BC-Banff Road Trip – January 2019

Every winter my friends and I talk about road trips, checking out new mountains, and just hanging out like old times, but usually it’s just talk. Things like work and family take a higher priority as we get older. But this year, everything fell into place and we made it happen.

With the purchases of Stevens Pass and Crystal Mountain over the last half year, things have changed quite a bit for skiers and snowboarders in the Pacific Northwest. And thanks to my company Sturtevants (a division of Christy Sports), I have access to dozens of resorts through the Ikon and Epic Passes. So 2 friends and I decided to take a week off and just start driving up north to British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.


Day 1 – We took off from Bellevue, Washington on a Tuesday morning, heading north towards British Columbia. Depending on drive time, conditions, border crossing times, we would head to either Cypress (a nearby resort in Vancouver on the Ikon Pass) or continue on to Revelstoke (also on the Ikon Pass).

There was virtually no traffic and no wait at the border, so we decided to keep driving and to take a big chunk out of our drive by just heading straight to Revelstoke. About 8 hours after leaving Bellevue, we arrived at our hotel in Revelstoke. We decided to stay 2 nights here and ride 2 days. There was some projected snow in the forecast but that didn’t materialize.


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Day 2 (Revelstoke on the Ikon Pass : Rode 26.5K vertical feet) – The funny part of this mountain was that every local brought up the crowds. They would ask us, “Why would you come at such a busy time?” And “The road from the hotel to the gondola might take 20-30 minutes depending on crowds.” Yet, everywhere we looked, there was nobody to be found. We would arrive at the parking lot in the morning right around the gondola opening time, only to be one of the first cars. We would walk right up to the gondola without any waits. Our Ikon Passes were kept in our pockets, the machines would scan us, and we’d get right on.

The most surprising thing about this mountain is also what it’s most famous for. The vertical. When looking down from the gondola / lifts, it just felt like we were gaining 5 feet a second, like we were taking off and flying.

We were tracking our progress using the Trace app, and after a day of somewhat taking it easy and trying to warm up our legs for the week, I found that we had done 26.5K vertical feet. That was the most I had done all season, by far.


Day 3 (Revelstoke on the Ikon Pass : Rode 29.8K vertical feet) – On day 2 we parked at the lot right above the gondola and when the gondolas started letting people on at 8:30, we were still only the 3rd car in that lot. There was quite a bit of fog in the morning and that fog slowly seemed to follow us up the mountain throughout the day. But we also had pockets of sun / partly cloudy skis. I guess when there’s so much vertical, you tend to get a lot of changes in the weather.

We thought we would blow past our previous days total for vertical feet, but by the time we did a couple laps from the top of The Stoke chair, to Revelation Lodge, we realized how exhausted we were getting. That run itself is over 4000 vertical feet, and when we got to the car after a little more than 4 hours on the mountain, we were just shy of 30K for the day.

One thing that’s obvious to me about Revelstoke is that there’s really only 3 chairs (a gondola and 2 quads) that service most of the mountain, and there really isn’t any room for beginners. I’d probably pass on bringing my kids up here until they’re much older. I also noticed that everyone rips and is an advanced skier / snowboarder. The groomed runs were amazing and allowed you to go as fast as you wanted, even for someone like me with previous knee and leg problems. Since the runs were so wide and long, we very rarely rode next to anyone else. It almost felt like a private resort.

We took off from Revelstoke after that second day of riding, and headed East on the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1). About 2 hours later, we arrived in the town of Golden, where we found a cheap place right off the main highway about 15 minutes from the resort.


Day 4 (Kicking Horse on the Epic Pass : Rode 17.9K vertical feet) – Once we arrived in Golden, we could see Kicking Horse resort from the highway. Since it was our first time, we didn’t really know which peaks were which, but we could tell that a ski resort was in those hills.

We didn’t spend too much time in the town of Golden, but it definitely gave off a ski town vibe similar to Revelstoke. Especially once we got to the mountain itself. It also felt more touristy than Revelstoke, with fewer locals and a lot of foot traffic around the gondola.

