Category Archives: Backcountry Skiing

Incredible Hulk Take 3

I’ve tried to ski the Incredible Hulk 3 times this season. The first time, it was -17 degrees F, and we simply went up the wrong drainage and ended up on the other side of it, but didn’t know it. The 2nd time, the couloir was firm, bordering on icy, and the people who had skied it the day before us did not help the conditions by sideslipping the whole thing. I was relieved when my touring partner and former King of the Hill champion Will B wanted to turn around too. Sometime early last week, I decided I was due for an ass kicking and so I rallied my friend Greg to head back to the Hulk. We started hiking around 9:30 AM Saturday on the dry trail out towards Barney Lake from Twin Lakes.

The hike in was sporty at times. Here is Greg crossing the beaver dams.


Greg is happy to be on snow with skis on the feet


The Incredible Hulk comes into view. Still no sign of it turning green. (Photo by Greg Marsden)


Greg making the stairway to heaven or something like that.


Grunting my way up the couloir… incredible photo by Greg Marsden! NO FILTER!


Smiling because he’s within steps of the top!


The view from the top was stunning and inspiring


The author getting into the wider portion of the chute. Photo by Greg Marsden


Opening it up more after the crux. Photo by Greg Marsden


The only reasonable pic I snapped of Greg! Poor photography skills today!


We got to open it up a bit after the couloir and ski out an additional 1,000 vertical feet or so and then it was back to walking.

A hop, skip, and a jump and back to the 2 mile trail out


By the time we reached the car, we were exhausted and ready to get out of our ski boots! The best part of skiing in the Eastern Sierras are the nearby hotsprings so we headed to Travertine Pools to soak and take in the sunset!

Sunset over the Sawtooths. What a place! Photo by Greg


Thanks to Greg for being such a great touring partner and capturing the moment with his photography skills! Hopefully the snow sticks around long enough for us to check off more lines this spring!

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Alaska! A Skier’s Dream

What do you do when you receive a voicemail message from Lynsey Dyer describing the opportunity to film for Pretty Faces in Alaska?

a) Think long and hard about it and then decide to keep building your savings account for a rainy day.
b) Think, that’s nice, but according to my Outlook Calender, I have some work obligations.
c) Do some spastic dance moves, try to hastily call her back, get her voicemail and go promptly online and buy a plane ticket.

If you chose c, right! Like every big mountain skier, it had always been a dream of mine to ski in Alaska – with the crew of Lynsey, Sandra Lahnsteiner, and Rachael Burks made it a dream squared. Arriving Saturday afternoon, I met up with Girdwood local Brooke Edwards since Lynsey, Rachael, and Sandra had arrived the night before and were already out filming. It was dumping in Girdwood so we decided to head up to Alyeska for some night skiing. It was surreal having flown in that afternoon and be shredding Alaska powder that same evening. We found the rest of the crew at the top of the tram for the last run of the night and had a memorable party shred on the way down. I could just feel the energy with this group in this place – it was like reconnecting with old friends even though I just met some of them.

The next day we headed out on a sled mission with our crew of local guides and skiers, our filmer Josh from JGS Concepts, and photographer Scott Dickerson. We didn’t expect to get much light that day, but in the afternoon, we started seeing pockets, so we headed up to ski a face that called to us. Being doubled up to the top proved to be somewhat challenging, but we made it as far as possible, bootpacked a little further, assessed the cornice as a group and decided where to drop in. I’m not sure what was scarier, dropping into my first Alaska line, skiing in front of 3 of my skiing idols, or doing it all in front of the camera, either way, I just decided to drop in first and rip turns down the face. I couldn’t see anything in the flat light and took a bit of a tumble right back onto my skis and kept skiing and had a good laugh at the bottom. Good to get that out of the way!

Sandra, the Austria, getting used to the sled

Sandra, the Austria, getting used to the sled


Rachael checking the line while the light goes in and out.

Rachael checking the line while the light goes in and out.


