Winter Ruminations – ATCs and Soul Sports

Post by blogger | October 3, 2005      

It is always fun to anticipate winter. Seems like we’ve had a wetter than normal summer here in Colorado, so we’ll see if that translates to snow. It’s a scientific fact that warmer air often produces more precip, so is there a chance global warming will actually give us bigger winters? According to everything I read, global warming will produce nothing good or positive, so that’s probably not the case. But one can always hope for another year of epic backcountry skiing.

And what’s going on with park/pipe skiing? Tanner Hall, arguably the sport’s biggest name (and said to be a “pipe” aficionado in more ways than one), has healed from a serious injury. But rather than spending a winter doing contests Hall is wanting to “push the backcountry,” according to an Aspen Times article (defunct link removed). What “push the backcountry” actually means is open to interpretation, but might be fun to watch (and I’m sure we’ll have an opportunity to do so). [Editor’s note: It appears that Tanner had second thoughts, as of the 2006 X Games he was back in the pipe, and winning.]

Winter should bring us interesting new gear as well. I don’t think much will happen in the randonnee department (though as always, there is room for improvement), but it’ll be fun to watch the continued development of amazing telemark contraptions (ATCs) such as the NTN (a step-in prototype that doesn’t require the duckbill toe). Indeed, on the Telemarktips forums, respected gear expert Clyde Soles wrote that “Something’s afoot. NTN may well be a day late and a dollar short.”

One can assume Clyde means there is another ATC in the works. Yes! As long as it’s more complicated, heavier, and more expensive, what’s not to love?

More, as if these otherworldly contraptions are not enough, another Teletipster wrote “add a Dynafit heel for lockdown capability.” A chuckle is my only response to that (though I admit to predicting years ago that we’d eventually have a binding one could use for both telemark and fixed-heel skiing.)

It remains to be seen if the ATCs can keep telemarking as the hip “soul sport” many of its proponents believe it is. On the one hand, I feel like that soul was lost years ago when wood gave way to Ptex — but even with its huge petroleum based plastic boots and skis, it’s obvious the tele scene has retained a modicum of its early ethos. As it were, “roots is roots.” Sports tend to be a sum of their whole, and much of their appeal lies in their background.

Take rock climbing, indeed a soulful “outlaw” counterculture sport in its early days. Those roots made it cool, and 25 years later rock climbing is still being marketed using its hip outlaw foundation — even though it’s now no more counter-culture than golf (and perhaps less so in some circles).

Moving on, you’ve probably been tracking the interesting developments in Silverton, Colorado where the so called “backcountry” ski area is now being allowed more users, and speaking of “ethos” may be changing their own. In an extensive and interesting opinion Mitch Weber of Telemark Tips writes about the transmogrification of the place into yet another expensive resort. I enjoyed Weber’s article, but as to the issue of Silverton remaining a roots type of thing (if it ever was), my reaction is mostly a yawn. Running a ski area is expensive. Guides are expensive. If you want cheap, earn ’em and guide yourself.

Running on at the fingers a bit here… got the junk for making homebrew gu, tastes pretty good, perhaps that’s what got me going?


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