Category Archives: Skiing

Volcano Double Header

For many years I have wanted to do a big volcano tour skiing Rainier, Adams, St Helens, Hood, and Jefferson in 5 days. I have never been able to find the time or the partners for such a large undertaking (which I am not actually sure if physically possible for me). This winter Eric, Nick and I decided we would do some type of volcano tour in the spring. After watching the weather for weeks we had a window starting June 11. Work and weather appeared to be on track until the 10th when the weather changed. This pushed our trip back 4 days. Unfortunately Nick was not able to make this window, but Eric and I were still going to go for it. We had to reduce the scope to 2 or 3 peaks in 3 days and we only had 4 total days which included the ~30 hours of driving round trip from SLC and between peaks. We decided on Adam, Rainier, and if possible Hood.

We left SLC early Sunday morning and arrived at Cold Springs Campground at Mt Adams in to cold and cloudy weather. We hoped to climb the south ridge and descent the SW Chute. We knew the weather wouldn’t be great for the Monday climb. We decided to climb the South Ridge (Suksdorf Ridge) and descent the SW Chute. We had an early start on Monday morning

Leaving Goliath for Mt Adams

Leaving Goliath for Mt Adams

The 1 mile walk to snowl line

The 1 mile walk to snow line

and were making good time enjoying the views (while they  lasted).

One of our few good views of Mt Adams

One of our few great views of Mt Adams

A horizon that goes on forever

Climbing against a never ending horizon

Up high on Adams, the wind was strong and the wind chills were very cold (single digit or colder wind chills with a rime event occuring at the same time). We were not expecting these temps and both were quite cold.

Freezing on the summit of Mt Adams - 12,280'

Freezing and getting rimed on the summit

We had to have an early start in order to ski the peak and make it to Mt Rainier to get our climbing permit before the ranger station closed. This meant we skied most of Mt Adams on very frozen snow. The decent was jarring feeling like it would rattle your organs loose. The last ~800’ before the mile walk to the car was the only good turns we had.

Mission complete

Mission Complete

We didn’t move as fast as we had hoped, but covered the 12.6 miles and 8,250’ of climbing in 6:11. Our goal was around 5 hours but the the cold temps and poor visibility caused us quite a bit of delay.

Our route up (right) and down (left) Mt Adams


After a beautiful 4 hour drive from Adams to Rainier

The amazing greenery of on the drive from Adams to Rainier

we arrived to what is probably typical Rainier weather:

The best view we had of the base of Rainier

Mt Rainer Visitor Center is back there somewhere

After getting our permits we sorted gear, reviewed maps, and had a huge dinner. The forecast was for very cold and windy. The summit forecast was 4F and 40mph winds! We figured we didn’t need too early of a start based on this forecast (big mistake as it turns out). We wanted to ascend and descend the Fuhrer Finger as opposed to the standard highly traveled routes. With a little bit of new snow in the forecast, we were excited for the skiing possibilities of this route.

Leaving Goliath in a light rain

A rainy start

We left the parking lot at 7:45 (a true Texas alpine start) and struggled in 20M visibility for the next 2 hours. It took us those 2 hours to get 1500’ with much of the time spent getting safely across the Nisqually glacier and finding the base of ‘The Fan’. We had our first view of Rainier just before entering the Nisqually and it was eye opening. It made us immediately realize the enormity of the mountain, the complexity of the terrain, and that this was indeed going to be something not to take lightly.

Our first (intimidating) view of Rianier from the Nisqually Glacier

Our first intimidating view of Mt Rainier from the Nisqually Glacier

We broke trail in 2-8” of snow from just above the trailhead for around 5,000’.

Starting to work out of the fog after ~1500' of climbing

Climbing out of the fog at around 7,100′

We started to leave the fog at about 7,100’ and realized why the description of the Fuhrer Finger route says it can get hot. We were fully exposed with no breeze until we exited the Finger. Our Texas alpine start was turning into a large error.

Navigating the crevases to the base of Fuhrer Finger

Navigating Wilson Glacier to the base of Fuhrer Finger

Crevases on Wilson Glacier

Entering the Finger we were looking forward to skiing this incredible line in the good snow we had so far.

Looking up the choke of Fuhrer Finger

Looking up Fuhrer Finger

As we climbed, the snow got deeper, denser, and trail breaking got much harder.

Upper Nisqually Glacier

Breaking trail in heavy snow on the upper Nisqually Glacier

After the finger, the snow quickly got very hard and turned into sastrugi which proved for some challenging climbing.

Booting up the edge of Nisqually

Booting up the hard pack (more like ice pack)

These sastrugi fins were above my knees!

The massive sastrugi on the climb

We were starting to doubt our ability to descend this snow.

Eric booting through unskiable snow

Eric trying not to be discourage about the snow condition

We continued up the never ending mountain. The climbing was never hard, but the terrain was complex either due to low visibility navigation, trail breaking, route finding, or traveling on the bad snow. These conditions caused us the climb to take much, much longer than we had anticipated. At about 11,000’ we finally entered the wind and it continued to get stronger and stronger the higher we climbed. We kept our heads down and continued to plod up. With the summit in view, it looked close, but was still over a 1,500’ climb away.

