Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Category: Articles (Page 3 of 5)

New Sunglasses for 2008-2009

Sunglasses Take Style Cues from the Past, Performance Tips from the Future
By Susan Schnier

Sunglasses manufactures know our dirty secret; we’re slaves to style. Fighter pilot wire rims, shield lenses and chunky frames continue to pervade shades. High-end, optically clear lenses and frames with custom touches like rhinestones and rivets drive up price points and quality standards. While a few manufacturers are still making ultra lightweight, sport performance glasses, most are focusing on fashion first. But even though these glasses are targeting “lifestyle” pursuits like lounging or clubbing, they perform as well as they look when tested with glare, speed or air.

Electric BSGIIElectric’s new BSG II glasses are the second incarnation of a collaboration between Electric and the skater who inspired Jackass, Bam Margera. The shield lens is elegantly curved inside large boxy frames and they’re durable enough to withstand the most asinine stunts. The three-piece raised volt logo and screws are stainless steel and the 100% UVA/B protective polycarbonate lenses are housed in a Grilamid frame. Named after three-war veteran Col. Bob Thacker, the Col. Thacker is made for the “new era of social combat.” Wire core-injected temples offer flexible comfort so you can focus on your A game.

Dragon GCDragon pushes forward with the standing rockstar/drug lord theme, with full-coverage frames and bright colors in its Bridage X-Ray and Calavera Tiger glasses. The two-tone GC shades take a uniquely robotic retro turn toward the eighties, with the kind of oversized, thin boxy frames you were probably wearing when you rode your first snowboard.

Spy BlokSpy also sticks with oversized and eighties styles this year. The company is focusing more on fashion and less on technical snow features, since it feels that most skiers and riders are wearing goggles, not glasses on the hill. Spy does emphasize performance in its glasses but combines it with hybridized, retro styles like the Claudette and Blok which hearken back to the MC Hammer and Max Headroom days of yore. The HSX is Spy’s performance piece with full-protection from large lenses and minimalist elegance in the thin frame.

Giro InstingatorGiro signed a deal to use Zeiss Certified True Sight lenses in its glasses. Made in a Zeiss mold and conforming to a high standard of optical purity, True Sight lenses offer distortion-free, full-field vision in a range of water- and grime-repellant tints. With these lenses, Giro launches its Sport Performance sunglasses. The Semi is the sportiest of the bunch, with a slightly chunky half frame for a lightweight feel. Wind Tunnel ventilated temples circulate air behind the lenses to prevent fog during the slog. The rubber nose pad and temple tips are also ventilated. For the less technically oriented, Giro’s Instigator and Convert glasses are more lifestyle-y, though they also use True Sight lenses and Wind Tunnel ventilation.

Smith InviteSmith releases six new, fashion-driven glasses this year. The frames of the Italian-crafted, oversized Witness are ergonomically curved for comfort and the lenses are optically perfect. The classic, medium-sized Don gets right to the point. There’s no fancy styling, just a down-to-business look with impact-resistant, high quality lenses and frames. Thin-ish frames on big, buggy lenses in the Talent women’s sunglass make a curvy, oversized fashion statement in a light frame. The chunkiest of the bunch, the Invite’s boxy frames are subtly curved. A small metal Smith logo sits at the bottom of the temples and a round, translucent plague marks the ends. Attention to detail and unique styling make this a standout. The Hideout is a smaller frame, flat and sleek and a bit of a throwback to the nineties. It has all the technical innovations of the rest of them, without all the flash. Polarized lenses are available in all Smith’s new glasses.

Zeal OrbNew shield shades from Zeal propel the oversized look into the new line. Zeal’s ZB-13 Polarized lenses allow a single lens to have maximum versatility. The 20-model ZB-13 Polarized line includes the men’s Lift, Tensai, Ignite ST, Flyer and Emit and the women’s Entice and Orb. Zeal also introduces the Eco Essence line. In three men’s styles and seven women’s styles, the frames (from the XB-13 Polarized line) are constructed of 30-50% recycled nylon. All cases are 100% recyclable.

Uvex OversizeWith a technical reputation, Uvex also takes a turn toward fashion this year. The chunky Oversize 7 is available in black, white and black with small vertical rhinestones down the front of the frame. The Oversize 7 features full UV protection and distortion-free, impact resistant lenses. The Uvision Pola Pro embodies Uvex’s historic sport performance focus, with a slim plastic frame across the top of the lens for a wrap-around, ultra lightweight sunglass with a polarized filter for active snow pursuits.

