Pageviews past week

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The best money you can spend in the mountains.....Vertfest

"To evolve, you must stay involved"  Glen Plake  

It is easy to get complacent and lazy.  It is much harder, having and keeping a beginner's mind, the mind of a student.  I have a hard time doing that myself.  And it takes me a concerted effort to get there.

Couple of reasons for that.  While I am curious I am not a very good student.  I'm demanding and stubborn and head strong.   And I don't listen well.  I have to work at it.  It might take cold hard cash to get me to listen at times.   My cash!  Worse yet I am not generally willing to do anything new.  As in a new sport.  The sports I do now I have been doing for several decades.  And in my own mind I am at least fair at them.  It has taken a good bit of practice after all.  I haven't done I have worked hard at getting proficient at what I do enjoy.  But truth is I aways want to get better.  I've worked as a teacher enough to recognise hard case students like myself.  It aint pretty.  Wish it were different but it is not.  A lot of ego wrapped up in all that.
So for me to want to learn something new, I need a harsh reminder that I don't know everything all already :)

A good physical trashing ( or falling even once a day on skiis will do it) generally gets me off the dime and rethinking what I am doing and how I might do it better.  But putting myself in the position of a student, and with a beginners' mind is really hard for me.  And when I do, I expect...usually demand, a lot.  As I said, I'm a tough student.

This weekend is our local skimo festival.  It is called Vertfest and has been held at Apental ski area for the last few years.  It is a great venue that hasn't yet really seen its true potential.  There is a lot of industry support from many manufactures like, Outdoor Research, Dynafit and La Sportiva among others.  A full set of demo skis and boots.  That has to be fun!

"Precious" @ The La Sportiva tent   :)

The Vertfest race was a a great course of either one lap (for 2250' gain) or two laps (for 4100' of gain).  My friend Jason Dorais of SLC laid down his two laps before I had done my first one.  Time I heard was around 1:15.  Which is smoking!  Even though I am not really sure Jason thought it was even a decent work out.  Others did ;)  Have yet to actually see results (shame on you VertFest guys!) But the ladies winner was no slouch either.  Sorry, I don't have her name just a pretty picture :)  If someone can pass it along that would be great.

Jason Dorais, the Men's winner on Scarpa and Trab

The obviously happy, Juya Ghanaie, Ladies OA winner!
 She also finished before I got one lap done!

Congrads to both!!

10 minutes prior to the start

At this point the pack has broken up and we are gettin strung out.

As good as the skimo race is at Alpental,  it is the demos and the following Sunday of clinics that is the real high point of Vertfest IMO.

For just under $100 plus the lift ticket, I was able to do two clinics on Sunday. 

Not that steep,  but there is a lot of ski base steep enough.
Alpental has a lot of steep terrain in bounds.

The first was an excellent " Steep Skiing" taught by Martin Volken of Pro Guide Service with input by Tim Petrick, currently working for K2.  But a legend at PSIA and the US Nat. Demo Team

Martin Volken, photo courtesy Andy Dappen

Alpental offers some steep terrain.  We generally had good snow and I learned a few things and was reminded of a few others.   You had to work for a living in this clinic.  And be a little careful as well with the crusty conditions and the ice the previous day under a foot of new snow.   Well worth the effort.  If you ever get the chance this is a "must do" with Martin.  It was a brilliant bit of instruction and perfect demo of the skill set required to ski steep terrain.  Martin didn't miss the chance to remind us that this kind of terrain wasn't  "normal skiing with a full pack in the mountains".   You need to be careful in the back country,  out of bounds and inside a ski areas like Alpental.  All good reminders, imo.

Olivia Race, photo courtesy of the LAS web site

The afternoon was taken up by my second,  3 hr. clinic.  This one, Sponsored by La Sportiva,  was unassumingly labeled,  "Intermediate Techniques to Improve Efficiency for Backcountry Skiing".
I always aspire to be more efficient!  How could I loose?  It was taught by Olivia Race from the Northwest Mountain School.  I have to say Olivia's class was really fun.  Low stress compared to the terrain Martin and Tim had us skiing.  I had no idea what to expect on this one and Olivia's obvious skill shone brightly in the three hours of instruction.  I have always said climbing (and skiing) is a thinking man's (or woman's) game.  Olivia reminded me of just how true that really is, again.  My brain almost hurt with just 45  minutes of her one on one tutelage.  But I didn't realise it until I was done and another of my fellow students came under her critical eye and gentle instruction style.  While  I mindlessly followed along happy for the mental break.  That hasn't happened in a long while.  Again, brilliant.  Learning new things is hard work for me ;)

Anyone that knows me (or has read reviews here) should know that I don't offer compliments often or easily.  And I am pretty picky on who I will go out to the mountains with out reservation.   I was lucky enough to meet three this weekend that I would add to that list any time.

No question, the best $100 I've spent on "gear" in a long, long time.

Hire a qualified Guide or Instructor and speed up your own learning curve!  That can include climbing or skiing and any part of either sport depending on what you are looking to improve.


Bruno Schull said...

Hi Dane. Sounds like a great experience with great teachers. I'm sometimes hesitant to admit it, but I try to work with guides somewhat regularly...maybe once every year or two? As I developed as a climber, I always used guides as a way to learn new skills: before I began leading, I took a lead seminar, before I started ice climbing, I took an ice seminar, and so on. Lately, I have used guides to work on specific skills, such as mixed climbing, or to just push my boundaries on long routes, with a measure of safety. There are some challenges working with guides. First, there is the whole attitude you get in the climbing community that climbing with a guide is not, "real climbing." Hell, I even feel that way myself, and it's not until I take the skills I've learned, and transferred them into climbing on my own that I really feel I have completed the cycle. I struggled with this for a while, until I realized that it was just an dumb attitude. Working with experienced guides is simply the best way to learn new skills and develop. And, as a outdoor instructor myself, I realized that it was pretty hypocritical attitude to look down at guided climbing. So I just moved past that, and my climbing have improved as a result. Second, I do think it takes some time to find guides that you feel comfortable with. I've never had a bad experience, just varying degrees of "neutral" and "good" to "very good." If you find a guide you really like working with, don't waste that relationship. It's truly invaluable. Third, guides aren't cheap. Here in Europe, for example, Chamonix, a day of one-on-one guiding is about 400 Euros...that's expensive, and obviously not something most of us can do all the time. But, considering the money spent on gear, it's a true bargin. Whenever I feel myself resisting the price, I just say, "Look, that's the price of a pair of boots, or a set of ice tools, or whatever...." No comparison, in my mind, to getting out in the mountains, and learning new skills from somebody you trust. As you said, it's the best money you can spend in the mountains.

Eric C said...

Nice to actually meet you after reading your site for so long. Good job at the race. They actually posted results up Sunday night which is not too bad.

Dane said...

Hey Eric! Great Race on your part!! You and Jason running on that course where the rest of use were just happy to be walking was really awesome to see. Thanks for spending a few minutes on the hill and on the blog. Much appreciated! Now..about us moving to SLC :)