carve february 2014

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CARVE YOUR GUIDE TO SKIING AND SNOWBOARDING IN SOUTHWEST MONTANA FEBRUARY 2014 A SPECIAL PUBLICATION OF THE BOZEMAN DAILY CHRONICLE EXPLORING YELLOWSTONE t PLUS HYALITE ICE: LOCAL TEEN AT CUTTING EDGE OF CLIMBING SKI BUM QUIVER: NICHE SKIS FOR MONTANA SLOPES GOING BIG: DROPPING INTO BIG SKY’S VAST BACKCOUNTRY PHOTO: RANDY ROBERTSON/ YELLOWSTONEVACATIONS.COM LOCATION: OLD FAITHFUL, YNP A GUIDED TOUR INTO THE HEART OF YELLOWSTONE’S GEYSER COUNTRY

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Carve is the Bozeman Daily Chronicle’s winter sports publication featuring downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding and various non-motorized winter recreation activities.

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  • CARVEY o u r g u i d e t o s k i i n g a n d s n o w b o a r d i n g i n s o u t h w e s t m o n t a n a

    February 2014a s p e c i a l p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h e b o z e m a n d a i l y c h r o n i c l e

    Exploring YEllowstonE

    tPLus Hyalite ice: local teen at cut ting edge of climbing

    ski bum quiver: nichE skis for montana slopEs going big: dropping into big SkyS vaSt backcountry

    photo: randY robErtson/ YEllowstonEvacations.comlocation: old faithful, Ynp

    a guidEd tour into thE hEart of YEllowstonEs gEYsEr countrY

  • 2 Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 CARVE

  • CARVE BIG SkY PUBLISHING, FeBRUARY 14, 2014 3

    ASSemBLING THe ULTImATe SkI QUIveR BY kARIN kIRk

    We ask a lot of our skis. they need to carve on hard-pack, float through the cold smoke, behave themselves on travers-es, be forgiving yet burly, and be light enough to shoulder up the bootpack. oh yeah, they also have to look cool and cost less than a semester at Msu. some skiers remain faithful to a single pair of skis while others withstand dirty looks from their spouses and covet niche skis that are purpose-built for specific tasks.

    a visit to a ski shop reveals an impressive array of skis on the wall. fat skis, rockered skis, skis with early rise, skis with tradi-tional camber, womens skis, at skis and park skis. Never before have there been so many distinct genres of gear available to the average skier. Which one should you choose? or should you own more than one? and how do you decipher the technology behind all those colorful graphics? lets examine the various genres of skis as we assemble a fantasy quiver of four skis.

    1. The hard Snow SpecialiSTGranted, we live for powder days. But corduroy

    can be ridiculously fun on the right set of skis, especially if no one is in your way. recreational skis that were primarily designed for firm snow and groomers were commonplace in the early 2000s, but are being nudged out by fatter and more rockered skis. But if you travel to groomed havens like sun Valley, or you enjoy pretending that youre ted ligety, then having a dedicated carving ski makes sense.

    the Volkl RTM 81 is one such offering, with a trim 81 mm waist, integrated bindings, and rein-forced edges that deliver unwavering edge hold. there are pretty much only two things you need to do on this ski: stand in the middle of it and tip it on edge. after that, just hold on and enjoy the ride. the edge grip feels uncannily connected to the snow, and lends a sensation of autopilot as it navigates crisp arcs with seemingly little input from the skier. are you a skier who likes to ride in the backseat and enjoy the scenery? this ski is not for you. the tail is stiff and will deliver a stern rebuke if you settle into the back of the ski.

    on the other side of the spectrum, the Elan Am-phibio 76 is an entry-level carving ski designed for those with a light touch. thanks to a novel asym-metrical design, the skis engage easily, offering the reward of carving to those who dont need to travel at 40 mph to feel alive.

    Volkl RTM 81Elan Amphibio 76

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  • 4 BIg SKY PUBLISHINg, FeBrUArY 14, 2014 CARVE

    2. The Well-Tempered midfaTA versatile fat-ish ski can serve as an everyday ski for those who prefer to keep life simple, and

    is the go-to tool for skiing on old powder or a few inches of new snow. An all-rounder for our area would be 90-105 mm underfoot with enough sidecut to carve when needed and sufficient width to avoid getting bogged down in deep snow. Skis in this genre typically use traditional camber in the midsection of the ski with an early rise shovel for easy turn initiation. This best-of-both worlds design allows the ski to rise to the challenges of any given day. These well-rounded skis are popular in our area for good reason and there are many choices that fill this niche. The Line Sick Day 95, Volkl Mantra, Atomic Ritual and K2 Remedy 102 are some worthy examples.

