Observations of I-80

The time came to make the big drive across the Great Plains to the Intermountain West. From my Wisconsin hometown that means a lot of time on Interstate 80 westbound. I took some time to rest and simply be at home for just a bit, but soon had to get ready for the big drive and a chaotic schedule. I had lined up a rather busy December getting ready for the upcoming winter that included observing instructors in an AIARE avalanche level 1 & 2 as well as a Rescue course to prepare for an AIARE Instructor's Training Course coming up in January. It was an ambitious timeframe, but I felt good about my plan, and at some point ya just gotta go for it. 

^I had a week off between seasonal labor efforts from
the Trails Coordinator job with Kenosha County Government and moving into the chaos of my winter work. I hung out at home. Took a couple days rest to heal from a laborious summer on the trails. I did a lot of tough work this spring, summer, and fall on the trails. A few days to rest the long-term fatigue came in handy. The push I was about to do was going to be significant. I was gonna need to be starting from a place of well-healed. I tried to stay present with my family as best I could with an eye to my travels. My wife likes to call me Ebineezer, as in Ebineezer Scrooge from the famous Christmas story. I am not really a big holiday decorations and holiday cheer kind of guy it seems. This scene of my two little guys decorating the tree with their Momma did soften me up pretty good though. It takes special light when you know a big trip is coming up. I try to soak it all in while I can. I feel like in a sense the traveling helps me do that. When I know a stretch of missing them is coming up I really try to delve into appreciating that time a bit more.

^Eventually I have to start packing the gear and getting ready to do the drive. My base-layer system from Northern Playground is part of the essentials. Managing my body temperature in the mountains while guiding, scouting, instructing, and shooting is a constant balancing act. The versatility of Northern Playground's base-layers is money for me. Zip it open, zip it off, zip it back on, and all from  easy access in and around the outerwear layer.

^The van all packed up and ready to roll. I have a new trailer for my snowmobile to get out there with me and that hit the gas tank a little heavier than usual on this drive. 

^Onward for two days straight into the setting sun towards Utah. Plenty of time to think about the weeks ahead and all that was going to entail. There was a basal facet snowpack problem lingering in the direction I was heading that was weighing heavily on my mind. 

^This photo from a UAC forecaster of an ominous slide path that had ripped in the Central Wasatch. I had hopes that Ogden would be a little better due to it's lower elevations in the Northern Wasatch versus the Central Wasatch. I was eager to check it out. 

^I rolled in after a hard stop on a closed I-80 in Laramie Wyoming for six hours due to a wind closure. I managed a cold night sleep in my workshop in Ogden City. The following morning I had some administrative stuff to handle at Weber State University for a Backcountry 101 type course I am helping instruct. Then that afternoon I got out to hunt for the facets and talk through various terrain that the course will utilize for instruction with the course administrator, Derek DeBruin and fellow instructor Teddy. It felt good to get out and stretch the legs. I was also feeling the elevation acclimation process as well.  

^Rather quickly I was back in the van to head further west on I-80 again to Truckee, California to observe an AIARE avalanche level 2 course. In hiring with Weber State University the program wanted me to get a certification to teach AIARE avalanche courses. Therefore, because my original level 1 & 2 courses were a long time ago AIARE wanted me to go observe a level 1, 2, and Avalanche Rescue course. So that meant going to Truckee for closest level 2 that I could find to observe before my Instructor Training Course in early January. 

^I stopped in Reno to catch-up with a dear old friend from my high school years we now call, Pastor Karl. I try really hard to stay in touch with friends from my past. It is not an easy thing, but I have a saying I use a lot that goes something along the lines of, "We all have busy lives, but if we just keep in touch, then every once in a while the planets and calendars can align to see each other." I try to make sure I do that whenever I can with friends from all different aspects of my life. This time I was passing through Reno, Nevada and Karl is a Pastor there in a church just west of Reno.  

^Karl's kids had a Christmas program going on and I just jumped right in and tagged along for the family event. I was in Karl's wedding and his wife Andrea is among the sweetest, kind-hearted people I know. I was pumped to get to see their kids do their thing in the school Christmas concert. 

^Taking in all the cuteness with Karl and Andrea. So funny. I am missing my son Amos' school Christmas program in my travels so it was fun to be able to see Karl's youngsters do theirs. The reunion was fun, and I am grateful to have had the stars align for the visit. The following morning I was back on 1-80 west towards Truckee. 

