Our good friend Ash Cotter, a Kiwi local, asked us to join his group at a new backcountry hut. They are now very hard to book so we jumped at the chance. Meanwhile, New Zealand had some of the worst weather in history with flooding, howling wind, road washouts, the most rain in history. Despite the bad weather we were able to luck out with a few epic days which made the whole trip worth while. We climb up hill, avoiding avalanche terrain, find nice stable snow and ski down. There are no other people around, and its just great.
Here is my new song I wrote and recorded this year. I was very lucky to have Robbie Calvo produce and play guitar on it. I wrote the chorus during the pandemic, but struggled for a long time working out the verses and chords, but it finally came together. Hope you like it. If you want a download just contact me here or on FB and I’ll send a copy.
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Here is a song I wrote and recorded about Wai’ili’kahi, the beautiful 1000 foot waterfall at the back of Waimanu Valley. There are no roads. There are some Hawaiian Hula chants and songs about the waterfall and the romance of two young star crossed Hawaiian lovers in ancient times. My song is about the ambiance of the magical valley. The song features Mark Miller, formerly of the Surf Punks, on guitar.
The volcano Pu’uo is pumping lava near Pahoa Town in Puna Hawaii on the east side. I wrote a song called, “Pu’uo” about the lava flow played here by my band Deep Blue.
The “Uhi Uha” is a hula chant that means surround and flow and is used in hula’s about Madam Pele. Its the custom to leave M. Pele some gin to appease her. She likes gin apparently. During the last flow the TV reporter interviewed the guy who owned the first house to burn down. He was philosophical and said, “I was born naked, that’s how I’ll die. Got to leave it all behind.” When I went to visit Pahoa, the people there were all kind of in denial and acting like nothing was going on, but the lava keeps flowing on and on. Hope you like the song. Please share it.
2018 has been the best ski year of my life. I built out Van Go our Ford Transit campervan in Hawaii and shipped it to the mainland, but it was delayed three weeks by bad weather. While waiting we decided to go ski in Japan. It snowed 24 hours a day for eleven days of light fluffy powder snow…15cm a day, and it stayed at -15C. Deep and light. Japan doesn’t have long steep slopes, so its a lot of short powder laps, which works great for us. After ski, head back to the Onsen for a relaxing hot bath in volcanic heated mineral water. We stayed at Tokachidake and explored some new terrain. After we went to Asahidake and found some new lines on the backside of ridges. Both places had calm, deep, cold powder in the trees. Its becoming more crowded in Hokkaido as the word gets out world wide, but mostly Europeans, and Canadians. We only met a few Americans. We met some nice folks from Pemberton Canada who gave some some great travel ideas. Terrace BC will be a destination this summer and next winter. We also met some Norwegians who said Lofoten is the place to go.
We skied for 24 days in British Columbia, Canada, January-February 2017 and hit the weather just right: cold temperatures through three snow cycles with steady snow. The result was cold, dry, deep powder. We traveled the “Powder Highway” through the Goat, Kootenay, and Selkirk ranges and the Canadian Rockies.
After flying into Spokane, Washington, we headed to Sandpoint Idaho and met up with our friends MoonVapour and Dream Catcher and stayed at their cool backcountry off grid place on Mt. Baldy. They used a snow machine to tow up the roads to access the bottom of the runs. We skinned up under sunny blue skies in -15 C weather to find cold, dry powder in open fields, and on the north side, a shaded glade we dubbed, “Dark Side of the Moon”. You had to keep moving, but it was cold and deep back there. Upon returning to their home, we had a wonderful meal of hot soup, and a soak in their wood fired hot tub next to a creek under a starry sky. It felt so good! We jammed and played music. Chris and Liz have been perfecting their ukulele duets and vocals and I really enjoyed playing with them.
BC is a great place. Canada is the most uncrowded country in the world with only 4 persons per square kilometer. The roads were empty and it was easy to find places to stay through Airbnb. The Canadian dollar was at $.75 so everything was a great deal. The Canadians are mellow and friendly. People say “hi” just walking down the street! When you walk into a restaurant, other diners greet you and say, “Good Morning”!
