Snowpack-less

Well, good on ya old man winter.  You’ve fooled us all.  As the end of September came to a close, we were all beginning to turn our gaze a little higher to the tops of the mountains.  Lawn ornament projectiles were slowly taken down and put away before the winds rolled in and many of us pulled open the shed to dust off the ski gear. While we began to plan a trip to the bird, a tour up the lane, maybe even an early season tundra jaunt on lower Hatch Peak, well, old man winter had a different plan.

Instead of early season snowflakes, any of them, we recieved early season wind storms, three of them.  When I say “dust off the ski gear” I mean in a literal sense of the term.  Getting a good look at my skis required the removal of  a thick condensed layer of matanuska river silt. I had to remind myself, this is normal, this is winter in Palmer.  Right?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still amped on winter, and not so desperate to make the drive to the Kenai yet, but the relative lack of snow does get one wondering. When will it happen? In mid October Jared and I biked up Archangel to a silent and brightly lit fall day,  and I’ve made three tours up the road over the pass, but still, I want more.  I know good things come to those who wait, but if I had a chart of Wait time vs. Ski Desperation, my line would be rapidly approaching the ceiling.

Fortunately, we did get about 4-6 inches of new snow across the high elevations on Tuesday night, just enough to refresh the road and provide my first powder turns for the season.  Yeah, it wasn’t bottomless blower, spines on Rae Wallace or pillows at tincan, but it was pow skiing.  I could feel the speed of the wind against my face and the gentle tug of gravity pulling my legs and skis into each turn, gliding swiftly across the new light density snow.  Right now, I’ll take that 4-6 inches. I couldn’t tour to where I really wanted, but damn it felt good to be making turns in soft, fresh snow.  The line of desperation on my chart backed off a little and that crooked smile on my face now ran from ear to ear. While the skiing could be OH SO MUCH better, it’s nice to be humbled; to get back to that new-born skiing feeling again. Except this time, it was different.

I’ve been skiing for almost five years now, a mere blip compared to some of my friends and acquaintances.  I’m a ski baby. For the first time, it became abundantly clear that skiing felt like home, the turns locking in place by muscle memory without so much as a second thought.  For the first time in my memory of skiing, or returning to skiing, instead of this new exicting experience, it felt the return of an old friend; a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time.  You know, one of those friends where you sit around and share old stories over some cheap whiskey.  That was my most recent day skiing.  I reconnected with my friend “skiing” and had a blast.

I’m ready for more of course, but we definitely need more snow.  Every glance at the snow stake makes me cringe.  We’re all waiting for that little bit of snow to cross the 1’ threshold, and it’s been a long time coming.  What’s holding me over is the knowledge of inevitability, of the fact that no matter what winter will come.  It will happen, and it will surpass my expectations of epicness, at least for a short while.  For now, I’ll take what I can get.  If that’s a tour up the road then so be it.  Let the season begin.

Before I fully close out this much overdue update, it’s important to mention the long standing rumor that it’s too early to slide right now.  BULLSHIT.  There’s not more than 7” across most areas of the upper elevations. Where the snow has deposited in lee aspects and gullies, the snowpack, if you could call it that, is reactive and unstable.  Brian Vaughan decided to give one of these little loaded pockets a look, and it popped on him, releasing with what looks like a 6-12” crown.  Now, a wind slab like this might easily be managed and ski cut during deeper conditions, but as of now, all that’s going to happen is you getting run through rocks in a very thin, non existent snowpack.  Furthermore, if April bowl looks as awesome to you as it did to us, then you’d be very smart to avoid it right now.  April bowl looks deep, and when compared to everywhere else it should be a big fat bullseye indicator to keep your ass out of there.  As a final heads up, this is the time of year that numerous people have died or been injured in April bowl.  I’m not trying to scare anyone, or tell you not to ski April bowl, but use your brain.  I’m going to wait for some more snow and less reactive windslabs before I head up in to rocky terrain.

Make sure to check out the new links on the bottom of the right hand sidebar.  Midnight Sun Yoga Center is Palmer’s newest Yoga Studio offering classes in Yoga, Zumba and Belly dances, and covering all skill levels.  Erin and Ailis have been operating since September 1st, and MSYC has been an amazing addition to Palmer’s growing community of outdoor adventure and enthusiasts!  Check em out.  Also, please please please check out the new website for the Palmer Bike Park planning page, www.bikepalmer.com.  The site will go live on 11/21, but if you sign up now you’ll be updated when the site goes live. Then you can jump right in and provide all the detailed comments you want about features, lines and things you’d like to see in the park.  We’re going to present a comprehensive example of community support to the borough and let them know we mean business.

