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Thursday, January 26, 2017

JaPOW - Freeride World Qualifier 4*

The look of pure satisfaction of getting faceshots in your contest run.
The land of the rising sun. A label true to the name, Japan is one of the most amazing spiritually connecting places in the world. To be in Japan is something that every snowboarder dreams about, one experience I will treasure for the rest of my life. To not only be there, but get 6 days in a row of the best days I've ever had on my snowboard in addition to the most fun contest there could be, felt like an absolute dream come true.

After hours of travel a makeshift office in the airport.
The ride into Hakuba Valley, enjoying my PHGB trailmix!

After hours of travel, planes, trains, and automobiles I was happy to get out of the big city and start making our way up into the "Japanese Alps" a.k.a the Hakuba Valley, a landscape which is sincerely remarkable.
The "Japanese Alps" 

Happy Ladies!
Upon arriving in Japan we heard they were having a bad year, but since the Freeride World Tour Qualifier was making its debut in Asia, regardless of the conditions we were fired up. These events take an enormous amount of planning and coordination from everyone, from the Hakuba tourism department to the FWT organizers, to the volunteers, and the athletes. Everyone has to come together, be understanding that we do a winter sport, and the conditions and safety take priority over how badly we all want to compete. That being said, luckily someone had the foresight that we might need a lot of extra weather days, and did we ever!

The contest was supposed to happen within the first 3-4 days we were in the Hakuba Valley, but with heavy snow continually falling through the week making the venue unsafe for competition, the event
organizers had to do some crafty thinking and rethink a venue with very short notice. They did
everything in their absolute power to keep the contest and spirit alive, keeping us updated with constant emails and meetings throughout the week. Thanks Alicia for being so on top of that :)

I don't think anyone was complaining about having to wait for the contest because every single competitor got to go ride at multiple resorts around Hakuba Valley and have literally, the BEST days of our lives. We rode chest deep powder all day, soaked in the natural hot springs (onsens) with a view after riding, then ate the most incredible fish every night, this was paradise.

One of my favorite buildings in Hakuba

A few days later the weather and snowpack was finally stable enough to have the contest in the backcountry of Hakuba Happo One Ski Resort. By this point I think half the field forgot we were there for a contest, because we were all grinning ear to ear all day every day with the meters fresh snow accumulating.
Possibly one of the best days of my life. Hakuba 47

The morning of the competition the sun greeted us for a little while, just enough time to give us the vitamin D we were missing from the huge storm that we were submersed in for the last week. By the time we were at the lodge to get our avalanche equipment checked, the storm moved back in, and made visibility a little bit more difficult.

Since they had to move the venue last minute they ended up giving us a snowmobile ride up a couple miles almost to the top of the venue. Lucky for us or we would have had to boot pack nearly an hour and half to the top of the venue. I'm amazed how efficiently it all went given the number of competitors and limited snowmobile usage,  not a single person missed their start.

Women snowboarders were the third group to drop, I was the third person to drop and I ended up in 3rd place on the podium! It was difficult to find my line after getting a faceshot first turn into the unbelievably steep venue.  I lost my line I inspected the day before nearly immediately, and just went for a soul inspired run, nearly blind. Congrats to all of the athletes and especially the ladies battling challenging near white-out conditions, and persevering with smiles on your faces. It was amazing to watch all of the competitors in their elements and especially watch the ladies absolutely SEND IT! Special shoutout to my friend Michaela Davis Meehan for her aggressive line that put her in 2nd place and the Russian sensation Anna Orlova for charging her way to the top spot!
Pure stoke with my girl Michaela Davis Meehan!

Another highlight for everyone was the fact that not only Travis Rice decided to show up to compete and absolutely dominate, but he was one the nicest people at the contest, kudos to him for being a humble human being and inspiring so many to do what we do.
The legend himself

Girls just wanna have fun! 

A big thank you again to the FWT organizers, Hakuba Tourism, and the Japanese people. Without whom this contest would not have made history the way it did. I am so honored to be a part of this event, and to stand atop the podium with some of the world best athletes is just a bonus! Thank you to DISCRETE HEADWEAR for helping me to get to Japan as well as PlayHardGive back for your support and keeping me fueled up and ready to ride. Another huge shoutout to NICHE SNOWBOARDS for shipping me a board suitable for these conditions all the way to Japan. As well as Aura Optics, XS Unified, Outdoor Tech, Polar Pro, and Shred Betties.

I can't wait to hit the next stop of the Freeride World Qualifier at Crested Butte February 10-12th. Stay Tuned!

I love JAPAN!

A burning cleanse before entering the temple

Big city lights. Tokyo, Japan. 

Near the famous Tokyo Scramble

Sake Barrels in Tokyo

Monday, September 19, 2016

Venture Vibes... MOAB

Tree pose overlooking the Island in the Sky. 
Desert Cactus 

All of the stars aligned to end up in one of the most mind blowing, magical places on the planet during the Centennial celebration of the the National Parks Service. Moab holds a dear place in my heart and soul as is true for almost anyone who has visited. This particular time was different however, for this time I was there with a more artistic eye. Knowing that with a real camera the experience would be far different than with just my GoPro or iphone. 
We started our Journey in Arches, a land of absolutely unreal geology, history, which is sure to leave you feeling bewildered in every sense. Having just procured a hardtop shell for my boyfriends truck, which he decked out inside with an insanely comfortable bed, storage, and shelving, we took it for its maiden voyage, from Oregon all the way to Southern Utah. 

