Ready or not... here comes snow!

The Northern Wasatch Mountains are in winter bloom.  The season opening storm was a whopper.  The Salt Lake City mountains to the south of my northerly home did not receive nearly as much snow as we did in the north country.  Ogden City was blessed with a what I call an "Ogden Special".  The westerly to southwesterly flows bring storms into the Ogden mountains on a track that favors the region in snowfall totals.  I could get real deep on why that happens, but I will spare the details.  It just does.  Snowbasin and Powder Mountain ski resorts reported totals in the 40 inch range.  It was a wet and heavy snow as well.  Good base.     

^Waking up to a foot of snow in the yard at 4,500 feet in elevation is a treat for Murphy just as much as me.  She was super pumped up.  Get some, Murphy!  A foot here translates well up high.

^However, I was completely unprepared for the storm.  We always get some snow around this time.  Sometimes it is skiable, but often it is not.  I had nothing mounted or ready for early season conditions.  I had to resort to a really old pair of Atomic TeleDaddys that I had stashed away from my Atomic deals way back in the day.  Hilarious.  I mounted them in the morning with an old pair of Voile Switchbacks I had laying around.  Who cares, it is early.

^I decided to go for a backcountry tour at the Snowbasin ski resort.  Snowbasin had not yet taken on any avalanche control work, or opened up for business.  The drive up was inverted as the clouds lingered in the valley floor.  Driving in the thick fog always plays tricks on my emotions that were geared toward sunshine and blue skies.  

^As always the blues break out just as the first sights of Snowbasin come into view.  The vast basin of peaks appeared through the fog like a gift from the universe.  All of the sudden the music in the car sounded a little clearer, and the beat hit home just a little harder.  The coverage looked substantial for this spot on the calendar.  I was pleasantly surprised.  My smile was only matched by that of my buddy Ben's smile that awaited me in the parking lot.

^It took me forever to get my gear dialed in the parking lot, but I eventually made it to the skin track.  Ascending through the man-made snow flurries under blue skies was a bit surreal.  At one point I was inundated with rainbows as multiple snow guns sprayed in intersecting patterns through a swirling wind that created an entire world of prisms.  As we passed through the prismatic whirlwind the light was bending into rainbows all around us like we were in some kind of downtown gay pride parade.  It was so crazy that our quiet ascent was broken by Ben's holler, "Rainbows everywhere!" 

^As usual this time of year, the tour was really all about getting out to walk around in the hills.  It is good to get a read on the snowpack too.  Ben and I spent most of our time talking hypotheticals on what might happen with the snowpack.  There is no crystal ball, but it is a good exercise to talk about it.  We like to try to run through every scenario until I finally end it with, "Yeah, but as always it will be whatever it will be."  Then we laugh and move on poking around with our poles.  Mount Ogden was looking rather glorious so I had to snap the picture above to capture it in time.  

^We did some early prep work with shovels on one of our favorite techy little entrances.  If the entrance can hold up then we can have a really great run at a stash that we love to get into early in the season.  It was filled in just enough for us to get into it and ski too!  We were all smiles at the early season gift.  I was not expecting to make much of any turns at all.  However, the careful powder was more then I could have hoped for.  I was not dropping any freeheel turns deeply into it, but the float was definitely full on.  I think this snowpack is here to stay.  My only hope is that the slight chance of snow we have for later in the week comes through with at least some minor significance so that the snowpack retains some health.  It is still early, and a rotten base would not be an ideal start to the snowpack.  Like my father always says, "It is what it is."  

^"Hey Ben.  Is this really happening?"  I am pretty sure I was asking him something along those lines as we crested the knoll to be warmly greeted by a view of the heavily blanketed peak in the distance.  Not only was I unprepared with my gear, but I was not ready in my head either.  I have been so busy with the operations of Telemark Skier, and the daily life of the fall, that this wintery world completely snuck up on me.  I have barely even started my workout routine to get in shape for winter.  The next few weeks will be interesting to see how it holds on, but I was thankful for the pleasant snowy surprise.  With the heat coming on this week, I will go back to simply getting ready for winter again.  However, maybe I will luck out with more on-snow respites that I don't expect.  There is a slight chance at the end of the week that we could really use.  We'll see... one day at a time.    

striking out in the sand...

I am always trying to stay above the negativity.  I try to control my emotions to keep my head in the right place all the time.  However, even this cool cucumber looses the cool sometimes.  It is the nature of the human existence.  We are emotional beings.  I am no different.  Christine and I cruised back down to Moab again to rip the mountain bikes on some slickrock.  Everything was going smoothly until it wasn't, and then I started to unravel.  A series of mishaps started to add up, and I could not fight the mind control that the downward spiral of our first day had me in.  

