Adam 12 and Eric Wilbur sat down to discuss how this week's big snowstorm has affected ski country, as well as some of the deals to expect on St. Patrick's Day.
Snocountry's Halley O'Brien is at Jay Peak, just one of the many New England resorts getting dumped on this week with one of the biggest snow storms to his snow country this season.
Tim Kelley has good news for skiers and riders, who could see more than two feet of snow fall in some areas of New England this week.
Ski trips are a gamble. You can map out every detail from lodging to ski terrain, but Mother Nature has the last say. Will you have sun or snow, wind, powder or warm spring conditions – or all of the above? It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. I am skiing in Switzerland in an unusual high pressure system, giving us glorious sunshine, 40F, with midwinter skiing at the high alpine summits and soft spring snow at the base. I packed too many handwarmers and not enough sunscreen.
Meanwhile, I see Snow Storm Vulcan veering up the East coast about to dump another wintry mix on New England and potentially two plus feet of powder in central Vermont and Northern Maine.
Impressive that the Weather Channel has blazed through their alphabetic names to V by mid-March. Might we exceed 26 snow storms this season? That would be a skiers’ delight for sure, setting up excellent conditions for the remainder of the ski season in New England.
Here in Switzerland, we have skied amazingly long scenic descents, off a 9,000’ glacier at Gstaad, to adventurous drops from the James Bond famous Piz Gloria at Schilthorn in The Jungfrau, even skied the Lauberhorn Downhill where Bode Miller won Gold in 2012 and the slalom course in Wengen where Ted Ligety seized Super Combined Gold this January. Skiing off the 10,000’ Titlis Glacier in Engelberg today was epic.
That’s my box of chocolates, the Swiss kind, fondue too. Tomorrow I hope to be able to return home in the middle of a snowstorm, and not have too much snow in my driveway – funny, kind of.
See you on the slopes. Photos of Gstaad and Engleberg Switzerland by Greg Burke
Sunday River is hosting a two day Woodward Mini Camp March 22-23 with professional ski and snowboard coaching, training and access to a private terrain park. Woodward Camp in Copper, Tahoe and Pennsylvania are noted for some of the best instruction for young free skiers and riders in terrain park tricks, jumps and skills. They are taking their pro snow show on the road to the River. For kids 7-19, this is a huge opportunity to ski and ride with serious talent, learn to slide rails, hit boxes or maybe learn to turn out a backside rodeo right here. Woodward is also bringing a Digital Media Camp for young videographer wanting to learn to take their GoPro to the pro level. Digital campers will learn to create quality action video, then edit and export it - learning from professionals in the film and TV field.
Campers do not need to be emerging experts, the Sunday River Woodward Mini Camp is open to all abilities ages 7-19. The camp costs $329 ($269 for passholders) for two days March 22-23 of professional coaching, private park access, activities and prizes. The Woodward Mini Camp is also being offered at Killington Resort in Vermont March 29-30 and Mt Bachelor Oregon April 5-6.
Simon himself will be at Sunday River's Woodward Camp, leading up to his 6th annual Dumont Cup the following weekend March 28-29. I suspect many of Simon Dumont's free skiing pro bro friends will be coming back to The River fresh from XGames and The Olympic to perform and grab some of the $20,000 in cash prizes at the Dumont Cup. New for the Dumont Cup's 6th season, the competition will be held on Sunday River's new T72 trail which was designed by Dumont. The Dumont Cup has grown to become the largest pro-am free-skiing competition in the East, an AFP sectioned event with points on the line as well as pride and prizes.
Snocountry's Halley O'Brien is at Burke Mountain, where March has come in like a lion. Skiing and riding couldn't be setting up better for March's warmer temps which are hopefully coming soon.
Herb "The Skiing Weatherman" Stevens has the latest on conditions from the slopes in this week's forecast.
I think technology has spoiled aspects of skiing. Don't get me wrong, I love certain ski technology. My skis with rocker in the tip and tail plow through crud and pow, but still carve on cord and hard pack. I enjoy taking photos on my phone and tracking my vertical with the Alpine Replay app. On a recent heli ski trip, I was amazed by the accuracy of the new transceivers during our avalanche training. So I am not "old school" but I think the tech wave has brought several unfortunate changes to the purity of skiing.