We were able to switch back to skinning for the final several hundred feet before reach the summit. We expected the round trip to take us 8 hours and it we were at the summit after 9 hours!

Summit of Mt Rainier - 14,409'


Based on the snow conditions of our climb and the late time we had decided that we would descend the Disappointment Cleaver route. We knew the snow couldn’t be any worse and it would be wanded so we would not have to do any route finding. What commenced was 4,000’ of absolutely terrifying descending in strong winds on rock hard snow and sastrugi. It was survival skiing that was rattling our bodies apart. We finally reached somewhat softer snow just before Muir Camp on the Cowlitz Glacier.

Looking down at Camp Muir across the Cowlitz Glacier

Cowlitz Glacier and Camp Muir

We stopped briefly at Muir Camp and chatted with Billy who was there guiding and lives in Utah in the winters. We then were treated to a thousand or so feet of nice breakable crust followed by about 1,000’ of soft snow, then manky snow to the trailhead

Mission Complete - started in the rain, ended in the rain.

Start in the rain, end in the rain!

Our final stats for the route were 30.4 miles and 11,200’ of climbing in 11:11.

Rainier RouteRainier Route

We were tired, but not wrecked, but we also knew that since it was late in the day and a 4 hour drive to Mt Hood that skiing another peak was out of the question. By the time we got gear stashed and had a snack, it was almost 8pm. We planned a celebratory beer and burger in Ashford and decided we would end the trip with that.

Post climb reward!

All this and dessert too

We had a restless sleep on Tuesday night, got up Wednesday and after a big breakfast pointed the van southeast for the long drive home.



  • Voile WSP skis
  • Scarpa Alien 1.0 boots
  • Black Diamond Whippet
  • Black Diamond Raven Ax (never used)
  • Grivel Race crampons
  • Camp X600 pack
  • Black Diamond Vector Helmet
  • Crazy NRG skin Suit
  • CWX Expert Tights
  • IO Bio Merino Wool base
  • 3 weights of gloves (Black Diamond, Scarpa, CAMP)
  • 2 HooRags neck bands
  • Smith Pivlock glasses
  • CAMP Anorack Jacket
  • Patagonia Puffball Vest
  • Patagonia Down Sweater
  • OR Centrifuge Jacket
  • Suunto Ambit
  • Magellan Explorist GPS

Food Sources: 600 calories on Monday; 1500 calories on Tuesday

  • Hammer Gels
  • Hammer HEED
  • Hammer Recoverite
  • ProBars
  • Snickers
  • Sweet potato bars (recipe from Feed Station Portables book by Allen Lim)
  • 5 hour energy


The Sliver – A Wasatch Classic

Hogum Fork is one of my favorite places in the Wasatch. It is topped off with the Pfiefferhorn (my favorite peak) and is a massive alpine area with lots of great ski lines. Two of the classics are The Hypodermic Needle and The Sliver. Andy Paradis and I had hopes of skiing both lines on Saturday, but ended up just skiing The Sliver. In The Chuting Gallery, Andrew McLean gives this line a 5- our of 7 for steepness and mentions that the top section ‘can be a mildly technical mixed rock and snow climb in low snow conditions.’ The Wasatch definitely has low snow conditions this year. When you look at the Sliver from the bottom, it doesn’t look like it goes all the way to the top, but once in the chute, you can see a very narrow choke the allows access to the ridge. Three years ago we climbed the Sliver to access Coalpit Gulch and since that time, I have wanted to get back to ski it.

Andy and I decided to approach The Sliver via the longer route from White Pine Trailhead, up to Red Pine, across Maybird, over ‘Small Pass’ then across all of Hogum Fork. The approach was 5.5 miles and 3200′ of climbing just to get to the base of The Sliver.  Once at the top of the Sliver we enjoyed the great views of the western Wasatch and Salt Lake Valley.  Looking over the edge put butterflies in my stomach.  I measured the top section to the choke at 58 degrees.  Add to this, slipping or falling in this section would have made a person into a pinball off the rocks. I was a little nervous, but once my tips were over the edge and I dropped in, I realized it was exhilarating and not nearly as bad as it looked.


Ski Mountaineering Season Is Here

Most people anxiously await spring as they are ready to hit the trails, garden, bike, and do other warm weather activities. For me, spring means a new type of ski season starts. As the high elevations move into their warming and freezing cycles, the snow strengthens allowing us to safely get into the steep and alpine terrain. More and more each year, spring for me is about climbing peaks and skiing some bigger lines that I don’t venture into during the winter.

Over the past several years as I have done more skimo racing, it has allowed me to do more big ski mountaineering days in the spring. My back is still healing from January and I am unable to run yet so I am excited about a big spring of skiing. This weekend felt like the start of ski mountaineering season with a lot of big lines skied and people getting after it in the Wasatch. On Friday I mounted a pair of the new Voile Wasatch Speed Project skis and I was excited to try these. My hope was that these would be my go to ski mountaineering skis for this spring since I felt they would combine the light weight of a race ski with the ‘ski-ability’ of the rest of the Voile line of skis.

