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14 Jun

Imagine a week with all of your homies, super tasty food, the best vibes and the craziest tricks. A place where time and worries do not exist. That’s Kimbo Sessions, ladies and gentlemen. The best week of the year. From my view as a photographer, Kimbo Sessions is exactly what is sounds like: it’s just a session, but it’s something more. This is a sesh where many of the best skiers in the world come together for a week in Sweden and have the time of their life. No musts, no pressure, no judges. Just a week full of skiing with infinite smiles and meeting new people doing while doing what they love. Biggest shout out to Kim Boberg for putting this insane event together year after year.

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13 Jun

A few days ago on, June 9th, I went and shot a jump that goes over a snow retaining fence at Alta, which has turned into a spring classic here at the ski area. This season, the iconic fence was buried under 626 inches of snow—and that’s not even including one of the snowiest Mays we’ve ever had in Little Cottonwood Canyon. After shooting this jump last year, I returned exactly one year and a month later and was blown away at the few extra feet that still surrounded the fence. More snow than last year, that’s for sure. The guys hit the jump for a few hours, and I switched up my angle throughout the time. Some of my favorite shots came from shooting low by the fence and, once we got some evening light, from halfway up the in-run. Once the light faded behind Mt. Superior, and the landing quickly became dark and the snow firm, we called it. To cap things off, we enjoyed some cold beers at our trucks, watched the alpenglow around us and felt fortunate to be doing what we love so late in the year.

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12 Jun

“It’s still a struggle to put into words what Bryce meant to the Atomic family, the people
he worked with and, selfishly, to me.

I first met Bryce on the SIA showroom floor. He was wearing a Muenster Factory shirt and had a beer around his neck in a junior Moon Boot held there with a shoelace. I knew before words were even spoken that this would be the start of a great friendship that would span the rest of our lives. I was constantly humbled attempting to follow Bryce around Jackson Hole on skis. His effortless yet powerful skiing style showed through in every photo and video of him.

I remember when we offered Bryce an athlete contract with Atomic. He was so excited when I called him and told him, he immediately hung up the phone. Shortly thereafter I received a FaceTime call from Bryce perched on a ladder on the side of a house in Jackson with a breathing mask on and a paintbrush in hand telling me he was coming to Utah that minute to celebrate. After convincing him that the paint he was using would dry out and no one likes a half-painted house, we agreed that we would celebrate the next time our paths crossed. But the story of that celebration would need its own article.

Fast forward to Alta, Utah, in December 2017. Bryce was invited to ski with our sales and R&D teams from Austria at our annual sales meeting. He showed up before the sun rose to help set up tents, unload skis and force smiles on a weary morning crew. Bryce, only knowing one speed on skis, aired a big wind lip and, upon landing, clipped a rock hidden under the snow leading to a nasty tomahawk. He quickly got to the bottom of the hill and realized something was wrong. As he went into the clinic I picked up his truck and headed that way, hoping the damage would be minimal. As I walked into the clinic, he looked at me, broke a half smile and told me not to make him laugh as it hurt too much. I drove him back to my house in his half-ton diesel and he insisted on staying. He spent the next four days sleeping sitting up on my couch. Every one of those days, around 5 p.m., I would get a text from him asking me to pick him up for dinner with the Atomic team so he could still be part of the event, share some stories and continue to bring that Bryce smile we all knew so well. When he went in for a follow-up appointment after returning to Jackson he found out that he’d broke and displaced his scapula by an inch and a half and would require surgery, immediately. Bryce was one of the toughest people I’ve known, and I always envied him for the authentic life he lived and the way he treated everyone that came into his life.

Bryce left a postcard of himself on my desk the last time he was in the office, autographed, “Love you long time! — Bryce Newcomb.” It sits next to my monitor as I type this. I miss you, buddy.”

Sean Kennedy, Atomic

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11 Jun

All photos: Meghan LaHatte

This week, FREESKIER’s Erin Spong, an ex-ski racer with zero terrain park experience, is on location in Whistler, British Columbia, attending Momentum Camps’ first session of the summer, Adult Week. Since 1992, Momentum Camps has been operating on the Blackcomb Glacier, providing campers from national team athletes, freestyle up-and-comers to adult-aged amateurs a unique, high-quality learning experience.

