Mikaela Shiffrin is officially the G.O.A.T.!
Today in a slalom race in Åre, Sweden, she won her 87th world cup race, making her the winningnest alpine skier of all time.
She is rad.
We are two English majors who are lifelong skiers.
Mikaela Shiffrin is officially the G.O.A.T.!
Today in a slalom race in Åre, Sweden, she won her 87th world cup race, making her the winningnest alpine skier of all time.
She is rad.
By Eino Holm
Unofficial Networks, aka the Bestest Ski Blog Site in the Whole Woild, has a thumbtacked post, or whatever, on their blog currently. Something about a hajj or, like, what y'alls is sposeta do as major skier broskis. It's funny. Like, who are you to tell ME what to do, Matt?! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!?!?! I AM THE BEST SKIER ON THE MOUNTAIN.
Anyway, what makes me laugh about all of these listicles, along with the twin facts that some jackass made up a cutesy and annoying term for them and that they still somehow exist, is the confidence with which folks post them. #1 is Corbet's, natch, cos, y'know, intermediate-skier folks should book a trip, waste thousands, just to stare down into a very steep, incredibly challenging chute with a SORRY I KNOW IT'S A COOOL-WAHR mandatory air and realise they were lied to. That skiing just isn't that easy, and that maybe, just maybe, some
dud dude on the internet isn't really all that knowledgeable.
The list continues, with some random chair out east, a junk show in Tahoe, my least favourite ski area in Utah, and Alyeska. Honourable Mention is Baker, which, well, maybe? But also maybe not, for the same reasons as Corbet's. Baker can kill you. (More so than most places can, not like when somebody does a routine crash and happens into a tree, which can happen anywhere, but like when a person makes a misguided but innocent left at the bottom of the Chair 5 side of Hemispheres and falls off a 200 footer and isn't seen until August.) Let's be honest. Most of us just want to ski. I can speak for precisely nobody else, but since everybody does, I'll try anyway: if I'm spending money, it's not to ride a chair folks claim is from the 40s (spoiler: it has been updated to the point where it's real dern challenging to claim it's older than my father) or to get all confused when tryna figure out Olympic Valley's crazy Spaghetti Bowl of chairs and trams and--wut?!?!--funitels and base areas and mid-mountain lodges just to get hosed by another northeast Pacific cyclone that comes in hot, but just a wee bit too far north and closes all the legit terrain with some righteous Pineapple Expressery. If I'm spending money to ski, especially if it's at the end of a hajj, it ain't gonna be shit people do all the time.
Here's my top 10, cos I'm too cool for just 5, with a predictable-for-me amount of uncertainty and unwillingness to say one is better than another:
- Shasta. Seriously. Squallywood is just up I-80 from SF, and there's like lots of houses rich folk use at least 10 days a year and there's like a lake and lots of fancy lights over on the Nevada side and basically Palisades is fine if you are looking to fulfill someone else's dream, but let's be honest: you are not Shane, and you are not Ingrid, and you are not Jonny. Neither am I. Save yer money, and Drive North. (Your choice, John Hiatt or Suzy Boguss.) Mt Shasta City is funky, weird, cool, foreign, dirty, in the trees, and, simply, not annoying like Tahoe. Tahoe would be rad without, well, being Tahoe. Plus, there's Pinus attenuata and Abies x shastensis on them hills. Weird is better, believe me. Also, too, as well, you just might be the best skier on the mountain, and you absolutely will not be on KT. And did you hear they built a new chair and people think it's hard to access cos you have to--gasp--ski there? Seriously. You should read the Instagram comments. "BUILD ME A BUS OUT OF A SNOWCAT AND PUT CARPET ON THE FLOOR AND A FEATHER BED SO I CAN GO SKI GREY BUTTE." "I WANT A TOW ON A SLED BUT LIKE, WITH EXTRA SPECIAL SNOW PROTECTION AND MAYBE A GLASS OF PORT AND A DOG TO CUDDLE WITH COS I WANNA SKI GREY BUTTE." It's funny, but I don't get it. Last time I was there, one simply ducked off the back side of Coyote and skied fall line to the bottom of the butte, where the chair is now. Hm.
