December Spines (Bye, bye 2016)

This year marks a big change in the way I am approaching skiing. For the first time in 8 years, I am not coaching, instructing, or even skiing at the resort. I have recommitted myself to making skiing as fun as possible. Gone are the days of skiing the resort just to increase the number of days on the season. Instead the focus is on playing in the mountains with friends and skiing as many steep substantial lines as stability and fitness allow.

This season couldn’t have started better. I’ve got a network of backcountry buddies who are as ambitious (or stupid) as I am. Despite low snowfall in October and November, we managed to get some early glacier work in on the Milk Glacier and made the decision to turn around on the shoulder of Goat due to instabilities (it always feels good to make the right call to turn around from an objective early in the year).

 

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Photographer: Gabe Gibbs

 

By the time Turnagain filled in, we were more than ready to start skinning from the car. We put in a handful of days around Tincan, Sunburst, Eddies, and Seattle Ridge. Some days were spent getting Tussock trained up as a ski dog, others were spent connecting with new friends.

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By December we were all starting to itch for some stability (damn you facets) and an overnight trip. So on Friday the 9th of December we headed out to Kickstep for a 2 night winter camping trip. We left the parking lot around 8pm on Friday and the moon was so bright that we were able to tour all the way to camp without headlamps. The scenery was so stunning that we kept stopping to stare at the surrounding peaks.

 

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Photographer: Dmitry Surnin

 

By 2am we had camp set up and headed to bed. We woke up at 6am to slam a breakfast and head up the shoulder of Kickstep. Halfway up the ridgeline we began running into some very scary wind slabs, being conservative, we turned around and spent the rest of the day wandering around the wind effected slopes near Kickstep. By 3pm we were all exhausted from lack of sleep and frustrated with the terrain we had skied that day. As we trudged back to camp we watched a group absolutely crush 2 lines off the Library. Excited to see some of the Libraries was less wind affected then Kickstep, we planned to ski a line the following day. We slept nearly 14 hours that night before waking up to tackle our objective for the day. We worked our way up a fantastic boot pack to the top of the last spine in the Library.

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Finally we got to drop into something steep! It was everything we had been waiting for. Post spine crushing fun, we packed up and had a mini epic struggling our way out of Center Ridge in the dark.

 

After a successful first camp of the season, we played the low angle storm game as the Chugach snowpack was reset.

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Photographer: Drew P.

As the snow began to stabilize, Drew and I raced out to Eddies to steal a few spine lines before I headed to Hawaii for a few weeks. We ended up skiing two of the mostΒ epic runs of my life.

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They were steep, spiney, and exposed (aka perfect lines). With those memories locked into place, I have no regrets sweating my ass off in Hawaii right now.

 

 

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