Posts Tagged ‘Dean Cummings’
I tagged along today as the H2o Guides staff ventured out to practice crevasse rescue. The magnificent Valdez Glacier is on the outskirts of town, just past the airport. In true AK style, we got on our skis and were towed up behind snowmobiles to the practice site. We traveled over a frozen lake to a big iceberg that had a nice vertical wall. Glaciers are alive so the feature we played on today may not be here next season or it may just relocate to another part of the lake. Once the main route miners took inland during the great Gold Rush of the late 1800s, these days this area is a snowmobilers playground. In the summer, local outfitters guide people to this same spot . . . by boat.
While the guides worked to dig in anchors, prep their lips and set up their mechanical advantages, I took photos. It was a bluebird day at the glacier and bonus: uncharacteristically wind-free. Setting up for a crevasse rescue is tedious business. I got bored and happily volunteered to be the “victim” and get hoisted up the iceberg face. I walked to the base of the ice face with Chris who made sure I got my crampons on, rigged up and a gave me a few pointers about being rescued, namely, help if you can.
I had fun front-pointing on the ice as Mike single-handedly hoisted me up the ice face using a 6:1 mechanical advantage. Cool! Thinking that was fun I volunteered to be a victim again. This time, I was asked to act unconscious. The iceberg wall here was slightly overhanging so I couldn’t front point and walk up the face anyway so “acting” unconscious was easy. I was going to just dangle. After being hoisted a couple dozen feet off the ground my progress stalled. I took pictures of the surrounding scenery. I took pictures of myself. I could eavesdrop on the conversation a couple hundred yards away where Dean was leading the beacon search practice. I was getting dripped on by melting ice from the overhanging wall. I thought about Chinese water torture. It made me remember why ice climbing never held that much appeal. I tucked my camera away to keep it safe from the drips. Clouds started rolling in. I dangled on.
Suspended animation continued. I was tried spinning around for a different view. I saw Dean look my way then get on his snow machine to come see what was up. After checking out the scene, he yelled down to me what was already pretty obvious, the rope was fouled. So basically, what started as a practice session had turned pretty real. I dangled a while longer. Once the rope situation was finally straightened out, the guys made short work of hoisting me the rest of the way up the ice face.
They thanked me for being a good victim. I’m thinking someone owes me a beer.
If you’re a mountain girl, there’s no place like Valdez. I love the ocean but I realized a few years ago I’m ok to just visit the ocean. I need my ocean fixes for sure and my body sends strong signals when I’m overdue but once I sail or dive I’m ok to leave until the next time the urge strikes. But I need and must have mountains. When I come home from the ocean, my soul my bones my muscles and my eyes relax because I am home.
The mountains here are big and plentiful. A couple of days ago, I got my first glimpse of the glaciated terrain that is a hallmark of this area and it took my breath away. So the first thing I thought of was how to share this amazing place with some of my mountain-loving industry friends. Working with my newest mountain mama girlfriend, Karen Cummings, who co-owns the premier heli-ski company in Alaska with her husband, Dean, and with Dean’s full support, we crafted a special package for our industry girlfriends to come join me in Valdez in what looks like it will be the deepest snow year on record for a trip-of-a-lifetime Alaska adventure.
Note, you fly in the first day of the trip. Most airline schedules from major airports around the country can get you to Anchorage by 3 p.m. in time to catch the last flight of the day to Valdez on Grant Air or Era Aviation. The same is true in reverse for your departure. The last day of the trip you’ll get on the last plane from Valdez (VDZ) to Anchorage (ANC) and catch a red-eye back home. If you have any questions or concerns you can ask them in the comment stream or call me at 303.898.4141. If you ever dreamed of coming to Alaska let alone heli skiing in Alaska, there really is no better time to do so than this spring through this program. The snow is deep, the prices are as low as we can go and you’ll go home a better skier, a more accomplished backcountry traveler, and winter sports enthusiast. Hope to see you here in April!
