NIMBY Ski Touring and the Local Stash


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | June 14, 2017      
Do you own it?

Do you own it?

It’s a debate as timeless as the pyramids. Ok to share the local stashes with outsiders? Or have you somehow through your own scoring system qualified yourself as a “local,” and you strongly dislike (or in private, hate) “outsiders” enjoying your “backyard” ski touring?

Rather than being extremists, most of us probably practice a mix of NIMBY (not in my backyard) and generosity. We’re generous with friends, and don’t get too uptight when we see strangers. But we might not chat those guys driving a rig decorated with out-of-state plates — and back home we might grumble to our mate about those “people from fill-in-the-blank, don’t they have any other place to ski?”.

Others get downright venomous about everything from guidebook writers to altruistic individuals happily sharing local stashes with their out-of-town friends.

I’ve never been comfortable with NIMBYism (though I’m sure I’ve dabbled in it myself over the years, especially as a youngster). I don’t like it when individuals somehow reward themselves their own exclusive rights to a public backcountry area, and try taking moral high ground while directing what is essentially hate speech at outsiders, guidebook writers, and perhaps just about anyone who’s not the royal “we.”

Our ski mountaineering culture clearly exalts the ethic of people going out and by their own sweat and volition reaping the rewards of backcountry fun. Similarly, our charitable ethic in theory says something like “if you have a lot of something good, share it.” Further, our economic system says if you can make your living sharing or otherwise facilitating enjoyable recreation (guide, publisher, whatever), then have at it.

A backcountry user practicing in this ethical framework might not be enthusiastic about newcomers on their favorite route, but they’ll agree that basic concepts of equality and justice dictate that the strangers have as much right to the powder as anyone.

In other words, if someone, somehow finds out about your stash and makes an effort to get it, they deserve it just as much as you do. Operate that way and you’re not a NIMBY. Otherwise, perhaps you are? And is that ok?

Reading on the web revealed a vast variety of writing about NIMBY, much having to do with housing issues. One article that resonated for me is The Ethics of NIMBYism, by Debra Stein. I have no idea who Stein is, but she’s a good writer and presents a well ordered progression of views about NIMBY related to affordable housing (another issue dear to our hearts).

Your views, dear readers? Summer discussion fun?


Comments

51 Responses to “NIMBY Ski Touring and the Local Stash”

  1. Rudi June 14th, 2017 11:21 am

    Great points here. I think there is an idea out there, particularly among the lightly experienced crowd, that it is somehow cool to pretend that you found all these runs yourself. Unfortunately we all know that to be untrue and impractical. At some point someone showed you the way. Don’t deny it, embrace it and be kind and share your own knowledge. If anything by being generous with information it will spread people out rather than what we have now here on the front range, which is 5 runs that skied by everyone and their brother (Dead Dog, SFB, Dragontail, etc….), with the avoidable accidents that go along with that. The idea that the BC is somehow overcrowded is just not factual. We are not discussing a 1000 acre ski area, it’s a whole National Forest plenty of room for everyone.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 June 14th, 2017 12:00 pm

    Me, I’m glad to see your way of thinking Rudi, thanks for your comment. Most overcrowding here in Colorado has to do with parking, both limited, and to the extent of there simply not being trailheads in places where they make total sense, that’s something that is easily remedied given political will and perhaps user group advocacy. Sometimes, an hour with a dozer can solve the problem. Not to mention unique situations like the mining company in Marble increasing parking simply to make the road safer and easier for their operations, as well as creating good will.

    I do see progress, but it is surprisingly slow given how many people are outdoor recreating in our state.

    Lou

  3. Steve June 14th, 2017 2:02 pm

    The early bird gets the worm and sometimes a snowmobile helps…

  4. kevin woolley June 14th, 2017 2:18 pm

    It is humorous to me that anyone would think that a roadside glade on public land is somehow a private “stash”. I ski the front range and Summit County, and if I’m a mile from a road, I’m almost always alone, even in “busy” zones. At 2 miles I’m invariably alone. It’s fun to find a hidden gem, but even more fun to share with friends. Colorado is so big and backcountry skiiing is still very small, and there aren’t many people who will hike a mile for the goods. If things are crowded I would say hike a little farther from the road. And I would second Lou’s trailhead comment, the more areas safe to park, and a few more winter plowed roads, the less pressure in the crowded roadside zones.

