Alaska is an amazing place and the town of Haines doesn't disappoint. The scenery, wildlife and people are what make Haines such a wonderfully magical place and I look forward to returning! Riding in Alsaka is about patience and taking in the majestic beauty and of course deep pow and iconic lines! I'm not going to give a long winded story about the competition, but want to let my photos do the talking. Oh and I won...
I know, I know! I'm very lazy when it comes to blogging! But I'll keep working on it, promise! This is the tale of my trip to Austria for the 3rd stop of the Freeride World tour in Fieberbrunn. I was feeling good about my results in Andorra and was happy to have a couple weeks at home to hang with the hubby and bask in puppy love from Lana. I worked a few days and got to ride Utah pow! The trip home seemed short, but I was looking forward to my next European adventure! I've always loved the trip to Austria, the people and hospitality are warm and welcoming, the scenery is amazing and Fieberbrunn is a really fun mountain providing some of my favorite pow days, though the competition venue here has proved tricky in the past. I flew into Munich, arriving a few days early to head to Saalbach for the Audi Driving Experience. I rented a car and grabbed Jonathan Penfield as my co-pilot. Our drive to Saalbach was lovely, even with the few missed exits leaving the city. We made it to the resort about noon. I was pretty tired from the travel and feeling unmotivated, but Jonathan was keen to get on his board and I luckily I fell into peer pressure and headed to the hill with him. Europe was still battling a poor snow season, it felt like late spring and had been a handful of days since the last snowfall. We didn't have high expectations for snow quality and were very surprised by what we found! Immediately under the gondola, there was a short, north facing slope loaded with untracked pow! We were very curious to why it hadn't been ridden, it was straight forward, but did have some areas at the bottom that could cause trouble for the inexperienced skier. We did a couple of laps under the gondola then went exploring and continued to find soft snow! We ran into some locals and they showed us around for a couple of runs. The boys wanted to go ride another face, but I was starting to really feel the travel, so I decided to call it a day. I was headed down the mountain via our first run under the gondola and it was still amazing! So instead of going in, I lapped it 3 more time for a total of 8! Later I met Jonathan and the boys for a beer in the afternoon sunshine!
The next morning Jonathan and I had a lovely breakfast at our hotel, we checked out and then worked on killing time before we were to meet for lunch provided by Audi before the driving experience. We went on walk and explored the area a bit. We found a fun obstacle course and played around on it until we worked up our appetites for lunch, Jonathan being rather skilled at it and me, very ungraceful. We are very lucky to have Audi as a sponsor for the FWT and getting the opportunity to participate in the Audi Driving Experience is icing on the cake! The Audi Driving Experience is phenomenal! We were treated to a posh, five star buffet for lunch, then we get to race around in Audi S4s on an ice track! Not sure it is the wisest of moves to throw a bunch of adrenaline seeking ski bums behind the wheel of a high performance vehicle and let them rally it on ice, but it is fun at its finest! We did some hard braking/maneuvering exercises, learned to drift, then finished the day with a timed race lap. I had the second fastest women's time, behind Nadine Wallner, who is from Austria, and an Audi athlete and has her own Audi. Favoritism? Nah, she was just faster! Audi also provided our lodging for the night in Saalbach, lucky us! We enjoyed dinner as group and hit the town for a bit of night life after and in the morning everyone would make the short trek to Fieberbrunn. The drive was grey and rainy, snow was in the forecast. Now to get into competition mode.
