Still lots of great snow from big storm 2 weeks ago. Hardly anyone up there.
NE Face is over 1000 feet vertical, steep
Top of Mt. Kemmel
We skied at Icefall Lodge in the Selkirk Range, Columbia Mountains, British Columbia Canada from January 24- January 31, 2015. The fun Sandpoint Idaho gang was there again that week so things were sure to be fun. The first day there was a storm with 30 cm of new powder, but it warmed up and became heavy. After a couple of days it got cold and clear so we got some great runs in the high alpine in nice snow. We even got to climb and ski Mt Kemmel and do the Ice Box chute, a big big line. The other guests at the Lodge were very friendly and convivial and everyone got along well. Our guide Pierre Hungr is IFMGA certified and was a super great guy, and an excellent guide. Highly recommended. The last day we got a dump of soft fresh powder and sunny skies and got some nice pow runs before leaving. It continued to snow and snow.
The next week we rented an RV for 49 Canadian dollars a day! and stayed at Rogers Pass with Chris and Lizbeth from Sandpoint Idaho with their deluxe camper van Van Diesel with a super nice stainless steel woodstove, disco lights and all. At night we’d stay cozy and warm in their van and party.
We barely scratched the surface of Rogers Pass but got some great powder. It snowed for 4 days straight, when a snow storm was predicted to hit, so we had to high tail it out of there before getting buried. There are huge lines up there.
BC is beautiful and the people are super friendly. So much less uptight than in the US. The currency exchange was really good so things were cheap. We’re definitely going back next year or maybe sooner.
January 15, 2015
January 17, 2015
Poliahu is the Hawaiian Goddess of Snow and Mauna Kea. No better way to honor her than by skiing on her hill. The hill we skiied is called Puu Poliahu and it is the only place left on the mountain with such nice snow, fitting for a goddess. We skiied Puu Poliahu on Mauna Kea on January 14, 15, and 17th 2015 on perfect corn snow, smooth surfaces in beautiful sun and low wind in light clothes. Ski Hawaii in January! Hiking up at 13,200 feet after coming straight up from sea level was hard, but the second day was easier.
Endless Winter! New Zealand South Island is definitely my favorite place in the world. The people are super friendly, full of smiles, always wanting to chat and make friends. Its very very uncrowded with only a few cars on the roads, fewer people in the mountains, and small towns. Its like California with 1% of the people. Everything is clean, clean bathrooms, no rubbish. There are beautiful mountains and beaches…truly a surf and ski paradise. Here’s the movie.
It snowed 1.5 meters the first week of August in New Zealand filling in a low snow pack. At Mt. Cook on day 2 I walked up to the heli operator at Glentanner on a clear calm morning and asked if they could drop me off at the top. They asked, are you with the two kiwis? No, but we ended up sharing the ride which cost only $100 for a 12 minute drop off at the top. I took a few runs with them as they were real nice about letting me join them. It was my first day skiing since May and I couldn’t keep up so after 2 runs I hiked out for 2.5 hours about 7 k through tussock grass back to the road. They took one more big run down the next peak. I found a cool little hut at the bottom which would be fun to stay at next time.
I rented a Wicked Camper AWD Toyota Sienna set up with a bed and cook gear and slept in that every night for only $30 per day. There are public huts with bathrooms and kitchens for free. The Holiday Parks are a great deal for $16 a night they have bathrooms, hot showers, clean nice kitchens with pots pans, television rooms. Everything else is expensive…gas/$9/gal…beer $8…hamburger $15…coffee $5.
I headed to Wanaka, Otago, a charming, upscale little ski town on a lake with little shops, restaurants, and lots of friendly locals. Aussies, Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian, French were all there skiing so it was very international, but still completely uncrowded. I stayed at Aspiring Holiday Park, a super nice place and great to meet people while cooking dinner or watching TV etc. There was a 50cm dump, and the following day was sunny, calm and was the best powder day of the year, so went heli skiing. Great snow, but always rush, rush, rush. I prefer touring.
I met Simon, an Italian guy living at the park for the season doing milking cows and ski instructing. He had been on the Italian National Biathlon team for ten years and was a fantastic telemarker and fast in the backcountry. We went for three days to the Rabrossa back country hut near Mt. Pisa and caught some nice powder with one full on blizzard day. Luckily it cleared up and we skiied out about 15k at hitched back to town.
After a rest day, I joined a tour to Black Peak Hut. We helied in and stayed for three days. The terrain was mellow and found some good turns in the wind pack.
