Backcountry Skiing News Roundup April 2008

Post by blogger | April 16, 2008      

How about we begin with a Colorado corn report from yesterday. We headed up to the Elk Mountains to see what the snowpack is doing. Conditions are still transitional, with a somewhat compacted situation on southerly exposures at and below timber, with everything else presenting the usual breakable crust that April tends to bring us when sunny days have been few. Fun no matter what:

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Dave does duty as a ski model. As he discovered, we’re loaded up with snow and ready for spring skiing.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Brandt is visiting from the Front Range. It was windy today, so he felt at home. Good free heeler.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Dave taught us that breakable crust can be good for carving. That is, if you’re on Marker Dukes, with BD Method boots, driving a huge pair of Kastle skis. I was on my K2 Baker SLs and they worked okay, though it took me a few turns to adjust.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Chad enjoyed it as well, though he agreed that today, one lap was enough.

The News

This winter’s spate of cliff hucking skier deaths has inspired quite a bit of interesting dialog. As part of the community, we had to tread lightly when publishing our blogs about the subject, but a couple of news columnists were not so diplomatic. Check out Paul Andersen’s op-ed from the Aspen Times, excerpt follows:

…How can we cheer at images of these young, talented athletes as they risk their lives for a moment of rapture? What is the role of parents, siblings, friends, sponsors, fans and commercial interests? And how are we, as a community, supposed to mourn their injuries and deaths when the ski culture promotes risk so profitably and enthusiastically?

If this trend represents a new social revolution, then it is being acted out with revolutions in the air on skis, snowboards, snowmobiles and motorcycles. This revolution might be valid for those living it, but not if deaths and injuries are tradeoffs for commercial gain.

“He died doing what he loved” is an unacceptable epitaph. It is time to re-evaluate the direction of the ski industry, and soon, before more deaths and injuries shock this community into the grim awareness that the cost of selling risk is way too high.

— Paul Andersen

Speaking of mainstream media and their take, have you noticed how the Fourth Estate has glommed on to the possibility that certain plastic water bottles may ruin your life because they release a chemical into your beverage? It’s always funny to see the hysteria when some possibly trace chemical is discovered, which we might be consuming, and just might cause issues. While meanwhile just about everything we eat or breath has all sorts of toxins that are proven to be deleterious given the proper quantities.

And therein lies the rub. Just about anything can harm us given we consume enough — conversely, you can swallow or breath some of the most deadly poisons known to man so long as the quantities are small.

Bottom line on the plastic water bottle question is that some types of plastic, notably polycarbonate (Lexan), are the ones that might be problematic — especially when filled with hot water that leeches the toxin more readily. Other types of plastic, most notably the HDPE used in the less sexy “cloudy” and more flexible Nalgene bottles, do NOT release the substance, bisphenol A, that is causing the controversy.

I’ve always liked my more flexible and lighter weight HDPE plastic water bottles from Nalgene, as opposed to the Lexan ones. Perhaps I’ve got another reason not to switch. Article here.

One more thing: If you can get to Aspen this coming weekend remember that Highlands ski area will be open for this coming weekend, and the weekend after that as well. The backcountry terrain you can get off Highlands is some of the biggest in the country. It’s so vast that it’s hard to even document or write about, though perhaps we’ll try.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


9 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup April 2008”

  1. Mark April 16th, 2008 10:37 am

    Haven’t heard a word about Kastle skis in 20 years. Once borrowed a pair with Salomon racing bindings maxed out in DIN. Scary, but I didn’t ruin my legs in any mangling falls.

  2. Dongshow April 16th, 2008 10:46 am

    Craig Medred’s writing makes him look like an absolute clown. Any time there is a local accident or death a Medred column pops up so he can tell us how much smarter he is then the rest of us. He wrote an abhorent column, essentially mocking some local avalanche victims, and proceeds to blame avalanche beacons for people taking to much risk. By chance it appeared in the paper the morning after we’d rescued a completely buried friend. I wrote a response you can find here if anyone is interested.

    Thanks a lot for Blog Lou, I recently discovered you and the range of topics you handle with ease is amazing. It really brightens up my mornings at work.

  3. Tim M. April 16th, 2008 1:24 pm

    Hi Lou,

    I have mixed feelings about this topic, but at this time I’m comfortable sharing only my condolences. Given the dialogue, I did want to offer a link to a guest opinion, by Weems Westfeldt, in the Aspen Daily News, responding to Paul Anderson’s piece.

  4. Lou April 16th, 2008 1:52 pm

    Thanks Tim, if this had happened to our family I don’t know if I’d have the guts to be writing about it as Weems does. He’s amazing.

    Good points on both sides of the issue. Most certainly, the motivations of anyone involved in risk sports are complex and multi faceted. But that doesn’t let us off the hook when it comes to figuring out if these kids might be going over the line in terms of risk vs reward.

    If anything, I hope Weems appreciates that parents such as myself or Paul would be examining these issues and speaking with our children about them. One blog reader told me that was exactly what he’d been doing, and that the conversations had been productive. So that honors those who passed, and their survivors should know that’s a positive aspect of all the dialog.

  5. JK April 16th, 2008 2:11 pm

    Lou – sorry to go off topic from the current comments related to this blog. However the topic of Lexan -vs- HDPE water bottles reminded me of a lighter moment I had while working with an outdoor youth program.

    While getting water after a long hike I decided to show the kids the superiority of my Lexan bottle over their standard issue HDPE bottles (the Lexan bottles are indistructable you know). I threw the thing directly at a rock and it exploded. The kids, not to be outdone, proceded to throw their HDPE bottles against the same rock and they simpley bounced off. So maybe the HDPE water bottles are better. These days I simply reuse the 1L soda bottles though. They are cheaper and lighter than the expensive stuff in outdoor stores.

  6. Lou April 16th, 2008 4:10 pm

    The soda bottles work really well and they’re light. But the Time mag article of course give a dire warning about how bacteria grow in them. Got to keep that negativity going no matter what, isn’t that their job?

  7. AJ April 17th, 2008 1:23 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Cliff drops? Avalanches? Don’t underestimate blogging as a health risk! 🙂

  8. Bob M April 17th, 2008 2:27 pm

    Isn’t it funny how we will risk our lives for the thrill of sport but vehemently protect ourselves from perceived toxins all around us. Sure we’ll eat only “naturally grown” grains and drive biodesel cars in order to fight the fine fight against the evils of global warming but risk our very lives for thrill in order to “feel” alive. Where’s the balance?

    It’s not just professional freeskiers risking life and limb. Correct me if I’m wrong but scores of skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and mountaineers die every year striving to feel alive. At the same time thousands live on and enjoy. How many people die on our nations highways? Thousands. Are they risking theirs live to “feel” alive? No, they’re just trying to live. I don’t see any articles about the insanity of risking ones life to get to work or go shopping.

    Obviously the difference seems to be money in the case of professional athletes. But professional athletes die all the time for their respective sport. How many basketball and football players drop dead from defective heart during workouts?

    My solution is to stay at home turn of the TV, eat steak, french fries and drink martinis every day. It’s an old thrill sport but I’m willing to risk it.

  9. Lou April 17th, 2008 2:59 pm

    Sounds fun, but do I have to drink the martinis?

    I could write a blog about the insanity of risking all for shopping, but we’re covering a different subject.

    There is plenty of insanity in the world, that is axiomatic.

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