Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beauty and Beatings – A Recall of the Adventures in the Andes – PART 6: The Realization

I awake, amazingly to no hangover, after a mere 4 hours of sleep, and prep for another day of skiing along with another forecast of bluebird skies and low wind.  Today is going to be a good day.  Upon gaining the ridge on the Otto lift, I’m finally able to look around and see the beautiful scenery under the clear skies.  There were peaks, ranges, and volcanoes stretching for miles, some with snow covered tops, some poking through clouds in the distance.   It was a sight to take in; one that makes you forget the music you're listening to and get lost in the beauty.

There was a little refresher of snow since Friday; some new, some blown in from other parts of the mountain.  All that mattered to me was that I was sliding on snow.  I find that I am most at peace and happy when I’m skiing.  Even in a year of low tide snow and a miserable winter, as had been the case with the previous winter in Utah and now in Chile, I still say skiing horrible snow is better than not skiing at all. 

The day blew by as we hit lap after lap of fast pow.  I spent most of the day skiing with Dave from Powder Quest and a new friend by way of another, Matt, a crazy Frenchman from the Pyrenees, that had a “dirty” habit, as he so eloquently put it, of straightlining any and everything he could.  He was fun to ski with and our styles meshed well; we both like skiing fast lines, and then scaring ourselves with tight technical lines and drops.  We would spend the long rides up the Otto lift sharing stories of wrecks, fun descents, and differences in our cultures and countries.  He told me that he usually comes to Las Trancas for a month each year and rents a cabana with a few friends.  He is able to do this as he gets an allotment of seven weeks of vacation each year at his job in France, compared to the “measly” five week standard of the rest of the country.  Immediate jealousy ensued. 
Being Saturday there was sure to be fun and shenanigans had tonight.  We heard that a Brit was going to be playing covers at Oliva’s, a local pub, after dinner, and then everyone was going to head to the disco right next to Oliva’s for mischievous times and dancing.  To protect the innocent, the details of the night shall remain untold.  However, it’s safe to assume there was plenty of dancing and drinks downed as we closed the disco and at the spry hour of 5 am.  This was easy to do as we had already made the decision to have a down day on Sunday, as the forecast was lousy, and the partying so primo.

I spent Sunday hiking up to the closest waterfall of the two in town.  As the weather was still warm down in the valley, the waterfall hadn’t yet frozen over.  The hike was through a jungle of trees and Chilean plumbing, as pipes, water catches, and more pipes encased the hillside below the waterfall.  It was good to get out of the hostel and see some of the local goods.  As I walked the couple miles back to the hostel, the rain picked up, and for the first time in years, I got to play in the rain and not care about being soaked.  That’s a rare occasion when one lives in the desert and also spends majority of their time inside behind a desk.  And it’s that latter part of the previous sentence that echoes loud inside of my mind, like a bad childhood nightmare, as I have long ago been diagnosed with Peter Pan syndrome; how can I be happy sitting still, living someone else’s dream, caged within pinstriped pants and button-up shirts, using ten times more intellect than physical skill in the completion of each day’s duty, playing the game of corporate jargon and status reports?  Is that me?  Is this what I envisioned for myself as a child?  This would be the recurring theme and question running through my mind while on this vacation.

The truth is I don’t think I ever truly envisioned what I would do as an adult as a kid.  Now I of course said I’d like to do this or that, maybe having titles of prestige like doctor or lawyer, or a title of adventure like special forces or helicopter pilot, but even as I continued through life, into college and into the “real” world, I never gave much time or thought to what I was to do next, just going with the flow of things.  I had an idea, but in this day of age where we’re surrounded by unlimited electronic distractions, habits of fighting boredom for a few seconds with a swipe or two on our smartphones, or constantly having music playing in our ears, the true dissection and subsequent decision of one’s life quest hadn’t really happened for me.  But I had an unexpected treat coming to me the next day which gave me an opportunity to be left to my thoughts.

