Far away on those misty mountains cold Four late winter adventures from Slovenia

Photo: Simon Erjavec

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Time flies one could say. This season has not been all we wanted it to be and everything else since the beginning of 2016 mostly seemed to drag things into the wrong direction. After a really bad week of losing a friend from acrobatics training in a car accident, getting iced by my best friend just because he is under pressure for god knows what real reason, a broken windshield on the car, drowning work, fitting my last remaining uni exams into my totally filled out schedule with no apparent easing down in sight and even having to cancel a Norway trip that just should not have to be the victim of things “grown up” people tend to call the “real life”, I was not expecting the mountains to offer some kind positive reinforcement.


But as the world spins into a more and more crazy direction, two weeks ago unexpectedly snow started falling again. A lot of snow. Within a few days we were up to 3 meters in a lot of areas around our little country. It was now or next season and so we did the only right thing. We took off and climbed on the tops of those misty mountains cold to find some peace in the deep powder. Take a few minutes and indulge yourselves in four short adventures and the lessons we took from these magic places:

Don`t worry be happy – vogel

Šija above Vogel resort is quite the playground.
Šija above Vogel resort is quite the playground.

After an evening I would really like to forget I checked the weather forecast. It was Monday. The week started off with a bad bang and I was eager to get out of town. We had planed to go to either Trbiz of Vogel and decided that Vogel would be our choice. Our group would be rather on the large side. Two cars. Blaz, Gasper,  Matej Jaka and myself on Kegl Airlines. Jan Simon and Drejc would meet us at the parking lot in car two.  Since the forecast promised mundane bluebird powder at epic levels the resort decided to have the first cable car go up at 7.30.

Do not forget your beacon.
Do not forget your beacon.

We would not miss that one. And we did not. When the first sun came over the horizon I was already on the webcam putting on my beacon. Yeah I forgot it while dressing up. Bad oversight. Good that I remembered because the thing that did worry us was the snowpack. The temperatures and the amount of new snow would make for a very sketchy day.

We did two snowpack tests and they were literally suicide. Three taps… bum, three taps… bum. Four layers in the depth of about two meters very unstable with big slabs. While we were testing controller Igor with the safety crew of the resort was clearing a flank  not far from us above the regular slope. All of it let lose in a rather disturbing way. We were already staring to debate if we should pack up quickly and leave for Trbiz. It still was very early after all. After some short deliberating we decided to wait until the old chairlift to “zadnji vogel” came online and test the conditions first hand.

I had the feeling that the situation would not be that grave in the end. After our first line it was clear. The place were we did the tests was probably the worst case scenario. The rest was rather ok. So we started ripping. And we did it all.

The best shot I took on this day. Blaz in a nice tight turn.
The best shot I took on this day. Blaz in a nice tight turn.

I took a nice shot of Simon dropping that I had planed and on our way back up our pack had split in two groups. Better and easier to manage. Simon and I spotted a nice line that he had tomahawked down a year earlier. It was fresh. Unridden even at noon. Quickly we set out to concouer it. It was really fun. I took a few really nice shots of both Simon and Blaz and had the chillest line I did all season. I did drag along the big camera. So for all the added weight and my photo ambitions I was happy with a few good shots.

As the day progressed we also had a rather big avalanche incident. Fortunately no one got hurt. But we did have to flee. You see at “zadnji vogel” valley I dropped a chute before Slak and on the other side was a flank. At the bottom Blaz and Drejc made their way down. Blaz lost a ski at the bottom from all the powder.

The avalanche we had to flee from.
The avalanche we had to flee from.

At that moment Jan was at the top putting a really hard, and rather cool turn in to it, and that triggered the whole thing to collapse. Interestingly there was no cracking sound whatsoever. I still remember Jans face when he was in front of the dust cloud, before going into adrenaline overdrive. Luckily Blaz also made it out on one ski, me and Drajc being barely out in the safe zone but we had to go back and look for one of Blazs skis. With luck we found it fast.

And at the end of the day we enjoyed a good beer.
And at the end of the day we enjoyed a good beer.

After that we did a few more runs and with a good beer we called it a very nice day. Don`t worry be happy. Definitely a day well spent, and one of the better once this season. “Vogel – good for the soul!”. Maybe that should be their new slogan.

