Ski Touring News Roundup – Mid December 2017

By Lou Dawson | December 14, 2017  
Backcountry ski touring news.

Backcountry ski touring news.

The lack of snow in our home state Colorado has been a disappointment — though last night we did get a dusting of stellar crystals over most of the state’s mountains. Cake icing, though with rocks instead of sweetness underneath. We’re all watching the OpenSnow website like our meals depend on it. For some of us, especially smaller retailers, that is so.

In any case, amusing yesterday when Joel at OpenSnow recommended snowshoeing the Colorado thinlands. I’m not sure where he came up with the idea of how snowshoeing on 4 inches of snow had any utility — you can just as well hike the same terrain in trail running shoes.

But whatever. Many Colorado resorts have embraced uphill skiing, could snowshoeing be the next big thing? Think of it, ‘shoes work on rocks, scree, dirt and the thinner the snow the better. Quite versatile compared to skis. Perhaps we should all switch. It’s an incredibly fun activity for the whole family!

Dry winters in many regions of the world can bring bare ice on lakes and streams. That’s when the enormous mainstream sport of extreme backcountry ice skating rears it’s helmeted head. This little video evokes the appeal.

Well, yet another of many chances (ha) for your’s truly to become famous in the New York Times — that didn’t happen. The Grey Lady recently published an article covering ski resort uphilling. That’s like National Geographic publishing a photo essay on a previously undiscovered indigenous people of the Amazon. Somehow, my shameless self promotion radar didn’t get my new book on their plate. Oh well, good article anyway. Consolation prize, we did get a mention of the new book in Denver Post.

Not to be outdone, check out this uphilling article in the Rutland Herald. The breathless coverage of all this reminds me of the great telemark revival of the 1980s. Skiing, like anything, gets attention when something somewhat new is going on.

Indeed, as it was always funny how the word “mecca” was used in conjunction with telemarking, I thought I’d utilize Sir Google on a mandatory word search to see if “mecca” and “uphill skiing” were being used on the same webpages. Sure enough, I got a number of hits. Sunlight resort near here, for example.

For better or worse, a shout should go out to the masterful SHIFT binding PR-media campaign orchestrated like the Vienna Philharmonic by Salomon and their PR minions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many online articles saying the same thing about the same ski product on the same day. You’d think the SHIFT was actually the second coming or perhaps the solution to global warming. It’s just a ski binding, one that clearly might be nice for folks wanting an alpine binding they can ski tour with. Albeit at a weight penalty.

To Salomon’s cred, the SHIFT binding does what it does by virtue of an ingenious mechanism in the toe unit that hides the tech fitting toe pins while you’re in alpine mode. We of course did our own heavy breathing over the binding, and we’ll do our usual extended coverage over coming months (the binding will not retail until fall of 2018).

Speaking of Salomon-Atomic, bigger news beyond SHIFT might be that the simple back-to-basics MTN-Backland binding appears to be one of the few mainstream touring bindings in history that when released to retail did not begin displaying annoying or downright dangerous defects. That’s much bigger news. You heard it first here at! (Our publishing partner and post sponsor Cripple Creek Backcountry sells the MTN-Backland, check them out.)

Wildsnow warming watch: Lots of items about carbon sequestration are hitting the news. Like this one, about using dirt to save the planet. Or, is this magical thinking? Good article in Wired as well.


3 Tips Keep You Alive in Avalanche Terrain – Discuss

By Lou Dawson | December 13, 2017  
During extreme avalanche danger the lower portion of the approach trail is crossed by quite a few avalanches.

During extreme avalanche danger the lower portion of this Colorado hut approach trail is crossed by quite a few avalanches. They might take you into dense trees or a terrain trap.

We have a lot of avalanche safety tip “listicles” and essays here at WildSnow. To get everyone thinking as well as applying basic consideration in the backcountry, I pulled the following short list out of those posts. We’ve had a couple of exceptional winters here in Colorado in terms of avalanche accidents. Experts debate the reasons for that, instinct tells me it’s a result of many factors: snowpack, luck, etc., but I’m of the opinion that educated skiers adhering to protocols have enhanced the odds in their favor. As in the triad of suggestions below. Discuss? What’s your most common success, or failure?

1. Any one vote against a decision or route changes the group plan — groups always stay together.

2. If you descend first, your odds are worse. Take turns with the firsts, carefully arrange group for observation and quick response. (“I was eating my sandwich and eventually noticed “Bill” wasn’t around…”)

3. Obsess on consequences. A steep run that strainers thorough trees is near certain life changing injury or worse. A lower angled, shorter run without terrain obstacles can be a world of different. If you sport a balloon backpack, this rule is especially important as the airbag, other than perhaps violently bouncing you off a few tree trunks before it shreds, won’t help you one tiny bit during a 60 mph head first ride through a spruce forest. Those same trees are laughing at your “helmet.” Likewise, constant awareness of terrain traps (both small and large) is key.

For more, see our post relating Bruce Tremper’s 10 Commandments of Avalanche Safety.

Also see our extensive avalanche safety coverage.


Strafe Women’s Clothing Overview — High Performance Ski Touring

By Lisa Dawson | December 11, 2017  
Strafe Incubator jacket: ready, set, go.

Strafe Incubator jacket: ready, set, go.

Despite the mayor’s desire to make Aspen a hub for the backcountry industry, high rents, expensive housing, limited labor pool, etc., etc., make it a challenge to do business in the swanky mountain town. Thus, we applaud those who go for it and cross our fingers they’ll make it. The exceptional few survive; one way they beat the odds is by offering superior product.

(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry, they do sell Strafe, as well as a carefully selected variety of other outerwear for high performance ski touring. For information about our partner posts please see disclosures at the bottom of all website pages).

Case in point: Strafe Outerwear, owned and operated by Aspen hardmen and endurance athletes, Pete and John Gaston. In 2009 they began developing technical clothing for skiing hard and moving efficiently during long days in the mountains. By 2011 they established digs at the base of Aspen Highlands resort. Now entering the 2017/2018 season, their shop showcases a full men and women’s line, good for backcountry skiing and touring mountains far and near.

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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring 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 ski touring news and information here.

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