New Goggles & Helmets for 2008-09

Cranium Command Central: Helmets and Goggles Combine Forces
By Susan Schnier

Eons beyond basic protection, helmets and goggles are now highly customized for the riding experience. They collaborate to circulate air and eliminate fog while delivering warmth and security, not to mention music to your ears. Slip on a combo and you’re operating your winter world from a high-tech command center. With quick swap lenses, built-in volume control, custom artwork and widescreen vision, the vibrant, integrated systems reflect personal style, whether male or female, steezy jibber, big-mountain rider or technical racer.

Smith HustleSmith HeiressThis year, Smith’s releases three new helmets, the Hustle skate-performance hybrid, women’s-specific Intrigue and kids Upstart. The Hustle blends big mountain and park style with eight top vents and an odor-reducing, temperature-regulating liner. The Intrigue, available in a vibrant Raspberry South Beach style, is a hard/soft hyrbrid for a low-volume “90% less testosterone” look and feel. Smith’s new wide-lens Heiress goggle, also available in Raspberry, is designed to slip into the Intrigue. SkullCandy Bluetooth and Wired audio come in the Variant, Variant Brim, Hustle, Intrigue and Holt helmets.

K2 IndyK2 introduces a simplified, unisex sizing system (S, M, L) and “Dialed” adjustable fit system that’s operated with a gloved hand, using a twistable dial. Baseline Audio with ear pad volume control comes standard on five helmets – the Crossfire, Moxie, Edge, Clutch and Indy – and is compatible with most others. The new, unisex Indy helmet is a full hard shell which includes all these innovations plus argyle ear pads for touch of sophistication.

Giro reintroduces its Manifest goggle with a lens change system to switch lenses quickly without stressing Giro Rootor damaging them. Sold with two spherical lenses, the Manifest also has articulating outriggers for a helmet-compatible fit. The Root goggle returns with a new, limited-edition, ghostly style by Seattle poster and album cover artist, Jeff Kleinsmith.

Marker’s Kamaleon goggle has an Interchangeable Lens Concept and comes with three anti-fog NXT lenses – amber, mirror and light-pink. Three clipped hinges on the frame hold the lens in place. The Kamaleon is compatible with Marker’s helmet line which includes the Cheetah race helmet, the light and slim M4, the M2 half helmet with removable liners and Ripper full-face mask helmet.

Salomon Venom AudioSalomon’s new Brigade helmet offers targeted park protection at a low price point with a removable visor and convertible liner that adjusts for beanies. The Impact helmet has Bluetooth ear pads and the Venom Audio combines Bluetooth with a convertible liner and Pimp my Helmet program – pins that let you customize your lid.

Dragon unleashes the Rogue goggle with true Toric lens technology for an ultra-clean view. Underscoring just how pimp these new goggles are, the frame is plastered with Benjamins and the strap has gold Dragon Rougeaccents.

Electric’s equates the increased peripheral vision from the EG.2 goggle’s oversized lens and thinner frame to widescreen HDTV for the mountains. The flat panels are also equipped with the standard cable Electric EGGpackage – 100% UV protection, anti-fog, scratch-resistant coating and dual polycarbonate lens. EG.2 styles like the Grey Goose pinstripe and the EG.K kids’ model are new this year.

Scott struts in to SIA with street materials like metal and leather in its new Celebutante Alibi goggle. An oversized gold “S” is riveted to the strap and the white, curvy frame is accented in gold.

Scott Celebutante AlibiZeal maintains its focus on technology in the new Spherical PPX goggles. They have photochromatic, polarized lenses with a no-fog treatment and Technothane frames that are lightweight, strong and pliable.

Spy ZedSpy boosts its snow cred with the new Zed goggle. Vivid strap graphics use custom patches and appliqués. Bluury Martini, 80’s Hip Hop, Laser Rock and Mint Sensation are a few of the styles. Along with anti-fog ventilation, anti-scratch lens treatment, dual-adjustment strap and wicking face foam, the Zed comes with a replacement lens. The Bias returns in a smaller frame size and new design details like pinstripes and metallic accents. The Solider marches in with new styles like Beeeeweeeird, Cherry Cola, Club Alcatraz and I’m Rich.

Swans’ new fog-free fan goggle, the Dread TBR Optex, has a large frame designed to wear over glasses. The fan runs for 12 hours off one AAA battery. The FZ/HR goggle/helmet system returns. HR-60 helmets have adjustable air vents, wicking liners and customizable fit pads and FZ Coupe goggles have polarized lenses, flexible frames, waterproof vent fabric and APA altitude control system.

Uvex Fun RideUvex turns its attention to style to complement technical performance. Available in classy solid colors, the new lightweight Apache helmet has 11 vents for a “cool” look. The new Fun Ride helmet has attention-grabbing eagle graphics, a soft liner and fuzzy ear pads for warmth, comfort and flair. Both accept Uvex’s X-Factor Bluetooth ear pads and integrate with the new women’s Ultra and Snowfire goggles.

