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GO TO HELI! It'll Change Your Life!

December 23, 2013

If your passion is riding big mountains and you have the testicular fortitude to fly in helicopters, ride dramatic alpine steeps, navigate around deep crevasses and through old-growth forests, with the occasional blind drop, YOU WILL NOT SPEND A BETTER WEEK IN YOUR LIFE.

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to ski 120,000 vertical feet of untouched, untracked, parched, bottomless pow in the Selkirk, Monashee and Bugaboo mountains around Revelstoke. To put it in perspective, I’ve cat skied Valdez, Alaska and Las Lenas, Argentina, and I’ve resort and backcountry skied all over the US, Canada, Europe and South America. Straight up, there simply is NO COMPARISON to heli-skiing. (If you know better, please let me know.)

A typical day: Wake at 6:30 am for 30 minutes of instructed “warm” stretching, followed by a BIG breakfast. The kind a coal miner would eat. You’re on the copter by 8 am, ripping turns by 8:15, on BIG runs! Some are 3-4,000 vertical at a time, rarely stopping. (I suggest you get a dozen resort days in ahead of your heli-trip, to bank some endurance.) Once you’ve shredded your first run, group back up at the landing zone to catch your next ride, rinse and repeat all day. The rules are; there are no rules. (Okay, two rules; no passing your guide, and take your turns at being “pack-man,” where you trail the group, toting the avalanche gear and making sure you don’t lose anyone along the way.)

​Around noon, they fly in lunch, with hot soup and drinks, and you catch your breath while gandering views that are arguably the most magnificent, awe-inspiring on earth. When it starts getting dark around 4 pm, depending on the time of year, you fly back for après ski, followed by hot showers and hot tubs. After some relaxation (and maybe a spa-quality massage), you’ll devour a five-course, five-star meal, fit for a king. Maybe enjoy an adult beverage (if you’re and adult), then head-off early to bed to dream of the next morning, like its Christmas Eve and you’re five years old.

You don’t have to be an expert. In fact, a week of heli will undeniably elevate your level. Not just in your powder skills and overall ability, but en la cabeza -- your confidence. By the end of your week, you’ll likely find yourself rail-sliding downed timber, dropping successive 10-foot pillows like you’re Sean Pettit and wearing a perm-a-grin for weeks-on-after.

Oh, yeah. It’s expensive, I know. So, get a second job, take a second mortgage, rent-out a room. Hell, sell a kidney if you need to, but get yourself to the Canadian Rockies or Alaska. It will be the most memorable riding experience of your life!

I went with Canadian Mountain Holidays, a.k.a. “CMH.” They basically invented heli-skiing in 1965. But, you can pick from a few dozen other operations. Here are some of the more established Guides/Lodges.

Going to heli, is like going to heaven (one can hope). You’ll remember this experience, like it was yesterday, for the rest of your life. 

That Moment When You Realize Your'e NOT Going to Stomp It.

December 12, 2013

There’s something exhilarating about riding high-speed, big lines and steeps, but it still doesn't compare to the feeling you get when you’re airborne. Especially if you’re inverted. That grin you get when you land a new trick.  Then again, there’s also that little voice in your head. The one you hear when you realize you’re on the edge, that suddenly screams, “Uh, oh! This is really gonna hurt!” 

That’s the point of sport in general, especially skiing and snowboarding. If you’ve never heard that voice, you’re not trying hard enough to become a better rider. Some people ride all day and you find them talking it up on the lift, about how they, “haven’t fallen once all day.”  My response, “well, I guess you should be going at it harder.” 

There’s no shame in crashing and burning. Don’t think for one second that the pros you see in
TGR and Sherpas Cinema films don’t do it. Next time you watch one, look at their landings and you’ll often see the remains of the two or three previous attempts at getting the camera shot. Stretching their limits is how they became professionals in the first place.

Until you’ve tomahawked down a powder field or summersaulted over the tops of moguls into a ravine or creek bed, you really haven’t skied to your potential. Push yourself. That doesn’t mean you have to go drop a cliff, but a yard sale now and then will make you better and give your friends something to talk about at beer-thirty. And, if you manage to eat it within eyeshot of the chair, at least you’re bound to get some lively applause. Where else will people appreciate your failure with such enthusiasm and vigor?

A Skier's Ode to Snowboarders

November 20, 2013

Enough already, of the bathroom mirror selfie from your smartphone! To that end, how self-absorbed have we become, so that "selfie" has been added to the Oxford Dictionary and been awarded the Word of the Year 2013? I thought I was tired of the words “stoked,” "epic" and "sick," but “selfie” has set a new bar for the overuse of a word and for the abuse of a practice. That said, with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram leading the charge, along with our vanity, the selfie photo probably isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s not big business, it’s capital G, Gigantic business. Snapchat, who is relatively new, already has a valuation over $3B, if that’s any indication.

Who else is capitalizing on our narcissistic tendencies? GoPro (and iON, among others) by facilitating the “ultimate selfie.” They've brought your pic to life. According to a recent Forbes article, GoPro sales have doubled every year since its introduction in 2004. At this pace, they will sell more than 4 million cameras next year and gross nearly $1B -- and for good reason. Rather than confinement to a single frame, you can shoot as many as 240 frames per second (FPS) and then pick and your best side, or share the whole smash in just few clicks. You really have to give it up to them. They’ve enabled a game-changing, first-person filming capability for professional action sports moviemakers, like Warren Miller and TGR, not to mention the millions of average Joe Riders at your local resorts. They have literally changed how we shoot, share and view experiences. (Imagine what Anthony Weiner could do with a GoPro and a Twitter account.)

Your take-a-way. It appears that the selfie is here to stay along with our egos’ insatiable need for self-promotion. So, do us all a courtesy and at least make it interesting. We’d much rather watch you slide a few rails, than see the shot of you naked in your bathroom (99.9% of the time, anyway). So strap one on, get STOKED and head out. We can’t wait to see all of your SICK  pics and videos of the day, because this season is going to be EPIC! Next year’s annoying word? “GoPro.”

PS. Since I don’t own one, can I borrow your GoPro? I want to film myself buying a GoPro and post it for you to watch on YouTube.

See an "ultimate selfie" done well:  Vimeo

More on Tumblr.

Who really is the king of the mountain?


When was the last time you saw a Daffy? Where are my Varnets? And whatever happened to Harkin?

January will mark three decades since Harkin Banks, Dan O’Callahan and Squirrel Murphy defeated Rudi Garmisch and the Austrians by throwing daffies and back-scratchers in Squaw Valley at the faux FIS World Cup Free Style Skiing Championship. (If you haven’t seen the gratuitous “B”, okay, maybe “C”, cult classic Hot Dog - The Movie [1984], I found it here:

Since then, the only thing that has changed is everything. Gear, terrain, backcountry access, helmets, bigger air, certainly the vernacular … and of course, the rise of the snowboard. Which spurs another round of a now age-old battle, which sport is king …skiing or snowboarding? Snowboarders might contend that they’re more radical, throw more innovative and dangerous tricks and above all, defy any sort of authority. Skiers, on the other hand, may simply contend that those who can’t ski, snowboard. If you net it out, I’d argue that snowboarding has made skiing better. I ask you … who would win in a Chinese Downhill?  Reply

“Hey, Harkin.”

Official Launch Day

November 1, 2013's first home page:

Has GoPro Enabled the Ultimate Selfie?

November 26, 2013


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