After two months of being more or less glued to the computer, I was thrilled to head out into the desert and finally get outside again! Our destination: the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, south of Moab, Utah. Above you can see the La Sal Mountains towering over the canyons in the distance.
Walking to the glow, in the narrow slots of the Joint Trail.
I am in the midst of the worst snowboarding season I’ve experienced in my snowboarding career. With the super sketchy avalanche conditions here in Colorado this winter, I haven’t been snowboarding much at all, and I can’t help but reminisce about better times on the snow! Below are a few photos of me snowboarding at Engelberg, Switzerland last winter, taken by my friends Kevin and Jonas.
As you may know if you follow this blog, last winter I spent most of the season in Engelberg, Switzerland. It wasn’t exactly a big winter there either – at least statistically speaking. The season was characterized by occasional big storms followed by weeks of sun. At the time, I enjoyed exploring all kinds of new terrain in the spectacular Alps, but I was also thinking that, well, it just wasn’t that great of a winter. The thing is, when I was in the midst of it, during those weeks-long dry stretches I couldn’t help but think that way. I couldn’t help but think about how much better it could be, about how much more powder I could potentially have been riding on a more generous snow season.
Funny thing is, from my perspective a year later, looking back on my winter in Switzerland I can only remember it as nothing short of epic! This is a phenomenon I’ve experienced before, after other big trips. As time passes I forget about all the in-between downtimes, and all the highlights condense into what I can only recall as a fantastic series of experiences! Indeed, when I think about all the powder days and incredible descents I did score in the Alps last winter, it really does stand out in my mind as one of my most memorable winters.
I think it’s amazing how our memories do this – how they become refined over time, how the mundane stretches of time condense and settle into insignificance while the high points come together and grow in prominence in our minds. Yet I also wonder why it takes me a year or more to gain the perspective to see just how special those moments were as a whole. It’s a great thing to have memories that I can forever cherish and reflect upon, but it’s not good to only be able to truly appreciate those experiences through the rear view mirror. So, I think it’s important to strive for that perspective in the moment. Of course the highlights will be sweet while they’re happening, but it’s those in-between downtimes when I need to relax and see the bigger picture, instead of expecting everything to be awesome every single day and being disappointed when it’s not.
This last month and a half has been one big “in-between downtime” – not snowboarding much, not photographing much, not really getting outside much at all. But I’m not bothered by it. In fact I’m taking advantage of it. I’ve actually been having fun working on some big projects that I’ve had on the back burner for years; I wake up every morning eager to get back to work and get it all finished while I have this chance to focus. So while I know that this snowboarding season will be forgettable, I’m making the best of it in other ways. And in the meantime, I can still savor my memories of powder days past!
Panoramic view of Titlis and pretty much most of the terrain of Engelberg.
I look at this photo now and I recall so many sweet descents all throughout this incredible terrain. At left center where the radio tower is is the top of Titlis – it takes one gondola and two tram rides to ascend the 6,000 vertical feet to the top there. Below that is the Steinberg Glacier. At far left is the Laub, an incredible 3,000 vert slackcountry face. Behind that is Fürenalp, and way back behind there is the Surenen valley. In the center is Jochstock, with its great lines off either side. To the right of that, more great terrain.
On Saturday I tried snowkiting for the first time! Notice I said “tried”. I more or less got my ass handed to me! My friends were ripping it up though… I can see how this sport could get addicting. I can’t say I got the hang of it yet, but I was on the verge of the cusp of starting to ride a little bit with the little trainer kite. Then I tried the 9 meter kite and almost got blown to the Front Range. I need a massage. And more practice.
“The boreal forest is perhaps our best defense against global warming and climate change. The boreal forest sequesters more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem, and this is absolutely key. So, what we’re doing is we’re taking the most concentrated greenhouse gas sink – twice as much greenhouse gasses are sequestered in the boreal per acre than the tropical rain forests – and what we’re doing is we’re destroying this carbon sink, turning it into a carbon bomb. And we’re replacing that with the largest industrial project in the history of the world which is producing the most high-carbon, greenhouse-gas-emitting oil in the world.” – Garth Lenz, photographer
I finally got out again today to shred some powder… such good snow out there right now after a week of on and off snowfall. But, the avalanche conditions are still very dangerous so we remain on the easy routes. Over the last two days, CAIC has been blasting some of the larger avy paths along the highway with both howitzer and helicopter, and the resulting avalanches and debris are impressive – including some huge slides off Mount Abrams which are even visible from Ouray, as well as big natural slides on the bigger slopes throughout the area.
Colorado’s awful avalanche season has even made it into the news on Huffington Post, where Dale Atkins, president of the American Avalanche Association, is quoted: “We have to go back 30 years to see this kind of widespread danger. It’s dangerous inside ski areas, outside ski areas. A lot of folks who have only been here two, five, 10 years haven’t ever seen or experienced a snowpack like this.”
UPDATE: Check out this incredible video shot near Red Mountain Pass the same day as our above outing. This is what I’m talking about! Can’t believe these guys were railing this terrain in these conditions, but all’s well that ends well, I guess. NSFW!
Dave Showalter is an accomplished nature, wildlife, and conservation photographer. His dedication and relentless efforts shine through on his must-read blog Western Wild, which is full of inspiring photos and informative text. I recently asked Dave a few questions about his photography and his conservation efforts.
You’ve worked on a wide range of conservation fronts, most recently involving the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Can you explain in a nutshell what this project is about? How and why did you become involved with this particular conservation effort?
I was contacted by Barbara Cozzens, NW Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition about their campaign to protect wild areas along the Absaroka-Beartooth Front. Barb understands the value of advocacy-driven photography and we agreed to develop a project with the support of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). It’s called a “Tripods In The Mud” (TIM) where the three legs of the tripod signify the partnership of the conservation group, the photographer, and ILCP. The Absaroka Front TIM is a big step for any conservation group, and GYC deserves a lot of credit for thinking outside the box and partnering with ILCP. It speaks to their commitment to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). We planned three photo expeditions in August, September, and November and I covered an enormous amount of territory in Cody Country.
The A-B Front forms the eastern boundary of Yellowstone, is often called “Yellowstone’s Wild Side” and includes a bewildering amount of truly wild country, the Shoshone, Clark’s Fork and Greybull Rivers, and important migratory and winter habitat for a lot of Yellowstone wildlife. The recreation and sportsmen opportunities, and associated revenue are enormous. It’s easily the wildest and most important landscape in the West, and it’s all threatened by oil and gas drilling, fracking. Our job is to illustrate why this land is so important to the GYE, steer energy development to more appropriate “brown field” areas, and get the A-B Front protected by convincing land managers and local politicians that it’s the right thing to do long-term. The timing is critical too, with both the Shoshone National Forest and the BLM drafting their 20-year land management plans right now.
Back home in “the Switzerland of America” this winter, I haven’t been getting out into the mountains as much as I’d like due to the sketchy avalanche conditions. On the bright side, I’ve been taking the opportunity to work on some projects that have been on the back burner for years. Among other things, I’m learning Adobe InDesign book publishing software and am excited to start creating some photo books. I might even have time to finally put together a screensaver app for sale on my website. So, stay tuned… I’ve got some good stuff in the pipe!