Growing up in Minnesota, skiing has been an integral part of my life since I could first stand on a pair of planks at the age of three. By the time I was five, I was competing in the junior race league at my home hill and continued racing through my senior year of high school. Since my competitive alpine days, I’ve always admired the technical skill and, excuse my French, massive cajones it takes to send it in the terrain park. After so many years being trained how not to get air off of features in speed races, I had no idea where to even begin in the terrain park. So when Momentum invited me to camp, I jumped at the opportunity to make the trek up to the Great White North to try my hand at boxes, rails and jumps with their superior coaching staff.

Day 1

It’s the first day of camp, my palms are sweaty, knees weak and my skis are feeling heavy. Heading up to the top of the Blackcomb Glacier, I can feel my stomach rise to my throat as I assess the terrain park, outfitted with jumps that ranged from mild five-footers to a massive 65-foot launch pad and rails that kinked, turned and rainbowed. After a few warmup groomer laps and a group stretch, the 60-skier camp ranging in age from 20 to 72 (you read that right) is broken up into groups based on skill level. Having zero experience in the park, I’m put in the beginner group with coach, LINE athlete and Level 1 Productions star, Sandy Boville. Not just an incredible freeskier but coach as well, Boville takes our group of park novices, step by step, through the approach of hitting a jump and sliding sideways on a two-foot-wide box. Between the upbeat mentoring of my coach and the support from my fellow campers, I’m able to muster up the confidence to huck my meat. By the end of the day–not without my fair share of crashes and burns–I secure my Japan grab, land a 180 and progress to hitting narrower boxes. Covered in bruises and riding an addicting high from day one’s successes, my anticipation for day two is palpable. Rotating coaches every day, I’m eager to see who will be my coach for day two and whether today is the day I’ll land my first 360.

Coach Noah Morrison getting greasy on the Rainbow Rail.
Assistant Editor, Erin Spong, limbering up before the first day of camp officially kicks off.
The terrain park setup at Momentum Camps is the largest summer park in all of Canada.
Bruised but not defeated, Erin Spong brushes herself off for another lap.

Day 2

Waking up this morning, I’m a little tired and definitely sore–a painful reminder of the tumbles I took yesterday–but my spirits are at an all-time high. Heading up the gondola, I can’t help but smile thinking back on day one’s successes and visualizing my next set of goals for day two with Sandy Boville’s tips from last night’s video review burned in my brain. While on the glacier every day, the coaches each get a GoPro to film their group of skiers. That video is then reviewed by the coach with the skier every night before dinner, assessing body position, technique, speed and control. I’m determined to not only hit the skinny boxes, I want to grease them and I want to evolve the 180s from yesterday into a full 360. Today our coach is Armada athlete and four-time X Games competitor, Noah Morrison. After the first warmup lap with our new, high-energy coach, everyone in my group is feeling psyched and ready to attack our second day in the park. By lunch my approach to the narrow boxes is dialed, I’m landing sideways, my feet are wide and my weight is always over my front foot. Oh so smooth. And my 180s are near perfect. I’m heading into the takeoff in a wide, aggressive stance, my head is up, I’m initiating the turn with my hips and letting my shoulders follow through. After successfully stomping two 180s, Morrison gives me the green light to huck it 180 degrees further and go for the full 360. Fear, however, is holding me back from that full rotation.

After lunch, Morrison takes our motley crew of beginner park skiers to the giant air bag to practice bigger airs and experiment with different tricks. Holy fun. After hitting the bag straight the first run just to get a feel for the landing I’m ready to try something a bit more technical. Two more hits and I’m confident with my 360. I’m ready to hit the snow. Luckily, I’ve got time to squeeze in two more laps before the T-bar operators call it a day. I almost have it on the second to last lap, if it weren’t for that final speed check before the takeoff. Now it’s game time, we quickly head back to the top, grab our packs and swiftly make our way down to the jump for one last huck. Morrison grabs my backpack from me, I take a few deep breaths and then I go for it. Stance wide, speed manageable, shoulders level, I time my takeoff perfectly and like Tonya Harding busting out a triple axel, my hips initiate the rotation and my entire body from my head to the tips of my skis follows suit to complete the entire spin. I land on my feet. I did it. I actually freakin’ landed my very first 360 on the second day of camp! Cue high-pitched screaming and arms flailing. Riding an incredible high on the last lap of the day, I’m eager to get to the water ramp and trampolines located near the upper Blackcomb parking lot, less than a mile up the mountain from the base. Taking a few turns on the tramp and getting fitted for boots and skis to hit the water ramp, I’m ready to go full send. Of the three hits, I was able to attempt a backflip on two of them, rotating almost completely on the second try. With another new coach tomorrow, I plan on honing in my 360, continuing to progress my grinding skills on the skinny boxes and maybe, just maybe, try a backflip on the air bag.

