Premium purveyor of extreme sport body armor Demon United has once again graced us with gear- completing my arsenal with a full loadout for both summer and winter.
You might remember how many tailbone injuries I was spared from thanks to Demon’s FlexForce padded shorts over the winter- now I’m looking forward to enjoying full-body protection with the rest of the set.
Check out the box-opening video here to see my initial impressions, and stay tuned for field testing.
On March 15, 2012 the day had finally arrived for Birdie and I to pack up our rig and push off for Boston. But since my co-driver had PSIA testing until late afternoon, I made the most of my last day in Mammoth Lakes by getting on the sauce and hitting the slopes.
Uh, not in that order of course.
My roommates and I had returned from the bar the night before and decided we needed to record a music video to a song our new roommate Eli had written. By the time we were satisfied with a tenth take, the sun was starting to creep up and the lifts would be open in a little over three hours.
The decision to forgo sleep altogether was made when I realized Netflix had Hot Dog available for streaming- just what I needed to get amped for my day on the hill.
With daybreak officially in progress I rallied the crew they same way whoever wakes up first in Apartment Five always did- by yelling incoherently at the fridge and revving the coffee grinder like a Hayabusa.
Lanton and Dominic powered on, Eli was less responsive.
Nevertheless, we were on the hill by 9:00.
Well… at the lodge. Reviving ourselves with Bloody Marys.
By the time we had finished breakfast Eli was ready to join the living, and we headed straight for the summit. Despite low visibility at the top, the snow was great if a bit chunky. We were able to get some great turns in on the steepest stuff I’d hit all season.
The summit had been disappointingly bare for most of this year, and I was pretty stoked to be able to leave Mammoth with at least a taste of what it’s really known for.
Unfortunately the warm weather turned the snow into flypaper by mid-afternoon. My wax was literally melting again and had about as much glide as 10-grit sandpaper running over an old brick.
With my co-driver still preoccupied with her snowboard-certification test I had a few hours to kill, so I got dragged back to the bar for my last Mai Tais in Mammoth. A few minutes (hours?) later Birdie showed up; sunglasses on, car keys in hand.
“You ready to go?”
Still in my ski gear I thought back to my apartment, where the rest of my belongings were scattered like… well, not like I was about to move out, that’s for sure. So I came up with an evasive answer I thought would buy me some time.
“Uh, are you ready?”
“Aaalright. Fellas, it’s been real.”
When we got back to my apartment, Birdie was less than pleased to see that I had yet to initiate the packing process.
“Also, you’re driving to L.A. tonight,” I said as I crammed my ski wax, a few shirts, and two pairs of Calvin Kleins into the last cardboard box I had saved for this occasion.
Six hours later we had made it to the Shannon family’s West L.A. house, where we were greeted by two pint-sized dogs and a massive TV.
This would be our staging area for the 4,000 mile expedition we were looking down the barrel of.
Hope there’s Red Bull in the fridge.
I rolled off my bed and onto the floor, where I got through my morning ritual of three minutes of planking followed by a hundred push-ups.
You know, for when I come out of the shower and our hot neighbors are over. …I mean, endurance on the slopes.
Pathetic excuse for a workout completed, I b-line it for the coffee machine. My roommates and I had just ordered four pounds of ultra-premium coffee from a shop in Lanton’s hometown of Fresno. He’s our resident caffeine connoisseur, so I was keen to sample our new stash.
But before I could scratch my ass I passed Chris in the hallway, who was grinning like he had either just got laid or setup a hilarious prank on one of our cohabitants. Either way, I wanted details.
His response indicated something I hadn’t considered.
“Have you looked out your window?”
I always slept with the blinds down, in case employees from a rival resort were plotting a drive-by, so my answer was no.
“Dude, go open the door!” yelled Stephan from his bedroom.
I complied, and quickly identified the source of my roommates jubilation.
I was looking through a whitewashed winterscape where our dusty front lawn had been just twenty-four hours prior.
Roads were impassible, cars were buried beyond recognition, and I pitied the dog who had to take a leak.
“Oh, it’s on.”
Satisfied with my assessment of the situation I turned around and yelled an open inquiry as to which of my fellow Apartment Five residents were free to ride.
Chris and Stephan replied in the affirmative and commenced whipping up a beast breakfast of eggs, sausage, and high octane coffee.
The Samurai was loaded and moving half an hour later. We rocked up at Canyon Lodge before quarter-past-eight.
