Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Month: November 2011 (Page 1 of 2)

Dead Calm

A lonely strip of manmade snow visible on Diamond Peak Ski Area near Incline Village on November 29.

November 29 was dead calm on Lake Tahoe. It was a great day for paddleboarding or boating. Conditions will change radically today and tomorrow as a cold front moves in with very high winds but little or no precipitation. Thursday should be a nice day for surfing on the Lake. Long range forecasts look promising for the storm door to open around the middle of December. The beauty of living in Tahoe is that when the going gets good, we are right here to get it. The 1995-96 ski season had virtually no snow until mid January at which time a two week storm cycle rolled in and paved the way for an abundant and fruitful winter.

Now Showing – Sierroin has completed it’s new ski film called SIERROIN. The movie features North Tahoe locals getting after the best ski season in recent history. Grant Kaye contributed some great timelapse photography to the project and Squaw residents JT Holmes and Aaron McGovern graciously donated base jumping and POV footage.

Jamie Pierre Dies in Avalanche

Freeskier Jamie Pierre was killed in an avalanche at Snowbird Utah last Sunday.  Snowbird is not open for skiing yet but touring is accepted because the ski area operates on US Forest service land.  Pierre was largely known for his massive cliff jumping exploits which tended to overshadow his overall prowess in the sport of skiing which included notable first descents in Alaska and impressive freestyle airs.  Ironically, friends reported a conscious effort from Pierre (38) to tone down his aggressive skiing for the sake of his family.

Here are more details on the accident and Jamie Pierre:

International Business Times Report on Accident

Salt Lake Tribune Report on Jamie Pierre

Lone Peak Lookout Report on local Big Sky Ambassador Jamie Pierre

Story of a Man – by Jon Grant

I never met Shane McConkey.
In the last few years of his life, when he was arguably at the top of his game pioneering ski culture and industry, I was a minor league professional quarterback playing on teams from Canada to Germany. However, I had begun spending off-seasons with my brother in a small Idaho mountain town and increasingly the winter alpine became my path, time on the gridiron my day job.
Six months after Shane’s death I played my final football game and promptly moved to Squaw Valley to officially trade cleats for ski boots. And though I knew his name, the true story of the man would reveal itself only with time.
When the first Powder Magazine of my first Squaw Valley winter hit shelves, the cover and half of the entire issue was devoted to the life and legacy of “The Most Influential Skier Ever”; it was nothing short of a biography. I was enthralled to learn of Shane’s magnetic personality, innovative spirit, and transformative skiing prowess. I devoured every word and somehow felt an innate connection to the man.
I thought it was cool that like me he grew up on the coast of California and became not surfer but skier. I smiled when I read it was a big deal for Shane to finally beat his mom down the hill, as ‘ma’ was my childhood ski buddy too.
I learned that he skied in the US Ski Team developmental program but began to prefer cliffs and couloirs to gates and bumps. He followed his passion for freeskiing with unwavering belief, disregarding those in the early 90s who said there was no future to be had in such a discipline. That really jived with me after listening to those who thought I was crazy to stop playing football at age 27 to become a bellman and a ski bum.
I laughed my ass off at his antics and exploits – fake falls, running into doors on purpose, snorting spaghetti up his nose and spitting it out his mouth. I laughed so hard on the can while reading about his naked spread eagle at Vail that my new roommate inquired with some concern to make sure “everything was alright.”
In the mid 90s Shane moved to Squaw and really began pioneering the freeskiing movement. A friend from work lent me the classic Scott Gaffney films, Walls of Freedom and 1999. I watched on repeat a ponytailed Shane tearing up Squaw and the Tahoe backcountry before my buddy politely asked for his DVDs back. I smiled through the entire G.N.A.R chapter of Squallywood. I got my hands on some footage of his character “Saucer Boy” – the whiskey-drinking snowlerblading-dimwit who Shane created for MSP to highlight the fact that professional skiing was taking itself a bit too seriously. Twelfth Night is my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies, and Shane was indeed, “wise enough to play the fool.”
He thought outside every box. He skied down AK peaks on water skis and constantly used his creativity and inner drive to further ski development. He never submitted to the naysayers who said that fat skis would never be practical. He threw back-flips off anything and skied the rowdiest lines with power, grace, and humility. He dove into base jumping, began to take flight in wing suits, and powered the sport of SkiBase. In his own lifetime, he became Legend.
Then one day he jumped off a cliff in Italy and a binding-release malfunction caused a loss of control, and Shane McConkey fell to his death. The entire ski world, shocked and heartbroken, had lost their leader.
Yet as I began to meet people who had actually known the man during his life I realized that Shane’s legend would never die. Everyone had something good to say about him, from close friends to those who were lucky enough to once ride on the same chairlift. And every time I asked folks about him they inevitably tilted their head back and smiled with sweet remembrance before answering with some unique and wonderful story. He had positively influenced so many lives – from professional skiers to the kid from The Make a Wish Foundation whose wish was merely to ski a day with Shane. “Thank you Shane” bumper stickers dotted the parking lot, and for good reason.
For this undaunted man heard his inner voice very clearly, following it with an authenticity of which most only dream. He lived a life unfettered by societal snares, and he inspired people to move beyond the ephemeral to seek Truth.
Shane McConkey’s passing has not diminished his influence. Rather, like the apotheosized kings and prophets of myth his story has become greater in death – a real life Obiwan to our Luke – guiding all of us who venture into the mountains to seek our peace.
This past March 26 while skiing Squaw on the two year anniversary of his death I gazed up at Eagle’s Nest – the 60+ degree crown of KT which now also rightly carries the moniker McConkey’s. In all of my years on this planet I had never actively communed with a member of the deceased. Yet to the spirit of this man whom I never met, I began to speak words of thanks.
I thanked him for living such a passionate life in our so often dispassionate modern world. I thanked him for the imagination, dedication, and vision he gave the sport of skiing. I told him that while I did not know his wife and child personally, I had seen them recently and that they seemed happy.
And in an immeasurable moment, I felt a deep connection to the world. Mountains, snow, and sky became indistinguishable from my own consciousness. Other skiers on the hill, my friends down in the village, a long departed coach from my youth, and my parents were all somehow the interlinked. Things slowed down – at once everything became both hazy and crystal clear – and I wept ancient tears.
Whether or not Shane’s spirit heard my words that day does not matter. The manner in which this man chose to live is what matters. The fact that he still inspires is what matters. The fact that his passion and his memory endure is what matters.
I never met Shane McConkey, but it sure feels like I did. Thanks Shane.