Keith, one of the Aussie guys on the tour wanted to go to the glaciers, so after the Black Peak tour he asked, “You want to go?” I said, “Sure”, so we organized a trip to the Fox Glacier with a guide and headed up. Nico Champey was our guide. He is IFMGA certified and was absolutely terrific. A great skier, very experienced and strong. The IFMGA certification really shows he is at the very top of his profession. We had to wait a couple days for the wind, but made it up to the lower Chancellor Hut where the snow was actually the best. The Hut was built in 1905 and felt like staying in a museum as it was the same as 100 years ago, except for the glacier having melted back some.
The next day we helied up to the high glacier Pioneer Hut and toured some fantastic terrain. Absolutely stunning scenery. There are a lot of extreme chutes up there that are untouched waiting for the right conditions. We found hard pack and ice due to the wind, so had to be pretty cautious. The weather was perfectly clear and calm though.
Spacin in the Basin, North Cascades Backcountry Skiing May 2014: the movie (14 min)
Dropping into a steep chute we found off Blue Peak, down into Blue Lake…just classic.
I’m goin to the mountain, going to the sky
Gonna ride the chutes on the skis and fly
Ramblin down the road feeling free
Looking to find another new place to ski.
Timing was good…WA Route 20 that goes deep into the heart of the North Cascades was scheduled to be cleared of snow and open the day before my arrival. Ski buddies Chris Park and Lizbeth Zimmerman from Sandpoint Idaho planned to meet me up there in their custom deluxe campervan “Van Diesel”. The mountains up there are dramatic and steep. Budget rented me a really nice Chrysler Town and Country van in which all the seats fold down into the floor flat making a perfect campervan, and they were renting at a super cheap price of $275 for ten days…good deal. I packed camp gear, stopped for food and drink and headed up to the mountain, headed to the sky, feeling free, looking for a place to ski.
The sun shone clear and there was not a whisper of wind Saturday afternoon. Daylight lasted until 9 pm; sixteen hours of daylight. Headed up a cool looking chute between two large cliffs under a huge bowl below Liberty Bell and the Early Winter Spires above the hairpin turn. The snow was late day mank and soft, but I got a nice short run in. I parked up by Blue Lake and the next morning dawned cold and clear, with perfect hard snow for a great corn set up. I hiked up with crampons to the high bowl below the cliffs, avoiding the the avalanche debris lines falling from the cliff which warm later in the day and got a perfect, perfect, smooth corn run in. Happy camper. The next morning was warm and clear again so I went to the top of the hairpin couloir and bowl and got some classic big mountain corn under perfect conditions on top. That night I headed up for an overnight camp at a high mountain lake cirque Cutthroat lake. I got kind of lost on the way up for an hour and didn’t arrive til 9pm, but it was still light. It was a beautiful lake and not a soul around. The next morning the snow was all isothermic so I headed back down the hill and met up with Chris and Liz. We hung out for a while then headed back up to Blue Lake where we had the whole place to ourselves and a perfect “berth” for their camper van against the snow banks so they could step right out of the high camper door on to the snow. The next day we headed up to the upper bowl and found the “Sogi Couloir” which connected to a classic chute and bowl leading to a pretty lake and a nice tree ski back down to the car. Funny but none of the old timers or locals seems to know about this fairly obvious and truly classic loop tour because it was not in the “tour book”. Pretty funny.
After the tour and a nap, we all hung out and played music, drank beer and talked to the locals passing by who all stopped in. Perfect sunny set up. Turns out Chris and Lizbeth are in a band also in Sandpoint Idaho and played some really great original tunes which are in the movie soundtrack. Chris had a little Martin travel guitar which really sounded good and played pretty well for a small travel guitar. Next day was more of the same, perfect sunny weather, nice corn snow. Their van had a woodstove which was really nice to sit and drink coffee on a chilly morning, and a nice table to eat dinner at. Lizbeth made delicious salads with fresh grown produce. Friday they headed back east and I sure missed them when they left. They sure were nice and a lot of fun.
The Dynafit Cho Oyus worked well for the spring corn conditions. They are super light so they move fast and easy. The narrow waist is no probem and the sturdy tail is good for punching into the snow so the ski stays in place at transitions. They didn’t work so well in the deep mushy soft warm snow. I’m also wondering if mounting the bindings a bit more forward would make them a little easier to turn.
