Trim to Win


Fall colors were on point for my trip to the U.P. of Michigan's Porcupine Mountains State Park where my dad and I drove up for a trim party in the woods with the a few of the tribe from Midwest Telefest, which is hosted at the Park's ski area each winter in early February. The objective was thinning out some glades for tree skiing at the ski area, as well as see some of our friends that we celebrate Midwest Telefest with. The experience was a bit different amidst a global pandemic, but all-in-all still a really enjoyable and productive trim session. 

^The drive up was really colorful. My dad and I packed our lunches and drove straight through to avoid undue public exposure to the northern populations, but as a result we made great time. 

^The resort staff set us up to camp right at the base of one of the ski runs so we had our base camp close to the glades we were going to be trimming. In this picture above my dad is setting up his tent next to the canopy of color. Peak fall color in the U.P. was last week, but thankfully the leaves were still holding on to provide such a beautiful scene as a bonus to the trip. 

^Saturday morning the crew made our way up the ski run towards the glades. Even at a viral guideline distance from each other the vibes of stoke for winter proved to have more contagious reach than the virus is supposed to.  

^At the spot were we set up our gas cans and gear to enter the woods the view of the Great Lake Superior and the fall colorful forest was all-time. 

^Trim boss and ski patroller, Jaasik, gave us the morning safety speech and game plan before we got to work. This guy puts in countless hundreds of hours trimming these glades each year leading into winter. I am glad we were able to rally the Midwest Telefest tribe to lend him a hand. Many hands lightens his load, and the locals were all really gracious to us for helping them out. The bearded fella to the right of Jaasik donning his rather uncanny likeness to his Freeheel Life hoody is Keith Opperman. Keith is one of the organizers of Midwest Telefest along with his compatriot, Matt Manders. Keith was the catalyst of this particular trim party too. Matt and some others had come up for another trim session a couple months ago as well. Through our combined efforts we were able to open up some really great tree skiing on a zone that will now be named, Midwest Telefest Glades. 

^The tribe throwing down in this picture above. The thing about tree skiing in the midwest is if you aren't trimming it, then you aren't skiing it. There are a select few old growth forest where it is skiable without trimming, but those are a very select few. Hunting down midwest backcountry tree skiing has been an obsession of mine for many years by now after my good friend and photographer, Joey Wallis, and I made a pact to find and document it one drunken evening on a project together in the Italian Dolomites. Joey and I are midwest born and raised, and despite my winter home in the Rocky Mountains of the western U.S.A. since I was 18 years old we always make a point to do a week in the midwest seeking midwestern powder tree skiing together. We've done it every year now for over a decade, and we have had some really incredible sessions. It all started with him and I going to Midwest Telefest together the year after the Italian pact we made, and we've done it pretty much every year since. Joey even made a career move out of it when he was hired to produce the now infamous Boho TV series that vaulted Mount Bohemia to internet fame. This weekend trimming to open up more midwest tree skiing for the Porkies Ski Resort that so graciously hosts Midwest Telefest each year kind of felt pretty full-circle. 

^Steve Benson slogging logs in the woods. Steve and Keith are also the masterminds behind the Lake Superior Telemark Authority, which is a group of motivated telemark skiers that are now doing telemark gear demos in the midwest with support from Freeheel Life, Telemark Down, and other telemark industry companies. It is guys like these that are the life blood of the grassroots telemark community that takes on the labor of love to #spreadtelemark. I like to echo the saying that was made to denigrate us telemark skiers that goes, "Nobody cares you telemark" by saying, "Nobody cares we telemark... except for us. So it is up to us to build it up". There is no high dollar industry billionaire companies behind us that are going to prop us up. The entire telemark industry is made up of small companies with small budgets and groups of folks like Keith, Matt, and Steve that bootstrap this entire community to keep it thriving. Powder magazine once pronounced telemark as dead, and ironically that magazine itself has recently been killed off by its parent company. That symbolism alone should be proof that any of us are capable of dying off if we do not intentionally support each other. In this difficult climate of viral economic crashing, social disfunction, political malaise, and the like sticking together as communities has become more paramount than ever. In the broader sense, as well as within our beloved telemark ski community. A community I like to refer to as the greatest community on snow. We need to spend our dollars wisely with companies that pour their profits back into telemark. We need to support our festivals and demos. We need to lift each other up in our online forums. We need to take a friend telemark skiing. We need to welcome new comers with open arms. We need to channel our efforts to the cause. We need to support those who support us. We need to do all these kinds of things in all the facets of our communities, and this example of cutting through thick forest glades is just one example of how we can do this one step at a time. I am grateful to be able to be helpful this particular weekend among other things I do as an advocate for a freeheeled life on skis. In general we need to support each other in many different small ways to win in the overall grander sense in the end. Just like in this one particular weekend in the U.P. of Michigan that manifested as a group of people gathering to trim to win.