Sawtooth Chute School 4/30 – 5/3/09


Our last spring ski mountaineering course of the season drew a packed house.  Sawtooth Mountain Guides co-owner and IFMGA guide Erik Leidecker along with SMG guides Mike Hatch and Zach Crist lead a group of 10 guests for 4 days into the heart of the Sawtooths for some fantastic skiing and skills development.  We had people show up from all over the country – New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, and California- along with a handful of locals from Sun Valley.  The diverse group of clients with varying backgrounds and abilities created a great learning environment and helped forge new friendships.

Climbing up Big Fatty

Climbing up Big Fatty

Todd rippin Big Fatty

Todd rippin Big Fatty

Spring time in the Sawtooths can be a mixed bag of snow conditions and we definitely got a sack full of corn, crust, and powder.  This required us to use at one time or another all that gear we were cursing having to lug around on our backs – ice axe, ski crampons, boot crampons, harness, rope, etc.  The snow pack in the alpine is holding up well with the chutes and couloirs nicely filled in.  Conditions in the alpine during the course were rather winter-like on northerly aspects with 6-8″ new in the chutes and coulees and spring -like on southerly aspects with  light freezes Friday and Saturday nights contributing to mid-afternoon corn cycles.

Snow School 101

Snow School 101

March of the ski bums

March of the ski bums

Even though the weather was less than ideal the group still managed to knock off a laundry list of ski objectives and skill sets.  On Friday, after snow school and ice axe handling techniques, the group split with half climbing up and skiing Big Fatty and the other half climbing peak 10084, rappelling off the summit, and skiing Meadow Bowl.  The Big Fatty group found 6-8″ on a firm base and everybody skied strong and fluid.  On Saturday the clouds veiled the peaks, but even in low visibility the group still managed to ski several nice lines including the spire lined SW face of Williams Peak and after several rappels and a short climb the other half of the group dropped into “What’s Up Doc” – a narrow steep coulior off the shoulder of Thompson Peak.  On Sunday with 4-6″ new the group headed for the Profile drainage to ski classic lines like “Resurrection” and “Jesus” –  these were featured on the opening spread of the “Backcountry Magazine” article on the Chute School.  Erik lead one group who focused on rope handling and mountaineering skills like building anchors and proper belay and rappel techniques.  The lines flirted with us through the clouds and the new snow tantalized our taste buds.   The north-facing couloirs were holding good powder snow and the group had to manage the steep and tight terrain and sluff.  The whoops, hollers, and high fives at the bottom signaled the thrill of the runs and the culmination of days of technical skill development, inspiring turns, and great camaraderie at the Williams Peak Hut.  Thanks to all for spectacular course!!!

Cheers, Hatch, Erik, and Zach


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