What is it Like to be Inside an Avalanche?

A skier with a camera filmed it. Fortunately, he made it out.

Chris Bilbao of Portland, Oregon was skiing in the Monashee Mountains in British Columbia when he was swept away by a small avalanche. Bilbao and one of his friends were wearing chest-harness cameras to capture their ski adventure.

When Bilbao finally came to a stop, his friend was able to snowboard down and help him.

No one was injured in the avalanche. I doubt the same can be said about his underwear.

Sliding Down the Slopes of Stowe

Mrs. Doug in the weather at the top of Mt. Mansfield

It was a tough first day at Stowe to be back to snowboarding. Boston was experiencing an early season blizzard. 200 miles northwest of Boston, Stowe was just getting the deep cold and heavy winds, with only light snow. Just enough snow to drop visibility to a few dozen feet, at best.

I have enough fleece, silks and outerwear to deal with the cold and was ready to deal with the conditions. Unfortunately, the winds were knocking around the chairlifts. That meant closed lifts and lifts on wind hold. If you could get on a lift, you were getting blasted by the wind, giving you a cold ride up. Monday was one of the worst weather days I’ve had riding a snowboard.

The weather turned better on Tuesday and back to bad on Wednesday. Cold and wind were the prevailing conditions. Thursday was a fantastic day, with warm temperatures and bright sunshine. It felt like March.

The trail conditions were mixed. Some trails had some thin, soft natural snow. Most had rock hard man-made snow. I managed to grab a run on Goat during the brief window it was open. We managed to hit Whirlaway just as the ski patrol was dropping the rope to open the run. Those runs were the highlights of our snowboarding week.

But we were back on the slopes mostly for the kids. They were old enough to start enjoying the snow slopes.

The Girl, showing off her 3 Ski report card

It was a tough day for the kids. The Boy was having his first snowboard lesson and The Girl was having her first ski lesson. They would go out for a few minutes, get pummeled by the wind, get cold and come back inside for hot cocoa. Needless to say, their skills did not increase much after the first day. Shortly after lunch, The Boy had the ski school call us. He was “tired of being an icicle.”

We had a great experience with Stowe’s new 3 Ski Adventure. It’s a full day program for 3-year old kids, separate from the bigger kids’ Adventure Center. The instructors and personnel in the center were very friendly and caring.

The Girl had a great time inside and out. We managed to sneak a few visits while she was riding the magic carpet and slipping down the slopes. It’s hard to expect too much from a 3-year old on skis. They barely have enough strength and coordination to put on their skis.

The 3 Ski Center realizes that it’s about the kids having a good time. That’s what we wanted. If The Girl had a good time, she would want to come back again. That means more snowboarding for me.

She had a good time. There was a hearty “See you tomorrow” for the instructors at the end of the day and she was excited to head off for ski school each morning. Her excitement may have been as much about her new pink helmet as it was for the skiing.

The Boy, strapping into his snowboard

The Boy was with the bigger kids in the Adventure Center. He wanted to try snowboarding. (Yeah!!) The Adventure Center is more chaotic, but the kids are big enough to deal with the larger room.

As with The Girl, we wanted The Boy to have a good time. We didn’t expect him to be carving up the slopes. We just wanted a good introduction to snowboarding. That’s what he got. The weather was tough, but he had a good time.

We picked him up early on the last day and dragged him up a chairlift with us. He was not ready for a bigger slope yet. He was barely making turns. But he was fearless and willing to take the inevitable falls that come with learning to snowboard.

Our trip to Stowe was a success. The kids had smiles on their faces. We had some great runs, so we had smiles on our faces.

360° Video of Snowboarding at Laax, Switzerland

The resort of Laax in Switzerland has created this fantastic 360 degree virtual reality snowboarding video.

You control the camera angle. At first, the camera is merely mounted on tripod, so you can take in the scenery and the grooming operation. It’s a nice lead in to the real action.

Then the camera is mounted on a skier as they head down the slopes you can rotate the view to take in the run, the mountain, and the scenery. (Based on the shadow and the tracks, it is a skier, not a snowboarder.)

Hit play, then can click and drag with your mouse to change the view. Or just use the arrow keys on your keyboard to pan around.

I found this cool video via Barry Ritholtz’s Big Picture: 360° Interactive Snowboard Video and White Lines.

Snowboarding Tuckerman Ravine

After years of thinking about it, we finally decided to snowboard Tuckerman Ravine.

We got lucky and turned out to be a beautiful April day, with a bluebird sky. It was downright balmy, especially in the bowl itself with all of the sunlight being reflected off the snow. But, the temperature dropped very quickly when the sun went down behind the ridge.

We hiked for several hours up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail to get to the bowl. We had a late start so we only managed to get in one snowboard. Several hours of hard work for one run.

It was worth it.

Reading the avalanche danger sign
Jeff and Connie, starting the hike up
Nattie and Connie, getting close to Tucks
Jeff and Connie, getting closer
Jeff and Connie, entering the bowl
Lunch rocks and the line of hikers climbing up the slope
Jeff and Connie strapping on their snowboards
Jeff riding down the Headwall
Yes, this guy chose to ski naked

Whistler and Blackcomb

A great few days at the Whistler resort.

That mountain is big. You can go from sunny at the top, down through clouds, snow, into ice and rain at the base. There is an unbelievable amount of terrain. There are wide open bowls up top, tree-lined causeways in the middle and easy terrain at the bottom.

From the top there is a rambling green trail that follows the ridges down to the Roundabout lift so less experienced skier can still enjoy the top of the mountain.

That’s just Whistler mountain. Blackcomb sits just next door and offers an equally excellent dollop of terrain.

For a lowlander like me, Whistler is at a much lower altitude that the mountains of Colorado. That means better endurance on the mountain and better sleeping at night.

Keystone

We spent our third day in Colorado at Keystone, after spending time at Breckenridge and Vail.

Keystone was the lesser of the three resorts. It consists of a several mountains in a row. The entrance is at the first mountain. Then you need to go up and down over the other mountains to get to the good stuff at the back of the resort.

The conditions were not very good that day because of a strong wind. It did leave some great conditions in the trees.

Pete, Dave, Steve, me and Jeff:

Jeff after a fall in the trees:

Jeff, me, Dave, Pete and Steve at the top of the Outback Bowl at Keystone:

Vail

After spending our first day in Colorado at Breckenridge, we decided to spend our second day at Vail. It was just a short drive down I-70.

At first, we were a little disappointed. Sure it was big. But it was mostly just wider trails than I was used to back east.

Then we followed the signs to the bowls.

That changed everything. Thousands of acres of wide open terrain.

Me, Dave and Jeff at the top of China Bowl:

Breckenridge

This was a boy’s trip out west.

Jeff, Dave, Pete, Steve and me.

Actually, it was my first time riding my snowboard on the big mountains. We rented a place in Breckenridge and spent out first day exploring the mountain.

We also spent a day at Vail and a day at Keystone.

The view from the place we were staying:

Jeff and me at the base of the mountain:

Me, grabbing some air:

1997 Colorado