Sun, Snow and the Best of Fluff in Oregon’s Cascades!

25 02 2011

A weather system out of the Pacific has converted a drought stricken snowpack in Oregon’s Cascades into dry fluff! Depending on elevation, up to two feet fell in the past two days of desperately needed white stuff!

Here’s a nice video of the dumping in action on Wednesday!

I took a gamble Wednesday and headed up to Ski Bowl and found a paradise for skiers! On the trails, snow up to the top of my boots. Off trail calf high.  Run after run of untracked powder could be had for anybody game enough to ignore the weather forecast and head up. Roads were no problem because the snow plows did such a great job.

Up to the boot tops!

If you have ever dreamed of skiing untracked powder run after run, Wednesday was such a day! I arrived late, about 1:30, and was in absolute DISBELIEF that runs, not backcountry, had NO TRACKS! OMG! In fact people were hiking to ski freshies and there was no reason, freshies could be had on some of the front side trails in the Upper Bowl!

As late as 4:00 p.m. I found lots of fresh, untracked snow on the front side of  Upper Bowl!

My ski buddy Alex said he would try to get time off to come up Thursday and today he was able to get out early and we arrived at Ski Bowl about 9:30 a.m. to the lightest, featherlight snow the Cascades offer!

Though there were more people on the trails Thursday, the snow was so marvelous it didn’t matter. Plus the sun peeked out several times, making the entire day complete.

Another bonus both Wednesday and Thursday was that wind was NOT a factor! WOW. Just perfect, run after run of feather light snow!

When the sun poked out of the sky on Thursday it showed in stark relief how beautiful Planet Earth’s wonders are! HOLY COW the entire Cascade Range stood out in clear, pure, fantastic focus from far to near. All on a day when the weathermen predicted all kinds of trouble!

So, without further adieu, here is Alex making his way down Canyon!

I have experienced many day like this in my skiing career. But not always in the Cascades. So one of my goals has been to show Alex how amazing skiing can be when Mother Nature bestows her magic!

Snow Returns to the Cascades!

24 02 2011

This is what I have been waiting for!

Hello everyone! After three weeks of drought and warmth and loss of snow, La Nina has returned, bestowing dry powder upon the Cascades! LET IT SNOW!

Enjoy this video – taken from the Upper Bowl at Mount Hood Ski Bowl!

More to come!


Skiing Maui’s Surf Break!

9 02 2011

OKAY, now we’ve really seen it all! Chuck Patterson using snow ski equipment combined with water ski equipment to tackle JAWS sized waves in Hawaii!

Chuck Patterson’s foray into ocean wave skiing…

Skiing Anthony Lakes, Oregon

25 01 2011

Lunch in the lodge

MLK Weekend 2011 was spent out in La Grande, OR, and we planned to ski and enjoy the outdoors around Anthony Lakes Ski area. Our friends Craig and Lisa moved out there in 2010 and had bought a house downtown.

My friends Kent, Alex and Stacy all planned on heading out with me for the weekend. Craig & Lisa were very excited to have us in town and show off their place! They had a nice one-story place – real cute with a new metal roof. Craig had just bought a new 55″ LED 3D TV…holy cow it took up half the back room! We’d spend a lot of time hooking it up for Blu-Ray and Netflix streaming movies.

Ready to head out...

Situated in the Elkhorn Mountains about 45 minutes from La Grande, Anthony Lakes is a combined alpine and Nordic ski area. The alpine area only has one triple lift. Small, but it’s known for dry powder. Its base is about 6,000ft and the summit 8,000ft. The lakes themselves make for nice cross country skiing. And one can park at the alpine lodge and do an XC ski from there. Very pretty area!

It’s very low key, something I love. The lift tickets are sold out of a little shack, and are only $35, good for both XC and alpine. If you only want to do XC, it’s $13. Better yet, you can get $5 off if you bring a season pass from another ski area! The lodge is 1970’s retro. And I got a sharpen and wax in 20 minutes for $15.

Just before we left for La Grande, the weather forecast was gloomy and I was afraid everyone would cancel. A massive “pineapple express” – a warm front, was coming and rain predicted even up to 8,000ft. Winter in recreation in the Cascades would be ruined, and maybe as far as Anthony Lakes. Because we wanted to visit Craig & Lisa we rallied and still headed out. We were rewarded Saturday because instead a wintry mix, it snowed all afternoon! Even though the downhill skiing conditions weren’t ideal we felt really fortunate!