Magic woods are not for the faint of heart – trbiz

A day in the woods with the boys.
A day in the woods with the boys.

After Vogel we were all pumped. The snow was still falling in sheer endless amounts but there was one problem. The temperatures and the sun. It was already march. The sun is quite high already and we had problems with low temps for the whole season. Trbiz, along the Slovenia-Italy border  is one of those magical destinations with endless woods. Now a bit more tolerant to freeriders, it does give a few good days every season. Humidity would be high thou. Noon would be our deadline.

The woods here are truly amazing.
The woods here are truly amazing.

Slak and myself  meet up with the rest of the crew, Tilen from extreme vital, Miha from Salomon, fresh crowned parent Ziga and a few other buddies. We would be on 4 hour tickets.

The moment you get hit by hard sluf and realize this is not good.
The moment you get hit by hard sluf and realize this is not good.

Up at the top it was really good. We enjoyed short lines in fresh for a few hours until the last run. Yes that dreaded last run. Remember: Never say it is the last run. The last run will be the last one you do… forever. So we set off to go into the valley form the top of the old Tarvisio town. It was an awesome flank and it was dumping pretty hard. Our hearts were high on white bliss.

The awesome flank from up top. Later all of it went down.
The awesome flank from up top. Later all of it went down.

We would descend one by one. At least that was the idea. But then it got a bit out of hand. Beginners mistake. First few were ok. Then it was my turn. I did a few turns and went into the right flank. Suddenly I was wiped out by strong slab. Fortunately I had enough speed to get trough it before it descended into a narrow chute. Lucky. That could have ended badly. Still it felt a bit like getting hit by a bus. I saw Ziga and moved towards him. That`s when things got ugly.

The moment the airbag was triggered.
The moment the airbag was triggered.

Sure the two of us were on the safe side, but the next thing I saw in the corner of my eye was one of our snowboarding buddies tomahawking down into the small trees in a chute with lots of sluf. He pulled his airbag made another flip over a small tree and somewhat stopped. Then more sluf came. Luckily the whole huge balloon contraption held him aloft. Soon he stopped. He was a bit shaken but mostly unharmed. A few seconds later our last snowboarder arrived and it was quickly apparent what had happened.

The two did not have enough safety distance so when the upper one triggered the flank the whole thing broke into fast slabs that turned into sluf which in turn accelerated down the chute we were descending in. When it hit him, it took him out and he started tumbling down. Thnx to his good reflexes he pulled the airbag. The added volume stopped his rapid descent. Again lucky.

In the morning the weather was still quite stable.
In the morning the weather was still quite stable.

But that was not all that went bad on the last run. Half way down I noticed that my binding had lost its front screw. A old bug from the 1.5 model of the Guardian that has since been corrected. It gave me some trouble pack in Japan a year earlier but after using some glue it was ok. But here on the lower part of the descent with the wet hardpack it was just to much tension. Luckly Miha from Salomon gave me his second 2016/17 Q118 ski so I made it down with my other ski in hand. I must say the q118 had a lot more control then my old Rocker2 108. Will have to try those asap :P. Also thnx to Tilen I had the skis fixed the next day at Extreme Vital with the upgraded replacement part.

After analysis. Photo by Tilen Hobič.
After analysis. Photo by Tilen Hobič.

After all this nerve-rattling we sat down for a few beers and reviewed the whole incident. It was a mixed day and we had overstayed our planed Noon deadline by a good two hours. The mountain reminded us who is boss. Or was it just 2016 being what it is – Donald Trump, crap. Regardless we were all well and wiser so on our way back we stopped in Kranj for the best burger ever. Oh and the weather changed on the way back. There was hail.. yes hail in march…

Where the wild things are – triglav national park

Pokljuka looks a bit like Canada with the tall trees.
Pokljuka looks a bit like Canada with the tall trees.

The weather might have been bad in Ljubljana but in the mountains it was just dumping. I was talking to Gasper. March 8th was approaching. It was ‘dan žena” – ladies day. Since we spent Valentines in the national park it would only be fitting to head there for this one too with our ladies… our beloved skis. After all 3 meters of snow filled up the chutes around Viševnik, Ablanca and planina Konjščica. They were rideble. It has been a while since I wanted to do those so  Blaž, Slak, Jernej and myself sat in the car and were off early in the morning.

