Rockin’ The “Boat”

Steamboat that is.  What were you thinking?  After an incredibly insane month or two of holiday cheer in the real world, we took a week-long, much-deserved, much appreciated trip to the amazing Steamboat Springs, CO.

Photo 1

The place is known in the ski and board circles for one thing: Copious amounts of light fluffy “champagne” TM (Seriously… its trademarked by Steamboat Resort) powder.  Plus, with our Rocky Mountain Super Passes, Jess and I had 6 days worth of lift tickets already in the bag.

We stayed in an amazing cabin about 5 minutes – but another world – away from downtown Steamboat Springs.

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We planned for everything: what amazing runs we would take to get to the best powder filled aspen glades, what lifts would get us there fastest, what time to get up to get first tracks, where to eat breakfast on the go to get there early… the ONE thing we didn’t plan for: ABSOLUTELY NO SNOW!  Not a flake fell until the day we left.

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That should have been a complete disaster – right?  Actually… it worked in our favor.  Instead of jostling every other powder-hound-cowboy to load up into a cramped humid gondola, we took our sweet time and hit some of the most fun backcountry lines we have ever experienced.

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Just goes to show, when life hands you lemons… chuck ’em and go splitboarding.  (Oh… or go hit the hot springs!)

DCIM100GOPRO

Oh, and before you go, here are a few MUST do activities and tips while spending time in Steamboat:

  1. Strawberry Park Hot Springs – Pretty much the number one reason we came here according to Jess, and it was so worth it.  Go during a snow storm – the contrast is so amazing between the warm pools and the cold snowy atmosphere.  Photo 2_WEB
  2. Rabbit Ears Pass/Buffalo Pass – Backcountry – Rabbit Ears is super mellow and a great place for beginner splitboard/skiers to have a good time.  Head to Walton Peak or you can find some fun lower commitment stuff off of the Fox Curve trail too.
  3. Off The Beaten Path Coffee/Book Shop – Nice place to relax and have some coffee on a down day plus they have wifi so you can reconnect with the world.
  4. Perry Mansfield Cabins – Awesome place to stay about 5 minutes outside of downtown Steamboat.  No internet, no TV, no stress!  Super quiet and perfect for unwinding.
  5. Lil’ House Biscuits Just get the plain biscuit: SO tasty.
  6. Johnny B. Good’s Diner For Breakfast – Cool vibe and good breakfastOutdoors_130111_SteamboatTrip_0287_WEB
  7. Steamboat Smokehouse BBQ Joint – Have the best appetizer: “Burnt Ends” are just the best crispy part of a brisket and are very flavorful. Outdoors_130111_SteamboatTrip_0446_WEB
  8. Steamboat Resort Itself – duh? We didn’t have great snow conditions while we were there but the trees off of the Storm Peak Express and Sundown looked like they would be epic on a pow day.
  9. Bear Grill at Steamboat Resort – According to Jess they have the “Best hot chocolate she has ever tasted” – No joke, she was super impressed.  DCIM100GOPRO

Something to talk about

I clicked onto my blog today and I swear I could hear crickets echoing in here.  It all comes down to the fact that this blog is just a way to express passions and interests.

As a snow lover in the winter mindset, if there is no snow, there’s no passion and no posts.

Frustration has been at an all time high here in Colorado as the state is at basically zero snow levels.  Another couple of weeks of this and I’m not sure I would make it to Christmas.

Butthurt on the rise in CO

In comes talk about the proverbial “pattern shift.”  This is some mystical thing that is supposed to bring massive amounts of snow to the state, but me, along with most other Coloradoans, will believe it when we see it.

Pattern Change?

Living vicariously through Mammoth mountain locals only lasts so long before that just gets depressing.  Let’s pray, dance and burn stuff to keep this “pattern change” coming!

Mammoth now... CO soon?

Mammoth now… CO soon?

Tough Decisions That We LOVE to Make

It’s starting.  You know what it is.  I’ve already warned Jess about it.  Yup, it’s fall which officially makes it the “obsess over all aspects of weather, every possible chance of a snowflake falling on any mountain in any region of the continental US, last minute scope out of backcountry spots, get out, dust, tune and dial in the setup” season.  It basically gets to the point that if I can’t check my weather sites on a daily basis, I freak out like this guy:

It’s especially apparent that this season is upon us when images like these start rolling in:

Snow on Pikes Peak as of 14 September

This is one of those events that tends to set a few things in motion.

  1. First is that winter conditioning program starts to ramp up.  (More on this in another post) It happens to fit nicely with the Whole Life Challenge that Jess and I are starting on Saturday
  2. A 2012-13 winter goals discussion gets started. (More in a future post)
  3. And, tough decisions have to be made regarding the logistics of winter activities

What logistics? You might ask.  Well, the logistics of big trips to take, when, where, how long and the logistics of whether or not to get a Season Pass and if so, where.  I know, tough life, having to make these crucial life or death decisions.