The New Gold Standard – All. I. Can. sets a new precedent in ski filmmaking

By Rob McCormick
The future of ski films has arrived and it is called All. I. Can. by Sherpas Cinema. More of an art piece than a ski film, All. I. Can. is a notable departure from the ski porn formula we have been watching for nearly two decades. The result is a visual masterpiece.

All. I. Can. incorporates timelapse photography to create a living, breathing planet intertwined with freeway interchanges that carry blood to and from the beating heart of the Earth. Aerial photography of urban landscapes reminds us of the transition the planet has undergone in the past 100 years without being preachy about it. The athletes are introduced with a creative animation sequence similar to Richard Linklater’s work in The Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. The music is thoughtfully selected and flawlessly edited.

Oh yes, there is skiing in the movie too. You may even recognize a few names such as Mark Abma, Ingrid Backstrom, Kye Petersen and JP Auclair. The slow motion powder sequences are the most stunning and unique I have ever seen. The film focuses more on human powered access to the mountains than other means. It’s refreshing to see helicopter footage when necessary, such as plucking Kye Petersen off a mountainside that has disintegrated around him, without being gratuitous about it. How many times have we seen a product logoed heli dive into the abyss after dropping skiers off on a knife edge summit? Helicopters ARE cool but do we need to see helicopters filmed from other helicopters? Do we need to see helis in terrain parks so that skiers appear to be flying higher than the copter? Why does a helicopter even need to be in a terrain park sequence? I digress but the bottom line is that ski movies have become brutally redundant and we have become desensitized to even the most spectacular lines and footage.

The Sherpas Cinema crew are extremely talented cinematographers. In 2011 they have come out swinging with a film that will be watched for years to come. All. I. Can. doesn’t just raise the bar for ski movies, it sets a new gold standard.

Check out more on this revolutionary ski film and where to see it next on this piece by Unofficial Networks Backcountry Reporter Brennan Lagasse:
More on All. I. Can. from Brennan Lagasse

All. I. Can. may be purchased (and is well worth buying) on the Sherpas Website:
Sherpas Cinema Website

Bridge Day

Shane McConkey loved Bridge Day.  Bridge Day gives base jumpers the chance to huck themselves in whatever fashion they can imagine…legally.  Held on the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia, Bridge Day simply rocks.  Here’s a stellar edit from Tim Dutton that features JT Holmes standing in as a member of the Red Bull Air Force and jumping the last of Shane’s unused parachute pack jobs at Bridge Day.

Bridge Day 2011 with Red Bull Air Force from Tim Dutton on Vimeo.

Early November Snow

Elevations around 6,000 feet received anywhere from 6 to 11 inches of new snow last night.  That should mean much more on the Pacific Crest.  Looks like round one delivered more than expected.  More snow is expected Saturday evening.

Squaw Valley the morning of November 4. Truckee residences at around 6,100 feet received more snow than Squaw.

Snow removal in the Squaw parking lot this morning.

Ramping up at Squaw – Snow in the Forecast

Lots of activity around the base of Squaw recently. Construction projects in full swing, lifts getting bumped to life and snowmaking to the top of Red Dog. Six inches of snow is expected above 7,000 feet tonight. It may be a tad early to get amped on ski season but let’s not forget the seven feet of snow that fell prior to Thanksgiving last year.

KT getting kicked into gear.

Ground level of Olympic House stripped to the ribs.

Fresh sod in front of the Funitel where the ticket portals used to be.

Alpine Meadows residence that collapsed under snow load last winter. A reminder of the epic 2011 season.

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