PowderPeople | Zach Paley - Conditions Reporter der Woche



Unser dritter Conditions Reporter der Woche ist Zach Paley, der immer wieder aus den entlegeneren Ecken der Welt für uns berichtet - mal in Form von mit Powderbildern gefüllten Japan CRs, mal mit längeren, persönlichen Reisegeschichten aus Lyngen, Argentinien, oder Kirgistan.

Niseko Trees add_circle
Darren Teasdale, Niseko Photography
Zach Paley
Niseko Trees

Unser dritter Conditions Reporter der Woche ist Zach Paley, der immer wieder aus den entlegeneren Ecken der Welt für uns berichtet - mal in Form von mit Powderbildern gefüllten Japan CRs, mal mit längeren, persönlichen Reisegeschichten aus Lyngen, Argentinien, oder Kirgistan.

How's it going? How has your season been so far? 

Winter has been good so far. I guess. December was pretty ridiculous until about Christmas. We have been getting some rain about once a week since then. And my sixth toe has been acting up. I was healthy last year, and this has been a frustrating reminder of how much winter sucks when you can't ski, even for a few days. That said, it has been worth it. Some of the early season night skiing we had was some of the best in bounds resort riding I have ever had.

You are a conditions reporter for PowderGuide. What else should we know about you? 

Conditions reporting sounds so official! I first got an e-intro to Tobias in 2013 when in Lyngen. He liked my photos and offered to let me do some editorial style writing about how the skiing was that spring. Lots of people had taken an interest in the area and it was one of those 'right place, right time' sort of things. I wrote again about Lyngen in 2014 and was introduced to Lea and Lorenzo. I got to ski with them in Argentina the past couple of summers and things have remained relatively editorial/trip report focused and informal. 

I'm pretty inconsistent with posting for a few reasons. I like to write and take photos of a place that's new to me. There's also a creative aspect that doesn't always flow for me. Sometimes it's as simple as the fact that a computer isn't available. In the months of May, June, and July, I work for Outward Bound where I take groups of teenagers age 13-18 backpacking, canoeing, and climbing in the woods of Maine. We spend as much as 22 days at a time in the woods. So even something simple like a shower can be an infrequent luxury.

These days I also work as a ski guide and photographer in Japan. I'm currently Hokkaido based but started out on Honshu. Both places are pretty special. 

Tell us about your homespot. What is special about it? 

My two homes are Japan and Argentina. I like these two places because they are polar opposites. Japan has lots of treeskiing, deep powder, shorter descents, easier access, lots of infrastructure. Argentina has no trees, infamously terrible snow, long descents, difficult access, and terrible infrastructure. 

They are polar opposites off the hill too. Argentina has lots of partying and late nights, a meat intensive diet, it's a culturally loud and fun loving place. Not that Japan isn't fun, however the partying in Japan is nothing like what it is in Argentina. The diet is simple and vey healthy, and the mornings are early. One thing both of these places have in common is great people that are always excited to share skiing and the mountains. It's a big part of what keeps me coming back to both. 

What is your perfect set up and why? 

I ride the Praxis GPO 90% of my year and it is pretty perfect for almost any conditions I can find. Right now I'm on Dynafit Speed Radicals and Salomon S/Labs. I'm finding the hard way that the Solomons are a bit narrow for my feet, but they're otherwise a good boot that skis really well. I wish Dynafit hadn't gone back to the turn model and had kept making the Speed Radical. 

My most important gear is my clothing though. If I can stay warm and dry all day, I stay happy. I like neoshell a lot, and find Patagonia comes out with pretty innovative gear when it comes to breathability and functionality.

While I get what I can afford, I hate to have something that doesn't work, and would rather pay money for the right gear than pay nothing for something that doesn't perform as well. I usually stick with companies that have lifetime warranties because I destroy gear quickly, thus my Patagonia addiction.

Alexa Hohenberg
Zach Paley

Any special piece of gear that you'd recommend for everyone that often gets overlooked/forgotten? 

Unfortunately most of my gear falls apart within two years so I don't have much that has seen lots of adventures aside from my water bottle. However I do always enjoy cleaning out my backpack or pockets before a big trip. Last year while packing for Japan, I found dust in my pockets from Argentina. A few years back I went to the desert and had sand in my shoes and sleeping bag for weeks. This year, while packing for Argentina, I found five crushed Snickers bars in the bottom of my backpack from Kyrgyzstan. I still have a Mantecol bar in my snack bag from Argentina right now. It's fun to have little mementos of places visited. 

I guess rather than a specific piece of gear that's amazing for certain situations, I try to carry things that work universally. Sometimes it's about bringing less rather than more. 

