Liberty Skis Summer Recap

Liberty Skis Summer Recap from Liberty Skis on Vimeo.

The Liberty Skis team meet up in Whistler, British Columbia this summer to ride on the Blackomb Glacier. Thanks to Momentum Ski Camps and Camp of Champions for inviting us out.

Athletes: Joe Schuster, Dom Laporte, Zak Mousseau, Tanner Gordon, Jake Ondrik, Cam Duncan, Broby Leeds, and Jonas Hjohlman.

Filming : Brody Jones and Carlo Mion

Editing: Brody Jones

Featured Shop – Vista Bahn Ski Rentals

Our first of many featured ski shops is Vista Bahn Ski Rentals. Its’ name comes from it’s proximity to the Vista Bahn lift in Vail, Colorado. The lift has since been replaced with Gondola One but the name remains. This shop is right in Vail Village and one of the closest skis shops to the mountain. Vista Bahn is also a Liberty Demo Center, so if you find yourself in Vail- it’s the perfect place to try out a new model. We love this shop not only because they are good pals of ours but also because they keep all of our skis tuned to perfection. If you buy one of our Limited Edition Variant CAICs, they will be hand tuned at this shop by Olympian and former US Ski Team Member Sacha Gros. We caught up with Sacha to ask him a few questions about Vista Bahn Ski Rentals.

Vista Bahn Ski Rentals - Official Liberty Skis Demo Center

Vista Bahn Ski Rentals – Official Liberty Skis Demo Center

Date Opened: We opened in 1977 when my parents took a gamble and opened Colorado Ski Service. My sister, Dominique, and I took over Vista Bahn Ski Rentals in 2005.

What distinguishes you from other businesses in your category? All of our tuners have a lot of experience compared to the average shop and we hand finish our tunes, we want to be sure the skier gets what they want and need. We also provide storage and tons of rental options so we can keep our customers happy in all the snow conditions.

Who are some of the typical customers of your shop? We have customers from all over the country along with international families, but we also do a lot of tuning for locals. Vail really brings people from everywhere and we’re happy to see our customers keep coming back!

What do you like best about your line of work? Skiing, learning about new technology and being surrounded by people who share that interest.

What is your business’ biggest challenge? Renting out my own sweet Liberties on a powder day instead of skiing on them myself…

What is your favorite place to ski? Gandy Dancer on Friday morning, but lately my favorite is taking my 3.5 year old up and watching him refuse to snowplow

Something people might be surprised to learn about you or your business: We have a liquor license, next time you’re in, ask is for a beer, they’re cheap too!

If your shop had a theme song, what would it be? Seems like Ween is on pandora most of the time.

Vista Bahn Ski Rentals - Right down the stairs - Closest Shop to Vail Mountain

Vista Bahn Ski Rentals – Right down the stairs – Closest Shop to Vail Mountain

Joe Schuster Wins X Games Medal

Liberty Skis Joe Schuster Wins X Games RealSki Fan Favorite

We are so stoked that our man, Joe Schuster, has been voted Fan Favorite in the X Games RealSki Backcountry Competition. In addition, he was also awarded a Bronze Medal for his part in Superproof’s “The Recruitment”.


“The degree of difficulty in his tricks, how technical he was and ya know, even though he was a late addition, he was a step above some of the other guys in terms of degree of difficulty, he had bunch of double corks, right side spins (his unnatural direction) and that switch double 12 was just the stamp at the end.”

-Shay Williams, Real Ski Backcountry Judge

“The Recruitment” will be available on iTunes October, 15th. Check out the latest trailer!


Interview with Joe Schuster

Hi Joe Schuster! How has your summer been so far? 

It’s been awesome! I spent July up on the glacier in Whistler, and then right after I left on a month long road trip with some friends. We’re driving down the west coast of the States surfing, skating, checking out cities and meeting up with a bunch of friends along the way, We are actually still on the trip until sometime in the beginning of September.

How was it to hang out in Whistler all summer at Camp of Champions?

It was great. This was my 9th year at COC and I actually took on the head coach role. I was stoked to be doing that, plus we had an amazing sunny summer so it was awesome as always to just be up there shredding everyday! 

Joe Schuster hitting the hip at Camp of Champions. Ph: Kyle Gibson

Joe Schuster hitting the hip at Camp of Champions. Ph: Kyle Gibson

What should we expect to see in The Recruitment by Super Proof? How is it to be able to ski and film every day with your best friends?