    At 99 mm underfoot, the womens DPS Nina 99 Pure3 (identical to the mens Wailer 99 except for color and length) is a relatively slim ski from a company that is known for making powder skis. The Ninas made their initial impression when I picked them up to head out the door; they are surprisingly light thanks to their carbon construction. Out on the snow, this lends a nimble, maneuverable flavor to the ride. These skis are eager to please and respond predictably to a wide range of inputs. Tip them on edge and they grip capably. Flatten the ski and it will surf through piles of soft snow. Pivot them and theyll snap through the bumps. This ski blends the rare traits of performing when pushed but also complying with just about any move you make, even if it happens to not be the most perfect move. It will encourage you rather than punish you; thats a nice characteristic to have in a ski that you take to tricky places.

    DPS Nina 99

    Pure3

    3. The No-Compromise poWder slayerTodays fat skis are wonderful tools, engineered to bring even

    more bliss to a deep day. Several attributes make these skis well-suited to soft snow. First, their width provides ample surface area for floatation. Beyond that, the rockered shape maintains a loose, flowy feel to the ski that allows for one of my favorite ski moves: the schmear. The ski can be easily pivoted, sliced or surfed through powder, depending on your wishes. Typically, these skis are not overly stiff, further enhancing the easygoing personality that makes these skis so darned fun.

    I spent a fun day on the Volkl One, which has pronounced rocker and a 116 mm waist. One thing I love about skis in this category is that you can ski right into moguls without fear of getting rocked all over the place. Their supple flex soaks up bumpy terrain and leaves you to focus on keeping yourself in the fall line rather than dealing with repercussions from slightly

    unwise decisions. The One was unfussy about the particu-lars of any given turn and it was always game to go where I pointed it. The ski employs a cleverly designed wood core that uses stiff ash underfoot and soft and springy poplar in the tip and tail. Thus the ski will deliver when pressured from the middle, but its also forgiving and absorptive.

    While ginormous fat skis are getting lots of attention in the press and in the Schlasmans liftline, keep in mind that they are still niche skis. What you gain in surfability in soft snow you sacrifice in carvability in firm conditions. The springy tip and tail can produce an amusing flapping motion at high speeds and the rockered shape is embarrassingly slow on tra-verses and roads (no one likes to be passed by a girl, even on a runout). So if you are eyeing a ski like this as your everyday companion, its best to test it in a range of realistic conditions before committing.

    Volkl One

  • CARVE Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 5

    Ski Tech PriMer CamBeR, RoCkeR, eaRly RiSe

    Todays skis employ a few different types of ge-ometry. Just to make things a little more confusing, many skis combine several of these profiles into one ski. When youre shopping for skis, put the bases together to see if its cambered, flat or rockered.

    Traditional camber is the familiar arch of the ski when it rests on the floor without any weight on it. camber gives a ski rebound and an energetic, snappy feel. Rockered skis have no camber and are flat all along their running length or are bowed such that the middle of the ski touches the ground while the tip and tail do not. rockered skis are delight-fully smeary and maneuverable and are ushering in a whole new surf-inspired technique in soft snow. early rise is when the area just behind the ski tip is

    slightly suspended off the snow. This helps the ski engage the new turn with less effort. Twintip skis have both the tips and tails turned up. Origi-nally designed for the terrain park, an upturned tail has its place on an all-mountain ski due to its ability to shimmy into tight spots. Some twintip skis also have a softer tail that allows the ski to release easily from the turn. and lets not forget how a twintip generates a wake of powder spray to ward off tailgaters.

    WOMenS SkiSWhaTS BeneaTh The pReTTy TopSheeT?

    There was a time when womens skis were severely watered down designs that lacked the ability to perform. But thankfully, ski manufactur-ers have come to realize that women are every bit as skilled as men, but we simply dont weigh as much. The actual distinction of what makes a womens ski varies by model and manufacturer. in some cases its simply a different graphic while in others its a top-down design intended specifically for women. in general, womens skis are designed to respond to a lighter skier. Many womens skis use less metal and contain softer, easier-flexing materials compared to a similar mens model. They also come in shorter lengths and sometimes are a smidge narrower than their mens counterparts. These three factors combine to produce a ski that is lighter in weight overall, which again is proportion-al to the size of the skier. That said, dont be fooled into thinking that womens skis are pushovers. high-end womens skis such as the nordic hells Belles or Volkl aura still demand an expert skier at the helm however that skier can weigh in at 125 pounds instead of 180.

    SpeCial ThankSThank you to Chalet Sports, The Roundhouse and

    Bob Wards for loaning skis for review. Tony Brown also contributed technical expertise to this article.

    Karin Kirk is a ski instructor, Ridge Guide and staff trainer at Bridger Bowl. Please dont ask her how many skis she owns, as this is a sensitive topic.