A week or so ago there was a social media epidemic of wry six-pane photo descriptions of various jobs like kayaker, raft guide, ski instructor etc that depict “what my friends think I do,” “what my mom thinks I do,” “what society thinks I do,” “what customers think I do,” “what I think I do” and “what i really do.” I had a similar train of thought when i sat in on the H20 Guides daily morning guide meeting. The team is wrapping up pre-season preparations. It gave me insight into what it takes to be a guide and it’s more than what you might think. If you guess that a heliski guide has to be a high performance skier, trained in backcountry travel and rescue who is great with people, you’d be correct. But there are behind the scenes skills that the most valuable heli-ski guides also possess. This heli-skiing operation takes clients to remote places so it’s super important that guides have all kinds of skills to address any kind of random situation that can come up at any time, any place. Useful skills include carpenter, mechanic, fabricator, innovator, meteorologist, snow scientist, ski tech and of course, snow shoveler. Lots and lots of snow shoveling. For all the logistical needs required to efficiently get guests in and out of the field. Like the smoothest running conferences, weddings or parties, it’s what happened and happens behind the scenes that is key to the participant experience. In the case of a winter sport like heliskiing, that means managing snow and that means getting it out of the way too: shovering off vehicles, shoveling out doorways and stairways, shoveling off roofs, shoveling out landing zones for the helicopters, shoveling out snow pits and that’s just a starter list of things that need shoveling.
Here in Alaska snow is a very different animal than where I’m from. In the Banana Belt region of Colorado where I’m from I usually have the luxury of opting in or out of shoveling. More often than not I can just wait a day. The snow will stop falling, the sun will come out and the snow will melt. Up here in Valdez though, the scale makes for a whole different ballgame. According to the Alaska Tourism Industry Association Valdez gets more snowfall than any other sea-level city in North America, an average of 360 inches — 30 feet — a year. But this is an extraordinary year, on track to set a record. So far this season, Valdez has received 403.5 inches of snow and still plenty of days left to count and more snow in the forecast. According to the National Weather Service, snowfall on nearby Thompson Pass has reached over 600 inches. Sunday alone, 20.9 inches of snow fell, not far off the 1985 one-day record of 24.9 inches. It’s beautiful and awesome and even a little comical. On the plus side, all the snow just keeps priming the surrounding peaks for the heart of the heliski season that is just now getting under way here. On the flip side, snow removal is serious business.
The snow just keeps coming in all it’s delightful fluffiness and beauty. That means snow removal is serious business. Obviously it’s important to keep the roads snow-free and here, the city of Valdez shines, putting a lot of resources and effort into doing just that. It’s a small town with deep municipal treasury pockets so no expense is spared to get snow off the roads and off public buildings. Residents, however, are on their own to get snow off their roofs where all the weight can make ceilings sag causing doors to stick, beams to crack, and the occasional terminal scenario, structural compromise. It doesn’t take long to get these new realities and get with the program. Dealing with snow just a becomes second nature and part of the daily rhythm of life here.
But I digress. The first helicopter arrived last night, it’s a spectacular sunny morning and guide training officially kicks off this morning. Sweet!
This marks the start of the chronicles of my first adventure in Alaska with my client Dean Cummings’ H2o Guides. I had just barely started to scratch the surface of all the amazing in-bounds, side- and backcountry terrain in Revelstoke and then opportunity knocked and poof, gone! So from a 24-hour drive north of Salida, Colorado I’ve landed norther of Colorado. The goal of AK Ingenue is to share with you what I expect to be an amazing introduction to living, working and playing Alaska-style. Watch my Facebook page to find out about the next installments where you’ll join me for the full gamut of winter fun including all kinds of skiing, snow machining, ice-climbing, some insider glimpses of the heliski biz and more.
It’s been a week since I touched down in Valdez thanks to the unflappable piloting skills at Grant Aviation. The day after I landed was a momentous occasion, the official opening day of Salmonberry Ski Hill. I sprang for the $10 season pass and joined Dean’s wife Karen, and kids Wyatt and Tesslina – in breaking in the new rope tow. It’s actually a kind of re-opening since there was a ski hill in the same location in the late ’80′s that’s been dormant until Karen rallied local civic leaders to bring the hill back to life. The four-minute rope tow takes folks 1100 feet to the top of a rolling hill. While Wyatt and Tess did a lap, Karen led me off-piste for a couple fresh turns – literally – a couple.
The next day, I needed to get to town for some shopping – it’s just a 20 minute walk but – but Dean offered to give me a ride. In case you haven’t heard, while many ski areas in the Lower 48 were languishing in drought, Valdez was getting hammered. There’s just under 40 feet of snow in town, about a 100 foot base in the
mountains. Fun to play in, deep snow creates havoc on buildings and roads and big equipment to move it all is a pretty common sight around town so it was little surprise that my commuter vehicle was big and yellow. This past week has been all work work work. So I joined the gym to keep in shape in between ski excursions. Prince William Sound Community College has a public fitness center where you can “rent” nordic ski gear and snowshoes for free which came in handy when I joined Karen and her friend Jen on a quick snowshoe jaunt at Dock Point.