How do you approach risk management in the backcountry? 

Unfortunately there are very few reliable sources for information in my two homes. Japan due to spacial variability of the snowpack, Argentina because of the lack of information. This means I usually make my own decisions. I like hand pits a lot, and stress the importance of simply paying attention when walking up something. If I can avoid objective hazard but still touch the snow before I ski a line, I will. With regard to snow education, I have my AIARE 2, which is a four or five day certification. I took the course back in 2009, so I'm very overdue to do more. However even if the American system wasn't currently in turmoil and the Canadian system wasn't obnoxiously expensive, neither systems offer courses outside of peak winter (December, January, February), and courses fill up too quickly given I am away from a computer so often. It's as if they don't want people to be able to take the courses. If none of this were the case, I would still have to fly back to North America to take one of these courses. So I continue to not get around to these things. 

My homes also don't have the advanced level of search and rescue that exists in the Alps, so I have to maintain a certain level of first aid certification. I have a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), which are 80 and 140 hour courses respectively. 

This is a rabbit hole one can discuss for hours. I tend to get excited when seeing something that I think works and want to just try it. I'm working on resisting this urge and making more conservative decisions. I don't know if it's going very well. Maybe I'm just getting old. 

What was your best ever ski trip and what is still on your hit list?

My first time to Alaska comes to mind instantly. It was a pretty terrible experience at the time. I had never hiked days over 1800m consistently, and got really beat up by it. Living in an RV without the comfort of heat or showers for three months was a huge challenge for me. I lost a lot of motivation due to fickle weather, and wasn't getting along very well with my friends by the end of the trip. It took a while to process, as I did not learn much while on the trip. Though looking back on it, I draw from the experiences of that spring. I have learned to be a better skier, ski partner, and friend.  

My hit list? I still haven't skied outside of Norway or Sweden on the European continent. So I have much to do. It looks like I might finally visit some of the popular spots in Switzerland and Germany this year, though I have said that for the past several years so nothing is certain.

Beyond that? Well, almost anywhere there is skiing. 

Places I have never been to that I hope to visit in the next several years include Georgia, Peru, and Columbia. I love combining interesting culture with amazing mountains. That and all of my mountain friends and mentors have been to or recommended visiting these places. 

Some better known specific locations that are on my list include Lofoten, Rishiri, the Darwin Range, Terrace, the Tordrillos, and Cajon del Maipo. All of those are places close to others I visit frequently. It seems necessary to check them out.

I still have a laundry list of things I want to revisit in the Chugach, Lyngen, the Tantalus and coast range.

Patrick Fux, Powdermania
Zach Paley

What is special to you about freeride skiing? 

The name says it all. It is the epitome of freedom. You make your own decisions, take your own risks, and go where you want. Surfing, you are limited to where the waves are good. Climbing you can get rained out. Biking you need to follow a trail. Skiing, if there is snow, you can go. I'll give it to rivers though. If I wasn't terrified of water, kayaking or rafting might be something for me. 

It's more than just freedom. I like to be challenged. Could I be passionate about groomers or xc skiing or bowling? Sure. Are they mentally and physically demanding the way freeride is? Absolutely not. The unique combination of a physically and mentally demanding activity that can be fun is only paralleled by the sports I mentioned above. And they all have their limitations where, to me at least, freeride does not. 

Why do you write conditions reports for PowderGuide?

I like writing to supplement my photos. It's another creative outlet. Sometimes it gets me gear which I need for another trip. Most of the time it's just fun to put together a trip report so I can look back a few years later and reminisce on an experience. 

I don't share anywhere near as much as I write. Maybe I'm shy about what I share, maybe I'm critical and overthink it, maybe I am too sensitive to feedback. 

Ideally I just ski with my friends, without the bullshit.

Couloir or big powder face?


Schnitzel, fries & salad or Käsespätzle? (Zach: this is about food. What do you want to eat after a big ski day)

Recognized Schnitzel and love that stuff. Asado or ramen are my go-to's. Mostly because they're the food of my homes. I'm a huge fan of calories. I love all food.

Schnapps or beer?

Beer. Or Argentine wine.

Mallorca or Ischgl (Zach: this refers to party destinations. Where do you go to rage?)


Biking or climbing?

Climbing these days. Can't afford a mountain bike.

Singing or dancing?

Standing awkwardly in the corner drinking heavily. 

Apres Ski party or sauna?



Hier geht es zu Zach's Japan CRs und hier zu seinen Reisestories

Zach bietet in Japan Guiding Services an. Er findet nicht nur den besten Schnee, sondern kennt natürlich auch die besten Onsen und Sushi Lokale! Ihr erreicht ihn unter dieser Emailadresse.

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