"This winter started off rather slowly and then ramped up to what was a winter to remember."
This winter started off slowly, but it quickly turned into a memorable season. Mark Abma, who has been chasing the perfect snow and descents for over 20 winter seasons, had a 2022/2023 winter season that was no different. He had multiple opportunities to travel around his home province of British Columbia, a trip down south to score Lake Tahoe's largest snow season on record, and a last minute adventure to Norway's arctic circle to witness the northern lights in the extreme ways of Nikolai Schirmer.
In December, Mark's home of Whistler had a slow beginning to winter. With minimal snowfall and unsafe backcountry snow layers, it put a brief pause on the excitement ahead.
Mark kicked off his winter by going on a ski touring trip to the Kokanee Glacier lodge with Outdoor Research (OR). The purpose of this trip was to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a heartbreaking avalanche incident that involved their founder and then-CEO, Ron Gregg, in the Kokanee Glacier. Mark, who started his ski film career in the early 2000s and is now part of the OR community, was invited to be a part of this special journey. OR revisited this memory to reflect on their origins and the progress they've made over the past two decades as a leading force in the outdoor industry.
In early January, Mark joined Matchstick Production's (MSP) annual ski film. MSP had just celebrated their 29th year of filmmaking and received the award "Film Of The Year" for their movie "Anywhere From Here" at the IF3 Whistler festival in 2022. Mark was involved in multiple segments in the film, one in particular that showcased the beauty of skiing and surfing from the mountaintops to the ocean bottom in British Columbia's Vancouver Island.
"I spent time in Bella Coola with MSP films at a new and unique heli skiing operation. I then went to Silvertip heli to shoot photos with Eric Berger and then went to Revelstoke for a few epic days with Eagle Pass heli."
Mark tallied up flight time in January after he began his first filming location for MSP in Bella Coola. The footage captured in Bella Coola Heli Sport promises to showcase incredible turns and stunning views. After that, Mark joined Eric Berger for a photo shoot at Silvertip heli-skiing, and their work is featured in this article. Finally, Mark concluded his filming journey at Revelstoke's Eagle Pass heli-skiing.
"Mid-February I was given the heads up that Tahoe had a monster storm with cold temperatures approaching. I decided to hop in the FlatLine Van and road trip with no known return date."
One of the joys and challenges of skiing is waiting for the right conditions. We constantly keep an eye on the forecast with our feet already out the door. When the elements align, the excitement will keep us coming back time and time again. And in the 2022/2023 season, Lake Tahoe experienced the winter of a lifetime.
Mark set off to Tahoe in late February for some of the largest snowstorms in recent memory. February brought an incredible 132 inches, and March blew it out of the park with an insane 191 inches. The accumulation of storms through the winter resulted in the snowiest season on record for Palisades Tahoe Resort, with 710 inches of snow, which is 178% of their average season snowfall. Olympic Valley Ski Resort also received nearly 60 feet of snow. Needless to say, Mark's Professor 121 powder skis had plenty of work to do.
"Shortly after my arrival it started to snow and it didn’t stop for 2 weeks. We ended up ski touring some pow hanging fruit just above Truckee on the crazy deep days when the roads and highways were closed. We managed to sneak up to Sugar Bowl in anticipation of a particularly big part of the storm and got stuck up there with the ski patrol, cat drivers, cook and bartender. Getting stuck up at a resort during an epic storm was a very cool and unique experience."
After experiencing weeks of "lifetime storms" in Lake Tahoe and spending time with Xander Guldman and the MSP crew at RMU Truckee, Mark hurried back to Whistler to continue logging miles on the snowmobiles with Logan Pehota, Craig Murray, and MSP Films. This trio built upon their previous season's ski segments to push boundaries, share stories and exceed expectations. They explored both familiar and new terrain in the local backyard, taking advantage of the favorable weather and sunny days.
Mark's season had one more adventure in store as he made a last-minute decision to join MSP Films and extreme skier Nikolai Schirmer in his homeland of Norway. Mark's words capture the uncertainties, challenges, and triumphs that skiers face during such trips; the issues, fears, and successes all packed into one.
"I then got a phone call from MSP asking if I wanted to go to Lyngen, Norway. 2 days later I was on a plane and arrived in Tromsø during a 100 year avalanche cycle that had just recently swept away a house with 2 people into the ocean and closed a bunch of the roads and highways. I was definitely wondering if i had made the wrong decision with going to Norway. My skis were still lost with the airline, but the roads opened so we made our way to Lyngen. We set up shop with Lyngen experience and I waited patiently for 3 days until my ski bag arrived. Once my skis arrived I joined the crew for daily road trips. We generally parked at sea level and would ski tour to the objective of the day which was generally at 5,000-6,000 ft and in some circumstances a 10km-20km loop. I pushed myself physically, scared myself mentally and was totally elated emotionally. The views were mind blowing and the skiing was incredible. Our last day, Nikolai and I hopped in with some sled dogs and skied the Monster Couloir. We finished that night drinking a few beers under the Northern Lights."
After a trip filled with delays, challenges, and thrilling adventures, Mark savored one of the first warm spring skiing seasons Whistler has had in a few years. Relaxing in the warmth of the sun, wearing T-shirts on Blackcomb Mountain, and sharing a few beers on the RMU Whistler patio, Mark finished up a winter season to remember.