I wanted to try go ski one of the main chutes of LCC on Saturday with plans to go big on Mt Nebo on Sunday. Without a set plan, Blake and I headed up LCC on Saturday with a leisurely 9:15 departure from the city. We were contemplating Tannners or Little Pine. Since Blake had skied both of these, we ventured further east to Limber Pine. Had we planned this out ahead of time, we should have left earlier and tried to ski the triad of Limber Pine, Little Pine East, and Jedediah. Our late start prevented all 3 and our leisurely pace meant we only were able to ski Limber Pine before the snow warmed up too much.


Looking up the choke of Limber Pine – it was mostly skiable


Blake booting up Limber Pine


LCC/BCC Ridgeline with the LCC road 3,100’ below


Blake skiing Limber Pine

Limber Pine was a great ski for a quick ski day. I am excited to return of ski the triad.

Sunday was the day that Eric, Nick, and I had been planning all week. We had the hopes of ascending Mt Nebo from Pole Canyon and skiing the Champagne and Northwest Couloirs. There are 2 northwest facing couloirs off the North Summit of Mt Nebo that start at 60 degrees and then ease out to about 45. I was excited to ski these as it would be the steepest terrain I would have ever skied.

Unlike our leisurely Saturday morning, my alarm rang at 4:15 on Sunday morning and I was out the door by 5AM. We were able to 4-wheel my pickup farther up Pole Canyon than we had planned saving us about 500’ of climbing. We were walking up the rode in trail runners by 7:30 and reached snow after only about 20 minutes.


We skinned up the road missing turn to boot up the basin to the base of the couloirs so we climbed to Wolf Pass then took the ridge to the summit.


Chad & Nick on the ridge from Wolf Pass to Mt Nebo (photo by Eric Bunce)


Nick (foreground) and Eric on the ridge

We skinned and booted the ridge to the Mt Nebo summit to find the Champagne couloir looking in rough shape. The top 100 vertical feet was blown off down to the rocks and would require a down climb. The Northwest couoir looked to be in moderately better condition, but would either require a down climb or some creating side-sliding and side-stepping to get into.


A cold and windy Mt Nebo North Summit

While contemplating these objectives, we all agreed that the northwest to southeast aspects looked amazing and we decided that we better give those a try while we decided what we wanted to do about the couloirs.


Creamy snow on the NE aspects (photo by Eric Bunce)

After climbing out of the first run, we decided we needed one more run on these aspects. The snow was great and the terrain was huge.


Booting up in the warming day

The day was warming quickly and by the time we got to Wolf Pass after 2 runs we needed to make a final decision: 1) down to the road from the pass, 2) up to the summit again and down the NorthWest Couloir, or 3) up to North Peak and gamble that there was enough snow to ski out. No one really had a big preference other than based on already having climbed over 8,000’ and it getting later i the day we felt the NW couloir would take too long. Always up for an unknown adventure I voted for North Peak and no one vetoed (at least not very loudly).


Mt Nebo from the North Peak Ridge


Looking back at Nebo and the aspects that we skied

We skinned and booted to the peak, then had to boot down to snow line where after a little bit of creativity, we popped out into a great west facing gully with 1,000’ of perfect snow. We were lucky to have a fairly easy exist through the avalanche path and back down to the road. The road was a mix of corn, hardback, and ice and we were quickly at our ‘shoe stash’. We grabbed our shoes and continued to pick our way through patch snow to within a 5 minute walk to the pickup.

We had a great day on Nebo and it really just opened the door to some amazing terrain. There is an almost limitless amount of lines to ski in that area and almost guaranteed solidarity. I will definitely be heading back down for some big days.

The WSP skis did not disappoint me at all. Over the weekend I was able to ski them on ice, powder, corn, and breakable crust and for a ski/binding combined weight of 880g, they skied amazingly.

Ski Mountaineering Technique Tip

I have wanted to start putting together some ski mountaineering tips posts for quite a while.  Stano at does a great job of this and as a race director and racer, I especially like his post on race organization.

After being at World’s last year, I started to spend more time on skin waxing.  With Emily racing this year and having to wax 6 pair of skins before every race, I feel like I have perfected my technique. This is not the only technique and probably not the best one, but I have found it very successful.  I put together this short video ‘how-to’ on hot waxing skins.  I would love to hear feedback in the blog comment of other techniques people use or if they find this method useful.


Coupe du Monde de Ski Alpinisme – Verbier

I had what I thought would be the perfect plan. I had to be in London for client meetings 13-17 January. Looking at the skimo race schedule, the first World Cup race of the season was scheduled for 17-19 January in Verbier. A couple of quick calls and I found out that my round trip ticket would be $400 cheaper flying out of Geneva on Monday and I could fly from London to Geneva on Friday for $120. To complicate the schedule a little bit, Emily and I would be racing Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Resort, Colorado on 11 January. With a little bit of complicated packing/planning I think I had it figured out how to pack for 2 race weekends on different continents plus a week of client meetings.

Heathen Challenge was a great race. Long, but not a lot of vertical so it was a great chance to work on my gliding. Emily and I both had good races (Heathen Challenge Results ).

Heathen Challenge

Emily at the finish of Heathen Challenge

I was flying out of Denver on Sunday so after the race, I rented a car and drove to Boulder for the night to visit Matt and Walter. I was excited to catch up with them and have a trail run on Sunday.