Haha! I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the lifestyle I have which allows me to ski and film with my friends is probably the best ever. The recruitment is going to be awesome! It’s very different from most ski movies, it has amazing skiing that is all tied together with a theme and some really cool skits and whatnot. Leigh, our editor, and Brandon, our filmer really made something unique with this film and I’m pretty sure most people are going to like it!

Joe Schuster in Superproof

Did you spend most of your winter in British Columbia?

Ya as far as filming goes I did. I made one trip out east to shoot an article for SBC Skier Magazine, but other then that I was in Whistler and a quick trip to the interior of British Columbia the rest of the year. It was a slow start due to lack of snow but once it got going it was amazing! It’s hard to leave Whistler when you live there, it’s just so damn good for backcountry.

We are so stoked for you to have been invited to ESPN X Games Real Ski, what are your thoughts on the event?  

Thanks! I think the event is awesome. It allows us to showcase the film side of the sport to a massive mainstream audience that probably otherwise wouldn’t get to see this side of things. Also, we have all winter to put together something we’re really stoked and proud of, so it’s nice not to have super short deadlines.  Having a whole season to film, coupled with partnering with ESPN is a great opportunity for the sport of skiing to show the general public what is capable on skis. It also shows a larger audience of what passionate skiers are actually doing in the mountains, which should be great for the sport of skiing.
Watch Joe’s Segment & VOTE!

How was it to film a segment in British Columbia with such a low snow year?

It was tough for sure, and we honestly didn’t even bring out the camera until February 17th this year, which was extremely late! It was really bad at first, but once the end of February came around we were all really motivated to get out there and make up for lost time, so basically every day we were out once the snow was decent. We were out there trying to make the most out of every situation and I think that will show with The Recruitment movie and ESPN X Games Real Ski.

Joe Schuster taking advantage of the soft backcountry in British Columbia

Joe Schuster taking advantage of the soft backcountry in British Columbia

What was your Liberty ski of choice for filming last season and why?

I was riding the Double Helix all year. That ski is just so much fun for me and what I’m doing with my skiing. It allows me to jump and play around in the pillows and mini-golf type features really easily, and is just such a solid ski that I’m able to land a lot of stuff out there that I might not be able to do otherwise.  For such a wide ski, it’s super versatile in almost every condition, including hardpack and groomers.  Not that I spent a lot of time on groomers!

Joe Schuster going big in Alaska. Ph: Travis Smith

Joe Schuster going big in Alaska. Ph: Travis Smith

What are your plans for 2014/15?

I’m going to be filming another video part with Super Proof for the next movie which we’re already starting to plan, and then hopefully I can get another invite into ESPN X Games Real Ski again because that event has been awesome and I would be stoked to do it again!

What can we expect from Super Proof in the future?

Well, I can’t tell you too much without letting the cat out of the bag, but once you see The Recruitment movie, you’ll see that we’re trying to take things in a different direction and make our movies something completely different from the industry standard. So if you like The Recruitment, I’m sure you’ll like what we have planned for the future.

Take it easy Joe!  Please keep us updated with how your season shapes up.

Absolutely. Thanks guys!

Don’t forget to vote for Joe for the X Games real ski backcountry competition!

Anton Sponar Skis The Big 3 – Part 2/3 – Mt. Foraker

The next two days were spent recuperating and planning for Foraker.  We got a forecast that looked promising to go for an alpine style push.  If everything went well we figured it would take 4 days to get to the summit of Foraker.  We packed our bags with 6 days worth of food and fuel and headed off for the next adventure.  Climbing Mt. Foraker is by no means a strait forward climb.  The first step is to climb up and over a sub peak called Crosson.  This is a 6,000 ft climb that lasts two days.  From the top of Crosson the Sultana Ridge leads you to the summit of Foraker, another 2 days away.  The ridge starts flat, but narrow and takes you to Mt. Foraker proper where it broadens and begins to climb steeply to the summit.

Mount Foraker

Mount Foraker

We left base camp at 5 am with 80 pound packs.  Skiing across the Kahiltna to the base of Crosson went quickly and we felt confident in our ability to make it to the summit within our 4 day weather window.  Moving up the lower sections of Crosson went just as smooth.  This section is not glaciated so we were gratefully able to ditch the ropes.  We got to our camp at 10,000 feet feeling pretty good about ourselves.  We crammed into the 4 man tent that really only fits three and fell fast asleep.  The next day things got much harder from the outset.  Right above our camp was a section of steep black ice that slowed us from our previous days pace.  Once past that obstacle we found ourselves back on glaciated terrain, and back on ropes, probing the snow for crevasses.  To add to the troubles of the day the wind began to howl and seemed to get stronger with every step up.  After an eternity we reached to top of Crosson and made our way down the other side towards the Sultana Ridge in search of a sheltered area to set up camp.  We crammed into the tent and cooked in the vestibule to stay out of the wind before passing out.