^The drive down was littered with scattered thunderstorms.  No big deal.  Made the drive a little more gnarly on Utah's deadly Highway 6, but relatively smooth sailing.  No problems...yet.

^This rainbow over the slickrock landscape gave us a rather warm welcome, which was quickly followed by the let down of the "Campsites Full" sign.  We rallied on to the next spot to look for a campsite.  The sun was setting so we were running out of daylight to see what we were doing.  Still not a too much of a problem, but the scales are starting to tip.

^We found a site and were in a hurry to get our setup rolling when the first real kick in the pants came.  Christine locked the keys in the Jeep.  We had nothing out of the vehicle yet.  Also, we were in the middle of the desert with nothing to even try to break in with except rocks.  Christine walked to a neighboring site, and managed to get a coat hanger.  After much struggle I managed to break into our Jeep.  We were saved.  The two of us quietly worked through our campsite setup with frustration lingering just inside our ability to speak cordially.  A campfire burned off all of our locked door anger, and the rest of the night rolled out like the starlight sky.   

^Morning brought a whole new barrage of setbacks that brought me to this pouty face photo.  A slow morning gave way to a few annoying trailhead parking lot experiences.  Then the shove off on our first ride attempt resulted in my realization that my bike was totally incapable of making it through the ride in the first 100 yards of the trail.  My chain was jumping off the gears like rats off a sinking ship.  We called off the ride, and descended back down to Moab along with my descending attitude.  The $250 bill at the shop was an additional slap in the mouth.  By now my attitude was so bad that my wife was walking around me on eggshells.  We had a while to wait as the techs solved my bike problems, so we took advantage of the time to get on a Wi-fi signal at a local restaurant.  I needed to correct a bonehead move I made in forgetting to submit some ads to Cody Smith, the Telemark Skier magazine designer.  So we ordered the worst pulled pork sandwich either of us have ever tasted, and struggled through a bad internet connection.  My poor frame of mind made the lingering "sending" message and dry pork so annoying to me that I could barely stand myself.  I was boiling over.  Poor Christine was just trying to hold me together.        

^It was like trying to push this boulder.  My head was in a downward spiral.  We finally made it to a point where we could get out on a short ride after the whole day was pretty much gone.  We chose a short out and back as a result of time.  I was starting to emerge from my spiraling attitude when I snapped this metaphor of my wife struggling to push me up and out of my terrible mindset.   

^It would actually be this wrong turn that would start to break me.  Obviously we didn't know it at the time, but I snapped this photo right about the time we were making a wrong turn that would take us off our route.  When we realized our mistake we were too deep.  We had to roll with the mistake and cut our ride short.  Something snapped in my brain.  All I could do was descend into hysterical laughter at the realization that nothing had gone right all day.  I had just officially chalked the whole day up to a proper baseball analogy of just flat out striking out.  We would get another chance at the plate tomorrow, and the acceptance of the strike out actually calmed me down.

^The riding was shot.  Now we had to find a campsite again.  However, we totally lucked out by founding this killer spot among some slickrock.  The tide had turned along with my attitude.  We could only laugh at the experiences we just had as the sun set on our dismal day. 

^Dinner brought some more baseball analogies as we discussed how we needed to fuel up for another at bat with the next day.  We were happy with our great campsite, warm full belles, and the promise of a full night sleep of ahead of us.


^...and shine.

^A new sunrise was another chance to us to knock one out of the park this time.  Yesterday's strike out was behind us now.  We were ready for any curveballs that the universe could throw at us.  

^Just like in baseball, being able to swing and whiff at a few pitches allowed us to get a read on things to come back better prepared.  Hardened from the disappointments of the day before we were calloused to anything that would try to hold us down.  We even went back to the same restaurant that gave us the dogpile pulled pork.  They totally redeemed themselves with a stellar breakfast burrito.  The beginning of our ride began just as smooth as the red slickrock we were riding on.  The tide had turned.

^Christine's smile shows it.

^The Shrimp Rock trail marker came and went with ease and speed.  We were ripping.  I had overcome myself and my salty emotions.  It was not easy or pretty, but the downward spiral had turned upward toward the bright blue sky.   

^All the while ascending big slickrock spines.

^On the bright side.

^By this time I was only going downhill on the bike.  My attitude was on the up and up.  Christine and I took our swings with our second chance at bat, and we hit one out of the park.  Striking out only sucks if you don't get back up to the plate to take another swing.  No one can hit a home run every time at bat in baseball.  You can't even expect to get a base hit every time.  Even the best hitters strike out sometimes.  These human lives we lead are no different.  Sometimes we blow it, get beat, strike out,  and totally fail.  The difference comes with what you do with your next chance.  How do you fight back and emerge with resilience.  