All work and no play, at least no real ski play, was starting to make me and the H2o crew a bit twitchy so when Dean gave the guys – Ryan, Chad, Paul, Elliot and Max - the day off, we all hopped in a van and headed up to Thompson Pass. Quite the views on the way up and we saw two moose (meese?). The ice in Keystone canyon is amazing.
It was a first in many ways today. Just before leaving Revy, I had transferred my Dynafit bindings from my retired Sugar Daddys to my new sweet, fat H2o Outdoor Gear Kodiak 162′s (120 under foot). Today was their first test drive. I was also test driving new skin technology from Gecko. The skis are amazing and the Gecko’s worked just fine. I’m still dialing in my Scarpa Gea’s which I love because they’re so light and comfy and easy to get in/out of but they’re just a wee bit big for me and it became really clear today I still need to work to fill up some volume and get rid of slop.
Couple o’ quick takeaways from today:
Scale is out of whack here: The terrain is bigger than it looks; it’s colder than it seems.
You can gain an astounding amount of vert in just three hours of skinning.
I need to work toward a bit more graceful steep uphill skin track kick turn.
I can’t wait to go again. It’s dumping right now and expected to do so for the next couple days and taper off by the end of the week.
Sorry about the background noise in the video below. It was a little windy on the saddle.
ASPEN, CO – Big mountain steep skiing icon Dean Cummings was awarded Best Line at Powder magazine’s annual Powder Awards ceremony here last night. Cummings had two epic first descents last spring featured in his movie, The Steep Life. Cummings called The Tusk direct the most committing line he’s ever skied. The equally challenging Dragon’s Back Spine of Meteorite Mountain garnered the award.
Cummings, who has been making and producing ski films for the past 20 years, said he was humbled to earn the honor given the achievements of the other finalists in the category including defending champ, Ian McIntosh (TGR), Dane Tudor (PBP), Eric Hjorleifson (MSP), Sage Cattabriga-Alosa (TGR), and Kye Petersen (All.I.Can.).
Cummings said he thanks his family, wife Karen and children Wyatt Kodiak and Tesslina as well as his H2o Guides team all of whom make it possible for him to continue to go after the big peaks of Alaska’s Chugach Range. Cummings said that winning the award at a time when the snow sports community is reeling from tragic losses, inspires him even more to give back to the sport through teaching practical techniques and protocols to help people avoid avalanches. Cummings’ award-winning avalanche safety curriculum has won two safety awards from the Alaska governor’s office and recently helped earn him the Educator of the Year award from Avalaunch/Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
Now in its 12th year, the Powder Awards has grown to become one of the biggest nights in skiing, attracting a veritable who’s who of the industry—professional skiers, ski legends, ski film production crews, industry brands, media, non-affiliated celebrities (who may not even ski) and even the odd ski bum. While the Powder Awards primarily highlight the best of the year’s ski films – like Movie of the Year and Best Male and Female Performance – the ceremonies also acknowledge our readers’ favorites with our annual Reader Poll. Hence, the all-inclusive celebration of skiing,and why everyone who’s anyone comes to Aspen for one big night in January every year. For the complete list of winners at this year’s Powder Video Awards, visit the magazine’s website.
ABOUT DEAN CUMMINGS.
Big mountain, steep skiing icon Dean Cummings has been pushing the limits of what’s possible on skis for more than 20 years. The former captain of the US Freestyle Ski Team and 1995 World Extreme Skiing Champion, Cummings has been featured in nearly 50 films from some of the best filmmakers in the industry. He founded and owns H2o Guides, the premier heliski operator in Valdez, AK and recently founded his own line of skis and packs with his company H2o Outdoor Gear. Cummings also enjoys the generous support of the following sponsors. Helly Hansen, Polarmax, Ortovox, S4 Optics, AEE and Traser Watches.
Valdez, AK – Amid one of the deepest winters on record, in a town already known as the Snow Capital, the premier heliski operator in Alaska’s famed Chugach mountain range is offering a value package designed to make it even more appealing to make this year THE year for skiers and snowboarders take their dream heliski vacation.
“We’ve never seen it this deep, this early. It’s insane,” said big mountain steep-skiing icon and H2o Guides founder/owner Dean Cummings, who has been guiding heliskiing in the area since 1991. “We’ve got such a huge snowpack, it seems only right to try to make it more accessible to all the snow-starved ski area season-pass holders in the some of our favorite places.”