Bolle’s also steps up its looks with new goggles that have all of the technical features for performance Bolle Quasarcombined with bold-attention getting styles like candy-colored pinstripes. The Fathom has a medium fit while the Quasar accommodates larger faces.

New Skis for 2008-09: Fat Skis & Twin Tips

Twins and Fatties: Backcountry Comes to the Forefront, Multiple Sidecut Radii Make Super Fats Truly Versatile
by Susan Schnier

As fat skis stormed the mainstream, even the most devoted zealots sacrificed performance on hard-pack in favor of Christ-like ability to float over frozen water. Fat ski disciples have proven their loyalty after years of wobbly slides for life across crowded groomers. And the ski gods have rewarded them with a slew of plump, rockered, twin-tip boards shaped with multiple sidecut radii that grip on hardpack almost as well as they float through pow. Boards also get lighter and stronger for the backcountry, in recognition of the pilgrimages that riders are making back to their roots.

Having moved to Park City, Utah, Rossignol’s new skis reflect the increased opportunities to rip wild powder. Part of the Seven Artistic Sins (SAS) series, which melds urban art with innovative technology, the S7 Caballero (145/115/123) represents gluttony – the kind where you relentlessly stuff yourself with acres of unmarred backcountry. With graphics by Steve Caballero and direction from Sage Cattabriga-Alosa, it’s a twin-tip with reverse camber, reverse sidecut and traditional sidecut underfoot for cat tracks. Fibers in the core are aligned with the sidecut, so the ski is most dense underfoot.
Rossignol S7 Caballero

New to Palmer’s line are the P03 (117-85-117 in 171cm) park/pipe/jib ski and the P04 (132-98-124 in 189cm) fat, big-mountain twin-tip. Both feature Palmer’s proprietary FLF (feels like flying) shape with multiple sidecut radii for better power transfer across conditions. Light and wide, the P04 bridges the gap between resort and backcountry powder.
Palmer P04

Bucking the twin-tip trend, Karhu introduces four new backcountry skis, the Storm (128-96-117), Storm BC (128-96-117), Spire (122-86-108) and Spire BC (122-86-108) with flat tails for climbing skin wires and mountaineering anchors. The skis use Titanal 3 and Carbon 3 construction and Greenlight cores for torsional rigidity with reduced weight. The four-radii progressive sidecut is more aggressive at the tip and tail for better edge hold and quicker release.
Karhu Storm BC

This year, Dynastar’s Legend Pro XXL (132-109-122) comes in a 187cm model, making it more accessible than when it was only at 194cm. The wood core now uses a strip of light Rohacell metal for more liveliness and less weight. The top sheet has less material at the tip and tail for additional weight savings. The Pro Rider models get new shape, construction and sizing. Built like World Cup race skis, with vertical side walls, wood core and two metal layers, they are 3mm wider throughout for more flotation and stability.
Dynastar Legend Pro

Elan’s new partnership with Dalbello Skiboots has helped rocket their skis into the fall-line. Intense athlete involvement and new WaveFlex ribbed top profile, which isolates torsional and longitudinal flex, have also helped propel the company. The Fusion Integrated binding sheds 25% of its weight. Staying true to the old-school, Elan’s fatter, freeride skis, the 1111, 999, 888 and 777 are directional. Its four-model, twin-tip, freestyle line now fattens up with the new Pogo Holmes (136-107-126) for freestyle moves in big mountain power.
Elan Pogo Holmes

Icelantic’s target market skis almost exclusively on twin-tips, so that’s all it makes. The company takes an unusual approach to ski design, making stiff fat skis for stable and “explosive” performance in all conditions, not just powder. This year, Icelantic offers the Nomad, Pilgrim and Shaman in longer lengths and introduces the symmetrical Da Nollie (118-88-118), a park ski specifically made for popular tricks like butters, nose/tail presses and ollie/nollie maneuvers. The flagship Scout and Soft SFT (soft version) are back unchanged. Icelantic Scout

K2’s Factory Team line has five new, athlete-inspired twin-tips with unique taper angles to maximize backward performance. Vertical sidewalls make them impact-resistant, and some have a layer of Urethane under the foot for shock absorption. They have 3.5 mm edges (about 1mm thicker than most) to prolong their lives. The amount and type of rocker (upward bend in the tip or tail to improve floatation in powder) varies. The new ObSethed (138-105-125) has a 15/20 rocker, which is more relaxed than the Hellbent (40/40). The new MissBehaved (130-98-118) is a women’s fat twin-tip. Pep Fujas’ new ski, the Kung Fujas (125-95-120), performs equally forwards or backwards, in the park or out of the heli. The Disorderly (109-85-109) creates symmetry out of chaos, offering complete balance regardless of direction.
K2 Obsethed