    4. The Alpine Touring SeTupBackcountry skiing has become the

    fastest-growing segment of the snowsports equipment market, and every major brand is div-ing in and creating tempting offerings. But its a little confusing to navigate all the choices. Unlike the completely universal DIN alpine bindings, touring bindings come in several different configurations and in some cases traditional alpine boots are not compatible. An ideal AT setup is light, reliable, and versatile since youll be asking the gear to perform in a broad range of conditions.

    For many, the quest for the ultimate touring setup begins with the binding choice. If were going all in, well go with Dynafit. They pretty much invented the modern touring binding, after all. Dynafit bindings are ridiculously light, they pivot effortlessly on the way up and they are secure and solid all the way down. The Dynafit Radical ST or Radical FT are great choices for our terrain.

    A major caveat is that your normal alpine boots wont work, but you wouldnt want those clunky things in the backcountry anyway. Instead, youll need a genu-ine AT boot with tech fittings. Aside from binding compatibility, an AT boot buys you light weight, lots of float in the cuff for natural striding on the way up, and a lugged sole that makes for easy walking on snow, ice and rocks.

    Pair your sleek boots and bindings with a similarly purpose-built ski such as the Dynafit Grand Teton (105 mm underfoot) or Black Diamond Verdict (100 mm underfoot). Although its tempting to get a super wide ski for the backcountry, keep in mind that you have to propel the things uphill and they need to perform on windblown snow, frozen corn and a wide range of less-than-ideal conditions. So seek an all-rounder rather than a specialist.

    The whole setup may not feel quite as bomber as your alpine gear, but then again you wont be pounding frozen bumps on Bronco anyway. Instead youll be rocketing through Hyalite pow or making morning laps in April corn. A bonafide alpine touring setup is a luxurious addition to the quiver, expand-ing your ski season and your vocabulary of ski experiences well beyond the boundaries of resort skiing. t

    Dynafit Grand Teton Black Diamond Verdict

  • 6 Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 CARVE

    The cuTTing edge of climbing By Terry CunninghAm

    Like a ladybug clinging to the underside of a leaf, Justin Willis, 18, is hanging from the ceiling of the Bingo Cave a grotto in the Hyalite Canyon climbing area known as the Unnamed Wall his ice tools and crampon points jammed into tiny fis-sures in fractured rock. He lifts his left leg over his left arm and locks it against his chest in a figure-4, then places the handle of an ice tool in his mouth and shakes out his arm as he prepares to make a big move on the Northwest Passage, a difficult mixed climbing route. His climbing partner adjusts his belay stance and shouts, Cmon, Justin. Stick it!

    Justin removes the tool from between his teeth. OK, dad.

    A parent providing a lifeline for their offspring is usually a figure of speech, but here, its literal.

    The man feeding rope through his belay device is Rusty Willis, 41, an accomplished rock, ice and alpine climber whose expeditions take him to the planets most challenging objectives. Its humbling to climb with him, Justin admits. Hes tougher than nails and he pushes me to my absolute limit.

    Watching Justin dry-tool his way out of the cave and onto a 75-foot sheer rock wall, one gets the sense that hes on the cutting edge of ice climbing in Hyalite. Starting with Pat Callis, who first ascended an ice formation in Hyalite Canyon in 1972, climb-ers such as Alex Lowe, Doug Chabot, Conrad Anker, Rusty Willis and Whit Magro have formed a sort of human pyramid that boosts the level of accomplishment (and difficulty) for successive generations of climbers.

    SeTh langBauer/PhoToS

    in December 2013, Willis placed 11th at the uiAA north American ice Climbing Championships.

    Justin Willis climbs across the ceiling of the Bingo Cave on a route called The northwest Passage in hyalite Canyon.

  • CARVE Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 7

    Justin Willis certainly has the raw talent to climb to the top of that pyramid. In December 2013, Justin placed 11th in the UIAA North American Ice Climbing Champion-ships. The following month, as the youngest competitor in the history of the Ouray Ice Festival, he finished in 9th position in the Elite Mixed Competition.

    The question for Justin is, since the majority of ice climbing objectives have been discovered and surmount-ed, what are the next challenges in Hyalite Canyon? How does he make a name for himself in the most con-centrated collection of ice-climbing routes in the lower 48? According to Rusty and Justin, endless challenges still abound.

    Variable cycles of freezing and thawing mean that ice forms differ-ently each year (certain routes only form once a decade) which ensures a dynamic climbing environment. Its also no secret that there are unclimbed ice formations tantaliz-ingly visible on remote ledges that no climber has found a safe way to access. Another strategy is to link

    climbs together such as the Winter Dance / Big Sleep link-up (known as The Big Dance) that Whit Magro and Adam Knoff pioneered in November 2013. Of course, nothing beats the first ascent of a previously undiscovered route. Many climbers believe that in some remote draw or couloir in Hyalite Canyon there exists a spectacular braid of ice that has never felt the sharp end of an ice tool or crampon point.

