Monday, January 12, 2009

Powder Day at Bridger Bowl

This past Sunday I had a great day of snowboarding at Bridger Bowl. Utilizing the new Schlasmans chairlift our posse had an epic day of exploring and riding some sweet lines in great snow.

It had snowed 4 inches according to the snow report, but as usual, up on the ridge it was a different story. I would say about a foot of fresh in most spots, which was on top of more new snow from earlier in the week....not bad!

I met up with Matt and Brian at the base area and we headed over to Schlasmans. Our first lap was down the northern aspect, and we found plenty of great snow, and got some fresh tracks down a few nice spots. At the bottom we met up with the rest of our posse for the day, Paul and Heather. Later we added Tim and Steve for a 6 person power posse!

A key point about riding at Bridger is the aspect of "Hiking the Ridge." Prior to this season, this has meant riding to the top of the Bridger lift, unstrapping, and hiking straight up for about 500 vertical feet to the ridge of the mountain. Requirements for this activity include: an avalanche transciever, partner, and avalanche shovel, a good set of lungs, and strong legs. Those willing to hump it up the extra distance to the ridge are rewarded with at least a mile of ridgeline that is hikable either north or south to the boundary lines of the resort. "The Ridge" is known to hold good snow for a long, long time after a storm, and is the venue of choice for the hardcore skiers and riders at Bridger Bowl. This is due to the limited use it receives compared to the lift served lower mountain.

The other noteworthy aspect of The Ridge is the terrain. This upper part of Bridger Bowl holds some of the steepest, craziest, tightest, gnarliest in-bounds skiing in the world. If you can ride the harder lines up there, you can probably hang with just about anyone on the snow when the going gets gnarly. It is intricately riddled with chutes, cliffs, trees, rocks, steeps, blind rollovers, hanging snowfields, and on and on. If you do not follow a seasoned veteran on your first forays up there, you stand a good chance of getting in big, big trouble. There are so many places where taking the wrong side of a spine of snow means serious problems. Getting stuck on top of a 30 cliff with a bad landing and no way out but struggling 100ft back up a 50 degree, 6 ft wide chute is not a good time.

This season they opened the first new lift in 30 years called Schlasmans. It expands the terrain along the ridge to the south up the shoulder of Saddle Peak, opening up tons and tons of great new riding. Additionally, the new lift terminates about 50 yards shy of the ridge, and the hike is now very quick and very easy.

So, on this fine day we took a quick hike out of Schlasmans to the north, and hit up the old South Boundary lines. Super good! Sweet, deep fresh powder, and super fun winddrifts, little drops, and fun jumps. Next hike was south, this time out to Saddle Peak, to hit up the snowfields just below the shoulder just outside of the new boundary line. It is a quick easy hike, although it was blowing a good 45 mph over the ridge!
The snow looked good, and Mengs dropped in first, shown here on a little video I took. It is WIDE OPEN up there and Mengs hauled ass for two big turns....

The next jaunt took us north again into the area known as D-Route. This was formerly only accessible from the north, off the main ridge hike. It was a haul, and had a lot of uphill on the ridge to get to the lines. From Schlasmans it is either flat, or descending to get there. Way better.

Another unique feature of the ridge is that every single thing you can ski down has a name. Usually humorous, dirty(or corny) and coined by some ski-hippy back in the seventies. I opted to hit up the chute called Sixth Grade with Brian. We dropped in to some perfect turns through perfect snow that brought us down to the entrance of the chute, pictured below. The tree in the middle is pushed over from all the snow, but the ones right above the rocks give a better idea of the steepness of this thing.

I had never ridden this line before, and didn't really know what to expect. As Brian jimmied his way into the chute, it became clear that in classic Bridger fashion, it was extremely narrow, and extremely steep. Try "my board-barely-fits-sideways-and-sometimes-tighter" width! Oh yeah, and it's kinda steep. Like "fall and start sliding and you may not stop" type of steep.

So Brian got right down in there, jump turning away. Jump turning is how you get down stuff that is super steep and narrow that you can't just straight-line out of. You have to jump off the snow and turn your board to the other edge, then land again 0 to 8 feet below your starting point.

Brian was soon out of sight. I waited a bit and then made my way after him. It is always a bummer going second cuz the first guy has pushed a lot of the fresh snow down the chute with them. Right at the top you have to make a turn around a tree that is in the way that constricts the chute to about 4 ft wide, and then stop.

I made it in, and started hopping my way down. I saw Brian below me again after a bit, and he yelled up at me to stop. I was knocking too much snow down on him from above and it was threatening to push him down the rest of the way.