We stopped at the last market before Pokljuka to get some supplies. Unexpectedly minutes later another familiar car parked alongside. Simon, Jan and Mac in the super duper Subaru :P. After a short talk it was clear we would all be heading to the same destination.

15 minutes later we arrived at the Pokljuka parking lot. Empty. Only our two cars. No one else. Then a third car appeared. It was Mr. legend Kajdiz, Jure “Chouka”, Luka “Podly” and Stravsi. It was as if we had set up the meeting. Destiny? Soon it became clear that we all had the same goal in mind for the day.

Away from the pack or with the herd :P
Away from the pack or with the herd 😛

Luckily for all of us it was all untracked. No one except our pack, well actually more of a herd, had been up there on that morning. We were alone. It was so serene. And it was another woman’s day. Ironically again somewhat of a sausage fest hahaha. We made our way up Viševnik ridge and descended in a powdery blur to the planina Konjščica. It was really epic pow. Such majestic woods. And even thou we were 11 people there was enough for everyone.

Motivated we took the way around to Ablanca. That`s where Jans skins gave out. They did not want to stick anymore. With some quick McGyver style thinking and lacking duck tape, we used one lone ski strap to fix them to the back of the binding. It held. Regardless the two of us lost quite some time fixing this up and had to catch up to the others who were already checking out the main chute. It was looking good.

Epic day it was with the boys.
Epic day it was with the boys.

Split in two groups one would head for the easier woods and ours with Simon, Jan, Slak, Blaz, Luka and myself would descend into the steeps. Nice and controlled. One after the other. It was quite good. Nice deep turns. Next time I will do the whole thing in one run. the terrain is quite epic. A playground SSX Blur style but not digital 😛 Lots of edits were made of that day!

Once at the bottom we were all super happy. We made a pit-stop and enjoyed the planina Konjščica`s idyllic scenery before returning to Viševnik ridge and through the woods back to our cars. On our way back we stopped at the awesome restaurant “Pr Jagru” for a proper Gulash. After all those verticals up we had deserved it, and even thou we were 11 there was enough powder to ride and everyone was happy. These are the days where you see the right kind of camaraderie in the mountains. Different riders from all strokes all together having the times we all live for.

far away on those misty mountains cold – ZELENICA

Exactly as I pictured it ;) This was a good result.
The picture I wanted to take. Like I visualised it.

And so we come to the last of these late winter adventures. And this one takes us to the misty mountains cold. To true serenity that you can not find anywhere else.

I had had a long day at work on Monday hosting an event on Tourism Marketing at Bled and was rather undecided weather I should take a day off or not. In short I was tired and gloomy. In the end of course the calling from the mountain was more powerful than any gloom and so in the morning Kegl Airlines arrived at the parking lot by the Ljubel pass border crossing between Slovenia and Austria with Simon and Jan in tow.

Up we went. Nice and steep. Photo by Jan Palovšnik.
Up we went. Nice and steep. Photo by Jan Palovšnik.

As some of you know Simon is doing an interesting project for Elan skis to ride 40 chutes in one season in Slovenia. Today we wanted to do yet another one of these. Over the weekend Jernej from GrabIt solved my backpack adapter problem by getting an EVOC 40l+ Patrol Team add-on for me. I was eager to test it out so I stuffed all the gear I might need for a multi day outing, excluding my sleeping bag, but including my heavy EOS 7D Mk2 and it`s fancy 650EX strobe as well as my mountaineering gear. I had a vision for a Photo I wanted to do of Simon earlier in the season with a full manual 14 mm in bluebird. Now even better it would be in harsh conditions. Flash strobe would have to be set to manual with high speed sync. Quite a test and only one shot. Everything would have to be right. Today would have to be the day to attempt this feat.

I loved the steep ascend.
I love the steep ascends. Photo by Simon Erjavec.

The weather forecast was gloomy with snow. We were a bit worried that it might close up completely. Luckily that did not happen. But something else did  I didn`t like. I was tired. All the stuff from the recent month and tons of work, lack of sleep and stress somehow had gotten to me more then I had cared to admit.