Erin Spong getting twisted and stomping her first 360.
Erin Spong and Coach Noah Morrison are all smiles on day 2 of camp.
Coach Noah Morrison getting the shot to review with his camp group at the end of the day.
Erin Spong clogging arteries with that grease.

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11 Jun

The sun shone deep red through the cloud of sand in the air. There were no trees, no motorbikes humming through the streets and no shops assembling for nightlife like in the town of Marrakesh. The flat city, full of life and merchants, turned to quiet hills and the hills turned to mountains. From cherry blossoms to pine trees, and snow to sand, we had traveled nine hours southwest across the country of Morocco and through the Atlas Mountains to the village of Merzouga, sitting on the edge of the Erg Chebbi region of the Sahara Desert.

Beside me were pro skiers Chad Sayers and Tof Henry and photographer Daniel Rönnbäck, sipping on a hot cup of desert tea and snacking on biscuits from the local gas station. We had traveled to Morocco searching for skiing where most people would not. Chad yearned for the perfect turn in soft pockets of high-desert snow, Tof searched for new couloirs that he could compare to his home in Chamonix and Daniel desired to capture the exotic landscape and ski culture through his lens as we traveled across the country. I embraced the adventure, new journey and diverse ski experience as the fourth nomad.

Later, we sat under a clouded sky as the sand was still settling from the second day of a sandstorm. Across from us was Muhammad, our caretaker, guide and new friend. The full moon shone bright through the cloud of sand and illuminated the silhouettes of Muhammad’s camels, Mali and Jimmy. We would leave the comfort of Muhammad’s home to ride out to our desert camp and begin our ascent of the sand dunes the following day.

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11 Jun

White. The colorless shade made up the entirety of the exterior view from the dining table. Snow pellets flew sideways, a sheet of clouds hung low over camp and the four-foot snow bank grew steadily. All of it was white.

My early exit to bed led to an early arrival at breakfast, and I sat alone at 8:00 a.m. while Llena made the final meal preparations. One by one, she brought out plates of breads, cured meats, cheeses, salmon slabs and roe. She pointed at a mug and asked if I’d like some coffee (kofe, “cofay”). I nodded, still reluctant of attempts at verbal communication considering the barrier.

“Porridge?” she asked and picked up my bowl from the table.

“A little,” I responded, and made the symbol for small with my thumb and pointer finger.

“Ah, chut chut,” she said and mimicked my signal.

I understood, smiled and nodded, “chut chut, a little.”

Each of us would form a special bond with Llena over our week at Rodnikovaya. If it wasn’t for the bubbling thermal waters as evidence, I’d swear it was Llena pumping warmth into the main cabin. Whatever language barrier existed for each of us was torn down by her hospitality in a truly inhospitable place. Her domain was an incubator for connection, and surely contributed to the relationships our group of strangers formed in our brief time at camp.

The others rolled into the main cabin at 8:30, in what was my first introduction to “Kamchatka time.” With the exception of our swift exit from Petrapovlov-Kamchatsky, our trip was marked by a blasé attitude toward the restraints of time. If breakfast was at 8 a.m., it was customary to add an “ish” to the 8 and show up at your leisure.

The storm raged outside, and wouldn’t let up for another 30 hours. Heli-skiing was out of the question, but the gentle knoll above Rodnikovaya offered up exquisite tree runs. The plan was to gather for some group touring at 11:00 a.m., Kamchatka time, of course.