It basically comes down to this.  Our main focus for this year is to safely spend most of our snow days in the backcountry.  With this as our ultimate goal, I initially considered not getting a pass at all especially since last year we got Epic Local passes and it turned out to be a bust.  To figure out what to do I did what any 21st century man would do: take it to the forums.  So I asked the fine folks over at splitboard.com and was surprised by the responses I got.

Expected to be ridiculed by hardcore/purist backcountry splitboarders on even considering the idea of a pass to a resort (said with lots of disdain btw), I found that a lot of the folks were really supportive of the idea.  Shredgnar immediately threw it out there.

“Riding backcountry all the time makes you rusty, some will disagree but for the way I want to ride it does. Plus it’s nice to bang out a few laps before work or when you are too hung over/tired to skin. Plus, if it’s anything like last season (god I hope not) it’s hard to find good backcountry riding all the time.”

While several folks disagreed with the concept of not riding resort makes you rusty, the overall vibe was that having a pass (especially if its cheap enough) was a good compliment to backcountry objectives.  Summing it all up it seemed to be

PROS:

  • Downhill riding skills stay fresh
  • “Nothing like a lift accessed powder day”
  • Good for those high avy danger days
  • Good for early season before the backcountry opens up
  • Good for days when you don’t have a partner to go into the backcountry with
  • Hard not to consider lift access up stuff like this:Easy, fairly cheap lift access to THIS... tempting

CONS:

  • Having a pass makes some less motivated to go backcountry
  • Have to deal with resort crowds & traffic (+1)
  • You actually have to pay for the thing which takes away from $ used on gear

So there is the debate, still trying to iron out the final decision here… tough life, I know.

Split Decision: DIY Splitboard Part I

Oh the splitboard… an answer for all those years of slogging up snow covered hillsides in clunky snowshoes with a 5′ board strapped to your back, I liken the invention to a miraculous gift from heaven (or Ullr if you’re into that sort of thing).

Snowshoe/Snowboarding RMNP

Owning a splitboard has been a dream of mine since probably 2001 where I got my first taste of backcountry snowboarding in the Mammoth Lakes, CA area. Joining the military and being stationed in Mississippi didn’t help my cause and it isn’t until now, living in Colorado, that the dream finally looks to become reality.

This is less of a step by step DIY and more of a documentation of this momentous occasion. There are some awesome How-To videos on the Voile site and YouTube that walk you through the whole thing if you are interested.

So the first (pre) step to the whole process is deciding whether or not you want to buy a factory split or go for it and split your own. The cost of splitboards is dropping drastically and you can get a sweet one for like $450-500 now. With that in mind, if you don’t like to do somewhat lengthy and moderately challenging home projects, just buy one. If you are like me, and really just get stoked at the idea of making your own splitboard for the fun of it then hop on the DIY train, buy a kit and let’s get started.

Step 1 is getting a board that will be good to split. Check out splitboard.com forums for a bunch of other folks boards that they have split and like (or dislike) to get an idea. When I was asking about mine, the best piece of info I got was “If you don’t like it before splitting it, you’ll hate it after.” For me, I had a great board in mind. I have had this Burton Custom 169 for about 10 years that was mostly just sitting there since I have upgraded and it became kinda obsolete.

The board - pre-split

Once you have a good board to split, you have to get the kit.  The most popular of which is the Voile Split Decision (Saw your old board) kit.  Make sure you get this one and not the universal split kit since that is for an already split board.

Love how it's called the "Saw your old board" kit

Lots of stuff in there.

Once you have the board and the kit, it’s time to get down to business.  Next, take some blue painters tape and run it down the middle of your board where you will be cutting, on top and on bottom.

Make sure you measure almost every two inches along the length of your board and check it a zillion times.  This mark is crucial.  Make sure you use a very straight edge like a piece of manufactured wood or metal to ensure your line is straight, if this is jacked then there is no going back, so get it right and take your time on this step.  It’s also a good idea to put your bindings on and mark out their general location/angles for future reference.

Looks good to me

Alright, now that that is done, you need to set yourself up a good work station.  Something firm that you can clamp the board to so it won’t budge during the cutting.  Also, make sure there is a nice little gap for where the saw blade will pass through so you don’t have to stop and move anything or cut your saw horses in half.

Nice and stable

Now you should be set up for success.  Now comes the most stressful part: actually cutting your frickin board in half!  If you are like me, you have a bit of an attachments to your old boards, I mean they are quiet, loyal little friends that you’ve counted on for days of fun sliding down snow covered mountains.  So, say your goodbyes to your old solid board and just remember that it will all be for the best, I mean once you’re done you can use this guy to get you to stashes it would never have seen.

"Scalpel!"

The most common way to cut a splitboard is with a circular saw with a carbide tipped blade attached, I have one, but I just couldn’t bring myself to use it.  I have not been too successful with past circular saw projects and you really have one shot at it.  I decided to go the Amish way and use a variety of hand saws to get it split. Either way, just commit and do it as smoothly and continuously as possible.

No going back now.

My burton board has the 3D inserts to cut through which made it a total pain in the ass, but I think the saw could have handled it pretty easily.  Going back, I think I would have just manned up and used the skil saw with similar or better results.

