Monday, December 15, 2014

Cross Country Skiing: A Legit Mountain Sport

When you think of big mountain sports, words like “shred,” “carve,” “adrenaline,” or “danger” may come to mind. When you think of cross country skiing, those terms may rest somewhere closer to the spectrum of “shuffle,” “slow” and, maybe, “snacks.” To many people, cross country skiing represents the Abilene paradox of winter sports, where their best memories include forced family fun surrounding rented gear, stressed out parents and whining toddlers. If those were my only memories of cross-country skiing (from here on out to be referred to as ‘skiing’), I wouldn’t consider it a legit mountain sport, either. Then again, if my experience were limited to the bunny hill on the mountain, I may not have so much respect for my edges. Skiing maintains the same philosophical tenets of all big mountain sports: challenge yourself, seek out the best places in the world, and work to conserve them. As a skier, you’re given the tools to go farther into the wilderness than most, but you have to be willing to brave some pain to get there. Just like climbing, skiing is about examining your terrain and working with it, rather than against it, to reach greater heights. The only way you can do that is to adjust your body to ride the hills like a melody on a staff. In skiing, you go both up and down. When you go up, there’s a gleeful burn, one accompanied by views and solitude. When you go down, you rip. Without edges. Additionally, skiing produces a strange breed of person, one people may recognize in their ultrrunning or mountain biking friends: Energetic, thoughtful and a little masochistic, skiers thrive on finding or creating the hardest courses. We get high off of the thought of hairpin turns, steep inclines and blasting down hills, practicing our agility and quickness all summer on pavement in preparation. We chase snow all year, too, a hunt that, as of late, has become more and more exhausting. Unlike major resorts or tourist traps, the best courses have neither the funding nor the accessibility of snow making, making our efforts and love just as dependent on nature as those of a devoted backcountry skier. And thus we face the same crossroads as many other big mountains sports: the desire to share and grow our sport, mixed with that to conserve our tradition and the environment. As the climate changes, our playgrounds shrink to three-minute loops packed with bodies trying to train well enough to go farther, if and when the snow does come. We want as many people as possible to experience what we do on the mountain, and yet, it’s still our best-kept secret. And that’s what makes ours a legit mountain sport. We’re all about silent moments in the woods, the ones you take at the top of a hill or at a mountainside lookout. We love those just as much as the pressure filled moments cresting a hill or stepping a turn, where time slows down and all you hear is your heart beat, all you feel is your breath. Those moments belong in the mountains, they’re worth chasing and preserving, and define the life of a mountain athlete. Of a skier.

Annie Pokorny is a professional skier with the Stratton / T2 Elite team and a Julbo athlete. A member of last year's U23 World Championship team, her results include a top five finish at U.S. Nationals. See more of her writing and thoughts on adventure at her website.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Julbo Athletes: David Steele

Sport: Skiing. Touring, mountaineering, moguls, terrain park—it’s all fun. 
Nicknames: For a long time, I’ve wondered what makes someone call me either Dave or David. I couldn’t care less, and some friends are adamant on one or the other, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it. At least as far as I can tell. Steelie happens sometimes. 
What about your sport inspires you? Whether it’s the bunny hill or a snowy arete after a long approach, skiing comes in so many forms. It’s wonderful that people can enjoy it in the way the best suits them,but that they all know the same basic activity of sliding down on snow. There’s community and connection there. 
Name one of your goals?  I want to actively spend more time with the beginners in my life. Plenty of experienced people have shown me the ropes and helped me get to where I’m at—and I want to pass that on. Whether it be a casual mention that someone wants to go rock climbing, or they just need some advice to get started in avalanche terrain, I’d like to help my friends and acquaintances get more into the things they’re interested in. 
What's coming up next? After two weeks of wet feet and trad climbing in the UK, I’m really looking forward to ski touring at home. There’s this thing called winter that just started. 
Which of the above are you looking forward to the most? Getting out in the quiet, snowy pines on a pair of skis. 
What do you do when you aren't climbing? Running has become a great way to keep in shape or clear my head when I’m having an office day. Rock climbing, indoors during the winter, does some of the same but is more strength oriented. I read a bit. My degree is in writing poetry, so I try to keep that churning. Lately, I’ve been making curry, to mixed results. There’s a ton of time on the computer too. All these trips and ideas and plans have to be organized, carried out, and then processed to make things, be it an article or edit. That eats up lots of time. 
Why Julbo? Simple: I need sunglasses and goggles that work really well for both glacier travel and for powder touring. Nobody else has pushed those categories as far, or done as much with photochromic lenses.
Julbos that you currently own? Explorer, Cobalt, Universe
What are your go-to Julbos? My Cobalts. Comfy, simple, great for driving or something active. 
Motto: Go up. Go down. Go again. 
Favorite foods:  Veggie lasagna, hot sandwiches, pizza, milk chocolate. Any type of carb with cheese. No meat or fish though. 
Vice: My favorite foods. Drinking milk straight out of a shared jug. Aero bars, when I can find them. 
Other sponsors: Mountain Equipment, ON3P Skis, Hammer Nutrition, Point6, Klymit, Forsake, Bern

