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    Skiing Patagonia, Saving Patagonia - Chile needs energy, but is damming its wildest rivers a price worth paying?

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    It was ten years ago when we first pedaled over an obscure pass alongside South America's second largest lake and caught our first glimpse of Chilean Patagonia's wild and wonderful Rio Baker (Baker River) watershed. Never before had we encountered such a vast and ecologically diverse corner of the planet - and our physical and emotional reaction to the power and beauty before us is something we will never forget. We dropped our bikes and spent the good part of an hour treating our senses to this wild place.

    Editor's note: This issue of damming rivers in Chilean Patagonia might seem like a hot new topic, but it's been on the radar for years now. Vermont photographers Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson have visited the Rio Baker Valley three times: first in 2000 on bikes, then in 2004 and 2006, on skis and foot, when they heard about a proposal to dam the Rio Baker. Today, Brian and Emily look back on those trips and their significance in light of the recent decision to proceed with the dams.

    To the west stood the towering peaks of the Northern Patagonia Ice Sheet, which hovered over the glaciers and temperate rainforests beneath them. Rain and snow melt poured into countless streams and rivers, eventually joining forces with the mighty Baker - Chile's most voluminous river - on its way to the Pacific. To the south and east were the countless high mountains and deep valleys defining the drier side of the watershed - a region characterized by the small farms of Patagon families, vast regions of unexplored high country and the high-desert environs of the Argentine border. This area is also the home of the future Patagonia National Park.

    Continue reading "Skiing Patagonia, Saving Patagonia - Chile needs energy, but is damming its wildest rivers a price worth paying?" »

    On the Road with Solitaire, Episode 4 - Low Tide

    "When you land in a freeride mecca and things are neither free, nor rideable, what’s a guy to do? It was time to make lemons into lemonade."

    The fourth in a series of posts from Nick Waggoner and the crew at Sweetgrass Productions. They're currently hard at work on their third movie, Solitaire. Cleanest Line readers are invited to join them on their journey to produce their most ambitious film to date. Part Four of this behind-the-scenes series turns an honest lens on the all-too-grim reality that a ski movie is hard to make when the weather doesn't cooperate - and all your shots are earned with lungs and legs. Look for monthly updates here on TCL shortly after they appear on the Sweetgrass website, scheduled for the 21st of each month . - Ed

    [On the Road with Solitaire Episode IV: Low Tide from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.]

    Episode IV: Low Tide: The Sweetgrass family lands in Las Lenas, Argentina, for several weeks of fending off women, beef, and various strains of the common cold in hopes of actually making some turns on snow.

    As the crew puts it, "if you actually indulged the Las Lenas lifestyle to the fullest, you’ll end up a burnt cigarette of a human being, sweating beef and begging for the days when legos were all you needed to have a good time."

    Liquid Courage and Beer Goggles: Two New Runs at Valhalla Mountain Touring

    When she's not busy making us jealous about climbing in places like Greenland and France, Patagonia Climbing Ambassador Jasmin Caton guides folks to some of British Columbia's choicest snow-covered gems with Valhalla Mountain Touring, a business she owns and runs together with her husband. Today she brings us a delightful story about some fresh turns recently made with one of the coolest ski partners a person could ask for. - Ed

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    The day had gone so well, maybe that was the problem. My Mum was up at Valhalla Mountain Touring to visit and ski while I worked as the lodge custodian for a self-guided group. I had had my eye on an unskied couloir for the whole season, and stability and weather were looking good, so I figured we'd ski it together since it didn't appear steep or difficult. Just a pretty rock-lined narrow powder run in a beautiful setting. As I parked us on the exposed ridge that leads into the run, my Mum started having second thoughts. "Hey Jas, I need some liquid courage" she said, laughing. I passed her a beat up brandy-filled chocolate from the bottom of my trail mix bag and she washed it down with some black tea from her small thermos (she doesn't drink water while out ski touring) and was ready to rip.