  5. Andy Carey June 14th, 2017 4:45 pm

    I’ve seen an explosion of use where I ski bc. Not only AT (telemark and XC are becoming rare), but snowshoeing, and even hiking with crampons and post-holing. Initially the snowshoers and booters stuck to skin tracks close to trailheads. Now the snowshoers (and booters on hard snow) are traversing far into the alpine, as far as 90% of the skiers, including onto glaciers, cornices, very steep slopes … . Also there is a large increase in outdoor education: AT clases, climbing classes, crevasse rescue classes, snowhoe classes — all with group of 8-15 participants. And, of course, guided snowshoe and ski tours, commercial, club, and church. I still get in my solitary ski time by going early in the morning mid-week. But the population has exploded. And the number (probably percentage) of people seeking outdoor adventures, including winter camping, has also exploded. Plenty of guidebooks, a plethora of trip reports on social media, and wonderful videos on utube and vibeo. It is what it is. The area of accessible public land is actually declining in some places and not expanding anywhere I know of. Open to all who care to get there, expert, intermediate, or novice.

  6. OMR June 14th, 2017 4:55 pm

    I’ll admit that I fight my natural instinct of NIMBYism. Guidebooks are part of the problem but most are too vague in describing the approach so newbies must still rely upon maps and good route-finding skills.
    The biggest problem I see is STRAVA. It quite literally provides a breadcrumb trail to everywhere and it allows newbies to access terrain that they might not have the avalanche skills to safely negotiate. Not only that, the real irk is some areas have been lonely for years and once the access is posted on STRAVA the place is skied out every Saturday by 9AM. Yeah, I’m a whiner, but I’ve spent decades cultivating access routes, through thick gamble oak and manky, low elevation approaches, stuff most skiers have dismissed as too hard, in the lesser known Wasatch, and now after spilling blood, sweat and tears to make it navigatabke it’s tough to see the kids following their iPhones up my hard earned routes. The least they could do is offer assistance, but they’re nowhere to be seen once the growing season has ended and cutting is required;)

  7. Tabke June 14th, 2017 5:37 pm

    i can see both sides… sometimes Chad the Local seems to ONLY complain about the Joey from the City crowding out the local stash, when all it would take is crossing just one more ridge line to have a fresh valley to himself. chill out, Chad.

    then again sometimes Joey rolls up, parks his Tundra like an idiot, lets hit dog shit in the skinner, trails Chad and his crew without acknowledging the deceit, and drops a track to strava and a pic to the ‘gram while passing on the right on his way home. get bent, Joey.

    In a perfect world, people travel to new places with a respectful approach, and are warmly welcomed by friendly locals… ahhh, utopia.

  8. John June 14th, 2017 6:38 pm

    Your secret stash is someone else morning dawn patrol. Your epic is someone else’s warm-up.

  9. Jim Milstein June 14th, 2017 7:01 pm

    In BC skiing I believe in sharing, and that includes sharing with strangers. Often, when encountering skiers in the BC who seem competent and congenial, I’ll offer to show them something good. I’m hoping to encourage a sharing ethic. In the long run it benefits everyone.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 June 15th, 2017 7:08 am

    Andy, indeed, in my travels around the world I’ve not seen much overall progress in accommodating the vastly increased numbers of backcountry users. Evidenced by overflowing trailhead parking; cars parked in long strings on the sides of roads and use of parking that’s a long walk up icy roads with no shoulders just to reach the skin track. In nearly all these areas, the crowding is artificial and caused by the parking. I’m not sure what the solution is, first step would be a user advocacy group that concentrated on access.

    In the past, snowmobiles have been the main focus, and in some areas the helicopter skiing issue is the nut. Result has been a few reasonable use separations and heightened awareness. But I’ve written thousands of words regarding how the sometimes hysterical activism about snowmobiles has obscured the real issue, which is simply opening up more of often vast but inaccessible terrain to spread out the use.