Kent, Alex, Craig and I did lots of the groomed runs. The non-groomed runs were passable, but not worth bothering that day. Craig showed us some of the views and I could definitely see that on a powder day Anthony Lakes offered some sweet terrain.

I got a nice shot of Alex at a craggy tree at the summit. It was fast snow and I was tempted to tuck all the way to the bottom!

By noon, I had my fill of the alpine terrain. If the snow were typical powder, I’d have done more downhill.

Lisa and Stacy skied the Nordic area in the morning. By now it had started snowing in earnest! I decided to check out the cross country ski trails for the afternoon…

Cross country skiing at Anthony Lakes is a treat. Trails follow routes around small lakes and these lakes lie below some craggy peaks of the Elkhorn Mountains.

I headed out with Kent, Stacy and Lisa, and we all split up because we had different XC goals for the afternoon. The trails had some twisting downhill sections, and I fell three times! I rarely fell in downhill skiing. In fact the ONLY time I have ever come out of my current ski bindings is when I was hit by a snowboarder, dislocating my shoulder, in 2009! But not so in Nordic. There, I am more of a novice I guess!

Saturday night we had a relaxed dinner in La Grande at Ten Depot Street. It’s one of the nicest restaurants in town, kind of Western grande style, but you don’t have to go for the $26 entree. You can still get something for $12.

Then we headed back to the house for a night of fiddling with the new Samsung 55″ LED TV and the Blu-ray player. Blu-ray is very nice! But these streaming and 3D systems can be problematic …I won’t go into a lot of details, but it was a wireless system, 3D, capable of streaming movies over Netflix, etc. To get this to work you have to get yourself the right accounts set up, your passwords handy, have your manuals ready, have your wireless router signal strong, have your Internet connection fast, etc. etc. etc. If one piece of the puzzle isn’t up to the task (and that includes the human techies) it can get problematic. In our case it took Internet research to find out the TV had a software bug and couldn’t connect to the Internet – so we used the Blu-ray for that. In the end, it was the bandwidth. We needed a faster Internet connection. But the time spent gave a window to make a marionberry cobbler, which was a good reward.

The 3D was interesting, especially amusing to look at people wearing the 3D glasses…

I’m not ready to say that 3D for HD TV is ready for prime time. But it is a fun toy I guess! Those glasses cost $129…

Sunday broke with heavy rain courtesy of the warm front – dousing any winter recreation plans. We spent the morning reading the paper at a La Grande coffee shop and then decided it was time to make our way back to Portland…we got Kent some new windshield wiper blades for the monsoon-soaked drive back…see you next time Anthony Lakes…when the powder returns!

Huh…I’d Better Get My Ski Agro On…for I’m Wearing Lindsay and Bode’s Boots!

23 12 2010

Last spring I bought some Rossignol SAS Pro 120 boots on sale…they seemed to fit Okay at the time but were a bit quirky to me. For one thing they were all white. Turned out these were freeride boots – it seems Lange and Technica also have white freeride boots! They seemed to fit fine, though the flex seemed soft. Still, I just couldn’t get over the all-white look. Like a blank canvas for painting.

My main objective was to finally get boots designed for shaped skis. I’d heard the flex was softer forward but the same torsionally as before. I was anxious to see how they worked with shaped skis. I made a lot of fun of the white blank boots.

Lindsay does the Rossignol SAS 120 in some kinda style

Little did I know Lindsay Vonn, the downhill gold medalist had done a photo shoot in these very same boots. I just dunno.

Anyway not knowing what to expect, I just figured the new “feel” of the boot was a “freestyle” feel. Come November I finally put the Rossis to the test. And things got off to a bad start. I just could not get the same level of power and precision I had grown to look for in my old racing boots. I tried bigger socks – something I knew was a no-no. Still, I was moving forward/backward in the boot. I went to Hillcrest Ski Shop to talk to Greg Coulter, their master boot fitter. He suggested closing the power strap behind the buckles instead of in front – that would snug up the fit. So, I went out and tried that on the hill. Better, no doubt. But I never got the power and fit I knew I ought to have.

