Backcountry Skiing News Roundup


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | April 25, 2008      

WildSnow HQ local news first. Everyone, if you can make it to the 5Point Film Festival here in Carbondale you’ll be glad you did. I know the organizers, and can testify that they’ve put together a very compelling mix of film and personality that could possibly break the mold when it comes to outdoor sport movie fests. May 8-10, details here. Plan some Elk Range backcountry skiing for the morning, enjoy the festival during the day and evening!

I was over on the NOAA website getting weather beta for more backcountry skiing adventures, and noticed their take on greenhouse gas increases for 2007. Interesting reading about the large increase in carbon dioxide. I’d imagine all that CO2 is due at least in part to all the talk about global warming, and much more to China’s efforts at massive industrialization.

The subject of CO2 brings me to the recent “green” issue of Time Magazine. Did you read their large article, How to Win the War on Global Warming? Basically, it was an evangelical screed about how we need to spend a ton of money to cap our own carbon emissions (“2% to 3% of gdp a year for some time”!!). But read between the lines and study the issue, and you know that even if we reduce quite a bit, doing so will still make make no significant difference in climate change trends — unless countries such as China go along. The article mentioned nothing about how China would be compelled to join the band, other than to imply we as the U.S. have some sort of leadership position. What an incredible crock. We can barely make a dent in world hunger (due to geo politics), we continue to let Coors Lite be manufactured, and we’re supposed to take a leadership role for China? I love my country, but let’s be realistic.

Those French/English (sorry for the insult) bloggers over at PistHors.com just published an nice take on the multiple avalanche burial controversy. For those who’ve been sleeping: The sometimes catty hissing in the avy beacon industry is about whether beacons with fancy multiple burial functions are all that necessary. Are they worth the price, lack of battery life, durability issues, bulk, and complexity? Backcountry Access, makers of the Tracker, have been saying that perhaps multiple burial features are not all that important. Meanwhile, others in the industry say BCA is full to the gills with avy debris and that beacons should be whiz-bang capable of finding numerous buried victims.

The whole multiple burial controversy is really what I’d call a reality strike. Fact one: most buried avalanche victims must be dug out within 15 minutes or they perish. Fact two: digging a person out can easily reach the point of physical impossibility if only one person is on the shovel. Fact three: Even early analog beacons could be used for multiple burials, so some of this argument is hair splitting and has to do more with current emphasis in design, rather than absolutes. Fact four: If you indeed have a multiple burial, because shoveling is so slow and difficult there is a good chance those left standing will be looking at a nearly impossible recovery scenario even if their fancy beacons can find the victims.

PistHors points out that stats show most multiple burials happen while groups are climbing. I know in our case that’s almost the only time we do much (if any) exposure of more than one person to avy danger. We’re not alone in our approach, so PistHors makes a good point. Thus, behavior of groups while climbing is the key to the multiple burial issue. If most backcountry ski groups could simply spread out more while on the uphill in avalanche terrain (and always ski one at a time when exposed), I’d bet the multiple burial issue would indeed become statistically insignificant. Yeah, funny thing how it’s up to us to stay alive.

And what’s going on with those list-tickers trying to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks? As we blogged a few days ago, Ted Mahone recently completed his quest with a new route on Capitol Peak. Others hot on the trail include Crested Butte skiers Frank Konsella and Sean Crossen. Both have only a handful of peaks to go. The rough part of doing this is that peaks such as Capitol that are only in prime condition a few days out of the season, and most of us involved in the sport prefer descents that feel like we really skied the peak from the summit, rather than descents that require “billy goating” or even downclimbing extensive sections that lack snow. (Some of that is expected, but only in tiny doses.) Thus, the game Frank and Sean are playing can be nerve wracking and even expensive as they travel around the state trying to encounter the perfect combination of partners, snow conditions, weather, health, and so many other factors. But if it was easy…

One other thing: Don’t forget that this is Aspen Highlands’ last weekend of their amazing late spring opening. Last weekend Saturday was their second biggest day of the season! Let’s keep that going by showing up and supporting them by at least skiing a few runs and having your pass scanned. Or go big and taste some of the amazing backcountry you can access from the top of the resort. To whet your appetite:

Highlands view.

Northern part of Highlands Ridge, viewed from west, showing Highland Peak, Maroon Bowl, and a seldom seen few of the amazing terrain this offers provided the snowpack is appropriate in terms of avalanche safety and coverage.



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Comments

21 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. David April 25th, 2008 10:49 am

    That Coors Lite truly is a tragedy.