1 is now 2

Now the stressful part is over, but the fun is just beginning.  Now you get to drill all kinds of holes in your board!

DIY Board Repair: Base Patching – Part II

This is part II of a DIY tutorial on Base Patching.  If you haven’t read it already, read Part I then come on back here.

Alright, so you’ve let the epoxy dry and your ready for the next steps.  Well, it gets easier from here so don’t worry.
Step 5: Flatten the Patch

This is where a certain tool that I don’t have but would like would come in handy.  If you can, get something like the Surform Versaplane Tool (less than $10).  If you can’t, then do like I did and use some sandpaper, a metal scraper and a dremel tool to flatten and smooth the patch until it is flush with the rest of the base.

Step 6: PTex the surrounding flaws

So the pesky rock probably wasn’t considerate enough to make a nice little isolated gouge on your base.  Now is the time to fix up the non core shot scrapes that are probably surrounding your big patched area.  There is a lot of info on DIY Ptex out there so check out a site like this or wait a while and I will be doing a post about that soon (just have to go ride some more and work up some more dings to PTex).

Step 7: Wax and Tune your board

At the very least, rewax the area that was effected by the repair and overspray from the base cleaner.  The beauty of a patch is that it (unlike some other repairs) should hold wax, so wax it up, run a file down the edges.  There you are.  A base patched and ready to shred.  As you can see, it’s not the prettiest thing, but my board is not quite white and not quite black anywhere so any repairs stand out.  Plus, when they say “clear” they don’t really mean transparent so whatever, I’m not trying to win a board beauty contest, I’m trying to make my board rip especially since tomorrow (1/22/12) is going to be a POW day in CO!

Snow Goals 2011-12

Jess and I both tend to be pretty “goal-oriented” and not just with finances, careers and boring crap like that, but it also creeps into our recreational activities.  So with the first snow (YES I SAID SNOW… and yes that was in all caps) of the season and Wolf Creek opening up Saturday:

thoughts couldn’t help but turn to the upcoming Epic snow season.  As the first time I have had a season pass not to one resort but to up to FIVE, I need to get my act together and get a game plan for this season.

I started by looking at other people’s goals that they had made (and advertised) online.  Unfortunately, most of them were lame like “Yo brah, I want to steez out my BS 270 lipslide this year” or totally generic “get better” statements.  So I have to start from scratch here.  Here’s my first attempt at some goals for this season (probably change as I hopefully accomplish them and up the anty or think of new/better ones).

  1. Ride >50 days
  2. Ride >= 750k vertical feet this season
  3. Ride 50k vertical in one day
  4. Improve my fluidity and speed retention in powder (aka ride more pow!)
  5. Confidently ride all blacks and **Certain Double Blacks (TBD)  **Actual run names will be inserted once I scope some
  6. Be able to stomp natural drops >6′
  7. Prep for next season BC/this season Sidecountry (Take level I & get transceiver & Probes)
  8. Make >= 2 QUALITY edits /month (Improve video editing skills)
  9. Be able to ride switch on an entire blue run
  10. Solidify BS&FS 360 in park and on natural hits (need some FS skills to work on for the days when the snow is iffy)
  11. Get over the lip in the pipe on both walls (I’ve always wanted to do this but have never worked on it)

Alright, so that’s the first go at it.  Let me know your goals or maybe some good candidates for double blacks to put on my “hitlist” for this season.  How about this one?

Let’s Get Epic

When it comes to snowboarding, I wish I could be the equivalent of Pat in Endless Summer and feel like any small slope was “the best [ride] of my life!” But, no. I got burnt out riding the 500 vertical feet bunny-hills-dubbed-mountains in Pennsylvania last year. I mean, it cost $65 a ticket to ride the same trails over and over and over and over and over again. Turns out it’s possible to go broke on boredom.

Then one day about a year ago, while flipping through some magazine, Ryan came across the Epic Pass. And, I was, like, “Whoa! Another reason to move to Colorado.” So for a year we started collecting coins and saving dollar bills in a pickle jar that still smelled like distilled vinegar.

A year later we moved to Colorado and like a couple of 7 year olds learning the value of a buck, we marched into a bank with that pickle-jar-piggy-bank and a couple of ziplock bags filled with ironed dollar bills. (I was feeling bored and OCD-ish one night so I ironed one dollar bills for a few hours.) And then we got these Local Epic Passes!

It’s an unlimited, no black-out dates, season ski pass to:
Arapahoe Basin
Breckenridge
Keystone

Limited (i.e. not on blackout dates) to:
Heavenly
Northstar

(10) restricted passes to:
Beaver Creek
Vail

So the plan is to brush up on skills this season and to get reacquainted with actually riding down real mountains. And, I need to learn to ride powder proficiently this winter. Then we’re planning on transitioning to backcountry for the ’12-’13 season. (That also happens to be the Mayan’s projected Apocalypse season. How convenient.)

Oh, and of course we got a (souvenir) pass for our Adventure Dog. We couldn’t resist. We took Rogue to Boulder Ski Deals where she posed for her own little Dog Epic Pass. Proceeds went to the Denver Dumb Friends League.