Climbing lower Sultana Ridge on Foraker.  Third day on mountain.

Climbing lower Sultana Ridge on Foraker. Third day on mountain.

Mt. Foraker and the Sultana ridge acts like a border of the Alaska Range to our left and east while climbing lays the Kahiltna Glacier and the meat of the range, while to our west and right lay the foothills and plains some 10,000 feet down.  Since there is nothing to the west storms move in and the first thing they do is fight to make it over the ridge.  This makes it one of the most dangerous places to find yourself during a storm in the range.  This was on our minds as we looked to our right and saw the clouds building.  In the days since we left the forecast had changed to be more unsettled.  The Sultana Ridge winds around with small climbs and descents, with broad crevassed areas and knife edge sections.  We made it most of the way to the base of Foraker when the clouds finally pulled their way up over us on the ridge.  Visability was zero, so it was a good time to make camp.   Luckily we had just passed a very sheltered spot, so we backtracked and set our tent up and proceeded with the nightly rituals.  

We awoke to clear skis the next day, but the wind was blowing again.  We decided to give the summit a go.  After an hour along the lower ridge we began up the Sultana proper and found ourselves batteling the wind.  The wind whipped the snow up stinging our frozen faces.  The skis on our packs acted like sails.  We gave it our all, but at 14,000 feet we had to turn around.  We dejectedly made our way back to camp with hope to try again in the morning.

Crossing crevasses on the Upper Sultana on summit day.

Crossing crevasses on the Upper Sultana on summit day.

This was not to be.  The morning brought wind and a new storm.  We spent the day occupying ourselves with anything we could find in our tent.  The weather was too harsh outside to do much more than piss and run back to the tent.  Moral was low.  After pushing so hard on Hunter and then on Foraker up to this point it seemed as though our dream would end here.  The weather the next day looked to be the same and we had food to only last us for 2 more days before having to head down.  We could only wait and see what the morning brought.

Foraker Summit

Foraker Summit

The morning brought sun, and no wind, but frigid temps.  We waited until the sun hit the tent before we dared to try and start moving.  With all our layers on we began to move once again for the summit.  The day was perfect, but cold.  We slowly moved upwards into the thinner air of 14, 15, 16 k.  Once we hit 17,000 ft we were moving at a snails pace.  Those last couple hundred feet would drag on forever, but finally we made it to the top.  As on Hunter our celebration was muted.  There was still so much to do.  But now we got to ski.  And this was one of the most beautiful lines imaginable on a perfect day.  We pointed our skis down the Sultana with all of the Alaska Range below our feet.  

Anton skiing the upper Sultana

Anton skiing the upper Sultana

Anton Sponar Skis The Big 3 – Part 1/3 – Mt. Hunter

Mount Hunter

Mount Hunter

Months of preparation, planning and training were finally done.  We sat in the grass at Talkeetna Air Strip amongst our mountain of gear waiting for our Otter ski plane to take us to the glacier.  We had an ambitious plan that we did not give ourselves much of a chance to complete; we wanted to be the first to ski from the summit of each of the three peaks that make up the “Alaska Family”:  Mt. Hunter, Mt. Foraker and Denali.  Knowing our chances were slim, we got on the plane with our gear thinking one or two of the peaks would make the trip a success.  All three would make it something truly special.  

The day after landing at the Denali base camp/landing strip we were on our way to our Hunter base camp.  The Denali base camp sits below the menacing north face of Mt. Hunter.  Our planned ski route would take us up and down the slightly more mellow south face of the west ridge on the only route that holds actual snow from the summit all the way down.  But first we had to get there.  We loaded our sleds and packs with over 100 pounds of gear and food and started down the Kahiltna Glacier.  After about five miles of slow moving, we found the arm of the glacier we were looking for and saw our first major obstacle.  We simply called it the icefall.  

We set up our camp near the base of the icefall and promptly waited out a two-day storm.  Once visibility came back we went on a probing mission into the icefall with light packs.  It had only been navigated two times before us.  The first team to ski Hunter approached from the right side under scary-looking seracs. The other team climbed a very exposed rock/ice route to the left of the icefall, skirting it completely. Neither of these options looked in good condition, so we decided to take on the icefall head on.  Our route took us into the walls of ice on a slightly less broken section on the left side.  After a full day of route finding, ice climbing, and hoping that everything stayed together, we finally found ourselves at the top of the icefall looking at our first part of the true ski route on Hunter, the Ramen Couloir.  We quickly retreated to our base camp and packed enough gear to camp and a few days’ worth of food.  

