Ski Pakistan? Absolutely! CNN follows heli-skiers to near the top of the world

Talk about a ski adventure.

The Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan include many of the world’s tallest peaks, and a thrilling challenge for any skier. While the highest paved international road – connecting China with Pakistan – is part of the landscape, the adventurers featured in a recent CNN report by Saima Mohsin avoided this road less traveled and flew in by helicopter.

Click here to catch their wild ride.

High winds and high adventure while spring skiing at Mammoth Mountain

Skiing in the sunshine at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Mammoth Ski Resort)

By Marlene Greer

This week in Mammoth Mountain was the first time I’ve actually had to pole downhill. Yes, that’s right – use my ski poles to propel myself down the mountain.

On Tuesday, bone-chilling winds at the summit hit 75 mph, according to mountain staff, and mid-mountain was not much better with strong 30-40 mph winds. The temperature at the top was a chilly 20 degrees.

The gondola to the summit was closed for three days and opened again on Thursday, though Chair 23, the other lift to the top, remained open despite the high winds. Whether that was a wise choice is debatable.

Those who ventured to the summit Tuesday and Wednesday described winds nearly blowing them over and being pelted unmercifully with ice. Skiing off the summit, they told me, was a scary experience.

Caitlin, a 20-something skier from Utah, was skiing Mammoth on Tuesday with her four friends and got caught off guard at the summit by a powerful gust of wind.

“It was so bad we all huddled together for about five minutes,” she explained. “We didn’t know what to do, which way to go. I felt like I was going to get blown off the mountain.”

Inga, spending spring break at Mammoth with her boyfriend and friends, called her one and only ride to the summit and ski down “an unfortunate adventure.”

Shredding some snow at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Mammoth Ski Resort)

“The wind was blowing ice so hard that the ice hitting my helmet sounded like hail,” her boyfriend added. The San Diego couple did not plan on making a second attempt to the summit that day.

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Volkl Gotama skis really rock

By Art Bentley

After years of skepticism about the claims of manufacturers promoting wide skis shaped like the defining parts of a rocking chair, I’ve come around. The rocker design rocks.

What convinced me was a day on the Volkl Gotama, a portly plank 130 millimeters wide at the tip, 123 at the tail, and 107 underfoot.

Recently, I took a pair all over Bald Mountain, the legendary hill, better known as Baldy, that has been attracting folks to Sun Valley, Idaho, since late 1939, shortly after Ernest Hemingway finished writing “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in room 206 at the Sun Valley Lodge.

At first I was a trifle leery. This is a beefy board, and I was on the 178-centimeter version, 18 centimeters longer than the slalom skis I usually use.

However, Brad Woods in the ski shop at River Run assured me that due to the rocker design, the length would not be a drawback because the points at which the ski touches the snow are much closer to the boot heel and toe than on a cambered ski with its slight upward arch. Consequently, rocker skis can be tipped on edge much more quickly and easily.

Because I didn’t know what to expect from the Gotamas, I enrolled in College, the easiest run on Baldy, denoted by the green circle that usually marks terrain barely steep enough to induce motion. At Sun Valley, however, it’s not so easy skiing green. College tilts 19 degrees, which would easily rate the blue square of an intermediate run at many resorts.

I angled down the slope from the top. The snow was firm and fast, not supposedly the most favorable condition for full-rocker skis, whose element is deep, untracked powder. I gained speed quickly, easy on Baldy, which has no flat spots. I weighted the downhill edge of the uphill ski, and instantly the Volkls snapped around in a quick, tight and surprisingly effortless C-shaped arc that reminded me of another German name: Porsche.

I repeated the procedure, the result was the same, and my confidence soared. I let the skis go and started leaning into the turns as hard as I could. The Gotamas continued to perform with the same solid authority that makes this sport so addictive.

Five inches of snow had fallen the day before, covering a surface that remained solidly frozen where the groomers hadn’t ventured. Can-Can, a blue run of about 25 degrees, was bumpy and icy under the fresh snow. The skis couldn’t have cared less. As long as I was positioned properly, they turned with the same sport-car precision.

