I was out with Hunter on sunday, but I don’t have any pictures so you’ll have to enjoy one of Max on the sled from last year.  I like that he’s still got his skis strapped to the sled in this.  Anyway the good news is that it’s begun snowing again, so we should have some powder to report on soon.  I’ll be wasting time as usual.

  • My little brother’s film festival has the rules posted.  I guess the winner will be taking home a new camera, so hurry up and get your stuff submitted or come to the event in Michigan.
The family at the fest

The family after the fest

I just returned from northern Michigan and my brother’s film festival, and will be spending a few hours at home before I take off with Hunter for Alaska.  I plan to keep myself occupied along the drive by searching for anything interesting enough to mention around these parts, so I may have some fairly regular posting, along with a full wrap up of some recent events.  It’s a bit sad to be leaving the always familiar mitten state, but I really can’t wait to get back to the deranged excitement of Alaska for some wintertime excitement.  I love Canada as well, so my only concern is with the giant freak show we have to cross between the Michigan and Canadian borders. Until then I have some post festival celebratory cannon fire for you.

Each year when I return home to visit my family in Michigan I manage to get in some skiing, despite distractions like drinking with old friends, eating my mom’s food, and the chance surgical procedure.  At Christmas Michigan usually struggles to keep snow on the ground for more then 5 consecutive days, but this year they have had snow on the ground here since early November, with three to four foot snow banks now lining each street.  I am also in possession of my usual ski gear (I normally have to scavenge some boots and skis out of my parents garage) because I plan on driving and skiing my way back to Alaska,  so I had high hopes for some entertaining if not quality skiing, with the ability to travel with skins a rare possibility.

Cannonsburg and the moat

Cannonsburg and the moat

Thursday, celebrating my first day of vacation, I drove to Cannonsburg with my cousin Brian to meet my cousin Jim and revisit a childhood ski scene for the first time in 5 years.  Growing up I used to spend 6 days a week lapping the 135 foot vertical foot ex-sand pit, and for as long as I can remember Cannonsburg’s perpetual state of disrepair has been a constant joke, so it was reassuring to see that very little had been fixed or changed during my long absence.  The collapsed T-bar that laid for years on the skiers right of the double had been removed, the quad chairs were evenly spaced (some even padded), and one of the rope tows had been removed, but the weird smell, the dysfunctional snow guns, ratty buildings, meth addict lift operators, and shady rental equipment all still remain.

michigan skiers often forget to get off the lift

michigan skiers often strugle to get off the lift

Growing up I was always constrained by having a season pass, as the threat of having it taken away by an angry ski patroller kept our antics in check.  This time however I had a lift ticket which I really didn’t mind having taken away, so Jim, Brian and I started in with little fear on all the stuff that used to get us in trouble.  We poached the Plunge (which was closed), skied the steep bank between the Face and the Double, and jumped over the rope tows.  I even attempted to jump and grab one of the moving double chairs without a rebuke.

the Plunge, Cannonsburgs premier run

the Plunge, Cannonsburg's premier run

We were having a great time, but things slowly wound down so I decided to complete a life long goal and gap the creek that sits between the lodge at the lifts and functions as the area’s moat.  Big Mike, who has been the area bouncer / ticket checker for as long as I  can remember by patrolling the bridge, checking tickets, and providing access to Cannonsburg’s lifts, was working on the bridge, so we had to keep things mellow to  avoid getting noticed or shut down, so we didn’t so much build a jump as pile up a couple ice chunks left over from the snow guns.  The whole game of building jumps and skiing like an idiot while trying to avoid harassment brought back fond memories of my youth.  I tucked from the Face and flailed my way across, landing happy to have something new to add to an endless list of stupid stuff accomplished at “C-burg.”  Before we could go for a second round of jumping the creek, ski patrol bashed the jump with a snowmobile, which didn’t stop Jim from trying, but with the jump now just a large chunk of ice, he lost a ski on take off and landed across the creek sideways on his recently separated shoulder.  Content with a good days work we headed home.