Made it !
Made it !

The guys were pressing on but my tempo was maybe half of what it usually was. Not good. In fact I was a bit annoyed with myself. But as we all know here and there everyone has their slow day so I soldered on. We arrived at the main area and soon saw that the chute we wanted to do would not be doable, so we set out up Lenuhova chute, the same one the boys had done a day earlier. Because of that the ascend was pretty straight forward. I was a little more revealed that my body was starting to get a bit into gear but still. Far from a regular day. And not a place to be at 50 % or even 70 %, specially with the added weight. The backpack with the skis was 24 kilos as I later found out. Not light at all. We made ok time to the top and enjoyed a moment of serene peace.

Ahh the peace and quiet. Photo by Simon Erjavec.
Ahh the peace and quiet. Photo by Simon Erjavec.

Then we had to decide where to descend. There was interesting stuff over the horizon but still I wanted to get that shot. After all I had dragged all the gear up for just that :P. On our way up I saw a nice blown up ridge with a direct entrance into a narrow part of the chute. It looked exactly as I had pictured it in one of my daydreams. It would give us the scene for the shot I wanted. I needed the depth and the steep in the same place. It should be accentuated by the flash illuminating the snow when Simon descended into it. My hand were freezing. Timing would be of the essence. I did not want to get him directly in the full flash but just when he is out of the radius. That would add the needed depth. Also the weather stayed like I wanted it with a nice mist that allowed us to see the other side of the valley so you could see how steep the chute was. After all Lenuhava is average 40 degrees and around 55 at the most steep part.

The view from the top 😛

Simon descended and click the shutter made. Jan followed. A quick glance and I was happy. It was ok. The result would do. It already has nice number of likes on Instagram so check it out and like it there :P. Also a few FTW peeps liked it too, and even Bene Mayr approves, so I count it as a success.

We were soaked on the way down.
We were soaked on the way down.

After that we descended. The snow was not great to ride. The edges were gripping under the first layer that formed into nasty sluf-slabs.One had to stop to let them pass. At the bottom there were two exits. Right. A ridden one with a narrow ending. Left. A better one with a drop. Jan and I decided to drop. Jan made a nice clean drop and then it was my turn. Then one thing that most of you know happened. I dropped nicely landed and two seconds later bam. I didn’t see anything in the diffuse light with my fogged up googles and not used to balance distribution with the huge full backpack just fell doing my first turn 😛 I just laughed out loud. It was so dumb. I really need to replace my broken bad weather googles. Still the drop was a lot of fun and the pictures taken were good. Simon even made a cool one with me in the chute going up. That one is the cover of this article.

Jan making a turn into the steep chute.
Jan making a turn into the steep chute.

The two of them then raced down topping at 90 km/h while I had to slowly run down without my frozen up googles collecting snowflakes in my eyes 😛 Still the new backpack adapter proved to be really good. and very well designed With a super side compartment. The only thing a bit annoying is that it is rather broad, but I think that has to do with the ABS systems. Only thing that would bug me would be the full price. For an add on a MSRP of 160 EUR is a lot.

As some of you know with the help of Ferrino and a few other brands I have started a Biwaking project for powder hunting. More on our first outing in the next post and the associated mini page that will be dropping sometime next week. Until then enjoy the rest of these epic powder days as much as you can and stay safe. Here a few short lessons from these four trips:

  • It is always good to do a snowpack test. It only takes 10 minutes but the knowledge can save your life.
  • In a group remember not to let the white shimmer overpower your group management. One after the other in intervals that allow the sluf to pass and never drop directly over a buddy.
  • When skins don`t stick use ski-straps or ducktape!
  • Make sure your googles are ok and that you can see where you are heading after landing your drop 😛
  • Weight distribution differs with big backpacks. Keep that in mind. I dragged 24 kilos up the chute this time. Having one of those tired days did not help that at all.
  • Be stubborn 😛

Well that`s it for now. These few days did help put all of the clusterfuck`s that have been going on lately into perspective. Lets hope that broken things mend, the bullshit goes away, that Donald Trump will not be president and that the winter gives us a few more powder days.

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