Line gave birth to the new-school category twelve years ago, and they are still nurturing it as it enters adulthood. Eric Pollard’s ultra-fat twin-tip skis – the EP Pro (153-127-150), Sir Francis Bacon (142-115-139) and Elizabeth (142-110-139) – continue paving the way. In the All-terrain Freestyle category, Line stretches the Blend’s (132-100-122) waist width to 100mm for even more power float. One of the fattest skis in the freestyle category, the Blend is indicator of what’s to come. The Mothership (142-111-132) returns, resurrecting the Big Mountain category, and Line introduces two women’s skis, the Pandora (142-110-139) for powder and the 100% symmetrical twin-tip Shadow (110-83-110) for park.
Line Sir Francis Bacon

Movement’s not stopping, introducing eight new shapes, lengths and molds. The company acquired new factory machinery to produce its sustainable wood cores. The widest beast in the freeski category, the Goliath Sluff (134-99-118) will now be offered in 174cm length for smaller big mountain skiers. In freestyle skis, the Zoo (107-77-97 (in XS and S) and 114-84-105 (in M and L)) features sandwich sidewall construction to stand up to park abuse and offers more sensitive edge energy transfer in the snow and in the air.
Movement Goliath Sluff

High Society Freeride emphasizes the elusive combination of light weight and durability in their new fat ski, the FR 187 (136-104-126) and park ski, the 177 (119-81-107). The FR line has a new weight-reducing top sheet, thicker edges and stronger base material.
High Society Freeride 171

Scott created four new skis, three of which are twin-tip. All are chubby with dual radii sidecuts. The massive Stunt (141-113-128, 196cm only) and the Crusade (133-92-122 in 179cm) have Venturi tip and tail to lessen pressure on the snow when getting into and out of a turn. The Sheela (126-86-113 in 172cm) is a women’s twin-tip for the park and beyond. Also for the ladies, the Maya (116-76-106 in 165cm) is the only directional ski in the line.
Scott Sheela

Last year, Volkl introduced its first rockered ski, the Katana. Then they set out to improve it. Their revelation was an elongated, low profile (ELP) that rises gradually in front of the binding toe piece and behind the tail piece toward the tip and tail of the ski. It preserves the speed control of rocker without sacrificing hard snow performance and provides enough height to float through powder, but not enough to compromise edge contact while turning. Volkl’s new fat, symmetrical twin-tip Chopstick (148-128-148) and its directional freeride Kuro (164-132-139) use ELP. Women get two new skis, the backcountry jibbing Kiku (133-105-124) and all-mountain twin-tip Cosmo (130-92-112).
Volkl Kuro

Salomon expands it freeski line with three new powerful figures, the Lord (128-87-115 in 177cm), the Lady (128/86/114 in 169cm) and the Czar (128/108/118 in 174cm). The Czar combines rocker and a high twin-tip with a lightweight wood core, edge reinforcement and a huge waist width for flotation. The Lord and its female counterpart, the Lady, are big mountain skis with a smaller profile for better grip on groomers.
Salomon Czar

Black Diamond’s high-voltage Megawatt (153-125-130) is electric in powder with a long rocker tip and a wood core for torsional integrity and stability in deep pow. Zero-camber offers predictable carving on firmer snow.
BD Mega Watt

A targeted park ski, Atomic’s Urban Punx (108-84-108) is completely redesigned. For durability, it features a Rail Slide Reinforcement edges and Ceramic Base Inserts underfoot. A special flex profile is designed for buttering and sketchy drop-ins. The Big Daddy (145-125-129) gets rocker in the tip and the Snoop Daddy (125-88-111) gets a turned up tail and a beefier waist width to make it a true all-around tool.
Atomic Urban Punx

In the name of increased durability and backcountry performance, Fischer gives its entire Watea freeride line I-bean construction, wood cores, vertical sidewalls and a tail notch for climbing skins. The Villain Pro (112-82-112), with 25-degree sidewalls, wood core and sandwich construction, is added to the slopestyle collection. The Addict Pro Team (110-78-103) is also added to the line at a parent-friendly price of $295.
Fischer Addict

4FRNT revamps its EHP Eric Hjorleifson big-mountain backcountry powder ski (129-116-123 in 186cm), adding a 179cm length and zero cambered gradual radius tip and tail curves. The shapes extend as deep as 40cm in the tip and 20cm in the tail for a short, flat and wide running surface. The ski is made with sandwich construction and the graphics were created by Eric, inspired by Molson’s Pilsner Old Style Lager.

