Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Month: April 2011

Kip Garre and Allison Kreutzen die in accident on Split Mountain

The worldwide ski community lost two of it’s finest souls this week. Kip Garre and Allison Kreutzen were found on Split Mountain in the Eastern Sierra after an avalanche apparently swept them down the Split Couloir. Kip and Allison were accomplished ski mountaineers and exceptional people. They will be deeply missed by the Tahoe community and beyond. A memorial service for Allison and Kip will be held Thursday, May 5, from 2 to 5pm at the Olympic Village Lodge in Squaw Valley.

Here are related links with more details on the incident:

Powdermag coverage of the Split Mountain Tragedy

ESPN coverage

Film Review “Hot Dog…the Movie”

By Rob McCormick

I was thirteen years old when the ski comedy Hot Dog was released and the movie pretty much set my course in life to end up in Tahoe. I watched the film and wondered to myself, “where is this magical skiing playground with tons of snow, radical terrain, and residents whose primary goal in life is to ski hard and party harder?” I was not alone. Many of my impressionable young peers also worshiped the film from the first time they saw it. Filmed entirely in Squaw Valley and North Lake Tahoe during the impressive snow year of 1983, Hot Dog delivers a colorful cast, raunchy screenplay and some very good skiing for it’s time.

The movie begins as newcomer Harkin Banks visits Squaw Valley to compete in the World Cup Freestyle Championships. After picking up feisty hitchhiker Sunny they settle into Squaw and quickly meet veteran freestyler Dan O’Callahan who introduces them to the Rat Pack, a group of fun loving, hard charging locals. They also meet the arrogant yet talented Rudi Garmish from Austria. Rudi has his sites set on winning the World Cup of Freestyle for the umpteenth time. Oh and let’s not forget Sylvia, played by 1982 Playmate of the year Shannon Tweed. It’s not long before Harkin and the Rat Pack are competing against Rudi and his gang both on and off the slopes.

A topless front desk clerk checks Sunny and Harkin into the Fantasy Inn in Tahoe City.

So begins an hour and half of deliciously inappropriate humor including wet t-shirt contests, broomball matches, raging parties, gondola blowjobs, plenty-o-hot tub sex scene, drug use and references and of course the infamous Chinese Downhill. Let’s not overlook the sexual and racial stereotypes. All types of women appear topless throughout the movie and of course the trophy blond sleeps with the all the best skiers. Kendo, the Japanese freestyler, opens peanuts by karate chopping them and incorporates kung fu into his dance moves. Hot Dog also has a bevy of priceless one liners. The screenplay, written by Mike Marvin, gets away with a level of raunchiness not often seen by today’s standards.

If the story line and cast don’t have your attention yet, stop the presses because Hot Dog contains some of the best ski footage shot in the 1980’s. Many sports films come up way short by not accurately portraying the sports they feature. For example Sylvester Stallone free climbing with a full rack of gear in “Cliffhanger”. Hot Dog portrays the sport of skiing as it existed in the 1980’s perhaps more accurately than any other media at the time. Released in an era in which you had to watch ski racing to see skiing on television, Hot Dog showcased the Rat Pack simply destroying Squaw Valley both in competition and free skiing. Harkin Banks ski double Robbie Huntoon impressively rips classic Squaw lines including Beck’s Rock, The Alternates, Rock Garden and Broken Arrow. Other Rat Packers tear up the Box, the Light Towers and Enchanted Forest. The ski competition scenes, which include ballet, moguls and aerials, were filmed with real freestyle competitors during the Annual Winter Snowfest (yep, it’s been going on that long). Multiple camera angles used for Harkin’s “Kissass Blaster” may have over dramatized the jump a bit, but all of the action features real skiers in all of their helmetless 1980’s glory.

The highlight of the movie is the International Chinese Downhill…an every man for himself race to the bottom for $2,300 and the title of being the best skier on the mountain. Aggressive racers wear full motocross gear and employ dirty tactics including bludgeoning devices, blunt force weapons, and turbo smoke screens. Filming the Chinese Downhill combined legitimate skiing with impressive stunt work. At one point Harkin’s character skis through the Gold Coast mid mountain complex and crashes through a massive plate glass window before slicing through a picnic table and continuing down Mountain Run. Perhaps even more impressive is stunt skier Lane Parrish getting kicked off course and flying about thirty feet up into a pine tree.

Hot Dog is not the best movie ever made. If not obvious by now, it barely qualifies as a B class movie by any standards of film making. Though not well received by critics, the film was a hit with audiences and did very well at the box office. Closer to our neck of the woods, the movie really resonated with passionate young skiers nearly thirty years ago and is still good for a laugh today. Sure it glamorizes the rambunctiousness of ski town living to the lowest common denominator. However, it succeeds in painting an image of immense fun, athleticism and natural beauty that remain in North Lake Tahoe today. In no way do I regret moving here because of Hot Dog, rather I am very grateful for it.

All Aboard the A(drenaline) -Train!

By Rob McCormick

When the sun finally came out at the end of March I became depressed. I love snowstorms and had become accustomed to skiing powder every day. On March 28 temperatures soared into the 50’s and began radiating twenty feet of fresh snow like a greenhouse. A ski tour that day brought me within striking distance of one of my favorite zones along the Pacific Crest. I frequently observe this region from a distance but was able to get a good look from a nearby peak. I was amazed by what I saw. The technical face was loaded with snow. Lines that are usually questionable at best seemed to go. More importantly, the menacing cornice that overhangs the ridgeline seemed much smaller than usual (i.e. 10 feet instead of 30 feet). A very long approach and frequent storm conditions had kept the region off my radar most of the winter. I took a few photos and skied back to civilization but could not shake what I had seen.

