words and photos: T. Bird
Jeff Pensiero has something special tucked high away in the woods surrounding Nelson, British Columbia. Nelson has long been an outdoor enthusiast's dream, with like-minded people emigrating to the tiny bastion north of Spokane, Washington for decades to hike, bike, climb, ski, and as of the last three decades, ride. After transplanting from Cleveland, Ohio to Lake Tahoe, California to pursue a life-long ambition to turn his snowboard, Pensiero chased a girl up to Nelson. While that may have been his ultimate motive, what happened in the process couldn't be scripted. After a bad experience at a heli op, he decided that he would look into some land outside of Nelson with his good friend and legendary guide John Buffery and was introduced to Buff's good friend, Craig Kelly. Craig, Buff and Jeff scoured every nook and cranny in and around Nelson and stumbled upon a land mass with the perfect pitch and pristine powder. And thus, Baldface was born. While there's much more to it than that, a decade-and-a-half later, Baldface has become the preeminent cat skiing operation in the world with thousands of clients in its register and world-renowned events like Travis Rice's Ultra Natural…and Jeff dreams to go bigger still.
Last week, Pensiero pieced together an unusual crew to come up to the lodge and ride with him, because, even though he runs an unbelievably complex cat skiing operation, Jeff needs to get some turns in for himself to kick off his busy season. The list he compiled was what he considered somewhat of a dream team; snowboarders that he's always adored: Jamie Lynn, Wes Makepeace, Tex Devenport, Robin Van Gyn and David Benedek. Along for the ride were my boss Pat Bridges, our Video Director John Cavan, Burton boss Billy Anderson (whose exploits and accomplishments as a professional snowboarder qualify him for the other list), Mervin's Ryan Davis, and famed videographer and editor Pierre Wikberg.
For four days straight, we rode the best powder that I've ever ridden before Christmas. With a solid base and fresh snowfall every morning, what transpired at Baldface was nothing short of magical. While you may think that going cat or heli skiing is out of your price range, think again. Sure, it may be more expensive than a week at your local hill, but with the rapidly rising cost of lift tickets, resort food, air travel and lodging, there's never been a better time to calculate those costs and weigh whether or not it would be worth a little more cash to ride your own private resort with the guarantee of deep, fresh pow every single run.
For more info visit baldface.net. Thank you Jeff, Paula, Joel, Homey A, Kevin Sansalone and the entire Baldface staff for one of the best weeks I've ever experienced.