Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | February 9, 2006      

24 Hours of Sunlight this Saturday
We’ve been excited about competing with a 5-person team, but lingering colds and coughs look like they’ll keep us from doing the race.

Disappointing, but life goes on. We’ll still be there, doing support for friends and blogging. If we feel better we’ll jump in at the last minute. It looks like the race will be interesting. Along with Greg Hill and the McLeans, Dave Penny is competing. Dave is a talented athlete who’s won the Elk Mountains Traverse several times, and has tons of endurance sport experience. This will be fun to watch.

I’ve had quite a few phone calls from journalists wanting quotes with my take on the 24 Hours race. During a call yesterday I realized that little old Sunlight ski resort has trumped the Aspen Skiing Company in the “how green is our garden” competition. Aspen used to have a 24 hours race that was as energy consumptive as anything out there. They lit the whole ski mountain with electric lights, did major diesel grooming, and ran the gondola for 24 hours. Sunlight has a similar race, only the racers have to climb the mountain under their own power using glorified flashlights to show the way. Who’s more green?

Ever been stalked in the backcountry?
According to a thread on a web forum (2015 link removed due to not existing), a guy is lurking near a trailhead then following trailbreakers up the mountain and shralping their lines at the last moment (along with other obnoxious and dangerous behavior). What does one do in such a situation?

Turns out the recent Sierra avalanche fatality was only one death in a spate of tragedy for Mammoth, California. In a seven day period, five skiers died of various causes! Understandably, the town is reeling. Our sympathy to everyone involved. More here.

What ever happened to “free the heel – free the mind?”Check out the mind bending FIS telemark comp rules. Interesting to note that “release” bindings are mandatory. How they define “release” for a race telemark binding is anyone’s guess. DIN 98 anyone?

Helmet musings
It’s interesting to watch helmet threads pop up on different web forums. People get hot about the issue, but appear to have no concrete idea of how much wearing a ski helmet actually protects their brain. Conjecture abounds, such as “I dented mine, so now I know I need it.” Heck, I’ve dented my helmet by tapping it with a ski pole grip!

After studying the issue, I’ve concluded that ski helmets really do offer very little protection. They may be worth wearing for what meager help they do offer, and to prevent scalp lacerations. But all the hype and peer pressure about wearing them is truly ludicrous.

Of even more concern are programs by medical people and ski resorts to promote helmet use. It’s like they hear the word “helmet” and automatically assume the gear is effective enough to warrant a major push. What is more, since it’s about as dangerous to drive to a ski resort as it is to ride the slopes, why are they not promoting use of helmets in automobiles?

The whole thing smacks of fad mentality. Here at we’re wearing our helmets for most of our lift skiing and some backcountry, but I’m really wondering if we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Meanwhile, people are blowing out knees left and right — where is the gear to prevent that? Where is the industry pressure to use it?


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3 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. Jim February 9th, 2006 9:10 pm

    I like my helmet because it keeps my goggles from fogging up when I’m hiking and it’s one less thing to go gather after a yard sale…

    When I first got the helmet (1997), I thought it may actually increase the risks that I took because I felt more protected…Well, I found out less than a year later my head may have been slightly more protected, but that didn’t stop me from hitting a tree and busting a rib.

    Will the ski saftey industry start promoting body armor when helmet sales flatten?

  2. Pete Sowar February 10th, 2006 7:07 pm

    Ski helmets seem to be very similar to mountain bike helmets. Would you ever ride a mountain bike without a helmet? I don’t know anyone who does, and I never see anyone without.

    So, if they are safe enough for biking they must do some good for skiing. They probably won’t save your life if you ski 50mph into a tree, but they will help when you bash your head on the slope or when somebody bashes you.

  3. picture of zoroastrianism March 13th, 2006 3:54 pm

    Amazing post; keep it up!

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