2008 Gear Reviews

2008-2009 Fat Ski/Twin Tip Ski Preview >

2008-2009 Helmet and Goggle Preview >

2009-2009 Sunglasses Preview >

Kombi Espresso GloveKombi Espresso Glove
Now that spring skiing is here, I’ve been wearing these new gloves almost everyday. Kombi’s new women’s Espresso glove is perfect for spring, but also warm enough for winter (if you’re not prone to cold hands). It’s completely low-profile and bulk-free, but it doesn’t feel tight or restrictive. The fingers are articulated for excellent dexterity. The micro-fiber/leather/suede shell, insulation, waterproof insert and wicking lining make the Espresso surprisingly warm and weather-proof; I’ve even worn them out in storms without going numb. To top it all off, the coloring and styling is sophisticated putting a city-ish look in a technical mountain glove.

Opedix Knee Action Ski & Board Tights

Opedix Knee Action TightsDesigned to reduce strain and stress on your knees and improve balance and coordination, Opedix Knee Action tights are reinforced with extra supportive material down the outside of the legs from waist to ankle and surrounding the knee. The tights are a slim-fitting base layer that’s thick enough to keep you warm on cold days. But the support they provide is the most notable advantage. I felt like the strategically placed material supported my muscles and helped keep them engaged and aligned while downhill skiing, x-c skiing and doing yoga. Instead of having to focus on tightening the quad, hamstrings and glutes, they felt like they were already tightened and engaged, letting me make the next turn or stride more powerfully and easily. Though people with serious knee problems will wear a brace, these tights offer preventative protection to those who are trying to prevent an injury or re-injury. Get details on the technology here >

High Sierra Wheeled Carry-On

High Sierra Wheeled BackpackI just got a new wheeled carry-on bag from High Sierra! Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, High Sierra is the official bag supplier for the US Ski and Snowboard teams. The best thing about this carry-on is that it’s not black! Mine is bright green, sure not to be mistaken for someone else’s on the conveyor. It’s also made of ultra-durable fabric and packed with thoughtful features. The main bag has wheels and zip-out shoulder straps. A detachable backpack also zips on to the front in case you decide to check the bag or for easier transport when your bags aren’t checked. All the compartments are well-padded and it’s got dual-sided water bottle pockets and an mp3 player headphone port. It’s the small things like this that keep me from feeling like as much of a junk show while navigating through airport security.

Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New MexicoTele Takeover in Taos
By Susan Schnier
September 2004

It’s just snowed three feet of Taos powder – a precip phenomenon that so light and dry that it’s more Martini than Champagne. I’m hunched over my poles, waiting at the base of Lift #1. Gore-tex is crinkling, coffee is imbibed, and the musky scent of herbal remedy fills the cold air. But while it’s a typical powder day at Taos Ski Valley, it’s actually very unusual. Yeah, there are no snowboarders; old school Taos has never let them in. But the big news is that every other skier in line sports freeheel gear – up to 50% on a powder day. Tele at Taos and you’ll lose your “alternative” status, but gain kindred freeheel partners exuding an unquenchable thirst for untamed terrain.

Steeped in southwest culture, half hour from the Taos Pueblo, tumbleweeds and the artsy town of Taos, Taos Ski Valley is a high elevation hamlet in the Sangro de Christo mountains, jutting out the top of a steep box canyon. “Most people that live here now were hitchhiking or driving their VW bus through town on their way to California 20 years ago,” explains Chris of the Thundirbird Lodge, “either they lost a wheel or didn’t get a ride, and they ended up staying. With Taos, you either love it or hate it.”

For telemarkers, there’s nothing to hate, just leg-burning bump runs, steep, tight forest excursions, and a long, smooth ridgeline. Gnarly conditions like hidden rocks and stumps bond tele’ers together at Taos, with a strength we only wish the snow crystals had. From alpine to telemarker, tourists to locals, and teens to grandparents, weathered “Ridgeheads,” spend their days trekking from the top of chair 6 along the sprawling ridgeline choosing their poison. Tele styles are as diverse as the eccentrics that call Taos home, from rippers doing it for decades to fearful newbies tentatively sliding their knee back like a puppet string over which they had lost control.

If you want help honing your skills at Taos you don’t have to wait around for that one telemark instructor that only works two days a week, 15 out of Tao’s100 adult instructors telemark, as well as a handful of children instructors. A six-week weekend tele clinic, taught by tele guru, Hank, draws men and women from Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Los Alamos.


• Eat at Rhoda’s for a low-key atmosphere and great food from veggi pasta to duck to lobster.

• The Hondo Restaurant at the Inn at Snakedance has delicious and harty meals for a fairly hearty price. Carnivores should try the bacon-wrapped buffalo in shitake mushroom gravy. Home made deserts from sinfully rich lava chocolate cake to coconut iced cream to crème Brule.