Valdez, year-round home to Cummings and headquarters for his family-run H2o Guides, has been getting pummeled with snow that’s so relentless, the town elementary school closed for fear the roof might collapse. With no place left to clear snow from the streets, snow removal equipment is dumping loads of the white stuff into Prince William Sound. According to the Anchorage Daily News, “The record snowfall for Valdez, 560.7 inches, was recorded in the winter of 1989-1990. The current snowfall is on track to eclipse that.”
The Valdez Epic Deal offers special pricing on a heliski/ski package to any powder-craving ski area season pass holder in California, the Central Rockies including AZ, CO, NM, MT, UT, WY, and the East Coast. The promotion is also available to former guests who are already in the H2o Guides database.
The Valdez Epic Deal includes the following: Discounts on multi-day heliski packages the first two weeks of March and Cummings’ signature hybrid powder skis that carve from H2o Outdoor Gear; $550 for skis regularly priced at $899. Valdez Epic Deal customers will also get a free souvenir hat and t-shirt. Savings total nearly $600 for a dream heliski trip and skis.
Discount heliski packages are limited in number and available on a first come, first serve basis the first two weeks of March as follows: Discount skis, free souvenir hat and shirt plus 10 percent off a 5-day/7-night trip or 5 percent off a 3-day/5-night package trip. To take advantage of this offer, call 907.835.8418 and be sure to mention “Valdez Epic Deal.”
Founded in 1995, H2o Guides is the longest-running heli ski business under one owner in Alaska and the only company based in Valdez year-round. Guests of H2o Guides enjoy premium all-service customer service and unparalleled terrain. H2o’s permits through federal land managers give guests a gateway to over 2.6 million acres, more than any other operator in the world. With nine unique staging locations, H2o Guides accesses good snow when other operators cannot. The company’s safety record is unmatched. For more information about H2o Guides visit their website, http://www.H2oGuides.com
Valdez, AK – H2o Outdoor Gear has retained Brand Amp to elevate the profile and support sales of Dean Cummings’ new signature line of skis.
The iconic Big Mountain skier and Alaska heli-skiing pioneer, is introducing a trio of skis infused with knowledge gleaned from two decades skiing some of the most innovative lines in the most demanding environments. Cumming’s new skis feature proprietary Lay-Down Technology, a unique hybrid combination of powder and carving design that eliminates chatter and allows the ski to confidently track in all conditions from powder to hard snow.
Cummings said he is confident his Lay-Down Technology has created “the most forgiving ski for the greatest variety of conditions on the market today.”
The Tazlina, Kodiak and Karen’cito models are available in a choice of three lengths each with a unique and corresponding radius that works to optimize performance. The custom handmade wood core skis, made in the USA, are built to for all environments: Big Mountain, All Mountain, backcountry and resort.
Skiers can see the skis in action this fall in Cummings’ upcoming new film release, “The Steep Life.” Later this fall, Cummings will tour with the film and skis at select backcountry ski retail outposts along the West Coast, East Coast and Rockies. H2oG will also exhibit at two major industry trade shows this January, Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 in Salt Lake City and the SIA Snow Sports Show in Denver.
Brand Amp has been retained to manage the tour and provide overall public relations support for Cummings’ launch as a small production specialty ski manufacturer.
Brand Amp founder and president Lee Hart said Cummings fits with her motto to only work with people she likes and product she believes in. “Dean is a globally recognized name as an athlete and as a leader who continues to pioneer the development of techniques and protocols for Big Mountain, glacier and remote mechanized skiing. These ski designs are manifestations of the innovation and excellence Dean brings on and off the mountain.”
Cummings said he chose to work with Brand Amp because Hart hit the mark in designing a public relations campaign that aligns with the short-term goals and long- range vision of H2oG.
About H2o Outdoor Gear. H2o Outdoor Gear is a brand extension of H2o Guides. H2o Guides is the the family-owned and operated Alaska heliskiing operation founded in 1995 by World Champion extreme skier and former US Freestyle Ski Team member Dean Cummings . Cummings has been laying fresh tracks in the establishment and evolution of globally recognized standards in safety education both as founder of the North American Outdoor Institute and lead architect of the American Mechanized Ski Guide Course. With his new line of skis, Cummings brings cutting-edge concepts in ski design for the world’s most precision-demanding slopes to skiers exploring the boundaries of their own backyard backcountry stashes. For further information visit the H2oG website.
About Brand Amp. Brand Amp offers strategic communications counsel and a range of smart, scalable public relations solutions, including brand-building social media campaigns, to clients primarily in the outdoor adventure, snow sports and adventure travel industries. For further information visit the Brand Amp website .