February 21, 2010

Knowledge is Powder

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 8:36 pm

Good morning and greetings, avalanche fans. Earlier in the week, with some rare free time on my hands, I blasted out some photos taken by the San Francisco Chronicle of the recent Mavericks surf contest. This historical event took place in Half Moon Bay, which is forty-five minutes north of Santa Cruz and featured the most humongous waves ever for a paddle-in contest. I, unfortunately, did not attend this event as I’m highly allergic to rogue waves.

These fifty-foot faced monsters were ridden by 24 surfers, who were literally risking their lives to be part of surfing history. Witnesses to this carnage of white water described these angry, menacing waves as “bombs exploding,” as the wipeouts were has horrific as my math SAT scores. I can’t even begin to imagine the paralyzing and overwhelming fear one would feel dropping down on a nearly vertical 40-foot wave of water. Personally, I don a life jacket when body surfing in my hot tub at high tide.

On this day, big wave surfing was taken to another level. As for me, attempting to ride one of Mother Earth’s most violent walls of water on a colorfully decorated piece of polyurethane, with some fiberglass, a couple of fins and two Norweigans is not my idea of recreational fun. My motto is, “if it swells, run from it.”

The most amazing part is that these gentlemen (and ladies,) who ride these mountains called waves, generally don’t get paid for it. Unlike the golfer putting for a million bucks or the basketball player making $20 million for a couple of free throws, these folks are putting it all on the line for free a good part of the time. And this leads me into today’s guest posting.

My brother Brad doesn’t surf Pipeline, Waimea Bay or Sunset Beach, but instead likes to be dropped off by a helicopter on the top of a mountain. Myself, I prefer to be dropped off right in front of the restaurant. Or just get it to go. So, without any further ado, here in his own words is a guy who’s been like a youngest brother to me, Brad Gilbert.

As any long time reader of this blog is aware, it’s really all about the weather. Clouds make sunsets, rain makes rainbows, and snow makes Geoffrey’s younger brother a very happy boy. From sometime in October to late April, I spend an inordinate amount of time tracking weather and snow reports from around the US and Canada. My name is Brad and I am a powder addict.

My addiction leads me on a never ending quest for fresh tracks. In theory, if you spend enough time researching conditions and have a lot of flexibility in your work/travel plans you can always find powder. In reality, conditions can change in an instant and there really is no guarantee that your dreams of epic conditions will come true. That however, has never stopped me from chasing powder in the past and this year was no exception.

As usual, the closest thing to a sure thing can often be found in Canada. So like thousands of Olympic hopefuls, I headed north of the border this January to the beautiful province of British Columbia. This is where I and several long time compatriots take our annual heli trip. Unlike the Olympics venues though, we didn’t head to Whistler and the coastal ranges but further inland to what’s known as the “powder triangle” which thanks to its copious snow totals and relatively low mountains is a perfect spot for heli skiing (or in my case – heli boarding).

While I have had in general found tremendous conditions on my trips to BC, I have on occasion run into some weather snags and this years trip proved to be a bit problematic. If you’ve been following the Olympics, you’ve no doubt heard about the record breaking warmth and lack of snow in some venues. Well, while we certainly didn’t lack for snow, but the warm temperatures did cause us problems, most notably rain and even worse, fog.

Helicopters can not fly in fog, so no matter how much snow has fallen, if you can’t see, you can’t ski. This particular dilemma kept us in or near the lodge for the majority of our trip. It also severely limits your photo opportunities unless grey is your favorite color.

Photo 1 clearly shows the cloud ceiling above us and the fog banks below that kept wreaking havoc with our flying plans. Photos 2 thru 5 show why my oldest brother would actually have to take off his shorts and put on a pair of long pants as the snow was deeper than last year’s New York Yankee lineup. Photo number 6 shows why I spend countless time and dollars pursuing this sport as there is no place I’d rather be than on a beautiful untracked mountain out in the pristine wilderness.

