October 26, 2012

Seasonal wrestling match

This morning was super cold after yesterday's storm.  Unsure as to what the real snow depth was  I ventured into the stars of the Alta sky. It felt good to skin in the silence. After rubbing several rocks and while exploring around in the blackness, the scene looked like winter and felt like it on my nose and cheeks, but not under my skis. Baldy's north face loomed like a lonely shadow to my right.  Upon reaching the top of Collins, I prayed that I wouldn't destroy my skis on the descent. 10-13" is not enough. It wasn't pretty as I hugged the summer access road. Making it into work by 730 AM, I had that unique feeling of the fingers un-thawing with a dull ache while I typed. It felt good. My picture shows the wrestling match between autumn and winter conditions. Autumn prevailed.

October 11, 2012

Local Heroes Ch.2 - JARED INOUYE

Jared after coming off Denali 2012
 I remember years ago looking at Bart Gillespie's blog and there was a picture of this guy I used to bump into at the local road racing cycling events.  The picture captivated me as I could immediately pinpoint where the photo was taken high in the Wasatch in the dead of winter. What made it more unique was the fact that he had skis coming out of his pack. Sometime thereafter a couple folks had told me about how this almost phantom of a man came up behind them one early powder filled morning and immediately and silently went by them and set a skinner nearly straight up the mountain. In just moments he vanished as the darkness fleets before the sun.  Jared Inouye, also known as the Salt Lake Samurai, held a mystical presence in my mind. It became apparent to me that he really is almost ghost like when he, Jason and Andy Dorais and I traversed the Timpanogos range in a day. To see him almost floating up the mountain with his ski crampons, while Andy and I post holed in rotten, not totally frozen crust was magical, albeit I was cursing each step of the way.

Jared is a true legend in the Wasatch mountains. His inner drive to push the sport of fast and light in the serious relief of these mountains inspires even the greatest of men and women back country travelers.  He is often a man of few words with a contagious smile and eyes that reflect as a mirror the many incredible things he has beheld. He is soft spoken and laughs when under pressure. Jared is not just one of the greatest ski mountaineering pioneers in our neck of the woods but has influenced people world wide with his talent and passion to further the cause of traveling lighter is not only smarter but more fun.  A father of four beautiful kids and married to a most supportive wife, he is the recipient of much love and encouragement at home and is surrounded by people that really understand him. Jared was reminded of his love for life, family and friends in April 2012 when he was swept off South Superior by an avalanche which literally rag dolled down the rocks and snow for 400 vertical feet. Although injured physically, Jared was extremely lucky and highly fortunate to have survived such an epic. This moment in his life will forever act as a reminder to him and his family of the risks associated with skiing in the back country.

His interest in the mountains, the beauty and adventure they hold started at a young age while living in Gunnison, Utah.  Each summer, Jared would work on his grandfather's farm which specialized in growing mountain grasses used to help minimize flood impacts which can occur due to wildfires. After work, he'd get on his Coyote RD mountain bike and pretend he was racing all over his town. While his father was a Boy Scout Master, he would bring along his inquisitive little boy while going to scout camps. One event in particular made an impact on this kid's life. The Klondike Derby, where scouts build a winter sled and sleep in Springbar tents with sub zero temperatures for one hell filled hour after the next, opened his eyes to the world of white. At the conclusion of the event,  each boy had the chance to ski down what seemed like an enormous hill and Jared was one of them.  His intrigue for wilderness survival and looking at skiing magazines captured his imagination. He soon became a gear sponge and focused on getting the latest and greatest gear at a very young age. Jared went on to say "I remember seeing in one of the magazines this perfectly straight skin track and being amazed at how a person did that." One of his first special memories of ski touring was when he was 13 or 14 years of age, using a pair of steel edged Fisher skis, Chouinard bindings (3 pin) and no skins, and climbed with a pack 3,000 vertical in a duck walk fashion to a cabin.  His track wasn't straight at all. How many 13 year olds do you know that would do this? His pursuit of matching his abilities to the innovation of gear each year has produced a man that knows exactly what to use and when to use it.
Jared coming off Summit of Grand Teton setting a fastest know time round trip
In 2003, Jared was finishing Law School at BYU and began with T1 boots and Hammerhead bindings to do his first set of interval training. He was fit and strong not just from skiing but also because of that fact that in the summer he was racing road bikes (reached Cat II level quickly I might add) and mountain bikes. This was the first year of the Wasatch Powderkeg and while he was gaining confidence he felt his skiing ability could not match the wilds of the high Wasatch Mountains, so he decided not to race. Little did he know that just one year later he would race in the recreation division and nearly win had it not been for a miss turn off course. He has been an avid supporter of the Powderkeg since and won the event flat out in 2010.  More often than not, Jared turned to skiing in the high mountains alone. Fortunately he met local mountain biking pro Bart Gillespie who shared his same go fast and far philosophy. His abilities quickened and he became one of only 8 folks selected from the United States to represent the country on the US SKIMO team in 2009 to race in France's renowned Pierra Menta which was on the World Cup circuit. The race is a five day stage race that averages 8,000 vertical feet per day and set in the incredible French Alps. Jared was amazed at the abilities held by the Europeans to climb and descend at incredible speeds. But what impressed the Samurai even more was the crowd of thousands of spectators all there to be part of the event and a large percentage of them were wearing lyrca and had skinny skis with light touring bindings. "It all made sense to me" he said.  The next year in Andorra, Jared represented the US at the World Ski Mountaineering Championship  and had an outstanding event in the vertical race. Today he is an ambassador for La Sportiva and sponsored by CAMP.

