by Seth Lightcap. posted on 8 October
Home to steep, craggy terrain and a typically fat snowpack, the Southern Alps of New Zealand are a well-known shredder’s paradise. Winter 2014 was none too kind to the Kiwis, however. New Zealand battled one of the driest winters in 20 years. Three-weeks of sunshine in August left the Northern end of the South Island especially dry. The clubfields in Canterbury struggled to open. Down in the Southern Lakes region of the South Island the snow stacked up a bit better. There was enough snow to keep the resorts around Queenstown and Wanaka open all season and fill in some of the classic local backcountry zones.
With summer legs hungry to shred anything, my wife Allison and I toured around the Southern Lakes region in September. The notoriously fickle Kiwi weather toyed with our trip more than the thin conditions, but all in all we lucked out as solid storms reset conditions twice during our stay. Persistent rain and then a spike in avy danger kept us out of the high alpine so we focused on crushing laps at all the resorts and exploring the surrounding sidecountry.
Photos barely do justice to the dance of light, weather and topography that make New Zealand so breathtaking, but images do a better job than words. So here’s photo stoke from our trip with a few details about each zone as inspiration to tour the Southern Lakes and witness the beauty with your own eyes (and snowboard edges) next year.
Tucked into the mountains 210km north of Queenstown, Lake Ohau is an aquamarine alpine jewel. Just above the lake lies the Ohau Snow Field, a misty, one-lift wonder ski resort with a cult following. It’s no surprise that you see more Ohau hoodies on the backs of Kiwi shreds than any other resort. The terrain hidden within Ohau’s deceivingly big upper basin is awesome with steep chutes and open bowls surrounding the lone double chair on all sides. This is a shot of Allison ripping off the top.
A five minute hike above the double chair puts you atop a windswept ridgeline that accesses a shooting gallery of rad lines dropping back into the resort. To the west of Ohau’s summit ridge lie the jutting peaks of the Barrier Range.
The cat track hits at Ohau are all-time with multiple spots to send it big into an endless tranny. I couldn’t get enough of this hit, such a floater and the landing was the perfect pitch.
An hour-and-half drive southwest of Lake Ohau lies the sprawling Lake Wanaka. The town of Wanaka sits on the lake’s eastern shore while Treblecone ski resort hangs above the lake to the southwest. The views of the lake from the top of Treblecone never get old. Lake Wanaka and it’s many island and inlets is a spectacular sight.
We spent a few days surfing the steep gullies and bowls at Treblecone which was a ton of fun. Treblecone’s Saddle chair access a wide diversity of terrain ranging from rocky palisade lines to jibby natural halfpipes and even some terrain park hits. Jones Ambassador Amber Schuecker took us to some of TB’s best terrain on a ripping pow day. Here’s a shot of Amber slashing into Hollywood Bowl on our way to the Mototapu Chutes.
The open boundaries at Treblecone offer access to sick split-terrain on the surrounding peaks and ridges. Here’s a shot of Allison dropping off the back of the resort heading towards an adjacent backcountry basin.
Jones’ Aus/NZ Distributor Amine Yasmine joined Allison and I on a split-tour to this mini-spine zone behind Treblecone. This south facing nuglet of terrain was caked with cold snow.
We dropped into the mini-spines from the top of the last peaklet on the far right side. Coulda spent all day lapping it up out there as the terrain pocket was steep and textured with cool cliffs scattered throughout.
Shred touring in New Zealand proved to be easier and cheaper than we expected thanks to this campervan. Less than $50 dollars a day secured us transportation and lodging. The only issue is that you can’t camp just anywhere. Technically you must park in a campground unless you rent a bigger camper that has a toilet.
Less than an hour drive south of Wanaka sits one of the adrenaline capitals of the world - Queenstown. Travelers from all over the world come to this bustling town on the shores of Lake Wakatipu to bungy jump, jet boat and skydive. We joined the throngs of travelers for a famous Ferg Burger and then pushed on to score a slow-drip adrenaline fix in the craggy skyline of the Remarkable Range looming above town.