As we would learn during our trip, weather is the biggest challenge in Alaska. To ski bigger lines, we needed good light. Tales of blue skies sent us north to Hatchers Pass the next morning. En route, we picked up sleds generously donated by Alaska Mining Co for the week. I was lucky enough to get to drive one of these as we headed out to scope lines – pretty amazing to go from getting doubled, to riding Canadian style, to driving our own sleds in just a few days! We picked out a few lines but by the time we got to the top, the light was no longer good for filming, so we decided to preserve them for the following day. We then skied an amazing powder run, a few mini golf lines, and some fun little pillows – another warm up day, but we knew tomorrow was game on! We found a cheap hotel in Palmer and after a memorable night on the town, arrived early to ski the lines we had chosen the day before. One by one, we checked off the lines, sometimes we nailed them and sometimes we didn’t, but it was such a great day in the mountains, everyone was all smiles. We even had professional sledders Carly Davis and Jamie Hollis with us. It was so cool to come down from skiing your line and then look across the valley to see the sled girls sending it!
Hooray for blue skies at Hatchers

Hooray for blue skies at Hatchers


Tele turn into my first real Alaska line as strawberry and raspberry look on.

Tele turn into my first real Alaska line as strawberry and raspberry look on.


Sandy, aka raspberry, sending it!

Sandy, aka raspberry, sending it!


Rachael is pumped on her line and getting the PBR of the day.

Rachael is pumped on her line and getting the PBR of the day.


"Top of World"

“Top of World”

View from Top of the World including Denali and Foraker

View from Top of the World including Denali and Foraker


Back in Girdwood, it was still snowing! We shredded powder a few days at Alyeska, some for fun and some for film. The snow was amazing and we had fun popping off pillows and watching each other shred. We had a few weather days where we killed time shooting guns, “icing’ each other, and doing yoga – you know, girls stuff.

Just shredding around Alyeska (Photo by Josh Skoglund)


My first time shooting guns. I didn’t really know how to feel about it at this point! Scared!


The time flew by and it was Rachael’s last day and blue was in the forecast! We headed down to Cooper’s Landing with sleds to an area with various size lines in the same cirque. We all stomped our first line and celebrated at the bottom before heading back up to ski another line. Lynsey proceeded to ski a beautiful line down some spines, Sandy sent a spine about 30 feet, making it look effortless, and the day was capped off by Rachael sending a 40-50′ backflip off a spine feature! That fired everyone up and Lynsey exclaimed “Girls skiing is soooo boring!” and we all laughed and high fived and proceed to shred perfect Alaskan powder to the bottom of the slope.
Lynsey Dyer makes a perfect turn in perfect snow

Lynsey Dyer makes a perfect turn in perfect snow


This was my first winter trip to Alaska and my first filming trip ever. I’m not a well known skier and I don’t have a ton of sponsors. I’m 33, married, and have a full time job so most of my feelings during this trip were of incredible luck and gratitude. Still, we had ups and downs – we chased light and failed, we awoke early with detailed plans only to find the weather had changed, we dropped into lines that were not the lines we thought, our filmer injured his knee and wasn’t very mobile, we had to learn to trust our sled drivers and each other, and, even though we are women and talk more than average, we had to learn to communicate as a group. I couldn’t have been on a better first filming trip though – if I was scared at the top, it took a smile from Sandy, a pole tap from Lyns, or a few stoke-filled words from Rachael to help me momentary forget my fear, focus, and ski for fun all the way to the bottom. The best part was, that regardless of what happened that day, we’d have sore abs from laughing and creased cheeks from smiling. And we’re all better from it… we just can’t wait to go back. I think that is how everyone feels after skiing in Alaska.
A good omen on one of our last days

A good omen on one of our last days


Next time Alaska

Next time Alaska

Special thanks to Jeff, Adam, Chris, Collin, Josh, Cody, Matt, Scott, Cedric, Brett, Brooke, Mikey, Paul, Alyeska Ski Resort and everyone else who helped us along the way.

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Alaska Sneak Peak

I’ve been back from Alaska for about a week. I’m still sorting through photos and my thoughts, but mostly I’m resisting the urge to buy a diesel truck and some snow machines and head back for the rest of the season. Here is a beautiful photo Scott Dickerson took on one of our bluebird days.

Beautiful snow and light (Photo by Scott Dickerson)

And here is a helmet cam video of another one of our bluebird days.