Monday arrived with a bluebird setting and medium winds; another resort ski day.*   That asterisk is the caveat that winds may close down the lifts and you better have a Plan B in place. At this point in time you bet your last dollar I had a Plan B in place.  I had skins with me and planned on hiking up to the volcano due east of the resort, Volcan Neuvo.  On the second lap up while on the T-bar, as sure the sun rises in the east, the wind picked up just like the forecast said, and the lifts stopped spinning. Plan B is a go; midlayer off, skins on, and time to hike.  I gain the ridge and who do I run into?  My new roommate at the hostel Leon.  Mr. Leon is a funny German Italian, or is it Italian German, from a small village in Italy where he ran the business side of his family's winery.  He came out here to get out of Italy and to run the business side of a winery in Chile.  Anyhow back to the story, Leon had skinned up from the base with a group of 4 Frenchies.  After a quick chat about their agenda while battling the deafening 45 kph wind, I decided to hike with them.  This turned out to be quite the hike as the wind was head on blasting us with ice pellets, and gusting up to 60+ kph at this point.  Thank goodness for balaclavas.  It was so bad that I had to keep my helmet and goggles on.  A few hours into this brutal beating of an Andes adventure, we summited the volcano.  The crater was smaller than I expected but the view around was more than I could have asked for.  And the skiing was actually a treat on the south west aspect of the volcano considering how wind beaten the terrain had been on the hike up.

Now that we had skied down the second phase of the group's plan came out; they wanted to ski down to "Aguas Calientes" (the hot springs) in the valley to the south.  I really wanted to go and had only chatted with someone on where they were located without having them pointed out on a topographic map.  The Frenchies said they believed they were just down in the valley below us in the streams that were visible from our location.  I was told they were around the corner in the next valley lower.  At this point I was starting to reconsider making the trek as I didn't plan or prepare for such long day.  But really wanting to hit this spot while at this point not knowing if I was going to stay in Las Trancas, I gave into group think while knowing deep down the majority of the group's travel description didn't fit the description I'd gotten for a local guide with over 12 years experience.  After a long 20 minute skiing traverse we could see the "hot" springs.  I stayed high and waited for the sign that the water was actually hot, as we couldn't see any steam due to the wind.  After everyone went down, I finally dropped in only to find out that the water was indeed not hot at all.  Sucky monkey balls. (We'd find out later that we were only 200 meters away from the hot springs hidden around the corner.) If I would have stayed at my previous location, I was a mere 20-30 minute skin out to the top of the resort.  Now I'm a good 60-90 minutes out. 
The skin out was in an ice valley, and even though we were now heading north on this skin, east on the first skin, the winds changed and were now hitting us head on, but gusting even harder as it was the first notions of a new storm coming in.  By this point in the day around 5:00 pm, as my energy was depleted and I was borderline dehydrated not having planned or prepared for this long of a journery, I hit the wall and it hit me back hard.  Not only was I spent, my iPod had now run out of juice, leaving me to my thoughts and the complaining of my body for the next hour plus. At first the complaining was louder, but having grown up playing football and then moving onto the college ranks, I learned early in my youth how to put those things aside and just finish the task at hand, regardless of the struggle.  (Now here comes that unexpected treat I mentioned above.)  Towards the end of the skin to the top of the resort, my thoughts returned to the recurring theme and question running through my mind while on this vacation; am I satisfied with where I am in life?  As I thought deeply about this while pushing myself to the top of the skin, battling the pros and cons of my life, the good and bad, I came up with my answer as I caught a view of one of the most beautiful sunsets I'd seen in quite a long time.  The answer came as simply this; I'm satisfied with who I've become and the experiences I've gained at this point in my life.  The rest of the night including the ski down to the car, the delicious dinner and beers, and the chatting around the was sweet as I had accomplished another "epic" out in the backcountry and come to the decision that I was satisfied with me, yet still I was not satisfied with someone else's "dream" I was living back home in the states.........

Matt straightlining a shot

Me skiing some fast pow

Natacha, myself, and Nick being forced off the lift at midmountain

The "jungle" around the waterfall

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beauty and Beatings – A Recall of the Adventures in the Andes – PART 5

Now it’s Thursday, conditions look exactly the same as the past two days, and I’m assuming the worst, but still not throwing in the towel.  I mean come on, I’m on vacation a ski vacation nonetheless, every day is a good day, but even better if I can ski……so here we go again:

Yeah buddy ski day today and I have a ride up there, no hitchhiking!!!  Woohoo!! Alright gear on, skis in the car, day pack ready.  Let’s go.