I don't like riding the chair, or worse a gondola, with someone who is chatting on their cell phone or cranking out loud music I can overhear from their ear buds. I enjoy meeting new skiers, talking about their travels and favorite trails on the lift rides. I find it rude to exclude the one you're with.
For those of you sporting your helmet loaded up with skull candy music or noise canceling headphones, I don't think that makes you safer if you can't hear an oncoming groomer, snowmobile, snowboarder or skier.
I have witnessed skiers talking on their cell while cruising down the mountain, texting with their poles tucked under one arm as they skid down the ski trail, even chatting with their flip phone wedged in their helmet. That's distracted driving on the ski slopes and should be banned here and on the highway.
I worry about the latest Smart Goggles by Oakley and Smith. Do you really need a digital display on your lens of a trail map, your GPS coordinates, your altitude, speed, incoming texts and emails? Seems like a distracting amount of data to me. Besides, don't we got to the mountains to take a break from tech, work and the web?
I think people that wear Go Pro cameras on top of their helmets look like TeleTubbies. There I said it. I understand the desire to see your skiing, to capture and download your day digitally and upload it to YouTube. But I wonder how many of these countless hours of mundane footage are actually ever viewed.
On a recent heli ski day in BC, our cell phones had to be turned off all day so as not to interfere with our avi-transceivers. We enjoyed great banter and many laughs with our German heli-mates, total strangers with limited English became friends during our day's adventure. As soon as we returned to the lodge however, the cell phones came on, videos were watched and the flow of conversation stopped.
Après ski used to be about sharing stories and laughs about your day with your alpine buddies. Now I see skiers and riders glued to their cells, posting pics to instagram, facebooking selfies, and watching their videos. Social media isn't very social here people.
Why not go off-line when you are on the ski slopes? Unplug during your upload and talk to your chairlift neighbor, maybe make a new alpine acquaintance Savor nature's silence and snow on a secluded ski trail without tunes. Take in the stunning alpine scenery in your mind's memory card. Focus on your good fortune outside, and not facebook check ins. I will remind myself too, as I tend to over share. I look forward to meeting you on a ski lift ride.
See you on the slopes.
I have heli skied a few times now, a lucky seven in fact. My issue: it’s always me and the boys. Male guides, male helicopter pilots, and all male participants. My girlfriends think I am crazy to be getting in a helicopter and soaring to high Canadian peaks, skiing remote untouched terrain. One very dear friend said I was a "risk taker." These women jump out of planes on decade birthdays -they think sky diving is awesome. I think they are crazy - it's not the jumping, it’s the landing that concerns me. Back to heli skiing, and me and the boys.
I won’t pretend for a minute that there aren’t real risks with heli skiing, I’ll grant my girlfriends that. But there is immense safety protocol too (probably true of skydiving too). I have oft used the analogy that skiing is safer than driving, and sure enough on a recent heli ski day (operator name withheld), our Guide hit a parked car with the shuttle van on our way to the heli-port. Fortunately he was better on snow than behind the wheel.
As Guide Derek at Purcell Heli Skiing said, there is low probability but high consequences in heli skiing. The dangers are dramatically reduced by selecting a reputable heli ski company, paying attention to the morning safety briefing, heeding your guide's instructions all day, being aware of your surroundings, and skiing with skill and care. Ski only where your guide has cleared and stay clear of tree wells. I was surprised to learn that tree wells are as hazardous to skiers and snowboarders as avalanches. Yet another reason to give plenty of girth to the trees when skiing glades.
The helicopter instruction are also vital, like NEVER walk behind a helicopter, huddle close to the chopper during landings and take offs. Once skiing, NEVER pass your guide, ski exactly where he tells you to, and do not ski away from your group.
