The buzz

I’ve lived in a few houses that, to outsiders, just looked dirty. But the sense of community—family, I suppose—has made up for all the lack of cleanliness. Nick is cleaning our wonderful house now, and it made me think back on the others.

During my senior year in college I lived with friends at 1608 North Corona Street, in Colorado Springs. We used to sit in rocking chairs on the porch and watch cars hit the speed dip, laugh, then stay up late goofing off in the kitchen on the Voodoo balance board, solving the world’s problems. Sam baked wild and whimsical concoctions he called ‘cookies,’ Renan spent most of his time on the slack line in the yard, and Anna and I would sneak out for an afternoon climb after class.

Then there was 711 North Black, in Bozeman—the ‘campy’ 200-year-old kayaker house turned climber hostel that took care of so many Bozeman vagrants. I lived there when I needed it most, after two knee surgeries, and met a community of friends I still cherish today.

Right now at 1328 Cherry Drive, it’s spring. The fruit trees are blossoming and the sun is out. The energy is building with the season and in our lives. We’re in our early 30s (well, Nick, Pat and I are, Cotton’s getting there), and we’re figuring out what we want to do—or at least putting a lot of effort and heart into it.

You probably don’t ever really figure out what you want to do with your life anyway, right?

Nick is launching a badass aerial video and photo production company, Elevated Productions; Stronghold Fabrication is building steam and has a boulder lined up to build in Big Sky this summer; the Weekly and Mountain Outlaw are buzzing they’re so hot; and after a year off from farming, Cotton has re-embraced his passion and this year planted a garden.

It’s an exciting time. I love spring. Time to go rock climbing.

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I went climbing yesterday in Gallatin Canyon with photographer Jason Thompson and his awesome girlfriend Anne. He shot most of the afternoon, and then in the evening we ran up Skyline Ridge together during the magical sending light. I stayed ahead with my camera, looking down on them the whole time. One of my pics of Anne will be on the cover of the next Big Sky Weekly (yeah!). Here are a few others… don’t miss the squeeze through the hole on the top of the chimney.

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here we go again

Conditions report for Cooke City: new snow, stable snowpack, town is empty. Let’s go.

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Explosives, Hendrix and a turquoise mini skirt

Since I wore hiking boots and sweatpants during the 1980s, I didn’t really get to appreciate the style of that era. Last week, however, I embraced it at a showing of Greg Stump’s “Legend of Aahhh’s” at Lone Peak Cinema, in Big Sky. There, while wearing a turquoise mini skirt, hoop earrings and a heinously boxy off the shoulder sweater, I introduced Stump and Scot Schmidt, two men who changed ski history.

It was a marathon week. Earlier that day we put out another Big Sky Weekly. Then the Freeskiing World Tour came to Moonlight Basin, and I spent three days in the Headwaters, hiking, skiing and shooting photos and video of the insane things the competitors were throwing down. It was awesome to be up there messing around and seeing old friends at the mountain.

I also put together a couple of video clips from earlier in the month.

The first is from a windy avalanche control morning with Moonlight patrol. In the second, veteran KGLT DJ Ron Sanchez plays vinyl Jimi Hendrix and talks good radio.

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Last week was one of the best of my ski life.

I got invited to rage with Powder magazine’s crew at Jackson, and it was the first time I’ve ever skied the village in good conditions. Awesome people, great skiing and fun as hell vibe. Plus, I got to go on route with Lisa twice, and damn do I miss avalanche control work.

A few other ski trips I’ll always remember:

– When I was 19 and got a job bussing tables and an Alta ski pass and lived in the basement of the Rustler. Epic.

– When it snowed like 1/8 of an inch on the Snowfield at Moonlight and the wind blew just right so it was like skiing on God’s pool table, the Madison Valley resonating 6,000 feet below in my periphery. Oh, wait… that happens all the time. You can find Heaven on the dark side.

– The time we went to Burke for my first ski race ever (I was 12) and it was -47 F before the wind chill. The Indian man who owned the hotel was chewing on a peppercorn or something, which we thought was hilarious, and I made myself sick drinking chocolate milk.

– The first time I went to Cooke City. We skied powder that gave me goosebumps, and I found the jukebox in the Miners’ Saloon.

I’m thankful to my boss and co-workers for making it possible for me to go, and stoked about meeting new friends and finally skiing pow at Jackson in the winter.

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Bridger love

The ski tribe met yesterday at Bridger Bowl for Bob and Zoe’s wedding. It snowed all week, so conditions were prime. The day went like this:

10 a.m.  50 people in once piece ski suits hiked the Ridge and skied soft powder together off the Nose. It was dumping.

10:30 a.m.  More skiing. Still dumping.

11:30 a.m.  Coffee and cookies in Deer Park Chalet. The guys with the Gore Tex North Face climbing one-pieces from the early ’90s were clearly the most dialed. Everyone else steamed as our suits dried off.

noon  Bronco bump off. 75 people in one piece suits skied Bronco simultaneously, Aspen Extreme style. Total mayhem. I couldn’t stop laughing. That might be as much fun as you can possibly have on skis.