We get up there to a warm overcast day, hardly any wind down low, and the Otto lift spinning with the staff saying it’s going to open.   Alright I’m buying a ticket.  Not ten minutes after I purchase the ticket, the staff determines it’s time to shut Otto down because there is 25 kph plus winds up top.  Awesome….  There goes twenty-five mil pesos down the drain.  I’m not accepting another down day, not today.   Time for “Plan B.”  I proceeded to pull out my skins and take off layers; let's hike the resort. 

A short forty minutes later the quick hike turned into a slow slog as I gained a ridge and the previous 25 kph turned into a 50 kph head on Andes winter welcome hurling snow and ice into my face, slowing me down to a miserable crawl.  There was so much snow being blown around combined with the low visibility cloud, I couldn't see a damn thing.  After another hour of Andes winter love, I decided to finally get some skiing in.  The next one thousand vertical feet of miserable, icy, crusty, thigh rattling groomer skiing brought a huge smile to my face.   Finally.  The down days frustration had melted away.  One more quick lap later I was finally all smiles heading back to the hostel.  And what is on the plate for tomorrow? Supposedly a few inches of fresh and a bluebird day of skiing.

Friday comes and so did the snow, but not so much the bluebird.  We pulled up to fresh tracks and blue skies.  Hallelujah, I'm soooo happy.  Plus I could finally see the mountain and started scouting lines and adventures.  After two runs of a few inches of fast pow, the glorious scenery was quickly hidden by a thick low lying cloud.  Considering the low tide snow and sharp volcanic rocks poking up all over, this was not a the best scenario, but thank goodness for skiing.  Another good thing was getting to ski with Dave from Powder Quest, especially since he had a good knowledge of the mountain.  We met at the hostel restaurant the night prior and had a fun time.  Now that he sent his group up north, he had a few days to himself.  If you're ever looking for a guided adventure down in South America, or need some info on the Chillan area head on over to Powder Quest's website and get in touch.  The best part of today was finally getting face shots, with skiing for a whole day without having to hike for turns in a close second. 
And what better way than to finish off the day? How about with a Chilean asado.  Of course no one is going to say no to slow cooked steak, chicken, and pork straight from the local butcher consumed with hot rolls, Chilean wine to die for, beer, and shenanigans.  How'd this great idea come to fruition?  Well I'll just pat myself on the back for this one; and then give credit to Isi for getting the meat and to Alejandro for taking the main duties of cooking.   It was a great time and a few of us managed to keep the night going till about 3:30 am at the local pub owned by a pair of gringos.  So back to bed by 4:00 am just to start it all over again in a few hours.  Enjoying life the Chilean way.

Here are some pics from the Asado

Rhys and Dave

Dave and Me

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beauty and Beatings – A Recall of the Adventures in the Andes – PART 4

