Category Archives: Snowboarding

The best all-purpose snowboard wax

Snowboarders are always getting stuck on the flats and the catwalks. There’s no way around it other than hitching a pole-tow from a skier friend or bringing your own telescoping pole.

But one thing that helps, a lot, is if we have the right wax and don’t scrub speed. I have been waxing my board ever since I started riding. I started out using XXX Adult Snowboard wax, which was this awful glue that probably only sold well to impressionable early-20s males like myself who were trying too hard to look cool. I’ve used rub-on paste waxes, liquid waxes, and fluoro and unfluoridated iron-on waxes. I’ve applied wax using a heat gun based on this cool blog post.

One time, on a dare, I applied KY jelly to the bottom of my board.

After 20+ years of experimentation, I’ve found that black waxes are the ones that work the best across the most conditions.

Black waxes are regular waxes with graphite added. They were originally used for late spring snow, which is covered with pollen. The graphite prevents static cling to the pollen. Because dry powder also behaves like pollen particles, black waxes are excellent on powder days, too. In between the extremes of cold powder days and warm slushy days with pollen, the universal wax base of the black waxes has good glide.

Over the last few years, I’ve been using Swix Moly Fluoro Wax. Although technically a base wax for ski racing, it gives great glide. The toxicity of fluoro waxes bothers me, so I would like to switch to an eco wax if I can. Next season, I’m going to try an eco graphite wax like Purl to see if I can get good enough results.

By the way, the KY jelly was slick for about three minutes. Isn’t that as long as it’s supposed to last?


156,506 vertical feet in 6 days


Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has a promotional program called the Vertical Foot Club. People who sign up at Guest Services and successfully ski or snowboard 100,000 vertical feet in one week receive a certificate and one day’s free ticket for the following season. Lately, this is nothing to sneeze at because ticket prices are approaching $80.web

This year, I went with just Ryan. Paul Burns, who was planning to come, stayed behind to prepare for his Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant’s exam.

The first two days, it snowed at the top of the mountain, with a great deal of wind. The new tram’s digital windspeed meter recorded 50 mph of continuous lateral wind. While we were
web_1enjoying the rapidly depleting snow on the top half of the mountain, someone we rode up
Thunder lift with suggested that we try the
Hobacks, which we hadn’t done in years. The Hobacks are a large expanse of ungroomed, untouched terrain along the south half of the resort, and are famous for either having great snow or miles of impossible ice formations. We found the snow there to be pristine and spent much of two days on the Hobacks.web_2

As the week progressed, it became warmer and conditions transformed into true spring slush, which drove us to the terrain park. This year marks the first time since the early ‘90s that I have dedicated a lot of time just to the halfpipe and terrain park, and I think we were beginning to see some results by the end of our trip.

On Thursday, we had our 7th web_4Shrimp Festival on Ship’s Prow, an outcropping of rock overlooking Rock Springs Bowl.

We’d known about the Vertical Foot Club for years, but had never joined or even tried tallying our vertical feet. This year, we set out to see how much vert we shredded in a day. Ryan used his brand-new Garmin GPS, a gift from Tiffany, which kept very accurate GPS data throughout the day. web_3From the GPS data, we were able to see how many times we took each lift and from these data we calculated our total: 156,506 feet in 6 days. Our highest total for a single day was 28,612’ on Day 5, and our lowest was was 21,816’ on Day 1. Other interesting GPS statistics: we did 18 Après Vous quad runs, 16 gondola runs, and 12 trams. Our maximum speed was 40 mph and, of all places, this was on the catwalk at the bottom of the Hobacks.

DSC_6698.jpgderivative=medium&source=webThere was only one hitch. We never did go to Guest Services and enroll in the Vertical Foot Club, so I guess we won’t get our free tickets after all.

Steamboat Springs


Ever since we were kids, DSC_6362we’d read about Steamboat Springs, legendary for its “three-tier high” snow.  This season, Tiffany was able to find good hotel rates for Steamboat Springs so we decided that this would be the place to visit this year.

Mike Germano, an old friend from college who now lives in the Denver area, was able to join us.  It was great seeing and snowboarding with Mike DSC_6403again and I hope we get a chance to do that again soon.

Steamboat is set about 3 hours apart from the other major ski resorts in Colorado, and even then it is about a 25 minute drive on a small country road from Hayden regional airport.

The mountain was impressively large, with some really great runs. Most of the runs were groomed. DSC_6408The mountain as a whole wasn’t very steep, and combined with the grooming and all of the restaurants it was obviously an ideal venue for families. We never went through the day without at least one pit stop at the many warming huts to fill up on good food and lighten our wallets.

Snow conditions were packed powder that was
conductive to enthusiastic high-speed carving.  DSC_6458It had dumped the week before we were there, and it dumped the week after we left, but
we weren’t so lucky to have fresh snowfall while we were there.

The picture on the top shows us posing in front of the trail sign for Rudi’s Run.  We just know that this run must be named after Rudi Garmischt from Hot Dog: The Movie.  How many other Rudis do we know?

Rudi: You people… stay out of our way. You may ski on zat side OR on zat side, but stay out of zee meedle!

Dan O’Callahan: Hey, Rudi, you can kiss my ass. Not on zis side and not on zat side, but right in zee meedle!

Corbet’s Conquered

Jackson Hole has a legendary run called Corbet’s Couloir which everyone who ever skis or rides there hears about. There’s a drink named for it at the bar, reserved only for those
who have done the deed, and it is famous enough to have its own
Wikipedia page as well as numerous news reports and video clips on YouTube showing people attempting the feat.
Corbet’s Couloir is located on the East Ridge at the top of the mountain, a short distance from the tram. For a long time it was marked off as a cliff area, but more recent editions of the trail map show it as a double-black run, which is still a bit of an understatement as you can see from the picture above.DSC_4479

For years we boasted that we would someday go down Corbet’s. How it actually ended up happening is this: it had just dumped seventeen inches the night before, and we were busily looking for the remaining untracked snow to mark up, which eventually brought us to the top of the mountain. We were going up and down Rendezvous Bowl via the new East Ridge double chairlift when Ryan spotted the opening of DSC_4488Corbet’s from all the people standing around the surrounding cornice looking down into it.
Neither of us had ever actually seen Corbet’s during the winter, just photos, so we decided to take a few minutes out of the day to hike over and peer down.

There happened to be a ski school instructor teaching a group of middle school-aged kids how to drop into Corbet’s, and they were slowly DSC_4499doing it, one by one. From watching the instructor and the kids dropping in, it became
obvious that we could do it quite easily. The conditions were perfect that day: the sun was out, a rarity on top of Rendezvous mountain, and there was a stash of soft powder at the bottom of the couloir. Ryan took a look down and he said something along the lines of “That doesn’t look so bad” and then a few moments later, “I’m going down”DSC_4611

Which he did, with little hesitation.  He dropped
off the cornice, disappeared in a cloud of fine powder, and within a few seconds he was standing at the bottom of the couloir.  Since there is really no other way to get down to
that area of the mountain from where I was standing, that forced the issue for me, so I went down, too.

One second I was on the cornice, then there was DSC_4647a feeling of free fall, a soft landing marked mostly by an explosion of powder which covered me from head to toe, and I was still in control, sailing smoothly and happily through the lower half of the couloir in the best powder I’d been in all day.

It was so much fun that we ended up doing an encore later in the day. The second time we went down, I went first and kept my eye out for a mythical cave that I had heard about many times before. It turned out to be a small alcove carved into the precambrian rock which makes up the north face of the couloir.  There was a plaque on it dedicating it to Doug Coombs and it
was decorated with a ribbon. We decided that
this alcove was the perfect place to have our
annual Shrimp Festival.

Planes, Cars, and Avalanches

Day 1 – Wednesday, February 6, ’08

CIMG3016Earlier in the week, Corey had been anxiously following the weather in Chicago because a bad snowstorm was predicted for Wednesday, the same day that they were flying to Salt Lake City. I had it much easier, with it being light sweater weather in Baltimore, and I arrived at about 8:30 pm.  Ryan and Corey’s original flight was cancelled; they rebooked on United, which was then delayed, so they did not arrive in SLC until after 2:00 in the morning.

CIMG2994I thought of Wendy Osterling who had told me she lived near the airport, and texted her while still in Baltimore and to my delight she was available!  After arriving in SLC I drove the rental car to her house and we went out for a light meal and drinks, a welcome change from the airport environment.

Afterwards she went to bed as she had to work early the next day. I napped on her couch until CIMG2995Corey and Ryan texted that they were ready to be picked up.

We headed out to Snowbird, which is in Little Cottonwood Canyon, about 35 minutes from the airport. This canyon is notorious for its avalanches. And just as we thought our luck for the night had turned, we drove up to a roadblock and police cars with flashing lights. There had been a massive avalanche, the deputy said, which had come crashing down one side of the CIMG3049canyon and actually went back up the other side, and the road was closed until tomorrow and possibly beyond.

I think being too tired helped us conceal the extent of our disappointment. We drove back down the canyon, eventually settling for a hotel which offered a reasonable rate, and crashed for the night. Unfortunately, we ended up having to pay the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird for that night
that we never slept there, because we had CIMG3008declined their optional travel insurance policy. 

Day 2 – Thursday, February 7, ’08

That morning, we woke up and checked the weather report, thinking that we would probably go to Solitude or one of the other resorts around Salt Lake City.  Our luck had changed!  Little Cottonwood Canyon had just opened!  We packed up the car, stopped for breakfast and drive to our new digs at the Cliff CIMG3021Lodge, which is located at the base of Snowbird, right in front of the Peruvian Express lift.
After checking in, we hit the slopes.

There had been 7 inches of snow the previous night and it was mostly powder.  There were high winds, with the report said was 53 mph with 75 mph gusts (my brothers dispute that it really felt like that, but it was plenty cold).  The wind plus the blowing snow made visibility very hard, and we took a long time coming down the CIMG3024mountain those first few runs.

There were reports during the day of the canyon closing again, and the Snowbird employees were moaning and disgruntled to say the least.  In particular, one lift operator abandoned his post, leaving us stranded about a half-mile away from the hotel and with no choice but to hoof it uphill back to the Cliff Lodge.  Luckily, while we were walking, we spotted a shuttle coming up the CIMG3027road and hitched a ride.

That night, we were advised to not leave the Cliff Lodge building due to avalanche warnings.  They did open up a buffet on the top floor, and we had a nice pasta meal at a reasonable price.

The day would not be complete without a viewing of Sunny, Rudi and Harkin in Hot Dog: The Movie.

Day 3 – Friday, February 8, ’08

We went to Snowbird again, and explored more of the mountain.  The weather was a little clearer although still very windy.  We found some undisturbed pockets of powder, mostly in between the trees, CIMG3045and were able to make a few new tracks down over the other side. Even I could hear the howitzers in the area firing all day to clear the packed snow.

Day 4- Saturday, February 9, ’08

This was our third day at Snowbird.  We spent much of the day on the Gad lifts.  That night we watched the 1986 film Aliens.

Day 5 – Sunday, February 10, ’08

Snowbird has a tunnel near the top of the mountain which goes through to the other side of the mountain with a “magic carpet” conveyour belt that pulls skiiers and boarders through.  We just had to see what this was like, so we checked it out.  Our day ended early at 12:30; we hastily packed up our stuff in the locker room, loaded up the car, and drove to the airport in time to catch our flights home.

Jackson Hole

DSCN1446Day 1 – Saturday, March 10

Ryan and I arrived in Jackson Hole airport at about 3 in the afternoon, on the American Airlines flight through Chicago. We had been anxious the whole flight and excited to be finally arriving.  About two hours later, Mike and Wendy arrived. They had driven over Teton Pass from Salt Lake City, where Wendy lives. We went to Bubba’s BBQ of Arnold Schwarzenegger
fame, did our food shopping for the week, and DSCN1476then enjoyed the remainder of our evening in the hot tub, drinking sparkling wine and
Grey Goose vodka and tonic.

Day 2 – Sunday, March 11

We went riding/shredding (Mark, Ryan and I) and telemarking (Wendy) at Jackson Hole resort.  The first day it was overcast.  The resort had been low on snow all season, and it showed.  Although the cover was good, conditions were CIMG2212generally old, packed powder or frozen corn during the mornings, turning into slush in the
afternoons.  We spent most of the week on the groomers, since the ungroomed chop had long since petrified into treacherous ice formations, which Ryan and I have always called “coral”.  The icy obstacles that we dodged from time to time, as Wendy taught us, are “death cookies.”  We went to the Mangy Moose afterwards for a drink.  The skiing elite call this “après-ski” but snowboarders are not welcome among the 100_1524skiing elite, so it was just “beer”.

We ate at the Three Merry Piglets, a Mexican restaurant in town. Alex and Teresa arrived in the evening after a long day’s drive from Omaha.

Day 3 – Monday, March 12

We went to Jackson Hole resort again.  This time 100_1532it was sunny and warm and the snow softened late in the morning.  While we were on the mountain, Corey paged us to let us know he had
arrived at the airport and Alex had picked him up. We left a little early and joined him at the house.  For dinner we went to Thai Me Up, a restaurant whose name conjures images of chains and leather but which had a very ordinary decor.  Mike, Wendy and Ryan entertained us with stories from work.  Alex
stayed behind because he wasn’t feeling well.CIMG2261

Day 4- Tuesday, March 13

Corey, Ryan, Mike, Wendy and I drove over Teton Pass into Idaho and then back up the mountains to Grand Targhee, which is a little northeast of the east face of Grand Teton and which is reputed by ski magazines to, among the US ski resorts, have the  most abundant snow and the most beautiful view.  Since it was CIMG2260overcast, we weren’t able to get a clear view of the southeast face of Grand Teton.  On the way there and back, Mike, Wendy and I watched the 80’s movie “Hot Dog: The Movie” while Corey
and Ryan, who were in the front seat, listened in.  For the rest of the week we all had to
listen to each other’s rendition of Rudy Garmisch’s “Sunny side up..” line.

Day 5 – Wednesday, March 14

CIMG2227Corey and Ryan went to Jackson Hole resort.  I joined Mike and Wendy to go snowshoeing to Huckleberry Hot Springs, which is near the entrance to Yellowstone.  From descriptions
from other locals and the web, we had been expecting a large hot pond but instead found a sprawling area along Polecat Creek where the ground was warm and bare of snow, with small rivulets of steaming water seeping from the ground.  In two places there was enough water streaming that somebody had long since CIMG2190dammed it up with rocks near where it emptied into Polecat Creek, forming partially man-made pools.  We took a dip in one of these pools.  The water temperature was just right!   On the way
back, Mike spent a great deal of time trying to track a moose to get some good pictures.

We cooked up steaks, potatoes and tossed a salad for dinner.

Day 6 – Thursday., March 15

CIMG2270This was our last day on the mountain at Jackson Hole resort.  The snow conditions hit the low point of the week, with the packed
powder becoming mostly sheet ice in the morning with the usual afternoon slush.  We had
a Shrimp Festival at Ship’s Prow, a rock shelf near the beginning of Rendezvous Trail, about 3,000’ above the village and with a clear view of Jackson Hole.  At the end of the day we met up with Alex and Teresa at the Mangy Moose for beer, nachos and a last group photo.  For dinner, we ate at Old Yellowstone Basement, a popular Italian / pizza restaurant which I had never eaten at before.

Day 7 – Friday, March 16

Corey and I dropped Ryan off at the airport in the morning, as he was leaving for a friend’s wedding, and then we headed back to the house to pack up.  We got the cars washed and then headed to the Bunnery, where Wendy and I ordered our eggs… Sunny side up!  Corey and I left on the afternoon flight to Chicago, and Mike and Wendy drove up to Taggart Lake at Grand Teton National Park for snowshoeing.