We arrived to Fieberbrunn with much needed snow in the forecast and the plan was to wait for new snow and to hopefully allow it to settle before comp day. This meant we had time to kill. We stayed at the Austria Trend hotel, which is a very nice 4 star hotel, the accommodations are very nice, it has a very relaxing sauna and pool (the expectation is nudity in the sauna), and we are fed very well, with full breakfast buffet and 3 course dinner every day! The riding was quite variable and on inspection day I think I rode every type of snow condition imaginable, from soft pow, dust on crust, gnar ice and spring slush. But luckily the higher elevations were quite good and this boded well for the competition venue. The tour is always working hard to organize activities for us during down days and in Fieberbrunn they arranged an outing to schnapps tasting at a local distillery. This was a really cool opportunity and was embraced by nearly all the North Americans, and none of the Europeans (maybe the Europeans get their fill of schnapps regularly?). We were welcomed with open arms by the owner Gidi and his family, they shared their schnapps making secrets, let us taste every flavor of schnapps imaginable and entertained us with traditional music! This was an unforgettable experience and I am thrilled to be a part of it! The next day was inspection day and we had to get to work, luckily the schnapps tasting didn't provide any hangovers. Inspection day proved to be a great day for studying lines and we were able to get in some pretty good pow runs too! I had a line picked and was starting to get excited for comp day, I was looking forward to riding the Wildseeloder! Competition morning was gorgeous! We were on the hill before sunrise and watching the sky change colors in the morning is a great way to calm your mind. I was last to drop for the day, so I had plenty of time do some more inspection and to watch the men compete. I enjoy the trek to the start gate on the Wildseeloder, it allows for plenty of time to calm the mind. I arrived to the start early, just as the men were finishing up and had plenty of time to visualize the line I had picked. The snow conditions looked great and I was ready for my run! Dropping last is interesting in that when you drop it's only you and the crew, It always seems like you get a little extra encouragement from the staff, could be they are excited the work day is nearing its end ;). I was able to find my line, although the middle section was a bit tricky and the snow was hard where it had slid in the gut of the main couloir, so this section wasn't nearly as smooth as I had imagined, after I exited the couloir I found some wonderful untracked pow that led me to my final two airs which I executed well and a smooth run to the finish. My run put me in second place and I was happy with my result, though I am always critical of my run and want to push myself to have better lines. Marion was the winner of the day with a great run and Audrey finished with many solid airs! The most exciting thing about placing second here is that it confirmed qualification for Alaska and Verbier stops and It qualified my for the tour next season! After the awards ceremony I jumped in with Lorraine, McFly, Jonathan and Davey to hike for some pow! We found some of the best runs of the season and they were only a 20 minute jaunt from the gondola! The snow was deep and every turn was an overhead faceshot! We were lucky to get 3 laps in before we had to be to the bottom for the prize giving! It was the icing on the cake of a fabulous day! Fieberbrunn is lower elevation and has been tricky in the past for competitions, the Wildseeloder can be a tough venue if snow quality is poor, but I have had some of my best days here, I love the relaxed atmosphere, the playful mountain, the kind people and their hospitality and of course the food (hooray for Weiner Schnitzel)!
It's Friday, the morning after the first competition we were at it again! Up by 5, breakfast at 6, on the road by 7. The weather looked good, clear skies with a few high clouds. We were told to wait at the mountain for a decision on the comp and still didn't know what venue we were going to ride, you could sense that there was a bit of anxiety fueled by exhaustion and indecision. As soon as the sun started to shine over the peaks we were notified that we might be riding a new back-country face that would be accessed by heli and we would be able to walk outside and inspect from the lodge. We headed out to get a look at the face and to watch the guides and judges ride down as they inspected the conditions. The snow looked variable as this is a south facing slope and had received some sun the previous day, but it didn't look horrible. I was excited about the prospect of this face and immediately started to scan for potential lines to ride. As we inspected the organizers had a meeting with the riders board and discussed the snow conditions along with the expected weather for the day. To our chagrin, the decision was made not to compete, It was felt that the snow was too variable and there would not be enough of time window with a storm approaching that afternoon. We were told that with new snow in the forecast that we would wait out the weather window and the next decision for competing would be made Tuesday. We were released to enjoy what Andorra has to offer! The rest of the afternoon was spent freeriding at Vallnord and enjoying some pretty great pow, followed by out own private dance party that night at the hotel! I wanted to get the most out of my down days and was excited to actually explore the area and to be a bit of a tourist. The next day I arranged a trip with Hazel, Lorraine, Evelina and her dad to go down to Andorra la Vella, Andorra's capital and do a bit of site seeing. There was a nice little trail above the city that offered panoramic views and an opportunity to have a relaxing walk in the sun. We also enjoyed the historic part of town and a lovely lunch at a little cafe. On Sunday Hazel, Lorraine and I took another trip to Andorra la Vella to experience Caldea, a spa located inside a giant mirrored building that dominates the skyline. It was mildly entertaining and we waded different pools of tepid water and were a bit surprised at how many people flocked to this attraction. Later that evening we were told that the contest would be delayed until Wednesday or Thursday, as bad weather was expected, so we had more time to kill. The