Women are very good at following instructions, traditionally attentive and good listeners. Women are typically caring and careful, and less apt to overstate their ski ability. These are all important qualities in a heli skier, therefore I think women who are strong expert skiers would make good heli skiers.
I asked our Mountain Guide Sandy, a Level 3 PSIA guide at Kicking Horse, my ladies’ heli skiing question. Sandy quickly replied, “Women lack confidence.” If that is the case, let me say that heli skiing is not typically hucking cliffs, dropping huge pillow tops, or ripping two arcs down a 4,000’ face. Ski films do a disservice by showing extreme heli skiing on super steep pistes with skiers doing back flips off cornices. That’s the exception, not the norm. On the flip side, heli ski operators promote that you need only be a strong intermediate skier, I disagree.
You need to be very competent, fit, capable of skiing double black diamonds at any ski resort, be prepared to ski windblown, rime, deep powder, tight trees, crud, anything – perhaps all in one run. Heli ski terrain is inimitable and unpredictable, high alpine adventure with no lifts, no lodges, no signage, just pristine untouched (read: un-groomed) imperfect picturesque snow.
Heli skiing still makes me anxious, in a good way, I get crazy amped the night before. I don’t take lightly the risks, but I cannot under sell the rewards. After that first heli flight to the top of a magnificent mountain in the middle of nowhere, the fears subside and the skiing adventure begins. The camaraderie that develops between your ski group and your guide is special too. I just wish I could share this exhilarating experience with a gal or two. How did I do convincing you ladies? Did I mention you are outside on the mountain all day long, including lunch in the snow, with no powder room, well just one big powder room? Am I selling it ladies? Or is it still going to be just me and the boys?
Heli Ski Photos by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur joined Adam 12 on Radio BDC to discuss the skiing scene as the calendar turns to March, Wilbur's favorite month of the year for hitting the slopes.
Revelstoke made big news when it debuted in 2007, the newest ski resort with the biggest vertical in North America - an amazing 5,620’. We were stoked to ski "Revy," the British Columbia ski area with loads of nicknames. Revelstoke Mountain Resort's 3,121 acres were previously cat skiing tenure. Now Revelstoke offers lift-serviced resort skiing, plus backcountry terrain, cat and heli skiing all from one base - huge vert with huge options for avid skiers.
Revelstoke Ski Resort is actually located on 8,058' Mt Mackenzie, but named for the nearby town, neighboring mountain and National Park established in 1914. Across the Columbia River valley are the Monashees - home to some of the best heli skiing in the world. Revy has become a Mecca for big mountain skiers and thrill-seekers.
From Revelstoke's convenient base village, where we stayed at the posh Sutton Place Hotel, the Revelation gondola launched us 3,800' up the Frontside. We skied down to the upper mountain Stoke Quad, from this summit we found amazingly long alpine trails like Snow Rodeo and Pitch Black. These perfectly-pitched unrelenting runs descend well over 4,000' vertical back to the Revelation Lodge and gondi mid-station (closer to the bottom than mid-mountain). The stunning scenery of the Columbia River below and the Monashees beyond was my excuse to stop and catch my breath on these super lengthy ski trails.
Banging a skier's right, we skied a rather steep Critical Path (a Blue Square here but Black Diamond by our East Coast standards) around the mountain to the Ripper quad. This northern flank of Revelstoke offers plentiful glades, Snorkel, Powder Monkey and aptly-named Stop at the Road Glades - a reminder that Revelstoke has enough terrain inbounds, you don't need to duck the ropes and risk spending the night out there.
In the afternoon, we were stoked to ski the extreme North Bowl and Greeley Bowl, with a short hike up Lemming Line - a ski boot packed path from the Stoke summit. A few must-make turns in Drop In led us to open all-natural bowl skiing in Powder Assault. A later adventure in Greeley Bowl, we witnessed super steeps cliffs above us if we had hiked higher, we were plenty satisfied with Gracias Ridge which led to a bobsled-style run out on Baxter's, back to the Ripper Chair. Our runs took almost an hour at times on Revy's sizeable conical mountain, and we never waited in a lift line.
