Meet Forrest Coots, the big mountain skier whose search for snow has taken him to all corners of the earth, from Japan’s north island to 14,000ft up a Californian volcano
I lived in Utah for a number of years, when I was trying to get my feet wet in the ski industry, and Alta was my home resort. It has so much history and culture, and people are fanatical about skiing. It’s a really special place.
There is some high alpine skiing, but it’s the trees that make this place stand out. After a storm, or during a storm day, the tree skiing is ridiculous – big trees, with really deep snow, and best of all you can actually see; some of the other resorts that are up higher, like Snowbird, can get milked out on snow day.
MOUNT SHASTA, CALIFORNIA
It’s where I grew up. It’s the second highest volcanic peak in the lower 48 states and in the spring time it’s a 7000ft ski off the top. You can ski until July, but the great skiing is in June. What’s cool is that you can five-sport in a day – go skiing in the morning, mountain biking, freeride mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, all in the same day.
The town sits at around 3,500ft, then you drive a paved road to almost 7,000ft; from there you tour to 11,000ft, then it’s crampons and ice axes to 14,000ft, where it’s a 45-minute ski from top to bottom. The corn snow is phenomenal.
Interior BC is pretty rad. It snows and snows and snows. I like the laid-back vibe of Whitewater. If you envision the ideal ski area, that’s what Whitewater is. Three chairs, all of which access amazing terrain. There is no touristy village, no big hotels. You see families skiing, old people, young people – it’s a community-orientated ski resort. There are great touring options – take the lift of the backside, the access and terrain is phenomenal. It’s so remote too – around four hours from Spokane, the closest city. There’s not much there in the interior BC.
I went there on a trip with some friends when I was 21 and was blown away, then I went back last year. It’s full rock ‘n’ roll, not so much for powder, but for steeps. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, no one is telling you “no”, which is pretty wild, coming from the States, where everything is out-of-bounds. We skied the Cosmiques couloir a couple of times; the first time was boiler plate, which was kind of frightening, then we went back after a storm and it was one of the more memorable ski lines of the trip.
We also skied the north face of the Belvedere with Remy Lécluse [who died in the Mt. Manaslu avalanche last year], who was somewhat of a mentor to me. There was a 50° face over a 200m cliff, and we had to rappel over some rocks. Seeing how comfortable Remy was made you comfortable – he was the master of steep skiing.
It snows every day. Not constantly, but enough that it stacks up. It’s amazing. You rarely see the sun – it’s always milky and grey – but it sets more of a mood, almost like you’re riding in black and white. The powder is super light and you can ski to the ocean in some places. You rarely cross someone else’s track. You can spend all day touring, then ski to your car and head for an onsen [hot spring], get a few tall boys from the beer vending machine and soak for a couple of hours. Then you repeat. I highly recommend it as a trip of a lifetime.