|How I got started skiing year-round: After I started backcountry skiing in June 1996 (initially carrying downhill skis/boots), I bought alpine-touring gear in October 1996 and then skied the deep early-season snowpack late that month from Paradise to Camp Muir. Skied the next 12 months straight, including a memorable September 1997 trip following a big late-summer snowstorm (probably the best September skiing until 2004).|
Criteria for what counts as a ski trip: Any skiing counts, although I do try to get at least 1000 vertical feet. I count lift-served as well as backcountry trips.
Biggest threat to my streak: I decided to end my first streak of 12 months after September 1997, due to the ongoing demands of physics grad school and a desire not to become obsessive about a streak at the expense of the rest of my life. But now I think that if Turns All Year had existed back then, I probably would have tried to keep the original streak going. Anyway, I decided to start a new streak in November 2001, a few months after finishing my PhD. So far, there have been no threats to the current streak.
Type of equipment I use: Alpine touring: Scarpa boots, Fritschi bindings, and Tua skis exclusively thus far, although I may give Garmont boots and Dynafit bindings a try soon along with some new skis. I also have a pair of old Kneissl Bigfoot figle skis (60 cm), which I've used occasionally with heavy crampon-compatible mountaineering boots on late summer hikes which are 90% or more hiking but reach some permanent snowfields.
Strategy for skiing through the low season: Glaciers and permanent snowfields on Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and Mount Hood have offered the most reliable September and October turns over the years.
Worst and best backcountry ski trips: Worst: An attempt on the Garibaldi Neve traverse in BC in spring of 2003. We drove 2 cars all the way from Seattle and set up the car shuttle, roughly 30 miles apart. The weather forecast said clear, but it was very wrong: thunderstorms dropped torrential rain/hail mix on us during the ski in to Elfin Lakes cabin. Cloudy skis overnight prevented refreezing of the waterlogged snowpack, so the next morning we wallowed for a couple of hours in bottomless slop that was impossible to ski or skin. The skins got so soaked that duct tape was mandatory to hold them on (only time that's happened). We abandoned the traverse, turned around and skied the sticky glop on the boring trail back to car #1, and then headed north to retrieve car #2. It was such a frustrating waste of gas to drive two cars and set up the car shuttle, all for nothing. The only thing that kept the trip from being a total disaster was that we avoided injury or avalanche.
Best of the best: My very first backcountry skiing trip in June 1996 to Camp Muir remains the most profound and life-altering experience I've ever had. After 15 years of only lift-served skiing, I knew by the end of that perfect day that my eyes had been opened and my life had changed forever. A few years later in June 1999, another epiphanic moment occurred during my first trip to the southern Cascades, a memorable week in which my friend Alex Cronin and I skied Lassen, Shasta, McLoughlin, Thielsen, and South Sister on consecutive days. At the summit of Mount McLoughlin, we both looked south at Shasta and Lassen and then at each other, and simultaneously blurted out the idea that someone needed to write the first ski mountaineering guidebook to the Cascade volcanoes.
Other best trips: Rainier via Emmons-Winthrop, July 1999 (huge snowpack, skied from the top with almost no crevasse hazard), Shasta via Hotlum-Wintun, July 2000 (6000+ vertical ft of superb corn just a few days after a big storm filled in the summer suncups), Crater Lake circumnavigation, March-April 2002 (perfect weather, mirror-flat lake, absolute solitude, saw no one else for over 48 hrs), Adams via SW Chutes, July 2003 (perhaps the best corn I can recall), Shasta via Hotlum-Bolam, May 2004 (a profound solo experience), Adams via Lyman Glacier, South Lobe, June 2004 (spectacular seracs, surprisingly smooth, unexpectedly simple, and a possible first descent?).
Skiing activities in the past year: See my website at www.skimountaineer.com.