Starting from the base of Remarkables ski area, we toured up the ski runs to Lake Alta. This quick 45 min tour put us at the base of the Grand Couloir, a line that splits two peaks known as Single Cone and Double Cone.
From the apron of the Grand Couloir you can see some of the Remarkable’s raddest inbounds terrain. The Elevator and Escalator chutes drop down to Lake Alta from the middle of the ridge in the background. The chutes are accessed via a short hike above the Shadow Basin chairlift.
The Grand Couloir has a steep choke midway up that demanded we don the crampons and start booting. Here’s Allison past the crux nearing the top-out at the col.
But of course, the clouds rolled in right as we dropped in. Visibility wasn’t too bad though and the rocky walls of the crux step provided added definition to the slope.
Our shred tour of the Southern Lakes would not have been complete without a day spent lapping it up at Cardrona Ski Resort. Cardrona is nestled into the peaks separating Queenstown and Wanaka and is about a 30-45 min drive away from either town. Burton’s High Fives contest was going down when we rode Cardrona so the terrain park was groomed to perfection. We were tempted to tour into the rolling bowls off the back of the resort but halfpipe laps were just too fun.
by Seth Lightcap. posted on 3 October
With great sadness we honor the life and adventures of Jones Ambassador Guide Liz Daley. Liz was killed in an avalanche accident in Patagonia, Chile in September 2014.
Liz Daley could have been a rockstar in anything she pursued. Her love for the mountains was as raw and genuine as it gets so she chose to be a bad ass snowboarder and alpinist who gave back to her mountain community at every opportunity.
As a guide for American Alpine Institute she taught splitboard courses on Mt. Baker and helped guided climbers up Denali. She possessed an unflappably positive spirit and knew how to cherish the inevitable suffering of mountain life as much as the celebrations of success. She touched countless lives with her outrageous passion and her influence went beyond she even knew.
"Liz was a hero of mine because of what she did in the mountains and the attitude and spunk she did it with," said Jeremy Jones. "She spent as much time in serious mountains as anyone I know and was well on her way to becoming a world class mountain guide that just happened to be a female and a splitboarder. She was a true trailblazer on this front and was winning over the old guard of mountain men with hard work, knowledge and a McConkey-sized sense of humor."
Over the past few winters, Liz’ had found great success in the mountains. She was consistently riding steep. classic lines in the Cascades and the Alps and had been on an expedition to Alaska’s Tordrillo Range in April 2014. When she passed away she was on an expedition to Patagonia, Chile with the Eddie Bauer team.
With gracious thanks to the photographers she worked with, we are honored to present a gallery of shots from Liz’ recent adventures. Here’s Liz at her best, loving life to the fullest...
Liz had a powerful turn and was a pow fiend of the highest order. Here she found the goods in Washington, the state where she grew up and still called home. Photo - Adam Clark
Exposure was no issue for Liz. She thrived on the buzz of delicate high alpine ascents and gripper steep descents. It’s no wonder she called Chamonix her second home and visited every year. Photo - Jim Harris
Liz in Chamonix, 2013. Photo - Jim Harris
Always smiling, always joking, Liz pulled no punches with her positivity. She was a mountain girl and a social animal, a rare breed. Photo - Jim Harris
In April 2014 she took her first trip to Alaska. Here’s what she had to say about AK:
"Friends have been talking about Alaska for years. The land of perfect, stable, bootable snow that sticks to everything. Massive unridden spine walls, endless couloirs, huge alpine faces and large glaciers running from the sea to giant serac’d capped peaks. It snows at night and is bluebird in the morning. There are wild but friendly unicorns and rainbows atop every spine line. The climate heals any weak layers in the snowpack. It’s not that dark in the winter. Ok, the unicorn part may be a tall tale but everything else is absolute fact."