    [First run of the day - some powder turns to warm up for the goods. All photos: Jasmin Caton]

    Continue reading "Liquid Courage and Beer Goggles: Two New Runs at Valhalla Mountain Touring" »

    On the Road with Solitaire, Episode 3 - The Raptor

    The third in a series of posts from Nick Waggoner and the crew at Sweetgrass Productions. They're currently hard at work on their third movie, Solitaire. Cleanest Line readers are invited to join them on their journey to produce their most ambitious film to date.This third installment from their behind-the-scenes series focuses on the crew's attempts to balance their desire for a compelling aerial image with their commitment to eschew motorized assistance in the filming process. Look for monthly updates here on TCL shortly after they appear on the Sweetgrass website, scheduled for the 21st of each month . - Ed

    On the Road with Solitaire Episode III: The Raptor from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

    From the Sweetgrass crew:

    Helicopters have never been part of our fiber. Beyond the economics of flying such expensive birds, we've never wanted our work to be about the noise or the fuel. If a method actor stays up all night before a shoot to play the part of an exhausted character, we feel the need to "walk the walk" up mountains to make films that feel true to our style.

    For us, faster is not always better, and it's the experiences and the time spent going up that ultimately flavor the final film.

    For years, filmmakers have shot aerial footage from helicopters and planes, and as we prepared for a trip to Peru's Cordillera Blanca last June, we wanted to try something different. So we took to the air with paragliding wings for a month, hiking through many nights, and taking huge gasps of air as we attempted a launch from over 18,000 feet.

    So light your mattress on fire, settle down with a nice slaughtered guinea pig, and enjoy Episode III.

     

    Dirtbag Diaries: The Shorts - The Pee Tree

    Shorts_back_pack_half Fitz Cahall, host of The Dirtbag Diaries, tells us about today's podcast:

    How do you choose the stories to retell when you get back from a trip? Finding those perfect moments that capture your travels, the scenery and the action, can make you feel as picky as Goldilocks. What to say? Shane Robinson writes, "At first, I tried to recount every amazing detail of my travels, only to watch my unsuspecting friends' eyes gloss over in bordom." He switched to the quick hit replies, "Soooo amazing! Can't wait to go back." A little too big, a little too small. And then the memory came tumbling out, "I miss the pee tree!" The stories we share are gateways beyond the mechanics of a trip, but dig into how we appreciate spending times away from our daily routines.

    Audio_graphic_20pxListen to "Sitting in Silence"
    (mp3 - right-click to download)

    Visit dirtbagdiaries.com to hear the music from "The Pee Tree" or download past episodes from the podcast. You can subscribe to the show via iTunes and RSS, or connect with like-minded listeners on Facebook and Twitter.

    Fitz and his crew are also working on a couple video projects. Check out the Fringe Elements series over at National Geographic, then watch the trailer for a soon-to-be-released video called The Love Letter starring Fitz and his wife, Becca. 

    On the Road with Solitaire, Episode 2 - In the Cradle of the Cordillera

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    The second in a series of posts from Nick Waggoner and the crew at Sweetgrass Productions. They're currently hard at work on their third movie,
    Solitaire. Cleanest Line readers are invited to join them on their journey to produce their most ambitious film to date.The second trailer from the upcoming film, this latest installment focuses on the crew's launch point in June of 2010 at the start of the austral winter. Look for monthly updates here on TCL shortly after they appear on the Sweetgrass website, scheduled for the 21st of each month . - Ed

    From the Sweetgrass crew:

    This second episode sets the South American stage, in Huaraz, Peru, and explores the emotions of hopping off a jet plane into a world totally unlike your own… and the challenges and rewards involved with attempting to fully experience and capture it. At the end of the day, most things that go into making a ski film like this often have very little to do with skiing. It's important to acknowledge the many flavors and emotions going on behind the scenes that inform our ideas as filmmakers, and that will eventually give life and texture to the final product– even if none of those images ever show up in the film, directly. So, witness June of 2010, the genesis of Solitaire, and take the leap into Huaraz.