Sounds of the season from David Powder Steele on Vimeo.

Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Reasons to Be Fired Up for the Coming Winter

As a mountain-focused brand, winter is the one season per year when the conditions common above treeline descend down for the rest of the world to enjoy. We're gearing up for a big season. Here's why:

5. Still More Glen Sessions- Look past the mohawk. Skip over the part where Glen set the standard for an entire generation of freeskiers. We're stoked for winter because it's another chance to ski with a guy that really gets it. A guy who seeks out the depth of skiing in the scene that isn't merely the flavor of the month. Glen loves mountains, the culture of ski mountaineering, the history of the sport and the beauty of what's to come. Another winter means another season to get stoked with a guy who can't keep down.

4. Big Adventures- From our position as eyewear sponsor for events like the Bozeman Ice Fest to the Instagram love that happens every day, we have a front row seat to big movement in big parts of the world. Winter is an unwritten white page waiting for ice axe scribbbles, ski turn drawings and high peak imprints.

3. Absurdity -  Life begs a laugh. This outdoor movement, chasing down the feelings of riding big lines or sending hard climbs is punctuated by long drives, punchy overnights, late afternoon coffee runs and endless packing and repacking. Whether its catching a glimpse of Julbo worn as an outdoor costume or staying in good spirits in the face of an injury, winter is a season that requires little more levity.

2. Seeing more - The Universe Goggle with the Snow Tiger lens represents the sharpest tool in a winter skier's arsenal. Photochromic. Glare resistant. Wide field of vision. We've been told by pro athletes, ski patrol professionals and die-hard backcountry powder chasers that this is the most advanced goggle ever.

1. Heritage on heritage. To get nostalgic, you have to first make history. The re-release of our ski inspired heritage models are another chance to go bigger, chase more history, mountains and movement. In 25 years, the re-release of these re-releases will inspire a whole new collection of memories that we will make in the immediate months to come. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Liz Daley

We were saddened to hear of the sudden death of Liz Daley on Monday in an avalanche in Argentina. As an athlete, Liz was the real deal, a lovely person with a drive for the mountains and a huge smile for all that knew her. We're reposting a few past blogs highlighting Liz as a way of celebrating her. Our hearts go out to her family and friends:

Q&A With Liz from September 2013

EpicTV Gear Geek: Jones Splitboard and Karakoram Binders with Liz Daley from EpicTVAdventure on Vimeo.

Splitboard Magazine / Liz Daley, Big Mountain Rider from Splitboard Magazine on Vimeo.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Name: David Steele

Hometown: Kalispell, Montana

Spirit Animal: I find myself wanting to be a wolverine, but the truth is that I’m not that fast, so it’s probably a mountain goat. You can’t project your wishes when choosing a spirit animal, because it’s an honest reflection—not what you want to be. 

What are you all about? How'd you find yourself so deep in ski mountaineering?

Anytime you can best your own expectations or safely push your boundaries, in whatever arena, you have to re-estimate yourself. In the mountains, I constantly find that I can go a little further and do a little more than what I thought—and if my own estimation is wrong, then what else could I do? That feels like freedom to me. 

There’s so many facets to the mountain life. So many things to learn. Snowpack analysis, placing protection, route selection—it’s a really deep vein to mine. Ski mountaineering offers all the joys of winter camping and faster access without the walking back downhill. 