Yeah buddy ski day today and I have a ride up there, no hitchhiking!!! Woohoo!!  Alright gear on, skis in the car, day pack ready.  Let’s go. 
We’re about a 20 minute ride up a dirt road to the resort.  It’s overcast and slightly warmer than desired.  My mind skips around various thoughts due to the excitement of skiing and the anxiety of not skiing battling it out; this ride couldn’t go fast enough.  We pull up to the middle parking lot. OTTO LIFT CLOSED!!!  Just the beginner’s poma is open and that is obviously not worth the price of admission.  My heart drops in time with the rising frustration created from a down day, one that wouldn’t have happened in America, a closure of the top lifts due to 25 to 40 kph winds (and the bottom lifts weren’t running due to no snow).  No why wouldn’t this have happened in the States?  Because a few years back the resort bought some second hand 50 year old Chinese pieces of crap cheapo lifts to save money.  And you pay for what you get; no secondary safety mechanisms on the tower rollers, a poor mountain top location with no windbreak, and twice the cost due to constantly breaking down from being a piece of poo.  Yep.
Dejected and disappointed we headed back into town to our hostel, once again the ride seemingly taking forever. Official “Down Day #1.”  We shall try again tomorrow.
The rest of the day was spent hanging out in the hostel getting to know some of those on their own adventure.  First off there was the gentlemen kind enough to give me a ride to the resort, Nick, a spry man in his 60’s and on his tenth plus tour of South America.  Now it took us all of a couple of seconds to realize we’d met before.  I immediately recognized him from time spent at Snowbird.  He’s a very interesting chap and has stories from all around the world many times over as he’s one that chose many years ago to seek after treasures of experiences and knowledge.  And he has a very refined talent of always being kind and inviting to those around, enlisting them into a group setting.   Nick and I hung out quite a bit during the trip and usually shared a table for dinner in the hostel’s restaurant.   He was also a huge boon in getting me up to and back from the resort every day that he was at the hostel. Then there was Natasha, a Parisian former ballerina now turned doctor going into her third year of residency enjoying the last couple of weeks of a three month vacation.  How was she? Classic Parisian for the first few days; I mean come on, even the French hate Parisians.   But she loosened up after a few good days of skiing later on down the road, but not quick enough, earning the nickname “Parisian Princess” in the meantime. 
Alright it’s Wednesday now. Yeah buddy ski day today and I have a ride up there, no hitchhiking!!! Woohoo!!  Alright gear on, skis in the car, day pack ready.  Let’s go.  Does this sound familiar?  Rinse and repeat.
“Official Down Day #2.”

Now my legs are just getting antsy.  Now frustration has really set in.  The weather reports are all over the board.  Depressions, ridges, systems on the horizon, no systems on the horizon; it all is true and it all is false in some sense.  Welcome to the Andes.  To combat hostel laziness and spending hours upon hours attempting to battle each other to connect to the ever inconsistent and flighty internet connect, Nick, Natasha, and I set out on a walk up Shangri-La road out to the Mission Impossible Lodge.  The walk, under overcast and drizzle i.e. snow in the mountain tops, became a discussion of France, Europe, and the reaches of modern medical reaches between Nick and Natasha with me listening and observing.  Interesting times to say the least.

The day also brought two sets of Australian couples on opposite ends of a similar journey.  The first couple, Chris and Kate from Melbourne, was in their first month of a nine month vacation, while the second couple, Rhys and Terri from Perth, was in their last month of a ten month vacation.  It was fun to see Western and Eastern Australians interact, to see the opposite sides of the adventure spectrum, and tell us of the differences between the coasts, and asking them about "Stalia" slang .  All four were a good inclusion into the the hostel group, escpeically when it came to consuming vast amounts of Chilean wine, pisco, Escudo and Cristal.