    But for Justin, the routes at Hyalite arent the ultimate objective; they serve as a means to an end. He sees Hyalite as an excellent training ground for his ultimate goal: pioneer-ing super-technical routes on big mountains throughout the world.

    This is where the future of moun-taineering is going to come from, he explains. Extreme alpinism incorpo-rates exactly the types of moves were practicing today just on a bigger scale.

    But first, its Justins turn to belay his father on the Northwest Pas-sage. Ill do it the way Justin did it, Rusty predicts with a wink. Just a lot smoother. t

    Justin climbs an approach pitch in the Avalanche Gully area in Hyalite Canyon.

  • 10 Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 CARVE

    Nelson commandeers the travel van, while the snowshoers guide, Leslie Stoltz, another veteran of both Lone Mountain and Yellowstone, bowls us over with her treasure trove of facts about Gallatin Canyon and Yellowstone: history, geology and local lore. Its a pattern that will repeat itself throughout the day, and as our outing unfolds, I become increasingly aware that skiing in Yellowstone is not an end onto itself. Somewhere in the back of my mind a small yoga voice repeats, Its the journey not the destination. GRRRIve always hated that voice, but by the end of the day find myself nearly transformed and believing it. All in all, the most informative trip down Gallatin Canyon Ive ever taken.

    The night sky finally gives way to hazy daylight as we arrive in West Yellow-stone. A couple of blocks down Boundary Street, we see two of Alpen Guides eight cherry red bombar-diers ready and waiting to take us on our Yellowstone ski adventure.

    With our group whittled down to eight, including newcomer David Alder, our Alpen Guides driver in whom we find another fine mind wrapped humorously and ever so tightly around Yellowstone loreenough to keep us driving around the park for days, we inch our way to Midway Geyser Basin and the Fairy Falls trailhead. Six adventur-ers cozy up in the back of Griz (all bombardiers sport their own personalities) on a curvilinear lounge seat that Dean Martin and the Rat Pack would be proud of. I take the commanders seat next to Alder and get to see first hand how the elementary and beautifully restored, though woefully uninformed dashboard and power steeringless bombar-dier handles the road.

    While Im busy ponder-ing this situation, I hear Alder on the radio, Jack, Im headed straight to Fairy Falls. Whomever or where ever Jack might be, he responds with a jolly, OK, wildlife be damned. From the luxurious seating in back, Nelson responds by asking Alder to take a right along Riverside Drive to look for swans, bald eagles, and whatever else might pop up.

    One hundred and fifty pictures later we arrive at the Fairy Falls trailhead, its 11:30 a.m. I would normally believe this is where the real adventure begins, but Id be lying. I already feel like Im worlds away and I havent strapped on my skis or poles yet. Speaking of which, my fancy adjustable poles were sent with Chip in the snowshoers bombardier. I dont need no stinking poles, I tell Nelson, while busily strapping on his pair.

    kim iBeS/PhotoS

    On our way to Mammoth Junction, our guide, Chris Nelson takes advantage of Grizs sunroof to watch a large bison herd making its way across Yellowstones snowy Madison River.

    Nelson holds up a piece of frost he picked several feet from Imperial Geyser, ice crystals grow like inverted grass rising up from the ground.

    Some visitors shed their skis to walk around Imperial Geyser while others prefer to ski the far outer perimeter, Nelson reads temperatures well over 158 degrees on its shallow edge.

  • CARVE Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 11

    With a pole-less Nelson initially breaking trail (several of us trade out the pole situation throughout the day as the snow becomes deeper and more compact) we quickly glide away from the steam-laden Firehole River, past the barren outer edges of Grand Prismatic Springs and into a young, frosty lodgepole forest. Away from the geyser, the sun shines spectacularly. Theres no wind to speak of, yet the scalloped design spread across a crusty snow-covered surface tells of its unrelenting presence. The 2.6 mile trail to Fairy Falls is untouched. Today we are the first and will be the last.

    Nelson leads a circuitous route through the forest, on the lookout for small orange directional tags affixed haphazardly to trees. We cross both visible and invisible streams, see many elk, bison and miscellaneous critter tracks, and witness both the death and birth borne on this landscape from a devastating fire more than a decade earlier.

    At 197-feet tall, the bluish, ice-encrusted falls itself is a spectacular site, as is most everything in Yellowstone under its winter sheathe. Lunch is mostly a stand-up affair, with everyone anxious to ski deeper into the geyser basin.

