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A Skiing Legacy

Newspaper clipping of Kitty Calhoun age 5-years skiing with her Dad at Cataloochi ski area, North Carolina

Skiing Legacy—learning how to ski with Dad ©Kitty Calhoun Collection

“We have to get dressed. We’re going skiing.”

One of the last memories I have of my dad is of him saying this as he tried to get out of a hospital bed while under the haze of Alzheimers.

“Not today Pops,” I said and gently helped him back to bed.

I love skiing and always have.

Growing up, my Dad took me every weekend.

We drove up into the mountains of North Carolina—just the two of us. There was nothing better than being outside all day, skiing and then coming in tired and happy.

Once when I was seven-years-old, Dad and I somehow got separated. Dense fog had descended and pellets of graupel stung my face. Chilled to the bone, my tears instantly froze my eyelashes shut.

“Kit, Kit, where are you?” I heard Dad’s desperate voice through the mist.

The next thing I remember is being scooped up and set by a fireplace where the icicles melted off my eyelashes.

Much later I realized that most of my ski days were spent standing in lift lines, meanwhile, there were no lines to climb frozen waterfalls or peaks.

I bought a beacon, shovel and probe and learned about avalanche safety from a book. I fit my climbing boots into cable bindings and mounted them onto cross-country skis with metal edges.

Then, for many years, skiing became about getting into the backcountry to go climbing. The only problem was my skis were not made for the extra torque; more than once my bindings pulled off my skis while I was loaded down with a multi-day climbing pack. (But, that’s what duct tape’s for!)

The truth is my dad passed his skier’s heart on to me.

I often fantasize of skiing silently through forests and over hillsides blanketed with velvety, shimmering snow on a bluebird day.

Skiing untracked powder, then celebrating by a fire with family, friends or Chicks participants still brings back the giddy excitement I felt as a kid.

In this season of giving, it seems to me that one of the greatest gifts is that of experience. The memories of all the times Dad took me skiing are priceless and I relive them to this day.

Join Chicks in 2019 where the skiing legacy continues with Chicks Skiing clinics, backcountry hut trips and avalanche awareness skills

Hello, Snow!

Hello, Snow!, Karen Bockel, Chicks Climbing and Skiing co-owner, IFMGA Mountain Guide, selfie in a snowstorm ©Karen Bockel

Hello, Snow! Karen Bockel, Chicks Climbing and Skiing co-owner, IFMGA Mountain Guide, selfie in a snowstorm ©Karen Bockel

After last year’s dry and warm winter, I’ve been worrying about this year’s ski season. All fall, these questions looped through my mind:

Will it snow before Thanksgiving?
Will the Colorado ski areas open on time?
Will Chicks be able to run early season avalanche courses?
Is climate change ending skiing as we know it?

Suddenly, the warm autumn (and my climbing season!) ended. The ski season announced itself with a bang: two sizeable storms hit Colorado in two weeks. Wyoming and Utah aren’t far behind.

Yay for snow! I’m breathing a little easier now.

Of course, I don’t know how the winter will unfold. El-Nino isn’t a surefire ticket to powder snow in the San Jaun Mountains. But at least the backyard of Chicks headquarters has got something to start with. The mountains are wearing a nice white blanket.

Despite the early snow raising my spirits, the tenuous state of winter has me doubling my efforts to protect my favorite season. I’m taking the bus to the ski area, walking to the gym, bringing my own containers and bags to the grocery store and eating less meat.

“Thank you Mother Nature,” I say to myself as I check over my winter gear, put fresh wax on my skis and head out to practice companion rescue skills.

See you in the hills!

Ski Mountaineering is “The Goods!”

 

Angela Hawse ski mountaineering in Antarctica

Angela Hawse ski mountaineering in Antarctica

There’s an illicit and secret connotation in the expression, “The Goods.” It’s as if anything that is really good must somehow be too good to be true, in other words, wrong.

Winter has finally arrived and my backyard, Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, is ripe for getting “The Goods.” There’s nothing better, nothing more complete, and nothing more right, than ski mountaineering.

I learned how to ski when I was 17, straight off the YMCA bus, schooled in hard knocks and anything goes.

Free-heeling was the rage; and for years I got more face shots from falling on my face than I got from powder turns.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid 40’s and serious about guide certification that I finally fixed my heel, thus fixed my face-plant problem, and found my calling.

I love climbing mountains but non-technical descents are not very enjoyable.

I’ve found with skiing, I can dance with gravity on the descent, linking turns with the wind in my face. And, cut the time down in less than half!

Ski mountaineering makes what was already fun, more fun, and in large part adds a degree of safety. I’m more nimble. I can move through terrain faster and more efficiently. This broadens my scope of possibility and minimizes my exposure to hazards.

But what I love most about skiing is that that it requires digging deeply. From just getting started, all the way to ski mountaineering, backcountry skiing encompasses big picture stuff like weather, avalanche hazard, communication, and technical skill. It requires homework. You don’t just show up when you go skiing.

Which is why I couldn’t be more stoked that Chicks has rounded out its mountain sports collective with backcountry ski basics, avalanche courses and ski mountaineering for a full line up the mountain and more fun on the way back down.

 See ya on the slopes!

 

Angela Hawse, Co-owner Chicks Climbing and Skiing, IFMGA Mountain Guide

Iceland Sailboat Skiing

iceland sailboat skiingI’ll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on the Aurora Arktika, Captain’s Siggi’s beautiful, modern but historic merchant Dutch style sailboat, anchored in the harbor of Isafjordur.  It’s two masts swayed gently above the wooden deck and the red and black painted hull.  Two small hatch doors were open to the area under deck and up came Captain Siggi to greet us and load our skis and gear onboard. 

We started by sailing across the waters to the Hornstandir Natural Reserve, a beautiful, remote mountain area where snow covered slopes lead directly to the fjords below.   Yearning to explore, we set anchor in a small fjord, caught a ride in the zodiac to shore and began to skin up perfect spring snow into the mountains.  We headed for a high pass that would connect to the basin on the far side, planning to meet the ship after Siggi would sail around the rugged coast to meet us.  Clouds had formed at that moment, and Siggi called us on the radio to make sure we were up for the adventure.  Of course we were, unable to resist the curiosity of wanting to see the other side of the mountains.  We gained the pass after a couple hours of skinning uphill, climbing over a few rocks near the top, and were greeted with stunning scenery and a long, winding ski run down a large alpine basin, carving turns past waterfalls and cliff bands.  Far below in the fjord, we could see the Aurora anchored.  Siggi picked us up from shore and once back on the sailboat we dug into a big dinner of fresh fish and stew.  Content and happy, we relaxed in the cozy dining area below deck.  The Aurora felt so welcoming and comfortable, that it did not take long to call the boat our home. 

For the next six days, we skied.  We explored anything from big open slopes to enticing couloirs, climbed up to high peaks and passes, and anchored in a different fjord each night.  Even during a couple days of mediocre weather, we were able to get out and enjoy good snow.  We took sea kayaks and paddle boards out on the water to watch seals play, we hunted for mussels, and we sat on deck with a glass of wine enjoying the purple midnight sky of the long Nordic spring days.  We felt like pioneers.  Sailboat skiing in Iceland was an unforgettable experience.