Group shot after dinner one night

Friday, September 7, 2012

Beauty and Beatings – A Recall of the Adventures in the Andes – PART 3

What happens after being up partying until 5am on minimum hours of sleep on a plane?  Deep, deep sleep.  I don’t remember the last time I slept that well.  And there were a few other factors that helped.  First off houses in Chile aren’t like the convenience based bubbles of easy living houses in America.  There is no central heating with vents going throughout the house; so the house was nice and cold. In Chile you stay warm with fire, space heaters, clothes, blankets, and hopefully another person.  Second, Rafa’s wife Victoria gave me a goat pelt blanket that was warm and heavy.  The weight of the pelt just pushed me deeper into the mattress and deeper into sleep.  I can’t explain to you how nice it really was. 
I finally emerged from my dark cave of slumber around 4pm and I felt great.  I got an approving smile and laugh from Rafa and Vic as one, they saw that I was alive and two, the smile on my face.  And not to mention their lovely almost two year old daughter gave me an "hola gringo" and a smile.  So did my late start ruin any plans?  Were we late for anything?  Is my itinerary screwed?  Hahaha this is Chile my friend.  I’m on Chilean time now AND I’m on vacation; throw your itineraries out the window of a moving car, I’m letting things happen as they will.  I’ll worry about a schedule when it’s time to fly home.  The evening was spent getting things ready to travel to Las Trancas in the morning and hiking around the hills in the valley in north Santiago leading up to Tres Valles. 
I elected to take the train to Chillan so I could take in the countryside and of course not be so cramped as would be destined to happen on a bus.  And in reality, I also didn’t want to deal with the higher likelihood of a potential bag theft while at the bus terminal traveling alone with 4 bags.  Yeah theft at bus terminals is quite common in these parts.  I lucked out and got a table seat, sharing the middle table with 3 other people. I was hoping that I’d meet someone interesting and wanted to be outside of my comfort zone.  Not so much in my case.  I shared the table with two 60 plus year old nuns and a young woman that spoke about as much English as I did Spanish, so to say the least, my iPod served as my companion on the 4 ½ hour ride.  I did happen to get a few “looks” as I stuck out with my long curly hair and flat brim black ball cap from those on the train, especially the nuns until I offered to help stow their belongs for them on the upper rack.  The scenery did not disappoint as I saw both beauty and real life represented by vineyard after vineyard in between ghettos, small farming communities, more ghettos and poverty, dirt roads, simplistic life, and small towns located in the beautiful valley with snow covered mountains to the east. 
Arriving in Chillan I knew my plan was to take a taxi a kilometer or two to the bus terminal, wait a couple of hours looking out for schemers trying for an opportunity to steal my computer bag, and then take the hour plus bus ride to the Chil Inn Hostel located in the smack dab middle of Las Trancas where I had reserved a bed for twelve nights.  But not truly having myself stuck to any “real” plan, luck struck.  While I was getting my ski bag out of the front car, I notice a “gringa” waiting behind me in line waiting to get her skis.  I chatted the woman up, Megan a 36 year old Canadian coming from England for a guided ski adventure, speaking Italian hoping for enough cross over with Chilean Spanish, and I offered to grab her bag for her if she wouldn’t mind watching my bags.  One thing I’ve learned, but often times forget in the hustle and bustle of the “American” way, is that the mere simple action of saying hi, being kind, and offering a hand opens up more avenues of opportunity and good fortune than one can foresee at the time.  This one interaction ended up coming back around as boons to me throughout my stay in Las Trancas.  As we walked to the front of the train station while talking about each other’s trip details, the first boon hit.  She had a private transfer waiting to take her to the Nevados de Chillan hotel.  She was the only one in the transfer and that meant there was room for the likes of me, I wouldn’t have to have the stress and worry of any of my gear getting stolen while sitting at the bus station for two hours as dusk was approaching.  I asked the driver how much he’d charge to take me up to the Chil Inn.  He offered a good fare since he was already headed that way and compensated, and my portion would go straight into his pocket.  Perfecto.

As I arrive at the hostel, I’m greeted by Fifa, a tall rasta Frenchman with three foot long dreads.  He’s one of the owners of the fine establishment.  The reception is located in the front room which also houses the restaurant and bar, and there’s reggae playing in the background; I’m starting to think that I really did choose the right place to stay.  Plus there is quite the number of people there consuming what appears to be a delicious spread of food.  My hunger from travelling all day has caught up with me and I quickly dispose of my bags and return for a meal.   

Searching the menu, I knew I was going to need a lot of food; “Menu del Dia” caught my eyes and the decision was made.  I had a glass of house red wine, the enslada chilena, spaghetti bolonesa, and panqueque manjar.  Now I could have had the fog of hunger clouding my judgment but I’m sure I had just made one of the best decisions of the day.  I ignorantly order a dish that contained one of my most despised items, sliced tomatoes.  The ensalada chilena is quite the simplistic salad; sliced and peeled tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and a small dash of sliced jalapeno.  The addition of salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar made this quite the treat.  I then experienced the most delicious, crisp, flavorful tomatoes I’d ever consumed; completely different from the crap we have in America, which if you didn’t know is developed more to serve a visual purpose than a flavoring purpose.  I ended up ordering this salad at least once a day for the rest of the trip.  The spaghetti was in a deep bowl that seemed to take an hour for me to get through.  But even though I felt stuffed to the gills, I was sure to allow myself the room for dessert, panqueque manjar, which is essentially a crepe with a caramel topping, but even better.  You see the word manjar in Chile means caramel or dulche de leche, but is also a slang term that essentially means “top notch”, “the bomb”, “nectar from the Gods”, “cream of the crop”……..well you get the point.  Fat and full I showered and prepared for bed with thoughts and imaginations of what the mountain and skiing would be like, and the adventures I’d have.  Tonight I rest for tomorrow I live, tomorrow I ski.

