Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ever Read The Fine Print On A Ski Area Waiver? Here's What You Sign Away...

Limited Liability Ever read the fine print of a ski area's waiver when buying a ticket? Well, you should... Credit: The Denver Post

When you buy a ski pass to a mountain you have to sign a waiver. Most often you don't read this waiver. But if you did, you'd find that you just signed away your liability towards that ski area.

By signing the waiver the ski area is in no way liable for any harm/damages that you sustain while skiing there. By signing you assume all responsibility for what happens on the ski area's slopes, even if it's the ski area's fault.

In 2017 A 55-year-old woman in Colorado was hit by a swinging chair that caused her 13 injuries and immediate hospitalization. She underwent several surgeries and experienced prolonged pain. However, before the accident occurred, the woman signed two waivers in order to get her Epic Season Pass that allowed her skiing at that Colorado resort. Those waivers ended up barring her from taking legal action against Vail Resorts after she got hurt.

The waiver you sign when purchasing an Epic Pass from Vail Resorts bars you from suing the company. At the top of that liability waiver, you will find a bolded and highlighted statement that often reads something like "Warning: Please read carefully before signing!" 

As you read farther down on your waiver that you just signed, you will see that you signed away your right to sue or make any claims for any injury, including death, even if the claims are based on resort negligence. This is standard language at all ski areas. 

Here's some fine print taken directly from the limited liability release waiver for Park City Mountain Resort:

"In consideration for allowing Participant to participate in the Activity,
 I AGREE, to the greatest extent permitted by law, TO WAIVE ANY AND ALL CLAIMS
 Resorts, Inc., The Vail Corporation, Trimont Land Company, Heavenly Valley,
 Limited Partnership, VR US Holdings, Inc., VR US Holdings II, LLC, VR CPC
 Holdings, Inc., VR NW Holdings, Inc., VR NE Holdings, LLC, Whistler Blackcomb
 Holdings Inc., Blackcomb Skiing Enterprises Limited Partnership, Whistler
 Mountain Resort Limited Partnership, each of their affiliated companies and
 subsidiaries, the resort owner/operator, land owner, activity operator, the
 equipment manufacturer, The Burton Corporation, Beaver Creek Resort Company,
 Dundee Resort Development, LLC d/b/a Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, the United States,
 Her Majesty The Queen In Right Of The Province Of British Columbia and all their
 respective insurance companies, successors in interest, commercial & corporate
 sponsors, affiliates, agents, employees, representatives, assignees, officers,
 directors, and shareholders (each a “Released Party”) FOR ANY INJURY, INCLUDING

There is also a section on most liability waivers dictating that a ski area may confiscate your pass in the event you are not following the skier code or the resort's safety guidelines. That includes actions like ducking ropes or skiing recklessly. Just keep that in mind.

So the next time you're filled with excitement, hurriedly buying that season pass with a gleam of stoke in your eye, take a moment to become familiar with what it is exactly you're signing. That way, you'll know the conditions you have just agreed to and can be on the same page with your ski area and its safety guidelines. Because if something happens, you get hurt and try to sue -- you will probably lose.

Classic ski area limited liability release waiver
A standard release of liability waiver found at North American ski areas. Credit:

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

NOAA: Record Low Expected in Salt Lake City, Utah Tonight: 30ºF Below Normal

Record lows in Salt Lake City, Utah tonight.  Temperatures are expected to hit record lows in Salt Lake City, Utah tonight 10/29/19. Credit: NOAA
It's winter in the Wasatch. 

NOAA is reporting that temperatures in Salt Lake City will hit record lows tonight, some 30ºF below-average temperatures for this time of year. The massive temperature drop is the result of an arctic storm system currently hitting portions of the western United States.

"In a week of cold temperatures, tonight will have the coldest, with lows running
 30°F below normal for this time of year." - NOAA 10/29/19

Temperature isn't the only thing dropping in the Wasatch, as Utah Ski areas have received 11" of new snow in the past 24 hours.  Below are today's images from Utah ski areas:

11" in 24 hours Snowbird is reporting 11" of new snow in the past 24 hours, 10/29/19. Credit: Snowbird

Snowbird tram deck buried in new snow, 10/29/19. Credit: Snowbird

Alta Ski Area webcam, 12:29 p.m. 10/29/19 Credit: Alta Ski Area

 Alta Ski Area Web Cam, 1:34 pm 10/29/19: Credit: Alta Ski Area

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Tamale is a Tamale: A Dirtbag Epic

Adventure Summary: crack climbing, desert camping, citations, scuba diving, and canned tamales.

