For over 12 years, Sun Valley Trekking has run an internship program during the winter season. The goal of the program is to provide training and mentorship to aspiring ski guides. The “job description” is to : Ski from hut to hut throughout the winter, maintain hut supplies, gather snow and stability information, develop personal backcountry ski technique and experience, assist on guided trips as porters and tail guides and seek mentorship and skill development with the SVT Guide Team. Over the years, many interns have returned for a second year to continue this progression and many graduates of the program are working as professional ski and mountain guides today. We often finish the season with an “Intern Final Exam” designed to test the skill and experience developed over the season. There are two styles of exam open to the interns: to guide the guides or to be guided by the guides. Both styles can help push the learning envelope and provide a rewarding experience. This years team: Trudy, Toby, Niels and Alisa chose to guide SVT guides: Joe St.Onge and Chris Marshall on a particularly snowy late April tour in the alpine Smokey Mountains. Powder, white-out navigation, steep skiing and a Chinese Downhill tested the interns’ skill and grit and was followed by the end of the season Guide Games back in town. Good stuff!
We are just back from a 3 day mission into the Pioneer Yurt with goal of supplying the yurt with cords of firewood and other supplies for the next season. We transitioned from snowmobiles to chainsaws to skis and alpine axes, cutting lots of wood and climbing and skiing some classics in the process. Conditions are spring like on the big peaks and skied great.
SVT guides Joe St.Onge and Chris Marshall went for a recon tour above the Boulder Yurts today to check conditions for future tours. Good ski conditions were found above 9000′ and some stability issues including: new wind slabs (30cm deep) which were producing easy failures and planar shears in isolated areas as well as triggering a fairly large loose snow/sluff avalanche in the deep facets in steep terrain. Have fun and heads up out there!
Every winter the guides of SVT gather to run training seminars and workshops. Typically we focus on particular goals at each training, dusting off skills, sharing lessons and tricks and evaluating how to do things better and more efficiently. This years early season training was focused on winter rescue. We discussed and practiced avalanche rescue, emergency shelters and stoves, 1st aid and then ran 3 separate sled evacuations off Titus Ridge to the trailhead. Check out the photos below to get ideas for different possibilities and approaches to addressing a forced bivy or having to evacuate a partner with a broken leg.
SVT guides: Joe St.Onge, Patrick Graham and Chris Marshall went for a tour out in the Smoky Mountains yesterday to check the early season conditions. Despite a relatively thin snow pack, good turning conditions were found and a beautiful tour was had. Careful route finding and conservative choices are key to avoid the many thin snow hazards that are present right now. With that in mind, there is some fun skiing to be had right now!
We are just back from completing the first phase of a Fishhook Hut renovation. The goal is to give the 33 year old hut a long awaited facelift and create a cozy new cooking, eating and gathering area with a view. The end result will be a new hut (based on the design of the recently built Bench Hut, but 1/2 the size) connected to the renovated old yurt that will become a sleeping hut with bunk space for 12. The old wall tent will be dismantled. As of the end of last week, we completed the framing of the new hut and it looks awesome! The new hut is built with 100% beetle killed lodge pole pine from within a 100 yards of the site. The entire project has been powered by human muscle, chainsaws and goal zero solar power: backcountry carpentry at its best! There was even a sighting of the Grendel…
Watch out! The interns have gotten ahold of the blog! On Tuesday, nine of Sun Valley Trekkings finest converged on the Redfish Lake parking area to find a not-so-snow-covered road in to the summer trailhead. After a few hours of hauling sleds full of food, beverages, and most importantly chainsaws the few miles (and 1,100 feet up) in to Bench hut, the real work began. Areas of standing dead trees were selected and the saw fairies sprang into action! Amid hoots and hollers, trees fell left and right until a carpet of soon-to-be firewood lay scattered across the isothermic mash-potato snow.
As the sun moved across the sky, the carpet of downed trees that was laying a few hundred yards from the hut was moved, piece by piece to the wood rick, bucked into firewood sized chunks, and stacked in preparation for next years flakes to fall.
By the end of the afternoon and caked with sawdust, the firewood fairies emerged from their chainsaw slinging, log carrying dust cloud to find a full wood rick, a three-inch mat of sawdust, and a case of PBR. Boots were removed to sighs of relief, as the Irish crickets sounded off, making quick work of the beer.
The fairies slept well that night, with visions of peaks and coolers dancing in their heads, for tomorrow was to be a ski day the likes of which have never been seen. Though not a flake fell from the sky that night, Wednesday’s objective was cold dry snow, and with that singular goal in mind, the fairies gladly traded their work-gloves for ski gear, and headed up toward the peaks
Ascending to the 5th Lake Saddle, hopes of cold dry snow became blurry with heat-induced mirages. Glopping skins and beads of sweat made even the surest believers in cold snow doubt their tour plans. And then, with one short traverse and two quick turns, we struck it rich, skier style!!
Looking back at our tracks, eyes moved higher. A pair of coolers towered above us as we began to transition back to climbing mode. Wet, crusty glop turned to dry, fluffy powder as we ascended up into the confines of the coolers, and one by one each skier had his turn to enjoy the fruits of his gravity-fighting labors.
Amid hoots and cries, the cooler and runout were completely shralped, harvested of their majestic white blankness in favor of deep arcing turns. Another transition and climb back up brought the group to a turning point, and the decision was made to divide and
conquer ski. Three of the interns and Patrick opted to attempt the Heyburn Cooler, while Joe and two others decided that the original cooler still needed more shralping. More bootpacking, heavy breathing, and jaw-dropping views, found us transitioning back to downhill mode.
And just like that, we reached the lake, and prepared ourselves for a downhill battle with the late afternoon isothermic snowpack that stood between us and the hut.
One of the lesser known products of these woodcuts are fairly large piles of “slash” that aren’t wood-stove-worthy, and what’s a firewood fairy to do but put flame to flammables, sit back, and enjoy a nice little campfire.
Again, sleep evaded no-one that night, and after an early morning of cleaning and buffing out the hut, the fairies were on their way to Fishhook Yurt for more chainsaw slinging and log hauling.
With full wood ricks at both Bench and Fishhook, the firewood fairies deemed their job complete, and, the next morning, headed back to the trailhead, satisfied that yet another winter could be shared with so many, around a roaring wood stove.
The Firewood Fairies