The awesome fireplace in the front room.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Beauty and Beatings – A Recall of the Adventures in the Andes – PART 2

“Veinte dos mil.”

“Twelve mil.”
“Veinte mil.”

“Fifteen mil.”

“Diez y ocho mil.”

“Eighteen mil? Okay done.”

My haggling over the price of a taxi to my soon to be new friend’s place in the Santiago suburb of Vitacura was done. Maybe I should have just requested a taxi with a meter, but ignorance won over critical thinking when going on a few hours of sleep. 

As I rode to Rafa’s place I couldn’t help but return to the image of the sunrise I captured on my phone while descending into SCL.

Now finally at Rafa’s place, which is located in a nice younger middle class neighborhood, I was finally able to start my adjustment to the Chilean way, but I wasn’t given much time.  After meeting the cool family of three (Rafa, Victoria, and Nieve) and a quick shower, Rafa and I headed out to gather the meat and drinks for the asado (BBQ) Rafa was throwing for my arrival.  During our errands I got to know Rafa through his fairly descent and slang filled English.  The man is pretty cool and loves to have a good time.  It was so easy to adjust and relax when being taken care of by a guy like this.

Man I love Chilean asados, sitting around a grill slow cooking marinated meats, having drinks, chatting everyone up, not worrying about schedules, or that all the food is ready to eat at the same time.  It’s just such a relaxed part of their culture.  So what was the surprise dish for the asado?  How about mollejas, also referred to as sweetbread.  Yep there’s nothing doughy or baked with this “bread.”  We’re talking about the thymus glands of a cow.  And how was it? De-freakin-licious.  We devoured two or three jars of it as soon as each piece was ready. 

The sweet savor of a fresh cut of meat, that had just barely become ready for consumption, hovered around us throughout the night almost certainly dancing around us and into our senses in beat with the mix of Chilean and American music played.  A steady stream of friends and compadres stopped by bringing more rations for the grill and those enjoying meeting the new “gringo.”

The invitation to continue the party at a dance club in Santiago came about 1:30 am.  Having the Chilean way influencing me, how was I supposed to let everyone down and say no, even having been up since 5:00 am?  Challenge accepted.  I was left in good hands with Rafa’s brother Juan, and away we went.  So after 3 hours of dancing, I finally made it to bed around 5:15 am.  Plenty of smiles, laughs, drinks, and fun times were had.  I started my first day in Chile the Chilean way partying hard late into the night.  I went to bed with a smile on my face, ringing in my ears, and a single final thought; this is going to be a very good vacation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beauty and Beatings – A Recall of the Adventures in the Andes – PART 1