waiting period can be stressful, but it can also be a ton of fun. Leo Slemett arranged for a group of riders to play outdoor paintball one afternoon! We had a blast, 20 athletes running around shooting each other and of course there is always some fun competition among us. At one point Reine and Leo had an old fashioned style duel, walking ten paces away from each other before turning and shooting! The weather brought a decent amount of new snow and the next best day to compete was going to be on Thursday, the last day of the weather window. We were able to ride some pretty great snow on Wednesday while we waited for weather to clear enough to inspect the venue. It was decided by the organizers that there was enough new snow to make Baser Negre safe to ride (previously deemed too sharky). We rode all morning and went for a riders meeting on the mountain at noon. There were still thick clouds covering then venue, so a group of us waited for clearing. While we waited, i decided to build a snowman and was joined by Audrey, Eva and Polo. These jokers quickly made the snowman transgender and a bit pornographic, our minds are in the gutter much of the time! We never got a great look at the venue that afternoon, but did see that the snow had warmed up quite a bit and the bottom to the venue was littered with roller balls from wet snow sloughs. The evening was spent preparing to compete and studying photos of the face. We were up early again to a beautiful clear morning! The plan was to run snowboard men first followed by snowboard women. We were getting a heli ride to the top! This allowed for a bit more time to inspect and we got to watch a couple of the men ride. Lucky for me, because watching a run helped to solidify my line choice and gave me more confidence it the snow quality! The heli ride to the top was amazing and the views of the Pyrenees Mountains from the top of Baser Negre are breathtaking! I didn't have to wait long before my turn to drop and i rode my line exactly to plan! It was fast and fluid with a few average sized air and a bit technical. I was happy to be the only woman to ride this side of the mountain that scored me a second place run! I enjoyed watching the rest of the competition, always amazed by the lines thrown down by the ski men and women! That night we celebrated our Andorra trip with another hotel dance party! I thoroughly enjoyed my Andorran adventure and loved all my experiences there and will be back! Thank you to the Hotel Coma for the incredible hospitality and the Freeride World Tour organizers for working so hard to put on a great event!
After the Chamonix event that resulted in no competition,
I traveled home to spend a week with my handsome husband Ryan and pup Lana, I worked a couple of days and rode some epic Utah powder. The trip home was short, and I was quite busy, but it was also very relaxing. Since there was no event in Chamonix, the plan was to have two competitions in Andorra to make up for the missed event. We were asked to arrive a day early in order to allow the best chance to have two events. I arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday afternoon, caught a ride with Anne-Flore to Ordino in Andorra, arriving at about 11:00 pm to the Hotel Coma. The next morning was inspection day with the first possible contest day Thursday. Up at Vallnord-Arcalis, the mountain hosting the events, it had rained near the bottom the day before and now it was stormy with incredibly high winds, closing most of the mountain and making venue inspection impossible. A few of us braved the only lift, a t-bar, to ride wind scoured ice with the occasional pocket of powder in extremely flat light. Despite the conditions we managed to find some fun. That evening we learned that the next day was confirmed for competition and we would inspect in the morning, with the venue still to be determined, and 3 possible choices, depending on snow conditions. We awoke to a beautiful, clear morning and headed to the mountain before sunrise, I was lucky to catch a ride with Jackie and Reine. We all waited in the lodge for the first riders meeting of the day and were told that the venue is still to be decided, with option one being Baser Negre, one of the faces ridden in 2015. Shortly after the meeting, we all geared up and headed to the chair. Luckily the winds had settled and it had snowed about 10 inches the night before, all of the athletes were treated to pre-public pow laps! The riding was incredible and I was happy to ride pow with Tom Burt while waiting for a venue decision. After a couple of runs we were informed that the Baser Negre was too wind scoured and sharky for a safe event and the venue from 2016 next to it was logistically too difficult. The venue decided upon was Smoothy's Garden, named after Sam Smoothy who had a mind boggling run there in 2015. The athletes gathered to inspect at the judges tent and we were informed the contest would start at noonish. Ski men were to start, followed by ski women, snowboard men and finishing with snowboard women. I was 3rd to the last to go and still had plenty of waiting for game time. I had difficulty deciding my line, for this event, I wanted good snow, but was also concerned about ice and sharks. I looked at line that I was excited about, but talked myself out of it due to it sitting in the sun all day, turns it out was the winning run by Anne-Flore and she rode it beautifully. I picked a line that I thought would be fun with good snow. I was able to watch the men skiers, and then headed to the start gate. It was a gorgeous day in the Pyrenees mountains and I didn't feel overly nervous. I rode the line that I chose and managed to "white room" myself above two of my airs, hurting my fluidity. I ended up in 5th place with a clean, but not very aggressive or technical run. I am not unhappy with my run, but feel that I sold myself short on my abilities and was determined to shake off the rust and ride stronger in the next event. After the awards ceremony at the finish line, it was announced that there was the possibility of holding a competition in the morning and that we should go to inspect the venue that was used in 2016 before the sun sets. I was exhausted and it was getting cold with the sun dipping behind the mountains. I went to the next possible venue to have a look with Reine and Jackie, but I was having a hard time focusing on inspection, being so tired and cold. I decided to wait and see what morning would bring.
