Backcountry Skiing News Thursday

Post by blogger | September 11, 2008      

Here at WildSnow Word Headquarters, I’ve been busy as a coyote in a mouse nest. Details details. We’ve got test boots dropping like bombs from the UPS truck, a blog design and software upgrade on the way. Son heading off to college. A new smartphone to learn. Hold on!

Yep, along with running the latest version of our blogging software (WordPress, for those who care), we’re working on a mobile version of Wildsnow for those of you who like to web browse on tiny screens. Ditto for our RSS, which we’ll be tweaking eventually when all else is ready.

I’m not finding web surfing all that great on a 2 1/2 inch wide screen, but am looking forward to managing and posting blog comments from almost any location. No more running out of the gasthaus just to handle some minor website issue. Instead, fire up the PDA and order up another hefe, but don’t spill it!

A few weeks ago Jordan White got his own WordPress blog up and running. Jordan gets around. He’s a big strong climber who makes you wonder if he’ll simply tear a few hundred feet off the top of any mountain that gives him trouble. I’m looking forward to his trip reports, and he’ll be filing some guest blogs here as well, as our resident “big guy” ready for abusive gear testing. Check out Jordan’s recent trip to Russia.

A bit of sad news from Colorado. The annual “Avalanche Jam” CAIC avy center fundraiser was supposed to go off last week. Instead the event was canceled at the last minute due to a permitting problem. Wow! That’s pretty major as the “Jam” was a good funding shot, and now it’s been shot down.

More from this part of the world. Land use issues have come to a head near Aspen, with the Forest Service on the side of their special use permit holders. In this case, Aspen Skiing Company runs snowcat powder skiing on a mix of private and public land behind Aspen Mountain ski area. Snowmobilers and sled skiers want to use the land as well, mostly because a system of roads maintained by the ‘cats make snowmobile access a breeze. Weekends up there have become a scene — simply too many people in one place. So the USFS has ruled they’ll keep the public sledders away from the commercial snowcat skiing operation — and even have a USFS enforcement person up there on a regular basis.

As always, my view: We’ve got plenty of room, our only problem is people tend to concentrate in certain areas because of access issues. If the USFS and citizen groups placed more emphasis on opening up more areas for use, rather then restricting access, this whole issue could be flipped. But no. Can we ever change that trend? I continue to hope…

I’ll close with a fitness tip. As one who’s paid attention to leg alignment issues for years, I’ve always wondered if having your feet in bicycle toe clips might be something that one should forgo periodically to allow your joints some freedom from repetitive motion along one tight plane of movement. Interesting article about that.

We’ll do more on our upgrades this evening and tomorrow. We’re still planning our sixth and final “Name that Mug” contest tomorrow, but if we’re still involved in the site upgrade we’ll move the contest to Monday.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


13 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Thursday”

  1. Kirk September 11th, 2008 10:33 am

    Thanks for the reminder to sign up with CAIC, I’d rather read forecasts twice a day than work!

  2. Matt Wibby September 11th, 2008 11:42 am

    looking forward to checking out the re-design and also the mobile setup as I often surf the net on my crackberry.

  3. dave September 11th, 2008 12:02 pm

    to help your knees while biking, it’s definitely good to fit your bike at the local shop if you are doing more than grocery runs. i had issues last summer to discover i need to move my seat back less than 1/8 of an inch from the “traditional” knee over spindle position.

  4. Lou September 11th, 2008 2:28 pm

    Matt, I’ll try to get the mobile version going fairly soon. It might be as easy as installing a plugin, or it might be tough. Won’t know ’till we get all the new stuff running in public so we can start tweaking it.

  5. Matt Wibby September 11th, 2008 3:41 pm

    no rush as the current template does look fine on my blackberry. Nice thinking though.

  6. Lou September 11th, 2008 5:45 pm

    Thanks for the feedback Matt, I guess I should have bought a Crackberry… New theme might not do as well as it’s slightly wider and doesn’t have full width images to force the layout (yet), let me know how it looks on your ‘Berry. Will probably be up tomorrow or Friday.

  7. John Gloor September 11th, 2008 8:59 pm

    Just a few comments/opinions from me In regards to the Forest service siding with the Ski Co in banning sleds from that section of national forest.

    In my 42 years in Aspen, I have sled skied back there once, so i didn’t loose anything with that decision. However, for a long time, people who weren’t inclined to hike for their turns have used that area along with the snowcat powder tours. I am of the OPINION that commercial guided tours have the privilege of using public lands (for profit) and not exclusive rights to them. This extends to hunting, fishing, climbing, jeep tours, etc.. None of those groups expect exclusivity and none do.

    Why is the Ski Co different? With the 5300+ acres of skiing in the four resorts (not all national forest), couldn’t the Ski co have roped off some area within their boundaries for skiers with deeper pockets?

    I believe the president of Powder to the People (sled skier group) hit the nail on the head when he said he believed there were some behind the scene meeting going on between the Ski co and the Forest Service. The ski Co pays big bucks for these rights and the little guy with a sled pays the forest service nothing other than ohv registration fees.

    If anyone is unfamiliar with the scene on the back of Aspen Mountain, it was essentially a free for all powder frenzy. There were so many sleds parked up there that it got the nickname of the “Marina”. This decision benefited the Ski Co by limiting access and preserving snow, but those sleds did not just disappear.