 

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Goodbye Never Summer

The time has come to begin not only thinking about winter, but to discuss the legitimacy of actual ski outings in to the Talkeetna backcountry.  It’s October one, and the mountains are draped in descending curtains of crisp, white snow, contrasting against the harsh mid day light of a high latitude autumn.  For some, this has been the summer that never was.  The worst flooding in decades, incessant rains, subtropical Alaska hurricanes, and one of the worst years for Chinooks in memory. A Never Summer as some would call it.  For others, we have enjoyed the warm but often short-lived presence of solar maximums as much as we can.  HYT has been offline for quite some time (April to be precise), and looking back it was quite a sorry year for the website.  I literally posted three edits, and only a few more updates.  I can’t blame the ridiculous nature of last season, of which was skiing epic Hatcher pow was the norm. All that needs to be said is HYT will be up and running all winter, delivering our local flavor of talkeetna ski culture.

It’s been a surreal few months for me.  I’ve started a business with B Vaughan, Erin’s created Palmer’s newest yoga and wellness studio, friends have decided to put down roots in Palmer and in the mean time, our community of skiers and riders keeps getting stronger and stronger.  I’m stoked for this winter.  Stoked not just for the usual desire to ski, but because Abroham will be back from Missoula in December and has been filming and shooting in the meantime, B Vaughan will be making his first full winter stay in Ptown and will be seen regularly crushing PBR cans and shredding pow, and our friends, the Hodenflowers are back from an Alaska winter sabbatical in Mammoth and will now be sharing the mountains with us.  The usual suspects will be around, and true to form, J Phelps has already stacked 12 months of skiing, including two pow days since august…lucky, persistent bastard. Me, I’m trying to stay more refined this year, enjoying the two wheel shredding as much as I can until I can’t stand the white room temptations any longer.  I’m getting damn close to breaking down and throwing on the boots. All the calls from friends asking about the snowbird and lane aren’t helping. Eddie..stay strong.

Maybe I’m holding out because I’ve been doing a fair bit of biking this summer, but way more pump track riding and dirt jumping than ever before.  Most folks don’t get in to DJ (Dirt Jump’s for those not in the know) when they’re over 25, but I’ve been having the time of my life, sharing session with friends and reconnecting with family.  My brother and nephews have been riding a lot too, and I think I’ve spent more time with them than ever before.  Not trying to sound cheesy, but considering the crappy weather and my heavy workload at Ptrails, it’s been one of the most fruitful and humbling summers I’ve ever had. There’s just something so great about being able to call up your brother, and just share an hour or two session at the track.  Yes, we both suck, but it’s more about sharing an experience, and to be brutally honest, it’s about finally connecting on something real for the first time in nearly 30 years.

While I could go on executing my eloquent mountain prose, I’m going to cut it short, stop trying so hard, and tell you about this edit I just completed. I slacked off a bunch last year on edits, but my plan is to make as many as possible this season, and to keep em fresh.  We’re not MSP here at HatchYourTrax, but we’re just glad to help keep the stoke up!  This edit is a compilation of some summer clips and a welcome to WINTER.

Hit play and enjoy!

In event news, we’ve got two awesome shows coming to the Bike and Ski shop in the coming weeks.  First off, is the one, the only, Andrew McLean.  Kind of a lame buildup there but I’m not aware of any rad nicknames for Andrew.  How bout Mean McLean, or Wildman of the Wasatch?  Maybe The thunder of the chunder?  Ah, who cares, I’ll go on.  The Friends of the Chugach are having a fundraiser at the bear tooth and Andrew, being the awesome guy that he is, has decided to come up to Palmer and do a slideshow of his trips.  The event will be held at Backcountry Bike and Ski on Friday October 26th, and tickets will go on sale October 15 for $10 dollars.  Proceeds go to help fund AVY forecasting and reporting in our area!  Definitely a worthy cause to attend!  There will be social beverages available and further donations will be accepted. Seating is limited to about 50 people, so when tickets go on sale, get em early.

Andrew McLean – Alaska Family Values
Where: Backcountry Bike and Ski

When: Friday October, 26th at 7pm
Tickets for sale at Backcountry Bike and Ski on October 15th for $10 dollars

Next, on November 10th, we’re stoked to be working with Backcountry Bike and Ski and the Telemark Skier crew to bring you Josh Madsen’s newest tele-flick “Let’s Go.”

Let’s Go! introduces viewers to the Telemark Skier Crew, a high-octane group of freeheel skiers in search of the perfect turn. The group itself is comprised of filmmakers, photographers and writers who have collaborated on all aspects of this film to bring it to life. They even serve as the ski talent in the film. The movie blends appearances from the Crew, a first-of-its-kind athlete/content creation team, which includes the likes of JT Robinson and Kjell Ellefson, along with performances by innovative freeheelers like Kate Hourihan, Tony Gill and Andreas Sjobeck.