Suited and booted shortly after, I dialed back the DIN on my bindings to allow for easier ejection.
The snow that falls in our region is known as “Sierra Cement” for a reason- it’s a thick, wet, heavy surface that can grab a ski and tear an ACL quicker than you can say “Dude, watch this!”
I knew my Line Mavericks were going to have trouble in this stuff, but I was hoping the massive flex factor and twin-tip design would compensate for the skinny footprint. I was wrong. The slim all-mountain park skis that kicked ass on hardpack were struggling to stay afloat in powder, and I was taking dives left and right.
And since it was still snowing, visibility was an absolute joke. This picture isn’t a new Photoshop canvas- it’s Chris and everything else you can see. Taken from the top of Chair Five, you can usually see endless mountain peaks from this position. Not on this day.
My luck changed a bit in the early afternoon, when Chris had to duck into his office and offered to let me have a go on his pontoon-sized Blizzard One’s.
It felt like stepping out of a Triumph TR-6 and into a Nissan GT-R. The fat powder ski absolutely massacred the terrain, and I went from zero to hero in one run. Still took a few spills, but he way the Blizzards were floating over the snow made them so easy to manage that I felt like I could have done another eight hours on them.
Just look at the picture, wider is better!
We chased the liftline of the infamous Chair Twenty Two where Stephan and I swapped leads as we hucked wind lips and rubbed shoulders with trees.
Legs pumping like pistons I blasted over and around massive moguls. Fun as hell, but quickly fatiguing. I sought refuge in a flat piece of snow, and slid out of the bumps as soon as I had eyes on a steep fastblast section I was running parallel to.
Picking up another twenty kilometers an hour at least I straightlined it for a huge lip, bent my knees and limbered out for lift.
But when I made contact with the snow again, I realized my landing zone was softer than a pillow made of baby bunnies- as I somersaulted through the powder and righted, stunned, covered in snow, to cheers and laughs from the chairlift overhead.
With a salute to the crowd and a double head-shake to myself I got up and headed for Mammoth’s central lodge- The Mill. Pulled pork nachos were needed to repower for the last couple hours of ridetime.
Next time you’re skiing Mammoth, go to The Mill and get the pulled pork nachos. It’s a beastly three passenger meal that could psych you through even the gnarliest of conditions. Tell them I sent you and they probably won’t spit in it.
By the time we broke lunch we had added two people to our entourage; our neighbor Krista and Stephan’s friend Birdie.
Krista’s skis looked like they had just been unearthed at an archaeological dig. With a ridiculously skinny profile and what looked like the first interpretation of parabolic shaping I estimated their origin at the mid 1990’s. When I made my observation known, she told me she had borrowed them from a friends mom before coming out here.
Props. I had been too much of a pussy to bring my dad’s Kneissl 200‘s out west, a decision I was regretting now that this sheila was about to chase us through waist deep powder on skis only slightly more advanced.
Krista gave the pow a fair effort, but she was working her tail off in conditions that had stifled my 2005 all-mountain skis and was knackered after just a few runs.
I tried to show her some moves but mostly ended up looking like a jerk- there was no way her ancient Dynastars could replicate the lines I could rip effortlessly on Chris’ brand new Blizzards. She split and we headed back toward Chair Twenty Two to end the day with a guaranteed near death experience. Birdie stuck with us as we rode the speedy lift over cliffs, thick trees and avalanche chutes. With the light getting low and fatigue rearing its ugly head, it occurred to me that this was probably not the best chair to be on fifteen minutes before closing.
Of course there was always the Blue bail-out run, but everyone knows that’s for pussies.
So we dropped in to the face and gave it hell. The surface was brutal; the thick snow was starting to get an icy covering that made the moguls rock-hard and therefore a massive pain in the ass to negotiate.
We had all come off more than a few times before we were halfway down.
I emerged from the trees first, and glanced back just in time to see Stephan stack it over a lip. He barely had time to set himself up for recovery when Birdie came down on him and stamped him a foot down into the snow.
She laughed and pulled herself out, but Stephan was buried in the Sierra Cement and was too tired to extract himself completely. The poor bastard dragged himself and his new Burton Mr. Nice Guy through forty meters of thick, wet snow before getting back to the hardpack where he could stand up and ride.
But we made it to the employee dinner at Canyon Lodge with all of our gear and limbs intact, so I’ll chalk it up to one hell of a season opener.