Using the Epic Pass was easy, I asked the ticket window if I needed to do anything special, but I could just walk up to the line, get out my card and have them scan it.

The mountain itself is pretty intense. A single gondola takes you to the top, where you get off on what feels like the spine of a mountain. And from there, you have to ride along this ridgeline with enough speed to get to the “Easiest Way Down” signs. So again, much like Revelstoke, I probably wouldn’t bring my kids here for several years.

But at the top of that gondola is where you could choose to hike to various peaks, bowls, and runs that aren’t accessible by lifts. It’s the definition of “earning your turns.”

The vertical isn’t as easy to pile up as it was at Revelstoke, but the runs were unique, and would be even better on a powder day. We did a little exploring and hiking out towards Terminator Peak (looker’s left) and the Ozone (looker’s right).

Once we finished our day here, we drove about an hour and a half towards Banff, where we would spend the next 2 nights.


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Day 5 (Sunshine Village in Banff on the Ikon Pass : Rode 19.3K vertical feet) – Banff locals will tell you they’re a ski town, but it took me some convincing before I believed it. The previous 2 times I’ve been to Banff (once as a kid, and once with my wife), we were just there to sightsee. Kind of like when we visit Leavenworth, a Bavarian town in Washington.

But there are several snowboard shops and outdoor related stores mixed in with all the touristy things, along with 1 mountain just outside of town (Norquay), 1 mountain about 20 minutes away (Sunshine Village), and another mountain about 40 minutes away (Lake Louise). The town of Banff is beautiful with a mix of mountains, snow and water. But when you drive in from the West, the mountains of Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Lake Louise and Sunshine Village are all just as impressive which I think might take away from the allure just a little bit. Still, I love visiting Banff and the food options here are always great.

Snowboarding at Sunshine Village on Day 4 felt a lot like being at home (Stevens Pass / Crystal Mountain). It was a Saturday so the lots packed up quickly and there were a lot of families. There were mountain hosts everywhere who were extremely helpful. We ended up getting off the gondola too early, but did enjoy a bunch of runs to ourselves on Goat’s Eye Mountain without lines.

Once we got to the main village, we realized we were riding on the Continental Divide, along the border of British Columbia and Alberta. The runs were moderate, not too slow or fast, and the locals were friendly and would tell us about the facts of the mountain, how it’s a good mix of everything and that we should come back when there’s powder so we could ride down Delirium Dive. The runs were busier than we experienced on the trip, but we expected that from the crowds we saw in the parking lot and the fact that it was a weekend.

When we left a little bit after 1 pm, we realized just how crowded the parking got. There were at least 6 shuttle pickup spots along the road with cars parked almost all the way to the highway.


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Day 6 (Lake Louise on the Ikon Pass : Rode 14.6K vertical feet) – We thought about chasing powder and heading towards Fernie or Kimberley Alpine, but since the weather kept changing and they did not receive any new snow, we decided to check out Lake Louise nearby.

After a second night in Banff, we checked out of our hotel and headed west back towards home. About 40 minutes west of Banff, we would arrive at Lake Louise ski area.

To be honest, fatigue started setting in so we knew we wouldn’t get anywhere near 20K vertical feet on this day. I feel like we kind of snuck in, rode for a few hours, and left so we could make our way to Vancouver that night.

We expected big crowds similar to Sunshine, especially since it was a Sunday AND because it was the first time all week they were expecting more than a trace of snow, but it was a pretty mellow day overall. There would be a wait for chairlifts on one run (10 minutes or so), but then no wait when you came back.

I really enjoyed the terrain and since there were so many ways down, we rarely saw other people. Again, a nice surprise considering it was a weekend. We lapped the Larch chair several times, then headed back to the main side. As with all the other mountains, we did a couple top to bottom runs around lunch time and then called it a day.

Once we got back on the road, we made our way back towards Vancouver which we expected would take about 9 or 10 hours. We stopped in Revelstoke (for gas) and Kamloops (for dinner) to sort of break up the drive, and arrived at our Vancouver hotel right around 9:30 pm. It did help that we got an hour of time back (from Mountain time to Pacific) during our drive.