    Emboldened by Nelson, and the rarity of this opportunity, our little group trudges onward to the gushing Imperial Geyser, stopping briefly to witness Spray Geyser, before we accept the inevitability of our return. After skiing roughly eight miles, short in distance though long on adven-ture, we find ourselves back at our little red bombardier. Its 4 p.m. as we load up. The coach is decidedly quiet, satisfied, yet this journey through wonderland is far from over.

    As the late afternoon sun drifts lower onto the horizon, casting an amber light across the Madison River, Alderkeen-eyed and as reluctant as the rest of us to end this excursion, pulls the bombardier over for an unexpected heron, a couple of healthy looking coyotes, several bull elk, and a small herd of bison. Its almost 5:30 p.m. before we load back into Lone Mountains comfy coach and nearly 7 p.m. before I leave their Nor-dic Center.

    Im guessing there will be another full moon tonight, and I drive off thinking about the movie Groundhog Day. Today, I think, might just be the perfect day to rinse and repeat. t

    TOURING YELLOWSTONETo schedule your own yellowstone ski adventure with lone Mountain ranch:http://www.lonemountainranch.com/winter-things-to-do/winter-yellow-

    stone-park-tours/or call their nordic Center at 406-995-4734

    yellowstone Ski Tours are also available through yellowstone Vacationshttp://www.yellowstonevacations.com/tours/yellowstone-national-park-

    winter-tours/1-800-426-7669

    Sport Injuries, Spine Care, Orthopedics & AstymWe bill most insurances.

    406-539-5393www.vailpt.com 316 E Babcock Bozeman MT 59715

    Heal Better Feel Better

    Good LuckMSU Skiers!

    kiM iBeS

    A cross-country skier takes in the view at Fairy Falls.

  • 12 Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 CARVE

    ah, moguls. Why do you trouble us so? Moguls seem to represent one of the more persistent love/hate situations in all of skiing. On one hand, big bump runs seem to call to us we really ought to be able to venture over there, no? But on the other hand, as soon as you find yourself surrounded by a sea of bumps and troughs, it suddenly seems like a bad idea altogether.

    There are many tactics and techniques for skiing bumps and i could probably fill a book (or a comic book, at the very least) with all the variations. But for most of us, negotiating moguls demands two key skills: speed control, lest we go pinballing through the bump field, and bal-ance, so that despite the 3-dimensional surface, we remain in charge of our skis instead of vice-versa.

    The Basic Recipeas you stand gazing down a mogul field, you

    might wonder how to best approach the run. This is especially true as the friend or family member who suggested this run disappears from view, leaving you to ponder this mystery all by yourself. for start-ers, aim to begin and end each turn on top of a mo-gul. The tops of the bumps offer a respite from the ruts and give you room to maneuver. Traverse into the run, looking for a bump with a nice broad top. Plant your pole somewhere on the top of the bump (you do use a pole plant with every turn, right?), and start your new turn with conviction. your skis will then travel off the top of the bump, down into the adjacent rut and then back up onto the next bump. Depending on where you aim yourself, the next bump could be directly downhill of the bump you started on, or it could be somewhat across the hill. That depends on how aggressively you want to ski the run, and it really doesnt matter too much which particular bump you aim for. use the top of the next bump to wrap up your turn, plant your pole, and head into the next turn. huh, that sounds easy on paper, doesnt it?

    Whoa Cowboy, Control your Speed!you can always tell when someone is having

    a bad time in the moguls when you see them bouncing unhappily across the run, looking more like a rodeo competitor than a skier. Bumps have a sneaky way of depriving you of the opportunity to slow down. it becomes a matter of knowing exactly where you can slow yourself and doing so assert-ively. for basic bump skiing, the place to check your

    speed is at the crest of the bump, where there is room to turn your skis freely and apply the brakes. if your skis are down in the ruts between bumps, theres just not enough space to get the skis sideways. using the tops of the bumps works out well since thats where each turn ends and its a natural place to scrub speed. So at the end of the turn, stand on your edges a bit and let the skis skid to bring the speed down. in fact, aim to slow down a little more than youd like. if you can ski a bump run at 80 percent of your

    ideal speed youll find yourself being proactive about speed control, which is key. By the time you are going too fast its too late to make effective adjustments. (yahoo, cowboy!)

    Stay over your feet!The classic mistake is to let the skis get out in

    front of you as they accelerate down a bump and into a trough. Sitting back is heavily penalized in the bumps, it leaves you vulnerable to the whims of the bumpy surface and its probably the single most common cause of trouble while skiing off the groomed. The answer here is to press the tips of your skis down the face of the bump just as you are starting your turn. Stand up tall, keep your hips over your feet, go with your skis, and trust that mov-ing forward is the right idea even if you dont like the looks of the trough you are heading into. Stay as balanced as you can through the trough, then flex your ankles, knees and hips evenly to absorb the next bump. This will feel as if you are moving toward the bump (rather than shrinking back from it). if you ski slowly, there is no need to make huge moves to absorb the bumps. So aim for controlled, balanced turns and spare yourself the pounding.