The two best state highways in Utah are highways 210 and 211. They are coincidentally numbered one right after the other even though they are located on two different sides of the state. Highway 210 is the road that runs through Little Cottonwood Canyon, home to righteous ski areas Alta and Snowbird and world-class granite rock climbing. Highway 211 runs through Indian Creek.

If you climb then you've probably heard Indian Creek referred to as the 'crack climbing capital of the world.' All the cliches you hear about this place are accurate.

Rolling into The Creek.

Newspaper Rock - Ancient Native American petroglyphs
Indian Creek is located about an hour south of Moab, Utah near Canyonlands National Park. The area has been visited by humans for over 10,000 years and is filled with ancient petroglyphs and remnants of Native American culture. It has thousands of climbing routes, most of them challenging grades.

Indian Creek is best known for its perfect, sandstone splitters and desert towers that attract climbers from all over the world. We ran into a couple of girls from Norway on the Selfish Wall that came all the way out here just to climb these cracks. Climbers everywhere know this place fucks.

Nuclear Wall in Indian Creek
Last week was my semester fall break, and for six straight days, we lived in the desert and climbed. Eat. Sleep. Shit. Climb. Repeat. That's basically all the three of us - Tom, Eamon, and I - did for an entire week. There's just something about a gorgeous sandstone splitter that scratches that certain itch in a dopamine-hungry brain just right.

"Breakfast Social" 5.10 - a gorgeous splitter finger crack
Our days would start by us summoning up the balls to crawl out of our frozen sleeping bags into the desert cold, followed by coffee and cigarettes and then a greasy breakfast. Then, we'd climb all day until our bodies wouldn't allow us to climb any longer and our hunger began to impair our judgment. After that, we'd head back to our remote outpost across from the Superbowl camping area and make dinner, dirtbag style.
Route hunting

Back at camp, dinners came from a plastic bin of greasy canned foods, and canned tamales were always on the menu. For $1.50 you can't go wrong with a 900 calorie meal that at least mimics the idea of a beef tamale. And honestly, the first can of tamales you eat isn't bad. It's by the time you get to your 6th can within a span of a few days do you really start to question your lifestyle habits and the integrity of your gut biome.
Regardless of the fury we had to face each morning as a result of our meal choices from the night before, the excitement of climbing that day outweighed any potential negative. It was the sole reason we were there, and all other time spent outside of that was just time spent anticipating the next time we'd be back on the walls of those sandstone giants.

Covered in our own filth for days on end, sleeping under the stars and eating cheap canned meals, we became the definition of dirtbags. And we loved every second of it. Because at the end of a glorious day of desert climbing, you're going to be stoked and you're going to be famished, and a tamale is a tamale.

After a solid week of climbing, we were out of tamales and out of stamina to continue climbing. It was time for a break. We left The Creek and headed to Moab to grab some real food and spend a night in the area before heading to some hot springs in the morning to heal our broken bodies.

"Splitness" 5.10
We decided we'd camp outside of Moab on Potash Road aka 'Wall Street,' a classic Utah crag where you can literally pull up to hundreds of climbing routes on the side of the road and climb from your car. Although we were all extremely fatigued, we figured we'd hit a quick sport pitch here in the morning before heading to the hot springs.

 By the time we got to Potash road, it was late and all the campsites were full. So instead of camping at a designated campsite, we decided to park behind a nice looking boulder on the side of the road, smoke a blunt, and illegally crash there for the night.

Wall Street 
Just around dawn, Eamon aka 'Fat Boi,' was rudely awakened by a kick to his side from the boot of a state highway patrolman.

"Get up! What are you doing here?" The officer demanded to know.

"I don't know, sleeping??" A startled, half-asleep Eamon exclaimed.

When this was happening I heard some chatter coming from outside of my jeep (where I was sleeping) and just figured it was Eamon or Tom bullshitting or looking for the lighter or some shit, per usual. But when I heard, "Tom. Martin. Get up now," in the most agitated, cop voice I could have imagined, I was immediately awake and alert.

 I instantly knew what was happening and instinctively moved the weed and open beer cans that were out from the night before to a dark depth of the jeep. Although we were only an hour away from the imaginary line that separated Utah from Colorado where marijuana was legal, it was not here.

By the skin of our teeth, we avoided serious trouble with the law and each received an $80 citation for illegally camping. The officer grilled us about why that was a silly idea in the first place, and when it was all said and done Eamon offered to shake his hand but the cop wouldn't do it. He knew we were all some greasy fucks from living and climbing in the desert all week. So he offered Eamon a fist bump instead. Tom and I howled.