^I spent the day getting the lay of the lay and getting situated in Truckee. Hit a cool sushi joint in Truckee called Maki Ali. Good food and friendly staff. I met up with an old friend and mentor of mine, Lorenzo Worster, for a couple beers. Lorenzo was among the athletes that took me under their wings when I was a young fresh telemark ski pro. He was a hero of mine and then became a mentor and a friend. He was with me on my first film trip to Jackson Hole. He gave me advice, he coached me up on lines, he opened doors for me in the industry. I am forever grateful for all my mentors like him. He may never understand what it all meant to me, but I make sure to try to let him and others like him know from time to time. I was off to a pretty good start. 

^Facetimed in the parking lot with my crew. My eldest son, Amos, and his cousin, Jack, throwing down a dance party to some rad Christmas music they were rocking out too at the family Christmas party at my Father-in-law's place. Hilarious!  

^Soon the avalanche course was on and rolling. Plenty of classroom time and field time walking around, digging holes in the snow, and geeking out about snowpack. I do enjoy the subject and it really was good to refresh leading into the season and especially into the Instructor Training Course. 

^Digging holes.

^Quality views in the field work.

^Donnor Lake, CA.

^Walking, assessing, learning.

^Digging more holes. 

^Wait, is that a ski turn? It is. AIARE Instructor, Randall Osterhuber, getting one of very few turns in the avalanche class. These courses are about snowpack and so often times that means not all that many ski turns. I have made a lot of ski turns in my day though so doing this kind of work with little ski turn return is alright with me. It is sometimes part of the gig it seems. Doing the work in this environment on a subject of personal, as well as professional interest, is pretty rewarding in and of itself. 

^The day after the course I did manage to sneak in a day to ski and shoot photos with young telemark ski pro, Bevan Waite in his backyard with his friend, Alex. We had a fun stormy tour in a canyon near  Alex's house above Lake Tahoe. It was a much needed day to put up some real vertical and also make some actual ski turns. It was fun to catch up with Bevan and see his new telemark ski movie, Our Family, that he made with Ty Dayberry. Of course we talked telemark over the top of cold brown bottles as usual, and it was an all-around good time hanging with Bevan.  

^Skin tracks and friendships.

^Gotta stop in the local tree fort to heat up. 

^Bright green Wolf Lichen on the trees makes for some unique environments. Snapped this picture on our rather wet exit skinner when the classic Tahoe mist rolled in on us at lower elevation. I high-fived Bevan and Alex and pushed out of Truckee back to Reno to spend one more night with Karl and his family before hitting the road back across I-80, but eastward for a change back to Utah. 

^On the road again.

^I drove straight back to a Know Before You Go avalanche awareness lecture being put on by Ogden Avalanche at Gear 30 in Ogden City. After the event I got home and got my stuff together to move right into another avalanche course instructor observation with the Weber State University crew up at Powder Mountain. This picture above of Hidden Lake chairlift from the classroom window where I would spend half the day each day in shadowing the instructor's through a level 1 and a Rescue course with local freshman patrollers and University staff in the process of training up. 

^Kory Davis teaching them up.

^Digging more holes.


^... and digging.

^The bonus turns. Doing the course at Powder Mountain afforded a little more opportunity to actually do a little skiing during the course too. Gotta love that. Kory Davis catching a little of Powder Mountain's powder in this picture above. 

^After four days in that course at Powder Mountain I had a solid two weeks of mostly avalanche course work under my belt and a whole lot of windshield time in I-80. The first morning after the course was over I linked back up with Kory and we had a really great bluebird tour in the backcountry above Snowbasin. 

^Making skin track laps and sharing some laughs. 

^Kory doing his wiggle and giggle. Kory has been a big help to me recently in the guide work I am doing and I am super grateful for his generosity. I look forward to more good tours and to doing the ski world work with him as well. I valued shadowing him and the Weber State guys, Ben Bauter, and Daniel Turner in the course. It was also icing on the cake to get out with Kory afterwards to just smash out some lines in the Ogden Wasatch. A nice shiny blue ski day and good snow that was holding up well was the perfect cap on quite a huge few weeks of travel slogs and avalanche observations all along the I-80 corridor. The hustle is real, but the juice is worth the squeeze.