- Woof Crick. I mean, how, Matt, did you miss Col-o-RAD-o?!?!?!? Everybody knows, when you list skiing, Colorado is number 1. And, natch, Woof Crick isn't in one of your fancy multiverses or even part of the Colorado ski area exchange. One of the chairs is called Treasure Stoke, and aren't all skiers all about the stoke? Seriously, though, Woof Crick isn't near anything. CW McCall aside, nobody outside knows where Woof Crick Pass even is, even, and outside of ski mag nostalgists and nerds nobody cares if there's skiing outside of Telluride or Aaahspen or Vail or Summit or Steamboat. Or Winter Park. (Okay, so, CO is pretty well-known.) Anyway, to get to Woof Crick, if you are the jetsetting type, you gotta fly into Farmington
UT NM (KFMN) and start asking for rides. If you just think "it's in Colorado" and book a seat in a giant wingèd tube bound for Stapleton, you'll then be looking through the rental catalogues hoping for an Escalade with good gas mileage, cos it's a loooong damn way to the other side of the hill. Hence, hajj. You go through places like the real South Park, Gunbarrel Station, Saguache (important cos you probly can't say it correctly), and Poncha Springs. You'll cross the Rubicon Rio Grande, be humming Woof Crick Pass, way up on the Great Divide, truckin on down the other side, except that you don't hafta truckin on down the other side cos Woof Crick is right there on the pass. You'll get confused again cos, of course, you'll think you're in Canada.
- Bormio. (Seriously, Matt, how did you not Europa?) It's near the Stelvio, and, like der Schweiz, and Österreich, and when you can fly into Milano, flounder about like a tourist, try to find a Stelvio to drive up way into the Ortlers on a road called STRADA DEL PASSO DELLO STELVIO HOW COOL IS THAT. Anyway, I got lost. Just go. It takes forever, and people do pilgrimages, like the real kind, through Italia all the time. You heard it here first.
- Okay, I'll admit it, Mad River Glen (MRG) is cooler than most places. I'd like to go there. There's probly at least a little bit of pilgrimage-type travel involved. Still, if I gotta go all that way, the first place in Vermont I'm skiing is Owl's Head, QC. I mean, it's named after a dude called Owl. And it's in Canada. That's like, if you're going to Vermont, but you forgot and just kept going and then some Sirens called out and you took the boat into shore, and then you woke up from your dream and found some real nice poutine and hopefully a Trois Pistoles. Seriously. Also, I've seen pictures of the view from that place. And it's next to Lake Memphremagog, which is a pilgrimage just saying it and also, it's kinda like Gog and Magog, and that's all sorta connotations right there.
- Bigrock, Maine. It's way up there. A long way from anywhere except the NWS office in Caribou. I think you can see Canadia from the top of the big Mueller double. I know, I know, you can see Cannuckistan from lots of ski areas, like Baker, Bromont, Mont Bechervaise, Whistler, Lake Louise, Mount Saint Louis Moonstoone, Stoneham, et al. But those places are all IN Canada. Just ask the locals.
- Lofoten. Just go. Seriously. Stop arguing with me. Say hi to my family, too, if there are any of us left in Skutvik. Skutvik's across the water, but there's a ferry. My grandma's cousin Bodvar painted there, and, probly not coincidentally, that part of my family is the Skutvik part. Like, that's literally our name. If you don't believe me, then you can take a flying f
- Manning Park. Before you ask "where's Manning Park?" just listen. YOU CAN SEE HOZOMEEN FROM THERE AND THAT'S LIKE JACK FRICKIN KEROUAC AND SHIT AND GOOOOOOGLE MERTH SAYS IT'S 42,753 FEET AS THE RAVEN FLIES (seriously, why do we care how the crow flies when ravens are so much cooler?!) WHICH IS LIKE, I DON'T KNOW, SOME MILES.* AND, since we're talking about long
walks drives, Manning Park is a Wet Side ski joint on the Dry side of the Cascades. Think about THAT. I bet you didn't even know there were Cascades in Canadia. It's a bit of a drive, 160k from Abby, and is in the Similkameen drainage, which drains to the east and is like, International and stuff. Also a cool name. And even though this beautiful Murray-Latta is no more, the views are unstoppable. Did I mention Keraouc?