I was reluctant to leave Salt Lake City and the fresh Utah powder knowing that there had been little snow in the Alps. Chamonix is a breathtakingly beautiful place even without snow and I arrived to the open arms of the many friends that I hadn't seen for quite some time! It felt great to be back and my excitement for the event started to build! We spent most of our time playing the waiting game while the organizers tried to find a competition face that had good snow, would be able to provide enough lines and that would be safe to ride. Our first day on the mountain started early with all of the riders meeting to have a memorial for Estelle and Matilda, it was beautiful to see this community bond and share their feelings for the loss of these amazing women. A flock of Alpine Chough made an appearance during the memorial, and local legend is that these magnificent birds are the spirits of mountaineers, I imagined Estelle and Matilda flying high amidst the flock. Afterwards I was honored to join Jackie Paaso, Reine Barkered, Hazel Birnbaum and Eva Walkner for some riding! I am lucky to have such awesome friends and they were patient to wait for the "Snowboarder". We had a lot of fun exploring the mountain, but we mostly found variable snow peppered with sharks. That evening we were informed that a potential face was found and that we would be doing a three hour tour into French national forest for face inspection. I was looking forward to this adventure, even though the snowboarders that didn't have splitboards had to rely on some pretty low end snowshoes to get us there. We started early near Le Morzay and Vallorcine north of Chamonix near the Swiss border. I caught a ride with Jackie, Reine and Eva and we were one of the first groups to arrive. We started our adventure by piling a large group of us into a shuttle van to get us a bit closer (a half mile maybe). I started the tour with the group, but was quickly left behind, since the skiers were much quicker on their touring gear. I enjoyed my solo walk in the woods, and appreciated the time for reflection, but had intermittent company as others caught up. The views on this tour were stunning, about 2 hours in we came upon the Chalet de Loriaz, and were welcomed by a lovely St. Bernard. This was a nice little oasis and one could stop for a coffee and lunch before continuing on. From the Chalet there was still quite the climb to be had, so I pressed on, excited to see that my group was just in front of me, since they had stopped for a break, but I had no hope of catching them of course, being on snowshoes. This section of the climb had a very long side hill approach and I started to develop "hot spots." This was concerning, I didn't want blisters. Luckily Lorraine Huber was worried for me and asked one of our guides if he could help. He had blister pads that saved the day! After my feet were all sorted I continued on and now had Christopher Galvin as a touring partner, we made it about halfway up the to the face viewpoint when we were stopped by one of the guides. Turns out it took the guides sent to ride the face 6 hours to get there and it was decided that it wasn't logistically possible to have a competition on this venue. Galvin and I happily walked over to a nice little line and rode a handful of powder turns before meeting everyone back at the chalet for lunch. I had a great day! Now we were in waiting mode again and the hope of having a contest in Chamonix was looking grim. Time was spent doing an avalanche safety workshop with ISTA (International Snow Training Academy), eating fabulous food, enjoying the parties provided by the tour, and seeing the sites. We were waiting for the final decision to be made and everyone was a bit hungover from the previous nights festivities and I was invited to join Jackie, Reine, Eva and Turtle to the top of the Aiguille du Midi, I felt fortunate to spend my last day in Chamonix with these wonderful people! That night the call was made to not compete in Chamonix due to lack of snow and no safe venue. The goal is to have two competitions in Andorra. The first stop of the tour was a bit anticlimactic without a contest, but I have to say I had a great time!
Thank you Chamonix!
We received a decent snowfall the last storm with 40 inches up at the resorts! Everything is coated in white and after an Indian summer it finally feels like winter. One of the things I truly enjoy doing to get moving in the winter is split boarding up Porter Fork with my adventurous pup Lana Kaneine! I think she might enjoy the snow more than I do! Here is a shot from today's outing.