We skinned up the looker’s right of the knoll, then dipped and dodged the wind-twisted family of birch trees strewn about its eastern slopes. The wind howled and formed knee-deep drifts that accompanied the spring Styrofoam that resided there prior. Each descent down the knoll was a grab-bag of dreamy powder turns and stop-you-in-your-tracks encounters with rotten mank. It didn’t matter, though; we were scoring storm laps at the edge of the world.

Our storm activity-cycle consisted of touring, meals, basseyn soaks, vodka toasts (Na Zdorov’ye, “Nostrovia”) and sleep, in an ever-revolving order.

Amidst the cycle, our group of multilingual village inhabitants, who hailed from America, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria and Russia, got to know one another.

Photographer Adam Klingeteg and pro skier William Larsson, the Swedes, were always together and both very outgoing, always quick to tell a joke or light up the room with a smile. They were an active duo, jumping at the chance to head out and shoot, day or night, stormy or clear. The legendary Mike Hattrup, of Blizzard of Ahhh’s fame, among other accolades earned over the course of thirty-plus years in the ski industry, was there representing Fischer. Hattrup, we’d soon learn, was in impeccable shape, and consistently led our ski tours around Rodnikovaya, setting skin tracks and taking the brunt of the work. The Swiss guys liked to party and weren’t afraid to rib us Americans following any boisterous statement we may have made. There was the stoic Maigourov, a former biathlete who won bronze for Russia at both the Nagano and Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Maigourov had been to Rodnikovaya many times and formed a strong bond with the camp’s owner, Vladimir Shevtsov.

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11 Jun


As Thomas began to climb down, Léo and I made the difficult choice to continue, trusting the experience of Yannick and Hélias and hoping that the slope would become safe again soon. After 20 minutes of scary and exposed snow climbing we were tied back to the rope with a couple of ice screws between the four of us.

We all stood on the summit at 3:30 in the afternoon, much later than expected, and soaked in the view from 5,880 meters. Baintha Brakk I and II, the whole Nobande Sobande stretching north to China, across the Latok and Choktoï group up to K2 and Broad Peak standing proud above everything. It was a view none of us will ever forget. The next challenge was to traverse the summit ridge all the way to the entrance of the spines since it was too icy and exposed from the summit. The steep ridge we walked on was only 10 to 15 feet wide with dangerous cornices on the left and a 1,500-foot vertical cliff on the right. Léo and Hélias felt good about skiing from the top so while they got ready Yannick and I down-climbed to the entrance of the face. The skiers went down slowly, un-roped, above the abyss. We did a short rappel from there to the top of the spines. Léo was kind enough to offer the first track to me. As I got ready to drop in, Hélias reminded me one more time, “no freeriding.” With my ice tool firmly in hand I began to work my way down the spine.

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10 Jun



Above: Matt Sterbenz and Checkerspot CEO Charles Dimmler are all smiles at the cutting edge of materials innovation at Checkerspot HQ in Berkeley, California.

Shortly after becoming General Manager for Snowsports for Checkerspot, Matt Sterbenz sent a survey to his list of ski industry contacts. It included questions about the best recent advances in ski and snowboard technology but also asked how much the environment factors into gear decisions. Sterbenz calls the questionnaire a “gut check,” an affirmation of his choice to leave 4FRNT, the ski company he founded and ran for more than a decade and a half, to work for a biotech company intent on reinventing the materials used to make the gear we rely on.

“The unanimous response of those I asked about sustainability in skiing was that we’re all ostriches,” Sterbenz says. “We all have our heads in the sand. We’ll carpool to the trailhead, we’ll pack out of the backcountry, we’ll try to minimize our impact as much as we can, but the high performing demands we have on our equipment cannot be compromised.”

Currently, that includes using wood cut from forests, petroleum-based plastics and resins and fiberglass and carbon fiber that are toxic to make and dispose of. “The stuff we’re making these skis out of, it’s a little volatile,” Sterbenz says. “It’s not always focused on renewable resources. The visibility consumers have to the toxicity of those materials is very limited as well.”