Matt and Walter

After a trail run on Sunday, I was off to the airport. It wasn’t a good start with a security flag of some type being put on my ticket and it taking me over 90 minutes to get checked in. I missed the first leg of my flight, but was able to get a later flight out and still get into London on time.

It was a busy week in London with client meetings, but I was really looking forward to the weekend and getting to race my first Euro Skimo race and then getting to free ski in Verbier for a day. Wednesday morning is when things went bad. I was stretching in the hotel in the morning and something in my back ‘snapped’. When this happened, I was hardly able to get off the floor. The only time I had experienced something like this during Leadman in 2012, but this was worse. I struggled through the next 2 days of work in constant pain and just hoped for the best. I was barely able to make it through the airport at Gatwick to my flight to Geneva on Friday. Every few steps I would have to stop breathing hard and sweating from pain. This was not good. I arrived in Geneva, picked up a rental car and headed to Chamonix to pick up Meredith and Wild Bill. It would be Meredith’s first World Cup race.

We arrived in Verbier and quickly starting catching up with race friends. I was excited for the World Cup race weekend .

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Chad, Meredith, Martha, and Wild Bill

I knew the only way I would be able to determine if I could race would be to get out and skin a little. Meredith and I did a short 1100’ climb from Verbier. The climbing felt good, but when it was time to transition, I could reach my boots and bindings. When it was time to ski, I was not able to engage any of the lower back and leg muscles on my right side and therefore could hardly turn left. That pretty much made my race decision and I was extremely disappointed and bummed out. I had done all this traveling and had built up a lot of excitement about my first Euro skimo race and I was going to be sidelined.

At least there was still work to do. There was an interesting coaches meeting on Friday afternoon to review all of the new and updated ISMF rules. It was great to get clarification of them. Verbier is also the host of the 2015 World Championships so I was able to get a ‘lay of the land’ for next year’s races. Meredith was also really nervous so being able to support her in a ‘coaches’ role would be very beneficial to her and at least make me useful.

The pre-race briefing had lots of ‘show’. There was the parade of nations and presentation of numbers for the top 5 men and women racers.

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

The best of the best in the world

 The blistering fast start pace of a World Cup race

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Melanie Bernier of Team Canada at the first transition

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Somewhat obscured view of the top of climb 2 (up the ridge on the right) and climb 3 (straight up the front)

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Martha on the final climb

Verbier World Cup Individual Race

Meredith on the last climb

The race was great to watch. My back got much worse when walking near the starting line and my foot sunk through a hole and my entire body seized up trying to hold the fall. This was not good and it only got worse throughout the day. By night I was not able to even stand up out of a chair. I was not in some of the most severe pain I had ever been in my life. After a tough night of sleep, I wasn’t able to get out of bed on Sunday. Unfortunately I missed the race on Sunday as I knew I couldn’t get up and down the mountain. I was not a lot worried about my back and my ability to get home the next day. After the race, we drove back to Chamonix for the race. What should have a dream for me, was more about pain management and I didn’t really get to enjoy my time in Cham.

I am now on the flight home and trying to feed the pain with Vitamin I and Valium and not sure of what to do next.

I had a busy week planned with the OR Show Race and OR Show meetings for the Powder Keg. I can’t imagine at this point being able to be on my feet for any amount of time for OR and am having doubts on being able to ski for a few weeks. I have dealt with back pain for many years, but this is like nothing else.


Wyoming Roundup Race Recap

3 Skimo Race, 15,000’ climbing, 18 miles of distance, in 2 days

At first thought, the idea of putting all that in 2 days sounded crazy. The Wyoming Roundup would be the newest US Skimo Stage race. It would combine The Jackon race, Grand Targhee Classic, and add in a new Snow King Sprint race. It was guaranteed to be a very busy weekend. Drive to Driggs on Friday, race Grand Targhee Classic Saturday morning, drive to Jackson, attempt to dry out gear before Saturday’s second race at Snow King, try to sleep, race Jackson on Sunday, then drive home. It makes me tired even recapping the plan.

As is typical for this race weekend, the weather forecast was cold. It was going to be snowing, below zero (F) temps, and very windy.

Emily and I were both excited for the race weekend. For me, it was to return for the third year to race Targhee and Jackson and for her it was to have her first big multi-race weekend.

We had a great Thai dinner in Driggs with Jason D, Josh, Nick, and Brita, then were back at the hotel to get our race gear ready. A 9AM start on Saturday allowed us a somewhat relaxing morning. The weather at Grand Targhee was socked in, windy, and cold as expected. There was a nice layer of fresh snow so we were hoping for good skiing conditions until Andy (the RD) told us to expect otherwise since the 40mph winds of the previous afternoon had scoured everything up high. We warmed up for a while, then had to wait for a 30 minute race delay for avalanche control work. We warmed up again and the race was off with the standard ‘stupid, fast’ pace. I struggled to get into a rhythm on the steep first climb. A fast and good descent got me into my rhythm for the second climb and I enjoyed the climb and the booter up Mary’s Nipple. The second descent was what I was worried about after last year’s breakable crust. Expecting the snow to get bad at any time, I skied cautiously. The snow stayed good, but was very thin. The last climb was long. I blew both skins and lost 4 places. After replacing skins, I pushed the pace up to regain 2 of the places. I reached the top and was excited about the steep couloir off the top. It skied great followed by a straight-line descent down the apron and onto a groomer. I crossed the finish line in 1:55:48 for 12th place. I was 2 minutes slower than 2013 which was disappointing as I was hoping to be around 10 minutes faster. I got some warm cloths on and waited for Emily at the finish line. Emily came across very cold with frost nip on her thumbs at 2:40:21 for 11th. Full Grand Targhee Classic Results.


