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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.