^We drove out of Moab with tired legs, dusty red sand smiles, and a soundtrack of the bluegrass angel, Allison Krauss, singing some vastly appropriate lyrics from her song, "The Lucky One".  The insightful lyric goes like this; "To you the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing."  I have always tried to live by ideas like that, but it can be hard.  Sometimes when your losing you can also lose the perspective that you are still playing the same great game.  A game far greater then America's great baseball pastime, but with many parallel lessons to be learned.  This is the game of life, and it is a wild and crazy game with all the twists and turns of any legendary World Series game seven.  There are heros and goats, home runs and strike outs, winners and losers, and we all get our turn at all of it.  However, the key lesson to take from it all in both baseball and life is that it is not always about the wins and loses, but how you choose to play the game each and every day.  Swing... batter, batter, batter... swing!  

Swedish rip ride...

Telemark Skier is out on the road touring the new movie and digital magazine to the country.  Owner, Josh Madsen is going town-by-town in the Telemark Skier Van to show folks the new duds.  After a few weeks of driving Josh was due to swing back through the hometown in SLC.  Our new Swedish skier, Andreas Sjobeck, flew into town to join Josh on the road for a few weeks, and take the perfect chance to see the great American west.  A couple days after Andreas landed I stole him for a day to bring him up north to my stomping grounds.  I rallied my long-time buddy, Ben Geiger, and we set up a downhill shuttle to take our young Swedish friend on a Wasatch rip ride. 

^I threw flat pedals on some bikes, and we hit the trail.  I put together a shuttled downhill in and around Snowbasin for us to roll that would take us through the resort and down to Pineview Reservoir.  I made him climb a little at the beginning, but not too much.  For the most part we were all downhill.

^Of course except for the multitude of times I made him stop so I could take his picture.  Come on this one is a classic with the Snowbasin gondolas in the background of a sick Wasatch fall scene.  "Hold on, one more!"

^Swedish ripping...

^Shuttled back around and stoked, Ben and Andreas are making plans for later.  The ride was a really great time.  We rolled a good 10 miles or so of terrain with about 4,000 feet of vertical drop to a dusty teeth smile at Pineview dam.  Now they were making a party plan for the downtown SLC showing of the new Telmark Skier movie, Let's Go!.     

^So we cruised back to my house and got cleaned up.  I took a chance to get my pup, Murphy, out for a little run around while Andreas got a shower.  She was as stoked to meet a new friend as I was.  I was also stoked to be bringing him back to Josh now all in one piece and cleaned up nice for the show.  I wouldn't want to steal him for the day, and then go and get him all broken up on a bike.  He ripped it though, and we had a blast.  Therefore, I am all good.   

^We made it down to the show, and the ice cold beers felt good in our downhill sore hands.  I am really excited to see Andreas coming into our team very well.  He is a good addition to our diverse cast of characters, and I am looking forward to having him come back again this winter.  Then it will be go time! 

a whisper of Moab...

 I believe in a natural flow of the universe.  Energy, time, souls, nature, god, vibes, spirituality and all of those labels are all wrapped up into this natural flow of things.  I like to think that anytime folks are praying, meditating, getting spiritual, or whatever they do, they are attempting to connect to the same thing I speak of.  It is all around.  I try to live in harmony with the flow as if I was riding a river of time through this crazy human existence.  Never swimming up river.  I want to catch the current, and ride it all the way.  Part of living this way requires honing the skills to read the flow to catch it and roll with it.  Often it is a feeling, a premonition, deja vu, a sign, or again, any of the labels we choose to put on it.  The key is to feel it, believe it to be real, listen to what it is telling you, and act on the discovery.  Call it what you want, but harness it's powerful direction and your life will flow out in front of you like a mighty river offering adventure, challenge, and your whole life around every bend.  My wife, Christine, and I had set aside some time for another mountain bike adventure.  We had decided to go back to Fruita, which we had explored two weeks ago.  I was at work at Delta just two nights before we were to leave.  I was in the bin of a Canadair RJ 700 when I got a sudden feeling that my old friend, Rob Brenneman, might be going to Moab that weekend.  He had reached out to me months ago to see if I wanted to do a fall trip to Moab sometime.  He had no dates or plans at that point.  I gave my standard,"Don't plan around me, but keep me in the loop.  I am so busy, but you never know."  I never heard back from him.  Flash forward back to the luggage bin.  I heard the whisper of the universe, and whipped out my phone to send him a text, "When you headed to Moab?"

^His immediate response, "This weekend. You wanna go?"  I laughed to myself, called my wife, and we quickly and easily made Moab our destination.  Fruita and Moab are actually pretty close to each other so it seemed to work out just right.  It was almost as if it was predestined to work out that way.  Huh?  The universe spoke to me, I listened, and now we were stoked driving south under a full moon rising over a brilliant aspen grove.  A sweet solo trip turned into an adventure with old and new friends that we never even saw coming.  The best kind.