    Look forward to yo-yo sled skiers where you enjoy touring for the 2008-09 season. The Forest service is so under funded that 98% (my guess) of them will never be ticked for sledding where it is not allowed. This decision took a concentrated but controllable situation and probably dispersed it too everywhere, with no possibility of control.

    I own a sled also, but I ride it where a Subaru goes seven months of the year, namely paved roads and some light dirt roads for valley floor access. I do not want to see more sleds in areas where I ski, but todays machines can sometimes get up there so get ready to share your solitude!

    I hope I don’t come across as a hypocrite by using a sled to access good touring, but an influx of sledders who do not value what tourers value seems like a loosing proposition for us. Oh well, at least wealthy snow cat skiers will have good skiing.

    On another note, I hope the boot comparisons continue, perhaps with some back to back flex comparisons

  8. Michael September 13th, 2008 9:14 pm

    I would second what you say about the effects of rigid foot placement in bicycle toe clips or SPD’s on knees. My knees were hammered after long rides on SPD’s.
    Check out Speedplay pedals for your bike. They allow your feet to float and not be locked in one position. My cycling knee probs are gone since I switched.

  9. Jim Jones September 15th, 2008 8:30 am

    The Skico is owned by the Crown family, which started a company called General Dynamics, you know the company which famously bilked the taxpayer out of millions with $20,000 hammers. So of course they won dealing with the
    federal government, they own the politicians.

  10. dave downing September 15th, 2008 9:04 am

    I am not a sled-neck. I’ve been on a snowmobile twice. I am not a regular cat skier. I have been on 2 cat trips at El Diablo new Silverton. Regarding the FS decision you have to consider a few other things. While a private operation SHOULDN’T have rights to a certain area, the actions of many snowmobilers (at least in the Silverton area) has led to the need for exclusive rights to areas. The cat operations put a lot of time into grooming and maintaining cat tracks in certain areas to shuttle guests. Once built there is a tendency for the sleds to want to use the same roads with much faster laps, tracking up the area the cats are using, and often general interference with the operators and clients.

    While at El Diablo a few years back, we were heading up one particularly steep pitch of cat track, nearing the top of our 2nd run. Over the top of the hill we see 3 sleds coming down the track. They stopped in front of us and asked the cat to move! They claimed they couldn’t get there sleds off the track and into the powder snow. The proceeded to argue their point for the next 10-15 minutes while we waited. The slope was probably around 35 degrees and a significant issue for the cat. Turning around or backing up wasn’t really and option. I was about ready to jump out and beat the wholly hell out of these guys. I pay that kind of money (only $125 that day) to ski once every 4 years, and he says he can’t ride his snowmobile off the side of the track? Finally, with threat of calling the sheriff the sledders easily rode around the cat and down. It wasn’t a problem, they just didn’t want the cat operation there once the cat tracks were groomed.

    And all that happened with 1,000s of acres of prime terrain all around that the Cat operation didn’t have a permit to operate in.

    So, for all of this to work out for everyone, we will need BOTH sides to be respectful of the others.

    And besides, how different is the cat operation having a roped off area on the backside of Aspen mtn than if aspen mtn expanded into current BC and didn’t allow sleds? It’s still open to the public for a price. Otherwise perhaps we should call for sled access to all ski areas in the FS?

    Just thoughts…

  11. John Gloor September 15th, 2008 11:15 pm

    Dave, you raised some good points there. Those sledders were probably wrong on two accounts. The cat operation probably has exclusive rights to their over the snow roads, and as the uphill vehicle on a constricted trail or road, they generally have the right of way. The sledders seem like jerks from your story. However, around Aspen, there are not thousands of acres available for the sled skiers. If one looks on a map it is apparent that every drainage is surrounded by wilderness, and the one valley which isn’t wilderness( Hunter Creek) has very strict rules governing motor usage. Also, sled skiers need appropriate ski terrain, which further limits where they can recreate as opposed to slednecks who are happy wherever their motor will take them. With legal and terrain restraints, there are not a lot of options in the upper Roaring Fork Valley for sled skiers and I feel the Ski Co has been given too much. They also tried to incorporate parts of Richmond Ridge into their ski area in the early eighties but were shot down due to opposition (someone correct me if my memory has it wrong). Since they did not get that control, they got the next best thing. I support single usage permits (ski area) for obvious safety reasons. The snowcat operation is not single usage since one can do any legal activity except operate a motor vehicle there (hunting included on Forest service land). I think the opposition to that area expansion would be greater today than it was in the eighties.
    It may appear from my defense of sled skiers that I support them. What I support is legal access. I feel the 5300 acres of land that the Ski Co controls should be enough for them to offer a quality skiing experience. Now this 800 pound gorilla is getting more exclusive rights to your federal land, but they are willing to let you use it for a (steep) fee! When is enough, enough? If both sides could not come to a workable solution, then I would hope the rights of the public would come before corporate profit. I might even support some small independent competition (El Diablo?), but the monopoly the Ski Co has here and their influence is getting old.
    Sorry for the long rant about motorized access issues on this touring site.

  12. dave September 16th, 2008 8:09 am

    Good reply John. I agree with you too!

  13. john Gloor April 10th, 2009 6:16 pm

    I just heard the latest on this area. Apparently the Ski Co is going ahead with a boundary expansion in the area we discussed. The out of bounds area from Pandora’s to Harris’ wall is being eyed for inbounds skiing. A friend who drives snowcats for the Ski co said he will be skidding logs out of Pandora’s as soon as the mountain closes. First they had to get rid of those pesky snowmobilers, and now the public looses more back/side country skiing.

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