Even as one can artificially, accidently, or purposefully create start and end dates for activities, events, or happenings in life, the same is not necessarily true for the start and end dates of life lessons or life changing events.  These types of events can happen anywhere through direct means like giving up one’s time and life goals to the full-time dedication of a greater cause like the Peace Corp, a religious mission, or a humanitarian mission, or indirectly when one allows their self to disconnect, assume nothing, and allow “whatever” to occur, essentially becoming once again as a small child, hungry, interested, willing to learn all that is out there.  When one does this, there is no end to what may happen, the limiting factor is not time but oneself.  As so eloquently put by the famous Yoda “you must unlearn what you have learned.”
Just over two years to the day I arrived home from my first trip to Chile, an awesome and fun two weeks in Portillo, I departed on my second trip, but this time I ventured away from the “you are taken care of here” wonderful and easy ways of Portillo, to the unknown and “on your own” ways of Santiago and the small town of Las Trancas to access the blessed Nevados de Chillan.  My original trip plans had visions of getting a group of friends together along with a photog to have fun and get some “work” done in the snow and rocky peaks of the southern hemisphere before our season began up in the northern hemisphere.  Those dreams were dashed to pieces as many spent available funds on new Macbook Pros, cameras, or other trips, and the arrival of the horrible snow reports of the early season coming from South America. 
Undeterred by the lack of a group and lack of snow, needing an escape from the heat, inversion, and the drudges, and smoke and mirrors, of “real” life in our country, I pressed forward through the anxiety of no snow and going into the unknown alone.  But, that’s when the good stuff happens.  A few weeks before my departure, a recently new buddy recommended going to Nevados de Chillan.  He spoke of meters of fresh pow, adventures of hitchhiking up to the resort each day, and a sweet, cheap hostel right in the middle of town.  And to top it off, he had a buddy in Santiago that I could stay with before and after heading to Las Trancas.  With the unfolding of this potential adventure came the calming of the nerves.  Confidence, excitement, and smiles returned.  The three weeks leading up to the trip were filled with long hours in the office preparing proposals and briefs.  There was no rest for the weary.  I even had to give a personal briefing to my division director during dinner the night before I was to leave.    
I could see others heading south with ski boots and smiles through the sea of travelers at SLC.  The excitement and hopes was high.  As the extra pull of gravity inherently felt during takeoff dissipated, the pull of the day-to-day world of my life lost its cold grip, well, almost.  After staring at the storm clouds over Georgia during my descent into ATL, I decided to delete my work email account off of my phone while in Chile. Viva la revolucion!
The gate at ATL was filled with even more skiers.  The excitement and anxiety of little snow of those there spread through amongst the crowd quickly.  New friends were being made at every bench over discussions of trip plans, reports, previous experiences, and the unknown outcomes of new experiences.  It was here that I first met a “Reggie” from Ketchum that was heading down to do some guiding in Las Lenas.  He was pretty cool and it never came to me who he really was.  We talked about getting our seats moved next to each other to share a beer, but got distracted until boarding time.  Now I was one “short” Ambien filled flight away, but did manage to have a beer and a few scotches with my new acquaintance before shutting down.  Let the dreams begin, and in the morning we live the dreams.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Rail Jam Series Videos

Here's a few video edits I produced this year that I've yet to post.  They're both highlight reels from the Friday Night Jib Fights rail jam series going on this season at Snowbasin, Park City, and Brighton resorts.  I do enjoy editing these events cause of the fun techniques I get to use.


Stop #1

Stop #2

Friday, February 10, 2012

Everything From a Touch of Wisconsin to Making Skis; It’s Been a Busy Month

My Fantabulous Mustache
It’s been quite the crazy month. Looking back on it just makes me smile. Most notably I was blessed to have my best bud finally make it out to Utah for a visit and some good ole mountain schralping. Joey and his awesome wife Nicole came out and just in time to celebrate and enjoy some time on the mountain. Even though they didn’t heed my advice on when to schedule the trip and happened to come a week early and miss the 50” of snow we got, we still had an awesome time. Joey and I always just pick up where we last left off regardless if it’s been a day to a year. I really enjoyed having them out here and doing my best to convince them to move out west, especially since Joey is quite the strong rider and would be an awesome partner for skiing/riding. One of the fun moments was the last second birthday party at the Tavernacle piano bar. So since it was my thirtieth birthday, I had decided it was time to have a Dirty Thirty Mustache Party, and oh my, did I cut a good one!! I convinced Joey to do the same, but he unfortunately didn’t have as much cultivation time as me.

Joey and I doing our versions of bringing sexy back
So everyone of course bought a birthday song for me, “Sexy Back” by Justin Timberlake. I was so red in the face, but after being put in the spotlight and feeling awkward, I had a “Will Ferrell-esque” blackout like in “Old School” and completely rocked the house without knowing or remembering what I was doing. Unfortunately for me, since I was doing a good job and getting random tips from women in the crowd, the pianist kept playing and playing and playing. Quite frankly, good times.

After the awesome weekend with people that are truly family ended, the Wasatch Front was finally blessed with a magnitude of snow. We had four straight days of snow totally 50”.  January 22nd brought 22” inches of goodness, and I didn’t let any of it go to waste. The video of that adventure is down below right before the pics.

The destroyed prototype ski
Now following that awesome storm I head out to Denver for a little bit of ski building, ski prototyping, SIA (Snowsports Industry Association) Trade Show time, and good times. It was quite the power weekend. I finally got to meet my ski sponsor in person and we did quite a bit of work. While I was laying up my edges and bases, I filmed Dave doing a layup of a custom ski. We also designed my topsheets to incorporate the Snowbasin Sun, and they turned out absolutely sick. I got to see the Grace Skis process and experience the principles first hand, even when I completely destroyed a pair of prototype skis that weren’t laid up using our primary process and we posted the pics on Facebook.  Being brutally honest is all part of it.