"Skinning with Bear Spray" is your blog. Do you actually skin with bear spray? Any chance encounters?

The shoulder seasons in Montana are always bizarre. As early as mid-April, a day can start on a dry trail, transition through frozen corn, and then find boot deep wind buff up high. Fall brings high snows that take a few miles of walking before you can put on your ski boots. The bears are still out, so I end up skinning with bear spray, which felt strange enough to name a blog after the experience. 

Once, some guests at a backcountry hotel saw a bear pass perhaps fifteen feet behind me on a trail while I was walking the other direction. Didn’t even see it, and when I came back, they told me the story with dinner plate eyes. But it’s important to remember that the places I like to play are their home. I’m just a visitor. 

Best adventures of last season?

Oh geeze. So many things to improve on. I think one of the best was skiing the south face of Mt. Stimson . Rampant creek crossings, a finicky stove, and huge vert made for a pretty epic time. I went out for some alpine rock this summer, and that was a super neat thing to get into. 

Plans for adventures this season?

I’ll be headed to the UK for a few weeks in November, and I’m excited to explore around there. Hoping to do a lot more snow camping once winter kicks into action here at home, and we’re working on some hut trips here in Montana and the Rogers Pass area. Skiing Rainier is high on my list for the spring, amongst some other objectives. 

You reached out to Julbo- what prompted your interest?

It’s simple: Julbo makes great sunglasses as well as goggles, and I need both for the terrain I frequent. They’ve taken photochromic lenses further than anyone else I’ve seen. This yields a real difference when skiing or climbing in variable weather. Also, it’s really nice to work with a company that’s so rooted in the mountain world. There’s a focus on things that really work well and look good, and those priorities align with my own. 

Anything else to add?

It’s an honor to be on the team.

I came to get down--David Steele Season 2014 from David Powder Steele on Vimeo.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Caroline Ware George takes on Colton-Macintyre

Could you give a little background on your life for readers (like me) who might not be familiar? Who are you? What do you do?

I am an IFMGA certified guide, alpinist and mother of a little Olivia (2.5 years old). I am Swiss, French and American and currently reside in Chamonix, France. I started climbin
at a young age with my parents but didn’t take to it until later in life. Then, it became my life. I competed in ice climbing world cup event in the early 2000s. Then turned to the bigger alpine climbs, completing the 3 great north faces of the Alps (Eiger,Matterhorn, Grandes Jorasses) in a few months in 2003. Ice climbing is a medium I love, whether on big alpine faces or pure ice climbs. I have put up new ice climbing routes in Canada, Norway and Iceland and love to travel for ice climbing. I guide in the Alps mostly, but have guided in the US and in Antarctica as well. In 2012, my little girl Olivia came into our lives, making me a way better person :-)


This is a stout route. Can you talk about the prep leading up to it and the trip itself? What was the experience like? Did the weather cooperate? Any harrowing moments?