Adding a day of heli skiing is super convenient with pickups from the resort village, or cat skiing which you ski to from Revelstoke's lifts. Revelstoke really has the trifecta - lift, heli and cat ski terrain. The "problem" with Revelstoke? It has earned the nickname Revel-stuck when mountain roads like Roger's Pass close with too much snow. Most skiers don't mind getting stuck at "Revy" though.
Reve means dream in French, and if you fantasize about long steep runs and big fresh bowls, Revelstoke is your ski stoke dream come true. Much like Kicking Horse two hours away, Revy is best saved for when you and your family are ready for serious terrain. For an amazing alpine adventure, ski Kicking Horse and Revelstoke in British Columbia flying into Calgary with a few days skiing Lake Louise and Sunshine in Banff Alberta along the way. By Heather Burke, Photos by Greg Burke
Snocountry's Halley O'Brien has the latest word from the slopes of New England, including experiencing First Tracks at Sugarbush Mountain Resort in Vermont.
Herb "The Skiing Weatherman" Stevens has the latest forecast for the slopes this weekend.
Although private use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado, Amendment 64, Vail is reminding skiers and riders that public use of pot remains illegal. That includes their four Colorado ski slopes at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone. Vail and the US Forest Service have taken steps to prevent marijuana use on the mountains by spreading the "no weed here" word and by destroying "smoke shacks" on the ski resort premises.
According to SAM, Ski Area Management, Vail and The US Forest Service have recently demolished several "smoke shacks" which were illegally built on Vail Resorts' ski slopes - which operate with a permit on USFS lands. How they found these hidden pot parties is not the point, perhaps they followed the smoke signals.
“The safety of our guests and our employees is our highest priority, and we therefore take a zero tolerance approach to skiing or riding under the influence,” said Blaise Carrig, president of Vail Resorts mountain operations. “We do not permit the consumption of marijuana in or on any of our lifts, facilities or premises that we control.”
For anyone slow to get the message, that 's code for no lighting up on the lifts, no ganja in the gondola, no bongs in the base lodge or the Back Bowls either. Rocky Mountain High is just a song by John Denver. Period.
"We want the public to know that the consequences of being caught smoking marijuana on our mountains are removal from the mountain and the suspension of skiing and riding privileges,” Carrig said.
Enough said. Enjoy your ski day.
The folks at “Every Third Thursday,” a periodical web series produced by California’s Signal Snowboards, have created some interesting versions of snowboards over the years, from an iPad model to a beer bong snowboard in Munich. So, it feels sort of wrong to say their latest is their wackiest innovation, but the results are impressive.
This time around, the crew set out to create a snowboard out of paper and cardboard, and the end product is actually pretty useful. For a short while anyway. Check out the clip to see how they did it.
That's a wrap for Sochi. The most expensive Olympics ever is over. Russia's investment paid off if you count success with the most medals, 33 with 13 Golds for the host. US was tied midway through the games, but ended up fourth behind Norway and Canada. Of the 28 US medals, 8 of the 9 Golds were earned in skiing and snowboarding.
It all started with Sage Kotsenburg winning the first Gold of the Games in Olympic Snowboard Slopestyle, going big after Shaun White backed down. Then Jamie Anderson won Sochi's Snowboard Slopestyle debut for the females.
The highlight to me was the US Men's Slopestyle Skiing medal sweep, Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper landed the entire podium in this first ever Olympic ski venue. Devin Logan won Silver on the ladies side. David Wise and Maddie Bowman won Ski Halfpipe for the US, and Kaitlyn Farrington grabbed Gold in Snowboard Halfpipe.
In Snowboard Cross, Alex Deibold won Bronze. Hannah Kearney took Bronze in Mogul Skiing. No aerial or ski cross medals for the US this time.
On the alpine skiing side, huge props go to Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin for their alpine Golds in GS and Slalom. Andrew Weibrecht took Silver in Super G, where Bode Miller got Bronze and the title "oldest Olympic Alpine medalist" at 36. Of course Julia Mancuso shined bright at the games for Bronze in Combined Slalom.