He continued after the slough stopped, and I waited a good while before following this time. When I reached the point where he was, I could see mostly out of the bottom. It was still a ways to go. I bet the whole thing is at least 100 yards long. No wider than about 6 ft at any point. I continued skitching my way down the thing, and about 50 ft from the bottom I caught my board at the tip and tail between the rocks and got pitched backwards downhill! Oops! Luckily I stopped after one backwards somersault, recovered and made it down the rest of the way.

Looking back up it looks like this:

In the center of the picture is the line. The couloir goes up and then turns to the right. Looks great right! Ha ha! The picture doesn't do the steepness justice. Lines like this are about the challenge, scaring the crap out of yourself, and the thrill of taking it right to the edge....

Oh yeah, and this was the easy way down. Check out what the other guys did! Click on this one so it gets bigger, and then look in the middle to see the dude in the pinch of this crazy line. Tim is holding himself with his arms, adjusting his board position, about to drop straight out of that thing. Welcome to Bridger Bowl!

We all made it down safe from this round and went back up for more! Believe it or not, the last run of the day was even more crazy that either of those two. We took a wrong turn right in between the two lines above, and got stuck on top of a crazy steep face. Luckily Mengs had his camera and had taken a picture to study when we were on top. So after some studying we decided we could make it, and jimmied down some steep-ass rotten-snow rocky ridiculousness, ending in a 30 ft shot that you had to straight line due to the exit being about 3 ft wide. Looking at it from below, it is the sort of terrain that you would definitely classify as "unrideable." Good Times!

I was totally exhausted at the end of the day, but I must say it was one of the coolest days on the hill I have had in a long time. Riding stuff that crazy is an experience you can't have any other way. We ended the day with another traditional Bridger activity, which is apres ski beers at the Grizzly Ridge in the base area, trading tales of our exploits like fisherman trade fish stories, sipping a good brew, and already anticipating the next day on the hill...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

From this Summer: Gravelly Ride

I found this in draft form on here and finished it up to post..figured it is good to remember about the summertime during the winter.

The Gravelly Road

This road has been lurking on my map of Southwest Montana ever since I bought my KLR, and I never got it together enough to plan and go ride it until this summer. I knew it would be good....

Sunday morning. Woke up on my bro Cory's couch to a fuzzy head from the evenings merriment at the Claim Jumper Saloon in Ennis Montana. After recharging with eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy, I filled the camelbak, geared up, and hit the road on my trusty 05 KLR650.

Destination: Ride the Gravelly Range Rd south from Ennis to the Centennial Valley and return via the Upper Ruby Rd.

It was cold out! Thermometer on my bike said 40 something. I had on normal pants. Oops. It was pretty cloudy and windy out.

As I climbed towards the beginning of the Gravelly Rd, I entered the clouds since they were so low. So now the temp goes down even more, and I have to keep my faceshield up due to condensation issues. It was reading down to 36! I got cold. And I was in the clouds, so I couldn't see very far at all. This continued for pretty much the first hour I think. I had to go slow too due to the cloud-fog.

All I saw was some cows, a few hunters camped out, and a lot of grey! I had second thoughts about continuing as I was freezing my face off, and couldn't see anything cool at all like a view or something! I pushed on though on the hopes that it would burn off as the day heated up.

Finally it broke and I had super awesome views of my Montana home in all directions.

This road has got to be on the top 10 of any I have ever been on. It's right up there with the Beartooth I think, and maybe better cuz it's all dirt, and there are very very few people. If it hadn't been hunting season already, I doubt there would have been anyone hardly at all.

The road just keeps going on top of the mountains for miles and miles. It's unbelievable! I was hooting and laughing with glee inside my helmet at what a good time I was having.

After another hour or so I was further down the range and ran into a giant amount of sheep sleeping in the road! I hadn't ever seen that many sheep at once before. They were just hanging out and had two dogs with the flock to keep them out of trouble I guess. I shut off the bike and took my helmet off and just stood around for a bit watching them and absorbing the mellow sheep vibe. They looked pretty happy just chilling out up there on top of the world.

After the sheep I kept on rolling down the road and actually finally started descending down out of the mountains. I was using a color copy of the Montana Gazeteer map for the area for my navigation and it worked pretty darn well. I am a big fan of good ole maps. No GPS for me. I think a map works better, doesn't run out of batteries, and you can see way more area at one time.

I got to an intersection though that had some signs about this road and that road and I had to gamble on a left turn onto what I hoped was a shortcut to the Centennial Valley, FR 209. It looked on the map like the same size road I had been on, but when I got on it, it was way smaller, just a worn two track with a bunch of ruts. I had a moment of indecision, as I was paying close attention to my odometer for my gas gauge. I knew I wouldn't find gas where I was headed and had to turn around if I hit 100 miles and wasn't on my way back already. I was at around 60 something i think. I said F-it and kept going on the two track.

