the double, tommied down a few hundred feet and broke both his legs. Bless his little heart. I mean crazy. It was this huge ordeal rescuing him off the side of this mountain; the heli had a hard time landing due to how steep the pitch was where Ted was lying. It was scary. You can lose your shit out there quick. Go with your gut! If your not felling it, you’re just not felling it. Live to ski another day.
I have been blessed to travel the world and ski places I have been dreaming of since I was a little kid. Through different filming and contest opportunities, I have experienced a number of different ranges and have learned a lot about how the Snow pack can vary from one place to the next. You have the Maritime snowpack up and down the west coast to Japan, parts of Canada and Alaska which is usually a deeper, denser, more consistent, stable snowpack. A Continental snowpack in the Colorado Rockies, and along the continental divide in Wyoming and Montana which is usually more shallow, less dense, layered, typically less stable snowpack, and you have the Intermountain snowpack in the Sawtooths, really all of Idaho, Nevada, western Utah, which is a transition Snowpack between the two.
I have skied them all, but I would have to say, my favorite is The maritime, I grew up in it, I live in it now, Japan and Alaska are my favorite place to ski, so it’s what is most familiar to me. I love it! I feel confident in my abilities to ski in it. No matter where you are skiing, with proper planning and decision-making it can be another successful day.
There are all these great websites to check for up to date avalanche forecasting and weather conditions. These guys are not slacking; they are out there everyday, and they are well educated and experienced. Locally we have Sierra Avalanche center, but you can usually find something similar to this anywhere you happen to be skiing. There is also links for education opportunities, Avy 1, 2, 3 where you can learn a lot, more than I. It’s a great way to learn about the backcountry, and recognize what the snow is going to do.
Then you can decide if you’re comfortable to rip that line or not. Experience with education can really improve your chances out there. I encourage every one to Check the report, practice with your beacon, and make conscious decisions.