Those Who Would Be King (and Queen)

Crowning dirt bag royalty at Crystal Mountain

It’s 7 p.m. and Sid Kurtz is still wearing his ski boots and a bright orange hat, emblazoned across the front with the words “Dirt Bag King 2012″. He motions to the Snorting Elk bartender for another beer. As elected Crystal Mountain royalty, Sid drinks for free. In the 32 years here, Sid, age 53, has figured out how to slime the system. He’s never worked for the ski area but he once spent an entire season living in the employee-only cat crew dorm, claiming he worked as a “grooming inspector”. His job, he claimed, was to ski all day and check his roommates’ work. They believed him. Thriving in a ski town, where resources and housing are limited and expensive, requires a certain amount of low-profile couch surfing. Dirt bag royalty like Sid, who spends most of his winter skiing, not working, have perfected the lifestyle.

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Highlights from the FWT Championships

If you needed proof that Verbier's Bec des Rosses is gnarly...

Highlights from the final stop of this year’s Freeride World Tour in Verbier

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Week in Review: March 24

Pop Tarts and Rails

Rails: The Decider

While I had a suspicion that rails were going to be a bigger part of the X Games scoring this year (although I offered the botched piece of advice to “keep your eyes on the jump line” for the men’s final), it appears that the rail scores determined both the men’s and women’s winner this year. With most of the men’s field about to pull off three doubles cleanly with grabs, it was McRae Williams’ rail game, and likely his nosebutter 450 in particular, that put him in first. On the women’s side, Kaya Turski put together an average (again, for her) jump line (what happened to that switch 10?), but threw a switch 450 disaster onto the top kinked rail and a switch 270 on, 270 out of the rainbow at the bottom that was the most tech women’s rail run yet seen at X Games. Tiril Sjåstad Christiansen’s upper rail section was a close second, and these two rail performance clearly vaulted their scores into the 90’s.

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Where Them Girls At?

Those women’s-specific skis are not exactly designed by a woman

The most male-dominated corner of the ski industry isn’t the park or the bar at the Peruvian. It’s ski engineering. Women’s skis, the ones with the turquoise and purple topsheets, the lady-specific flex pattern, and the mounting point set for child-bearing hips, are all engineered and designed by dudes.

According to SnowSports Industries of America, women-specific gear makes up 28 percent of the products bought in the ski industry, and 41 percent of skiers are women. Despite the significant female footprint in the sport, ski engineering is dominated by men. A few brands, like K2 and Salomon, have women in lab testing, product marketing, or graphic design, but no major company has a female ski engineer or designer.

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Pain McShlonkey is Next Weekend

Snowlerblading for the Shane McConkey Foundation

On March 29 and 30, the third annual Pain McShlonkey is taking place at Squaw Valley. The Chinese Downhill/Small Mountain Comp/Fundraising Gala is, historically, ridiculous. If you’re in Tahoe strap on your snowlerblades and check it out.

Read all about it here

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The Karmic Couch

It all comes back around

The act of helping others results in others helping you. That’s karma according to ski patroller Heather Thamm, who just got back from Nepal, explains karma. When asked to expand on the definition of Karma, instead of going to Sanskrit texts or Buddhist monks, Thamm cited a quote from Guns-n-Roses lead guitarist, Slash, “Once you’ve lived a little you will find that whatever you send out into the world comes back to you in one way or another. It may be today, tomorrow, or years from now, but it happens; usually when you least expect it, usually in a form that’s pretty different from the original. Those coincidental moments that change your life seem random at the time but I don’t think they are. At least that’s how it’s worked out in my life. And I know I’m not the only one.” Slash would make the perfect ski bum.

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Snowcat Skiing For Nature At Snowbird

The 'Bird's latest adventure offering

A multi tonal wash of brilliant color reflects off the clouds as the sun rises over Snowbird’s Mineral Basin. A fresh foot of snow blankets the slopes and spirits soar with the thought of the day’s activities. The resort has not opened to the public yet, but we are standing atop the tram ready to get after it.

Lead guides Spencer Storm and Jono Greene brief the group on backcountry safety and check everyone’s avalanche beacons before heading out into the field. A few lift-accessed warm up laps to get the blood pumping ensue and the velvety powder beneath our skis billows up with each turn. Next, the group gathers atop the Sunday Saddle on the southern boundary of Snowbird for a final tutorial and brief history of the terrain we are about to ski.

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Week in Review

Is she really going out with him?

Yes, Tiger Woods is dating Lindsey Vonn. Or Tiger Woods’ publicist and Lindsey Vonn’s publicist are making them look like they date. Talk about a sports power grab.

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From Russia With Pow

Reporting from Krasnaya Polyana

In the ski world, the overwhelming transformation currently underway in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, is assuredly unmatched. In fact, it’s arguable this has never happened before. In the history of all things. There’s no way. Imagine a Whitewater, or a Bozeman even, any small ski resort you’ve ever been to anywhere, and then imagine that place overrun by some 30,000 workers and billions of dollars of investment in just a few years. It’s a makeover so extreme, so vast, so over-the-top, said down-home ski resort goes from a few fixed gripped doubles and a couple of hotels to three Whistler’s stacked together—virtually overnight. And oh yeah, the Olympics are coming.

But wait, it doesn’t stop there. Nature did a pretty epic job before the bulldozers got here. The mountains are ridiculous. And, oh yeah, so is the snow.

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DEEP: The Future of Snow: Bridger Bowl

Low-elevation powder turns in Montana

There are a few things beside snowfall that differentiate Bridger Bowl from Big Sky. Driving up Bridger Canyon Road you notice there is less traffic, more ranches, more cabins and haystacks. The mountain itself is part of the Bridger Mountains, a 45-mile rocky spine that starts at Bozeman Pass, where Sacagawea led Lewis and Clark on their expedition. There’s plenty of time to get familiar with the long row of mountains, hemmed by cliff faces and thick cornices at the top, driving along it on Highway 86.

We turn left at the giant wooden skis that mark Bridger’s driveway and find a parking spot close to the base lodge. Bridger Bowl is one of the few nonprofit, community-owned ski areas left in the country, and you can feel it in the parking lot: beater pickup trucks, blue jeans tucked into ski boots, kids everywhere and people waving at one another. They’re happy to be here, happy to be paying just $49 a day for ski ticket, but really they’re happy that Ullr has treated them well this season. After a dry spell, three storms in the last month have covered up the rocks and filled in the gullies along The Ridge.

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