• For a reasonable price you can get a massage at the Inn at Snakedance – ask for Abeile.

• If it’s Thursday, try to find the “Martini Tree,” a tradition started by ski school founder, Ernie Blake, when he used the gin drink to coax a fearful student down Al’s Run. Serve yourself if you can find it. If not, the après-ski joint at the base called the Martini Tree is easier to find.

• Tele events like Demo Day, Tele Fun Day, the 6-week locals clinic, and tele ski week.

• The shop carries tele rental gear

Heavenly: An Inside Guide

Heavenly’s Killebrew Canyon

Killebrew Canyon MapAt the far eastern end of this sprawling resort exists an extreme skier’s playground where tight cliffs harbor 45-degree chutes, snow stays soft and deep days after a storm, and the crowds keep their distance—thanks to the rough-and-tumble traverse required to get there.

Get here by traversing east from the top of Dipper Express lift, stay high across Milky Way Bowl, and enter through gates A–E. Stay clear of gates 1–6—they’ll drop you in MottCanyon.

The shorter, south-facing runs crust up when baked in the afternoon sun. In the spring, most runs are open from mid-morning until glop-thirty.

Leave the canyon by following a quarter mile traverse west to the base of MottCanyon lift (not shown). You can’t get lost—a rope marks the lowest return point.


North facing with a consistent 35-degree pitch, this line preserves the pow and drops you through open trees. Ski through Gate A and follow the glade skier’s right to the top of Meadows, following the rope line to the knob at the end.


Riding this 41-degree natural half pipe down the 900-foot fall line is as close to surfing in the Sierras as you’re gonna get. Go through Gate A, ski right until you get to the sign marking the run. This north/northeast-facing aspect promises a smooth ride of protected snow. Toward the bottom, cut right to the often-untouched Boundary Chutes.


The late ski patroller Ramarrah Ann Moore loved this 42-degree, narrow chute that funnels into Pipeline after about 450 feet. Enter with care: exposed rocks would love to chew up your bases. Once in, however, let ‘er rip. If you want to slalom the wide-open trees, avoid the Pipeline detour.


Highly technical with several no-fall zones, the Fingers is the least skied area on the mountain. The pitches range from 38 to 42 degrees. To scare yourself, ski the ridge between the Thumb and the Index Finger—you’ll have mandatory air and a landing in the trees.


Make about 10 turns down the Index Finger, then angle left, across the more open face above the Thumb, to scream into Bonzai. Keep making turns, always banking left, without going over the ridgeline and into Stateline. This run’s name evokes the adrenaline you’ll need when your skis hit the 44- degree entrance. Once you’re in, huck the rock face with the small landing zone, and avoid the trees below. A word of advice—scope your landing before pulling a samurai move.


Boasting a 1,000 foot vertical drop, this 40-degree, north-facing avalanche path is the best place to find soft, chaulky snow after a storm.


Cruise the Boulevard’s 38-degree pitch and wide-open aspect. This friendly run gets the most traffic of any in the canyon.


It’s on the canyon’s sunny side, and only a few ski this consistent 42-degree run. A perennial favorite among patrollers, Sharkey’s is typically untouched, and is named after a bar.

The Stash at Northstar

Terrain Parks Gone Wild
by Susan Schnier
December 2006

You follow the wood signs to the Stash and drop in. Float over some pillow drops, slide a huge fallen log, clear a road jump, then bank some turns through the trees. It feels fluid and natural, but this isn’t the backcountry, it’s the Stash, a new run at Northstar-at-Tahoe. At the bottom, you ride the new five-minute Tahoe Zephyr lift and session it again – no skins or sweat required.

The first of its kind, the 800-vertical-foot run, opened on December 15th.  Northstar-at-Tahoe was the obvious choice for Burton’s brainchild. The Petri dish of the jib scene, what it lack in steeps, it makes up for in park design and grooming.

To build the Stash, Northstar dug deep, moving earth, positioning logs, and building jumps that clear roads. The Stash doesn’t have any metal, only chainsaw-carved wood like stumps, yeti heads and giant gorilla statues that can be jibbed or jumped.

Skiers and riders can huck or slide the “CK Cabin,” a small hut that pays tribute to deceased big-mountain snowboarder, Craig Kelly.

“The Stash is a chameleon. When it’s snowy, it’s more backcountry, and when it’s not, it’s more terrain park,” says John Chapman, owner of Porters Sports Lake Tahoe. “This is a first for the industry, and skiers will enjoy it as much as riders.”

