Category Archives: Risk/Reward

Snowman Film: When heli-blasting goes wrong

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I’m hoping my mother never sees this movie. It looks brilliant and fascinating and on-the-edge-of-your-seat exhilarating. As a heli-blaster myself, the trailer for this film captures that mixture of awe and horror that roils inside while watching a big avalanche pull away and wreak havoc on a mountain side.

Kevin Fologin is an avalanche forecaster and consultant in B.C.’s rugged Coast Range, where he regularly drops explosives from helicopters to start avalanches.  One day, one of these missions goes horribly wrong. Check out the trailer below.

In the first segment of this film to drop on Salomon FreeskiTV Kevin describes the ironic fascination of purposely creating avalanches. Most of us try to avoid avalanches. Snow safety consultants like Kevin (and ski patrollers across the world) hunt them.

Our job isn’t necessarily to prevent avalanches, but rather to create them. Once a slope has avalanched, the cartridge in the barrel has been spent. My favorite part of the first segment of the film below is during the big avalanche footage. Just listen to Kevin’s voice on the radio. “Go, go, go. Look at that thing go,” he says just as the toe of the avalanche launches over a beautiful slope toward the valley bottom. He lets out a laugh while the camera follows the cascading mass pushing harder and harder over the terrain. It’s a great piece of camera work and it resonated deeply for me.

How can avalanches be so awesome and so horrible all at once? There’s something truly humbling about watching one of these large slides devastate the landscape. And yet there’s also something addictive about causing one. Usually we are at the mercy of Mother Nature. With explosives, we can push the avalanches to happen when we want them to.

It’s a recipe for hubris. Perhaps that’s what makes this movie so intriguing–it explores that fine line through the aftermath of a devastating accident.

Kevin Fogolin hunting avalanches by helicopter

Kevin Fogolin hunting avalanches by helicopter

The film debuted last weekend at the 2014 Whistler Film Festival, winning “Best Mountain Culture Film.” According to the film’s website the film was very well received, and the audience responded with a standing ovation.

I’m looking forward to seeing more. Just don’t tell my mom.

Tracking Ultimate Human Performance: The Flow Genome Project

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What is Flow?

Andres Marin finding flow

Andres Marin finding flow

Steven Kottler and Jamie Wheal want you experience flow. What, exactly, is flow, you might ask, and why do I want to experience it? Flow is “being in the zone.” It happens when you drop into a sweet line whether on a mountain, the ocean, single track, or wherever. I happens when your mind calms and your body takes over.

You become one with the task. You stop thinking, you lose track of time, and you ride that perfect line between your skill level and the challenge at hand. In other words, flow is happiness itself.

Not only do athletes experience flow. Artists, musicians, writers, computer programmers, surgeons–anyone can reach flow states.

A while back, I interviewed the father of flow Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor at Claremont Graduate University, who invented the idea of flow.

Kottler and Wheal are taking Csikszentmihalyi’s ideas to the next level. They are combining the work of scientists and neurologists studying flow with the athletes and flow-hackers out there getting into the zone on a regular basis.

They state their mission on their website:

Flow Genome Project is a trans-disciplinary, international organization committed to mapping the genome of Flow by 2020 and open sourcing it to everyone

In essence, the guys at the Flow Genome Project want to make this most elusive and wonderful of physical/mental states available to every one of us. They want to map the “deep science of ultimate human performance.”

Who are these guys?

The Rise of SupermanSteven Kottler is the Director of Research at the Flow Genome Project. He’s an author and journalist. His book The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, maps out how extreme athletes use flow to perform amazing feats and how everyone–even non-athletes–can use flow to improve their lives. This book is an excellent read, conjuring many of the usual suspects in the extreme sports world. Not only are these athletes performing creative feats, they are doing so at an unprecedented level of progression. Kottler explains why in this book.

Jamie Wheal is the Director of Programs at Flow Genome. He is a leading expert on the neuro-somatics of ultimate human performance and leads a team of the world’s top scientists, athletes and artists dedicated to reverse-engineering the genome of the peak-performance state known as Flow.

Check out this video that explains their project.

Flow Genome Project – The Documentary from Flow Genome Project on Vimeo.

 

How Can I Get Involved?

Chuck Patterson getting creative at Jaws

Chuck Patterson getting creative at Jaws

This is where it gets cool. Kottler and Wheal want you to join them. They need your flow experiences to create their open-source flow study.

