Thursday, March 12, 2015

Svalbard: Day 1 (I Think It's Still Day 1)


            In transit in mind and body, but not in luggage. Arrived to Oslo, stopped to look at the holy grail of snus wall in the Norwegian Duty Free Shop. Browsed for an unnecessarily long time through the liquor section trying to decide if bringing liquor was a good idea at all.  The indecision was probably also on account of the two hours of sleep I’ve caught in the last 28 hours. Lost in a fog of confusion and teetering back forth under the weight of my severely overloaded, 50+ lbs. carry on backpack, I picked up a log of exotic snus and a bottle of Jamieson in preparation of encountering Versailles level prices for booze and drugs in Norway. Emerging from Duty Free, the carousels of baggage claim were empty and the entirety of the vast baggage claim warehouse was deserted. “Shit, did I wait too long to get my bags and the baggage department moved them somewhere else?” Scampering between carousels searching for any sign of two Salomon ski bags and two extra large duffle bags, there were no signs of my luggage arriving. After a tense wait in the baggage service department, thinking of the possibility of weeks of baggage delays hampering our entire trip, I ended up talking to some of the nice airline employees I’ve ever met. After some computer searching, it seemed like my bags were somewhere between the cold vacuum of space and the molten iron of the center of the earth. For all they could tell, my bags simply didn’t exist beyond the four bar-coded stickers adhered to the back of my ticket. “It’s that damn guy in Seattle who seemed utterly confused on where to put my mountain of luggage after I went through customs coming into Seattle from Kelowna” I thought. Now the waiting game of sitting in soiled underwear, sweaty tee-shirts and taking showers only to put back on the same foul smelling clothes I’ve been wearing for 36 hours straight begins.

Svalbard: Day 0 to Day 1

Day 0- Travel to Kelowna
            Yup, still have that feeling like I forgot something. Four large bags filled with more down jackets, pads, pants, boots, gloves – everything is down – than I’ve ever brought before.  Still don’t know if I’ll need those heated socks I’ve heard about.  Had to take back a pair of skis I gifted and was forced to saw off a pair of Guardian bindings at one in the morning, 7 hours before my flight, due do an overzealous binding mounter and too much Loctite.  Now it’s a pre-shred mission in Golden, BC before the adventure in Svalbard.  I’m looking more forward to hiking and camping and adventure than jumping off of cliffs. Guess I am getting old.

(Post Golden update. I actually had an immense about of fun jumping off of cliffs. Not old quite yet!)

Day 1- Travel

            I don’t think I understand the magnitude of what’s going on. I’m pretty excited but at the same time just on another flight across the big pond writing emails and watching movies. People have no doubt skied in Svalbard but it’s not about being first, it’s being a part of the few that would say yes to frigid arctic temps, weeks spent in icy, moist tents and climbing big mountains on a daily basis. Plenty of people offered this exact trip said no to it. Somehow, probably on account of my ignorance and naiveté, I enthusiastically said yes. It’s a new adventure for me, a non-heli accessed, non-lodge catered, non-pampered trip into the unknown.  I know I’m not physically fit enough right now. Not aware enough in the ways of climbing, ice, ropes, protection and evaluation of big routes going up. I don’t know how to properly snow camp for more than one or two nights. I am completely unaware of the experiences ahead of me. But what I do know is that know how to ski big mountains. I know the weight of taking a challenge head on and how to put trust in myself to do it. I know how the mountains make me feel. And most of all, I know how to say yes to a new possibility in this unlimited realm that skiing offers.

Svalbard: Day 0

            Packing. I don’t know what to pack simply because I’ve never quite done anything like this. I’ll probably have that constant “I’m forgetting something” feeling from now until I’m frozen in my tent thinking “really could of used that extra pair of long johns about now.” There is so much damn stuff packing into stuff sacks, dry bags and giant weather sealed duffles that it’s going to look more like I’m moving somewhere instead of going skiing. I’ve probably stripped about 25 geese naked to fill the amount of down products I’m bringing.  I’ve learned that there is actually something geese hate more than kids provoking them lakeside and being north in the winter or south in the summer, it’s polar expeditions. Hope I’m not forgetting anything.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Is there anything cooler than a cover of a ski magazine? Yes, yes there is, it's called skiing.  That is far cooler than the cover itself.  Covers are cool, but doing the skiing to make the covers is far cooler.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The One Downside of a Downhill Job

By now, many people have heard about the knee injury I sustained up in Seward, Alaska this April.  I have yet to post about it mainly because I believe social media doesn't have a requirement that states you must share every detail of your life.  But more than that, I actually didn't have a concrete diagnosis and recovery game plan until yesterday.  So now that that is out of the way.  Let me tell you the story.