- Discovery, Montana. It's in the middle of nowhere. It's the biggest joint in the country without a detach. If it isn't, I don't care, it still is in my mind.
- Cannon. I mean, the name, the history, the tram (I hate trams, but I'd get over myself), Lahout's, bad weather, big mountains, the funky layout, trees, cold, rain, rime, it's got all the things. It's so far north, if it were in Washington it'd be in Coburg, OR, just north of Eugene. It's between two places with such storied names as Bethlehem and Woodstock. I mean, neither is the real one, but that's okay. Also, interestingly, the western portion of Cannon is Mittersill, Blizzard is listed as their official ski, and wouldn't you know it, BLIZZARD'S FACTORY IS IN MITTERSILL, ÖSTERREICH HOLY SHIT MIND BLOWN.
Just kidding, I know it's not Stapleton. It's the new Illuminati Spaceport out in the desert into which you fly on hajj. The one with all the secret tunnels.
*8, give or take.
Apparently Jonathan Ellsworth of Blister Gear Review and Cody Townsend of Cody Townsend have a podcast. I feel like these podcast things are popular. Anyway, they asked for ski town relationship questions, and Amy and I had some, but really I'd rather ax some other types of questions instead:
1) When I was 20, I could tele 7 days a week. It's only been 21 years, why can't I still tele 7 days a week?
2) How do I build a time machine? I need to go back and salvage those two pairs of
red purple aubergine Salomon S914s from the skis that weren't worthy of the bindings before selling the skis.
3) Why doesn't Mayor Lauren (or any of her predecessors) allow it to snow more in BoyCee? 75 inches in town and 450 at the hill doesn't seem like too much to ask. Baker gets like almost 1800 inches or whatever. I may have hit the wrong unit-toggle on their snow report.
4) Why does everything hurt? We're both only in our earliest 40s.
5) How do I get people to pay me to ski while I provide nothing at all of value to them? I feel like there should be positions at ski areas for that.
6) I want access to a binding bench and an open-stone bow grinder, but I don't want to change jobs. Help!
7) Why is Vail?
8) I want my Forester to act like my ol' GL wagon most of the time except when it needs to be fancy like warm seats and lots of cupholders and modern airgoonoomics and that 6 speed (well, 4 and 2 halves). Can you go tell Subaru to do that for me? Thanks. Remind them that ABS is great when you are actually braking, but not when you're just turning corners with vim and vigor and it's snowing and the person in front of you is, um, scared, and I'll just goose er a little and HOLY SHIT WHY IS MY CAR TRYNA SHAKE ITSELF TO DEATH I SAID OFF NOT SLIGHTLY LESS ON
9) All the mainstream skis I like are expensive and instead I want custom that's more o no I broke
10) Salomon made the 747 back in like '87 and nothing since has really improved on it in any meaningful, life changing way. Maybe since you guys know people, you could have them make a run in that sexy mid 90s 997 Equipe red for me. I'm an N-9.5, but I like the symmetry of a 10, so tell them to make it 5-15 (I think the OG was 6-14, which is totally fine, but, like, FIFTEEN) so I's right in the middle, please and thanks. Also, make sure the toe is 1-2mm higher than the heel. Enough of this needing to modify bindings to do em right.
11) Or they could do it in that rad 90s Tyrolia FreeFlex 14 purple. You know the one. It had the gull wing brakes. Yeah. Totally.
12) Y'know what, I also want a ornj 'n green pair.
13) One of my favourite Christmas records from growing up isn't on Spotify. How can you help?