Here’s what it says on their website:

Tell us about your best flow experience. Use your iPhone. Use your webcam. Use your Go-Pro. Use any video device you have available. Create a short video detailing your most poignant, powerful, mind-blowing, changed-my-life-forever flow state experience, then send it to us.

You don’t have to record yourself in the flow state, just record yourself talking about it. They have some specific questions they want you to answer. Check out their page for all the details.

What’s in it for Me?

The guys at Flow Genome have a few exciting innovations up their sleeves. Number one, they hope to create Flow Dojos. Defined as a hands-on science museum meets Cirque du Soleil, the Flow Dojo will mimic extreme sports feats (without the risk) while capturing your body-brain data to see how and when you get into flow. The idea is for individuals to learn how to jump-start the flow process, so you can access it in your real life.

Still with me? Good. Now’s your chance to find out what kinds of experiences best launch you into flow. Check on the Flow Profile image below to take the quiz. Kottler and Wheal seem pretty serious about getting all of us into flow more often. I, for one, applaud their efforts. Now go out and find some flow. Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 8.59.01 AM

Tracking the “Why” of Avalanches

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Researchers at Montana State University hope to better understand how heuristics (human factors) contribute to avalanche mitigation. They are looking for participants for this global study.

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What you hope you never see

Here’s the overview of their project:

MSUThis project aims to collect GPS location information and survey responses from backcountry skiers and riders to better understand what types of terrain decision we make. Our focus is on backcountry skiers and riders of all abilities and experience. You need not be an expert backcountry skier to participate in this research. Every track submitted will go into the draw for some great prizes kindly donated by Black Diamond Equipment. The more tracks you submit the more chances you have at winning a prize!

Find out more about the study here.

The Four W’s: When Winter Packs a Punch

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Winter finally arrived last week and so did the four w’s: wild, windy, wet and wacky. Really, it’s the three w’s but we like to throw the wacky in there because you just never know. This is Crystal and things can get pretty crazy sometimes. On Saturday the Crystal telemetry recorded a spike to 111 mph at the top of Rainier Express. That’s a Category 3 hurricane.

By Sunday morning we’d picked up 24 inches of snow in 24 hours according to the human observation at the Green Valley weather station. From 5am to 8am Sunday morning it snowed 10″. That’s more than 3″ an hour. This fluffy “bonus snow” caused quite a bit of chaos in the parking lot as the plowing crews had to re-plow at the exact time that everyone was arriving. It made for a long drive and an even longer time parking.

It also made for some excellent skiing.

Speaking of wind, check out this video taken recently at Bridger Bowl. The winds were in the 70s this day. Just imagine what Rex looked like on Saturday with those spikes in the Category 3 range. Makes me shiver.

Hopefully most of you were able to partake in the Sunday morning goods. It doesn’t get like that very often in the PNW and when it happens on a weekend, the untracked snow goes fast. We opened Northway for the first time this season at 1:30 on Sunday, and those that stuck around got some good skiing there too.

We are implementing a new program at the Northway gates on big days. Skiers and riders with beacons and partners get to come to the front of the line and go through the gates first. Even though we use explosives to mitigate the avalanche hazard, Northway and Southback are still avalanche prone areas. They simply do not see the same skier compaction as our “in area” terrain. Thus, we recommend skiing with a partner and carrying a beacon and shovel. We are also tweeting our openings, and giving our followers an early heads up. So follow us at @crystalmtpatrol and help us spread the message by retweeting.

The forecast is now calling for a return to high pressure. This should give the snowpack a chance to settle out. While doing avalanche control in Southback this morning, we saw evidence of some big natural avalanches in the backcountry. So giving the layers a chance to bond and the snowpack an opportunity to find some equilibrium is a good thing. Let’s just hope this return to spring doesn’t last too long. I’m kind of partial to winter.

The Kind of Person that says WOO HOO

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kim kircher

Woo Hoo!!

“I wish I was the kind of person that said, Woo Hoo.” A college friend once told me. Sandra is elegant, she is sophisticated, she is well put-together. But she’s not the type of person to sling high-fives around and you know, yell at the top of her lungs.

Over the years I’ve wondered myself about the importance of the Woo Hoo. Am I the kind of person that says, Woo Hoo? What is the virtue of maximum enthusiasm?

What’s the value of not being cool and instead letting our excitement wash over us in an embarrassing vocal outburst?