We had one epic day in the Valhallas which basically made the whole trip worthwhile and if you’re actually interested in seeing photos of the skiing you can check out my blog at www.glutenfreesnowboarder.com for lots more photos and a day by day diary of the whole trip along with coverage of the rest of my riding season. Right now as I write this, Colorado is in a major snow cycle and once my editor approves this post, I will be heading to Aspen for what hopefully will be a powder filled experience. So yes, while knowledge may lead to powder, in this case I’d rather be lucky than smart. Till next year, see you on the slopes…

Thank you, Brad, and I hope it went well in the Rockies. Here’s the difference between me and my youngest sibling. For the weekend, he chose Aspen. For me, after playing hoops Saturday morning, I chose a bottle of aspirin.

On to the late night experience. “The Winter Olympics are under way in Canada. They showed the biathlon today, a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting rifles, which is known to Sarah Palin as ‘commuting.’ ” –Jimmy Kimmel “You know who was at the Daytona 500? Sarah Palin, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. She was at the finish line, and she waved her checkered past. Yesterday was Sarah Palin’s birthday. And Sarah celebrated the same way she does every year — got in a helicopter and was picking off wolf cubs.” –David Letterman

“Did you have a nice Valentine’s Day? Remember the underpants bomber? He bought his girlfriend some lovely exploding lingerie. There’s a bit of a scandal in men’s figure skating at the Olympics. Three skaters have tested positive for ‘fabulous. Spring training started. And the Phillies, look out for the Phillies. They get this guy, Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in all of baseball. But listen to this, the Mets, very competitive. You know who they signed? They signed that guy who threw the shoes at President Bush.” –David Letterman

Sly and the Family Stone said, “It’s a family affair” and today truly is, as birthday wishes go out to my Marin County-based brother Paul, who celebrates the big 55 today. Paul claims after the first time he beat me one-on-one in basketball, that I didn’t speak to him for days. I’m man enough to admit that it never happened, and if it did, I only did it to boost his self-esteem, because that’s the kind of loving brother I am. Paul and I played together and dominated for years at UCSC, and he never failed to hustle back on offense.

And belated February birthday wishes go out to my consigliere, Nancy Mager of Tucson, Arizona and to my non-breast feeding mother Lee, who said back then she had a headache. Or in the words of the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, ” My mother didn’t breast feed me. She said she liked me as a friend.”

One more snow note. Thanks to an unusual combination of weather patterns and fallout from the hot air rising from Tiger Woods’ press conference last week, 49 states were at least partially covered by snow. Hawaii was the sole exception, but they have their own problems with “ice.”

So I hoped you enjoyed our salute to johnny snowflake and we’ll return to the coast next week. For you Winter Olympic buffs, my favorite new color is Shaun White. We’ll catch you on the diamond run. Aloha, mahalo and later, Lindsey Vonn fans.


  1. The apple doesn’t fall too far off the farm stand, does it?

    Comment by NBA — February 22, 2010 @ 9:02 am

  2. Still hoopin, yeh baby!
    I so feel what Brad is saying. Felt his frustration on first several days when paying for vert you get none. Glad he had one good day in fresh. Havn’t seen much this entire season myself. It rained in Alaska mid-January. At Whistler in the sun. Catch up soon. Home this weekend.

    Comment by Jerry Hoffman — February 23, 2010 @ 1:13 am

  3. Loved the surfing and snowboarding postings. But how about a little air time for the Winter Olympics? Perhaps, you could have a guest blogger who is immersed in the Games and could comment on downhill skiing, snowboarding, speedskating, hockey and most of all, curling.

    Comment by Apollo Ohno — February 23, 2010 @ 10:24 am

  4. Snow looks incredible !

    Comment by Capitola Village Restaurants — February 28, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

  5. Of course, what a splendid blog and informative posts, I will bookmark your website.Best Regards! A guide to shutterstock review online.

    Comment by Sell photos — December 8, 2010 @ 10:04 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Follow Sunrise Santa Cruz on Twitter
Sunrise Santa Cruz in the news!