I also got to catch up with an old friend from the high schools days in Madison while in Denver, Tayler Cabalka. It was really interesting to see how she’s grown and become more comfortable in her own skin not having seen her for 11 or 12 years.  Plus she was a gracious host providing a place to crash.  I've been so blessed this past month and I'm really loving life right now.  The only thing needed now is more snow.

Oh and I finally got my car delivered a MONTH after buying it.  Yeah let's not talk about that one, still kind of sensitive......but the car is amazing.

The video proof of the storm

Joey and Nicole


Sending Joey off at the airport

My Skis

Dave Laying Up Custom Skis

The Pre-Destroyed Prototype Skis

My Chariot

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It Happened!!!!

Today I had a huge non-groomer, traditional faceshot in a small patch of untouched snow.   It was sooooo nice to finally get off the groomers.  That is all.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A December to Remember???? More like one to forget

This has been one crazy month; being more productive than I’ve ever been, chainsaw warfare, long days, cold nights, and no snow.  Yeah I’ll repeat that; no snow.  I didn’t see this as the way I would close out 2011. 

But I can say that as of today we are finally done with tree work for the year.   Typically, and our own plans, we were to be done the week leading up to Thanksgiving.  And by all means we thought that’s what would have happened; the lifts at Snowbasin started to turn, the WROD (white ribbon of death) assault on the legs had begun and I was smiling as the chain saws were hung up in the storage with care, not a tree was stirring, not even above a house.  But then one frightful Wednesday night, the wind began hollowing, the wind lasted all night.  And then destruction loomed then next day and night, to last all month.  Ok enough of the Christmas story rhyming and on to the details.  We had a wind event to say the least, some have called it Windmageddon.  The county I live in got pummeled.  We had 65 mph wind gusts up to 102 mph wind gusts for an eighteen hour period.  The main victim, pine trees, any and all types.  Since the root system is very shallow in the ground and small in comparison to the tree, they didn’t have a chance against the winds.  Most were just pushed over, but many were snapped at some point of the trunk.  The devastation caused by all of the falling trees was incredible and vast.  Trees on top of homes, cars, power lines, you name it.  There were semi-trucks getting blown over on the freeway.  I saw trampolines flying across the highway (which was kind of funny).  It seemed that maybe 50% of the pine trees in the county went down.  All in all it was crazy.  Seth received over sixty calls on that Thursday.  Needless to say we knew we were going to be busy for the next few weeks.  We took a few days off the real jobs to focus on getting peoples home ready for power and clean up.  We worked ten straight days late into the night cleaning everything up.  You could hear chainsaws going throughout the night all throughout the county as if it was a war zone.  As we are now done there still remains a few clean up jobs out there, but we are tired, and we need rest.

However, I am yet to receive any.  I just got back from a whirlwind trip home for Christmas.  My travels started with a 4am wake up on Christmas Day for a 6am flight back to Madison.  It wasn’t so bad as the first flight was quite spacious with all fifteen of us.  I was good to be in Madison and great being with the family, especially my eight month old nephew Beckett.   I ran all over with my family and also was able to hang out with family numero dos, the Kraemers, for two nights.  It’s great to be with my best friend Joey, his wife, and his parents.   We chatted, talked, enjoyed fine Wisconsin microbrew beers, played games, and hung out just as we have done for years. 

Coming back to Utah happened after the furious annual Romashko Rummi Royale between my mother and me.  Unfortunately this year’s battle was put on hold during the third and final round as we ran out of time before my flight.  We’ll finish later on to determine who the better rummi player is. 

But for now I’ll return to dreaming and praying for snow during this fourth worst winter of the past 40 years, while waiting for my Kylies to arrive.  Of how I can’t wait to mount those up and take them for a spin.  Enjoy the random pictures.  Until next time.

Windmageddon Damage

Ice climbing with Clint (First time out in almost 3 years)

Home for Christmas

The Beard