Climbing & Skiing Shasta

By Susan Schnier
December 2003

Approach Shasta for the first time from San Francisco or Portland, and its hulking, 360-degree volcanic mass pops out like a mirage in the arid desert. The bulbous peak stands stark and alone, 14,162 feet tall and six miles west of Redding, California. For the rookie, Shasta has the spine-tingling allure of a first kiss, and for the experienced skier, the mind-expanding depth of a long-term relationship. From 50-degree exposed faces with crevasse navigation, to classic bowl skiing with minimal risk, though lots of people visit each season, the mountain enormous.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a longer descent in the U.S. that doesn’t involve crevasses and rappels. You might get 3,500 feet of backcountry vertical before the bell rings elsewhere, but Shasta always provides extracurricular mileage. “Getting 7,400 vertical feet in a day is rare anywhere in the world, but on Shasta it’s the norm,” says Tahoe local and five-time Shasta veteran, Rob McCormick.

The Route

South facing Avalanche Gulch is the classic and least technical route. Best from May through June you need to summit before the snow turns to sludge. You can bootpack most of the ascent, using crampons in a few of the icy, steeper sections. The ascent is seven miles and the elevation gain is 7000+ feet. You can leave from the trailhead at Bunny Flat in the afternoon, sleep at Horse Camp or Helen Lake (10,400 feet), and start the four-hour climb before dawn to reach the summit by 9 a.m. Or leave the trailhead around 2 a.m. and beat feet to the summit. This eliminates the need for camping gear, but requires a high level of fitness and energy reserves for the descent. To avoid the crowds, climb and ski the Hotlum-Wintun Ridge on Shasta’s northeast side. It has the longest sustained pitch with the most consistent snow.

The Descent

Descending Avalanche Gulch is as effortless as skipping class on a warm spring afternoon. Provided you time it right, you’ll have smooth sailing down 7,000+ feet of perfectly pitched, crevasse-free California corn.


The best way to do Shasta the first time is with a guide. With no foothills to cradle it, Shasta has its own weather system, often capped by lenticular clouds that signal the onset of winds and snow The weather changes rapidly so always be prepared for storms.

Other Info

Permits, available free of charge at the Mt. Shasta and McCloud Ranger Stations and all the trailheads, are required. Summit Passes ($15) are required if you climb above 10,000 feet. Pack out all your waste. No dogs allowed.

Guide services:

Shasta Mountain Guides (SMG):, 530-926-3117

Alpine Skills International (ASI):, 530-582-9170

Sierra Wilderness Seminars:, 888-797-6867

Eric DesLauriers works with ASI and Leslie Ross runs Babes in the Backcountry women’s courses in conjunction with SMG.

Leslie Ross: 970-453-4060,

Eric DesLauriers: 888-754-2201,

For weather and route information, the United States Forest Service:

Mt. Shasta Ranger Station: 530-926-4511

McCloud Ranger Station: 530-964-2184

Mount Shasta Avalanche Center:, 530-926-9613

Gear and Route Info:

The Fifth Season rents and sells everything you’ll need for Shasta including ice axes, crampons, mountaineering boots, skis, packs, gaitors, and tents: 530-926-5555

House of Ski & Board: 530-926-2359,


Sierra Club/Horse Camp Information:

In-bounds Avalanches

By Susan Schnier
September 2006

Last January, during a monster storm in Nevada, 13-year-old Brett Hutchison was riding Chair 2 above a blue run at 40-acre Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, when a 15-foot wall of snow ripped him from the lift and buried him. Rescue workers didn’t find his body until approximately 10p.m. that night. Three days later at Steamboat, a snowboarder triggered an avalanche to skier’s left of Chute 3, on Mount Werner. Then, on the night on January 15th or morning of 16th, a slab with a five to seven foot crown broke loose under Snowbird’s GAD 2 lift —despite having been blasted and skied on that day. Unusual? Yes. But not as shocking as the 1,000-foot-long, 350-foot-wide wet slide that broke loose on May 20 on Arapahoe Basin’s bumped-out 1st Alley run, off the Pallavinci lift—which had been evaluated and deemed safe just minutes before—and killed a 53-year-old skier named David Conway.

Naturally, the incidents left many skiers wondering: How safe is it to ski inbounds?

Only five avalanche-related deaths have occurred on open terrain—anything within a resort’s boundaries that isn’t roped off—in the United States since 1985, a result of constantly refined control procedures and increased skier traffic. And the burial-death at A-Basin was Colorado’s first since 1975. Still, despite the effectiveness of military-size avy-control arsenals, open slopes can rip, and they can cause serious damage. “No matter how much you do control work on a morning you will still have sluffs during the day,” explains Squaw Valley Mountain Manager, Jimmy King. “We try to protect and educate skiers, but if you put yourself in that environment you need to know something about it.”