Run 1. Seward, Alaska.
I had been sick for more than a week.  Bed ridden with fevers and chills by a brutal case of Bronchitis.  But Alaska would get me off my deathbed for the chance of getting one run in.  So as the grey Alaskan skies parted, I buried my sickness below, mustered up all the energy I could and tried to have some fun with the little bit of strength I had.  The first afternoon and first two lines of the trip went well.  The snow was great, the setting was amazing, the zones we found were fun.  It seemed like I might be able to force my way through the Bronchitis on pure adrenaline and stoke.

The next morning was our first morning of skiing in Seward.  So we flew the heli around looking for new zones with morning light.  After one warm up film line on a really mellow mini-face, we flew to a rime covered mini-spine zone.  The zone was more of a time killing zone as the afternoon promised far bigger and better lines.  In fact it was high noon.  A time when most film crews set down for a long lunch or fly home for a break because the light at that time of day is heinous for filming.  But we were out pretty deep, the light looked not too bad and we were in Alaska with a helicopter, might as well keep filming.

The views didn't suck.
I dropped in on my spine and was very casual about it mainly because it was a short 300 foot spine to a twenty foot exit air.  I decided to do a warm up three-sixty off of the exit air not because I thought it would be rad for that line, but mainly because I wanted to spin off some bigger stuff later that day and this would be a good excuse for a warm up.

It was a minor fall in the wrong place at the wrong time. I nearly landed perfect.  My upper body was slightly over rotated, the landing was a little scooped out and the snow was a little punchy.  I crumpled over my body as my knee rotated horribly under my body. If you want a visual explanation of what I was witnessing as I crumpled over my knee, just refer to this;

Morning Day 2.
Before I even had tumbled I knew my knee was blown.  I tumbled once, popped up immediately to my skis and skied half way down.  The pain overwhelmed me within seconds.  Yet the depression of having just cut what looked like an amazing trip short, put me back under the knife and would require months of grueling rehab exceed the pain.  I screamed out a very frustrated sounding "FUCK!" as I gingerly descended down to the heli.

Fast forward two and a half weeks.  My knee feels amazing. It's stable, not swollen and feels like I could take a jog on it. Two doctors manually tested my knee and came to the same conclusion. Grade 2 MCL tear (it heals itself non-operatively), one big ass bone bruise (that's what hurt like a donkey kick to the dick) and an isolated PCL tear.  The subsequent MRI confirmed the manual diagnosis.

But now, I needed to figure out what to do.  The research into PCL repairs and injuries is more than a decade behind the more common ACL injury.  So along with that comes a wide variety of conflicting opinions.  Most PCL injuries are dealt with non-operatively.  And the ones that are repair operatively, go through a gamut of opinions on how to repair them.

But as my job puts me in a place of not being "most people" I had a very hard decision to make.  Do I destroy the bit of PCL I have hanging on in order to strap in a dead guy's achilles tendon or my own Quadriceps tendon?  Or do I rehab like mad and hope the injury heals itself, the laxity go away and this next Winter isn't put in jeopardy by a not perfectly tight knee.

After much discussion with a wide variety of some of the countries best sports medicine gurus, the best option is to heal non-operatively..  The laxity in my knee is less than what the doc even think he can get as a result of surgery.  With hardwork and astute training they say I'll be 100% by Winter.  There is nothing I work harder for then getting the chance to ski again, so the gym will be my life this summer and I'm excited for the road map of getting back to having fun.

The zone in which I blewth thy knee.

