We've all heard that La Nina is forecast to influence our winter weather for a second consecutive ski season this winter. The cooler than average sea surface temps in the Equatorial Pacific mean different things to differrent regions, but for the most part backcountry skiers should be stoked because it normally means a good snow year for most western mountain ranges. I had the opportunity to attend the Oregon Chapter of the American Meteorological Society's annual Winter Weather Forecast meeting over the weekend where the pros discussed their takes on our upcoming winter.
Of course, La Nina talk factored heavily into the various discussions. The morning presentations included five different meteorologists' takes on the upcoming winter weather for the Northwest, specifically the greater Portland area. I took away a variety of interetsing facts and opinions from the various discusions, but the big picture theme that resounded through just about every forecast was that we (in the Northwest) can look forward to an above average snow season that is likely to have a slow start and a big finish. Sounds familiar doesn't it. I think we could sum up last season as an above average snow year with a slow start and a big finish.
Predictably, these guys are hesitant to really commit to too many specifics, and they use a lot of language like, "a better than average chance of a higher probability of above normal snowfall . . ." But they did offer up some details about their methods that were cool to hear. The various forecasters all rely on an analog approach where they look for similar historical conditions using a variety of weather indices and then crunch the various data to predict the future weather. A common theme among the various approaches was the similarieties between the approaching 2011 winter with that of 2008. There were a number of other similar years, including '89, '96 and '99, but 2008 was the closest match.
Here in Hood River, 2008 is remembered as the season with a great mid-December cycle that delivered three feet of snow just before Christmas in the low elevations of the Columbia Gorge. The skiing was great on local low-elevation hills, places that normally see little or no significant snowfall. It was, however, not until late January or arguable the first half of February that the upper elevations began to experience quality normal snowfall. In other words, it was a good snow year, but aside from the localized low elevation snow, good mountain snow started slowly and finished strong. If you want to immerse yourself in the various 2011 winter forecasts, you can read them all, along with all of their methods at the American Meteorlogical Society Oregon Chapter's website.
If the recent snowfall and winter temps aren't enough to get you stoked on the ski season, the Winter Wildlands Alliance Backcountry Film Festival is headed on tour in November. Film submissions come from renowned filmmakers and grassroots amateurs. This year's 90 minute program is filled with great backcountry ski films.
The festival was created to highlight Winter Wildlands Alliance’s efforts to preserve and conserve winter landscapes for non-motorized use. The festival travels to more than 75 communities throughout the United States and overseas. Funds raised stay in local communities to support local human-powered recreation efforts and to raise awareness of winter management issues, avalanche training/safety and winter education programs.
This year’s program includes nine different films includingSolitaire (festival cut) from Sweetgrass Productions, Chalk and Ski by Chris Dicky and Purple Orange LLC and Breaking Trail (festival cut) from Powderwhore Productions.
The Mountain Shop / Castle Board Shop in Portland, OR is offering a free do-it-yourself splitboard workshop at 7:30pm on Wednesday November 16. Snowboard jokes aside, this is great opportunity to set yourself up with a board that will get you into the backcountry. Splitboards have proven to tbe the best tool for riding in the backcountry and although it is not rocket science, watching it done and asking key questions will facilitate a smooth project in your home shop. Here is what the Mountain Shop has to say . . .
You don't need to bring anything, but if you would like, you can bring your board to address cutting questions. Even if you are already geared up, this will be a fun event and a great way to meet other splitboard riders.
We will be splitting a board, demonstrating epoxy techniques and mounting splitboard hardware. There are several tips that I wish someone had told me when I cut my first back-country weapon, and I can answer any of your questions.
You will also be able to use a "splitboard workshop" discount on most items in the store during this event. Get yourself a deal on avalanche transceivers, outerwear, splitboard hardware and splitboard bindings, etc. You will need to get a professional base grind at the completion of your board project, so we are also offering grinds for half off to the folks who attend.
This event is FREE, so tell you friends and come hang out.
for more info contact Jordan Huotari
Castle Boardshop Portland
Well, I wish I could say I was with these guys for what looks to have been an excellent day of skiing last week, but alas, I will have to live vicoriously through their vid. Our pals at North Cascades Mountain Guides had a great day up on Mt Baker on October 13. October skiing is normally a bit of a farse, but this looks damn good.
Our recent October newsletter included a list of regional ski swaps that has received a welcome response. So we thought we would post it here for all to see. This list is by no means comprehesive; it is just what we gleaned from friends.
Check out your local ski swap! Score a killer deal or get some cash for your old gear! Here a few Ski Swap Links. Want to add your local swap? Just e-mail us or add a not eint he comments awith the details.
We recently heard from Tannis up at Sorcerer Lodge near Golden, BC. She and a crew of folks just wrapped up their 21st annual (more or less) fall work trip (repair, replace and repaint) up to Sorcerer Lodge to finalize their project list for the coming winter season. Here is what Tannis has to say . . .