There was no prep. Basically, I saw on Facebook it was in condition, but since I had climbed the Walker Spur, I didn’t think I would ever want to climb this north face again. Yet, my friend Nicole Berthod-Grange sent me a message asking: “huh, by any chance, any interest on the Colton-Macintyre?” My inlaws were in town for a month to help with Olivia, so I had time to go, the weather was perfect, there was availability at the hut, so I said yes - kind of like it was meant to happen. We talked briefly on the phone to sort out the gear and met in Chamonix ready to go. We debated taking bivouac gear, and opted to take it… just in case. I suggested to my husband (he had already done the route so wasn’t frustrated not to go) to take his parents for pizza in Italy and simultaneously drop a car off. So that way we could drive home at night. So it all really just happened at the last minute, which is always better as there is no time to stress about what’s coming. Right before leaving, I read a things about the route and said: “wow, it looks actually hard!”. So off we went. The Leschaux hut was quite busy. The hut keeper has a Facebook page for the hut and posts condition updates, which in turn attracts people to come. And sure enough, it was busy and a lot of people were going for the route. Which is always a bit unnerving on an ice route. We woke up atmidnight, had a quick breakfast and headed down the ladders below the hut to access the glacier. The bergschrund was impressive and offered a very steep ice pitch. A good way to wake up in the morning. We then climbed another bergschrund and after that, up the small runnel to get to the 400m ice face, we were getting hit by ice. Since I haven’t done many north faces since I’ve had Olivia, other than Beyond Good and Evil, it was hard for me not to think of Olivia and what I was doing here. We briefly talked about going down but I led on up the 400m ice slope to the base of the difficulties, where the ice fall somehow didn’t seem as bad. From hereon out, the route was a mix of steep ice and more moderate ice fields. The crux was a 60m long pitch covering a vertical slab, offering a mix of unconsolidated snow and ice. I couldn’t find many, if any, descent screw placement. It was quite heady and run out, finishing on consolidated sugary snow to overcome the ice bulge. But at least the anchor was on good ice. 250m of snow and ice led us to the base of the headwall. There, you can either head way left to the Walker spur, or climb a beautiful mixed line called Extreme Dream (VI 6, 1200m) that takes you to the Walker Spur as well, by climbing 4 thin mixed pitches. We then made quick work of the last 130m to the top of the Walker Spur. I had bad enough memories of the descent from when I had done it in 2003 that I was not looking forward to doing this descent again. 2003 had been a really dry year so conditions were very different from what we encountered on the descent this time. We made good enough time that we decided to descend all the way back down to the car that awaited us in Planpincieux, Italy. The previous day, Adam had kindly taken his parents to have pizza in Italy and dropped off my car there for us to have if we arrived after bus hours. 


You organize your life around adventures in the mountains. Can you talk a little about that, the ways you make family / life / mountaineering work in balance?

That is a constant challenge. It’s not as easy as I had predicted it would be. Living amongst the mountains makes it easier to get something done almost on a daily basis. But sometimes, that can be hard too because as a parent, you can’t just pick up and go when conditions are perfect and the weather is perfect. But Adam’s parents have come twice a year to help out for 2week to a month and that makes it possible to get out and climb longer and bigger routes. My parents were climbers too, so they are very understanding and if I really want to go do something, they are more than happy to watch Olivia for me. But the biggest difference from being a parent to not being a parent is spontaneity. “Pick up and go” is an expression that disappears all together from your daily life. So it takes a little more planning and flexibility. That said, we have a great day care system here in France, so we can get a lot done just between those hours. Parenthood teaches you also to reach out to others for help. When there is a will, there is a way.  For me though, the crux is the guilt I feel when I go take risks for my own pleasure now that I am a mom. It can be hard to justify. But as a friend just said to me: accidents usually happen on easy terrain. which is usually true. And driving a car is dangerous and we accept that risk. Biking down a road a full speed and have very high consequences and yet, that is acceptable. But somehow, taking risks in the mountains is socially perceived as reckless. What I learnt from this last climb though is that it is important to decide to do something and to do it well, to focus on the task at hand and not let your mind wander to what could be or what people may think because accidents often happen when your mind is not on the task at hand. Being in the present, focusing on what you are doing right here, right now, and knowing you’re doing the best you can (as an alpinist, as a parent), is what matters the most. Climbing is part of who I am and I need that for my balance and being balanced makes me a good parent. But also I am mountain guide, I need to stay in shape and on top of my game to be a good guide, so I train accordingly as well. Balancing it all out can be challenging, so this summer, I took on a little less work to feel more rested to climb more for myself and to be more available for Olivia. I have accepted that I can’t do it all without paying the price somehow and I am ok with that. 

Any other big routes or other mountain adventures planned for 2014?

We are in the midst of planning our Fall. But much like with the Grandes Jorasses, I like things to just happen instead of planning them too much because then, it creates frustration and disappointment. There are a few other routes I would like to do, so hopefully the stars will align, like they did this week. 

Julbo related question - favorite product? 
           For the mountains, the Monte Rossa. For lifestyle, the Kaiser or the Bora Bora.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Running on Columbian Time: Josh Ferenc

Josh Ference is a Julbo sponsored mountain runner from Vermont. This month the high energy runner took on competition in the wilds of Columbia racing up an active Volcano. We've collected his vides, posts and thoughts here from his impressive run and this #mountainvision adventure. Watch the build up and strong finish (2nd overall!)for Josh at the Ultra Trail Parque Los Nevados, a 41 mile race in Manizales, Columbia: