Summit Expression Session 2004

7 Mountains in 6 days. February 21-27, 2004

A groom with a view at Buttermilk. For 2004, SES hit the big time, with 30 more carvers than last year, including a major contingent from Lake Tahoe.

The action started out on Saturday at Snowmass with "variable" conditions, consisting of some fresh snowfall and the Addams family cloud hanging over the mountain. The carving was pretty good, and we got some free entertainment courtesy of Marco, a carving instructor who could weave a bow tie at the end of a carve.


I didn't take too many action shots, since I was using a toy camera that was thrown in as a free gift with the vacation package. So, I will have to make up for the low picture quality with droll commentary. Here is a shot of Dave Keys, on a hunger strike in preparation for the limbo contest.


The stance master at work, setting up Gavin's board. Note the gold-plated bindings on Fin's board.


At Buttermilk on Sunday, I caught a glimpse of this museum piece. It's an old RatTrap brand freeride binding mounted on an all-mountain board. Tension is provided by a U-shaped cable when the binding is tightened.

The general consensus was that Buttermilk was like Butter. Nils and Patrice showed up from Switzerland with a bunch of SWOARDs and taught the international language of ExtremeCarving.


It's Monday morning, and I guess this must be the place. We did Aspen Mountain (Ajax) in the morning. It was a bit of culture shock for the Tahoe crew: we are used to parking lots the size of eight football fields, but in Aspen, everyone uses on-street parking. After a morning of carving, we scooted back over to Buttermilk to milk the demo tent.


A closer look at Fin's gold plated TD2s. Two pairs of gold bindings were forged in the fires of Mt. Summit. But where is the second pair?


Eric is a carving ski patroller at Ajax Mountain, on a Maverick no less. He was instrumental in aiding and abetting some early morning groomer poaching.


Monday was by far the best day, with hero groom that held up. Here is the view from Ajax looking into Aspen from Ruthie's Run.


Tuesday was an off-day, so I went to Breckenridge, did a few runs, and the village stroll. The altitude in Summit County (12,998 feet at the peak of Breckenridge) makes for some interesting business opportunities. Out of 80+ carvers, only two passed out from altitude sickness.


Tuesday was also open house at the Bomber factory, with plenty of historical artifacts on display. Here you can see the ancient two-piece binding. Back in the old days, every time you wanted to change the angle, setback, binding bias, or stance width, you needed to drill four new holes and add inserts. Angle markings were printed on the topsheet to assist with the modifications. The yellow board on the right shows the result of excessive modification. Tim Mullen with Reliable Racing gave a tuning clinic.


The workhorse of the Bomber factory. For the cant plates, Fin gets aluminum after it's been extruded (think pasta machine) and cut into slices. This rig holds eight cant plates at a time, and the milling machine takes a little over an hour to cut them all. The CNC program that mills the plates took Fin a week to debug, and gives new meaning to the term "program crash."


Fin led a docent tour of the carving museum. These blue CATEK bindings, affectionately known as "CAT-traps," are a precursor to the World Cup bindings. They have a heel clip instead of a toe clip, and the toe bale consists of a U-bolt that spans the length of the binding and attaches to the heel piece via threaded screws. In order to achieve the proper fit, it is necessary to use a hacksaw to cut the U-bolt to the precise length.


On Wednesday, we converged at Beaver Creek. Helmut provided authentic Swiss accordion, but precious little grooming, as a result of an overnight snowfall.


Yet, the day's events held us in petrified suspense. At the limbo contest, Norm and Dave Keys duked it out for what seemed like a dozen sudden-death overtime innings. The Rorschach inkblot smear you see at the right is Norm doing his subcompact style under 12" of clearance. The ever svelte Dave Keys won by the thinnest of margins.


For Thursday, it's time to pack up the dogs and head over to A-basin. With no pretentious village to attract posers, A-basin is the uncrowded real deal, which provided some of the best carving of the week. Sean Cassidy and Mark Harris from Snowperformance each led a carve clinic.

     Summit and Fozzie.

All week long, carvers got the white-glove, pro-gold-deluxe, VIP treatment, with Fin and Michelle sweating it out with the T-wrenches. Note Michelle's dog bone hat, hinting at her penchant for dog sledding.


After a terrific day at A-Basin, we switched over to night-vision mode at Keystone. Here you can see the village in the background. Since my camera is really crappy, I had to "stylize" this image with the Photoshop watercolor filter. Keystone had thin cover, and we got skier-groomed slopes, but the carving was nonetheless pretty good.


If that weren't enough, on Friday we descended on Copper Mountain. Great terrain and great snow, if a bit crowded.


Carvers enjoy a relaxing day of shredding. Note the Donek skis, which sport Bomber Bishop Tele bindings.


Another museum piece sighting. These are the elusive Fritschi bindings, with a star-shaped cant plate, consisting of two angled pieces that can rotate relative to each other to provide cant and lift. The lever thingy that sticks out of the toe piece is a step-in mechanism that causes the binding to close.


And finally the Friday night banquet. I have no pictures because I was distracted by the love-fest atmosphere. In one of several finales of the evening, Fin presented a pair of gold plated TD2 bindings to Bob Jenney for the 13 months of collaboration on the TD2 design. Considering how everyone raved about the TD2s all week, they seem to be worth their weight in gold.

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