Climbing next to petroglyphs on "Hot Sex" 5.9
When Mr. Police Man left, we checked out some petroglyphs down the road and climbed a quick sport route next to them, all the while keeping an eye out for him since we told him we were going to leave the area immediately. I had been wanting to climb Wall Street for quite a while, and the view of the Colorado River from the top of the pitch was lovely. After the climb, we booked it straight to the hot springs.

We drove east on I-70 through the gorgeous San Rafael Swell in southern Utah, then south on I-15 to Meadow Hot Spring. Meadow Hot Spring is a series of waterholes in the middle of an impressively flat pasture in the desert somewhere, with mountains visible in the distance. The waterholes there are shockingly deep.

Two of the natural pools are kind of cold, but the third is just the right temperature for drinking beer and telling your friends that you'll get out in another "5 minutes." It was heaven on earth and our bodies definitely needed it after a week in The Creek.

Free scuba lessons at Meadow Hot Spring 
In the hot spring, there was a man who claimed he was a scuba diver and was boasting about his scuba diving abilities. He was telling about how people scuba dive in the pool we were all sitting in because apparently, it was pretty deep. None of us actually took him seriously. Then, right after Scuba Steve left, the unexpected happened. A group of about 5 or 6 scuba divers rolled up to the pool with scuba gear and began scuba diving.

Eamon, Tom, and I looked at each other with utter surprise and immediately saw the comedy in all of this. By this time, night had fallen and the divers were diving with flashlights. After a couple of dives, they were kind enough to let us dive with them. Eamon, Tom, and this girl named Kirsten that we had befriended in the hot spring used the divers' secondary, yellow "buddy" hoses and dove down sharing air with them for their first scuba diving experience ever. They were all anxious about submerging at first but by the time they had resurfaced they all were all in love with scuba diving. One of the divers then let me borrow his BCD/tank/mask so I could have a go at it myself.

I dove down to the bottom of the hot springs which was something like 35 feet deep. The water was warmer down there than at the surface. I buried myself in the silt at the bottom of the spring and turned my flashlight off. I just sat there, covered in warm silt, looking upwards towards the moonlight above the distant surface and listened to the sounds of the bottom.

After losing track of time, I resurfaced and gave the diver back his gear, thanking him for the unique, unexpected experience of scuba diving in a hot spring in the middle of the Utah desert. The whole thing was quite silly and almost feels like a wacky dream.

The night ended with a tender campfire shared with new friends from the springs. The moon was full and illuminated the still desert around us in the beautiful way that it tends to do out there. Around the campfire, the three of us told of the horrors of canned tamale dinners in a desert canyon where sandstone gods still dwell.

Just a few dirtbags in The Creek

Monday, October 14, 2019

Juan José: Colombian Surfing Prodigy

Juan José: Puerto Colombia's youth surfing champion. 
A chat the other day with an aging surfer in a hot spring had me thinking again about that little Colombian surfing devil, Juan José.

Juan Jose is a 9-year-old surfing prodigy born and raised in the Colombian beach town of Puerto Colombia. He would look like an ordinary boy from Colombia; thin and dark-skinned, if it weren't for his bleach-blonde, surfer-boy hair. Sure, he's a good kid, running around full of energy and always smiling. All the women love cute little Juan José. But he's also a little asshole who thoroughly enjoys fucking with you. Oh, and did I mention he surfs better than the majority of heads at Pradomar Beach? 

When I first got to Pradomar with my 7.5-foot foam board, I had the slightest idea of how to actually surf. In the beginning, I'd be out there in the water, struggling hard and getting my ass handed to me by the waves. I'd always be frustrated and my eyes would be constantly burning from the salinity of the water after losing my balance or getting smushed by yet another toppling wave. 

That's typically when I'd see little Juan José zipping past a few inches from my face on his tiny board, ripping the hell out of a wave and slashing back and forth like a seasoned pro. Always with an ear-to-ear grin on his face. 

After successfully crushing a wave, Juan 
José may look back at me, who was way back by where the wave initially broke, and laugh as he made fun of the long-haired gringo who couldn't catch the wave. He may have even paddled back to offer me a victorious fist bump, only to retract his hand to make a gesture of greasing back his hair like a cool guy before erupting into contagious laughter. I actually kind of loved that kid, and I really enjoyed watching him rip.