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SheJumps into Tailgate Alaska!

Domi and I made this video for the SheJumps.org Tailgate Alaska contest. The winners get a trip for 2 up to Valdez, Alaska this spring!


Vote for us by going HERE!

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Staying Motivated

Getting after it despite the conditions – that’s been my goal for the past few weeks and it’s tough to adhere to it. It hasn’t snowed much in Tahoe since January 10th. I was lucky enough to take a quick trip to Utah and the Rubies and find some good snow, but I haven’t hit one of those epic powder days in over a month. So my friend Domi and I made a pact to ski something that is scary or hard once a week in spite of the conditions. Last week it was the Crescent Moon Couloir off Roundtop. We met at 6 am and rallied out there, booting up the chute around 8 and skiing surprisingly edgeable snow that sloughed as we descended the 40+ degree pitch. We felt better immediately – accomplished.

Looking down the Crescent Moon Couloir from 2/3rds way up


Domi looking excited (?) to drop into the line.


If you think you get after it, ski with Domi, she charges always. Even when she’s “taking it easy” she is scoping out cliffs and chutes to add excitement to her descent. She both scares the crap out of me and motivates me to be better. We’re making a video to enter in the SheJumps contest for an all expenses paid trip to Tailgate Alaska. Stay tuned for the video or if you’re a female and have a backcountry partner, start filming and apply yourself!

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Ruby Mountain Detour

Juliana and I took a little road trip to Utah to attend Outdoor Retailer thanks to our friends at Flylow and gather some information for our own potential business venture. In addition to attending the show and being visually overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of outdoor gear, we also did a bit of backcountry skiing in Utah. Like Tahoe, Utah hadn’t had considerable snow for at least 10 days, but decent conditions existed in the backcountry. We were grateful for the guidance of our friend Steve who is truly one of the most dedicated backcountry skiers I’ve ever met.

Juliana in front of Jaws, our first Utah backcountry run

Juliana in front of Jaws, our first Utah backcountry run

Sunday morning we woke up and actually saw the sun for the first time since we’d arrived in Salt Lake on Wednesday evening due to the inversion that had been keeping the city foggy and smoggy. Despite the potential for a snow storm to hit Utah Sunday afternoon, we decided to head back to Tahoe on Sunday after yoga and breakfast in Salt Lake City. The drive in the Salt Flats was harrowing. We saw multiple accidents and were relieved when we reached the Nevada border and the roads seemed dry. We stopped for some tea in Elko at the slowest Starbucks ever and hit the road again only to come to a halt 10 minutes west of our stop on I-80. We were stopped on the highway for 4 hours, unaware of the situation ahead, but aware that multiple ambulances, tow trucks, and police cars were making their way to the scene. It turns out there was a 6 car pile-up in the tunnel between Elko and Carlin and we had missed it by 15 minutes! Thank you slow Starbucks! Making the best of an unfortunate situation, I called my friend Sue who lives at the mouth of Lamoille Canyon to see if we could stay with her for the night. She graciously accepted and provided us with a fabulous breakfast the next morning and her snowmobile to head into the canyon for some skiing. The Ruby Mountains had received 10-16″ of new snow! Avalanche conditions were a bit sketchy, so we decided sticking to low angle slopes would be best. So Juliana and I headed down the canyon via snowmobile right from Sue’s house and had the most fun ever! We skinned and skied two runs once we reached the end of the road and headed back to Sue’s. It was tempting to stay for her trout dinner and hot tub with Ruby Mountain vistas, but it was time to return to Tahoe. Safe to say, we’ll be back!

Juliana skinning for turns in the Ruby Mountains

And enjoying the way down!

The author skiing Ambrosia in Lamoille Canyon

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Wow Part 2

I’m finally equipped to report on last week’s awesomeness. It started off by me throwing and mostly landing eight backflips on a kicker I built with fellow Kirkwood Freeride teammates Will B and Trout. The session made me feel strong and ready to throw them while freeskiing.

Then I had two great full days in the backcountry – one was home in Tahoe where we found powder nearly 10 days after the last storm.