So I returned to the shop and Greg pulled out the liners and said, “step into the boot shell for me.” I did that and then he reached behind my heel and said, “two plus fingers back there. This shell’s too big! Who fit you?” I had a receipt. So then began my career in the Head Raptor, which is the race boot Lindsay Vonn and Bode Miller use today…

Bode in the Head Raptors

Greg pulled out a box with these gray Head boots. I’d never used Head boots before. But his choice was right. I think he heard my talk about race boot experience. I pulled them on, and right away I felt more at home.

Not only did they fit more snugly but they had the familiar race boot feel.

My Head Raptors with the soles boot planed...ready for agro skiing!

I was like, “now this is MORE like it!” I even had the soles shaved/planed to compensate for the natural off-angle of my shins/feet. All serious racers have this done. And only a master bootfitter like Greg Coulter can do it. Your feet do not naturally perfectly sit on the ground flat with the ground, there is always a degree of off centeredness. But it’s best to have your skis flat to the slope. So you can have your boot soles shaved off so that they lie flat on the ground.

Lindsay Vonn takes a corner!

I went out on the slopes with these boots and knew within four turns I had a winning pair of boots! When you just ski with stock boot soles, when you turn, your body compensates for the differences in foot angle. But when you have had the soles planed, both right and left turns are more equal. Amazing!

Bode bombs a GS gate

But now I have no excuses…now I’d better get out there and ski like these gold medalists…! I have no more excuses. I got the fit just like they have!

I intend to make the most out of my new boots this winter! Lindsay just won the Val d’Isere downhill this past weekend.

Should I get a helmet? Hmmmm….

Let the Ski Season Begin at Mount Hood Ski Bowl!

4 12 2010

Alex, excited with his new setup!

The meteorologists say this is a La Nina winter! In the Pacific NW, this means a good snow year! So far it hasn’t disappointed!

I made it through my first day skiing without incident! Actually a couple of days…ha ha. Last year at this time I was down and out with a dislocated shoulder – suffered at the hands of a 13 year old snowboarder when I was pushing off to start my first run!

So Friday Alex and I headed up to Mount Hood Ski Bowl. Alex showed up with a brand new setup of K2 Rictor skis and Tecnica boots! He went to Hillcrest Ski Shop poking around for goggles and wound up going for a whole new ski package.

Alex got himself a new technology ski – with “all terrain rocker,” meaning the tip has more upturn/softer than the tail section. Here is a video with a so-so explanation… Anyway they should be easier in powder!

Friday was a sunny day in the Cascades and we got a number of photos, what a nice view of Mt. Hood! The high school race team showed up in the afternoon and we checked out the girls team running gates. It was exciting and educational watching their technique!

Looking forward to a great 2010-11 ski season!

Rossignol’s 21st Century Ski Boots, Short on Style…

6 05 2010

I’ve been skiing all my life. One of the golden rules of the sport is get boots that are right for you – boots that have good performance, fit and comfort. Once you’ve got ’em dialed in, you can use them for years, well past skis that wear out.

Such is the case with my past two pairs – Lange Tii and Tecnica Explosion8. Each I loved, each delivered and each I owned for years. The Explosion 8 was still going strong this season. But I’ve learned the newer boots are designed with a new flex pattern specific to the latest generation of shaped skis.

That flex pattern is softer forward but just as stiff as before laterally (side to side). Older straight skis and earlier generation shaped skis were thinner and longer. The skier used forward pressure over the front of the skis to initiate turns. But today’s skis have deeper sidecuts and are all shorter and wider. This requires a different skiing style and therefore different boots have been developed.

Today’s boots are designed for a more upright stance with softer forward flex. Turns are initiated by “rolling” the skis on their edges.

With that knowledge I figured I’d try to take my chances and see what kind of after-season deals I could find at Hillcrest Ski and Sport in Gresham, Oregon. Greg Coulter, who’s been there for years, is a master boot fitter so he’s the man.

Rossi sans style

I tried three boots, one,  Nordica, was too big, and another, a Dalbello, had a strange three-buckle/cable system. The last was a Rossignol, which thanks-a-lot was all white. It’s the SAS Pro 120. This boot’s a freeskier boot. I remember my friend Ed was all embarrassed this spring when the “right” boot was an all-white Salomon! They didn’t have any others in my size. The Dalbello and Rossignol fit pretty much the same. Regardless of part of me trying to say “it’s OK to try new things,” the wise part said, “don’t buy those Dalbellos. You have been preaching for years about sticking with a 4-buckle boot!” So I wound up picking the all-white boots!

Now, the question is, what to do with the blank slate?