Jared's accomplishments in the mountains span not only distance but also time.  In 2011, Jared would reach a goal he held for many years. A goal that requires safe snow conditions, skill, endurance, mountain expertise and dose of risk taking. He, Jason Dorais and Andy Dorais would set the fastest known time up and down the Grand Teton in the winter and on skis.  In just 5 hours and 17 minutes they round tripped this spectacular mountain. His accomplishments go to Alaska, where just this past June he and his brother Aaron successfully reached the summit of Mt. McKinley and then skied it. Those of you reading this will likely have a feel for the seriousness of this success.  Perhaps the greatest accomplishment though is the inspiration he has shared with so many.  Jared tells me, "I struggle at times with my blog and wonder why I do it. I must say though that there is a special part of me that really gets satisfaction out of sharing those things I love with people around me." Jared has mentored and inspired many, the likes of which are pushing the sport with great exuberance.  Light and fast can be used to describe Jared, but so can patient and loving as he works each and every day at raising his family and inspiring them to reach their goals and foster a love for the mountains and nature.

Some day you too might be skinning up a slope and see something out of the corner of your eye coming near you. He might be wearing tight lycra pants, with a light weight pack, skinny skis and tiny boots. He will likely ask how you are and then quietly say, "mind if I pass?" A bit of advice, let him by.

By Chad Ambrose

October 4, 2012

Winter is nearing

As I recover from a recent surgery, all I can do for a couple weeks is live in the past. Below are some of my favorite pictures from winters past.

Andy Dorais- East Hourglass Couloir Nez Perce, Tetons

Jason Dorais Southwest Face, Broad Fork Twin Peaks
Andy Dorais descending the very steep East Face from the Summit of Middle Teton, Teton Range

Scott Wetzel  enjoying great snow on the Apron Lake Peak East Couloir

Sam Inouye near summit of North Thunder, Wasatch Mountains
Sloppy skis, a bike helmet and the Dike Pinnacle, Teton Range
Jason Dorais nearing the bottom of the Hypodermic Needle, Wasatch Mountains

Hip belay and the Northwest Couloir, Pfieferhorn- Courtesy Andy Dorais

Topping out of the Y Couloir- Courtesy Jason Dorais
Andy left, Jared Inouye, Jason, Main Summit Timpanogos

Sliver Couloir, Wasatch Mountains- Courtesy Jason Dorais

Jason Dorais, traversing the Timpanogos Range
A hulking cornice on Sunrise Peak, Wasatch Mountains

Andy Dorais, nearing Main Summit Timpanogos

This video shows one the better quality snow days last year at the tail end where we had some really nice fun mellow turns in Cardiac Bowl. It was more of a party as we cruised along one laughter filled run after another. Scott, Rick ,Justin and I.  Jeff, my brother did the editing of the video.   Winter is almost here!

Cardiac Bowl March 2012 from Chad Ambrose on Vimeo.

October 2, 2012


Chad hard at it setting course markers Wasatch Powderkeg 2012-Courtesy Chad Brackelsberg
The evening sun is now staring to lazily die out over Millicent peak. The winds are mellow and the last snowstorm was four days ago. At 8,000 feet, with a pack that was once filled with trail markers is now a bit lighter as a tired man rushes to his final review of a perfectly set finish line. The course is ready for the serious but friendly battle that will occur the next morning.  Chad Brackelsberg, 5 year running president of the 11 year standing Wasatch Powderkeg smiles with satisfaction as he gets into his rig with his faithful race and adventure partner Emily, who happens to also be his wife.