Next I tried Flying Squirrel, a blue run groomed nightly. Here I noticed another trait of the full-rocker design. Whenever I wanted to slow the skis, all I had to do was press with my downhill heel, directing force to the tails. Immediately, the brakes were applied.

Later, I sampled untracked snow in one of Baldy’s eight bowls. Although the skis were scraping a gelid surface under the powder, I got a sense of how they perform in bottomless snow.

Skiing in Telluride a ‘heavenly’ experience

Skiing into Revelation Bowl at Telluride. Photo by Brett Schreckengost

By Richard Irwin, Savvy Skier
“To hell you ride!” At least, that’s one popular explanation of how the town of Telluride got its name. But a skier or snowboarder riding the snowy slopes this winter will find them heavenly. (Apologies to our California resort.)
We returned to the Colorado ski resort last month for a winter vacation. And we discovered why it ranks among the best snowboarding destinations in the country.
Telluride averages more than 300 inches of snow every year, as well as 300 days of glorious sunshine. An important element for Los Angelinos who are used to seeing the golden rays every day.
And so it was on our February adventure. The mountain had received nearly two feet of new snow the weekend before, and we enjoyed sunny skies for the next four days.
The only weather bump we had was on our last morning, when high winds roared up the box canyon, nearly blowing us off the top of the mountain. So we stayed on the lower slopes, buffered by the towering peaks above.
Telluride is huge, it has more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain. Galloping Goose, the longest run is more than 4 miles long, though there were a few flat spots that requires some poling.
We found the 125 perfectly groomed every morning, which is quite an accomplishment for a resort this big. This runs ranged from refined groomed runs to some challenging moguls.

Nightly grooming offers perfect corduroy slopes in the morning. Photo by Gus Gusciora

I liked it because many of the trails were wide open boulevards that left plenty of room for everyone. No crowding and squeezing here like you might find at Bear Mountain or Mountain High.
In fact, during the second week of February, we often found ourselves skiing by ourselves. There were literally no other snowboarders within sight or sound.
Telluride has a lift capacity of more than 22,000 per hour. That includes two high-speed gondolas, seven high-speed quads, one fixed quad, two triples, two doubles, two surface lifts and a couple magic carpets.
We never stood in line for more than a few minutes. Most of the time we jumped right on the next available chair.
The popular resort has a nice variety of terrain. The breakdown is approximately a quarter beginner, a third intermediate and 40 percent advanced.
After warming up on the easy stuff, we advanced to the the bright blue runs. There’s so many trails that Telluride even breaks the runs down into double green for advanced beginners and double blue for the harder intermediate trails.
Of course, there were also the diamond runs for the advanced skier and the double diamond trails for the cliffs, chutes and cornices for experts only.
The ski resort has even installed a bridge and steel staircase between Gold Hill Chute 8 and 9 to provide better access to Palmyra Basin. Experts can test themselves on the Gold Hill Stairs, climbing to the tip top of the mountain and the extreme terrain in the Gold Hill Chutes.
The mountain sports a vertical drop of 4,425 feet, with a lift served vertical drop of 3,845 feet.
Snowboarders will find a great range of freestyle terrain parks on the mountain. Beginners will like Ute Park, which features a mini snow-cross, small jumps and ride-on boxes.

Skier hikes Gold Hill Stairs at Telluride. Photo by Ben Eng

Misty Maiden Park was designed for intermediate to high intermediate riders. It has medium jumps, rails and boxes. Advanced riders will like Hoot Brown Park with its large jumps, as well as a wide variety of rails and boxes.
Skiers come from around the world to ski at Telluride. One gentleman from Mexico brought his many children and grandchildren.
Der Sitzmark Ski Club from Pittsburgh was certainly having a grand time. The club has more than 300 members, who enjoy weeklong ski trips throughout the country including an upcoming one to Crested Butte.
“Telluride is one of our favorites, we always have some great skiing here,” said the club president and one of its founders.
So if you’re looking for a “helluva” good place to ski this winter give Telluride a look. “To hell you ride!”
richard.irwin@sgvn.com<QA0>
626-544-0847

#freshpow day on the slopes at Bear, Snow Summit and Mountain High

Snow Summit is a winter wonderland in March, thanks to productive cold-weather systems that went through Southern California on Thursday and this morning. This photo has attracted a lot of reaction since it was posted on Facebook earlier today. (Snow Summit photo)

By Jerry Rice

Fresh powder days in March are rare in Southern California – especially ones with storms that leave behind more than a foot of snow – so it may not be surprising that social media is burning up today with the latest reports from Bear Mountain, Snow Summit and Mountain High.