We left camp early and with an established route were able to make it up the icefall in only a few hours.  We set up a camp below the Ramen Couloir and tried to get a few hours of sleep in before setting out for the summit.  Our plan was to leave camp at 9 pm.  We would climb through the night in order to get back to the south-facing Ramen Couloir before it got too warm to ski safely.  It was the beginning of May so the sun never got too far below the horizon, giving us enough light to climb the Couloir at night.  The only information we had on the climb and ski was from Andrew McLean’s group when it became the first to ski from the summit.  It took the group 12 hours from the location of our camp to the top.  We figured we could do it in about the same amount of time.  

Climbing through the ice fall on Hunter

Climbing through the ice fall on Hunter

After a few hours of laying – but not really sleeping – we set out.  The Ramen Couloir is a 3,300 foot couloir that is between 50 and 60 degrees from top to bottom.  One foot in front of the other, we kicked steps up the couloir for six hours, finally topping out on the west ridge at 3:30 am.  Exhausted.  The climb was not kind to us.  The first half went smoothly, but as we got higher the snow fell harder until we hit black ice about 200 feet from the top on the steepest part of the couloir.  We decided to rope up and place protection in the ice to the top.  A fall here was not an option.  Sitting in a small col on the famed west ridge felt good though.  We had gotten past the hardest part of the climb. We felt confident in getting this peak done.  

Andrew had said that once he got to the same spot his team was able to skin to the summit.  This was not our reality.  Blue glacial ice was all over the broken ridge in front of us.  Crampons stayed on our feet, ice tools in hand, and we kept moving.  We were tired, and this ridge was harder than we expected.  Crevasses shooting in all directions, ice blocks blocking our way and massive exposure slowed us to a crawl.  

We made it up to the summit plateau at 10 am, totally beat down and not so sure about making the summit anymore.  Across the plateau stood the north face of the summit ridge with nothing but blue ice on it.  Totally unskiable.  Things were getting tough mentally.  We were tired.  No sleep and hard work made us just want to quit.  We had enough food though, and we could not ski down the Ramen anyway.  It was too late, too warm.  We knew that the summit plateau extended to the south side of the summit ridge, but we had no idea what that south face looked like.  Might as well take the chance.  We skinned around and found what we were hoping to find, a skiable ramp up to the ridge that extended to the top!  Again, we moved forward.

Mount Hunter Summit.  Mount Denali in the background.

Mount Hunter Summit. Mount Denali in the background.

The steps were slow, and there were only a few of them between each rest.  Finally at 9 pm we made it.  We stood on top of Mt. Hunter as the sun began to set, 24 hours after leaving camp.  Celebrations were muted.  There was still so much to do, and all of it either unpleasant or scary.  First was to sleep.  We were exhausted.  Trying to ski down the west ridge and then the Ramen at night was suicide, so we skied back down to the plateau and dug a hole, put all our clothes on, and positioned ourselves into a 4-way man spoon.  What will forever live in our minds as the “shiver bivy” was the most unpleasant night of sleep I can remember.  The alarm we set was useless.  We were all wide awake when it went off.   We quickly got ready.  We would get off this mountain today- we had to.

Physically and mentally we were all reaching our breaking points.  Everything we did took too long and was not done well.  Skiing back down the west ridge’s icy, exposed and crevassed terrain was terrifying, but we know what lay ahead was worse.  

We had to rappel the top section of the Ramen.  Skiing 60-degree black ice was not an option.  We made a running belay across the black ice to the top of the couloir and set a v-thread  anchor in the ice.  Slowly we took turns rappelling to the end of the rope where there was a rock to use as an anchor for the next rappel.  After the second one we found snow and were able to transition to skis.  With every turn we used all our concentration and strength.  This was not fun skiing.  This was survival skiing in its purest form.  We only relaxed at the bottom where the couloir hit the glacier and we were able to stand on flat ground.

We were elated; we had just completed the third descent of an iconic peak, but you would not know that from looking at us.  We were dehydrated, hungry, tired and in shock that we had done it and were still alive.  We got back to our high camp 41 hours after leaving.  We melted snow in a pot and drank straight from it in huge gulps.  We shoveled all the food that we had left into our mouths.  It was glorious.  And then we slept.  

The next day we truly completed the descent when we retraced our route through the icefall and got to our main Hunter base camp.  We packed this up quickly and started the hike back up the Kahiltna Glacier to the main Denali camp and to the rest of our gear and food.