"Projects this year included sprucing up the sauna, refinishing the pantry and power system room, building new shelves, and pretty much painting and varnishing the whole lodge. We also continued our experiment with outhouse composting. With the help and advice of Geoff Hill, a UBC PhD candidate who is carrying out research on human waste management systems located off-grid and at elevation, we are trying to incorporate worms into our system. Although we are fairly confident that the worms will not survive the extreme winter temperatures up at the lodge, it is possible that their eggs may be able to survive. If that’s true, we can hope to find a new population thriving throughout each spring, summer and fall. Goodness knows there is enough for them to live on! I’ve decided that ski tourers eat more than anyone else on the planet (except possibly sumo wrestlers). We will let you know of the fate of our worms next summer.
We would also like to report that the big snows of last winter were treated to an extremely cool and wet spring and summer up here. Much of Nordic Glacier retained a covering of snow throughout the season, and with early snowfall already, we’re heading into this winter with very good coverage on the ice. Check out the picture, it’s a great start to the coming season.
And finally, I never miss an opportunity to chastise all the mountaineers who quit skiing early! We did a May 17th – 24th trip in powder this year! If you really want to get up the big peaks and travel fast and easily in long days of sunshine, you need to keep your mountain bike hanging in the garage and your skis on your feet. You don’t get to be barefoot, drinking Margaritas on the deck in the sunshine in February in the alpine! Check in for some screaming spring deals!"
Many mountain areas have already had their first round of winter storm cycles. Wolf Creek Ski Resort in Colorado even opened for skiing on October 8. For those of us who don't have snow, or are not actually ready for it, there are plenty of pre-season events happening in the coming weeks.
Ski movie season and Avalanche Center Fundraiser season are in full swing. Be sure to head out and support your local avalanche center by attending a movie night or social event sponsored by one of the many Avalanche Center Friends groups that are out there.
Regionally, The Powderwhores are headed for the Northwest with their new film, Breaking Trail. Catch a show near you this October and November: Seattle, North Bend, Hood River, Portland, Bend, Eugene, Ashland and south to the Bay Area and Tahoe. Get their full tour schedule online. The Sweetgrass crew is also nearby with their new film, Solitaire. They have stops in Washington, British Columbia, Oregon and California in October and November. Thier full movie tour schedule is here.
Next up is the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit on November 13. This event is a great gathering of avalanche pros and avid skiers. Immerse yourself in avalanche talk and science for the day, you will be glad you did.
Finally, Portland area backcountry skiers should put OMC's Backcountry Expo on their calendars. This event offers 20% off of all store merchandise and a used gear sale including rental telemark and AT skis and boots. November 19, 10am-6pm 2975 NE Sandy BLVD Portland www.e-omc.com.
Along with the recent shift in the weather comes the first issue of Off-Piste Mag - The Backcountry Skier's Magazine for the season. The October issue features the 2011 Ski Review with over 50 backcountry skis included. We also debate the merits of ski quiver, pay respects to dedicated backcountry skier Mark Nelson, profile the stereotypical Northwest skier and more. The cover image comes from Grant Gunderson.
The October issue is our 50th printed mag and marks the start of our 13th year of publication! It is hard to believe that we have been publishing the mag for so long. Thanks for all of your support in helping us make it happen. If you are not a subscriber, fuel the stoke for the upcoming ski season with a subscription or set yourself up with some of fine swag - hoodies, ball caps and voile straps.
It is also ski movie season. Be sure to keep an eye out for the various ski films headed your way the next few weeks. The Powderwhore crew will be here in Hood River on October 12 - 7pm at Dog River Coffee. Come on down and get fired up for winter. Here are few backcountry ski movies you should look into:
Expedition planning is an exciting time, but raising money is never easy. Over the past twenty years, Polartec has supported hundreds of expeditions around the world through the Polartec® Challenge, an international grant program encouraging outdoor adventure. Applications for Polartec® Challenge grants are now available for 2012 expeditions.
"Since 1991, Polartec has assisted some of the world's greatest athletes and explorers," states Polartec Global Director of Marketing, Nate Simmons. "From next-to-skin, to insulation, to extreme weather protection layers, Polartec builds performance fabrics to keep you comfortable in every kind of climate and we're proud to support adventures that put our products to the test."
The Polartec® Challenge Grant seeks to assist low impact teams who respect the local culture and environment and serve as role models to outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. Applications are evaluated on the basis of vision, commitment, educational and cultural value. The Polartec® Challenge is not the appropriate venue for projects that involve competition or fund raising.
Past recipients of the Polartec® Challenge Grant include outdoor pioneers and adventurers such as Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Steve House, Marko Prezelj, Andrew McLean, Greg Hill and John Shipton. Some of the latest Polartec Challenge Grant recipients include Kate Harris and Melissa Yule who are exploring environmental conservation while cycling from Europe to Asia, and Jon Turk and Erik Boomer who recently completed the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island - regarded by many as one of the last great Arctic expeditions.