West Coast trip 2021

After making my brother go on a ‘treasure hunt’ to find his Christmas gift of a new pair of skis, I had to go skiing with him to make sure that they were perfect for him. 

I was worried about it because I had never skied the skis before, and buying them without ever skiing them was risky. 

That said I was in luck, He loved them!!

Just a few days before, I was touring with some friends (and their friends) and to my astonishment, one of them was dating my friend Zach from high school. 

Such a random coincidence because I hadn’t seen him since high school.

Even better was that I was about to leave Tahoe to go up to Bend, and so were they…

Needless to say, we had to meet up and drink beer. 

Departing Tahoe

As any good departure goes, I was leaving Tahoe so I drank some beer and ate a ton of pizza with my great friend Cedar. Fun times!

So here’s the thing, my 20-year-old van loves to break down every now and again. 

This time, I was just outside of Susanville and my air hose blew off right next to the turbo. 

Fixing the Van on the side of the road

Having 10% power while trying to climb a steep grade scared the shit out of me, but luckily I was able to fix the problem fast. 

Over the years I have learned a thing or two about fixing cars, and it’s to follow this simple two-step procedure:

  1. Break shit
  2. Fix shit

Just like all of my other great trips, I had to fix the van at the beginning of my journey.

Bend Oregon And Dogs

After sleeping on a dirt road just off the highway, I continued my journey until I made it to Bend.

Here I met up with a few friends and got some drinks with Zach. What a great time!!

A few days before I had made it to town, I was looking into the reservation system to be able to ski at Bachelor. 

To my dismay, their reservation system was based on parking spots, and it was completely booked out for the next month……..

Uh oh!

The good news is that so many people would cancel the night before their reservation day so I still got to go skiing each day that I wanted to. =)

Without a doubt, the best part about going to Bend was being able to meet plenty of dogs!


Sam and Capella

I had wanted to go touring in the nearby area just outside of Bachelor ski resort. The problem was that every good peak was 10+ miles each way to hike into. Not quite the day trip journey I was looking for. 

The good news is that a friend of mine, Sam, was wanting to go touring on the same day I could, and he had a snowmobile. 

What luck!

After getting towed on my skis about 12 miles through choppy snowmobile tracks, I was beat! Although that was only half of the snowmobile journey....

The good news is that it was a pretty short hike to the summit on Balls Butte.

View from Balls Butte
Broken Top

And we had an amazing view of broken top.

The bad news was that the snow was still bulletproof and the skiing sucked…...

The sled that we had taken out there was an 850 and was fast as hell. 

Honestly, I was too scared to take that beast of a snowmobile anywhere fast. 

Nonetheless, it was a blast to be able to drive it around!

One of the best parts about sledding was that Sam held his dog Capella in his arms while driving the sled. It was a hilarious sight, and great to see a dog get so far out in the backcountry. 

Aside from making my legs incredibly sore, being towed behind the sled was super fun. I was able to ski S turns behind the sled and gain a ton of speed -- kinda like water skiing. 

Throughout my stay in Bend, most nights I slept in the Kapka Sno Park -- which had an amazing view of Bachelor. 

View of Mount Bachelor from my sleeping spot

So great to be 5 minutes away from the backcountry trailhead and the ski resort. 

Snow-Mageddon In Washington

The next leg of my journey was up to Washington to visit one of my best friends, Connor. He lives in Seattle and spends a fair bit of time skiing in the nearby mountains. 

God it was amazing to see him! I hadn’t spent quality time with him since a full year ago when COVID started blowing up. 

The first day I skied at Crystal was quite the experience. It was a Saturday and completely slammed with people. Not to mention it was heavily overcast. 

This was the first time I had skied with Connor in over two years, he has been battling a series of bad knee injuries and had to take the last two seasons off for surgery and recovery time.

And of course, we had a killer time skiing around the mountain, checking out the views, and hiking to new parts of the ski resort.

Unfortunately, on the first day Connor and I skied together he took a pretty bad fall and got a concussion -- one of the worst injuries anyone can get. 

Not the best start to skiing with him since I hadn’t seen him in so long….

To make matters worse, we could not drink beer that night =(.

Anyway, I had personally never been on a pair of directional skis in YEARS. So when Connor told me that he had a pair for me to try out, I was doubtful. 

But sure enough, I listened to him and tried the Line Blades. 

After the first lap, I realized that I was going to enjoy skiing the Blades.

After the second lap, I realized that I needed to own a pair of the Blades……….

They are the weirdest looking pair of skis, but they are perfect for charging around the mountain in any condition. 

Photo credits, Colton Jacobs

Line Blade

Photo credits, Colton Jacobs

Here’s the thing, my first week in Washington was overcast and warm -- not the ideal skiing weather. 

During the 2nd week and the remainder of my time in Washington, I was fortunate enough to have some killer pow!

I’m talking about the super cold and bottomless kinda powder that every skier dreams about. 

Usually, the Pacific NorthWest gets what we call ‘Cascade Concrete’. This is when the snow is super wet and heavy, making it miserable to ski. 

The good news was that there was a series of very cold storms, making for wonderful powder. =D

When the first cold storm came in, I woke up in Seattle and went skiing at Crystal. 

