Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ski/Snowboard Tuning Vise

A ski/snowboard tuning vise is absolutely essential if you are going to be hitting the slopes a lot.  Last year I was on the snow about 30 times and waxed by splitboard at least a dozen times and waxing the boards at home saved a lot of money.  

I bought the Wintersteiger Freeride Ski & Snowboard Tuning Vise from Amazon last winter and it has worked reasonably well.  

The rubber feet on top of the vise minimizes slip when I am scraping the wax off the base and the edge groove holds the board securely for working on the edges.  

The vise gap can clamp onto a table top of 2.25 inches or smaller and hasn't budged since I installed it a year ago.

Swix and other brands make similar vises.  Check out what your local shop has to offer and you may find better deals on a similar product.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Glacier trip next week!

Time to get the new board waxed up for the glacier trip next week. Unfortunately the warm winter (60*F again today) has resulted in no snow in Europe except on the glaciers. Even on the glaciers they are making snow in an effort to keep what little base is around for the skiers. 

In retrospect last year at this time of year there wasn't much snow either but it was also 20*F colder too!  So the unseasonably warm temperatures mean no touring anytime soon but at least I can still ride the glaciers (before they melt). 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Indoor Climbing Bookends

Friday morning I opened the day by leading a couple routes in the short gym and ended my day bouldering with family and friends at the boulderhalle. For lunch I spent an hour in yoga class. Overall a good day.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Heliski & Freeride in Livigno, Italy!

Heli-skiing in Italy is available only a couple hours from home!  Heliski Livigno is offering incredible rates for heliskiing in an area with incredible terrain.  Shovel, probes, transceivers, and airbags required (and available for rent) but a group of four can get in a single run for 180 Euros per person with each additional run for 95 Euros per person.  The service includes an IFMGA guide so you dont get lost or buried.  At these rates and this incredible location this would be an incredible weekend!

I was starting to plan a heliski trip to Alaska during winter 2017 but the nearly $10k rates for a couple days on the mountain were a huge deterrent.  Italy's terrain is awesome too but much mroe affordable!  I'll have to grab three of the ski patrol guys to head down to Livigno this winter!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ski Patrol: Snowboard Skills Assessment

The weekend of 21 November I joined the European Division of the National Ski Patrol in Hintertux, Austria for my snowboard skills assessment.  The rest of the Division was there for their annual medical refresher, on the hill training, and awards banquet.

Buckling in at the top of the hill
The valley below the glacier was green and warm but when we took the two gondolas to the glacier it was cold and white with temperatures hovering around zero.  Visibility was in places down to 20ft with blowing snow and low clouds.  Forecasts called for a foot of snow both Saturday and Sunday but only about half of that was deposited on the frozen glacier by the end of the weekend.  The nice thing about the glacier was the ice beneath the snow was black so it was easier to see the icy patches  when the powder was skied off.

Part of the exposed glacier
On Saturday I joined a group of six snowboarder candidates from all over Europe but at the top of the lift the first one quit due to the conditions.  Keeping together as a group was tough because it was hard to see the instructor through the fog.  The skills we had to run through were pretty simple: traversing left and right across the slope, simple skidded turns, carved turns of different sizes (small, middle, and large radius turns), and snowplows.  The hardest thing to do was sudden stop without chattering.  All skills had to be done regular and fakie/switch.

We finished the skills portion before lunch then headed into the crowed lodge for roasted chicken and fries.  After lunch we had some free-ride time and the clouds cleared so you could see down into the green valleys below.  At the end of the day only three of the candidates (including myself) passed and the two remaining candidates were encouraged to take lessons.

While the candidates were out on the slopes testing their skills the rest of the ski patrollers were undergoing refresher training.  Once certified as a patroller, members of the Ski Patrol are required to pass a test on a third of the Outdoor Emergency Care curriculum each year.  The trainers arranged a series of stations that tested skills such as administering oxygen through a rebreather mask, applying traction to a femur, and immobilizing a spine on a backboard.

That night in a hotel the Division Directors handed out service awards, training awards, and awards for the best patroller and candidate from the previous year.