Emily at Grand Targhee Classic Finish

We waited for awards and were on our way over Teton Pass by around 1. With lots of wet gear, we had things spread around the car as much as possible to dry. We go to Jackson and checked into our luxurious Super 8 room and went about getting our gear dried. Heater on high, doors and windows wide open. With Mark, Emily, and my wet gear the room did not have a good smell. Emily Sullivan came by and wouldn’t come past the door way it smelled so bad. We weren’t left with many options. We had just over 1 hour to get our gear as dry as possible before the Snow King Sprint Race.

We loaded up and headed to Snow King a little before 4. We got ready and started to warm up on the sprint course. The race would be 3 laps of 400’ each with several switchbacks and a booter. Sprinting is neither of our strong points so we just hoped to survive. When the gun went off, I felt very good and was able to push hard. All of our practice at transitions definitely paid off. Was was able to finish the 3 laps in 21:03 for 8th place. Emily finished in 27:54 for 7th.

Chad transitioning at the sprint race:!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/8

We went straight to dinner (another Thai meal), the back to the hotel as quickly as possible to get our race gear ready for the next day. I decided against waxing skis and skins and instead just wanted to get things ready and off to bed.

Jackson was an 8AM start so we were up early. We arrived at the resort to cold and windy weather. Forest (the RD) announced it was -8F and 40 mph winds. Frostbite would be a real concern for everyone. Most people grabbed an extra layer ‘just in case’. As usual, we got warmed up and anxiously waited the race to start. Jackson is a big race. 10 miles and 8200’ ascent with some super steep descents. It is intimidating on fresh legs and even more on legs with 2 races on them.


A Speedy Jackson Start (photo by Jackie Concannon)

Jackson Start:!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/21

I was having a great race. The ascents felt good and the skiing was very good. I kept a steady pace and tried to maintain my warmth. As I approached the Corbett’s booter, I put on an extra pair of gloves.

Chad topping out at Corbett’s ladder:!/portfolio/C0000xkYKqzUSodI/G0000GT2Z_NATWZw/33

After topping on on the Corbett’s we were in the full strength of the weather. It was so windy it was hard to stand up and it was so cold it was hard to breath. We moved our frozen bodies to the top only thinking about getting down as quickly as possible. When Emily arrived here, the volunteers told her she could not continue without going inside as her cheeks were white. She went in the patrol shack and as quickly as possible thawed her cheeks and thumbs and then was out on course again. This was standard for lots of racers and many who went in ended up dropping so it was great that she was able to dig deep and continue on. I got off course descending from the top of the tram not able to find the course in white out conditions. Once back on course, I pointed the skis down and did all I could to make up time. This descent is over 4000’ and it hurt. Your legs are burning and you know that you have 1 more 1200’+ climb left.

I reached the last transition, put on fresh skins that I had saved for this painful ascent and set out on a pace with Stevie and John on my tails. The 3 of us had been pushing each other all day and it was going to come down to this last ascent. Any mistake would cost me a place so I had to make sure everything went perfect. My fresh skins proved to be a great idea and I avoided any skin issues and the 3 of us topped out within second of each other. Time to make it a race. 1000’ of big moguls, then a groomer. I pointed them down and hung on. I crossed the finish line in 3:04:32 in 9th place.

I expected Emily in about 4 hours. That came and went and she came through very cold and frostbitten in 4:29:05 in 10th place.

I ended the 3 race series in 9th place in 5:21:23. Emily ended in 6th in 7:27:51.

The overall Jackson results and Wyoming Roundup Results can be found here:



We have a very busy couple weeks coming up with lots of racing.

  • This Saturday (11 Jan) is Heathen Challenge at Sunlight Resort
  • Next Saturday (18 Jan) I am racing the Swiss Cup in Verbier. I am in London for work and I was able to sneak in a side trip for this race.
  • 21 Jan is the OR Show race
  • 28 January is another Citizen Series race.


Impacts of racing in -8F and 40mph winds

Utah Ski Mountaineering & Wasatch Citizen Series

7 days until the first Wasatch Citizen Ski Mountaineering Race! I hope everyone is ready. The snow conditions will make for a challenging time with a good course.

Our goal of the Citizen Skimo Series is to grow participation of the sport by introducing people to ski mountaineering races in a fun and non-intimidating atmosphere. The races have grown from ~15 people at the early races to over 70 people at the races last season.


We have been very lucky for the past 2 seasons to be able to make the races 100% free. Unfortunately due to the growth of the races we have had to formalize the races more than prior years and for the 2014 season, we are faced with very large insurance costs this year. We need to raise $2500 to cover the insurance for 7 of the 8 races (not including the OR Show Race).