The next morning I woke up on Frick’s ex-girlfriends floor, lost my hat, and wandered outside to find 18 inches had fallen, and spent the rest of the day diving around watching cars stuck in the snow with Frick.  That night, hoping to take advantage of the rare Michigan powder, I drove with Hunter up to Chris Idema’s grandparents house in Cedar, where we met both Chris and Al Green, with the idea of skiing the no longer operating Sugarloaf Ski Area.

Hunter and some Michigan powder

Hunter and some Michigan powder

The next morning we were up early, with vodka clear skis, Lake Michigan glowing candy blue, and views of North Manitou. We drove 5 minutes in ski boots and skinned up the resort (600 vertical feet) in a few minutes.  All the lift shacks and lodges remain but were boarded up in their original location, and most of the chairs were strung on the lifts.  The snow was deep and extremely light, although in places you could sense the wind crust underneath, a reminder that the area’s incredible view’s come at a price of serious gusts.  We took our first run down Awful Awful (the one time “steepest run in Michigan“), took a run off the side, and then returned for our third run, again down Awful Awful.

We returned to the house for lunch, before we set off towards Glen Arbor hoping to complete our Leelenau Peninsula trip with a little ski tour around Sleeping Bear Dunes, where we found a sign (thanks NPS) warning us of avalanche danger.  We had been enjoying a rare day of skinning around without beacons, shovels or probes, and decided the danger could be managed and set off in spite of the sign.  We toured around, finding firm windblown snow, pockets of light powder, areas of blown sand, and a few mini cornices.  There were even steep rollovers on top of the miniature slopes that I could definitely imagine avalanching.  I got three steep short runs in before leaving when Al found a deer skeleton on our ski back to the parking lot.  A rare day of Michigan powder skiing under our belts we returned to Grand Rapids content.

Sleeping Bear Powder

my Sleeping Bear powder turns

I’m still in Grand Rapids, and it hasn’t quit snowing.  There are only a few times I’ve ever seen the town with this much snow, so I’m hoping to get out and ski a few more times before heading back to Alaska.  Maybe we’ll get in a day skiing Mt Garfield, and I’m pretty positive there will be some more skiing (and cannon shooting) done when I’m up at Sawkaw for my brother’s film festival.  Until then I don’t know what I’ll have to talk about, back here it’s mostly been detailed beer discussions and strange nerdy conversations amongst my friends discussing the variations in NPR programing in our corners of the country.  At least I’ve got stories of Hilltop being overrun with coyotes from back home to confuse people with. Until next time you can enjoy some lake Michigan sand dune scenery.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan and North Manitou Island

the family

the family and my brother's sign

We got another storm this week, an additional 30″ should make it a deep weekend in the mountains. I walked to work amidst large falling flakes but it’s suddenly sunny and things are looking good.

While wasting time this morning I found a video at Skier in the Midwest of people enjoying a bunch of new snow back in Michigan at Crystal Mountain. The personal highlight is that I think every shot is from my brother’s run, Teddy’s Turn! In the 15 years I skied at Crystal I think I only had 4-5 days that were ever this good, I can’t tell you people how rare Michigan powder really is, and to have that correspond with Teddy’s Turn (previously known as Back bowl) being open. Normally you’d have to put your season pass in jeopardy by poaching the run at night, and sneaking back to the Buck chair on the cross country trail and hope the lifties wouldn’t figure out what you were doing. I’d also like to mention that I’ve been listening to my cousins whine about the current lack of snow in the northwest for a month, hopefully this rubs a little salt in their wounds.

I’ve also uploaded some of Max’s POV footage from last weekend. It’s all pretty lame, but I think it demonstrates how hungover I was. When watching it now it looks really simple, but at the time my nerves were fried from the Consumer Direct Christmas party the night before. I was freaked out the whole time, and after hitting a couple trees lacked confidence. Watching Max cross the bridge reminds me how shady that seemed to me at the time. Notice the traffic jam I caused on the trail, which takes up the entire second half of the video. More proof that I suck at snowmachining.

More to come after the weekend, and then I’ll be hading the site over to Max for awhile, unless stuff comes up while I’m back in the mitten. I almost forgot, I will be covering the Teddy Knape Film Festival while I’m home.