  2. Dongshow April 25th, 2008 12:04 pm

    Great post Lou. I agree with you fully on the multi-burial issue. I’d be far more interested in a more durable beacon with a better range. Having gone through my frist ever real rescue situation this year I realised I’d always overlooked just how hard it can be to find a beacon signal in the first place. A beacon with a giant range, say 160m or more, would be far more useful then a beacon specializing in multiple burials. In the last couple weeks we’ve had a bunch of old friends from Utah up visiting and discovered two of their beacons were faulty. One had an F1 that would only search and didn’t transmit a signal, and an M2 that seemed to turn on and off at will. The possibility of a beacon dieing at any moment is truely frightening.

  3. Ken Gross April 25th, 2008 12:41 pm

    The great global warming swindle is the biggest fraud since the Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences back in the Middle Ages!!

    It is just a money grab!! Carbon Taxes and Carbon Trading systems… If you pay them you won’t necessarily get into heaven… but at least you can put a cap on some of that liberal guilt, and then trade the excess!

  4. Mr. Harald April 25th, 2008 1:41 pm

    Re: global warming:

    I agree with you lou, if god didn’t want us burning oil, he would have never put it in the ground in the first place. Everything has a purpose, and everything is for the best. This is after all, the best of all possible worlds.

  5. Liberal Joe April 25th, 2008 2:54 pm

    Lou – love the skiing talk, don’t love the head in the sand approach to climate change. It’s happening whether you like it or not, and the US is more responsible than any other country. Our per capita emissions are still 9x higher than China’s! Pointing fingers won’t fly anymore, and unless we do something real there won’t be a lot of skiing going on in Colorado anymore.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons

  6. Dongshow April 25th, 2008 3:56 pm

    Harald, love the Voltaire reference. So I’m in the office still looking for some stiff tongues for my mega rides. Can’t find anything on the scarpa or garmont website. any ideas?

  7. Jay J April 25th, 2008 4:33 pm

    That’s right Mr. Harald; as the bad guy in the Magnificent 7 said; if god didn’t want them sorn – he wouldn’t have made them sheep.
    Since g8d gave us the ability to make deadly weapons – we should kill.

  8. Lou April 25th, 2008 5:00 pm

    Who said I didn’t think we should be wise with our resources? I just enjoy pointing out how wrong-headed much of this stuff is, in my opinion. As I’ve said before, I believe we have global warming. How we deal with it is where the dialog is and where I enjoy making some commentary. As for the swindle, I believe that there is some of that going on in how we deal with it.

  9. Scott Nelson April 25th, 2008 5:49 pm

    Just curious as to what beacons your readers use. I was looking at a BCA Tracker for my first. What does everyone use and why? (i.e. reasons you chose it).

    As for global warming, I always enjoy your comments Lou. Until mankind, worldwide, changes on a fundamental level, (i.e. realizing that we are stewards of this creation not abusers) then conditions probably won’t improve much. But then again, why all the fuss? I would think that a lot of folks (i.e. “scientists”) who are of the global warming camp, would believe that our planet came to be via chance through some primordial soup therefore, we evolved and so did the planet. If that’s true, then we can’t stop the process anyway, and it doesn’t make any sense that they would fight it. Species come and go, so why are we so special? It’s just the natural way of things, right?

  10. maelgwn April 25th, 2008 5:51 pm

    Just saying because there not doing it we shouldn’t be doing it either (ie reducing Carbon Emissions) is some sort of childish argument. The US still produces a massive amount of Carbon Dioxide and is the most influential economic power in the world. For these reasons it should be leading the way in saying we need to be more careful with our resources and with our environment. It is not a time for petty politics about who is or is not committing but for something to actually happen.

  11. Lou April 25th, 2008 6:15 pm

    Hi Scott, from what I’ve seen the beacon choices are really across the board. But yeah, anyone care to extol the virtues of their choice? I’ll say that I’m using Tracker. I favor the size of the Barryvox but after dealing with several that quit I went back to all Trackers for the family.

  12. cjw April 25th, 2008 9:28 pm

    >If most backcountry ski groups could simply spread out more while on the uphill in avalanche terrain (and always ski one at a time when exposed),

    Finally an excuse I can use why I’m always 5 minutes behind everyone else. 🙂

  13. Fernando April 25th, 2008 11:01 pm

    @Scott: First gen Tracker. Easy to operate, reliable so far. I’ve practiced single and multiple burial scenarios, and I was able to find the targets as quickly as others using fancier beacons. Understanding how a beacon works (EM field geometry, signal processing lag) helps me search more effectively. I work with software, and I worry about the reliability of the complex signal processing code in fancier beacons.
    @cjw: It’s not an excuse, it’s a safety measure 😉

  14. Mr. Harald April 27th, 2008 4:04 pm

    Okay – I was not contributing to the discussion. I wholly support a carbon tax, not to reduce carbon emissions, as Lou points out, that is a bit of a fool’s errand. But more importantly to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The USA is simply put, mortgaging our long term future for the short term joy of cheap energy. I suppose Lou and many others see a carbon tax as just another revenue stream for tax and spend politicians, and they are right. There are good taxes and bad taxes, good government and bad government.