Park Avenue
Balanced Rock

Our first night arriving in the park we ended up at the Double Arch (most people call this spot the Window Arches) but we found the Double Arch slightly more enticing than the crowded Window Arches at the top of the parking area. In my opinion this is one the most spectacular places in the whole park, the Double Arch in is an astounding work of erosion, and the sheer size of it can make even the biggest person feel small. 
Double Arch by Day
Garden of Eden 

Before we could begin cooking and relaxing waiting for the sun to go down, we accidentally locked ourselves out of the back of the truck, where of course, the keys were sitting atop the bed. Luckily I am a gadget geek and had a No Show (extension) pole from Polar Pro lurking in the backseat of the truck which we finagled through the back window of the truck through the camper to open the one window in there which didn't yet have a screen. After a couple minutes of struggling to catch the end of the pole on the lever for the window finally we triumphed and got the back door of the camper open. What a way to start the trip we thought, luckily our amateur move was quickly forgotten by the unwavering beauty of the night sky. 

Double Arch by Night

That night the sky was spectacular, with very little light pollution and more stars than the brain can comprehend, we both felt the very spiritual vibe that is resonating through all of Moab. The feeling of being a little part of this broad, big world and that we are not the first fortunate souls to have laid eyes upon this magnificent landscape. The unspoken words between us of how truly wonderful it must have been for the natives who once ran this land, and authentically cherished it in every way. 

Delicate Arch from lower viewpoint 
Window Arch

Dinosaur Print 
The following day was spent taking our time at every single pull off in sight, trying to beat the heat, while still getting the photos we wanted, and taking in the reality that we were there, amongst so much history, and hundreds of thousands of years of geological development. 

It really is hard to imagine what this landscape once was. Underwater. That dinosaurs once roamed there freely, and left imprints for us to find millions of years later, and that these rock formations were not manmade, but painted by millions of years of eroding wind and water. 

Canyonlands is aptly named for the deep canyons carved by the Colorado river along the valley floor. The Island in the Sky provides unbelievable panoramas of the fascinating landscape in every direction. Its hard to describe the undeniable spirituality of the place. It awakens a wandering sense of the "simpler life" that the natives once lived. 

Island in the Sky Overlook

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs 
Having covered the areas we wanted to see and photograph in the North end of Moab we decided to head South to the other entrance for Canyonlands. The Needles area is named for the bewildering rock pinnacles that are so famously captivating about this area. On your way into the south entrance there is an area to your right called Newspaper rock, depicting some of the most amazing petroglyphs I have seen in one concentrated region. To stand where someone stood 2,000 years ago, lived off the land, and had no concept of the material things we treasure today, was an unimaginable experience. 
4 Wheel Trail outside of Arches


Every direction you gaze in, your mind is absolutely blown. We drove about for a few hours, took walks to some of the more popular attractions, and were pleasantly surprised to find that there were far less people in this region of the park. You could actually take in what you were looking at without a hundred other people trying to take a photo with their iphone and then move on. However, we were ready to get far out there, away from everyone. We found what we were told was a pretty aggressive 4-wheel drive only road that leads to one marvelous overlook of the Colorado River. A 7 mile stretch of dirt road, with big drops, and flash flooding paths apparent in every direction. Fortunately we had a capable vehicle, and a competent driver.. (Drew.) I was not about to drive his truck over some of this hairy terrain, that tested not only the trucks limit, but our limits as well. Six miles in, the terrain got too rough despite his skill set behind the wheel. We decided to walk/run the last mile to the overlook, as the sun was setting quickly and we were loosing light, fast. To say it was worth it is an understatement. Sheer rock walls leading straight down to the valley floor with the brownish steady stream that is the magnificent Colorado River weaving its way through the canyons with ease.

To our north was the Island in the Sky, where we were the previous day, and to our south the rock pinnacles known as the Needles. The best part, was that there was not another soul in sight. Just us, the river, and the geologic anomalies that surrounded us. Watching the sunset there was a once in a lifetime experience that I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Colorado River Overlook. Taken using the Trippler Pole + Polarizer Filter on GoPro Hero 4 Black

Last light at Canyonlands

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

FWQ 16 At Crested Butte, CO

After calling Colorado my home for the past four seasons, I thought that I had explored the best parts of it. Making my way through Summit County, Telluride, and the city, it seemed as though there couldn't be anything more amazing to see. However, I was wrong. Crested Butte blew all of those places out of the water, and not just because of the skiing.
Take a step back in time, to 1960 to be exact. When men were real mountain men, there were no traffic lights in town, and skiers came to be skiers. Thats how Crested Butte still feels. The energy of this place is unlike anywhere I've ever been. Nestled away in the Colorado Rockies this massive peak of Crested Butte has a Matterhorn-like aura resonating through the town. You feel as if you could literally check out from the outside world and get lost here until you realize how forward thinking this place is.
As an athlete and someone who cares about my health and what goes in my body, it was unbelievable to see how many natural, local, organic options there are almost everywhere in town. Not to mention one of the cutest natural food stores I've ever been in. To think that this place has maintained the true mountain feel,  living up to their name "The last great Colorado mountain town," is truly quite the feat. Considering how many corporations there are in this industry and you can really feel their presence at most ski resorts in the USA. Time and time again this town and the mountain kept me bewildered with excitement and continuously shouting "This place is RAD!"involuntarily at every turn.