After they left I headed to Rainy Pass and found some really classic chutes the went from the top of the mountain all the way to the road. The snow was firmer as it had cooled off a bit and the sun was less intense with some clouds. The chutes were steep, wide, and straight fall line. Definitely the best line of the trip. Plus, I was the only one there, even on the weekend which contrasted with a crowd…(maybe 8-10 people) up at Blue Lake. Some bad weather finally blew in so that afternoon I headed down to Anacortes. Pretty town and stealth camped in the marina lot, got some laundry done. There was a nice bathroom and showers. The Town and Country was totally stealth.
Huge 30 foot mobile homes struggled and strained to make it over the high mountain passes sucking gas and air. 1 in 10 stops and huge overweight people pop out to goggle at the beautiful mountain scenery for a few seconds then jump back inand roar off. All I can think of is the words toBob Dylan’s song, Desolation Row,:…and the the heart attack machine is strapped accross their shoulders and then the kerosene…”
Heading down thru Seattle, the annual REI sale was in full swing and mobbed with 30 people in every checkout line. I touched some gear but couldn’t stand the crowd. Stopped in Bellevue on the way, east of Seattle. Its a really beautiful new city filled with young Microsoftee’s and reminded be of Beverly Hills. Lots of nice restaurants. Very classy place that I did not know existed. Seattle is a really beautiful city, big, new, clean, with beautiful views of Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains to the East. I’m very impressed. Probably the nicest city on the West Coast and passes San Francisco by.
Finally back home to Hawaii.
I organized the “Pineapple Express” Expedition to Denali National Park and Preserve April 2-10, 2014. Stu Brown, from Valdez joined me the first week, and Dave Burns, from Wasilla, Alaska came the second week. We lucked out with great weather, cold temperatures, nice 8″ of snow in the middle, no wind, lots of sun and powder. We flew in with Paul Roderick, owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi. Paul is a great guy and has been flying there for 25 years in classic totally rebuilt De Havilland Otters and Beavers rigged with snow skis on the wheels. He provided us with great pretrip beta. I almost feel like a regular up there as this was my 4th trip in with them. Both Stu and Dave were solid, knowledgeable and skilled partners and the trip was a real success. Next year I’m going back in for 3 weeks. Stu had a number of first descents and named a number of couloirs including “Old Man Couloir” , “Young Man Couloir”, Injustice Couloir, Aaron’s Couloir, Jim’s Couloir. The other group beat us to Sic Byrd Couloir which turned out to be a great line. Definitely on that for next year. We were doing 6 hour, 2500 vert days which was very doable and I skied for 9 days straight.
We ate in style having Sou Vide Steak, Halibut in Cajun Sauce, Fresh cooked stew simmered for hours with fresh potatoes and onions. The bar was well stocked and the 17′ Hilleberg Atlas group tent was palatial for the three of us. The Hilleberg Atlas basic tent worked great for a group tent. Its 17 feet across and has standing room all around after digging snow furniture. We had an “island” table in the middle, raised cook area with up to 4 burners going at once. We had couch seating for 6 and a separate bar area. The Hille handled the snow well, was easy to set up, and was very warm inside even without the inside tent. The basic worked well as as stand alone. Eli Helmuth, http://guide.climbinglife.com/index.php/about/staff guide extraordinaire, had a separate group nearby and we stopped by in the evenings at what we named the Buckskin Bar and Grill (their group tent) and partied with them.
We even ran into well known Alaskan guide Joe Stock http://www.stockalpine.com/guided-ski-mountaineering/ who was going to hike out 60 miles back to town! Yikes. So we had them over for some hot drinks and bananna pudding. This is big country up here.
Navigating through the crevasses was one of the challenges.
A friend emailed from Japan, “Japan is happening get over here now!” So we did… and scored. Here’s a pic of me skiing waist deep powder blowing over my head! Its the best deepest lightest most uncrowded powder I’ve ever skiied in my entire life.
The airfare and flight times were cheaper and shorter to Japan from Hawaii than BC, so the trip switched to Japan. We had originally planned to go to British Columbia, but first they had no snow, then a dump and a bad avy situation with huge slides triggering. It took a lot of research and planning to do the Japan trip, and the Japanese info on the web is sparse and the translations difficult to decipher. The info is included below as a reference and resource. Japan offers incredible skiing and a cultural experience. For me in Hawaii Japan is close, plus my son speaks fluent Japanese and he had signed on to the trip. As it turned out, many more Japanese speak enough English to do tourist transactions, and I know enough Japanese to say Good morning, Good day, Thank you, and Please help, where is the bathroom, and May I have another beer please. The recent 30% devaluation of the yen made hotels, food, sking incredibly cheap, and even cheaper than the 30% currency discount might imply. French wines were $9-12, Spaghetti dinner $9, glass of wine $2, beers $3, lift tx $40, single ride $10, full room and board at Onsen hotel close to the base of the Tram was $60 per person per day. Add to cheap prices is the fact that you DO NOT TIP in Japan, not the waiters, not the taxi, not the bellhop. I tried to leave some change at a restaurant and they come running out after me to give me my change. Save an additional 20%.