By Max

While Ptor had to work on friday I decided to “break” his new sled in for him since I had owned the exact same sled. After all it’ll be me fixing the sled when it breaks down in the on the top of Blackstone Glacier in Whittier. Off to the point on Crosswind Lake where I would be joining my parents for a family turkey day. at the end of a 3hr slog up the Glenn Highway I was greeted with a foot of fresh interior powder to begin my ride of the year. Although I have made this 18 mile trip to the cabin over 50 times this time was I felt a little more uneasy riding a $1500 sled off of craigslist that had surly seen some hard riding in its life. Just like the nerves that build up on the first turn of a 50 degree slope and then rapidly dissipate, I was worried until I cracked the throttle open – I was in the zone again with my old friend puddy cat. After a 30mins of riding I was greeted at the cabin by my folks and as soon as I turned off puddy cat, my dad, who has seen me break thousands of dollars of snowmachine parts said, “it looks like the rear end is sitting a little low.”

Broken rear end

Broken rear end

Sure enough I had broke the one of the rear torsion springs. oh well, better here in the flat Copper River Basin than in the rugged mountains of the Chugach. Although turkey and family was a nice break of the hustle and bustle of city life, the constant snow and friends home for the holidays made my cabin stay less than 20 hrs… Saturday 80″ since monday at Alyeska- the resort was calling! Scott and I carpooled down and picked up a little resort treat at the merc. After one run of deep pow, flat light, and burning quads I realized that all my days in the backcountry had got me in good skinning shape but left me in lousy skiing shape. I cant say how grateful I was to take a lift (For free thanks to Riley) and talk about the series of drops and faceshots on my run with 3 of my best friends and the the many others that were their that day. Also the chairlift drinking was a huge plus as well.

jake gettin warmed up on the lift

jake gettin warmed up on the lift

Saturday left my legs burnings and when I woke up Sunday morning with SKI-SNOW reporting 20 more inches overnight with temps in the teens my leg pains were gone. I made ptor come with and use the new alyeska pass which I told him would work no problem.( Thanks again Riley) My fears of being outta shape and skiing slow were immediately erased after charging down the pillowy alder puffs on the south face and leaving other skiers in the dust. Skiing alder patch to alder patch was exactly what the public wasnt doing. Their inate fear of the alaska shrubbery left large patches of powder right below the alders for my taking. Charlie from SkinnyRaven, Ptor, and I were equally matched and in our skiing and charged lap after lap all day till we assembled Team Bake Shop and put down some of the best grub in Girdwood. Monday morning, the rusty gears of life brought the crude reality of sore muscles and construction at the Port of Anchorage where causing a beluga whale discomfort is the biggest issue at at hand but meanwhile in Tyonek the natives can shoot them with semi-automatic rifles at will! After work my best friend Mike who was leaving back to Charlotte, NC to his soon to be meaningless Wachovia investment banking job, which he is quitting in two weeks and returning to Alaska for x-mas, came over to kick out some funky azz drum beats while I laid down some mean bass grooves. Out of nowhere Mike had checked his flight status only to find that he had just missed his flight. Luckily I convinced him that it was the best thing to happen since The North face at Alyeska was opening for the first time this year as was High Traverse. Some more helmet cam video from the resort. The skiing was sick but kind of a grey bird day. When high traverse opened there was all sorts of sick alder drops to be had with dongshow friend friend Lucas Tanaka bustin some sick 3’s of about a 15 footer. What a great decision to skip work and ski!

On a side note one of my best friends from high school, Olga Bell a bad ass classical pianist turned front woman of her own band “Bell” of whom i gave my yamaha SHS-10 KEYTAR to, has made it big with the Keytar and is bringin it on her shows with phrase samplers and effects pedals to dominate the underground music scene in various New York clubs and campuses. So many props to here for rocking the Keytar. I really think that the keytar is the evolution for the rock pianist because instead of being stuck behind a keyboard and being called a rock pianist you strap it on, get on stage, and dance around showing the crowd you can rock like a sick Keytarist!!!

You need a keytar and this proves it

You need a keytar and this proves it

Update: Pickled Beluga