^We arrived at the remote campsite location that Rob had scouted just north of Moab.  We rolled in late, but my old friends Rob and Greg Barry were waiting up with their buddy, Mark.  Soon after, the rest of the group arrived as Greg's girlfriend, Lonnie, and another friend, Matt, pulled in.  We all gathered around a fire, shared a beer, and quickly retreated to our tents to rest for a big day to come. 

^Morning in the Utah desert.  

^Campsite coffee and laughs with old and new friends.

^Rob likes it.

^No time to waste though, and we were on our shuttle up to the La Sal Range.  We were on a mission to ride the 30 plus mile, "Whole Enchilada" trail.  This ride links up a bunch of the Moab classics in an epic top to bottom experience.  From the tree line of the La Sal Mountains to the river bottom of the Colorado River, this trail has it all.  Hence the clever name.  Christine and I were definitely upping our game to make this huge ride with the crew of rippers we were undertaking it with.  Thankfully they are all radically good sports, and they appeased our speed and skills all the way.  

^Some of the crew approaching the big, but relatively short climb that begins the ride.  The high terrain was in full fall color.  I wasn't expecting so much beautiful fall color in the Utah desert, but I had also never been in the La Sal high country in the fall either.  It was a pleasant surprise.  

^Christine and Lonnie ascending.

^The crew stopping to have our minds blown by the aspens.  


^Greg is jumping out front.  Let's roll.

^After descending through the magical kingdom of aspen groves and pine forests we were able to stop and look back at all of it from this point.  So beautiful, and so vast.  Oh yeah, and we just rode all of that, and still have about 20 more miles and myriads of natural environments left to go.  Breathtaking, literally, and figuratively.

^Another different environment.  Another vastly scenic view.  Another 15 miles to go.

^A quick break in yet another different environment.  From pines and aspens, to a sage brushed desert rim, to slick rock hoodoos.  This just keeps getting better, and still 10 miles to go.

^ By this time the legs are dying, and Christine and I are digging deep into ourselves to find the motivation to finish strong.  At one point I uttered to her, "The only way down off this mountain is down."  Simple statement, but it has literal and metaphorical meaning when your in that state of mind.  We had nothing left in the tank, but miles to go.  In those moments you must find a place inside of yourself that allows you to persevere beyond the limits that once existed.  You breakthrough to a place you didn't know you had.  At one point all I could do was laugh because as I followed Christine through the technical terrain I had come to a realization.  Christine had broken through to a place where she was charging over rocky ramps and ledges of slick rock that she never would have thought she could handle.  She was in the zen focus of the adventure at hand, and was totally ripping like she had never before.  Her limits were melting away with each turn and ledge drop.  One killer moment happened as I was chasing her tail through the slick rock single track.  I heard her abruptly holler with excitement.  However, just as I heard it I realized that she had just crushed a double rock drop, and now I was soon to be airborne off the first ledge myself.  As I landed unexpectedly, I careened towards the second larger drop with no way out but to roll with the line.  Landing again, I to let out a holler of stoke just like she had.  We had just both just stuck a line way over our heads, and then continued pedaling away in hysterics.  We were having some fun.         

^We descended to the mighty Colorado River with rubber bodies and delirious minds.  The whole group was rolling down the busy river highway exit of our ride with motor vehicles buzzing by when the full moon popped up from behind the night skyline ridge.  I deliriously laughed at my situation at the front of a line of mountain bikers descending though an amazing river canyon lined with giant cliff walls glowing in full moonlight.  I was overcome by the moment and let out the call of a wild wolf's howl.  One by one the rest of the weary souls behind me opened up in their own howls at the moon.  In the echo of the wild outpouring I was giving thanks to the power that had brought this all together.  You can try to plan moments like these, but they are so fleeting and magic that when they happen all on their own it is among the greatest gifts that life can deliver.  So much beauty.

^On a bridge over the river we got a stranger to snap a photo of us as we enjoyed some dry clothes, a cold beer, and our sense of accomplishment.  We had come a long way, and pushed our limits and spirits to new heights.  It was a great ride with great folks.

^Back at the camp after dinner we laughed and reminisced on our day.  Good friends, cold beers, and cold temperatures all settled in as we sat around the warm campfire with warm feelings.  The world was right with each and every one of us under the full moon lit sky.  From the whisper of a premonition in the luggage bin of an airplane in Salt Lake City, to a top of the world trailhead in the La Sals Mountains, to river bottom howling under a full moon, to our warm campsite of weary souls in the Moab desert, the universe had lined it all up and laid it out in front of us to grab onto and ride with reckless abandon.  Roll on!