Spring Training

Spring for me in the mountains these days is all about training in the ski mountaineering skill set. I have been a backcountry ski guide for a decade now, but this year the American Mountain Guide Association(AMGA) is making a move that essential turns them into the union for mountain guides in the United States. This summer they will be enlisting what they call "Scope of Practice" which essentially says if you want to be, or work for, an AMGA accredited outfitter, then you have to go through their programs and guides must have certain levels of AMGA training to guide certain terrain under certain roles. Part of this includes a basic skill set in ski mountaineering. I missed being grandfathered in as a "tenured guide" by two years as I started guiding in 2010 and the cut-off was 2008. As such, I have to train up and go through all the AMGA courses to comply. Despite the fact that I have no desire to guide mountaineering objectives I have to gain a basic skill set in the mountaineering craft. Luckily for me, I do value the skill set and am excited to learn it as the crossover to the kind of guiding I do every day is indeed applicable. I don't want to guide Everest or Denali, but the skills to do so are cool and I am enjoying learning them. I am not a climber. A long time ago I chose to buy a mountain bike over a rock climbing rack and the rest is history. I became a ski guide and a mountain bike guide and my little bit of rock climbing skills completely atrophied. Therefore, the training I have to do to get proficient in these early stages of the AMGA path are my most difficult skills to attain. So as I always have in my past, I train. The last two years I have gone all-in on training in these skills each spring during mountaineering season. The absolute best way I have done this is through mentorship with guides I know and trust. This weekend that meant joining up with my colleagues at Inspired Summit Adventures to enroll in their ski mountaineering camp. The four-day basecamp has been essential to my training as I will go sit for my AMGA Alpine Skills Course this summer. 

^We load up snowmobiles pulling toboggans with all the gear at the trailhead in the Uinta Mountains in Utah and throttle out into the hills. 

^Braptown USA

^The crew is looking out over the peaks we will be chasing objectives on in this picture above as we motor in to where we will set up basecamp. 


^This blue tent is my home for the long weekend. 

^Dig it in and make it as comfy as possible. Winter camping is another of these skill sets I am working on. Winter camping is never comfortable, but the better I get at it the more comfortable I am learning to make it. 

^In this picture above, we listen to Anna Keeling teach us up on some anchoring skills. I work with Anna at Monument Snowcat Skiing and have known of her via reputation for much longer. Anna is a legend in the guide world. When I saw her at the Monument season opener party I immediately went over to introduce myself and proceeded to totally fan boy her up. Thankfully, she took my enthusiasm well and like a true mentor allowed me to pick her brain every time we worked together. When I heard she would be the technical director of this camp I was so pumped. Any chance I get to soak up knowledge and wisdom from a legend like Anna I dive in headfirst. I am grateful to have many great mentors in this process. 

^We go out into the terrain to apply the skills as well. It is one thing to learn techniques. It is another to walk the miles of application. 

^Little climber, big mountains. Awe inspiring terrain all weekend indeed. The Uintas are a special place. 

^Inspired Summit guide, Joel, teaching us up and showing us how to walk the miles and climb the vert. 

^Tyler is stoked!

^Onward, upward.

^Ridgeline selfie stoke!

^Sunset light on one of our objectives we skied, the Mountaineers Couloir on Hayden Peak.  

^A fire in the sky sunset to cap off a stellar day. 

^A fire in the basecamp to warm up.

^Hanging out and talking shop in the communal dome tent. Shaun Raskin-Duetschlander, the owner of Inspired Summit Adventures, is standing and professing to us in this picture on the life and love of ski mountaineering. Shaun and her husband Weston have built a great business with Inspired Summit Adventures. I have known both of them a long time as we skied the professional telemark skiing circuit for many years together in our youth. Then we all entered the guide world at a similar time. They gave me one of my first job opportunities. Shaun and Weston are both also going through the AMGA path as well. They have been fantastic peers and mentors to me as we travel this path together. I can't say enough about the positive influence Shaun and Weston have been in my life from the professional to the personal. They've been invaluable colleagues and even better friends to me. 

^The weekend was grueling. I will not lie. Ski mountaineering is hard. Winter camping ensures uneasy rest at best. The motor out of the field always feels like relief to me. Ski mountaineering and the skills associated with it are difficult and humbling for me. Those are good things to feel in life I think. It means I am pushing my limits and skills to new levels. I think that is a worthy pursuit in any life and career. 

^Back home at my condo in Ogden, Utah drying out and trying to catch up on some rest. I have a few more weeks in Utah and then some rock climbing at Devil's Lake in Wisconsin to round out some more training for my Alpine Skills Course coming in June. The spring training continues. My development in this mountain man career continues. I don't think it ever really ends, and it shouldn't. Always learning, always improving, and always training, this spring... and forever.