backTurns All Year year-round skiing                

Year-round skier:  Eric McGrath




How I got started skiing year-round:  In the winter of 1994/1995 I took a trip to Chamonix and met a Danish telemark skier. In August 1995 he and his Spanish girlfriend visited my wife and I at our home in Bishop, California. I typically skied into July every year in the Sierra because the snow and skiing is so good. During his visit I told him we could ski if he wanted to try the Sierra. Of all things we skied Bloody Couloir (a pretty severe shot near Mammoth Mountain) and luckily he stopped his slide for life. I had always wanted to ski every month of the year and having August under my belt I thought this would be the year. I completed the year, had a lot of fun and thought it was pretty cool. During the next winter I decided I would ski every month again and the streak has not stopped since. My son (Jackson, born 1990) is now at his 76th consecutive month. I can't imagine ever stopping. The streak assures I'll get out at least once a month to commune with nature and do my thing. I read in a magazine once there was a guy in Colorado who got 441 months in row mostly skiing St. Mary's Glacier, I guess it has established a goal for me. I record each of my ski days in a spreadsheet including the number of runs, the vertical feet skied, my ski mates, weather and snow conditions, and a brief description of highlights. I figure in my old age, I'll be able to read all the entries and hopefully remember most of my glory days gone by.
Criteria for what counts as a ski trip:  If your boots are on your feet and in your bindings, and your skis are on snow and moving, then you are skiing. I guess I use the criteria of a minimum of 100 vertical feet and at least ten turns. I'll be honest a couple of times I've fallen short of my criteria but not too often.
Biggest threat to my streak:  I broke my arm skiing the last run of the day on New Year's Eve 2004 so In January 2005 I had to ski with a broken arm but it wasn't much of a threat to the streak. Who really needs arms to ski? I think global warming could be a threat to my streak, but I am hoping not. If it does become a threat, I'll move to someplace where the streak is not threatened. I'm figuring global warming won't severely affect Sierra skiing until it is time for me to retire. The last threat to my streak is the economy. Living where I am and doing what I do I am easily able to go out every month. However, things could change and force me to move away from the mountains. My contingency plan is if the US economy tanks, I can get a job in Dubai and keep the streak alive skiing indoors.
Type of equipment I use:  Free heel gear.
Strategy for skiing through the low season:  We have a favorite spot for summer skiing. We call it Jack's Glacier, so named after my son as an encouragement for him to keep joining us when he was a youngster. The glacier has about 300 vertical feet (but shrinking) and it is on the north side of Mount Dunderberg near Bridgeport, California. There's a four wheel drive road that takes you to the base of the glacier at 11,000 feet. We make a weekend of it by camping at a beautiful pond at 10,000 feet. The snow on the glacier is great into August, but in September, the snow cups and hard surface can be challenging and I'd have to say that September skiing is never very good. October usually brings new snow to the Sierra and the low season is over, but often the rock skis are necessary on the October new snow.
Worst and best backcountry ski trips:  Depends on your definition of worst trip.... worst snow, worst terrain, worst location, worst partner, worst mood, worst equipment failure, etc. Despite all these possibilities I can't say I've had a "worst trip" but if I had to pick one, it was the time I came to grips with my mortality. As part a quest to ski the ten highest peaks in Nevada, I was on North Schell Peak in the Schell Creek Range outside of Ely, NV. I was with my longtime ski mate (with his own 120 month streak, retired). As ski mates we always got along and mutually made decisions. We climbed the west side of the mountain which had very little snow. We got to the top and the east side was beautifully covered and my ski mate wanted ski the east side and either hike back up or descend all the way (4000 feet plus, but not all snow) to the east side of the range and hitch-hike back around. For reasons unknown I got an odd sense of death around me and developed a huge fear of dropping in the east side. Our opinions conflicted more deeply as we sat on the summit which made matters worse. We ultimately skied the ridge and walked back down the west side. During the walking descent my fear did not subside. My irrational disposition was deplorable but ever-loving John demonstrated extreme patience and helped me through, I'm forever grateful to him.
  Best trip? There are a ton of them. An epic was the Sierra High Route in the early 1990's. Covered in 8 days including numerous descents of side peaks. The weather was beautiful, the terrain exceptional, the scenery breathtaking, the solitude to be cherished, and the ski mates were all top notch climbers and skiers.
Skiing activities in the past year:  A Memorial Day weekend trip to Great Basin National Park which included a climb and ski of Jeff Davis Peak to reach number 8 of my quest to ski the 10 highest peaks in Nevada. Here's an open invitation to any consecutive month skier to come any month to ski fantastic terrain in the Sierra Nevada's, I'll put you up and even share my beer with you (as long as there's at least two left).





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