Backcountry skiing news roundup


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Well, we continue to wish you all a Merry Christmas. For our holiday, we took our new Yamaha Nytro snowmobile up to a cabin in Colorado’s Elk Mountains and spent three days backcountry skiing the beautiful blower powder that Colorado has been recently blessed with. Reporting more on that soon, but can say we got in a good real-life test of the new sled, as well as evaluations of a new Black Diamond backpack, use of our camera and video gear in the cold, and other sundry WildSnow type stuff.

Speaking of cameras, we continue to beat the Canon A720 IS to within an inch of its life. This time, the A720 was cold soaked in temperatures that hovered around fifteen degrees fahrenheit. The camera still functioned, with cycle time between shots noticeably slower. An interesting operator error also cropped up. To set an adequately high shutter speed while shooting downhill skiing, I either use Manual mode or TV (time preferred) mode. Problem is, if you have the flash set so it’s forced (as when using as fill), your shutter speed will default to 1/500th of a second, which is the highest sync speed for use with flash. Thus, if you forget to turn the flash off, all your shots may be grossly over exposed because the camera is dropping back to a slower shutter speed. The camera doesn’t warn you that this is happening, and in bright light you may not notice the flash is on. Something to remember, anyway…

Also along the lines of photography, we’re using the firmware hack for the A640 to full effect. Turns out you can install an intervalometer script for the hack, meaning you can use the camera to do time-lapse photos. As testimony to how robust a camera the A640 truly is, it was left on a tripod in sub 15 degree temperatures for hours while doing time-lapse, and it never whimpered.

On to a few news items. Could this be the winter of inbounds avalanches? Mitch Weber’s interesting experience kicked things off, and now we have an inbounds avy at The Canyons in Utah that killed one man and left a boy hospitalized in serious condition. Sure, I know the odds of this happening within a resort are probably slimmer than being killed in a deer/vehicle collision. Even so…when you risk avy death in the backcountry throughout the winter, you want to let down your guard occasionally and relax at the resort. So much for that plan.

Adding to the wakeup call this recent Canyons inbounds provides, note that the avy crown was only 60 feet wide and the avalanche only fell 600 vertical feet. This size slope is what many of us would consider to be “manageable” and tend to take more risk with than say a big open bowl 1/2 mile across. Take-home is that if an avalanche strainers you through timber, it can be small and still kill. Thus, as they teach in avy class, we always need to look at the consequences of a slide as well as the potential for the slope actually sliding.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately, as one of my tactics for safe backcountry skiing has been to link up smaller timbered slopes instead of going for large open bowls. Perhaps doing so could include some false assumptions on my part. Ever learning…

Update, December 27: The day I wrote this blog an inbounds post-control avalanche occurred at Big Sky resort, Montana. No one was caught. Sparse details here.

Local news from our area:
Aspen climber and high altitude skier Mike Marolt continues his work in film making. He’s been doing some enjoyable stuff. His latest, “Skiing the High Line,” is a collaborative effort with Cherie Silvera and Danny Brown. It concentrates on Marolt’s recent trip trip to Cho Oyu and Mt. Everest, where he had some worthy experiences with high altitude mountaineering. The film is free, with $15 donations accepted as a benefit to public school outdoor education in the Aspen area, as well as muscular dystrophy. January 3, 7pm, Wheeler Opera House, Aspen.

And finally, our “Ask Louie” question of the week:

Hi Wildsnow

While skiing yesterday I took a face plant in powder snow and popped out of both bindings. Upon getting up I realised the heel unit on one ski had come right off the heel post. Was my DIN setting wrong (I set it at 7 for a 70kg weight) or is there another problem there? I had the leash attached to the heel unit but with plenty of slack, this might be a factor. Although had I not done so I probably would not have found the heel unit in the deep snow.

Thanks for any info, JCS

Dynafit binding safety strap attach.
One method of attaching leash to Dynafit toe, from enclosed literature of uncertain vintage. For another idea check out our Dynafit binding FAQ.

This is the type of question that tempts us into jokes about needing ever more favor from Dynafit for providing customer service. But we’ll refrain since they’re already pretty danged nice to us (thanks boys). To answer the question: I’m pretty sure the manual that comes with Dynafit bindings shows that the safety leash should be attached to the toe unit, not the heel. So JC, your point about leashing the heel unit was indeed germane. Attach the leash to the toe like it’s supposed to be, and your problem shouldn’t recur. That said, inspect the binding and thimble bushing for damage (compare to the intact binding), and obtain new parts if anything is missing or lunched. So, with all Dynafit’s excellent WildSnow support in mind, to the right is a photo of how the safety strap is attached to the Dynafit toe unit.

Comments

2 Responses to “Backcountry skiing news roundup”

  1. Lucas Z December 26th, 2007 3:08 pm

    There seems to be a lot of avy activity surrounding resorts this year. Earlier this year I was caught in a small slide at Vail ski area, and luckily came out unharmed. Lou, I too have had my eyes opened for the chance of inbound avalanches this year. Whew!

  2. Gareth December 28th, 2007 4:07 am

    Truly great service from the wildsnow team!

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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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Backcountry skiing is a dangerous sport. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. While the authors and editors of the information on this website make every effort to present useful information about ski mountaineering, due to human error the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions or templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow its owners and contributors of any liability for use of said items for backcountry skiing or any other use.

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