We headed up to Nelson next and skied at Ymir Lodge ymirbackcountrylodge.com above Nelson. You heli in about 10 minutes and get out at treeline and really nice terrain. We met some folks from Anchorage Alaska that we had met several years before out on the Denali Glaciers and had a nice connection. Brian, the hut caretaker, is a voluble, friendly hardworking Canadian from Jasper and we struck up a friendship with him Trevor, who owns the lodge, recalled some of our adventures getting to Ymir Yurts years ago when the snowcat fell off the road and we had to dig it out. There had been a big snow event and the avalanche danger was high, so everyone dialed it back. The next day was cold and clear, and the snow settled nicely and great snow was everywhere.
The next morning, the Alaskans were due to fly out and wanted to get a last morning run, but the temperature had gone up and the avy situation had gone bad. Unfortunately three of them got caught in a big avalanche and one girl was killed. It was a traumatic and emotional hit for everyone involved and for all at the lodge. We felt so bad for her parents. We helped with the rescue and it had a huge impact on us.
Then we headed to Nakusp and skied with Rod, friends of Moon Vapour and Dream Catcher. He lives in the woods and takes skiers out on snow machines and tours in the Goat Range. Its a long day riding, climbing and skiing. Rod is 65 years old and can climb 2000 meters a day, has a thirty year old girl friend and is very strong. After two days of that we were beat and retreated to Nelson for a couple rest days. Then back to Ymir Lodge for a few more days of nice sunny pow.
After that we headed up to Rogers Pass which is awesome, intimidating, and really really steep. Big lines, as big as it gets. We edged our way slowly into the lines and scored some epic powder days. One day right after a big cold storm we skied waist deep blower powder. One of the best days ever. We stayed in a little tiny ski cabin near Blaeberry. We also stayed with our friends Andreas and Suzanne who have a beautiful new modern ski cabin with the latest European technology and design nestled next to huge dramatic mountains.
We stayed till the weather turned warm and headed down to our daughter’s baby shower in Berkeley California and met up with our son, and his new wife. Some old friends were there and the nice weekend wrapped up one of our best trips ever. Now we’re prepping to head back to Alaska and camp on the glaciers.
When you are out in the wilderness your life depends on good gear. Also when gear fails, you want your gear fixed or replaced. When you are leaving for a trip, there are always last minute gear purchases. Good customer service is very important.
For years I’ve gotten high quality gear at backcountry.com. They have good customer service and good records of your purchases. They have a huge selection of gear, and the expertise to get advice and recommendations. Talk to Patrick Kilbourn to hook up to some great deals. firstname.lastname@example.org
Also when we go to Alaska and the thermometer hits -20F you need good down pads. I always use Exped Downmat 9 LW. Its super warm and as comfortable as my bed at home while in my tent on the Alaska Range glaciers. They also have great customer service and repair and replace products if there is the rare problem, even after years of service.
I used to like Arcteryx. I’ve had problems with the taped seams unraveling. When I sent my goods in for warranty recently, they lost the garments, but also lost the records of the warranty! Their customer service needs some reorganization.
I’ve started using Outdoor Research gear and will be reviewing some of their gear here soon. You can tell their gear is designed by backcountry skiers. It has the specs you need, such as lots of pockets. Their prices are more reasonable as well.
We skied Antarctica in November 2016 for 12 days. It was our third trip there with Ice Axe Expeditions aboard the Sea Adventurer. Doug Stoup has been running the ski expedition for seven years. We climb up the mountains and ski down. We live aboard the ship and are treated to gourmet delicious sit down dinners, big breakfasts with bagels, lox, omlettes, coffee, fruits, bacon, sausage, eggs, beans. We had calm sunny weather on five of the seven days skiing. The Drake Channel crossing was perfectly calm, and none of the 100mph winds and 40 foot seas of last year. We met interesting, beautiful and athletic people from eighteen countries. The guides are movie stars, and famous athletes.