Liz went to Alaska with Caroline Gleich, Jay Beyer and JT Thompson. One sunny afternoon on the glacier, Liz and Caroline decided to film a music video. Here’s a selfie from the shoot.
Liz and Caroline, rockstars of the Tordrillos. Photo - Jay Beyer
But when it came time to shred, Liz was ready to get rowdy. Photo - Jay Beyer
Never a dull moment with Liz. Photo - Jay Beyer
Liz loved the thrill of a new line. Here she stands at the entrance of a couloir in the Italian Dolomites. Photo - Jim Harris
There she goes, tearing into another classic line - Adriana on Monte Cristallo, Italy. Photo (above/below) - Jim Harris
From all of us at Jones Snowboards, we feel blessed to have known Liz’ magnetic smile and to have helped her chase her dreams. She was a true inspiration and a stand out ambassador for backcountry snowboarding. Our hearts go out to her friends, family and all those who knew her.
Shred on Liz, shred on...
by Seth Lightcap. posted on 19 August
Story by Jeremy Jones
When I got off the plane at Jackson airport in 1992 and saw the Tetons for the first time, my eyes were blown away. The mountains were breathtaking. But little did I know that the sight of these peaks would be a life-changing moment. A week later when I left for my first pro contest in Snow Summit, my priorities in life had drastically changed. No longer was a GS racing World Title the Holy Grail. My new envy was the life of dishwashers in Teton Village that got to ride Jackson every day. The Jackson locals I met on this first trip were my new heroes.
Jeremy Jones draws a heavy line in the Jackson Hole sidecountry while filming for TGR.
From that day forward the Tetons became an important part of my life. Not a year went by that I did not spend a couple of weeks chasing my brothers around the mountain and the handful of years I lived there in the late 90’s helped me take my snowboarding to another level. Living in Jackson when the boundaries opened was one of the highlights of my 25 years of snowboarding. The Tetons were also one of the primary motivations to start the DEEPER project.
Riders ready to drop into Jackson’s North Shore. Photo - Miles Clark/snowbrains.com
Eight years ago, while rushing to beat a pack of riders to the North Shore, I looked out on the range at unridden, untracked mountains and realized I needed to work a little harder to find what I was searching for. The crowds had made it to the outer limit of where I could travel in a day and it was pressuring me to ride lines the day after a storm that we use to let settle for 2 or 3 days. Grand Teton National Park was calling. It was time to explore the next frontier of the Tetons.
The Skillet Glacier on Mt. Moran. Photo - TGR
Mt. Moran 2008
My early trips into Grand Teton National Park left a mark. Approaches were long, slopes were big and assessing avalanche conditions from the bottom was intimidating. Mt. Moran was first on my list. Ever since my brother pointed the line out to me I was captivated. It is the ultimate snowboard line, a 7k couloir with a direct fall line and no exposure. The goal was to get it in winter snow that would allow me to fire the line. -20 temps greeted us when we made the first attempt in mid-February. Half-way up the mountain we ran into a wind slab that was unavoidable so we bailed.
Three months later I was back on Moran again. Recent fresh spring snow had made for ideal conditions. Starting in the middle of the night in hopes of beating the power of the spring sun we made good time. 3/4 of the way up the peak we paused to watch the sun rise. It felt like the temps spiked 20 degrees instantly with the rising sun and we would have to turn around do to rapid heating. However clouds came in, temps got cold again and we continued to climb. Any chance of filming was ruled out. If the sun came out we would have to turn around. If it stayed cloudy we could keep going. A few hours later we topped out in a snow storm. Dropping into white out conditions but perfect snow I rode the longest run of my life in near perfect conditions. The run was all for the love of it as the cameras did not come out that day.
