Wasatch – Day 4

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 31, 2006      

Louie and I headed up to Days Fork from Alta today. This popular area tends to be a circus on weekends, but I find weekdays up there to be totally reasonable. (Being from where a “crowd” is 3 other cars at the trailhead, I’m no doubt spoiled, but live-let-live is my credo in the backcountry, and here is a place to live up to my own ideal). The northerly snow was sun and damaged just enough to make it that “upside down” stuff that sucks your skis to oblivion at the slightest provocation. It makes you wish you’d mounted your bindings about 2 centimeters back. Interestingly, the southerly stuff facing Alta had matured to a point where it was actually pretty good, still powdery, but what I like to call “bouncy” snow that’s fun once you get your skis working from turn to turn.

Wasatch Skiing
With good reason, Louie was getting tired of so many photos of him showing up here on our blog, so I handed him the camera. This is the old man headed back down to Alta from the Days Fork ridge. Bob Athey took some excellent photos yesterday as well, which he posted over on his website. See if you can tell who the dad is, and who the kid is.

Black Diamond shovel for backcountry skiing.

OR Show Meanderings:The guys at Backcountry Access have a really nice small aluminum shovel that would be perfect for spring skiing, when you’re not dealing so much with avalanches but rather with things like cutting bivvy holes or making a stove platform. Check out their shovels here. Speaking of the aluminum vs plastic shovel controversy, I agree that aluminum is frequently better than plastic for avalanche rescue, but not because it “cuts through debris better.” In my tests, lexan shovels dug fresh avalanche debris as well as their aluminum counterparts. What made the difference was shape. What’s necessary for the most efficient digging is actually slightly larger shovel with higher sides, and a good curve to the blade so you can move snow up out of a narrow hole — a shovel like the new Black Diamond Deploy shown to right. So, assuming you have the correct shovel shape, why alu? Simply because you can sharpen the edge of the aluminum so it’ll cut through the willow and conifer branches frequently found in avalanche deposition. Beyond avalanche rescue, an aluminum shovel is useful because it doubles as a stove platform — that’s why we like ’em for springtime overnight ski traverses.

More on my whine about AT gear getting heavier. To prove my point, the only significant change in Dynafit bindings for next season is a new model — one that is heavier. Here at Wildsnow.com this shall hereafter be known as “that binding who’s name shall not be spoken.” I can understand Dynafits need to grab some of the freeride market, I mean, once you dominate randonnee skiing you might as well go for the ultimate and try to corner the market. But hello — what about all the thousands of skiers for whom existing Dynafit bindings are totally reliable — can’t we have something new and hot? Apparently not. I guess once you’re an addict your pusher doesn’t really have to give you anything new — just keep you supplied.

And speaking of Dynafit and AT, I’ve been amazed at how many people are skiing randonnee out here in the Wasatch. There really has been a sea change in gear choice. It used to be mostly tele, not any more. I guess powder turns in parallel are just as much fun as telemark, as so many people seem to be expressing by their gear choice. More, I’m also amazed at how many of these Wasatch rando folks are on Dynafits. Whatever floats your boat — but nice to see the alpine crowd doesn’t have to learn a new turn to enjoy themselves.


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