Ralph Lauren redeemed the US athletes with improved Closing Ceremony uniforms, the navy pea coat with red stripe was more appropriate and less Gramma's Christmas sweater style than the Opening outfits. NBC's coverage was a mix in my opinion, too many ads, talk of Bob Costa's pink eye, and last night's ridiculous 90-minute rehash of the Tonya Harding Nancy Kerrigan scandal should have been iced.
Who would have guessed Russia would host the warmest ever Winter Games with temperatures in the 60s? Now Russia's $50 billion venues at Sochi will host the Paralympics. After that, those expensive hotel rooms, ski slopes and gondola cars at Rosa Khutor are up for grabs.
I had been chomping at the bit to ski Kicking Horse since it opened in 2000. Kicking Horse's trail map is loaded with double black diamonds, and their stats should stable any cowardly skier. Kicking Horse has a 4,133' vertical drop and 85 inbound chutes amid four separate bowls divided by steep ridges with brazen names like CPR and Terminator. My husband had warned me, "you know they don't groom much at Kicking Horse, and it looks steep and pretty wild."
Like the name, Kicking Horse is wild and mostly un-groomed indeed. Our first day skiing this Canadian ski resort, 3 hours west of Calgary, we clocked only 10 runs but our ski thighs were burning from 36,000’ vertical of very steep natural chutes and bowls. Kicking Horse is a beauty to behold, 2,800-acres of bold terrain in the Dogtooth Mountain Range surrounded by the Canadian Rockies and The Purcells. From the summit, you can view six National Parks: Banff, Glacier, Kootenay, Yoho, Revelstoke, and Jasper.
For comparison, Kicking Horse is six feet shy of Jackson Hole's vertical drop. The Golden Eagle Express Gondola goes from The Horse's base village to 7,077’ in 12-minutes for almost the full 4,000’. The ski terrain at Kicking Horse is kick ass, runs here are long, especially if you take the Stairway to Heaven quad to the highest point, 8,033’, then climb the crazy metal staircase to the spectacular Blue Heaven Peak before dropping into Feuz Bowl for some STH - NFT terrain, or enjoy the view then retreat back down the stairs.
The Greens at Kicking Horse from the summit would be blue at other areas, the few blues would be black. The lone "beginner" cat track from the top is called “It’s a Ten” since it swerves 10 kilometers all the way to the base. In one precarious section, its bordered on both sides by sheer drop offs. Novices would be best suited to ski the lower mountain, on the Catamount quad, taking the Gondola to the top for scenery, lunch and a download.
There is a tamer side to Kicking Horse though, including one of the most spectacular mountain top lodges I have ever enjoyed. The Eagle’s Eye perched at the Gondola summit is Canada's highest restaurant. Lunch here is a must, an elk burger, a beer and a bird's eye view of Canada's towering Purcells, Bugaboos and Rockies - bring your sunglasses and camera. Kicking Horse mountain village is cool too - nice slope side digs at Glacier Mountaineer Lodge, and you are a short drive to Golden BC, an authentic western town.
One more wild fact about Kicking Horse, the ski resort actually has a bear lair in the middle of the ski slopes, a 22-acre fenced Grizzle Bear refuge is home to Boo, the 600 pound 12 year old Grizzly who can be seen from the Gondola, more often in April and summer than mid-winter.
Put Kicking Horse on your must-ski list if you are looking for big mountain steep in-bounds skiing, some requires a short hike, and it all requires an unbridled spirit. If you are bringing your family, save the Horse until your kids have harnessed all the double blacks back home. Combine a ski trip to Kicking Horse with a day heli-skiing with Purcell Heli Skiing. We continued on two hours west to Revelstoke for more amazing alpine adventure. Stay stoked for that ski review.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort photos by Greg Burke
Our great friend Art was eager to ski Sugarloaf with us, to show off his home mountain in ideal midwinter conditions. Brilliant blue sky, a balmy 30 degrees and a strong breeze were the precursors of our day as we arrived at the Superquad at 8:20am for first chair, only to find a big red Wind Hold sign.