14) Dave Matthews wrote some decent songs 25+ years ago. What happened?
15) What's better? 20" blower on boiler plate or 6" of day-old consolidated?
16) Yer both wrong. It's July at Chinook with some tourists wondering just what in the heck yer doin.
By Eino Holm
One year, we opened on the 4th of November. Something like 18" new on basically dirt, weeds, dead beargrass stalks, and some leftover teaser-crust. I was ecstatic. Also, not alone. A solid handful of us, whoever we were, were there. Green Valley skied the best. Maybe it was the only thing that really skied. If I remember correctly, and I usually sometimes am sort of able to, we had to download on 11 (Chinook). I think 10 and 3 were skiable. I may be conflating two memories here, but I think I skied the morning and then headed to work. In my ever idealised memory, it was in the Safeway, but it could have been later, when I was at Performance Bikes, pretending to know what I was doing. At any rate, I skied horribly. It was opening day, there were eighteen inches of unsettled Cascady manna on just enough crust to cover some of the dirt. The bottom of 10 is a wet mess when not covered in snow, and otherwise it is a wet mess that is covered in snow, not always fully. Several small springs keep the hillside muddy and alive with black flies in the summer. Mel's Left (how a cat driver trail name got on the official map, I don't know) has this rad soft right-hander with a big enough rollover that I can still see Mike Kupsis gettin rad on some big Dynastar Bigs back in '000. Mute grab, check. Tele, natch. Anyway, I didn't get rad, and when I tried to turn toward 11 to download, well, my teles and I had an argument.
See, the XXXs wanted to stop moving. Like, now. In fact, they wanted so badly to stop that both tips dug into the mud that was quickly spreading in the eighteen melting inches of early November gift. I, you know, wanted to slide on over to the top of 11, step on them Targa heels, jump off the skis, and jump on the chair. The skis won the argument at a trot. Not a chance. My logic must have been flawed. I was muddy, pancaked in one puddle or other, cursing, sore already and the work day hadn't even started. It was a stark enough moment that my memory of the day stops there, face down in the mud and maybe a little embarrassed.
November skiing is special, a kind of niche that many folks fight for and many other folks just do not understand. Some times it's a 30 minute line at the bottom of BMX at A Basin. For me, the best is '007, the year I got fired by a guy in Sumner who was too bloody stupid to never hire me in the first place and I spent all of November on unemployment waiting for a guaranteed ski tuning job that would start, as luck would have it, on opening day. Crystal opened 1 December that year, got washed out by an historical rain cycle, and somehow managed (sorry, not somehow managed, it's Washington, home of the top 3 verified yearly snow totals IN THE WORLD*) to reopen the next weekend. Driving up on Sunday, 2 Dec, was a wonderful gorp of axle-deep slop on the highway. I got stuck by the late and lamented Crystal Inn cos the driver of the minivan next to me had parked too closely and I was worried if I goosed 'er the Legacy would slide sideways and smashify the damn thing. Anyway,
the dude from Robert's Rescue some random guy (don't sue 'im!) happened by with a tow strap that I just now remembered I also had in the trunk at the time, under the mat, and we shoveled all the snow we could between me and the Caravan. He yanked me out with what I think I remember was a Grand Cherokee, in the process only sort of scraping the whole side of the offending minivan from tail pipe to headlight with my 30th-Anniversary-Gold, 5 speed Legacy L 2.2 wagon with the all-wheel drive that I then the very next day bought new snow tyres for cos, wouldn't you know it, studs are studly.
By Eino Holm
As the joke goes, I am not superstitious, but I am at least a little stitious.
I can't remember the exact date. January of '005, good timing if you think about it. I was managing a bike shop in Tacoma, living in Puyallup, stable and away from the hill for the first time in five years. I say managing not because that was my job, but cos the actual store manager was flighty. The sort who'd wait until Tuesday to post the schedule for the week, which started on Sunday, two days prior. I woke up on my day off, and just couldn't raise the mustard for the long drive to Crystal, even though it was cold in the valley and had recently snowed down to the water. I rode the Monocog out at Sawyer instead. The dirt was fast, and the riding good. Traction for days. Just warm enough that my lungs worked well. This sounds like I'm starting a narrative for some Dirt Rag Mag stoke piece, I can already tell.