One last interesting anecdote to share. I was introduced to a sports medicine doctor, Dr. Jonathan Finnoff, who specializes in non-operative, alternative therapy.  But he's not one of those hippy doctors rubbing Deer Antler spray on you.  He's a Western trained doctor who moved to Tahoe via the Mayo clinic.  After some discussion about the nature of my injury, we came to the conclusion that a PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) injection directly into my PCL might help promote the healing of my injury.  So within ten minutes I was laid out on a table, with a giant needle stuck into the back of my leg literally pumping up my PCL full of PRP.  The sensation of filling my PCL with concentrated blood was weird...and surprisingly say the least.  It felt like someone had stuck a balloon in my leg and overfilled it with water.  I first I was nervous to even bend my leg because it literally felt like I might pop that overfilled balloon in my leg.  While the magic of PRP is just starting to be proven, a PRP injection like mine is quite rare.  But supposedly, the concentrated blood gives the injured site a super dose of "healing juice".  The concentrated blood gives the body more oxygen, white blood cells and nourishment to not necessarily speed along the healing process but provide a more thorough and sustained healing process with less scar tissue build up and more healing tissue build up.  So here's to hoping our little experiment works.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Shots from Alaska- Part I

The indubitable truth

I love this view

Mandatory group heli shot. L to R: Me, Richard Permin, Steve Reska and Mark Abma

Can you find Richie?

Richie found an avalanche and wasn't happy.

Merk Abner sending the pink elephant
Some fun tracks.
Gnar Bar Face
Afternoon Delight

For avalanche safety I use the ABS Powder Base unit with a 15L bag as part of my backcountry kit. It doesn't replace knowledge, training or your beacon, shovel and probe...but it can help save your life.

Click ABS Powder Line Backpack to check it out at

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last Frontier Heli. Bell 2 Lodge. Northwest British Columbia. February. 2012.

Guided by the gulls, heading West to Vancouver Island

No need to explain how beautiful this was

The road north through Vancouver Island.

Bryn Hughes, photographer, getting iced on the long ferry to Prince Rubert.  This would be the first of many many icings.


Bell 2 lodge.  Day 1 broke sunny and just a wee bit windy.

Chris Rubens maching out a little straight line.

Rubens finding a pocket of good snow.

Extra sized mountains.


Rubens punching a big three behind my tracks.

Zone = Shredded

Chris Rubens.  Rastafari!

About 95% of what we skied looked like this.  Firm boiler wind pack.

Flying into Stewart, BC

Islands in the Sky

The gnarest of the gnar.  Gonna have to come back for this one one day. Last Frontier Heli


If you're wanna know what keeps the mitts warm in The Last Frontier, this is the Heli Guide's glove of choice.  Interestingly enough, it's called the Guide Glove by Hestra.  Fancy That.

 Get free shipping and a Spring Sale discount now on this Hestra Guide Glove from


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Japanese Adventures

I recently embarked on my first trip to Japan, and while I'd love to do a write up right now about how simply amazing Japan is, Ian Millar from F-Stop Bags, just did an amazing write up on the Salomon team's recent film session in Hakuba Japan. Read the tease and click the end link to read on.

I live in a small town that goes by the name Hakuba. It is located at the base of the North Alps. Our peaks are up to 3000m tall and the weather requires a lot of patience to truly get the most out of the surroundings. As a photographer the weather and location of the seaside mountains can be a blessing- but it can also be very frustrating... especially if you’re working with timelines and budgets.

In Japan, most film and photo crews head straight towards the North Island of Hokkaido. With consideration to the cost of travel and the people paying the tab obviously looking for marketable results- it is easy to see why most crews go with the same proven formula. I can’t blame them as it has one of the most reliable snow falls on earth and in overwhelming amounts. Packaged with culture and novelty it is an easy trip to accomplish success. Sadly the more money spent- the less the words “unique” and “adventure” stand a chance of making its way into the story line. READ ON HERE

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Escape

aWith the most exciting thing going on in Tahoe being watching three skydivers air into the snowless Squaw Valley, it was time for Elyse and I to go find some snow.  Problem was, it wasn't snowing anywhere but Alaska.  The problem solver though was the fact that Elyse's parents live at the foot of Alyeska ski resort in Girdwood Alaska. Time to escape to AK.
Can you spot JT, Jesse and Charles?

Time to hit the the airport that is.  No way we were driving to AK.
From a snowless Tahoe to a Winter Wonderland.
Elyse and I were stoked to see the snow.
The one day of sun.  The sun is in fact so low at this time of year that where we are standing received only about 5 minutes of direct sunlight.  We soaked it in.
Tenderfoot Ridge, AK.
Powder caught by the lens of Charlie Renfro

A little night skiing in AK
Good night.


If you like the Smith goggles in the post (because I sure do) make sure to check'em out at