The ski areas have an open backcountry and uphill policy and the Japanese do not ski off piste. There were be nice lines of untracked pow right next to the piste. You would never see that in the US. The ski areas had only a few dozen people skiing on a given day. Its an amazing set up. The Japanese are super nice, polite, and helpful and work really hard. Very little “attitude”, lots of smiles and laughs. There are and handful of Aussies up there skiing so the Japanese are used to loud English speakers..
The onsens, the hotbaths fed by natural volcanic hot spring water, are wonderful and a big allure of skiing in Japan. They feel so relaxing both in the morning and after a big ski. You wash before going in by sitting on a stool with a hand held shower. The minerals in the water soak into the skin and tired muscles. Put the little towel on top of your head and do not let it touch the hot water.
The toilets have hot seats and electric programmable bidet and rear end washing jets which jet hot water for cleaning and take a little getting used to.
Japan just had the biggest snow storm in over 100 years due to cold Siberian wind whipping over the Japan sea and turning into light dry powder as it hit Hokkaido, the northern Island in the Japanese chain. The base was already 3 meters and when we arrived there was 20 cm new on the gorund and it snowed hard day and night with only a few hours break for 10 days straight. Powder was waist deep blower. I had to dig out my car every morning. Here’s a video of some pow. Truly the best powder skiing of my entire life.
Travel resources :
A few weeks before you leave for Japan, get an international driver’s license from the National Auto Club for $15 in order to rent a car. You have to have 4×4 or AWD as all the roads in Hokkaido, even major thruways are covered in snow due to constant snow. Drive left! Look right!! Times Car Rental, Nissan Car Rental, Toyota Car rental all have convenient locations with cars with GPS “car navigation” that speak English. Unfortunately they are written in Kanji so I had to ask people to put in the phone number. You program the phone number of the place you are going to get driving directions. Car rental is expensive. I haven’t figured out who has ski racks. Get a big car if you can.
Fly to Narita, then to Hokkaido, via either New Chotose near Sapporo, or if you can fly direct to Asahikawa via Haneda. Rent a car there. You can take a train from Chitose Airport downstairs from the airport and go directly and easily to Asahikawa. Buses with skis and gear would be a hassle. One person could do it, but not two or more due to the space and lack of racks for skis in the trains and buses. Don’t forget the international date line change when making reservations! Its very confusing.
Super Kamui Rapid trains from Sapporo’s New Chitose Airport continue to Asahikawa, no transfer necessary in Sapporo;2 hours. ¥4480. Track 2 Get U seat w/luggage space departs from New Chitose airport at every xx:19. Make an reservation at the reservation office that is called “Midori no Madoguchi (みどりの窓口) – 13:19 arrives 15.29, If you don’t get a reserved seat you may have to stand between cars. They announce the stations in English on the loudspeaker so its easy.
You can rent a JCR Phone chip in advance and pick it up at Narita Airport Terminal 1, Departures Level 4 rent a chip GPA COUNTERS (Green Port Agency) by Yamato Transpor level 4. Look for the Yamato logo. This allows you to get mobile data, but its not cheap and there was limited connectivity in Daisetzusan National Park.
Asahikawa City to Kurodake/Sounkyo Take Route 39 for Kamikawa / Sounkyo 66km - 60min
Asahikawa City to Asahidake From Asahikawa, take 1 jyo (Route1160, Asahikawa-Taisetsuzan-Sounkyo-sen) to the East. After you pass Chubetsu-Dam, take the right to Tenninkyo, then take the left for Asahidake. 43km – 1hour
Times car rental email@example.com 11-785, Miyashita Dori, Asahikawa-shi IDP not very good selection. Toyota Rent a Car has the RAV which would be perfect.
Kurodake: Hotel Taisetsu(ホテル 大雪) Tel:0120-123-717 book thru Booking.com $80/pppd full board There is a cable car. $18 round trip.