It isn't for Dirt Rag, though. Maurice and friends gave up the ghost a long time ago.
It started raining the next day, that legendary PNW kind that just slides into Winter's DMs and leaves without so much as a by your leave. Snowfall had been sparse, and what stayed behind when the Pineapple shifted east was a meager and thinning ghost of an El Niño snowpack. Crystal stayed open into February, somehow. I ruined a Vølkl P40 on skiers' right of Green Valley, only got one memorable pow day, and generally bemoaned the state of things. I skipped First Closing Day, thinking it'd be pea soup milkbird and not worth much, but somehow the storm track slid north and it was a beautiful spring day. There was even a shot in the paper of Karel Sir in the Valley looking, um, out of time, as he always did. Probly some purple onesie with futuristic silver shoulder extensions or whatever. It was annoying just how good of a skier he was. Anyway, the photo was in the Seattle Times. Or the P-I. Or like, the Evening News. The point is, I still regret that I skipped that day.
At some point that spring, the tap turned back on and the Cascades got at least a solid taste. Baker finished the year with 464", most of which fell from late March on. A good year of snowfall here in the desert is 200". Winter of '99, the Big Year, Baker cleared 300" of snowpack. It takes lots of snowfall to make any snowpack. When you get used to snowpacks deeper than many joints' entire winter snowfall, 464" just isn't that much. Somewhere in there, as well, I sort of realised that I really shouldn't miss chances to ski. They might just never return. I don't remember the turning on of a lightbulb, I was simply resolved. It felt a bit like when I was bumping chairs at the bottom of 6 and asked Sharon the math teacher patroller which boot she put on first and with a slight hesitation, she said "Right. You?" and with the same slight hesitation, I realised that even though I'd never thought about it until that exact moment, it was always the left. Always. It has been twenty-two years since then, and still, I always pull that left boot on first. If for some reason I start in on the right foot, I get a little confused and have to stop, and then start again with the left.
Okay, maybe moderately stitious.
Last winter wasn't a huge one. We had a great start, with that famous longwave La Niña pattern setting up in our favour. As near as makes no difference, it was up there with Decembers like '016 and '98. Just kept coming. Somewhere around mid-January the meteorological powers that be turned the tap damn near off. A little late for a typical January drought, but whatever. It didn't really snow until after we closed in early April. In that time, I had some phenomenal days chasing chalk in the trees off Three and tryna lay them railroad tracks as deeply as my ability and (currently) 250 pounds would allow. Or at least as cleanly and consistently as I am able. I'll admit there were days where the chalk was more like the board than the writing implement.
All the way through, I heard grumbling. That same grumbling we heard in UT back in '015, or at Mt A in '012, or at Baker in '001. "It's not snowing enough." "It's too sunny." "It's not sunny enough." "Maybe the snow will be powdery on the 'Backside'." (My personal favourite. As though somehow there were an entirely different weather regimen just over the ridgeline.)
While chatting with the In-Laws' friendly, largely intelligent neighbours on a Sunday evening last spring, both spouses agreed with fair zealotry that the past winter had been terrible. T-e-r-r-i-b-l-e. I was apoplectic. Thankfully, this apoplexia often fully shuts off the part of my brain which is responsible for speech. How is it possible, when all I did was have good fun skiing all winter, for them to completely miss out? Clearly, there's some cognitive dissonance here. Skiing is fun, whatever the medium. So-called "bad" days stand out for me, simply because they are so damn rare. I do not cherry-pick days, and only rarely skip a trip to the hill. Very, very rarely. I don't feel like I have some special insight into enjoying bad conditions. I simply like skiing. I constantly find new reasons for doing so. I truly don't understand what these folks are looking for in life. The husband of this duo claims certainty that he'll ski until either he dies or physically cannot, and yet, somehow, this winter was T-e-r-r-i-b-l-e? I am so confused. He loves skiing so much that at 50 he can claim he'll ski another 40 years, and yet he thinks a slightly drier-than-desired winter is not so much below average as T-e-r-r-i-b-l-e?