We have started the non-profit Utah Ski Mountaineering association to promote and sponsor skimo events (races, clinics, etc) in Utah.  We have submitted our non-profit application and hope to have 501(c)3 status by the end of the year.  UT Ski Mountaineering will be the official organization that will put on the Citizen Series.  Please consider joining UT Ski Mountaineering to support the Citizen Series.  An annual membership in UT Ski Mountaineering is $30.  100% of the membership fees go to support the Citizen Series.  For those not wishing to be members or if you do not know if you will race very many races, we are recommending a $5 donation each time you race to help cover these costs.   Some of the benefits of your membership include:

  • Entrance to and support of 8 great Citizen Series races
  • Entry into an additional end of season opportunity drawing for great prizes (skis, clothing, etc)
  • 15% off a skimo gear purchase at Gear 30 in Ogden
  • We will be providing additional benefits as the season progresses including some swag and discounts at local retailers

We will also be requiring a race waiver this year. Please print the race waiver and bring it to the first race you attend this season.

Please see the membership page of for more details, to join, and for the race waiver.

See you all Thursday in the fight for the first pie of the season.


20th Annual Avalanche Party

The avalanche part has become an annual fall tradition for most of us. It marks the changing of seasons. We all start to get excited about ski season, we catch up with ‘winter friends’ and start to focus attention on things other than mountain running and biking. It is hard to believe that the avalanche party is now in its 20th year. The party seems to get bigger (and be more fun) every year. If you’ve never been to the party, I encourage you to come and enjoy good food, good beer, and great friends.

To add to the excitement this year, for all the lycra wearing, skinny ski crowd, there will be a pair of Scarpa Alien boots auctioned off!

Get your tickets now and mark your calendars for Thursday, September 12 from 6-10PM at the Black Diamond parking log (2084 E 3900 S in Salt Lake City).

Think Snow!

2013_UAC_party_poster 2c 600_0.jpg

Twin Peaks SW Face

Ever since moving to Salt Lake City in 2002 I have looked up at Twin Peaks and wanted to ski either the Southwest or Northwest faces. These faces are visible from almost everywhere in SLC.


Twin Peaks from Cottonwood Heights area

Many years ago (probably 2004) Emily and I hike up from Broad’s Fork and descended the Northwest Couloir and came out Deaf Smith Canyon. It was a great hike, but really just confirmed that the way to descend it was on skis. The challenge of this route is finding someone willing to bushwhack out of Deaf Smith Canyon. With great spring skiing conditions, Blake and I had talked about getting out on Saturday and skiing. We proposed Nebo, Timpanogos, and Twin Peaks. Since Blake had a similar feeling as I did that after looking at that peak every day, we really should ski it, our decision on which of the 3 to ski was easy. Another advantage of skiing Twin was that we could have a decent starting time of 7AM (instead of 5AM or earlier for the other 2 peaks)

We were hiking put he Broads Fork Trail with skis and boots on our back by 7 and reached snow (mostly) after the bridge. We switched to skis and continued up.


Blake on the skin track (we maybe switched to skis a little early)

When we got into Broad’s Fork, we could see 2 people at the top of Bonkers, but decided to take the summer route up the south ridge. I incorrectly thought this would be easier and faster since it is in the summer. It took us at least 30 minutes longer (if not an hour) to go this route. We had great skiing conditions with having to cross the occasional wet slide path. We reached the saddle and and had a nice food break before switch to crampons for the rest of the climb up the ridge. The ridge was more technical than we had anticipated and we had to drop down off the ridge to avoid a technical section of 5th class rock in ski boots and crampons.


Blake on the south ridge of Twin Peaks


Blake on the south ridge of Twin Peaks


Blake on the East Summit


Chad on the East Summit


Blake on the west summit


Chad on the west summit

Our plan was to be on the summit by 11AM since we knew that either the SW or NW faces would not soften up before then. Our timing was perfect and we hit the East Summit at 10:57. The NW face was still frozen solid. We made our way to the West Summit and the SW face was still hard as well. We decided to sit and wait for the snow to soften so we hung out at the summit until noon and figured it was time to go before it got too warm down low.


View of our descent, the thick Deaf Smith Canyon, and SLC 6,100′ below.

The top ~200′ was still frozen, but we quick hit great corn and we were able to ski 3,500′ of great corn followed by another 600′ of picking our way through trees and dirt to the end of the snow.


Blake skiing great corn

We reached the end of the snow, switched back to running shoes, shouldered our once again heavy packs (with skis, boots, etc) and started into the unknown. Last time I had gone down Deaf Smith, it was a complete bushwhack and we spend most of the time just walking down the middle of the creek. We were pleasantly surprised that there was a descent trail for most of the descent. We still had to cross the creek at least 15 times and had a couple of fun rock traverses, but we were able to make descent time down.


The fun of getting out Deaf Smith Canyon


More Deaf Smith Canyon fun

We reached the car by 2:20 where cold PBR was waiting for us after great day at a relaxing pace.

I love my Scarpa Alien boots, but the boa hurts the top of my foot extremely bad. This was a trial day using the Dynafit TLT liners (which are a little bit thicker) in the Alien shells and I was very happy with how the padding helped ease the pain. This may be the standard combo for me for everything other than racing.