Start of Day 2
The next day the candidates joined the regular patrollers on the hill to observe sled training.  The clouds rolled in again overnight and the winds picked up, making it even colder than the day before.  We stuck with the snowboarders and followed a team as they controlled a sled down a steep icy black run.  I was amazed as they were able to stop on a steep icy section and switch from the front handles to the back anchor rope position.   For the snowboarders it seemed pretty easy to control the sled as they mainly snowplowed down the steep or bumpy sections on their heel edge.  For the icy parts they switched to their toe edges for a little more control in stopping the sled.
Broken toe strap
I only got in a half day as right before lunch the toe strap of my left foot snapped as I was buckling in at the top of a lift.  I think the cold was too much for the plastic piece and it was unable to stretch as I ratcheted down my boot.  Thankfully I was able to get down the hill and negotiate a boot deep powder section with reasonable control.
End of the Weekend

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Patagonia Snowdrifter 20L Pack

I love it when I get new gear in the mail!  I already have several packs, including the BCA Float 32 that I recently reviewed but I was looking for something a little smaller and low profile that I could use while resort skiing.  I've used other packs that made it difficult to sit on a chairlift because the bulk of the pack would push me to the edge of the seat.  Riding packed lifts also didn't allow me to take the bag off and place it on the chair next to me.

Usually if I am boarding inbounds I prefer not to carry a bag at all but with the new Ski Patrol job I need a rig to carry my medical supplies.  As an Alpine Ski Patrol Candidate in Europe I need to go incognito so I can't go around with the flashy red bags and white cross (Berg Watch runs the slopes in Europe).

So here is my latest bag in my quest for the perfect bag: the Patagonia Snowdrifter 20L pack.  Its a relatively small bag with a 20L carrying capacity and a single large central compartment.  The exterior features a stowable second strap for carrying snowboards and a stowable ski loop for diagonal ski carry.

 The outermost pocket, and probably the first zipepr you will open is for a fleece lined goggle / sunglasses compartment that looks like it could actually carry a set of large goggles.

In the main compartment there are two sleeves for your shovel handle and your probe.  I like the idea of sleeves for the shovel handle and probe to keep them secure and bouncing around in your pack but the sleeves in this pack were very narrow.  I had to remove the probe from its carrier pouch and twist and shove it into the sleeve.  Both sleeves had the same challenge with the probe (Black Diamond model) but eventually I managed to make the probe slide in far enough to zip the bag shut.  I am concerned that with frequent removal of the probe the sleeve will tear or wear out quickly.

With the avy gear inside there was still plenty of room for additional layers, lunch, and the oversized first aid kit I need to carry.

 Also inside the main compartment is a sleeve for a hydration bladder, a small zippered pouch, and a tunnel for your hydration hose down the shoulder strap.  The hose has its own zippered port in the shoulder strap (featured only on one shoulder strap) so you can put it away when not in use and not have the hose whipping around and getting caught on stuff.

I am looking forward to taking this pack out into the snow this weekend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Climbing Ice - The Iceland Trifecta

This inspires me...

OEC Class: C-Collar & Scenarios

 Tonight for Outdoor Emergency Care class we reviewed an old test, placed a c-collar, made a field expedient neck brace from a Sam Splint, and ran a couple scenarios.

Studying the old test is generally helpful but sometimes frustrating as the book has evolved since this test was used. The new 5th edition of the OEC text sometimes doesn't cover material that was on previous tests, like what should you do with the eyelids of an unconscious patient (we guessed after an initial check to see pupil responsiveness, keep them shut).  The test also had some trick questions and made up words like "polyemisis."

The skills demonstration for the night was how to remove ski boots and helmets while stabilizing the spine.  This led into getting out the c-collar and taking the helmet off to placing the collar while maintaining stabilization. We then practiced making c-collars from Sam splints because we most likely won't be patrolling with huge packs with c-collars. The Sam splint was surprisingly stable.

After everyone had a chance to experiment with the collars I drew the first scenario for the night- bleeding head wound with the complication of HIV patient. I caught the HIV complication early as I was explaining to the patient why I was putting on gloves before touching the him.  Small talk and asking simple questions while explaining what I am doing seems to satisfy the evaluators, calm the patient, and keep the flow of evaluation moving nicely. I guess you could call it bedside manner. The head wound was relatively easy to bandage and we discussed the protocols related to announcing over the radio that I had a bleeding HIV positive patient.

Next I was the victim with a broken clavicle and a secondary injury of a bleeding laceration on my lower right leg. The patroller in the scenario missed the leg injury in his primary assessment but caught it in his secondary assessment. I ended up with a bandage on my leg and my arm slung and swathed.