2 p.m.  Zoe skied down the aisle formed by 150 of her friends and family, all sporting one pieces.  She held hands with both of her parents, and looked amazing in a white Bogner suit, a fur-lined hood, and a gorgeous smile. At the end of the ceremony, when she and Bob kissed, it started snowing like three inches an hour.

Let the heavens unleash for love and powder.

The talented Bozeman photographer Dan Armstrong took pics of the day. Check out his photos of the crew here.

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Face, meet ice tool

As a kid, I always wanted a black eye. I got hit in the face plenty, but somehow it never produced. I realized yesterday, when I got my first ever blackie, I’ve outgrown that desire.

It all started the previous night, when my friend Greg and I were out at the Silver Dollar Bar in Cody, playing pool. We got whooped by a couple of locals, and booted off the tables, so I figured I’d teach him the two swing dancing moves I know. I ended up elbowing him in the chin. Hard.

The next day, we went climbing in the South Fork, at a route called Too Much Goose. I was following, and had reached a ledge after the crux, and was hanging out, recovering. There was a little slack in the rope, and when Greg pulled it tight, it hit my ice tool, which hit my face. Karma.

Now I have a black eye. Everyone at the ice fest seemed to think it was really impressive, but people in the rest of the world have been looking at me a little differently. My best excuse: a bar fight at the Silver Dollar.

I think I could get away with wearing dramatic eye makeup and pretending it’s my new style. Or maybe not, since the last time I wore eye makeup was for the fifth grade play.

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Sagebrush, skiing and the Superbowl

People around here are still talking about Madonna’s Superbowl performance, so I figure it’s legit to reminisce about it too.

Pat and I threw our skis in the truck that Saturday morning and drove southwest from Bozeman, through Ennis and Virginia City. In Alder, a ranch town with a population of 100, we turned south toward the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

That afternoon we skinned up through sage and forested gullies to a grassy ridge. From there, we picked a ski line for the next day, then survival skied back down. Near the truck, the golden evening lit up the rolling sagelands.

We camped in a dry gully a few miles north. I slept in two sleeping bags and two down coats. Sometimes you have to leave cell reception to get a good night’s sleep.

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The next day, skinning on an inch of snow barely covering mud, Pat scouting for elk bedded down in nearby meadows. He told me about the special muley buck draw there, and I wondered if this might be a better place for hunting than skiing. Coyote tracks 1,500 feet higher led to an elk skull. The ivories were gone, and Pat pointed out where the hunter had cut the rack off.

After three hours we made the ridge and found our descent, a little north-facing banana alley that overlooked a ranch and 100 miles of mountains. Pat and Boots dropped in first, and skied about 400 feet down.

Afraid I’d punch through and hit a rock, I entered carefully and stayed light on my skis. Moving snow clinked like hushed glass around me, a shallow river of big wet crystals. The skiing improved after about 20 turns, and I picked up speed in the mellower terrain, bopping lightly between big Douglas-firs and holding my breath.

Finally, we stopped at the drainage about 1,000 feet down, sticks and deadfall poking up everywhere.

I was afraid the ski out was going to be deadly. Instead, we traversed across the south-facing hillside through open forest for about a half hour, losing elevation fast. We reached the truck, parked by a ranch closed up for winter, at 4 p.m. Kickoff.

Just before halftime we pulled into the parking lot at Chick’s Bar, in Alder. It was so packed with ranch trucks we had to park out back. Inside, we ordered Coors, posted up on the plywood covering the pool table, ate free homemade fried chicken and empanadas, and made a few new friends.

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Heebie Jeebies

Nervousness is squirming through me. I just drove back from Livingston, where it was -2 degrees. It’s like 35 here in Bozeman, a half hour away. I’m supposed to drive to Salt Lake for the Outdoor Retailer trade show early tomorrow morning. It snowed a foot in Yellowstone today, and when these two systems collide, we may get a ton of snow.

511 reports the roads are dry all the way to Salt Lake. It feels like a behemoth is coming.

Two or three years ago, the last time I tried to go to OR, it was freezing rain and I made it three hours to Island Park. I turned around, bought myself a pair of Kinko work gloves ($9.99) in West Yellowstone and went home. Wrote it off as a shopping spree.

I can’t get the heebie jeebies outta me. Is it going to dump?! Hopefully I’m not jinxing us.

In the meantime, I wanted to share this interview I did with the quirky, wild and perhaps brilliant Indie ski filmmaker, Greg Stump, for Mountain Outlaw magazine:

I didn’t get to meet him, but after 90 seconds on the phone he told me the most inappropriate story I’ve ever heard in an interview. Sweet little Maine boy. We’re trying to bring his new film, “Legend of Aahhh’s” to Big Sky this winter. Here’s a photo of the man himself:

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Cooke City avalanche fatalities

Nick, Carly, Pat and I went to Cooke City over New Year’s on a mission to ski, celebrate and write a story. We were there during a pretty serious avalanche cycle, and the day we arrived, two people died in separate slides.

Here’s the first person account I wrote:

And photos from the weekend:

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