Sunday, April 27, 2014. The day was windy and cold, dreary and grey. Rain fell from the glum skies like the tears of a dejected wallflower at his first incredibly awkward high school dance. The Twin Cities were a morose Midwestern scene. Soggy skiers meandered through “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” looking for a ray of sunshine, for a spotlight of inspiration, for hope. They need look no further than the iconic beacon of light that boldly adorns my upper lip–my crumb catcher, my mouth brow, my ode to Tom Selleck (who is also my spirit animal)–the famed PaddyO mustache. In a completely unrelated story, Minnesota native and Olympic Champion Lindsey Vonn traveled back to her hometown to visit with media and fans alike.
Vonn, the Minnesnowta Maiden herself, returned to Minneapolis as part of her Vail Resorts ambassadorship in promotion of Afton Alps and the Epic Pass. Afton just finished its first epic season under the Vail Banner and what a season it was! Ten million dollars in improvements included ticket office redesign, a brand new park, massive snowmaking upgrades, and customer service improvements. The Blonde Bomber met with fans, graciously signing autographs and slapping 5 with young ski racers.
Linz (that’s what she likes me to call her) sat and answered benign questions from mundane news folk, questions she has been asked millions of times before and will surely be asked millions of times in the future. I could see in her eyes she yearned for another meaningful conversation with me. A conversation about tater tot casserole, Olympic Ski Racer leg wrestling and dance fighting, the Minnesnowta nasal dialect, and other subjects of consequence. I swooped in like a freedom hawk and rescued her as a knight saves a damsel, as Prince Eric saved Ariel.
As part of her physical training to rehab her recent knee injury, Vonn carried me a la “Officer and a Gentleman” over to the fireside setting that would serve as our interview locale. As the hearth warmed our souls and the mantle held our hearts, I got to the bottom of things. Once again two hearts became one, once again the deep connection was made, once again “the greatest interview to ever occur” occurred…but do not fret. When I win my Emmy or Grammy or whatever it is that journalists win, I won’t forget the public. PaddyO is a man of the people, for the people…a man of action! Read More
From November 18th to January 17th, hundreds of teams from around the United States submitted photos for the first inaugural Gnartoraphy contest hosted by Rossignol Snowboards, The-House.com, Arkade Snowboarding and Park City Mountain Resort. The amateur teams composed of one photographer and open rider where pitted against each other in a multi-level online competition to get to the final 3. This was a one of it’s kind competition and the results were phenomenal. The top 3 teams arrived at Rossignol Headquarters in Park City, Utah on April 3rd and had 3 days of riding and shooting to walk away with the winning photograph. Each team received a brand new 2015 board and bindings courtesy of Rossignol Snowboards, and a new outerwear kit courtesy of The-House.com and after they chose their weapons the battle was on. There were no limits on where the teams could shoot at the mountain and they defiantly got creative utilizing the vast terrain the Park City Mountain Resort offers.
Alex Taran is no stranger to skiing in exotic and extreme places. While the rest of us enjoy summer bike rides and swimming holes, her summer months are spent down south chasing winter in Argentina and Chile. Alex shreds The Andes as a Ski Guide for CASA Tours and teaches avalanche courses for the South American Beacon Project. Her North American Winter finds Alex on the prowl for pow all over the west; Ski Patrolling in Snowbird, crushing Squaw, exploring Jackson, getting weird in Colorado, and everywhere inbetween. She is very proud of the fact that her home is wherever her truck is parked, a very typical sentiment from the Tolkienian heart in all true ski bums. However, this ski yogi has philanthropy, entrepreneurism, and extreme ambition that matches her skiing skills. Taran is headed to the Aleutian Islands, in the middle of the Bering Sea to ski the Vsevidof Volcano. Yes, a volcano. The symmetrical cone summit rises in stark contrast to its surroundings. It is steep, filled with collapsed craters, and is the highest point on Umnak Island. Though it’s last eruption was caused by an earthquake on March 9, 1957, the only fire water Alex will be around is the whiskey she shares with fishermen in Nikolski, AK. Keep it locked with The House for updates on Alex Taran’s incredible adventure and look for this featured story in Powder Magazine coming later this year. Read More
On March 10, 2014 Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol lowered a sled bomb off The Throne ridge which set off an enormous and highly destructive avalanche. A sled bomb is a bag of ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil), in this case 25lbs worth, with a cast booster charge placed on a plastic saucer and lowered via rope. This type of explosive contraption is used by Patrollers to place large charges on steep, dangerously loaded pitches in specific, sensitive, and often recurring points of instability. The intentionally triggered avalanche destroyed Crystal’s Lift 6, left a massive crown at the starting zone, and an impressive debris pile at the toe, which is highlighted in the video above.
The video illustrates a few facts: 1. The avalanche slid nearly 1,000 vertical feet, was highly destructive, and caused a great deal of monetary damage 2. Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol did a great job and deserves an “Atta Boy” rather than condemnation. Washington had good early season snow, a mid-season drought, and a quick, massive snowfall recently creating a very unstable snowpack. After seeing video of the slide as well as observing recent slides in the Cascades, Northwest Avalanche Center director Kenny Kramer said “…we have the potential to see these large slides not just with a massive amount of explosives but also released naturally.”
Whitelines.com called it “a cock-up of epic proportions,” while KOMO.com reported the event “didn’t go quite according to plan,” and other news sources coyly placed blame on Ski Patrol and the resort. Knee-jerk reactions like these are disrespectful, uninformed, and uneducated. What would the reaction be if Patrol had opened the area to public without doing the proper mitigation and someone was killed? What if Patrollers skied into exposed terrain and lost their lives using hand-charges instead of a sled bomb? “Not according to plan” infers that these trained professionals were somehow trying to predict and direct Mother Nature. Throw a rock into a pond and direct the ripples. The ever so English response of “a cock-up” misses the most obvious fact of this event. Ski Patrol did their job. They observed danger and mitigated it. Yes, a lift was destroyed, which was unintended and misfortunate. But everyone went home to their families at the end of the day. That is the number one priority and the point of on-resort avalanche control work.
Shame on you for placing blame on individuals who are underpaid and underappreciated rather than thanking them for protecting lives. Patrolling is not something you do, it is a part of who you are. First ones up, last ones down; we risk ours to save yours; we are the best part of your worst day. Great job Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol. Keep up the good work. Hip Hip Hooray and Atta Boy!
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