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January 23rd, 2013 AP KRYZA | Featured Stories
 

Winter Guide 2013: Lift Off

How to ski without those pesky lifts.

ws-avoidinglift_3912ILLUSTRATION: johnfmalta.com
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No matter how black the diamond, no matter how radical the route, most skiers are total uphill pussies who, were it not for the marvels of technology, wouldn’t even be able to summit a bunny hill, let alone shred a gnar of any sort. Think about it: Did the Nordic gods use a rope tow to ascend the Scandes? Did Sir Edmund Hillary sit on a posh ski lift to get to the top of Everest? (Of course not—he sat on Sherpas.)

But fret not! While all the other North Face-clad yuppies are acting like chumps (taking the ski lift and enjoying a relaxing day of multiple runs down Bachelor or Hood, near warming lodges full of cider and attractive members of the American middle class), you can prove your warrior status by using one of these methods—ranging from fairly safe to utterly fucking stupid—to avoid the masses and make things generally difficult for yourself. Your extreme self, that is.


Heli-skiing

What it is: You hire a helicopter pilot—who works through a tourism company—to load your ass into a chopper, fly you as high on the mountain as (semi-)safely as possible, and let you loose on powder purer than anything Tony Montana dreamed of.

The cost: Depending on the package you’re looking at, somewhere between $900 a day and $4,000-$9,000 a week. Which is to say, about one to nine season passes to Meadows. But extreme!

The logistics: No Oregon companies are currently doing it (at least on paper), but there are tons of companies in B.C., Idaho, Alaska, and in Washington’s North Cascades (basically B.C.), where demand is so high, you’ve got at least a 90-day wait for a trip.

Likelihood of death: Low. These dudes are pros, and aren’t going to send you up into avalanche country willy-nilly—but if you’ve seen Alive, you might get a little skittish. Also, nobody expects the avalanche until it comes. They’re spooky like that.


Snowcat Skiing

What it is: Part tank, part snowplow and 100 percent badass, the snowcat’s an ATV-type vehicle designed to get you through the backcountry without all the hassle of snowshoes. Message boards are littered with skiers and hikers calling ’cat users lazy. Just run their sweaty asses over en route to some amazing backcountry action. You can also take it to the top of the lifts, looking like a postapocalyptic pimp in your ride.

The cost: $100-$500, depending on how long you want it, the number of people in it and where you’re going.

The logistics: It’s fairly easy to score a snowcat: A quick Web search shows many locals who rent them out independently. You can even rent one from Timberline Lodge or book a backcountry tour with one of the dozens of tourism companies planted around all the major ski areas.

Likelihood of death: You should be pretty safe and cozy in the snowcat…unless you’re the warmhearted, psychic former chef at Timberline, with whom the caretaker apparently has an ax to grind.


Snowmobile Skiing

What it is: Not so much the arctic equivalent of water-skiing (which we’re not condoning, but totally are because it sounds amazing), renting a snowmobile’s easier than renting
a car—just a hell of a lot more expensive.

The cost: As low as $140 for five hours, and as high as $1,200 for a day—which is about one-twelfth the cost of actually owning a high-end one. But hey, it’s a demand-based market, and stupid people sometimes demand to be ripped off.

The logistics: It’s insanely simple, really: Score a ’mobile, load up your gear and get ready to scare the shit out of every living being in the forest as you loudly climb hills in what looks like a jet ski from a terrifying future. Or take it to Timberline, climb the hill and see how long it takes you to turn your fun day on the mountain into a frigid high-speed chase with the cops. 

Likelihood of death: Snowmobilers aren’t exactly known for their careful demeanor and commitment to lucid recreation, but if you use your head you should be fine. 


Snowshoeing

What it is: Though it’s generally more of a backcountry practice, it’s still fun to imagine trekking up a slope, flipping off the skiers passing on the lifts overhead as you stubbornly trudge up a mountain for hours when you could be up there in a matter of minutes were you not such a cheapskate.

The cost: Cheap as hell. Nearly every outdoor shop in Portland rents these webbed wonders. Prices are as low as $10 for two nights (trekking poles and waterproof boot covers are extra, as are Sherpas). 

The logistics: It couldn’t be more simple. You just strap your snowshoes on, load your skis on your back and start walking. Of course, it’s going to take a hell of a long time to get where you’re going, but at least you’re going as analog as possible.

Likelihood of death: Very, very low, unless you decide to become a statistic by trudging into the vast wilderness alone without telling anyone where you’re going during a bad storm. Which is, as it goes, a sadly seasonal occurrence round these parts. j

 
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