December 2010

Split Decision


A week of firsts. First I got an iphone after my boyfriend traded for a backpack or something and gave me the phone. It has this camera app that takes old-timey photos. I took a picture of my first couloir skiing excursion. Couloir is french for passage or corridor and it’s a steep, narrow gully. This couloir isn’t that narrow, if you take the right way. It’s called split decision because the route splits into two paths. One has a mandatory air, meaning you have to huck off off of a small cliff. The other has a few obstacles, but not as extreme.

The snowpack this year and coverage has been really good, especially for this early in the season. The avalanche conditions are also pretty stable, so I was ready for my first run down Split-D last week. At least I thought I was. Standing at the top I was really nervous. Mostly because I didn’t know exactly where I was going and also because there were a group of dudes I was skiing with watching me from below and I was the only girl. Even though conditions were stable, you don’t want to stop in the middle of steep avalanche terrain, so I was supposed to ski the run top to the bottom stopping point in the safety of some trees. Where we were skiing is accessed from the ski area, but it’s the backcountry. There are no ski patrol or controlled conditions. Shannon did his best to prep me at the top and I kept asking him if I was a good enough skier to do the run. He said I could turn back and ski back into the resort boundary. Yeah right! If I did that he’d never take me again. He told me which way to go, but I was afraid I would follow the wrong set of ski tracks down the more advanced run.  The top part was great, but then my heart started racing. I don’t even know which way I ended up going, but heard a guy at the bottom yell go right go right, and I thought I was supposed to be going left. So I don’t know if I went they way I had intended or not and I did get stopped on a small rock/cliff, but it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. I made it down safely, heart pounding through my chest, but ready to do it again. We went they rest of they way down to where a few snowmobiles were stashed to get us out of the canyon.

On Friday, I did do it again and much more confidently. I knew exactly which way to go and there was even more snow after a foot had fallen on Wednesday. Now it might be my favorite run I’ve ever done.

Shannon hiking up the ridge to Mary's Nipple.


I’ve been a bit preoccupied with skiing lately, after all it’s been one of the best early season’s on record. Here’s a story I wrote about the stellar Snovember conditions. Which made be think about all the stoked out bros, brahs, groms, rippers, shredders and other slang names given to people who live for snow and sliding on it. It took me a while to figure out all the slanguage used by mountain folk and figured I could share a kind of dictionary for those a little lost when I refer to the “sick pow.” It also seems like people add a y on to a lot of words that don’t really need it. For example: Her ski jacket is so styley. Instead of just saying I like her style. So for you none ski bums reading, maybe this will help.

sick: synonyms would be, excellent, very good, awesome. “Dude, yesterday was sick!” If it was really, really good. You can say super sick.

pow or pow-pow: powder snow. light, fluffy, untouched, cold, dry snow. “Let’s go get that pow-pow!”

bro/brah: a buddy or friend also known as a homie or dude. mostly gender specific to guys, but not always. “What up, brah? You been ripping any sick pow?”

ripper/shredder: Someone who is good at skiing or snowboarding. “She’s a ripper.”

freshies: fresh tracks while you’re skiing. “There’s still some freshies ou there, bro. Let’s go rip it up.”

grom: a young skier or snowboard who most likely ski better than you, or will soon. “Watch this grom do a back flip.”

huck: to jump off a cliff.  preferably with a soft powder landing. “Let’s go huck some cliffs.”

yard sale: to fall and have your equipment go every where. “Did you see that gaper yard sale?”

gaper: someone that doesn’t ski very often, or has dated, old gear. “Did you see that gaper skiing in jeans and rear entry boots?” It’s also a celebrated holiday observed on April 1 and the last day of the ski season, as Gaper Day. Those who think they are not gapers, dress up as their interpretation as one. Usually includes skiing in jeans or one piece ski suits from a few decades ago.

face shots: when the snow is deep and you make a turn, then the snow hits you in the face. “I had a face shot on like every turn, bro.”

bluebird: a sunny blue sky day after a storm. “What a sick bluebird pow day!”

dump/dumping: a large snow storm or fastly accumulating snow. “Sick, it’s dumping out! Tomorrow could be epic.”

aggro: aggravation or aggression. “Bro, no need to get all aggro out there. There are plenty of freshies for everyone.”

stezy: flashy or stylish gear. “That grom is so stezy.”

hectic: used to describe extreme circumstances. “Bro, it’s dumping out there. Tomorrow is going to be hectic.” This one is used mostly by groms at the moment.

Most of these aren’t necessarily specific to ski culture and were most likely borrowed from surf culture. They are not in alphabetical order, but more in order of relevance or most commonly used. This is a basic list and I’m sure I’ve missed a few or haven’t learned them yet.

Here’s a parting shot from my house a few mornings ago. It looks like it was about to be a bluebird day, right. Nah, bro. It started dumping about an hour later.

sunrise over the tetons from my front door with holiday decorations. i wish the snowflakes were that big.