We traveled sixteen thousand miles for five days from Hawaii to get there, and it was worth it. I’d love to spend more time down there.
The sound track is from my new recording release Wai ili kahi and Puuo by my band Deep Blue.
New Zealand, South Island, is the most beautiful country, almost the least crowded, and certainly the most friendly country in the world. We had a wonderful month long trip in August 2016 and met some wonderful new friends and revisited old friends.
It is the quintessential Surf and Ski land where you can ski big snow covered peaks and surf perfect surf breaks the next day.
The very first day we arrived, we bumped into a friend we knew from Antarctica, Mark Sedon, and he said the heli skiing is epic. The first day we did 20,000 feet vert in nice powder, but had very sore legs. Then we headed up to Kirtle Burn hut near Mt. Pisa to ski, We met an Aussie group of snow kiters. Geoff Wilson kited across Antarctica! They let me try and connected me with Richard Prout, the kite distributor who connected me with a guy getting rid of some kites. I am now learning snow kiting. Richard Prout turned out to be an interesting guy and we had dinner and some drinks. He turned me on to Bald Hills Pinot 2005, 2006 and 2010. The 05 is one of the best wines I have ever had in my entire life. One of the highlights of the trip.
We helied into the Liebig Range and stayed a week at the Lady Emily Hut, which is NOT on the map and only used by locals. We met a group that had met in Antarctica and ran the safety and housekeeping for the Kiwi base in Antarctica. Talk about interesting jobs! The terrain and snow was very good with big bowls and towering peaks and chutes on all aspects.
We then stayed at a beautiful hut next to Lake Pukaki. Just up the road the heli guys lets us bump up 6 minutes to a big mountain Kai Terau just above them. The price was less than skiing at the ski fields. Heli assisted back country skiing. Its a big big bowl with 2500 meter peaks. We scored perfect corn and sunny weather.
We skied 20 days out of 30 and only had 2 weather days. We rented really nice houses in Wanaka. I’d definitely think of living there more.
Friends Alex Magoon my best friends son from Hawaii, and Leroy Rust came up from Duneden to ski with us one day. We went down to visit my good friend Rod Rust in Duneden. He has a big ranch above one the best surf spots in the world and owns a surf shop. Rod’s son, Leroy is also a big wave surfer we met when he was surf big waves in Hawaii and helped with our daughter’s wedding. We surfed some fun waves at St. Clair’s in front of the surf shop in Duneden.
Unfortunately, its getting discovered. Wanaka, a charming little ski town is starting to get crowded. Even four years ago, its was deserted. Queenstown is overrun. There are buses of Chinese tourists yelling loudly in gaudy clothes. The back country huts are crowded. Even still, the roads are virtually empty, and there are many places to get away with a one hour hike. Nothing like the crowds in California or Washington.
Here is the movie of our ski mountaineering and glacier camp trip to the Alaska Range, Denali National Park April 2016.
Six things you need to camp in comfort and style on the high glaciers in the big Alaskan Mountains.
- The Hilleberg Atlas tent with the floorless liner, the floor and the vestibule is a great set up for living big. The tent is spacious, warm, and sturdy. We built snow furniture inside with plywood tables and nice beds.
- A kerosene heater keeps the -20F temperature comfortable inside. It’s necessary to dry out gloves, and warm up boots in the morning. It burns Jet A fuel which we get at the airport in Talkeetna before flying in.
- The Coleman Camp oven goes right on top of the Coleman stove or the MSR Whisperlites. We baked bread, bagels, tart tintin, Pear Tart.
- Plywood tables go on top of snow tables for comfortable living.
- Kids foamy floor blocks for the floor of the snow help keep your feet warm.
- We even brought a toilet seat! It eases one of the harder jobs on the glacier. We also brought a Megmid tent for the water closet and it really pays off on a snowy windy day.