  • Scarpa Alien 1.0 boots
  • Ski Trab Free Rando Lite Skis
  • Dynafit Low Tech Light bindings
  • BD Whipet
  • BD Raven Ultra Ax
  • Grivel Race Crampons
  • BD Mohair Skins
  • Dynafit pants and jacket
  • BD Tracer Helmet
  • Montrail Mountain Massochist shoes

Ode to My Quiver

Spring seems like an odd time to write a blog about a ski quiver, but it is also the time when I really start to use a variety of skis. This time of year can be deep powder, corn, ice, or long days on light gear so I seem to use a bigger variety of skis in the spring than in the winter where most every day is a powder day.

When I moved to Utah in 2002, I quickly became a tele skier. From 2002 until spring of 2010, I only owned tele gear. Over the last 2 seasons, my focus has been fast and light AT gear. As Evan said a couple weeks ago, I have sort of become a weight weenie in my quest to do longer days with increased enjoyment (or maybe less tiredness).


Ski Quiver in Our Gear Room (I usually store them with skins attached to ensure we either don’t forget skins or grab the wrong ones)


Tools of the Trade: (left to right): Atomic Tacora, Rossignal T4, Voile Insane, Voile Drifter, Voile Charger, Voile Vector, Ski Trab Free Rando Lite, Hagan X-Race

Hagan X-Race: Starting from the lightest. I purchased the Hagan X-Race ski in February 2012 for skimo racing. This ski with the Ski Trab TR binding is 883 g/ski. For a short, skinny, and light ski, this skis very well. I have spent more time touring on this ski than I ever imagined including deep powder days. This ski has seen lots of skimo racing, big days in the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains, and lots of vert in Europe this winter over the World Skimo Championships. The downfall of many race skis is that they are fragile. On my first race I compressed and edge which Eric Bunch was able to meticulously fix. I have also exposed the wood core in several places and have had to reseal it with epoxy.


Hagan X-Race – 883g

Ski Trab Free Rando Lite: I purchased the Ski Trab Free Rando Lite skis in December 2011 as in intro ski for skimo racing. At 1439 g/ski it quickly became apparent that this ski was too heavy to race on. I now use this ski for long days that I want t solid ski for good skiing, spring corn, hard pack, and other conditions. This ski breaks trail and skis all snow conditions great. The only downfall of this ski is that at 79mm under foot and no rocker or early rise, if you are skiing deep powder, I find myself having to get in the backseat to keep the ski tips up.


Ski Trab Free Rando Lite – 1439g

Voile Vector: The newest addition to my quiver that I am extremely excited about is the Voile Vector. I have wanted to get out on this ski for 2 years as for a while, it was the only Voile ski I wasn’t skiing on and I felt it was a great all around ski balancing great dimensions (96mm under foot) and tip rocker with light weight. Locally made in Salt Lake City, Voile skis have been my ski of choice for 7+ years. I put a Plum 165 binding on this ski to make it a very light (1765g/ski) everyday touring ski. With 3 seasons on my Charger’s and only a little life left, these are going to be my go-to skis for touring and powder skiing.


The newest family member, the Voile Vector – 1765g

Voile Charger: My last pair of AT skis is a Voile Charger. I have skied this ski for 3 seasons and absolutely love it. It rips big lines, skis deep powder, tours well, and handles the resort decently. These have had a lot of hard use and have little edge left. For the 2013-2014 season, I think these will become rock skis.

What’s left for my ski quiver? I am excited to get a pair of Voile WSP (Wasatch Speed Project) race skis. At only a few grams heavier than my X-Races, but with an early rise tip, these will ski and race much better than the X-Race. They are also built a little stronger so hopefully will get less edge damage. I also am excited to get pair of these because the WSP name was the name I suggested


Voile WSP

I still have 4 pair of tele skis as well. I did not get out on tele gear much this winter mostly due to some knee pain left over from running last summer. I did get a half dozen days in.

Atomic Tacora: I purchased these on a blow-out sale from Sierra Trading Post probably 6 or 7 years ago. I have only skied them 12-15 times, but they are a great resort tele ski for non-powder days. With the very active Hammer Head binding with the super stiff spring, you can absolutely rail these skis. These ski fast and fun!

Rossignal T4: This ski is a relic. I purchased it around 2004 and have skied it hard for many seasons. It has been rock ski for 5 or 6 years. The ski is completely noodled and the bases are shot. There is really no reason for this ski to still be in my quiver as it hasn’t seen snow for 2 seasons and probably won’t. I tried to feel the O1 binding from this ski last season as a way to retire it and will need to try it again next year. In the meantime, it brings back happy memories each time I look at it sitting lonely in my quiver.

Voile Insane: This was my first Voile ski. Originally mounted with a G3 Targa T9, then drastically upgraded to the Voile Switchback, and finally upgraded to the Voile Switchback X2. This is a great all mountain tele ski and when I do tele, this is typically what I will ski on. The X2 is a super active binding that is a lot of fun. This ski tours well and skis the resort well.

Voile Drifter: This is the second pair of drifters I have had. I had a prototype pair during the early Voile testing, then this production model. I call the Drifter the Giggle Sticks. On deep powder days, it doesn’t get any more fun than skiing this ski. I am torn whether to keep this as a fun powder tele ski or mount AT bindings on it. I think the Free Rando Lite, Vector, and Drifter could make the ultimate 3-ski AT quiver.