I'm looking forward to the snowboard skills assessment on the mountain this weekend. Should be a fun day of follow the leader with hopefully six inches or more of new snow!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Marschenkopf Memories

In March 2015 a group of friends and I skinned up past the Stuibenkopf hut through the clouds to the Marschenkopf in the hills above Garmisch.  This was a tough tour for me as the skin track was iced over and I didn't yet have any crampons for my splitboard.  To top it off the toe strap on my Voile Light Rail binding snapped as I was strapping in for the first time of the day.  Fortunately one of my friends loaned me a Voile ski strap to secure the binding for tour.

Field repair of busted binding
To get to the trailhead you had to take the Alpspitz gondola to the top and ski down into the valley on the backside nearly to the bottom of the tow rope.  The trail started in the trees and was an undulating narrow track that gradually ascended, often only wide enough for a single skier at a time.

Once you broke through the trees you made a right hand turn into a high pasture glade which was formed into the large mounds of a mogul field. At the top of the glade in a relatively flat area the Stuibenkopf hut overlooked the fogged in valley.

Focusing very hard to stay on the side slope track
After a quick break at the hut for some snacks and water we continued up thru hard crusted open snow fields towards the cloud veiled peaks.  The double-wide skin track was easy to follow and in great condition until it started to traverse the slope.  Then the tracks lost their downhill side margins and both skiers and splitboarders (myself) began to slip out of the grooves and flail and punch through the crusted snow below.  Self arresting with trekking poles minimized the slides and I had to inch myself over some of the slippery sloped humps.
Me lagging behind on the icy skin track
View from the top

I was glad when I could just ski straight uphill as the skins gripped well as long as they had an extended contact surface.  Eventually we made it to the top of the Marschenkopf to great views of gray clouds above and below us and nearly untracked wide open white slopes.

Stripping skins & preparing for the descent
Unfortunately, the slopes seemed untracked because it was hard to bite through the thick crusty snow surface and when you did you usually flipped.  There were pockets of good snow and boarding with this group of friends was fun even though the conditions were less than ideal.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Avy Bag

The first piece of new gear for the 2016 season is my BCA Float 32 Airbag.  I scored a killer deal on last years model and have yet to take it to the snow, mainly because there is no snow in the local mountains.  Heres how the bag looks packed with my usual essentials but minus additional layers and food/water.

On the outside I rigged my ice axe and trekking poles but I don't like how the spike on the ice axe is near where the airbag would inflate.  Potentially the spike could puncture the bag unless I was to buy the OEM spike cover or rig some kind of cover (cut tennis ball?).

The Float 32 has an outside pouch for avalanche gear marked with the white zipper with sleeves for the shovel handle and probe.  The shovel head fits in snuggly and there is still room for a small first aid kit as well.

The main pouch contains the air cylinder (next to the blue skins pouch) and the connective hoses and wires protected behind velcroed in panels.  In this picture I packed my splitboard crampons, my boot crampons, and skins.

I could fit in an additional layer or two, my avalaung, food, and a 32oz nalgene bottle but that would max out the pack capacity.  There would be no room for a helmet inside the pack.  I also bought the optional snowboard carrier so if I had to hike I could carry the board as a single unit or split it and carry on the sides or diagonally.

The pack is rigged so you can run the trigger on one shoulder strap and a hydration tube in the other shoulder strap but I'm not sure if I will run a bladder and hose as I have had "insulated" tubes freeze on me before.  Once your tube goes you're screwed until you can thaw the hose again and drinking from the bladder wide-mouth opening is no fun.

There are two waist belt pockets but only one is useable as the other holds the leg strap to secure the pack to your body in case you get rolled in an avalanche.

About Myself

I'm stoked to start the new winter 2015-2016 season!  I've got new gear and am a National Ski Patrol Alpine Candidate currently in Outdoor Emergency Care (OEC) training.  Next week will be the snowboard skills assessment and we will take the OEC written and practical exams in January.  Following that we will go through multiple on the hill training sessions in February and March learning to control the toboggan and respond to emergencies on the slopes.  

Last year I started touring on a splitboard, spending over 50 days on the snow from December 2014  to April 2015 in the Alps.  The Alps are an incredible place for touring with many communities participate in "touring abend" or evening touring where skiers/snowboarders/snowshoers can skin up the mountain in the evening and dine at a lodge before descending back to the village below.  

In between snow seasons I achieved a lifetime goal of completing an Ironman triathlon.  

My goals for 2016 are to:
-Join the National Ski Patrol and complete Alpine Patroller training
-Climb Mont Blanc
-Traverse the Haute Route
-Complete Mountain Travel and Rescue course
-Snowboard 50 days