I won my gamble and was dumped out on the road I was shooting for on the north edge of the valley. It was pretty damn cool, and I want to go back and explore around the wildlife refuge another time. After more indecision I headed east to see if I could find a road across to the south side of the valley that appeared on the map. Said road did not appear in reality, and I ended up turning around after a few miles.

Now my way was clear and I blasted west at 65 mph back towards the Ruby valley road. I love the KLR on dirt roads, and these were like dirt highways! I had at this point been riding dirt for about 50 miles and 3 hours. The road up high had been pretty twisty and somewhat loose so my speed was maybe around 35 tops. Once in the valley though these roads were wide, and way more straight, so I hauled ass for a while! By the way, I discovered that antelope can run at least 40 mph. It's funny when animals try and run away by running parallel to you. I suppose Mr. Antelope isn't used to anyone being able to go faster than himself.

In short order I got to the turn for the Ruby road I wanted. The next 15 miles or so were maybe the funnest of the day as it was open country, medium curviness of road, and it undulated a bunch up and down. I could keep good speed and was really riding the bike with all the road variation. It was super fun! I never rode a dirt bike when I was younger so lately I have been trying to learn to slide the rear under power around corners. I got plenty of practice in that section. Still can't do it super well yet. I am running TKC 80's front and rear and I think I need to air them down some to get the right action with the traction.

I made it back to Ennis safe and sound, and continued back to Bozeman. It was long day, but one of the best rides I have ever taken, and one that I am sure I will repeat many times in the future.

10 Ways I Save Money

Been thinking about saving money lately....

I am a bit of a gear-whore, and have problems buying tons of crap related to my many sporty hobbies: snowboarding, motorcycling, mtn biking, road biking, etc. I feel bad about that sometimes. On the other hand I am really a frugal fellow in many other ways. Here's what I do or have done recently on the savings side of things:

  1. Cancelled gym membership 35x12=420/yr
  2. Returned leased welding gas cylinder. Haven't used my welder in over a year! And I can still use flux core wire if I need to use it without gas. =40/yr
  3. Have no car payment. I have a 20 year old Toyota 4x4.... savings here is 200-400/mo depending on your choice of cars. 2400 to 4800/yr
  4. Cook at home. I cook at home a lot. At least one big meal a week, which gives me usually 2 more meals of leftovers. I always eat breakfast from my kitchen. Lunch is sometimes out when at work. Usually it is leftovers or a can of soup or a sandwich. Dinner out maybe 2-3x per week, but often that is 6 bucks for a few slices of my favorite pizza. Meals i could eat out but don't 21 total meals per week, lets say 3 lunches out and 3 that's 15 meals that I could eat out but don't....10 bucks avg. per meal...150 bucks per week savings.
  5. Bought a season pass to the local ski hill. This seems like it would go in the spending category, but I think it saves me money by me going snowboarding all the time, and not going shopping or whatever else, and i am so tired at night I just hang out at home and go to sleep early instead of going out. Oh, wait, maybe that part is just from me getting older! It also promotes excercise and health, and then I have less medical expenses. Actual savings amount is hard to calculate, but I will put it at at least 1000/yr.
  6. Buy the Best Stuff. When I do buy gear, I do massive research beforehand, on what is the best product. This saves me money because the best stuff is often the most durable and most high quality. Buy something good that lasts, instead of five of something that falls apart or breaks......Then I do massive research on the best deal for said best products. Example includes a recent snowboard purchase, my second new board in....hmmm....6 years I think. I found a nice Nitro for 230 shipped on Ebay. Half of retail price! It took me months to find that board though. Also last winter i got a 200+ dollar Patagonia shell jacket for 100 bucks at their outlet store. This winter i found similar pants, again at half retail at 100 bucks. I won't need to buy ski gear for I bet 5 years at least and maybe forever, due to Pati's exceptional quality, and lifetime warranty. I have had the same guitars for over 10 years, nice Fender Strats....Last mtn bike I bought lasted 8 seasons and still is rolling. Buy good stuff. Keep it for a long time. Simple really!
  7. Netflix. If you watch a lot of movies you already know what a deal this is.....
  8. Eating good healthy foods. I eat mainly unproccessed foods or minimally processed foods. Results are that I am a healthy weight, and have good cholesterol levels. Heart attacks are expensive and I am not going to have one!
  9. Simple entertainment: on Sundays during the summer to relax I go for a motorcycle ride through the backroads of Montana. Cost: 8-10 bucks in gas for 2-4 hours of awesome scenery and thrills! Or I might ride my bicycle from my house for a few hours. Cost: free!
  10. Living in an out of the way place in a smaller town or city. I grew up in Maine. Cheap! I now live in Montana. Cheap! I live in the expensive part, which is in-town Bozeman, but it is still cheap compared to many other cities. There are less places to spend you spend less money. The smaller the town the better this effect is.
Okay, that was fun!

Until next time,