Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

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Central Colorado just had wintry storm number 4 (WS4). Backcountry skiing is in full swing at higher elevations, though lower areas will probably be without a truly skiable snowpack for a while yet. After all, it is only October.

Sun Valley Trekking has acquired a new yurt for their quiver of backcountry shelters in Idaho. Check it out. I’m SVT’s webmaster, so I’m way past due for a trip out there to enjoy some Idaho pow and get first-hand experience with a long time client. Such is on tap for this winter — should make for some good blogging.

As many of you know, Life-Link imports a somewhat limited number of Dynafit bindings every year. The units sell out and are hard to find in the fall, and new models such as the Vertical series arrive slow. The folks at Life-Link tell me that this years crop of bindings is coming in sooner than later, and many are already here on the “dock.” Dynafit is becoming ever more popular, and should continue that trend now that “big mountain” skiers are finding out you can mount a set on a pair of big planks and thus trim weight from what can sometimes be a hefty load. Ergo, when your movie sponsorship deals run out and the sound of that last free helicopter fades into the distance — go Dynafit!

Here at Wild Snow we’ve been making quite a few behind-the-scene improvements. I just got done creating a link index in the famous Dynafit FAQ, and continue adding older backcountry skiing blog posts to the archive (nearly done with March 2005). Our advertisers are still excited about representing themselves to all you blog readers, so a big thanks for stopping by and checking things out. We’ve got lots of gear blogs coming up, including backcountry skiing binding details for both the old and the new.

The ISSW (International Snow Science Workshop) was completed in Telluride, Colorado a few days ago. I asked one participant what sort of undercurrent themes ran through the event this year. “I heard a lot about avalanche instruction, and how it appears many people are not applying their knowledge to make good decisions,” he said, “instead, people with avy education are still going out and rolling the dice.”

As for avalanche safety training, how about evaluating your level of gonzo with our personal risk quiz (see Avalanche menu item above), then taking an online avy safety refresher course?

Rando Racing: The second 24 Hours of Sunlight is scheduled for this February 3-4. This year’s race will be somewhat different and appears to favor non-skiing modes of travel. The course is divided into an uphill and downhill, with the uphill a slightly overall lower angled climb that will eliminate any equalizing advantage randonnee and telemark skiers have over x-c skiers, foot runners and snowshoers, all who carry much less weight on the climb and thus are quite a bit more efficient than rando/telemark on the uphills. (Races like this are won on the uphill, since time gained on the downhill is minimal in comparison, but a longer lower angled downhill is an advantage for skiers as they can glide it out much faster than foot travel.) Having equipment classes would do much to improve this situation, but appears from reading the website the race will only have age classes with no divisions based on gear, though that could change (we’ve suggested it). Whatever the case this year’s 24 Hours should be interesting to participate in our watch. I expect some of our local nordic uphill/downhill specialists will do well if they go for it, but I’d imagine foot runners such as Bernie Boetcher will do best.

Comments

7 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. scott October 12th, 2006 2:37 pm

    Sunlight Rondo Racing: seems like the climb up rebel will be a lot steeper then the climb up Beauj last year. Also on the decent the cross slope fall line on beauj. should give the mortals sporting the recommended light x-country gear a little something to think about at 2a.m.

    Still looks like fun anyway.

  2. Lou October 12th, 2006 5:18 pm

    Hmmm, I’ve climbed them both quite a bit and the Rebel top section is probably about the same as Beauj (without that one little steep headwall), but the approach will be fairly low angled for quite some distance. Same vertical, more distance via Rebel = lower angled. I feel like having the shortest part of the course as the uphill and the longer for the downhill would be nicer for skiers (and give them a slight advantage, since it’s promoted as a ski race).

  3. Scott October 12th, 2006 5:58 pm

    If Bernie can keep up the running/hiking/snowshoeing for 24 hours, then I don’t care if the course seems to favor guys like him, it would just be cool to watch him do it! It’s a lot harder to run down those things than ski it, at least in my experience. I hope he does it this year! And I hope to try my hand at it this year, but I’ll be on teles or maybe some randonnee if I ever make up my mind what to get. Sounds like Dynafits are a no brainer though.

  4. Lou October 12th, 2006 6:11 pm

    I agree, I just think it’s more fun if there are at least some sort of gear classes for this sort of thing, especially if the course favors something over another. Of course it could snow that time of year for 20 hours straight and be post holing for the booter crowd. That would be fun, he he he.

    Scott, if you do it on teles then get some with the touring pivot with lighter tele boots and lighter skis and that setup would work pretty good for the race.

  5. Mike Marolt October 13th, 2006 9:39 am

    Lou: I am working with the race coordinator to see what can be done with the gear classes. More on that later. But I don’t think there is that much difference between the two runs as far as the up goes. But on the descent, with no uphill traffic, guys will really be able to fly. If only for the descent, it will make the race a ski race on par with last year. I do think it will make it a better race for snow shoeing which I hope generates more racers. As for the issue of runners, I only saw one or two last year, so not sure how much of an issue that is. If someone wants to go out and run up and down, and up and down, better them than me. Please come out runners! I think you feel the same way, the skiing aspect to that race was a complete blast. It is significantly more fun than a 24 hour bike race in that the up vs the down with skis really mixes it up. Plus, the skiing is a challenge on the AT gear, at night, and after many hours. So it kind of keeps it fresh. I do think a good xc skier could really do well at this venue, but so far, this is a ski race, heel locked, pure and simple. I do want to encourage the telemarkers to get to this and prove their point. I know some tele skiers that could really push this but if you don’t show up, you can’t win.

    My prediction is that this will be dominated by AT equipment, and the difference of the uphill portion is due to safety much more than anything else. Greg mentioned to me that that one steep section last year really messed up the pace, and without it, he thinks he could have possibly done even more verts. So the new course smooths that out for the better. But expect more of the same as last year with the added safety of separate up vs down.

    In any event, we are looking for a large crowd so my advice to people is get to the web site, get signed up sooner than later, and start training. Feb is right around the corner. And see you out there. This is a super personal challenge, a ton of fun, and one of if not the best endurance events i have ever participated in. The concept has definitely exceeded my original expectations!

    Mike Marolt

  6. g woelk October 17th, 2006 11:43 am

    Mark:

    Out of curiosity, why is the solo class (at $300.00) so expensive. (I understand you have to be self supported with food, etc. as well.) I would like to do, but $300.00 is fairly stiff, particularly when compared to other endurance type races. Is there something I am missing here?

  7. Lou October 17th, 2006 12:07 pm

    I’ve wondered the same thing. Been told it’s because the race is more expensive to produce. More shelter is required, the ski mountain has to have patrol working all night long, etc. etc., but it does seem kind of steep. I didn’t notice if there were any cash prizes, if so then that’s part of it as well… perhaps Mike can chime in here…

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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