|How I got started skiing year-round: There was never a plan. For me skiing was something I did and as it turned out in 1998 it was something I did all year.|
Criteria for what counts as a ski trip: As long as you are on the snow making some turns, then that counts in my book. For the most part IÕve been able to get over 5000ft but have dipped as low as a 1000ft once or twice when motivation or weather werenÕt as good as they could be.
Biggest threat to my streak: When my best friend passed away in November of last year. The weather was terrible, my motivation even worse, but somehow I surrendered to the future and found that by doing something I felt better. In this case I went skiing. I couldÕve just as easily done nothing.
Type of equipment I use: Scarpa boots, Atomic skis and G3 bindings. As a kid telemark skiing was synonymous with the backcountry. Nowadays AT seems to be more commonplace, but IÕve stuck to my punches because I enjoy the challenge of the telemark turn. Ever since I was 5 or 6 years old it has challenged me and I doubt IÕll ever master this stepchild of turns.
Strategy for skiing through the low season: There are times when the desire to ski overcomes your better judgment. Every summer I rack my brain for interesting places to go. The best place for consistent turns that IÕve found is Mount Baker, but occasionally Mount Shuksan or Mount Rainier will pinch hit or some other oddity that provides a better climb than ski (thus why not bring the skis?). Taking the boards along always seems to contribute more fuel for adventure, which is a good thing, at least on the way down that is!
Worst and best backcountry ski trips: The worst and best sometimes intermingle. Every trip seems to be a coalescence of every emotion from fear to groveling, to triumph and overwhelming joy. They capture the essence of everyday life but in a more flamboyant ether; a strikingly bright sunset, a crisp chill dew-reflecting morning where the sound is reverberating rather than passing, a mid morning spring breeze that caresses the previous days efforts away (that now seem cheap), or the turn that leads to another and another beyond sight and beyond a mere mortals grasp (it seems), but for a moment there is nothing but that moment and that is powerful. All these exponentiate and feed the weekend warrior. It is what brings me back.
BEST: When I think of the greats and try to pick the greatest, I tend to lean towards the Mineral High Route. Everything from the weather to the place framed an adventure that will continue for a long time to come to inspire me. It continues post mortem as a rubric to which all future classics will be measured. There is nothing that spring snow, a bright sun, and beautiful territory canÕt cure. With work as it was at the time, this was an especially needed detour from the midweek grind. Now of course there are other trips that had their moments of fame, but as a beginning to end, this was a treasure.
WORST: This is a difficult one for me. Even the most despicable, downright miserable trips seem to have their moments of bliss ifÕn only much less so than desired. In truth, I remember the worst as moments in time where the combination of several factors came into play and the pains and tribulations your reward for confronting nature. I have had my fair share of misadventures from avalanches to crevasses, to slips and falls, schwacking in the pickets to tripping into rivers and creeks, not to forget of course being hopelessly (miserably!) lost. There are several worth mentioning, but since I ended the last sentence with lost, IÕll mention one that tends to poke itÕs head out whenever I think about not backtracking and just ŌStaying the courseÕ and ŌHoping for the bestÕ. This would be Mount Saint Helens. And yes I know an easy mountain. Still, fools can be fools and we made this one out so much, so badly that even the union of fools had reservations about keeping us in their clichˇ. We had fought our way to the summit like warriors, crawled when we couldnÕt walk (because of the wind), and left skiing blindly (backwards no less because the wind bit so fiercely). When the wind lessened we were so enthused we continued haphazardly down the wrong part of the mountain. Making a long story short we ended up ~17 miles off. The moment that stands out is where we realized it was faster to hike to the nearest town than to backtrack. With pack weighted down and wet, ski boots eating up the pavement, and the cold pounding rain on the edge of crystallizing into snow drooling/splattering down my face, I was on the cusp of what is plainly called misery and what nature would smirk, ŌOur just rewards.Õ
Skiing activities in the past year: Many of my adventures can be found on Ben ManfrediÕs site cascadeclassics.org or on itÕs continuance at cascadecrusades.org