    Should you come apart a little bit as you ride through the rut, remember to aim for the top of the next bump. use that spot to slow down, get back over your feet, plant your pole and start again. With each run, youll have dozens of op-portunities to practice the recipe. Dont give up! Start slow, plan ahead and strive to stay over your feet. and dont forget to yell yahoo! during those moments when things get a little out of hand. its all part of our Montana cowboy heritage. t

    Karin Kirk is a ski instructor, Ridge guide and staff trainer at Bridger Bowl, where skiing bumps is an everyday joy. Karin can be reached at [email protected]

    By Karin KirK

    moguls made easy Cowboy up and learn the skills to avoid getting bucked in the bumps

    1. look for the top of a mogul as a place to begin your turn. have your pole ready.

    2. Plant your pole on top of the bump to begin the turn.

    3. Stay tall and forward as you ski down the face of the bump.

    4. look for the next bump stay forward and swing your pole to target the top of the next bump.

    5. use the top of the bump to scrub speed, plant your pole and continue with the next turn.

    6. as you dial it up, add absorption to soak up the moguls so you dont get bucked.

    chriS kerr/PhOTOS

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  • Now that we find ourselves within the icy grips of winter, the trauma associ-ated with such conditions is stacking up. It isnt that the weather has been unbearable by any means, but notable early precipitation followed by a general warming trend and an Arctic freeze to finish it off have created some of the most treacherous surfaces ever seen from parking lots to trailheads.

    That being said, while wear-ing our Yaktrax and scattering kitty litter under our spin-ning tires, I have decided to dedicate this issue to Ask your therapist a question. I have asked a few of our therapists to address the most frequently asked questions in the clinic re-cently. I hope the information proves useful and please be careful with the icy conditions we are currently experiencing.

    I shoveled the snow in my driveway and now have pain in my back. What can I do to prevent this from happen-ing every time the snow falls?

    Snow shoveling is one of the more common causes of low back pain in the winter months. The exertion, cold weather, and slippery surfaces snow shovelers face are a dangerous combina-tion; especially if its an activity you are not used to. However this type of injury is preventable if you know the best ways to remove snow without straining the back. The following snow removal tips can help you avoid low back injuries and pain during the winter season. First of all, use ergonomic lifting techniques when shov-eling. These techniques are as follows: Always face toward the object you intend to lift-have your shoulders and hips both squarely facing. Bend at the hips, not the low back and push the chest out, pointing forward. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight. Keep loads light and do not lift any object that makes you strain. Avoid twisting the back to move the snow to its new location-always pivot your whole body to face the new direction. Keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body at your center of gravity, do

    not extend your arms to throw the snow. Walk to the new location to deposit the item rather than reaching or tossing. Pace yourself, and if you are not used to exercising or youve had a back problem in the past, the smart way of approaching this is to do a little bit at a time.

    Are wrist guards effective in preventing injuries to snowboarders?

    Yes! Now that the number of snowboarders is virtually equal to the number of skiers in the United States and the sport has been in existence long enough to validate long-term studies, it is overwhelm-ingly obvious that wrist brac-ing significantly decreases the number of upper extrem-ity injuries directly related to snowboarding. That being said, there is one particular group of snowboarders who

    are at an elevated risk of upper extrem-ity injury. Beginners (first five days on a snowboard) and snowboarders with rented equipment were eight times more likely to suffer a wrist fracture than their non-falling off the lift, shredding coun-terparts. In short, spring for the braces they cost less than 15 minutes in your favorite medical professionals office.

    I took a slobberknocker and my pole strap caught my thumb, it hurts on the side by the pointer finger, what happened and what do I do?

    This injury is often referred to as skiers thumb or its official name of ulnar col-lateral ligament injury. This injury most often occurs when a skier falls on an

    outstretched hand (often while holding a ski pole) causing the thumb to bend backwards or too far out to the side. Symptoms include pain and weakness when trying to squeeze or hold things between your thumb and index finger as well as bruising and tenderness along the side of your thumb closest to your index finger. If you suspect this ligament may be involved in your fall, it is best to apply ice for the first 24 hours, apply compres-sion and rest your hand. If you are still experiencing symptoms, you should consult with an orthopedic hand surgeon for evaluation. Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may include a trip to an occupational therapist for a custom brace to immobilize your thumb or surgery to repair the torn ligament in your thumb. How do I prevent this injury from happening? Stay upright on your skis (easier said than done.) Always remember if the inevitable is going to happen, let go of your poles and try to tuck your arms in to avoid falling on an outstretched hand. Lastly, choose poles with finger grips without wrist straps, or do not wear the straps on your current poles.