Powder in the Desolation Wilderness

Powder in the Desolation Wilderness

The other was down in the Eastern Sierras where we finally figured out the lay of the land outside the Twin Lakes area and were able to find the Incredible Hulk. Conditions in the couloir were a bit firm for me to ski it as I had forgotten my whippet, but I’ll definitely return. All in all it was another beautiful day in the backcountry with great people.

The Incredible Hulk and one of its couloirs (Photo by Jeremy Martin)

On Monday morning I awoke to the amazing news that my team was the recipient of the 2013 Polartec Challenge Grant! Our proposed trip was to sail from Iceland to Greenland with an all female crew and ski first descents! We are extremely honored and have a lot of planning and preparation to do over the next few months!

So there you have it! Just four days will have me smiling for months to come!

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Eastside Exploration

Will, Juliana, and I forged a plan to head down to the Eastern Sierras near Bridgeport for the day to ski a bigger line and just escape the Tahoe Basin and explore a new place. As we made the scenic drive down to Bridgeport, the temperatures fluctuated between really cold and extremely cold with the lowest temperature at -17 degrees.

Approaching Bridgeport. Yep, it's cold.

Approaching Bridgeport. Yep, it’s cold.


We parked at the end of the road closest to our objective and saw one other car filled with Bridgeport locals heading out for a ski themselves.

“Grandmothers on the run.” Bridgeport locals know how to have a good time.

Starting our hike around 9:15 am, we weren’t quite sure how to reach the Northern couloirs of Mt. Walt, our days objective, so we just started hiking, hoping to get high enough for an open view. We probably climbed an extra 1200′ or so, but we were happy to get a tour of an area that we were unfamiliar with and Juliana and I even got to make some fun turns before putting our skins back on and starting the real climb.

Will skinning up the extra nob with Twin Lakes in the background


Back on track. Will puts in the track up to Mt. Walt's couloirs

Back on track. Will puts in the track up to Mt. Walt’s couloirs


After that detour and a bunch of trail breaking, we approached the base of the couloirs a little before 2pm and they were both in the shade. The low temperatures were nearly unbearable in the shade and the snow looked to be wind affected. Our main objective was also not quite filled in. So we decided to keep it mellow and stay in the sun as we crested the ridge. Stellar views greeted us and gave us more ski objectives.

Couloirs looked cold and wind affected, so we opted to stay in the sun and take in the beauty.


Will taking it in!


And then dropping in.


The skiing turned from good to great as we descended – the highlight being a steep north-facing sheltered slope that was just perfect. We made first tracks down the slopes and tried to find a better way in on ski out, skiing right to our cars through some dense trees. At the car we congratulated each other on a successful day in the mountains – we stayed safe, warm, skied great snow, and learned a lot about the area. A backcountry skiing trip to the Eastern Sierras is never complete without a stop at the hotsprings! So despite the single digit temperatures, we hit up the travertine pools just in time for sunset.

Will and Juliana enjoying the soothing springs and the stellar views.


Great day and I can’t wait to get back there!

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It was worth it!

Clear and cold conditions have made the skiing in Tahoe awesome. I’m not alone in thinking this season has completely made up for last season. I can’t remember it being this cold in Tahoe for this long and am hearing that from longtime locals as well.

Dawn at Elephants Back (Photo by Will B)

Pow turns days after the storm (Photo by Lauren Lindley)

Pow turns days after the storm (Photo by Lauren Lindley)

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Incredible Start to the Winter

It has been snowing a lot for December. In fact, it was announced that it was the 2nd snowiest December on record for Tahoe! It’s also been staying cold, keeping the snow in great condition. The backcountry was somewhat unstable for a while, but things seem to be calming down now and the Sierra Avalanche Center has downgraded the avalanche danger to low. I was a bit too busy skiing to document things, but here are a few photos I snapped and a quick video of one of our runs from the top of Heavenly down to Gardnerville.

Storm day skiing at Heavenly


Dropping into Kirkwood on a Christmas Eve bluebird powder day


Will B sending Kodak at Kirkwood Mountain


Stellar run down Flagpole Peak


Skiing up the ridge to access fresh powder (Photo by Patrick Kelly)


One last run to the valley


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