Josh Daiek and Abe Greenspan complete a second multi-peak tour
By Dave Zook
South Lake resident Josh Daiek likes skiing — and all types of it. From cutting his teeth on the gnarled steeps of Kirkwood, to winning the Freeskiing World Tour to filming award winning video parts, he is one of the most recognized names in freeskiing today. And with the last two winters holding real snow in the Tahoe area, he had to do some projects to show his local area some love. In the winter of 2015/16, he and snowboard friend Abe Greenspan decided to link up multiple peaks in the South Lake area — skiing from Meyers to Maggie’s Peak — which amounted to about 10,000 vertical feet, and they dubbed it the Tahoe Ten. Josh and Abe were back at it this year with a revamped version that took them from Kirkwood to Hope Valley and bagged five peaks along the way. But this isn’t skinny pants enduro touring, it’s steep lines with consequence and a ton of full throttle turns, keeping to their goal of putting skiing at the heart of it, not just amassing vert. We recently caught up with Josh to see what all went down with these wacky and lovable projects.
How did you come up with the idea for a long multi-peak day trip?
It was a pretty casual thing, the way it started. I was just hiking around last season with my buddy Abe Greenspan – who I’ve been doing these Tahoe Ten projects with. This was the first year we had snow in the Basin in quite some time, and we were touring right out of Meyers and South Lake and skiing Flagpole, Tallac, and all these different peaks. We were going up Tallac doing two runs, or going up Angora Peak and doing three runs and we said we should try to link a bunch of peaks together and see if we can get from point A to B, and just started throwing out ideas. Amid ideas, we said “what would be the coolest thing we could do,” and that’s kind of how it started. It was more just wondering how far we could get in a day.
Then we figured if we were going to do it we should GoPro it and try to get a cool little edit out of it. So that’s what happened last year, and it was received pretty well, so we thought, let’s try again and do another one, and that’s kind of how we got onto this year, and tried to come up with another cool tour and something unique, and not just let’s go smash out vert but we wanted to ski cool lines along the way, was basically the thought. That was how it started and It worked out that they were both roughly 10,000 vertical feet, which worked out with what we’re calling it now, the Tahoe Ten. It wasn’t ever let’s see if we could hike 10,000 feet. It was more, wouldn’t it be cool if we could ski from Meyers, where we live, basically out our backyard, and ski to Emerald Bay? And that led to the first tour.
How did you come up with the route you did this year, after completing the route from last year?
After we did the first year and calling it the Tahoe Ten, we were locked into 10,000 vertical feet of climbing. We were initially thinking South Shore. We thought of a ski tour from the backside of Luther and hike to Jobs Peak and ski Jobs almost to Gardnerville, and hike back up to Jobs Sister and then Freel and hike back up and ski more peaks, and we thought that was a cool tour and a cool link-up but to me it didn’t quite fit our business plan, if you want to call it that. There wasn’t that reward, you didn’t get to ski something that’s fucking really cool. It was like, sure you got this sweet long run but there wasn’t much to it. So me and Abe were hemming and hawing, and we knew we had to satisfy our need to ski cool lines but we’re also trying to satisfy this goal of 10,000 vertical feet. It was Abe’s idea and he said what if we went from Kirkwood and we could ski the Cirque and ski tour to Emigrant and then Round Top and so on. And he laid out the whole thing and I thought it sounded pretty sick but it was a lot of ground to cover, so we wondered, could we go that far in a day? It ended up working out great and we had an awesome day with it.
When it was all said and done, what were the main differences between the two tours?
I feel like last year’s tour was a lot cooler in a way, just for me in a personal way, from my opinion and where I stand. Because that year I started ski touring less than a mile from my house. And we got some really cool lines and those lines hadn’t been in for years. But this year, having Round Top, it was kind of nasty when we skied it, it was early season, there was pepper in the snow and boiler plate ice under the snow, and it was a very real line at that point. I’ve skied it many times and it can be mellow but this time it was pretty real, it was like don’t eff this up, it could be game over if you crash.
The filming efforts seemed to be a big step up this year from the year before. Was it ever a concern that getting the shot would interfere with the tour? Any logistical challenges to getting cameras ready when you’re pressed for daylight?
Honestly, not really. We used one of my good friends Dane Henry, and his company Deep Roots Media. He and another good friend Bly Gileys (SPELL CHECK). It was pretty much seamless, they crushed it. Bly’s a gnarly endurance athlete so he was fine chasing us around. That dude was definitely the true hero in this story. They carried camera gear and chased us around and went to more than half the summits with us. Hiking here and there to get the various angles. Basically that was some of the motivation, as we were bouncing ideas around, I talked to Dane, who is the most talented cinematographer/editor that I know in the area and he was free to film. I was thinking of filming pillows or tree skiing and Abe’s said that Dane and Bly could go, so let’s shoot a Tahoe Ten and go tomorrow. And I thought, holy shit! That’s rather abrupt, I’m not in that good of shape, and I’m not quite ready, but alright let’s go for it! We literally talked about it one day, and it wasn’t the next day, but the following day we did it. So we had two days prep. We talked about it on Christmas, and on the 26th I still had family in town, and then the 27th we did it, with a 3am start leaving Meyers. We had to take advantage of the situation with these badass filmers, and if we wanted to make a badass edit, we had to do it now.
Obviously you and Abe were skiing and riding a lot, but sounds like you didn’t “train” for it like some might think of when associated with long ski tours, is that accurate?
This year, since we had so much snow, I’ve been doing more resort skiing than I have in years. So my ski touring fitness is not that good. I even asked Abe, ‘are you feeling up for this, are you fit enough to do this?’ and he said ‘yeah I’m on off-the-couch kinda guy, I can do it.’ So I said alright let’s do it.
In those types of situations where you’re not in the best shape it becomes a mental game. Where yes you’re tired but just keep moving, and it’s just one day, just deal with it. You’re not doing it every day, just man up and muscle through type thing.
The terrain is clearly technical and steep. Was that an important component of the edit, to make it more interesting to watch?
Yes. When Abe and I tour together we’re typically trying to get a little scared, or ski something steep trying to get our hearts pumping a little. At this stage in our life that’s what we like to ski. So to satisfy our goal of the Tahoe Ten we didn’t want to ski mellow terrain. We wanted to hike our brains out and keep the 10,000 as a goal but we wanted to ski cool lines.
Any plans for a next tour, or a third Tahoe 10?
Nothing set in stone now, we keep bouncing around ideas. We were looking into Freel and Jobs area, or going into Desolation wilderness. But it comes down to satisfy our goal, to get that reward, to ski something cool. I’m not doing it to say look what we did, to be a claimer, even though it’s totally what I’m doing (laughs). No, totally joking, but we are definitely looking for something more, so hopefully something comes to us. We are open to ideas, and we don’t know North Shore like we do South shore, so if there are cool link-ups, we are 100% open.
Did you have a message that you wanted to get out there with the edit?
I feel that the Sierra Nevada is one of the most underrated mountain ranges in the West. So I wanted to bring some light to Tahoe and let people know it’s actually pretty sick here, because people like to bag on Tahoe a lot. I was thinking let’s just see how far we can go and document it. And if we release it, hopefully it will inspire people. Hopefully people are thinking — even the weekend warriors — let’s see how far we can go. Maybe it’s not five peaks and 10,000 vert, but maybe it’s two or three peaks. My thought is try to create inspiring content and get people to push their own limit and what they can do.