Checkerspot is named for the endangered Checkerspot Butterfly and plays off the Butterfly Effect—the theory that small changes can have a large impact. The hope is that by changing something small—in this case, the molecules that make up the materials used in outdoor gear—the company will trigger a massive change across the industry, both in sustainability and performance. In turn, Checkerspot uses algae to create oils which become thermoplastics and thermosets. By feeding various strains of algae different sugars, scientists are able to essentially brew in different properties—strength, elasticity, etc. Because they are working on a molecular level, they can reverse engineer these materials for their exact use.

“High-density composites can be used in combination with other materials for ski cores,” says Sterbenz. “Additionally, we can use our technology platform to create tip spacers, side walls, all the way down to the resin systems used to mold skis. But the opportunity is, what is it that we can do with this material that doesn’t necessarily replace other materials, but betters the functionality of the current materials being used?”

This algae-based technology has existed for industrial and military applications for years now, but Checkerspot is specifically targeting outdoor sports—surf and snow, to start. The company’s founders—outdoor enthusiasts in addition to being scientists—see opportunity in an industry where environmental stewardship and sport often go hand-in-hand. In other words, there’s a widespread desire among consumers, retailers and manufacturers to finally be able to pull our heads out of the sand.

Spherically-shaped micro-algae cells grown in the dark in stainless steel fermentation tanks are filled with oil. This makes them look like tiny spheres within spheres. These unique strains of micro-algae produce the different pristine oils and fatty acids that Checkerspot uses as building blocks for entirely new classes of performance materials.

A bright field image shows the accumulation of large oil droplets forming within individual micro-algae cells. From an evolutionary perspective, algae evolved to produce oil as a matter of survival. Checkerspot takes advantage of this by growing its algae in fermentation (like yeast to make beer) and feeding it sugar; the algae metabolizes it in days and accumulates large amounts of oil within its cells.

Dried algae biomass grown in fermentation tanks in the absence of light negates the need to use green chlorophyll for this oil-producing micro-algae. Once harvested, the oil has the exact appearance of any typical vegetable oil, with no flavor and no scent. The beaker on the right contains pure triglyceride algae oil that was extracted from dried algal biomass. Checkerspot’s unique strains of micro-algae can produce a range of previously unavailable and unexplored fatty acids to meet untapped material performance and sustainability benefits.

Other companies have introduced sustainable materials before. Entropy recently came out with a bio-based resin called Super Sap. And Niche Snowboards, using a product called Recyclamine, which allows for reverse molding (dissolving) the resin and recapturing materials, recently debuted a 100-percent recyclable/reusable snowboard. But Checkerspot is unique in tackling the base materials. It could be the change many in the ski industry have been looking for.

“As you can imagine, we have customers that are really interested in our efforts around sustainability,” says Mike Adams, VP and commercial director of Amer Sports, the parent company of Atomic, Salomon and Armada. “From my standpoint, what I’ve been working on and what I see more is the end-of-life part of it. Not so much replacing materials in production, which is obviously a whole new area, and really interesting.”

Amer has an extensive recycling program to re-purpose leftover materials and energy from the manufacturing process at their Altenmarkt, Austria, factory, which produces 400,000 skis a year. Amer’s most aggressive initiatives, however, revolve around making the facility more efficient. The factory has weened completely off oil. Its electricity comes entirely from renewable resources, and it shares a biomass facility with the local community that provides energy to the factory in the summer, when most skis are made, and heat to the surrounding towns in the winter. The company would like to do more, but so far haven’t found a workable solution. “On a regular basis, we are searching all the materials” for more sustainable options, says Helmut Holzer, Atomic’s director of anticipation and advanced research. “So far we haven’t gotten any good results.” Because the ski industry is relatively small, Helmut adds that the larger raw materials suppliers aren’t interested in developing more sustainable products, specifically, for such a niche market.

DPS' Phantom cure station at its Salt Lake City factory.

Efficiency is the primary initiative for smaller factories as well. As owners of their own factory in Salt Lake City, DPS has more control over the construction process than other small brands. “We have a very active campaign to use additive manufacturing methods to not only reduce cost but reduce the amount of landfill created by typical subtractive manufacturing processes,” says Peter Turner, director of engineering for DPS. The company also has more flexibility when it comes to material choices, which has allowed it to be a pioneer in how carbon fiber—great for performance, yet environmentally toxic—is implemented into ski design, as well as develop its Phantom waxless base treatment as a less toxic alternative to traditional waxes.