The photo of snow-covered tables and chairs at Snow Summit (above) has received more than 950 “likes” and 139 “shares” since it was posted this morning. Because a photo really is worth a thousand words, many of the comments have been appropriately brief: “Wonderland!” (from Freddie Merz), “Yes!!!” (Kelsey Elizabeth Stern) and “Wooooo Hoooooo” (Snuggle Bear Cabin).

Others said they were on their way up the hill (presumably after they called the boss to say they suddenly came down with some “ailment”), or that they would be there during the weekend.

With 12-14 inches of new snow at Bear Mountain, it appears to be time for some fresh-powder runs at the resort. (Bear Mountain photo)

Snow Summit reported 12 to 14 inches of fresh powder in the last couple days – about the same amount that fell at the resort’s corporate sibling, Bear Mountain, where the photo on the right was taken. Since being posted on Facebook today at about 10 a.m., the shot has received nearly 400 “likes” and 25 “shares.”

Snow Summit is 100 percent open, and only Bow, Deer and Goldmine canyons are closed at Bear, according to information on their websites. Also, skiers and snowboarders should note that Snow Summit will be holding its final night session of the 2012-13 season on Saturday.

With fresh powder at Mountain High, the snow depth on the slopes is 12-24 inches. (Mountain High photo)

At Mountain High in Wrightwood, they’re also excited about the conditions after receiving 6 to 8 inches of new snow. “We love fresh pow,” said the Facebook entry that was posted with the action shot on the left. “Share this photo if you love new snow as much as we do!”

The last time we checked, 61 of the resort’s Facebook fans followed through on that request.

Snow Valley, once a haven for experts, now caters to a different crowd

While not the resort it once was, Snow Valley still has much to offer – especially if you’re a beginner or intermediate skier. (Snow Valley photo)

By Art Bentley

The slogan on the cover of the trail map at the Snow Valley ski area near Running Springs reads, “More than you realize.” Management, which runs the resort for an absentee owner who lives in Wisconsin, could have added, “Though less than you may recall.”

A skier with a good memory who last visited the resort in the early to mid-1990s would have good reason today to be a bit perplexed. Back then, the resort operated 13 chairlifts, including two, a triple and a double, that scaled its signature expert hill, Slide Peak, where snowmaking equipment was installed at about the same time.

Slide, the incline of which ranges from 30 to 35 degrees on about 400 to 500 vertical feet, is the feature that makes Snow Valley entertaining for skiers and snowboarders who like steep, bumpy terrain. When it’s closed, as it has been for most of this season, Snow Valley appeals primarily to those of marginal to limited ability or who enjoy the obstacles of the freestyle park.

Two decades ago, an equally precipitate run on the western flank of the area plunged beneath chair 5 to a parking lot that seems big enough to swallow Rhode Island. Chair 7 climbed a slope that has since been incorporated into the freestyle area. Chairs 4 and 10 were thriving.

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Welcome to Begaebong, a North Korea ski area that outsiders rarely get to see

By Jerry Rice

Never thought I’d see the words “ski resort” and “North Korea” in the same sentence – much less type them myself for a post on this SnoWonder site – but here they are.

Eric Lafforgue has made a name for himself by taking amazing photographs the world over, from Cambodia to Kazakhstan to the Papua Islands (with many more locales listed on his website, www.ericlafforgue.com). One of those other places is Begaebong, in North Korea’s Mount Paektu region, where he visited a small ski area.

OK, with a ski run that’s barely 875 yards and a lift with only 80 chairs, there’s no chance this place will ever be mistaken for the resorts at Heavenly or Mammoth. But his video offers a rare glimpse at an attraction that makes for some interesting viewing. We noticed, for example, that there are no skiers whatsoever on the slopes.