Day 7 (Cypress Mountain on the Ikon Pass : Rode 5.9K vertical feet) – Our hotel ended up being less than 30 minutes away from Cypress Mountain Ski Area. After a week full of rocky mountain views, snow capped peaks, and new, challenging terrain, it felt like we were back at the Summit at Snoqualmie, with better views. The terrain looked fun in parts, although we didn’t ride some of it because of coverage and conditions (the snow felt chunky and our legs were just burning by this point).

We rode the Raven Ridge Quad Chair (down below, past the parking lot) and there appeared to be some fun terrain under that chair. But again, we didn’t want to push ourselves down a run that was blocked off and had some coverage issues. It was also warming up and we were ready to just call it by this point.

The best part of this mountain was it’s convenience, and the views of the water and downtown Vancouver. It’s also good to know how accessible it is, so if they ever get a big dump, we could be there in a relatively short amount of time.

From North Vancouver, it was just a short 4 hour drive back home and we were back in our driveway before 5 pm.


The inconsistencies of using the Ikon and Epic Passes (from my experience during the 2018-2019 season);

Ikon: While at Crystal Mountain and Cypress Mountain, we had to go to a ticket window to get a day pass for that specific resort. While at Revelstoke, I just walked up to the gondola with the pass in my jacket pocket, and the RFID would open up the gate and I could just walk through. While at the Banff resorts, I had to take my pass out each time and have it manually scanned.

Epic: While at Stevens Pass, they have handheld scanners that would scan your arm or leg (wherever your pass is) and they’d let you through. You never have to take your pass out. Yet at Kicking Horse, you need to take it out and allow them to scan it. I’ll update this after visiting Whistler in February.


Summary

We’re already talking about doing this again. Possibly in the Tahoe area, or near Big Sky-Jackson Hole, or Colorado. And it sounds like more friends would like to jump on board for the next trip. We’d consider flying out to those areas though, or possibly renting an RV. I’ve done the drive to Montana before, and not sure how my SUV would handle sustained 85 MPH roads. Obviously we’d try to figure out the best / cheapest combination of airfare, hotels, gas, oversized baggage fees, and so on to see what makes the most sense. We’ll likely just keep an eye on upcoming powder and go from there!

 

Info

Length of road trip; 7 days from Bellevue, up towards Banff, towards Vancouver, then back home. 6 days of snowboarding at 5 different resorts.

Total miles driven; Just around 1450 miles

Total spent; Right around $360 per person (3 of us were in the car) including food and hotels. Gas was another couple hundred split 3 ways.

Resorts visited; Revelstoke (Ikon Pass), Kicking Horse (Epic Pass), Sunshine Village (Ikon), Lake Louise (Ikon), Cypress (Ikon)

Total vertical feet snowboarded; 114,000 feet

Best spot for families; Sunshine Village in Banff

Best spot for a powder weekend; Revelstoke in British Columbia

Tips for when we do this again;

  1. We stayed in hotels that were slightly away from the main town centers / villages, and they were often 1/2 the price.
  2. We tried to stay in hotels that offered free breakfast, so we could eat in the morning while getting ready and not have to make another stop and spend extra money.
  3. I need to find a full size SUV that gets at least 20 MPGs. Maybe even something like a TDI Touareg that gets around 30 MPGs on the freeway. But otherwise, happy with the Land Cruiser.
  4. On almost every day, we rode from 9 am to 1 pm while carrying snacks, instead of taking a break for lunch. If we rode fewer mountains and fewer days, I’d extend those days out longer to maximize my time on the slopes.

 

Still Available Listings – October 2018

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Real estate activity over the last 2 years didn’t slow down for the fall season. In fact, I think November was our busiest month each of the last 2 years. And it was because a lot of people didn’t want to wait for the busy spring and summer seasons.

This year, we’re finally leveling out into a more level playing field as far as buyers and sellers go. That means we have more listings and buyers are able to be a little bit pickier.