“Let’s Go! brings you into our world of living on the road and searching for the best telemark turns on the planet, Madsen says. We found powder in Norway and filmed the first ever Double-Cork 1080 on telemark skis. It was an amazing year!” In scenes both on and off piste, the film showcases the sport’s most avant-garde moves in the deep powder and in the park.

Now, as awesome as all that sounds, the best part of the film is that a majority of the backcountry shots were shot in Alaska.  And, if you couldn’t tell from the trailer, they weren’t shot in Valdez, Haines, or Southeast.  Yes, the Telemark Skier crew bucked up, toured their asses off and shot some sick footage in the Talkeetna backcountry.  Stoked to watch this one on the big screen. The best part of this event is that it’s a fundraiser to support local freeride and mountain biking in our community.  Proceeds from the show will go to support new mountain bike flow trails at Hatcher Pass.

LET’S GO! – A Telemark Skier Film
When: November 1oth, at 6 and 8pm
Where: Backcountry Bike and Ski
Tickets go on Sale at Backcountry Bike and Ski on November 1st.  $12 presale, $15 at the door.

Other than that, I’m out of good news.  Bring on the snow, wax up the skis, and get ready for a great winter in the mountains.  See you out there!

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The Pinnacle of skiing

You know it. I know it. Your dog knows it, and you can be damned sure your pasty coworker knows it.  It’s spring time! Our epic winter season is coming to a steady yet lingering end.  Warm temperatures, sunny skies and increasing pockets of rotten snow are beginning to indundate the Talkeetna mountains. After an epic beginning to March, the absence of precipitation began to weigh increasingly on skiers and riders minds.  By the first week of April, the Talkeetna’s still hadn’t received any significant snow, and more than a few of us were wondering if the epic 11/12 season was going to end, not with a bang, but a major fizzle.

Luckily, early April brought much needed relief from nearly four weeks of no snow.  A two day low slammed the Talkeetna’s dumping over a foot of new snow and providing that annual spring extension of riding we all crave.  There’s no denying it. the snowpack is deteriorating, hanging on by a threat  But thanks to the most recent storm, north aspects are going to be holding for quite some time.  Maybe it won’t be pow, but it’ll be skiing, and yes, it will be rad.


The warm temps weren’t a real problem until the last few days when clouds moved in.  Combine 45 degree temps at ridgelines with high clouds and you have the recipe for a cooked snowpack.  Luckily, the clouds moved on and the snow was able to get a nice hard freeze again.  Funny thing is, it’s not just the snowpack getting cooked. Looking around town, at work, school, wherever you go, you can tell the skiers and riders from your average alaskan.  Tanned face and arms, chapped lips and ear to ear perma-grins.  This is the best time to be a skier in Alaska.  if you know someone who’s still looking rather pasty, tell em to get off their ass and get into the hills.  There is no more weekend warrior.  The sunlight is blasting the ridges until at least 9pm, the temps are warm, downright tropical for some  thicker blooded locals. The snow is great and there’s no excuse to not be enjoying the mountains.


Brian Vaughan has been back in AK and was able to score the caretaker position at the HP Visitor center.  Lucky him, and lucky us!  We’ve been touring and skiing the area, utilizing the visitor center as a basecamp. I can only imagine what it must have been like to actually live here year round.  Kathy Wells, Hap, Tom Murphy and Nancy Pfeiffer had it right.  Plain and simple, they were and still are badasses.  In life, you have so few moments you know are hard to top, and just getting a taste of living at Independence has been one of those.  It’s going to be hard to beat the spring of 2012, especially March/April 2012.  I hope everyone has had as amazing a season as the HYT crew.

Maybe we didn’t update much this season, but we sure as hell were out there riding….and, apparently so were you.  Great riding and sharing stories with everyone this year.  On that note, I’d like to give a shout out to all the locals who help make Hatcher Pass the close knit, low key ski community we love.  This year has been amazing, and sharing the mountains with you keeps it that way. John and Tricia, Jared and Bro, Erin K, Erin J, Jeff Kase, Logan B, Ralph, Nancy, Dori, Willie and Mimi, The Basherdy’s, Trav Spaulding, Steve Reed, Gary W, Ray and Hannah, Rachel and Justin, Josh B, Max, Jerry, and of course Jim Helling and Howie Powder. Keep up the stoke and for all those I forgot…SEE YA IN THE MOUNTAINS!

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