Category Archives: Skiing

Still skiing!

The season really fizzled out in the Sierra, but I still had a great winter and progressed as a skier. Total stats to date – 121 days on snow, 70 at a resort and 51 backcountry, plus hoping to get at least one more on Shasta before the official end of the season. I threw a number of back flips and landed most of them to my feet though I would like more style and confidence. I passed my PSIA Level 3 Telemark Exam at the end of April in Mammoth, which I feel was a huge accomplishment. Despite the reputation of PSIA, the process has helped my skiing immensely and I am grateful to have “coaches” like Aaron Pearlman, Urmas Franosch, and Steve McDonald. Oh yeah… and I went skiing in Alaska!!! If what economist Malcolm Gladwell says is true and it takes 10,000 hours to truly become great at something, I’m not even halfway to becoming a great telemark skier. However, I can’t wait to see what the next 5,000+ hours bring (hopefully more snow and less carbon!).

Here are a few photos from my recent ski adventures in the Eastern Sierra.

The drop in to Solstice Couloir off Mt. Dana

Nicole had to drop in on one ski after accidentally dropping one down the couloir. Backcountry lessons.

My sister pointing at Solstice

Greg on his way out to Leavitt Peak


dropping into the Leavitt Y Couloir (Photo by Greg Marsden).

Fun turns in the Y Couloir off Leavitt Peak (Photo by Greg Marsden)

But the pull of summer in Lake Tahoe is strong…

Julie tearing up Tahoe in front of Mt. Tallac on May 12th!

Julie tearing up Tahoe in front of Mt. Tallac on May 12th!

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Pain McShlonkey 2013

Rachael Burks asked me to help her with the Pain McShlonkey while we were in Alaska and I was all in! If you haven’t heard of Shane McConkey, you don’t live in our world, the big mountain ski world. He was the most influential big mountain skier ever. Also, he was hilarous and never forgot that skiing was supposed to be fun. The Pain McShlonkey, or PMS, is held annually at Squaw Valley around the time of his death 4 years ago. It features a Chinese Downhill and an Extreme Small Mountain Competition – all competititers are on snow blades, snowlerblades, fruit boots, whatever you call them. It is an ode to Shane’s iconic character, Saucer Boy.

Shane McConkey as Saucer Boy


I decided to take it to another fruity level and mount my snow blades with telemark bindings. I was warned I should practice before the big event – actually, at least 2 people said to me “you’re going to die.” It wasn’t as hard as I thought, and I hope to get an entry of my own next year. Here is a video of my practice session.

The day of the event, we were nervous since our run required a lot of coordination. I mean, Rachael had a title to defend. We chose to reenact the Shane scene from Matchstick Productions’ Seven Sunny Days, which was a play on James Bond.

We had a chase, a rumble, and fireworks, but the audience didn’t quite get it, so we ended up in second to a deserving Lindsey Vonn, who came back from a knee injury to compete, complete with Tiger Woods in tow. It was a super fun event and I hope to be a full on competitor next year, and I also hope we made Shane proud.
Here is the video my friend Greg captured with his iPhone as well as some photos from the day of fun and here is a write up on the event from Powder Magazine.

The camel coming through the finish at the Chinese Downhill

The camel coming through the finish at the Chinese Downhill


The chase during the extreme small mountain comp with fireworks exploding

The chase during the extreme small mountain comp with fireworks exploding


Rach and I after our run. Gangster, per usual.

Rach and I after our run. Gangster, per usual.


A few of the PMS Winners from Small Mountain and Chinese Downhill

A few of the PMS Winners from Small Mountain and Chinese Downhill


No Can Do!

No Can Do!

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Filed under Fundraising, Skiing, Tahoe

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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Ultimate Potential

The past 12 days have shown me that our ultimate personal potential is as vast as the mountains of Alaska. More on that trip later. In the meantime, please check out my friend and mentor Lynsey Dyer‘s TED talk.

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Filed under Random rambling, Skiing

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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Filed under Backcountry Skiing, Random rambling, Skiing, Travel

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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Filed under Backcountry Skiing, Random rambling, Skiing, Tahoe

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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Fear

They say “do one thing every day that scares you.” Actually Eleanor Roosevelt said that. Jumping into Corner Pocket on Sunday scared me, but I did it any way and executed it perfectly. In powder, it would not have been an issue, but this was onto hard pack. The fear was good because it made me plan ahead.

Sending corner pocket to hard pack at Kirkwood, CA (Photo by Lauren Lindley)


Sports seem so straight forward – especially individual sports – train hard, get better. A real career is a lot less cut and dry. I’m 33 and still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. It can be incredibly frustrating. I’m going to try to heed the advice in this article. But wouldn’t it be nice if I could just train and get results? I think that’s why I used to like math, but I never liked math as much as sports.

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Filed under Random rambling, Skiing