    A carbon tax in which 100% of the revenue generated is spent on reducing energy consumption is the only sensible approach. In this approach you pay more to heat your home using natural gas, but the carbon taxes collected are used to subsidize the cost homeowners incur installing more and better insulation, better windows, a solar heating system, etc. Likewise, you spend more on gas, but mass transit is more available, or the cost of installing roof top solar is subsidized and cheap enough such that plug in hybrid cars begin to make economic sense. A smart policy compensates the losers, and encourages long term sensible energy investment. Sensible policy can achieve a pareto efficient outcome.

  15. Lou April 27th, 2008 4:48 pm

    Harald, well stated. I’m pretty skeptical about taxes having much net benifit, but good to examine the issue. The price of energy seems to be going up just fine without a carbon tax, by the way… We’re certainly using less because of that.

  16. Geof April 28th, 2008 10:59 pm

    Let’s not get on the “who’s fault” road when it comes to climate change. The reality that we as humans have such a HUGE role to play in the demise of our planet is just silly. We do effect it and can mess some things up, but we are only a tiny part of the picture. The “green house gases” put out by manure of our various mammals FAR outweigh the gases we put out as oil burning kritters… The climate IS changing… it always has and always will, both up and down. It’s pretty lofty of us, as humans, to think we have it THAT together that WE control much of anything with regard to how the atmosphere functions… Does this mean turning a blind eye? Of course not. But does it need to be the new religion??? Please.

    As far as beacons go, I have a Pieps multi. Didn’t buy it for that reason, it had good reviews overall. I’ve not had to use it “real life” but it has worked well in mock scenarios and picks up and zeros signals pretty fast. Overall it’s easy to use, though perhaps not as easy as the tracker. I put in new batteries and test mine everytime we go out. Might be excessive, but I do. AAA batteries can be used for lots of things anyway….I hope I never have to actually rely on it to save a life. At least it’s something…

    Great post Lou…

  17. dave downing April 29th, 2008 11:39 am

    as far as global warming/climate change/pollution/oil consumption/etc goes, no one seems discuss the little things that are indisputable like visible pollution (drive up 82 any weekday morning to see it), noise, traffic, and visible trash. think how much more pleasant our towns could be if everyone would just stop driving for short trips, utilized reusable bags for grocery runs or took their own coffee mug at the coffee shop, and made carpooling a primary focus when traveling with friends. Perhaps we might have better views, a more peaceful (quiet) in-town experience, get some exercise (bike riding or walking) and see less trash around town.

    if this seems like too much work to make things better, you can purchase carbon off-sets from me, you pay me, and i’ll ride my bike for you! 🙂

  18. adam olson April 29th, 2008 7:08 pm

    Right on Geof. Mother Nature will roll right over us like the dinosaurs we burn in our cars today. Its not the new religion but the new economy. Every time I read about going “green” somebody wants to take my green$! BUY new bulbs, BUY a new car, BUY some solar panels, BUY some offsets! Now we are actually considering taxing air!!!! I just kills me! What ever happened to good old fashion CONSERVATION. Hit it hard its going out!!! Right.

    Lets start with the bankrupt airlines. No more flights on Sundays. How nice would it be to NOT see some jet streaking past on your way up the mountain. 15% reduction in emisions OVERNIGHT!

    ao

  19. Geof April 29th, 2008 11:21 pm

    Dave… I like your idea… I think I will start selling personal offsets as well. Right on!!

  20. Lou April 30th, 2008 4:12 am

    I’ve got a few personal carbon offsets for sale. I’ll climb a peak and ski it, pay me $100 each time and I’ll sell you 100 miles of offsets for your SUV.

  21. Scott Nelson April 30th, 2008 7:42 am

    Geof, my sentiments exactly about how we as humans think we have so much control over the planet. We should be responsible and look for ways to make the planet a cleaner and safer place to live, but to think that we control the outcome of the climate is just a little too arrogant for me, but at least my tax dollars are going towards proving me wrong. The carbon offsets thing is funny. Maybe I’ll start wearing a shirt advertising “carbon offsets for sale” everytime I skin some laps.

    Thanks for the input on beacons. I ended up getting a Tracker.

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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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