After kicking off his new ski project and web series “The Fifty” by skiing the Messner Couloir on Denali, one of the iconic lines included in the book “Fifty Classic Descents of North America,” Cody Townsend stayed a little closer to home to check line number 2 off the list: the South Face of Mt. Superior in Utah. That was the plan, at least.
Watch: "The Fifty": Episode 1
When Townsend and his crew arrived in Little Cottonwood Canyon, they hit some roadblocks—literally and figuratively. The area had just received 40 inches of new snow in 48 hours, making for potentially unstable and dangerous avalanche conditions.
“Looking at skiing Mt. Superior or the Hypodermic Needle, both in Little Cottonwood Canyon,” Townsend says in the episode while driving from his home in Lake Tahoe, Calif. out to Utah. “Which line I get to ski pretty much entirely depends on stability, and right now, stability does not look good, and there’s a lot more weather on the way.”
On Day 1, Townsend and his crew, including fellow Salomon athlete Drew Peterson making a guest appearance, head out on a recon mission to assess the snow pack. After digging a snow pit, the team realizes just how unstable the conditions are.
“Oh Jesus,” Townsend says as he loosens what looks like all 40 inches of the fresh snow in the pit while testing the snowpack. “That’s enough to scare the shit out of me. That whole thing goes...and you die. So, tomorrow is a no-go because of what we just did right here. This pit explained to me that there’s a pretty medium probability of a gigantic, high-consequence avalanche. And something on a big face like Superior, that has the potential to go huge. And I don’t want to die. So…we’ll just wait until the snowpack heals.”
It ends up taking four days for the snowpack to stabilize, but Townsend’s commitment to safety and his patience are rewarded on that fourth day: Townsend, now joined by legendary freeskier Pep Fujas, get to ski the South Face of Mt. Superior in “all-time” conditions—“Japan on Superior.”
With Episode 2, Townsend checks off the second line of the 50 iconic lines laid out in the classic ski encyclopedia written by Chris Davenport, Penn Newhard, and Art Burrows, and also gives viewers important insight into all the safety precautions and planning that should go into skiing big mountain lines.