Climbing with Jimmy Chin and Xavier De Le Rue on a warm up day for a planned attempt on the Grand Teton. Photo - Jeremy Jones
Grand Teton 2011
With Moran behind me, my focus shifted to riding the Grand Teton. The Grand is a mountain I have always been in awe of, but up until recently had never looked at as rideable. For my first attempt in 2011 we rounded up the ultimate crew - Jimmy Chin, Xavier De La Rue and myself. The trip got off to a bad start when camera man Renan suffered a major head injury coming out of Rock Springs a couple days before we were planning to climb. Our luck only got worse as a few days later on a warm-up mission on Shadow Mountain, Jimmy Chin got caught in a major class 3 avalanche. Thankfully a pair of bruised and shattered egos was the only toll. We called off the attempt and I left Jackson mentally shattered.
Jimmy Chin, Xavier De Le Rue and Jeremy Jones calm their nerves after Jimmy was swept by a major avalanche.
Grand Teton - March 2013
Facing a sputtering spring in the Sierra, I get the report of stable snow in the Tetons and an approaching storm. A few days later I am in Jackson preparing to climb the Grand again. For this attempt I round up an incredible crew of Teton locals - Bryan Iguchi and a couple of the Exum Mountain Guides.
The Otter Body route on the Grand Teton.
The storm hits so we ease into the mission with some bottomless days of tree riding in the park. Iguchi is on fire and in top form. His riding is flawless and I watch him put on a free riding clinic bouncing down pillows, hitting tight trannies, landing everything. Not since my trip to the Arctic with Terje have I seen such complete, polished snowboarding.
Jeremy climbing technical terrain on the Grand Teton.
Jeremy’s Journal Entry - March 21st, 2013
Launch day is close. Feeling good about the crew and where our heads are at. Who knows if the Grand is going to go down but regardless it will be a good couple days in the mountains. At times I get hit with moments of fear and death. It wakes me in the middle of the night and it is the first thing I think of when I wake up. It is no different then any other fall you die line I have ridden in the past. If you are not thinking about the consequences of your actions then you are ignorant to the risks you are about to take. Fear is important. If I can turn fear into confidence then I will ride the line. If I can not get over the fear I will turn around. Rational thinking leads me to positive thoughts on the mission. The big question is, can we gain enough confidence in the snow pack to put ourselves on the face for hours on end over exposure? If the window is right we will take it. If not we walk away. Getting close to it yesterday only added to my anxiety. From Disappointment Peak the view of the crux is daunting. Airy, truly edge of the world type stuff. Is it really that steep?
Jeremy riding the Otter Body route on the Grand Teton.
Jeremy’s Journal Entry - March 26th, 2013
It was only three days in the mountains but I feel like I was on a different planet. It took me to a mental space I have never been to before. Standing atop a mountain that I have been in awe of for over twenty years made my legs shake and my breath short, but mentally I was calm. The rollover covered my horizon, 3,000 ft below lay my finish line. In between me and safety were huge panels of deep, steep snow broken up by a 100 ft rappel and a 400 ft rappel. I had envisioned riding the Grand many times in my head, but none of those visions included knee deep powder. Dropping in was surreal and indescribable. Maybe my ultimate moment as a snowboarder. Perfect snow, huge exposure on the tallest mountain for hundreds of miles. Three hours in a "no fall" zone and I am safely at the end of the final rappel. I am not sure if it was the 2100 ft of rock climbing in -20 temps or that much time over exposure but I was cooked, a tear rolled down my cheek.
Jeremy Jones and Bryan Iguchi on the summit of the Grand Teton.
That night sleeping on the upper saddle with hopes of an attempt on the Middle the next day, clouds rolled in. An approaching storm came quicker than forecasted. The window had closed. It could take years to get another day like yesterday. The Tetons finally laid down for us. It is a day I will never forget. The ultimate crew, the ultimate conditions and the ultimate line.
Watch Jeremy and Iguchi shred the Otter Body in HIGHER! Find out when the premiere tour stops near you here:
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