Backcountry Ski Touring News Roundup

Post by blogger | August 5, 2015      

As you read this, Lisa and I are driving from Colorado to Utah here in the vast western U.S. OR trade show. If we’re not in too much of a hurry we like the 6 to 8 hour scenic drive. I’m always struck by the difference between this and our travels through the EU where I’m still stunned by how developed and populated the land is. One wonders, is this our future here in North America? Bombastic nattering negativists predicted a long time ago that the “population bomb” would have hit us hard by now, but the story turned out somewhat different.

Summer at “the show” (Outdoor Retailer summer tradeshow) is mostly a matter of chatting up our website supporters and looking for new-interesting products, especially in clothing and perhaps camping gear. While many of the ski touring gear makers stay away from summer show, there is always something. We’ve got a few people roaming around the floor so we’ll see what happens. Oddest thing? Most useful new thing? I’ll challenge our guest bloggers right now: can you guys find a better windproof lighter or a headlamp the size of a pearl? Or how about the durable hard shell jacket that weighs 4 ounces?

Example from Australian snow safety website.

Example from Australian snow safety website.

Australia has a new avalanche and weather website. Check out and enjoy that down-to-earth Aussie take on the world of mountain safety for backcountry skiers and snowboarders. The disclaimer splash screen is quite amusing, and speaks truth in saying something like “don’t believe everything your read.” I added to our list of avalanche hotlines. Seriously, their way of presenting information appears quite useful and covers much more than avalanche danger. For example, icing conditions in some parts of Australia can kill you faster than just about anything. Imagine a tilted ice skating rink above cliffs. As in the example graphic to right, SnowSense provides warnings about such.

Do you get the impression that new heli-ski operations are not exactly something with mass appeal especially to mountain locals who ski tour (or snowmobile)? While it’s true that the whirly ski lift brings in lots of cash from well heeled consumers, the birds are indeed impactful both on the land and on the gas supply.

We have mixed feelings about heli skiing. While we see some helicopter operations as an appropriate use of our backcountry (just as we see some ski resorts being ok), we’re not fans of developing ever more mechanized skiing — heli or otherwise. In any case, others agree. The newspaper in Nelson, B.C. reports that an overwhelming number of negative comments came on on a proposed heli operation in the Nelson area. The newspaper reports that 258 comments were made to officials, with all but three opposed to the new elite petroltainment venue. Read the article, quite interesting. You might even see someone in there you know.

Is it still ok to use the word “rad?” If so, this is rad. I’ve always been intrigued by the use of wheels to get disabled folks into the backcountry. Burning question here in the United States: With legal Wilderness excluding bicycles but allowing wheelchairs, where do hand operated cycles fit in if said disabled guy decides he wants to cross the boundary?

Wow, you want some numbers? In case you’ve been under a rock (or climbing a lot of rocks, or something), know that Black Diamond Equipment is being bought and sold. Because of that, numbers are flying around. I ran across this article. It’s comprehensive and super interesting, with an emphasis on what influence millenials are having on the outdoor industry. Note the 16% increase in climbing business over 3 years, but also note how the breakdown _still_ does not break out ski touring but instead has a “nordic” category showing moderate growth. Common wisdom in the industry is we had some years with around 10% growth in backcountry ski touring. Field observation proves it, and Black Diamond continuing their ski product line depends on it. Your comments?

Growing up in a Western U.S. mountain town can be fun. Aspen, in particular, was somewhat a paradise for kids during the period roughly between 1964 and 1980 when it still had a rough-and-tumble mining heritage aspect. Perhaps the old mining town is still paradise, though it’s definitely not the same paradise it was during those golden years. I spent youth years there myself. Traveling around in a Jeep with my dad and exploring old mining junk is a sweet memory. Check out this Aspen local’s take on the same kind of stuff.


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4 Responses to “Backcountry Ski Touring News Roundup”

  1. Hacksaw August 5th, 2015 4:42 pm

    Lou, have you ever skied in New Zealand?

  2. joefbtg August 6th, 2015 3:24 pm

    I know right! How is a Bic still the best lighter at elevation? Doesn’t make any sense.

  3. Kaj August 9th, 2015 12:37 am

    A few more candidates for your avalanche hotline page:
    Norway: (summarised english version available)


  4. Lou Dawson 2 August 9th, 2015 7:34 am

    Thanks Kaj!

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