Catherine (she's Crimski in my phone) once told me about her FOMO, which at the time wasn't the hip jargon it is now. Fear of missing out. Sounds about right, pop-psychology aside. First real pow line I ever slayed, to use yet more annoying popular parlance, was due to just such an urge. Remy had just ducked under the rope at the top of the Cache Run, bout 2.30 in the afternoon, That Winter. I was 17, skiing pretty decently for an untrained high schooler. I'd skipped school cos I knew that my repeated Calculus 2 class just didn't need my attention that day, and the snow did. I got to the hill a little after opening cos I had to pretend for Ma that I'd headed to class, which was a half hour away at Harvard on the Hill, and my first class was at 9. I couldn't leave early enough to get to the hill on time cos I had to make a show of heading the other way at the correct time.
Remy looked a little peeved at the time, staring down some random High School Joey with a crappy goatee--it was '99, after all--and skinny skis. I asked if it was worth it, and he just glared. I took that as tacit affirmation. I never had the presence of mind to thank him, even though I tuned his skis a handful of times between '007 and '011. It was worth it, and more. Twenty turns, good rhythm, 6 or 8 of that mythical day-old consolidated. One run, 24 years on, and I hope to never forget it. I could have just kept skiing on past, knowing how hard the bootpack out would be, but I couldn't shake my own nascent FOMO. Presented with the same options ever since, if safe enough, I have nearly always chosen to say "F(&* it. You don't know if you don't go." Ham cramps on Fryingpan be damned. Ham cramps in a fancy Issaquah sushi joint be damned. (That one was kind fun, to be honest. Catherine just said "TURN AROUND LEMME PUNCH YOU" and then smashed my hamstrings with her fists quite aggressively. It worked.)
I remember the wooziness and the grass in my facemask. I could barely stand up trying to open the outside door to the locker room. My arm just felt dead.
It was our weekly 8th grade varsity football challenge for who'd start the following game at a given position, and that week it was just head-to-head shoving. Whoever was still forward of scrimmage by the whistle won the start. I was the starting centre, and Aram was second-string. I drove Aram back about eight or ten yards. I didn't have time to even congratulate myself. Aram tripped, and I landed nose-down in the grass, my right fist on his chest protector. Jay Fox had pushed Nick Tanner about eight yards, and when one of them tripped, they were right next to us. They landed with Nick's back protector directly on my elbow. The ER doc told me it was a really nice looking break. Clean across both radius and ulna, with no dislocation or compound fracturing. Season over. I still have the callus on my right middle finger from learning how to hold a pen differently than before.
Long about early November, it started snowing allegro con brio, and Crystal opened around Chris' birthday on the 8th. I watched from town as Grass Mountain turned snow-pink in the sunset, arm still in a cast. It didn't matter that I'd successfully challenged Amber for first chair percussion in Concert Band or that in general I skied strongly enough to not worry about my well-protected bones, I couldn't go to the hill. I held this against football such that I never played again. The only playing I did at games in High School was on the snare drum. (And the tambourine that one game. I will never forgive that.)
Warren Miller says, "Remember: If you don't do it this year, you'll be one year older when you do." Sometimes what I hear him say is, "Remember: If you don't do it this year, these precise conditions will never occur again and this exact experience will be lost, or worse, experienced by some bougie turd who doesn't understand the value of the experience, and you'll hate not only them, who you already do hate, but even a little bit yourself for not having the gumption to wake up and start moving in the right direction."
Maybe I am super stitious.
Title from The Byrds psychadelic folk-rock classic "Eight Miles High". I'm no Tambourine Man.