Mount Paektu, by the way, is an active volcano that erupts two or three times a century. It has been in the news of late because of warnings that earthquakes from North Korea’s nuclear tests may trigger an eruption.

Step aside Gangnam Style, it’s time for the Harlem Shake

By Jerry Rice

Sorry, Psy, but Gangnam Style is so 2012. The dance of this moment is the Harlem Shake.

With tens of thousands of Harlem Shake videos on YouTube — including nearly 9,000 uploaded today alone — it’s safe to call it the latest craze that’s sweeping the nation. Students at campuses around the country, office workers, firefighters, grandmas, and a unit of the Norwegian Army are all busting a move to the techno beat.

Anderson Cooper (inset) watches a video of his staff doing the Harlem Shake.

One video asks whether Wolf Blitzer would do it. His CNN colleague, Anderson Cooper, apparently wouldn’t. When the “Anderson Live” crew interrupted a morning meeting to shake it, they couldn’t get Cooper to join in.

“I gotta say, I was horrified. It made me so uncomfortable,” he said on Tuesday’s show.

Many of the videos are called “original.” Perhaps the one with the best stake to that claim was posted by five bored Australian teens who were stuck indoors during a storm. Their version, “The Harlem Shake v1 (TSCS original),” has 6.3 million views (and counting) in its first week on YouTube. Their story was told by The Courier-Mail in Brisbane.

A quick search came up with several Harlem Shakers in the Inland Empire, so we featured them in a Daily Bulletin story.

Skiers and snowboarders at Mountain High also have gotten in on the act. Here’s their version:

Kirkwood is a favorite with skiers in Lake Tahoe

Kirkwood receives the most annual snowfall in the Sierras. (Photo courtesy of Kirkwood Ski Resort)

By Marlene Greer

Improving your skiing is all about taking a new skill and being able to use it on a smooth groomed run or a steep pitch. Especially if you’re zigzagging through trees or bounding through a gully.

And Lake Tahoe’s Kirkwood Mountain Resort has what it takes to get skiers and snowboarders moving across the mountain.

“What is brilliant about Kirkwood is the natural terrain of the mountain allows that natural progression to take place,” said Nick Brittain, a college student from New Zealand who was spending his summer break teaching at Kirkwood’s Learning Center.

The beginners’ terrain is a mix of wide groomed slopes of varying pitch, a set of funny bunny rollers, and little gullies with treacherous names like Ditch of Doom and Ditch of Gloom.

“We start at the magic carpet,” Brittain explained. “Our first aim is to move from the carpet to the chair lift, then from less gradient to higher gradient to off-piste. We build their confidence. What we love is involving different terrains and seeing skill level improve. Kids absolutely love those terrain variations.”

So do his adult students.

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Products that may be life-savers when you’re out on the slopes

By Art Bentley

For the skier or snowboarder who has everything — except maybe a strong urge for self-preservation — an empty bag may be the ideal gift for that next big occasion.

Mammut Snowpulse Air Bag Technology

This bag comes in a $700 backpack, accessorized by a $129 cartridge for inflation. The Mammut Snowpulse Air Bag Technology system is designed to help a snow junkie survive an avalanche, a constant danger for powder-crazed daredevils who stalk deep untracked snow beyond the boundaries of designated ski areas.

As long as they remain inbounds, where snow conditions are carefully monitored by the Ski Patrol, skiers run little risk of avalanche. However, in-bounds slides with fatal result are not unheard of.

One killed a snowboarder late last month at Donner Ski Ranch near Lake Tahoe. At about the same time, two skiers at Squaw Valley, also near the lake, were caught in another slide. They survived.

Beyond the ropes, the danger escalates sharply. Three years ago, people were killed in slides in unpatrolled back-country near the Mountain High ski area, close to Wrightwood.

With a 30-liter capacity, the backpack would seem to carry just about anything a back-country skier could want or need in an emergency, short of a St. Bernard. There are pockets for ice axes and goggles. Space is designated for an avalanche beacon, GPS device, a probe pole, even a shovel, not to mention water, food and first-aid supplies, all noted in a check-list displayed on fabric inside the pack.

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