Crested Butte is one of the birthplaces of Freeskiing and it is clear why. The terrain here is extreme, steep, fast, and technical. It has bred some of the best skiers and snowboarders in the world. I was fortunate to not only witness the madness in person, but also get to participate in both the 2* and 4* Freeride World Tour Qualifying events here this past weekend. Nothing could have prepared us for the venues that were selected for the contest, however, I am glad that I grew up snowboarding in Montana, because it was downright intense.
The 2* contest started on Hawks Nest, a venue that is relatively mellow in comparison to the 4* venues. It was a one and done type of deal, meaning there was no qualifying round. Simply take one run through the course and the judges will decide the winners based on that one run. Watching my other competitors maneuver through the course really excited me, and I felt that I found a very original line choice. The skier women dropped first , and absolutely crushed the course, they are such phenomenal athletes and ski so fast through the icy mogul fields, it is really exhilarating to watch. After the skier women dropped, I was the first of the snowboard ladies to take my run. I came out of the starting area feeling very confident about my line choice and run. After making my way down through a few features that I had picked out, I came to my last air, which had a couple of moguls in front of it, into an air through some tight trees into another mogul field. I jumped, landed, then unfortunately caught my edge just before the finish area. I stopped, took a breath and collected myself to watch the rest of the ladies make their way down the course.

The rest of the field picked their way down the icy mogul run, doing what they could to stay on their feet, which is the name of the game at most of these contests. Unfortunately a lot of the field fell (myself included.) There were two girls who made it all the way down the course with fluidity and no falls and took first and second! Congratulations to Morgan Shippen of Durango, CO and Whitney O'Bannon from Jackson, WY for taking the top two spots! I was very honored to sneak a 3rd place podium finish even with my fall in the run.

The following day was qualifying for the 4* event, the sun was shining, the weather was sweet, and we were ready to move our dancing feet. We loaded the chair at 8am Saturday morning, and made our way to Headwall where the qualifying venue was located. Due to the enormous amount of sunshine the past couple of weeks here there were ample rocks all through the venue, making an already challenging course, a little more challenging. When maneuvering through steep icy moguls with "sharkfins" everywhere, you have to be so concentrated on each turn, never letting your guard down. The moment you do, the course will eat you alive. I'm incredibly proud and honored to ride this course with so many talented female rippers. It was not easy, and at the end of the day we can all pat ourselves on the back for handling this course and coming out unscathed.

There were 11 girls in the event, 8 of us moved onto finals. Finals took place the next day on a different venue than we had previously planned for. Myself, and a couple other competitors unfortunately did not hear that the venue had been changed from Staircase to Sock-it-to-Me until after we were already off the hill that day, which is less than ideal given the current state of the snow.

We mentally prepared ourselves the best we could, finding photos of the venue from whoever we could and studying them like we had a finals exam the following day. Blessed with another absolutely bluebird Colorado day, we made our way up for inspection at 8:30am. Thankfully, we were able to squeeze in two runs for inspection so we could make our line decision before the contest started at 10am. The skier women started the day again, and blew our minds with some incredible skiing. Next up was our category of snowboard women. Again, I am amazed at the caliber of riding that all of the women displayed and the decision making was impeccable. It was so fun to watch everyones runs, in particular Mary Boddington from Crested Butte who dominated the qualifying round on Saturday, and was sitting in first place going into the finals event. The conditions were tough, and the course took out a lot of good riders. At the end of the day you have to stay on your feet, and the riders who were able to do that came out on top. Randa Shahin rode solid through both events, coming from 7th position in qualifying all the way to 3rd place on the podium with a great finals run. Mary boddington took the win with some mindblowing riding both on qualifying and finals day. Mary had a very original line choice, and made it clear that she can handle this terrain, no problem! Both Randa, and Mary are incredible athletes, and genuinely wonderful human beings, and I was honored to be standing in 2nd place next to both of these ladies after the two day event. Congratulations to all of the competitors including Lynn Neil, and Robyn Borneman rounding out 4th and 5th position on the podium! Special thank you to Crested Butte Mountain Resort for putting on this great event and sharing "The Last Great Colorado Mountain Town" with us. I can't wait to come back next year. Another huge thank you has to go out to the FWQ16 staff, judges, volunteers, and spectators for putting on a stellar event! Thank you also to all of my sponsors for your support in getting me here, especially OUTDOOR TECH, and XS HELMETS!

Meadows Spring Park

Meadows Spring Park

Pow Day at Mt. Hood Meadows

Pow Day at Mt. Hood Meadows