Here is a comparison of length and weights of the skis in my quiver

Ski Weights
Ski Length Binding Weight/Ski (g) Weight/Ski (lbs)
Hagan X-Race 160 Ski Trab TR Race 883 1.95
Ski Trab Free Rando lite 171 Dynafit Low Tech Lite 1439 3.17
Voile Vector 180 Plum 165 1765 3.89
Voile Charger 181 Dynafit TLT 2608 5.75
Atomic Tacora 181 Hammer Head 2608 5.75
Rossignal T4 185 Black Diamond O1 3062 6.75
Voile Insane 183 Voile Switchback X2 2750 6.06
Voile Drifter 182 Voile Switchback 2750 6.06

No ski quiver is complete without a good boot selection.


Boot selection to go withmy ski quiver (left to right): Scarpa Alien 1.0, Dynafit TLT5 Performance, Scarpa Spirit, Scarpa T1, Scarpa T3

When I started AT skiing, I purchased a pair of Scarpa Spirit boots. These boots fit great and ski great. When I started getting more serious about racing I knew I needed to get off the T3 boots and light tele race setup. In December 2011, I bought a pair of Dynafit TLT Performance boots. At 1226g, I thought these were the greatest things ever. They quickly became the only boots I toured in due to the light weight and amazing walk mode. I have only used the removable tongue’s a couple of times and have no problem driving the Voile Charger in steep or deep terrain without the tongue. There are 2 downfalls of this boot:

1) The overstep buckle bends easily and after 2 months the buckle was pretty much trashed. I have since drilled out the rivet holding the bucked, drilled the hole in the shell larger, and screwed it on with a Scarpa T screw. The larger screw head has kept the buckle from bending as much, but it is still sprung and doesn’t stay buckled very well.

2) The boots are very cold. This year I broke down and bought a pair of Boot Gloves. They make you look like a ‘gaper’ when touring, but at least I quit frost biting my toes on moderate temperature tours.

My go-to everyday touring boot – Dynafit TLT5 Performance – 1226g

In December of 2012, feeling like I needed to buy something, I splurged for a pair of Scarpa Alien 1.0 boots. At 830g and what seems like twice the flex as the TLT5, these boots made an amazing difference racing. I have used these boots with all of my AT skis and have been very happy with how the are able to drive the Voile Charger. Overall, I find the Alien 1.0 an amazing boot that has really revolutionized the ability to walk, run, tour, and ski in the boot. The boot is lighter and has more flex than my old all leather Montrail hiking boots! Like all boots, these have a couple of downfalls

1) The 1.0 does not come with the gaiter that the regular Alien comes with. This means that after a day of skiing powder, you have packed the boot pretty full of snow and turned it into an ice shell around the liner. Believe it or not, even with the ice shell, this boot is warmer than the TLT5.

2) The boot kills my feet. The Boa tightener should be flatter instead of angling down (see photo). With the able of the Boa, the hard plastic digs into the bone on the top of my feet. I have high arches and boney feet, so this bone is quite prominent on my foot and even hurts in some running shoes.


Scarpa Alien 1.0 – 830g

As mentioned, the Scarpa T3 was only used for skimo races when I was on tele gear. I paid next to nothing for this boot and have never used it for anything other than racing. With true race gear now, this boot won’t see snow again (at least by me). That leave me with only the Scarpa T1 boots. These were my second tele boots (after breaking a pair of Garmont boots in half at the bellows). My T1 boots are definitely a performance fit being anywhere from 1-1.5 sizes smaller than most of my other boots. With the added Booster Strap, these boots will drive any ski in any terrain. They have 6 years on them and have holes worn in the bellows. For the small amount I tele ski now, I am hoping to get a few more years out of them.

The weight comparison of the boots is interesting as well with a close to 3x factor between the Alien’s and Spirits.

Boot Weights
Boot Size Weight (g) Weight (lbs)
Scarpa Alien 1.0 28 830 1.83
Dynafit TLT Performance 27.5 1226 2.70
Scarpa Spirit 27.5 1926 4.25
Scarpa T1 with Booster Strap 26.5 1897 4.18
Scarpa T3 27 1379 3.04

Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what some of the combined weights were of the ski/boot combos that I commonly ski is. It is quite amazing to see the variation of 1700g to 4600g.

Combos I Ski
Ski Boot Total Weight (g) Total Weight (lbs)
Hagan X-Race Scarpa Alien 1.0 1713 3.78
Hagan X-Race Dynafit TLT Performance 2109 4.65
Ski Trab Free Rando lite Scarpa Alien 1.0 2269 5.00
Ski Trab Free Rando lite Dynafit TLT Performance 2665 5.88
Voile Vector Scarpa Alien 1.0 2595 5.72
Voile Vector Dynafit TLT Performance 2991 6.59
Voile Charger Dynafit TLT Performance 3834 8.45
Voile Charger Scarpa Spirit 4534 10.00
Atomic Tacora Scarpa T1 4505 9.93
Voile Insane Scarpa T1 4647 10.24
Voile Drifter Scarpa T1 4647 10.24