There has been a rash of deaths recently, and MSNBC took on the subject in a recent airing. I’m not so sure I appreciate the term ‘Death Zone’, as it will only fuel the misinformation that always seems to make its way to the mainstream public. Interesting watch though:
Resorts and ski areas across the country have experienced an interesting phenomenon this season: powder panic. Now, don’t get me wrong, skiers and snowboarders have always had that mob-mentality, freshies-frenzy when it comes to new snow and chairlift lines. People have been known to shove, push, pole and also to be shoved, pushed, poled in the mess that is the rush for first chair and that taste of sweet, sweet powder faceshots. I was raised by a powder-hound in Sun Valley, where powder days come fewer and farther between than our more western counterparts in the PNW or our southern counterparts in UT and CO, and our ski bum bachelor household was no stranger to the sense of urgency hanging heavy on those magical mornings. My dad was notorious for arising early in the morning to shovel, sweep and pack down the new snow around our house for hours before I awoke, when we would immediately rush to the ski hill. I’m not even sure he went to sleep on many of those nights, as he was up before the streets were plowed and the coffee addicts had dragged their way to Java Cafe next door.
But this season, this sense of urgency and heightened awareness of powder has been intensified all around the country. A lengthy drought has left many ski areas with only minimal terrain open, or for the snow-making elite, a slew of hard, icy groomers have been meticulously maintained to preserve the dwindling white stuff on the hill. Warm temperatures combined with a jet stream that just wouldn’t drop below the 49th parallel have left Stateside skiers and snowboarders starving for that soft feeling under their feet. In fact, many would-be shredders have ignored their seasonal conditioning and have resorted to weekend trips to the desert for mountain biking or golfing to soothe their thirst for action.
And, to compound the situation, the Norse god Ullr and Old Man Winter have conspired to reverse the effects of this unseasonal drought of late, only to drop multiple feet of snow on the western states. With all this new snow weighing on either a faceted snowpack or no snowpack at all, avalanches have been decimating roads and backcountry stashes everywhere. By many accounts, we have an extremely dangerous snowpack just waiting to impart its deadly kiss on the blindingly ignorant powder-thirsty fiend who dare tread into its grasp. Luckily, most shredders are aware of this danger and have opted for the in-bounds approach at their local ski hill, which brings me to my original point – add a mass of snow-starved people, give them limited options on appeasing this appetite, and add in limited terrain and you have a recipe for powder panic.
The photos below are evidence of a true pandemic of the winter kind. Lift lines have backed up beyond recognition to a point that is almost impossible to comprehend. Yes, it is a Sunday, and yes, it did snow, but where were all these people when the lifts were empty even just last week?
Powder Panic is in full swing, and the only cure is a series of storms to continue dropping new snow on a consistent basis. Once people satiate that initial hunger for powder, then the mobbing of local ski hills will taper off to the regular consistency of the season. At least, we all hope.
La Nina has been a cold nasty lady this winter…well, at least for the shredheads in B.C burrowing through their streets en route to the snow encrusted mountaintops. We in Aspen have had it lucky. We haven’t had the slightest issue with parking in town or with having to decide if the furnace room or the fireplace is the best way to dry your ski gear. Yep, instead of shred outfit maintenance protocol or busy, snow filled parking spots, folks in Aspen – along with the entire lower 48 – have carried on spirited conversations debating which process is better in order to apply ample sunscreen to your sun-chapped face without sacrificing millimeters of the goggle tan.
But all that is about to change. The storm pattern is dropping further south, the promise of La Nina’s sloppy, snow-filled kiss about to planted all across the Western U.S. Places like Mt Hood, Oregon are about to find themselves bedding down with this moisture-laden lady for the better part of the week. Even Aspen, with its beautiful 40F and sunny weather, might find itself blanketed with some new snow.
All I know, is that it is time to start the van up again, see if she runs, and prepare for the biggest winter of storm-chasing I’ve ever known.
It’s December, and it hasn’t really snowed much in the Lower 48. That’s ok, because you’ve been holding the reins while desk jockeying and no snow doesn’t affect your daily routine. In fact, it probably makes for a much easier commute. Well, guess what – It’s going to snow, and when it does you’ll be jonesing to get out and play!
That’s why we at Tecnica/Blizzard designed the “Need to Get Out” contest in conjunction with Teton Gravity Research. We know you are only slaving away behind a desk so you can earn enough dough to get out and road trip with your buddies. Well, we want to make it easier for you and that friend to get out West and come slash some turns with the Tec/Blizz pro team.
Head on over to Teton Gravity Research’s website by clicking the photo above, and learn how to enter the contest. Tell us your best story, include a rad photo, and come choke on some powder with us at Monarch Snowcat Skiing. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
EarlyUps.com has a weekly series which features pro skiers and the music they jam to. This is a great way to update your music selection and get in the head of your favorite shredder. It’s interesting to hear what pumps people up for the big moves on snow, or to find out how skiers get their groove on in the off-hill part of their days. I was honored to be included in this list of athletes, following none other than Julian Carr the snow yeti himself. Click the picture below to link to the feature and listen along to the mix provided courtesy of Spotify.com.