At 5 a.m., I tiredly hopped out of my van in my wool moccasins into what looked like an inch of snow.

To my astonishment, I had jumped into 6 inches of powder, yet I was 150 feet above sea level. This rarely happens in Seattle!!

Snow at sea level in Seattle

(This was at the same time as Texas’s snowpocalypse.)

After going back inside and changing my shoes, I started grabbing my skis and getting ready for my buddy Mike to pick me up.

As we started the 2-hour journey towards Crystal ski resort, we witnessed a ton of cars that were pulled over and abandoned on the side of the road. 

What in the…….

Was my first thought after seeing all of these cars abandoned on the road, then I remembered that most people in Seattle do not have snow tires, and rarely drive in the snow. 

The drive took a lot longer than expected, and when we finally got to the mountain I hopped out of the car and started booting up.

In about 3 minutes I realized that it was WAY too cold for me to be outside without gloves on. 

I checked the mountain's website and realized that it was -4 degrees at mid-mountain…

And 8 degrees in the parking lot.


Once we got on the mountain, it was all time!

The kind of bottomless champagne powder that we all dream about!! 

As luck would have it, we had two more weeks of just super cold and amazing snowfall. I spent my time between Alpental and Crystal, and could not have had a better time =). 

But damn was it cold!! Thank god for my diesel heater and insulation in my van. 

Crazy Idaho Redneck Truck Drivers

After some of the best pow skiing I have ever been lucky enough to ski, it was time for me to head to Idaho to go on a backcountry hut trip with some friends from south lake Tahoe.

God I was so excited! I have always wanted to go on a hut trip in an area I have never been to. The hut we were going to stay in was in the sawtooth mountain range. Not to mention, I was excited to ski in Idaho for the first time!

After saying my goodbyes and hitting the road from Seattle, something happened.

So here’s the deal: I got good news, and I got bad news……

The good news is that my trip took an unexpected turn and I got to come back to Tahoe! Man, I couldn’t wait to see my friends and shred in Tahoe!

The bad news is that part of my transmission broke and I had to go home to fix it.

As any car trouble situation goes, I was in the middle of nowhere, stuck on the side of a mountain road, with almost no service. Fortunately, I was just outside of Boise Idaho.

Lucky for me I had just enough cell service to call a tow truck. Sure enough, a few hours later two of the most red-neck humans I have ever seen showed up to tow me. 

They were the kind of 30-40-year-old rednecks who never left their small hometown in rural Idaho. The one guy James must have been weighing in at 300 lbs. 

Another issue is that since I have a 20-year-old imported vehicle, shops that can work on it are difficult to find. So I had to go to the closest Mercedes dealership I could find. 

After loading up my van, I climbed up what felt like a ladder to get inside the cab of the tow truck. 

Loading up Freighdo (my van)
In the middle of nowhere getting towed

On the drive to the shop, I couldn’t help but strike up a conversation with these two guys. 

I had no idea what I was about to get myself into. 

They told me about all their crazy hunting stories, making homemade moonshine, rugby team parties, and how they could do basically whatever they wanted in rural Idaho.

The best part was when I asked them, “What is your favorite part about being a tow truck driver?”

Without missing a beat, James told me about how he loved to take roadkill home and eat it…….

I was not expecting that answer!

I guess cars hit deer and elk all the time out there in the Idaho mountains, then the car is totaled and needs a tow.

This guy James frequently puts the animal underneath the car on the flatbed of the truck, takes it home to skin it, and freezes all the meat. Best of all he said his daughter is now vegetarian because she is afraid of all the ridiculous meat he brings home. 

AS I WAS SAYING, once they dropped me off at the Mercedes Dealership, the shop started diagnosing my problem. But they couldn’t tell me what was wrong with my transmission. 


Inside the Mercedes Benz dealership

Why couldn’t the shop give me a definitive answer about the state of my transmission?! I went to them because they were supposed to be the only shop around that could help me. 

I mean they are literally the dealership with all of the necessary experience and tools to accomplish the task at hand. 

After talking to the head mechanic and understanding his point of view, my brother Derek and I concluded that my transmission was having intermittent electrical issues. Therefore my transmission was not completely destroyed. 

This was good news because I was able to ‘limp’ my van the 600 miles back home and fix it there for less than $400 in my parent’s garage.

Thank god for that, because otherwise, I would have had to pay $7.3k for the shop to fix it. Or I would have had to pay about $3k to tow it back home AND then fix it myself. 

Both terrible options.

All in all, I did learn a lot about diesel vans and transmissions during this process of fixing mine.

Man, this situation could have been so much worse if I wasn’t able to turn it around and figure out how to solve my problem. I am really proud of being able to turn terrible situations into fun memories. 

I have kept a quote on my wall for years now, it says “I treat triumph and disaster the same”

This experience demonstrated to me that I definitely live up to the ability to follow this quote and stay positive during the worst of times. 

I’m afraid that’s where this story ends, but next time I’ll tell ya about when I stayed in a cabin somewhere in the middle of the woods with some of the best damn skiers I’ve ever met. (located in absolute nowhere Utah)