The result, two of our listings are surprisingly still available. Both have had significant price drops over the last month.

MLS 1350518 – A 10 year old home in North Beacon Hill within walking distance to Rainier and multiple bus routes. It features 3 bedrooms and a price tag under $700K. Located at 1535 17th Avenue South, in Seattle 98144.

MLS 1341684 – A condo next to a great elementary school in the Klahanie neighborhood of Tanglewood, located in Issaquah. It features 2 bedrooms and a price tag of $319,000. Located at 25025 SE Klahanie Blvd, in Issaquah 98029

My advice is that if you’re a buyer in this market, now is the best time in the last 5 years to buy a home. Especially if you want to be picky about finishes, inspections, closing dates, and so on.

2016 Salomon Sick Stick 156 Snowboard

#FREE #SALOMON #SICKSTICK

It pains me to do this (again) but it’s time for someone else to enjoy this “sick stick.”

If you, or someone you know, wants to get into snowboarding, hit me up on my Instagram (@jin411) and introduce yourself.

I rarely buy into the fads, so I rarely own pro models (except the Kazu) and it took me forever to try rocker, and I don’t pay enough attention to what my board is made up of. But this is a board that all my diehard snowboard friends raved about.

Something about the float in pow, the ability to carve on hardpack, and the pop of the bamboo core. All with a nice blend of camber in between the bindings, and a little bit of rocker. And they were right. This is the board I would bring on vacation or to trips to Whistler when I didn’t want to bring multiple boards.

Again, my quiver is ever evolving just because I’m surrounded by gear on a daily basis. So getting rid of old boards is unfortunately the norm and something I’ll always regret in hindsight, like selling your Jeep.

If you’re a progressing rider who wants to expand your terrain, or someone who already frequents the backcountry, this would be a nice addition to your quiver. And in this case, it’s FREE. So hit me up.

Real Estate Update – Fall 2018

The real estate market has certainly changed over the past year.

A year ago, inventory was painfully low. Looking at emails from the fall of 2017, we had clients looking for homes on the Eastside around $700-$800K and there were literally just a handful of homes available in Issaquah and Bellevue. Most listings went pending within a week with multiple offers. We would often get emails about the same properties from multiple friends / clients.

Fast forward to today, as of this writing, if I were to do a search for 3+ bedroom homes for under $800K in Issaquah and Bellevue, there are 99 active listings and just 35 pending listings.

So what does that mean?

We tend to use terms like seller’s market or buyer’s market. It’s been a seller’s market for so long that the swing is catching some people off guard. I actually think it’s pretty balanced right now. There are definitely sellers out there that are willing to look at any offers, but for the most part, areas such as Mercer Island, downtown Bellevue, South Cove (Issaquah), Lakemont (Bellevue), are still very sought after and the sellers are willing to hold on for that buyer to come along who is willing to pay the asking price.

So what happened?

Things seemed to be trending this way for a couple of months. Earlier in the summer, we would see one property get 10+ offers, and then a similar property a month later would get 3 offers, and then another similar property would later get 1 offer. But over the past month, the buyers just stopped. They stopped showing up to open houses, stopped reaching out about new properties, stopped replying to our emails about new listings. I think a lot of them are fed up with the way sellers were treating them for the past several years. They’re fed up with the increasing prices, multiple offers, and competition with other buyers.

My biggest concern about this, as a real estate agent, is that this type of market is exactly what a lot of our buyers were waiting for.

A lot of this is typical, and some of the newer agents just aren’t used to it yet. A natural slowdown happens in real estate when kids go back to school (because parents don’t want to move during the school year), the weather cools down, days get shorter, people think about spending their money elsewhere (due to the holidays), and usually fewer homes are available on the market.

The fall slowdown never happened the past several years because buyers were still fighting for the few listings that were available. And a lot of them thought, “It’s fall, there’s still competition but there’s less competition compared to spring and summer, so we’re going to keep looking year round.”

So what’s next?