Asahidake: Hostel Daisetsu-zan Shirakabaso YH Asahidake-onsen, Higashikawa-cho, Kamikawa-gun, 071-1472 Hokkaido Japan Tel. 81 166 97 2246 email confirmation $60 pppd full board. There is a cable car here, $11 single ride. The “youth” hostel has mostly old people in it, lol, but the folks are friendly. There is a ski waxing table and iron and drying room downstairs. Its a great set up here.
Todachidake: http://www.ryounkaku.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org Tokachidake Onsen ami-Furano, 071-0579 Japan Phone +81167394111 Fax +81167394112 Email email@example.com booking.com $75pppd full board. Great food! Very remote. No lifts, complex terrain. Get a guide! The food is outstanding here. The onsens have a wonderful mineral content and appear muddy, but its wonderful for your skin. The outside tub is super hot and the cold snow keeps the beer cold.
Here’s an interesting picture of my father Francis Sogi in Hokkaido Japan in 1947 shortly after the end of World War II during the Occupation of Japan. My father served as a Counter Intelligence Agent for the US Army to prevent the Russians from taking over Hokkaido. He told me the story of skiing for the first time there by walking up the hill with skins on his skis for 4 hours and skiing down. That’s how he started skiing, and later in life got me into skiing. He’s about the same age as Kenny is here.
Ski: DPS RP 112 Pure, 178cm, mounted +2 with Dynafit Speed Radicals, no brakes. Review below.
Me: 160 lbs, 5’6″, former racer, now backcountry skier, neutral stance, size 26 boots, aggressive style. The skis look Clean, light and aesthetic with the Speed’s. The yellow top sheets have a slight texture and do not accumulate snow sticking like my Dynafits did with the black smooth tops. The finish is clean, and they look well built, more like a Mercedes than a Ford. The tops seem to resist scuffing and scratching, but can get nicked if you whack them on a kick turn. They weigh 1800 grams each, which seemed heavy at first compared to my Manaslu’s but now, with the width for deep powder, don’t seem heavy at all. All the other light skis at 112 are at least as heavy including the Dynafit powder models. DPS makes their skis in the US from carbon fiber. The skis have low camber, slight reverse rocker at the tip in the spoon, and a side cut behind the whale tip. They are soft skis and flex well. They are 95% powder skis and do very well in ankle to waist deep powder. I skied them on BC hardpack, BC 1 foot settled powder, Hokkaido Japan waist deep powder.
Read the DPS site carefully on mounting instructions. The authorized dealer I bought mine from did not have a clue. He mounted them on center, and they skied like crap. They just slid on hardpack and would not carve. They chattered almost uncontrollably on hard windpack or ice, and were very difficult to ski powder. I had to lean way far foward in an unnatural manner, and if I got neutral, they would throw me back, and not allow regaining forward control. Turn initiation was very hard. So after almost selling them, I talked to a guide from Revelstoke who said, All the guys and shops there are mounting +2. I did, as 2cm is minimum for a remount, and its made a world of difference. They are now without a doubt the best powder skis I have ever ridden. They intiate turns very easily and have super control in tight trees. They can handle speed on the cream powder with authority. They carve on the piste with accelleration, but at speed wander on hardpack due to low camber and soft flex. They ski shorter than their length as the front has the modern spoon in front with the side cut starting about 1/4 way back from the tip, and the tip being a spoon. Floats great in waist deep blower pow and due to low rise tip forward resistance is low. Can ski backwards easily due to tail rise. Once I did ski into a drift at the bottom and the flat tips dove in, but only on the flats at the bottom of the steeps. They are easy to sit back and bring up the dips if the pow gets heavy. The tail feels a little long on the kickturns if you can’t bury your tail in the pow on the turn.
Get 2 or 3 coats of good wax on them before you go out the first time. World of a difference. The factory ptex has a texture on the bottom that might need to be stone ground out at the shop first and makes a buzzing sound. Wax really helps, much faster, much better turning.
I have G3 skins on them. The tails don’t have an indent for the skin clips, but I haven’t had a problem with them slipping off. They need a real good wax job out of the shop with trip wax to fill in the base grind texture. I think a full base grind would help avoid the new ski buzz due to ptex texture. The Ptex is hard. The edges go all the way around the tip and tail for good protection at a slight weight penalty.
These are a great 2nd ski for deep pow, but would require a narrower spring/ice ski. Great for a quiver. They are not very good on ice or hard hard windpack. Before I moved the binding forward I got bad chatter on ice and hard hardpack. Hopefully not so bad with the bindings, but I’ve only skied deep blower powder since the move. I did notice the guide in BC who had the Rossi S7′s also getting a lot of chatter on his skis on the steep icefall face.