So we hoofed it up to the Double Runner, the only chair lift open, to reach the T-Bar which Art assured us was the way to go. Riding up this old school steep T-Bar is a blast from the past but pragmatic on a super windy day. From the upper mountain, our first run down the iconic Narrow Gauge was worth the thigh-burner T-Bar ascent as we scored sweet soft windblown on skier's left. As I skied the pitch, I pictured Bode Miller, Ted Ligety, Lindsey Vonn, so many US Ski Team racers having carved these same steeps.
Another T-Bar ride brought us to more snow loaded bumps on Spillway's leeward side. By the time we circled back to the T-Bar, we were met with a legion of Loafers, other skiers derived the same plan as us. As we waited in line, I overheard skiers praising this practical lift. "Thank god for the T-Bar today," several said. A few even bemoaned the loss of other T-Bars that were strategically placed across Sugarloaf's face back in the day.
After that 3rd lift, we decided to break away from the pack by hiking a few hundred feet up boot pack steps to where Skyline usually unloads. Spillway Crosscut was blustery to say the least but brought us over to Widowmaker where we discovered more fun windblown waves and no one but the three of us to surf these fresh mounds of pow. By the time we arrived at the base, the Super Quad was running with a sizeable line, but worth the wait - my thighs were thankful for the cushy four seat quad chair. We slipped in several sweet runs on Sugarloaf classics like Skidder and Double Bitter.
Skyline opened for a few hours and we seized that window to ski the steeps of White Nitro, Gondi line, Wedge and Sluice. Pole Line was a particularly special untracked gem. Art launched off a huge drift here and biffed - only to stand up with a heartwarming snow-eating grin.
The wind kept howling but the sunshine was brilliant, views were amazing, and the Sugarloafers were all smiles. It doesn’t take a lot to make Loafers happy, they don’t need fancy lodges or lifts, just some snow, temps above zero, and a T-Bar. Add sunshine and they are ecstatic.
I should mention Art was rockin' his 80s Nevica anorak and matching purple pants – which put a smile on many a face that recognized and remembered that vintage gear. He peppered a few spread eagles and some ski ballet dance moves into our ski runs just for fun, and flashback.
Lunch at The Bag was all that needed to be said and we pointed our skis there. People were pouring into this Sugarloaf institution for an early lunch. After devouring a delicious juicy Bag Burger, I see why this place jams - friendly servers and simple satisfying fare steps to the ski slopes.
These are the ingredients to a great ski day at the Loaf. Friends, freshies, perhaps a strong breeze but stronger resiliency on the part of the Loafers. It's what it means to be a Sugarloafer. See you on the Slopes.
Sugarloaf photos by Greg Burke, February 2014
Congratulations to Maddie Bowman of South Lake Tahoe winning the first ever Women's Ski Halfpipe at Sochi for the US. Bowman laid down two technically challenging runs including back-to-back 900s and a switch 720 at Rosa Khutor's Extreme Park. Maddie, age 20, grew up ski racing, but switched over to free skiing and halfpipe as a young teen saying it was more fun and less technical than alpine gate chasing.
Maddie dedicated her Gold medal to Sarah Burke, the free skier who died January 2012 from a halfpipe training accident in Park City. Burke was a beloved leader and mentor in women's halfpipe skiing, she lobbied the IOC to include this event in Olympic competition. Burke's mother and husband were at Sochi to watch the first ever Winter Games Ski Halfpipe and to witness the Sochi Halfpipe course workers pay tribute to Burke by skiing a heart shaped formation, Sarah's symbol, at the finals in her memory.
David Wise, picture here with Maddie Bownman, won the Men's Skiing Halfpipe Gold for the US, and Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the podium in Men's Ski Slopestyle, while Devin Logan won Silver in Women's Ski Slopestyle at Sochi.
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding now account for 12 of the 25 Olympic medals - putting Americans in the lead for now, with US alpine racing contributing four more to the medal count with Ted Ligety's Gold in GS, Andrew Weibrecht's Silver, Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso's Bronze. Go Team USA.
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.