There’s no reason to think the market will crash or will stay slow like this. The Seattle job market is still strong, and people are still moving to the region. Interest rates are still low compared to what they’ve historically been. My guess is that some sellers will just take their listings off for the winter and wait to relist in the spring. We’re not getting a sense of desperation from most sellers. And it’s not like mortgages aren’t being defaulted in record numbers.

Our recommendation

We are seeing quite a few price drops. And we’re also seeing many homes stay on the market longer.

If you have been thinking about real estate, it is one of the rare moments in the recent Seattle market where the buyers have a little more control over what goes on. Inventory is still relatively low when looking at history.

I would take advantage of it and go take a look at some homes. If you’re not locked into a lease or some other commitment, it would be a great time to find your first home. For others, it might also be a great opportunity to upgrade to a new home, or find an investment property.

2014 Monument District 153 Snowboard

#FREE #MNMNT

It pains me to do this, as this board means a lot to me. But it’s time for someone else to enjoy it.

If you, or someone you know, wants to get into snowboarding, hit me up on my Instagram (@jin411) and introduce yourself.

Going back to the late 90s, I had started this snowboard company out of my dorm room. Around the same time, Monument Snowboards was launched by Dave Tran (follow him!) on the East Coast. I watched as his influence in the industry grew, even if Monument was mostly a small niche brand with a cult following. The designs and shapes were some of the most unique I had ever seen.

About 5 years ago, a friend of mine said he’d have a hard time supporting small snowboard brands, and I thought that was asinine. The small brands keep the big brands on their toes and aren’t afraid to innovate.

So I reached out to Dave and got a hold of this 2014 District 153 snowboard. It was the first flat camber board I had ever ridden. I thought it was amazing. The contact points were always on the snow and I could ride as fast as I wanted, but it could still butter and have a playful effect. Up until then, I had always loved classic shapes like the Burton Custom. But after that, I was riding blunt nose boards, pointy tip boards, swallow tails, a splitboard, and eventually, I started riding other smaller brands like Super Happytime Death Machine and United Shapes.

My quiver is ever evolving just because I’m surrounded by gear on a daily basis. So getting rid of old boards is unfortunately the norm and something I’ll always regret in hindsight, like selling your Jeep.

The Monument District is rare, it’s fun, it’s solid. And in this case, it’s FREE. So hit me up.

Canon DSLR and Skylab Gimbal

Growing up, with endless hours to play and goof around, one of the things I loved most was making videos with friends. Whether we were lip syncing to Michael Jackson or making projects for school, I loved going back and watching what we were able to create. Things nobody ever got to watch because it was a different time before internet, all things digital, and Youtube.

As a grown adult, I’ve always dreamt about making videos in my spare time. The problem now, of course, is the lack of spare time and the lack of friends who have spare time.

When I was a college student, my friends and I would make videos of us snowboarding around the Northwest and skateboarding around campus. And it’s really what led me down the path to where I am today. Our videos were noticed by a small local snowboard manufacturer, and we started building websites to showcase our photos and videos, creating content, and eventually working our way up to learn more about eCommerce.

Anyway!…

I’ve been thinking about what to do with stuff that sits and doesn’t get used much. That includes my Canon T1i Digital SLR camera and my Skylab Gimbal (the gimbal is designed to work with the iPhone 7 and 8. Not the Plus sized phones, unfortunately).

If you, or maybe your child, has shown an interest in videography and photography, hit me up on my Instagram (@jin411) and direct message me. I don’t expect too many people to respond to this, but my hope is that it will inspire someone.

2018 SkiBonkers Wraps Up

The 2018 SkiBonkers has just completed. Now it’s time for cleanup. It’s great to be a small part of SkiBonkers, which is an annual 4 day sale that takes place over Labor Day weekend. This year it was held at the old Sports Authority building on Bellevue Way in downtown Bellevue.

It’s great that so much of the community still supports a local small business, and SkiBonkers has been around since I was a little kid when I would visit with my dad (back then I remember it being put together by Olympic Sports and being sponsored by The End 107.7).

I hope that one day my kids will be taking their kids to it.