    So I got hurt, do I use heat or ice to treat my injury?

    In the first 72 hours following an injury, ice is the modality of choice. Heat is not recommended because it causes dilation of blood vessels, increasing blood to the injured area. Ice has many physiological effects. Ice constricts blood vessels, thus reducing blood flow to the injured area which equates to less hemorrhaging, less edema, and less accumulation of damag-ing inflammatory cells. Ice decreases inflammation by inhibiting the activity of inflammatory chemicals and reducing the metabolic rate of inflammatory cells. Ice retards edema formation, but is probably not effective without the use of compres-sion in reducing edema that has already accumulated. After the first 72 hours, ei-ther modality can be used depending on the goal of treatment. Both heat and ice

    are effective in pain control by stimulat-ing nerves that intercept pain messages to the brain. Ice can be used post workout to reduce muscle soreness. Also, ice re-duces nerve conduction velocity and can counteract neuromuscular inhibition post injury. Heat increases circulation and can assist in removing waste products from the acute inflammatory process. Heat can also increase range of motion if applied prior to stretching; however the window of opportunity is maybe 2-3 minutes. There is no consensus on the duration to apply ice or heat, but most clinicians recommend a 20-minute application. t

    Dr. LeGrand is a board certified fellowship trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine. He is the Director of sports medicine at the Montana State University athletic department and is a U.S. Ski Team physician.

    Nate Naprstek OTR/L is a board certified occupational therapist at Bridger Orthope-dics/Freestone Rehabilitation. Contribut-ing therapists for this article were Brianne Stevenson DPT, Amy Seaman OTR/L, and Laura Opstedal DPT.

    By dr. alex legrand

    CARVE BIg SKY PUBLISHINg, FeBrUArY 14, 2014 13

    tis the season Winter-related injuries dont always happen on the hill

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  • I envision that should I ever be buried in an avalanche my partner will locate me quickly, put together his shovel and dig like a maniac. He will be anaerobic, spittle drooling from his mouth, sweat burning his eyes and hell be puffing like a locomotive. His heart rate will be maxed, his face red and ears ringing. I know this because I carefully choose my backcountry partners. They will give 110 percent of themselves to save me if Im buried. They are mentally, emotionally and physically tough.

    Though its often missed and rarely talked about, toughness fits into the survival equation. No one wants to be weak, but when the chips are down

    partners who are tough, coupled with victims who are resilient, sometimes tip the balance to survival. Imagine survival as an old-fashioned tip scale with an equal amount of hundreds of pounds on each side representing your lifes work. Your survival is in the balance and the mere weight of a penny on one side of the scale can be enough to tip it in your favor. Competent, strong, tough partners can be that penny when luck alone is not enough.

    I was recently reminded how tough-ness fits into the survival equation.

    On Jan. 17, six snowmobilers from North Dakota went riding outside Cooke City. They were familiar with the terrain

    and everyone car-ried rescue gear. They split up. Four were at the bottom of a bowl and the other two were out of their view on the ridge at the top of the bowl. One rider throttled up the slope, triggering an avalanche behind him as he ascend-ed. Unbelievably, at the exact moment the slope started to break apart and avalanche another rider at the top launched over the ridgeline

    and landed on the breaking slab. This was a million to one odds of bad luck. He was caught and completely buried in an avalanche he did not trigger and did not know about until he landed in it. His partners had no formal rescue training but were well read and had practiced on their own. They all stayed on scene, one person doing the beacon search while the others put shovels and probes together. They located the victim under 4 feet of snow and dug like mad men. When they reached him they cut his helmet off because their frozen fingers couldnt unbuckle his chin strap. One of them had taken a CPR course years earlier during a Lamaze class with his wife. He re-membered enough. The victim was dead, not breathing and pulseless. The Lamaze guy began thumping hard on the victims chest, much to the horror of his friends, but it worked. After pumping for two minutes the victim started breath-ing on his own. A few minutes later his eyes opened and his first words were, What took you so bleeping long! He rode back to town on his own. After a rest and a celebratory night of drinking the victim was out again the next day, although his chest was mighty sore.

    Interviewing the witness, having him recount in a very matter-of-fact manner the process they followed to dig out their friend, their coolness under pressure and the attitude of the victim, was a breath of fresh air in a world where excuses to NOT do something, to go get help and wait for orders seems to rule the day. His partners were solid and the victim was composed. Id ride with these guys any day. They are tough and solution-oriented.

    Another example of admirable tough-ness occurred on Jan. 1 in an avalanche that resulted in a fatality in the northern Gallatin Range. A young man was upside down, head buried, with one arm free. An avalanche had swept him and an-other rider off their machines and buried them both. He was 19, untrained and suddenly being tested beyond anything he could have imagined. He uncovered his head with his free arm, got his pack off to get his shovel and dug himself out.