When Sandra made that declaration all those years ago, I had agreed in a sort of “humble brag”. Too bad we aren’t like those pathetic frat boys getting all excited about the smallest little thing.

Dude! That was awesome! High-Five!

Instead I melted under a blanket of cool, blended into the gray surroundings of Evergreen State College, and didn’t make waves.

Now, as I embark again on the book publishing process, I’ve decided to make a change. I am going to be the kind of person that declares, Woo Hoo! anytime my new project gains even a slight bit of momentum. So, here I am waving my freak flag, because I have a new book and I have a new agent and he’s right now, as I type, sending it out to publishing houses.  And you know what? That deserves an all caps WOO HOO!!!

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Jumping for joy on the banks of the Salmon River

What is this new book about, you might ask? (I can hear you asking, and I’m letting out a very tiny woo hoo right now.) The book examines the risks and rewards in extreme sports. Looking at athlete’s stories and going beyond the “adrenaline junkie” stereotype to examine the brain science and experience of getting out on the edge.

One thing I’ve learned so far about the book publishing world, is that there’s no final destination. Instead, I have learned to celebrate each little milestone, every little moment and encouragement along the way. I’ll be keeping y’all posted on the book’s progress, and taking the time to high-five myself along the way (which isn’t as awkward as you might think, it’s kind of like clapping, but even better).

So you know what?

WOO HOO!!

The Sweet Life

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Sean Busby riding in Norway

I am a Type 1 diabetic. That’s a T1D for the uninitiated. That means that whenever friends read about the latest diabetes treatment, they always send me a link. And sometimes I think they must wonder what my problem is. Diabetes is preventable, they probably think to myself. What’s wrong with her?

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(See, the problem is they think I have Type 2 diabetes. And while both disease contain the word “diabetes”, they are really worlds apart.)

T1D is not preventable. Nor is it due to drinking too much soda or eating too much McDonalds. Because if it was, I’d be cured. I don’t drink super sized colas and I don’t eat fast food. Sometimes my husband rolls his eyes at me, thinking that all I eat is “twigs and nuts,” and I assure him that’s not the case.

So when I get to talk to someone just like me–a T1D who also loves to climb mountains and slide down them–I’m thrilled. This week on The Edge Radio I’m interviewing Sean Busby, a professional snowboarder and a fellow Type 1 diabetic.

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Sean Busby in Antarctica

Sean was diagnosed in 2004, while training for the Olympics. Considering leaving snowboarding altogether, Sean was inspired by stories he found through JDRF’s Children’s Congress. It was these young kids that inspired him to keep living his dreams despite living with T1D.

He founded Riding On Insulin—which is now a nonprofit organization—to honor all the kids who inspired him to keep living.

Sean also continues his big mountain backcountry snowboarding expeditions to the world’s most remote mountain ranges and chronicles his adventures with Mollie on their website, Two Sticks and a Board.

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His expeditions include snowboarding in Antarctica (twice!), Patagonia, Iceland, Kyrgyzstan, Alaska, New Zealand, Tasmania, Norway, and more. Sean will have backcountry snowboarded all 7 continents this coming February when he embarks on an expedition to the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco in Africa.  He is continuing to plan expeditions to the remote corners as well as offering guided trips to some of his favorite locations. Don’t miss the show this Wednesday at 8am Pacific.

Wingsuit Flying: Pushing (and Shoving) the Envelope

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JT Holmes

JT Holmes

When JT Holmes and Andy Farrington take to the skies, they aren’t just falling through the air.

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They’re flying. BASE jumpers, wing suit pilots, skiers, and stuntmen, JT and Andy are quintessential thrill seekers.

But what arms these two with the ability to leap over the edge? When every cell in their body must be telling them to step away from the abyss, how can they counter that urge for self-preservation and take that jump?

Every season more jumpers take to the skies, and every season more of them die.

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Redbull Airforce team member Andy Farrington

Do these two guys ever get scared? And if so, do they ever listen to those fears and walk away.

Or does their sport require them to ignore that tiny voice on their shoulder reminding them to BE CAREFUL? I’ll be asking these questions and more this week when I interview them both on my show.

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Andy is returning to The Edge Radio this week along with JT to talk about BASE jumping, wingsuit flying and their upcoming project with Red Bull, when they go to the Juneau icecap to explore the edge of airborne and snow sports. You don’t want to miss this one. Leave your comments or questions here and I’ll be sure to ask. Or call in at 1-888-346-9144 live tomorrow at 8am.