|How I got started skiing year-round: Really, it was a gradual progression and a bit of a coincidence. During the 2004 northern hemisphere's summer, traveled to New Zealand and spent the season down there. When I returned in October, there was already enough snow up in Washington to boot pack for turns. Finally, at the end of the 04/05 Season, I acquired my first splitboard. After that, it had to be turns all year; I never looked back!|
Criteria for what counts as a ski trip: It's simple. If you're sliding downhill on teles, skis, or a snowboard, it counts. It could be 100 feet, or it could be 10,000.
Biggest threat to my streak: Most months, I get at least a couple of trips in, but one October was especially difficult because I was working lots of long hours to save money for the upcoming season. I procrastinated all the way until the last day of the month (Halloween), for my October turns, and had to work all that day in the city. Not wanting to break my streak, a friend and I rushed up to Chinook Pass at the end of the workday, where there was about a foot of snow on top of dirt. Then, we rode down little more than 50 vertical feet, our route illuminated by car headlights and our own headlamps, taking turns through the trees in the very last remaining hours of October. It was a close call.
Type of equipment I use: In recent seasons, I've had a lot of success with Prior boards. I've been using a Prior Splitboard for backcountry, and a solid for some resort riding. Burton Driver X Boots and Burton C60 Bindings have also been working pretty well. But my absolute favorite and most important piece of gear is, of course, my boot dryer!!
Strategy for skiing through the low season: There's two parts to strategy - the mental, and the logistical. Logistically, I'm a fan of utilizing the many glaciers in Mt. Rainer National Park. They're close by, and always frozen. For the mental component, I like to say, "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." Even after years of experience, however, you can't always prepare for everything. For example, I was woefully unprepared for the heat we got in Seattle this summer ('09). That was the worst.
Worst and best backcountry ski trips: One of my favorites was a 7-day trip that Jason Hummel and I took this last season into the remote Valhallus area. Because this area is so infrequently accessed, we didn't quite know what to expect. But the scenery was amazing and the trip was filled with once-in-a-lifetime, memorable moments. At one point, there were beautiful lush green canyon walls with waterfalls everywhere.That evening we kickstepped up an intimidating chute on the south side of Mt Olympus while the sun set, and I felt incredibly humbled by the mountains. After arriving at a low col at dusk we rode down Mt. Olympus, we were flying across snowbridges over crevasses to the light of a full moon.
One demoralizing experience was at the end of a day of riding, when I dropped a pin necessary for the functionality of my binding, in thigh-deep powder, out in Girabaldi Provincial Park. I searched frantically for an hour in the snow, but the pin was gone. It was already afternoon, and I knew I was five miles out. I had to posthole instead of skin the rest of the way back to the Elfin Lakes Hut. I finally reached camp after the sun had set, and was exhausted to the core.
Skiing activities in the past year: I began the 08/09 season with the goal of tackling 15 of the Cascades' volcanoes. I am proud to say that I was fortunate enough to tackle, instead, the 25 highest volcanoes in the U.S. portion of the Cascade Range, as well as venturing to a number of remote locations in the process, including the Valhallus in Olympic National Park (the trip I referenced above). My website has both chronological and geographic archives of my major trips from the past year: www.whereiskylemiller.com. The plan is to continually update and provide trip reports there (as well as turns all year and other venues, of course), as the 2010 season gets underway.