The Powderkeg is one of the country's most demanding ski mountaineering races. While driving down Big Cottonwood Canyon to the prerace meeting, he and Emily reflect on the thousands of hours they have spend this year. Some of their efforts included planning, obtaining underwriters, working with the venue of the race, snow studying every three weeks, race planning, marketing and course set up. This year's work all started less than 1 month after last year's race. Why do they do it, year after year? According to Chad, "it's seeing the community of back country skiers all coming together to compete. The winner could beat one of his/her best friends and the whole rest of the day they will hang out together and laugh."  He continues, "it is the smile at the finish line that makes it all worth it." Chad, no stranger to suffering, is the mastermind behind this epic event.

Today, while sitting in a local coffee shop, I was able to squeeze some fun facts out of this busy body and learn more about what his penetrating blue eyes experience in a year's time. Chad is a super thin man filled with smiles and consumed with living life to the its fullest. His aura of intensity is complimented by his genetle kindness that can be felt while spending time with him. 

At the age of 6, Chad's life was forever changed. He met the mountains for the first time while skiing at Big Sky Montana with his Mom and Dad.  His parents that day made an impression on their son that would be unalterable. Already a seasoned skier of 3 years, this young boy was enthralled with the size of these mountains when compared with his 300 vertical foot slopes back home on the plains of North Dakota. In 2002, Chad became a local to Utah, landing a job that allowed him immediate access to the wilds of the Wasatch Range. Today, Chad runs 100 mile endurance races, races mountain bikes and is most content in the high white peaks traveling on skis. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment physically was his very recent completion of the Leadman. One of just 124 folks to complete the Leadman in 10 years, Chad finds himself today recovering from the physical pain it dished out. A notoriously punishing event held in the high peaks of Colorado, the Leadman is made up of a 26 mile trail marathon, 50 mile trail run, 10K run, 100 mile mountain bike race and to cap it off the 100 mile mountain run. The last three distances are completed in just 8 days and all held above 10,000 feet in Leadville, Colorado.  Each step of the 100 mile run served to remind Chad of his mortality while causing his mind and crew to push him to the end. This is the kind of man behind the Wasatch Powderkeg.

In 2003, the Powderkeg was unveiled coincidentally upon his arrival to Utah. That year, Chad did his first Powderkeg diving into the steeps of its history. Eventually in 2008 when founders Andrew and Butch started to be pulled in other directions, Chad and Emily stepped in. In 2008, there were 102 racers and last year they had 160! Chad praises the many volunteers and the sponsors including Brighton Ski Resort, Scarpa, Voile and Outdoor Research. Combined these folks are key to making this event one of the most successful races of its kind in the country. They need more volunteers and Chad invites us to get engaged and help. The setting is cast among the beautiful Wasatch peaks with excellent March backcountry skiing. In 2004 and 2005 the Powderkeg was on the World Cup Ski Mountaineering circuit, while still open to anyone desiring to race and participate.

Chad ekes out more that 25 hours a week training in preparation for ultrarunning events, yielding fruits like sub 23 hour 100 mile trail races and pushing himself further each year.  His life and diet have been influenced by his days with Emily in the Himalayan range, trekking in the Everest and Annapurna Circuit regions. Both 8,000 meter peak districts. When asked what food he could live off, he easily responded, "Indian Food." Chad has learned a great deal during his years of mountain travel. He lives by the mantra "you can walk off something and go ski it later, as hard as it is to do at times." If he could ski anywhere locally it would be Coalpit. Chad has very few regrets in life but one is missing the last Grateful Dead concert in Chicago to which he had tickets but couldn't get away from life's many demands. Jerry died shortly thereafter.

As we look back on our turns in deep powder we see our own imprint of experience. Chad and Emily Brackelsberg have left two prominent, perfect tracks in the Wasatch Mountains, providing each of us that special opportunity in March to create and renew close friendships sharing sweat on two skis. We have Chad's parents to thank for that special day under Montana's big skies.

You can learn more about Chad and Emily by visiting their website: http://thebrackpack.com/
To learn more, sign up or volunteer for the Wasatch Powderkeg go to:

By Chad Ambrose-- ambroseut.blogspot.com