    Looking downhill, he saw the debris and knew his partner was buried and in seri-ous trouble. To reiterate, hes been in a large slide, buried, banged up, freed him-self and barely survived. He could have crumbled under the stress, retreated into his own world to take care of himself and wait for help. But he did not. He carried on, did a beacon search, probed and struck his partners boot, then dug 4 feet down and along the length of his body to free the man, his best friends father. He rolled him over and began CPR alone for at least 20 minutes. It did not work, but this young mans toughness and fortitude saved his own life and gave his friends father the best chance he had.

    People tend to rely on specific rescue techniques in an emergency: beacons with multiple burial options, strategic shoveling and precise probing regimes, all important skills for anyone going in the backcountry. But when push comes to shove, give me a fit, motivated, clear-thinking partner over someone who knows the latest probing technique but freaks out under pressure. A partner needs to get the job done no matter how bad the adversity they are facing. A partner will take personal risks, not leave to get help, and work like a maniac to tip the scales a pennys worth in my favor. A partner will be mentally and physically tough and I will be forever grateful. t

    Doug Chabot is the director of the Gal-latin National Forest Avalanche Center. He can be reached at [email protected]

    14 BIG SkY PUBLISHING, FeBRUARY 14, 2014 CARVE

    Toughness & survival Sometimes survival in the backcountry comes down to grit and a little bit of luck

    By doug chaBot

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  • Its 11 a.m. on Super Bowl Sunday and the temperature is hovering near zero degrees on the summit of Lone Peak. Stepping off the Tram, Im greeted by local skiers Ted McClanahan and Monica Thomas, who instead of getting ready for the big game later in the day, have devised a game plan of their own a super-sized run down The Mullet.

    McClanahan has more than fresh turns on his mind though as he clicks into his skis. Hes also shouldering a hefty box of back-country rescue gear he has assembled and plans to stash at Lone Lake on the backside of the mountain.

    Cellphone off and beeper on? he asks as we approach the backcountry gate. The air is frigid and crisp as we gaze down from our 11,000-foot perch at Lone Lake, more than 2,000 feet below our ski tips. Spectacular views of the Madison Range and powdery lines abound. One-by-one we begin sidestepping a rocky slope to the upper entrance and my skis gingerly gain pur-chase on the snow-covered talus. Adrenalin kicks into overdrive and I completely forget about the cold. My heart pounds with each deliberate and exposed move.

    Halfway through the rock field I have one of those, If mom could see me now moments in which shed probably faint or at the very least take my skis away for good. I make sure that each step in this no fall zone is carefully placed and after five tense minutes we safely make it to skiable terrain.

    With Ted in the lead, we take turns spotting each other. The gully has a skiable line about 6-to-10 feet wide and the scratchy snow is perfect for jump turns. About 500 feet down, wind-blown snow fills in the gully and the run gets a little wider and more importantly, deeper with every turn. We play it safe and pony up three times before resting at the final hump above the lake. From here we can finally let the skis open up and link high-speed turns through shin-deep pow to the lake.

    Ted hoists the cache up a tree at the northern end of the lake and we spend a few minutes taking in the scenery. Im amazed at the view before my eyes: lines and gul-lys of Lone Peak Cirque tower above us and form a 180-degree panorama, its a skiers dream.

    The vast and extreme nature of the area prompted McClanahan to partner with Big Sky Ski Patrol and the search and rescue community to help increase safety for skiers who frequent this remote cirque. The cache includes a full-zip sleeping bag, gear to help transport injured skiers, vital survival supplies and an information manual if a rescue is required.

    With the cache safely in place, we kick and glide past the lake and ski through powdery meadows for another 1,000 vertical feet. Eventually we hit the skin track and after a beautiful hour-long tour we reach Big Skys ski boundary, take the skins off, and rip corduroy down to the Six Shooter lift.

    We hop on the chair at 2:30 p.m. and I almost feel sorry for people sitting on the couch who only care about the football game and miss out on an experience like this. From the lift I watch skiers and snowboarders picking their way through the rocky terrain in the Headwaters area, and Im content knowing that this is a Super Bowl Sunday to never forget.

    Well, unless youre a Broncos fan. t

    Monica Thomas digs into a turn while skiing The Mullet on Feb. 2.

    CARVE Big Sky PuBliShing, feBruary 14, 2014 15

    TexT and PhoToS By chris kerr

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    Ted McClanahan and Thomas pick their way down the snow-covered talus slope to access The Mullet.

    Cache money hanging at Lone Lake.

  • 16 big skY publishing, fEbruarY 14, 2014 CARVE

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