Turner says DPS remains interested in exploring better and more sustainable materials, but that currently, its best course is through choosing its suppliers. “Actually a ski is quite inert to the environment and they are not at all toxic,” Turner contends. “However, some of the raw materials can be toxic in their manufacture and require good controls to protect the environment [from them]. In recognition of the good environmental laws we have in this country and in Europe, we try to source all of our materials from those regions.”

This, unfortunately, leaves sustainability in the hands of politicians, who can be subject to lobbying and corruption. (For examples, Google Pruitt, Scott.)

“Right now, the go-to-action for sustainability in the ski and snowboard industry is to donate a portion of your proceeds to a non-profit, and their goal is to run the message up the pole to see if we can make some laws that govern some of these carbon-impacting principles,” says Sterbenz. Meanwhile, the outdoor lobby, while improving, still pales in comparison to the influence wielded by fossil fuel advocates.

Raw materials organized in Atomic's ski factory in Austria.

A similar conundrum exists when it comes to influencing material suppliers. In the industrial materials world, the ski industry is minuscule. So far, large suppliers have not found it worth their time to develop something more environmentally friendly specifically for such a small market, even if that market demands it and is willing to pay for it.

When a new supplier does try to enter the ski market, it’s often without the knowledge of what the final product will endure once it’s put on snow. “Quite often, contacts want to do something for the ski industry and have no idea about it,” says Holzer. “It’s not that easy. We have our product used in very difficult conditions. It’s icy, there’s water, it’s freezing, it’s abrasion resistant, so it’s very specific materials you are using, and to replace those, so far we are not able to find a material which we could use.”

With Sterbenz and snowboard industry veteran Dan Malmrose on board, Checkerspot is in the process of building a testing facility in Salt Lake City, which will include a press to build prototypes. “It’s one thing to put a new material into something and then make an amazing marketing plan around it,” says Malmrose. “But it’s another thing to validate it [with data]. One of the things we’re doing here is trying to set up some serious validation efforts so we have hard data that shows this material isn’t going to blow up.”

Matt Sterbenz, along with material scientist Lauren Slutzky, bringing some of that ski industry humor to the Checkerspot labs.

Sterbenz believes Checkerspot’s engineers will have the product tested and ready in 12 to 24 months. But he’s also aware it could take years for it to be implemented in large scale. “It’s a very rigid environment,” he says of ski manufacturing. “They want to make you any ski you want as long as it comes from the same deck of materials that they have proven are stable to work with because they’re on the hook if they fall apart.”

Holzer confirms it likely would take time to break into the Amer factory, but says they have systems in place. “Testing internally would go quite fast,” he says. From there, Holzer continues, they would try it out in a single model for at least a season, before maybe integrating it into a series. “So, testing it could take a couple of months, then it must be at least one winter in the field and then it would take another season to implement.” Even at that point, Holzer says it wouldn’t be used across the entire factory immediately. “We would have a specific model, specific range or even a specific brand,” where the product would be introduced, he says.

Depending on what adjustments might be needed to the factory’s equipment, it could take even longer. “If we have to invest in molds then it could take at least four, five years because that’s our timing where we are replacing all our molds,” Holzer says. “If we have to change the press parameters, like temperature or timing of the press, then that would be another very tricky, and maybe [time-consuming] development.”

Taking a look at data from a three-point bending test of composite sandwich samples using Checkerspot concepts.

“The capital investment when you change this sort of thing would be enormous,” Adams says. “It would be a massive undertaking.” Massive, but not insurmountable. “I think everyone is interested,” he adds.

From the consumer to the factory, there is a growing demand in the ski industry that the products we use to connect with the environment be friendlier to it. Checkerspot won’t be a cure-all, but it could be a massive step forward. Within the next decade, we may be able to take in nature from the summit without having to ignore the nature of the equipment that got us there. “There’s energy consumption, there are a variety of ways in which harmful things get into the production of materials today. We’re by no means perfect out of the gates,” Sterbenz says. “I think the big thing is that the technology comes from a renewable resource that has a lighter impact on the planet. But we’re motivated by the superior properties that we can obtain. That’s what’s exciting for us.”