Avalanches are such an imminent threat, especially on the steep and deep terrain favored by today’s big mountain skiers—that, ironically, many mountains are simply opening up avy-prone terrain. Last season, Lake Tahoe’s Mt. Rose Ski Area opened the Chutes, a collection of long, steep couloirs that are accessible right off the chairlift. “One of the reasons we opened the Chutes,” says Mt. Rose’s Mike Pierce, was to deal with the fact that an increasing number if people were diving in there in unsafe conditions.” Likewise, Aspen started opening its steep and slide-prone Highland Bowl in 1997.
Despite last season’s avy oddities, the answer to whether you’re safe inbounds is, for the most part, yes.  As skis get fatter and the big-mountain scene swells, resorts are increasingly more aware of potential problems. To that end, they’re putting more money into control work and investing retrieval systems like Recco. “We started making adjustments the evening of the accident,” says Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort General Manager, Brian Strait.  “We’re now using active explosives control in all areas in the Three Peaks drainage and we’ve increased equipment on hand and training for search and rescue workers.”

Statistics show that in-bounds avalanches are very rare and the ones last season appear to be aberrations. “These were freak accidents that ski patrol and management could not have foreseen,” says Colorado Avalanche Information Center Director, Knox Williams.

Nonetheless, snow safety professional have learned from these incidents. When the slope under Gad 2 slid, Pat Shugart, Snowbird’s Assistant Director of Ski Patrol, had never seen anything like it and called in four scientists to check it out. They concluded that it went because of the recent snow that fell on top a hard layer of ice from December. “We’re always very conservative in opening the mountain,” says Shugart. “But we’ll take the evidence from this slide and if we see those conditions again, we’ll close the lift.”

Profile: Jesse Bushey

By Susan Schnier
September 2005

A shy kid from rural Vermont, 22-year-old Jesse Bushey’s skiing speaks far louder than his words. And that’s exactly how he likes it. You’ll never hear Jesse talking smack in the lift line at Squaw Valley’s KT-22, but in the four winters he’s skied at Squaw, he’s probably had first chair more than anyone else—quite a statement for the chair known as a breeding ground for the past and current legends of freeskiing.

In a line that regularly draws Shane McConkey, Kent Kreitler, Aaron McGovern and more, everyone at Squaw knows Jesse as the blond dreadlocked telemarker who’s out everyday screaming down the gnarliest lines on an oversized ski like Volant’s Spatula, or his new favorite, Volkl’s 193 split tail Sanouk.

What inspires Jesse to be at the head of the line every day? “Fresh tracks,” he says. “And because I like beating everyone else,” he adds with a smile. “It just feels very special when you get the first chair, and there are 100 people behind you. You can go anywhere you want.”

Home-schooled by his parents in Cabot, Vermont since 2nd grade, Jesse moved to Squaw as soon as he finished his last year of high school. Jesse’s dad, a “cool woodsy dude who likes to build houses,” taught him how to telemark on Nordic skis and leather boots. Jesse got his first taste of lift served skiing in those same boots at Smuggler’s Notch when he was 14. “I jumped my first 20-footer there in those boots,” he says nodding and smiling with a nostalgic look.

“There was a fenced-off cliff,” he adds. “We got last chair at 4 p.m., jumped it, and sped off before patrol did their sweep.” From then on, Jesse was hooked on the turn and the speed. Now Jesse is one of the most dedicated telemarkers on the hill. Missing only 14 days over the season, Jesse spent over 140 days last year focusing on Squaw’s most technical lines.

“Turns and fluidity are my priority,” says Jesse. “This year I was focused on turning because I wanted to ski spines. I like to ski fast, but I don’t like sacrificing control and fluidity for speed.”

A list of Jesse’s idols includes many of the names that wind up just behind in line for KT-22, including big-name alpine freeskiers like Shane McConkey and Scott Gaffney and lesser known heroes like Sheryl Varner, a Squaw legend known for setting the pace for getting in line at KT, as well as Hansi and Toni Standteiner.

Though most of his ski heroes lock their heels, Jesse doesn’t plan to switch over to alpine until he knees force him. “I don’t see myself as having lesser goals or expectations because I telemark,” he explains. “I do it because it’s harder.”

In the off-season, Jesse works as an apprentice blacksmith, crafting handrails and decorative ironwork. When Jesse’s not forging iron, he rides his road bike around 200 miles each week and just finished California’s 129-mile, 15,000-veritcal-foot Death Ride near the front of the pack. Next year he wants to win.

If you want to spot Jesse this year, look for the fastest and smoothest telemarker on the hill, but the telltale dreads of six years are gone. Now Jesse has a mohawk, and his dreads hang in a bundle from the wind chime outside his door. “I grew them because my dad didn’t like them,” Jesse says. “But I shaved them because people kept asking me for pot.”

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