When I got home I started to realize the warming trend was not all bad. Predictable corn cycles do have their advantages. Long approaches become much more feasible. Steeper lines seem more realistic and less intimidating in perfect corn. It was time to refocus my goggles and start getting fired up for ski mountaineering season.

On April 4, Robb Gaffney and I found ourselves standing on top of the ridgeline I had spied a week prior. It was warming quickly and dead calm. A pole scrape of the face below us indicated two to three inches of perfect corn snow. Although we had both skied lines in the region, neither had dropped the direct fall line routes off the summit. We opted to hit the east/southeast face first as it would get rotten soon. Since we gained the summit from the north we did not have a great view of the face we were going to ski. My photos from the week before indicated it would go and looking down it seemed possible so we dropped in. We could not have asked for better steep skiing snow. We leap frogged down the face with one skier advancing and providing beta on what he found. We came across three different crux zones in which the snow had melted out and required some rock skirting. The pitch held steady at 53 degrees for the entire descent. The last couple hundred feet we each selected a different chute and began to link some legit turns together. The bottom of the face even had a little bergshrund to boot. All said and done the line was only about 700 vertical feet, but a solid shot of adrenaline for sure.

The small vertical meant another run was a must in such ideal conditions. We strapped on our crampons and front pointed up a narrow couloir. About halfway up the chute gave way to a gorgeous summit snowfield which became our next objective. Since we climbed our descent route we new what we were getting into this time and were able to really enjoy it. The northeast facing ramp delivered huge before funneling back into the couloir. The chute itself was really narrow and beatup but the overall aesthetics of the entire line were second to none.

Robb booted back up for one more run while I shot video from across the valley. The day had been a tremendous success. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the adventure is knowing the zone contains lines that are far more challenging than the routes we chose. Many narrow chutes and straightlines seem possible in perfect conditions. There is also a large steep face that ends in a mandatory seventy foot air. When you consider the fact the nearest road is about five miles away this becomes extremely committing stuff indeed. Plenty of lines for future generations to get after. In the meantime, it was satisfying to tap into a new rush right in our own backyard known as the Pacific Crest.

The first half of this video includes the trip described above. The second half is a recent tour on the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe.

Mini Mountaineering

Inspiring and intimidating...a look back at our objective (photo by Robb Gaffney)

Last week a friend and I sessioned one of our favorite zones along the Pacific Crest. Perfect conditions allowed us to ski some exciting new lines. At 600 to 800 vertical feet, it hardly qualified as big mountain skiing. However, sustained pitch and secondary exposure combined with mini couloirs and faces to climb and ski made for an exhilarating day of mini-mountaineering.

Dropping into the center line (photo by Robb Gaffney)

Flashback to March

We will not soon forget what a crazily amazing month March of 2011 was. Copious amounts of snowfall, endless pow turns and a super fun tribute weekend celebrating the life and legacy of Shane McConkey. Here’s a look back at the monster month of March 2011.

The Shane McConkey Legacy Gala

Ice sculpture / vodka luge at the Shane McConkey Legacy Gala

On Friday evening, March 24, the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn hosted the swankiest, sexiest, classiest event the Valley has ever seen. Two years after the passing of ski legend Shane McConkey, his wife Sherry created the Shane McConkey Legacy Gala to honor his memory and raise money and support for protecting the environment. Shane was a huge James Bond fan and the Gala followed suit with a 007 theme in which attendees dressed to the hilt in tuxedos and lavish cocktail dresses.

Exotic fire dancers performed outside as guests stepped onto the red carpet leading into the event during of course, a raging snowstorm. Once inside guests relaxed and sipped martinis (shaken, not stirred) to sexy downtempo beats courtesy of dj Patrick Mulligan. Dual tapestries featured silhouettes of live dancers that perfectly recreated classic images featured in James Bond films for the last fifty years. The space also had a lounge for relaxing, ice sculptures, sultry mood lighting and a foyer stacked with gorgeous silent auction items.

As the evening progressed so did the pace of the entertainment. About halfway through the night a burlesque dancer dangled from the ceiling performing a heart racing routine to “Goldfinger”. Shortly after, a live auction began in which spectacular items went for thousands of dollars. Sherry McConkey, looking like the quintessential Bond girl herself, took a moment to thank all the volunteers involved with the event.

The Shane McConkey Legacy Gala was a very special evening that kicked off a weekend of excitement and fun in Squaw Valley. The 80’s cover band “Tainted Love” played at Bar One on Saturday night and Sunday featured the long awaited return of the Pain McShlonkey Classic, an outlandish contest that pokes fun at the serious world of ski competition. The Classic was comprised of two main events including a Snowlerblade Small Mountain Competition and a Snowlerblade Chinese Downhill. Kudos to Jessie Hall for winning the Small Mountain Comp, and Cody Townsend for taking the Chinese Downhill. Most importantly thanks to everyone who participated in, watched or supported this magical weekend long tribute to the skier, the father, the husband and the friend we called Shane McConkey.