AIARE 2, Powder, and Gearing Up!

I arrived in Utah a few weeks ago and days later was on my way back to Colorado for my AIARE 2 avalanche course. The few days I spent in Utah before my course, I settled into my apartment, got a few good ski days in and unpacked my live-in Honda Odysski.

odyski

Honda Odyski

The snow in Utah was pretty minimal and I was a bit less in shape and acclimated than I was hoping to be 1 month out from my start date. For what was not the first time, and I’m 100% sure will not be the last time I started to doubt myself. “What am I doing?”, “Why do I think I can ski 2.5 million vertical feet in a year?”, “did I just trick myself into thinking this was possible?”

I kept it together and headed to Colorado for my avalanche course. It was so great to get back into the snow science zone. Dig pits, perform test, and look at faceted snow crystals under a loupe.

facets

Facets

While skiing was not the main objective of the 5 day weekend, I did meet up with some great friends from seasons past and got in a few good turns before and after class.

fun in the trees with friends

Fun in the trees with friends

After a white-knuckle drive back to Utah a week later everything was different. It had snow nearly 3 feet while I was gone. I was nice and acclimated to the altitude. I was ready to start putting in the long days and big vertical. I made quick work of getting into the mountains and beginning to rack up the feet.

Aaron Rice finds low angle white gold on a high avy danger day in the Wasatch backcountry, Utah. Beginning January 1, 2016 Aaron will set out to break the world record for most human powered vertical feet skied in a calendar year, 2.5 million feet. [photo: Louis Arevalo]

Aaron Rice finds low angle white gold on a high avy danger day in the Wasatch backcountry, Utah. Beginning January 1, 2016 Aaron will set out to break the world record for most human powered vertical feet skied in a calendar year, 2.5 million feet. [photo: Louis Arevalo]

In the 5 days back in Utah I have but in 35,000 feet and am still ramping up. I don’t want to push my body too hard, too fast. The progression has been 5k, 5k, 7k, 8k, 9k. I am hoping to crack 10k for the first time this season tomorrow. We are lined up for a big atmospheric river event and are looking to get 4” of water equating to 3+ feet of snow in the next 3 days! Avalanche danger is surely going to rise, but the low angle trees should be fantastic!

A huge thank you to the Flyin’ Ryan Foundation for the support allowing me to take my AIARE level 2 and safely work towards my goal to earn and ski 2.5 million vertical feet in a calendar year.
Join me on my adventure at:
http://instagram.com/airandrice
http://facebook.com/airandriceski
http://airandrice.com

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West vs. East …. Grand vs. Cozy

Growing up in subrural (the rural equivalent to sub-urban) New England I was always surrounded by forest and the largest mountains I saw were the White Mountains of New Hampshire. When I first visit “The West” I was in awe. Everything was so big. The mountains seemed like they were 10 times the size and everything was steep. I am certainly not the first east coaster to experience this feeling. When I moved out west after graduating from college I began to really explore these mountains that felt so large. I found that they really weren’t that large. A season exploring an area and it would begin to feel small again. I began asking myself what the true differences were between the East and West Coast.

tight New England trees

Tight New England trees

BIg

Big Colorado expansiveness

I have often described the East Coast as cozy and the West as grand. A 360° view in the East is a rare sight. Only the occasional mountain top or large field has a truly wide panoramic view. The West is the opposite. There are lots of arid area with no trees, and where there are forest, you can usually see right through them. Always being able to see a long distance will make a place feel big for sure. I think this is why people always say the sky is bigger out west.

About as open as it gets in VT.

About as open as it gets in VT.

The West is also steeper. Mountain with 2 or 3,000 feet of prominence can be found all over the east, but generally they aren’t steep. They are essentially a very large hill. For sure, out West there are much bigger mountains, but even the smaller ones seem bigger because they are steeper.

big and steep

Big and steep

I believe that there is still a mentality of westward expansion in the minds of East Coast youth. Whether that means moving to Portland, or San Francisco, or moving to the mountains of Montana or Colorado. When you grow up in the East you are always looking West for opportunity and adventure. I can’t say from personal experience, but I don’t think the same can be said for people that grow up out West. Maybe there is some drive to move to a big Eastern city like New York, but there is certainly no mystery and magical allure like the West has for us Easterners.

Easterners laugh at UT tree skiing

Easterners laugh at UT tree skiing

Growing up in the East, when I moved West I often found myself feeling exposed and out of place. I was endlessly exploring the grand expanses Colorado and Utah had to offer, but I would always be happy to be back in the cozy shelter of trees. I spent almost 3 years on and off in Colorado and Utah. This summer and fall I am back in Vermont. I am very much in the woods. Line of sight stops 3 feet from the forest edge. There are huge white pines surrounding the house and the small yard gets a maximum of 4 hours of sunlight a day. I feel very at home in this setting. However, for the first time in my life I find myself craving the wide view the West offers.

Wide view

Wide view

I’m sure somewhere in the world there is a compromise to be found, and I will just keep looking.

 

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2.5 MIllion

So, I’m doing it! I want to officially announce that I will be attempting to ski 2.5 Million self-propelled vertical feet in a year. I plan to start December 1st.

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What has gone into this decision? I have been saying for the past few years that, while impressive, it would not take a super-human to break the record for most vertical. It would only take someone with the right amount of time and commitment. Luckily for me as a not-so-super-human, I have made myself the time to do this and I am giving myself the opportunity to prove that I have the commitment.

Over the past couple months I had my annual spring time “crisis”. You know, when skiing stops occupying all of your physical and mental space and now you have time to think about what you are doing with your life. For me this happens every spring. One year, I decided to get a desk job. Another spring I decided to follow a girl and when that didn’t work I took the opportunity to head to Patagonia for an endless winter.

This spring I was on the fence again. Work? in VT? software? in CO? guide? Climb? Pimp out a van and live in there? or commit fully to the insane endeavor of trying to break the record for most vertical feet earned in a year? After a few weeks of clearing my head in the desert, climbing, mountains biking, and even skiing a bit, I had made up my mind. It still took me a couple more weeks to really understand that this was my decision.

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Once I was in and knew it, I started getting ready. The past few weeks, I have been working on a website, planning for the year, and talking with companies and non-profits to work with. This has been close to a fully time job over the last couple weeks. I have been living in my friends basement, picking up random craigslist jobs, working just enough to break even.

So what does this mean looking into the future? Achieving this goal is as much, if not more, a mental battle as is it physical. I plan to ramp-up my training as the summer progresses. The training will reflect the goal. For example, I have decided to jump in the creek behind my house everyday. Jumping in a freezing cold creek is never easy, especially if it is wet out, or night time. However, nobody has ever regretted the refreshing feeling after dunking in a mountain stream. Just as skiing a straight month of 10k days is will never be easy, it will be incredible rewarding if I can overcome the mental battle each morning to just jump in.

I also plan to start pushing the length of my mountain bike rides. 3-4 hours on a mountain bike can be exhausting, but I want to be able to go 6-8 comfortably by the end of the summer season. I think this is a good reflection of the pace of backcountry skiing. I also have a couple trips planned for the summer to keep me on my toes.

I will be posting near daily updates to Instagram @airandrice, on Strava, and right here at airandrice.com

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