    On The Road with Solitaire Episode 2: In the Cradle of the Cordillera from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

    On the Road with Solitaire

    Mbrown_Solitaire100722_DSC4349 In the high desert of South America, winter takes hold, devouring bleached bones and abandoned shacks. Into these most inhospitable of lands, a handful of drifters emerge from the whiteout, ready to cast their lot on forsaken peaks both merciless and magnificent. Venturing beyond the frontiers of most mountain films, Solitaire is backcountry riding forged in the tradition of Western cinema. Born in the spires of Argentina’s legendary Las Lenas, a lonely two-year journey begins through an abandoned world, wandering the length of a continent from Peru’s Cordillera Blanca to Chilean Patagonia.

    Lost in the winds of snowbound badlands and the blizzards of primordial forests; seen from a horse’s saddle and a paraglider’s wings; ridden on ski and board and telemark...

    Mbrown_Solitaire100722_DSC4410 [Today, we're pleased to bring you the first in a series of posts from Nick Waggoner and the crew at Sweetgrass Productions. They're currently hard at work on their third movie, Solitaire, and have graciously invited Cleanest Line readers to join them on their journey to produce their most ambitious film to date. The story just gets better as it unfolds; hit the jump to keep reading and check the first trailer from the upcoming film. And don't forget to check back: Sweetgrass will be releasing updates on the 21st of each month. - Ed]

    Solitaire fuses western-inspired tales of backcountry gambles into landscapes never before visited on film.

    Or so goes the elevator speech for our new film Solitaire: fairly romantic, dreamy, concise. But it doesn’t tell the full picture, and neither will the film itself. Because before any polished product meets the light of day, there are a million complications to overcome on the back end, infinite catastrophes exploding on a daily basis that one can only hope to steer in the right direction. South America itself often seems to operate on a similar program, teetering right on the edge of insanity-- more often than not-- but somehow always holding the course.

    [All images courtesy Michael Brown and Sweetgrass Productions]

    Continue reading "On the Road with Solitaire" »

    Arne Backstrom Revelstoke Tribute

    [Arne Backstrom Revelstoke Tribute. Video: Subaru Freeskiing World Tour.]

    The Subaru World Freeskiing Tour put together a nice tribute video for our late friend and ambassador Arne Backstrom. The video was released in conjunction with this week's Revelstoke leg of the World Freeskiing Tour which Arne won last year. Head over to the official website to catch up on the standings and watch the live stream from Canada.

    Border Problems – or, What a Man Will Go Through to Film Gerry Lopez

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    Editor's note: Fitz Cahall joins us today to share another behind-the-scenes story from the making of Tracing the Edge.

    Winter was fickle last year. Bryan and I were set to work with surfing legend Gerry Lopez. I’d already spent a day filming with him in Bend. He’d shown me every powder stash available on Mount Bachelor, his local stomping ground. We shredded six inches of light snow. I broke a helmet cam (that’s cool). We aggravated the marketing department (that was cooler). The ski patrol just shrugged off the marketing director’s radio calls (that was the best). Gerry introduced me to every liftie by name. The teenage rippers hucking rodeos asked his opinion on where to go based on the direction of the wind. An old retiree in a one piece stopped to share a joke. One thing was clear, Gerry was king. Mount Bachelor was the kingdom. If a run was great, he’d smile. If a run was littered with moguls, he’d smile and shrug, imparting some tidbit of wisdom. Like:

    “At the end every season, I make sure that I buy the patrollers a keg of beer for the end-of-the-year party. They work hard. It’s a way of thanking them … (pause) … and, you know, when they, maybe, find me some place I shouldn’t be, it’s not a big deal.”

    [Gerry Lopez, still hucking cliffs in his 60s. Photo: Fitz Cahall and Bryan Smith]

    Continue reading "Border Problems – or, What a Man Will Go Through to Film Gerry Lopez" »

    Skiing Alpha's Ivory Shoulder

    Days of big powder, multiple laps, burning legs (and full-on treeside safety meetings) will soon be here. 'Til those show up, we're trying to tide ourselves over with a few quick hits here an there to keep the spark lit. Patagonia skiing ambassador JD Hare is kindly helping us out today with a short vid documenting his trip into British Columbia's Tantalus Range to see if the line he's been eyeing on Alpha's prominent shoulder will go.

    One Percent for the Planet
    © 2014 Patagonia, Inc.