“The outdoor industry is ripe for technological advancements at this level,” Sterbenz continues. “This opportunity is something that could be widely disruptive. And necessary, I think, in the industry.”

The post The Butterfly Effect appeared first on FREESKIER.

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07 Jun

All photos: Bjarne Salen

Cody Townsend is one of the most recognizable names in skiing at the moment. He’s been a regular in Matchstick Productions’ annual flicks since 2005’s The Hit List, has wowed mass audiences with his fast, fluid approach to big-mountain skiing and won over the hearts of ski enthusiasts the world over with his low-key demeanor and charisma. This season, he announced his most ambitious project to date, the goal to ski all fifty lines in the beloved book, 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, by Chris Davenport, Art Burrows and Penn Newhard.

In episode 13 of Cody Townsend’s The FIFTY project, the professional skier heads to a little place called Aspen. With almost no experience skiing where the beer flows like wine, Townsend calls on the expertise of a couple well-known locals, including one of the authors of 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, Penn Newhard, and ski mountaineer Pete Gaston to plan his route up Pyramid Peak to ski Landry Line.

First skied by Chris Landry in 1978, Landry Line didn’t see another skier for almost 30 years until Chris Davenport, Ted Mahon and Niel Biedleman bagged the iconic peak in 2006. Nowadays, avid ski mountaineers use Landry Line as a true test of skill due to its extreme exposure and–excuse the crudeness–butt-clenching steepness. After one of Colorado’s most historic avalanche seasons in 300 years, the snowpack was able to tighten up for Townsend’s arrival into town, providing stable conditions for his attempt. With Gaston bowing out due to health issues and Newhard calling it mid-ascent, it’s up to Townsend and videographer Bjarne Salen to navigate the challenging line.

Author of “50 Classic Ski Descents of North America,” Penn Newhard, makes his way up the bootpack.
Townsend reminds himself not to look down.
Townsend and Salen celebrating a successful summit.


Follow The FIFTY Project on Instagram


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07 Jun

Rendered images: Courtesy of Fairfax County

On Wednesday, May 29, Virginia’s Fairfax County announced possible plans to build one of the world’s largest indoor skiing facilities on the I-95 Landfill Complex, which provides environmentally-conscious recycling and disposal services for all of Fairfax County. Seeing opportunity with the slope of the landfill located near Lorton, Virginia, Alpine X–a recreational development company based out of McLean, Virginia–started developing its proposal back in 2016.

“When Alpine-X approached me nearly two years ago through my work with the Sports Tourism Task Force with an innovative way to utilize the elevation of the county-owned landfill in Lorton, I was eager to help,” said Pat Herrity, Springfield district supervisor, in a recent press release from Fairfax County.

The Alpine X proposal includes plans for multiple ski slopes, one of which would be North America’s longest indoor slope at 1,700 feet, as well as at least one slope compliant with the Fédération Internationale de Ski’s standards in order to host formal competitions. A terrain park with various jumps, rails and features as well as a bunny hill for beginners will also be included in the construction of the 450,000-square-foot complex. On top of the skiing, the Fairfax Peak complex would also include restaurants, a ski shop, a 100-plus-room luxury hotel, a gondola and even a gravity-powered mountain coaster.

For a state with minimal access to skiing and other snow-related activities, this facility could completely change the game for the Fairfax community and Virginia as a whole.

“The fiscal, sports and community benefits of this opportunity are numerous, including new jobs, exciting new snow sports opportunities, the potential for high school ski teams, new hotel and restaurant amenities for the South County area, premier national competitions and financial benefits to our taxpayers from the lease, sales tax and hotel tax revenue streams,” said Herrity in that same press release. “I am extremely excited to partner with Alpine-X to develop a unique downhill snow sports destination right here in Fairfax County.”

Before plans become official for Alpine X to break ground, the county will have to go through its formal procurement process, which includes opening it up to competing bids, community input via public hearings and the Board of Supervisors’ approval. Once approved, Alpine X foresees the project’s first phase being complete within 36-48 months.

For more information on the Fairfax Peak proposal, click here.

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