The kid was fluid and natural on his board in a way that was inspiring to watch. He always made it look so effortless. I learned a lot about surfing from him. Sometimes he'd make motions with his arms and legs to show me how to paddle/kick when a wave was approaching. Other times I'd learn something new just from watching him surf and then trying to imitate his style

He had really good balance and would get super low in stance on his board, almost like he was intentionally trying to be stylish. I applied this to my own style and I noticed an improvement in my surfing ability as I started to make much better turns with my board.

This goofy, wide-eyed little kid who was at times pretty annoying turned out to be a pretty good teacher and a true inspiration. That's why it came to no surprise to me at all when I had heard that Juan José came in 1st place in the Puerto Colombia Youth Division Surfing Competition that year. 

I left Puerto Colombia and the beach behind without ever saying goodbye to that lil' fucker or any of the other local surfers I had befriended during my 5 months there. I'm sure he's 
still out there every single day doing what he loves most, which makes me happy to think. Surf on, Juan José.

Juan José and I paddling out at Pradomar beach. 

Great Ski Etiquette: 10 Do's and Don'ts

Good ski etiquette
The do's and don'ts of proper ski etiquette. Credit: Oxygene Ski School

The skier in front of you has the right of way. They may be a slowpoke and be blocking your line, but give them space so you don't accidentally hit them and have to get ski patrol involved. Always ski in control, too.

The code of skiers
The skier code. Credit: Stonehouse signs

Stop somewhere sensible. Stop on the side of the piste or where you can be visibly seen so you don't end up being a part of someone's landing.

Know before you go. Make sure to know the trail you are taking so you don't screw yourself by blindly sending into a massive cliff zone or a run that's way steeper than what you're comfortable with. Ski areas hand out trail maps like candy - study them.

Don't litter Keep the mountains clean! Credit: Live Science

Don't litter. There are often bins at the top of ski lifts so you can recycle your beer cans. It takes a serious scumbag to actively litter in a holy place like a ski area.

Don't cut the lift line. People are already hot and bothered enough on powder days, and fists can fly at any moment in the line to a ski lift.

Ski patrol saves the day Help your fellow skiers and don't hesitate to call ski patrol if needed. Credit: Depositphotos

Stop and help a fellow skier who has fallen or looks hurt. This doesn't mean give them CPR or try to save their lives, but if you see a downed skier go over to them and see if they need ski patrol called. No one wants to be left unconscious in the snow.

Don't duck ropes or ski into closed areas. There's a reason ski patrol hasn't opened it yet, and it probably has something to do with your own safety. This is also the quickest way to lose that brand new, shiny season pass of yours.

Ski lift  Ski lifts have birthed countless friendships and love affairs throughout the ages. Credit: US News Travel

Be friendly on the chair lift. No need to be standoffish on the chair, we're all here for the same reason. Say hi to your fellow skiers, unless they have music in or don't seem to speak the same language as you. Just be respectful and friendly, because who knows, you may make a new friend or wind up with a hot date.

Crowded! Liftlines like these cause anxiety. Be cool... Credit: Get Ski Tickets

Don't stand on other people's skis in the lift line. Pretty self-explanatory, but it still happens every day. No one wants a scratch on their brand new Atomic Bent Chetler's from some jerry in the lift line. Watch where you swing those ski poles, too.

HAVE FUN! A wise man once said that the best skier on the mountain is the one who has the most fun. Be as competitive as you like on the hill, but remember the whole reason why you started skiing in the first place - to enjoy yourself and the mountains!

Fun skiing
Is there anything more fun than powder skiing? Credit: YouTube

Thursday, October 3, 2019

NOAA: 2018/19 = Northern California's Wettest Year In The Last 20 Years!

Wettest year for Squaw Valley The 2018/2019 season was the wettest year in the past 20 years for Squaw Valley. Credit: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows/Facebook

Last winter Squaw Valley had its snowiest February EVER. They received 246 inches or 20.5 feet of snow. That's a record for the month by 50 inches, and only 3 feet from surpassing the snowiest month ever on record (January 2017, 282 inches).

The 2018/2019 season at Squaw valley was their 3rd snowiest season ever with 719" of snowfall. The last day it snowed was May 27th, 2019.

Recent findings by NOAA suggest that the northern Sierra had an unusually wet year - the wettest in 20 years. 

NOAA reportsCredit: NOAA

"The northern Sierra just ended an unusually wet water year, which runs from 
October 1st to September 30th. The 8 Station Index had a total of 70.7 inches,
136% of normal! Only 3 years have been wetter out of the past 20: 2017, 2011 
& 2006." - NOAA

Wettest year for Squaw Valley February 2019. Squaw Valley, you under there? Credit: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows/Facebook