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

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