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m advocating simplistic solutions, each area is different, but providing better parking and more trailheads is a very easy and obvious step.

    Guidebook writers can help, by covering a variety of routes. The worst guidebooks (in terms of helping with the crowding problems) IMHO are the ones that cover large areas (sometimes whole states) and detail only selected routes. I might be guilty of that (smile), stay tuned.

    Lou

  11. Lou Dawson 2 June 15th, 2017 7:21 am

    Jim, that’s our approach. As many people know, we’ve even left most of our parcel of Colorado backcountry land unposted (above the road, in case locals are reading this who are not aware of the situation), as it’s used by the public for part of a popular backcountry ski area. As land owners we’ve also put in a word with the powers about improving parking, that seems to have had some results.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 June 15th, 2017 7:23 am

    BTW, I’ve been having a little trouble with our comment spam filters, got some false positives that delayed some of the posts from showing up. Necessary hassle otherwise I wake up in the morning to 12 posts about places to buy the blue pill.

  13. Crazy Horse June 15th, 2017 9:34 am

    In Jackson we’ve discovered a way to eliminate the problem of NIMBYism. Just make it universal! Easy to do, because (in their own mind) anyone who arrived before Labor Day is a local. It wouldn’t do to use any other standard because with housing costs starting at a million dollars for a 1960’s shack, very few can afford to stay a full year.

    Our public servants at the Wyoming Department of Transportation are 100% behind the effort with policies like setting parking quotas on Teton Pass and towing away any violators.

    And over at Teton Village a more traditional American method of separating the riff-raff from the Important People is used. The new Couloir Lodge immediately adjoining the Tram has half its main floor devoted to private ski lockers (sized about right for children’s skis.) They are selling like hotcakes at $100,000 each.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 June 15th, 2017 10:50 am

    Thanks for the grins Crazy Horse!

    One thing we’ve enjoyed for 30 years of living downvalley from Aspen is the lack of pretension about “locals.” The concept still exists, but you don’t see things like the inane media constantly trying to tell you that so-and-so is a “local.” Or, the truly heinous term “long time local.” Which of course causes one to ponder what exactly is a “short time local?”

    Lou

  15. Dr. Dee PhD June 15th, 2017 11:32 am

    What’s the old adage: “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”

  16. Lou Dawson 2 June 15th, 2017 3:17 pm

    Some folks seem to thrive on negativity, and they’ll indulge in it while backcountry skiing; doing one of the most fun and positive things you can find. I’ve always found that to be odd, but then, human nature is what it is… The Serenity Prayer was invented for a reason.
    Lou

  17. Eric B June 16th, 2017 4:20 am

    Its funny, as an American who has lived in Europe for a long-time and does most of his skiing in the alps, this is a debate most Europeans wouldn’t even recognize. There is a bit of local vs. outsider dynamic in some of the big resorts (though locals recognise it is the tourist outsiders who butter their local bread). But any distinction disappears in the back-country. The ethic there is wild nature belongs to everyone and should be enjoyed by all. When strangers meet in the BC, on the trail, in a hut, or even in the trailhead parking lot, you ALWAYS, say hello, generously exchange beta on conditions, risks, where the best snow is, and wish each other a “bonne journée!” Anything else would be considered quite rude, and most locals take great pride in showing off their backyard. The only place in the alps where I’ve seen the NIMBY culture is Chamonix where competition for lines amongst young hot-shots has become pretty intense, but even there its generally quite friendly. The alpine culture has a deep ethic of generosity and helping strangers. Hope it stays that way 🙂

  18. Kevin S June 16th, 2017 8:34 am

    Great thread Lou! As an ex-Summit County and Eagle County “local” I learned that without the outsider dollars most of the “locals” have no choice but to leave. So tolerance is important up to a point. Back in the early nineties I heard the ultimate slam on the visitors in Aspen. A “long time local” referred to the vacationers as jet trash which will forever, in my mind, describe the Sardy Field arrivals in Aspen. That descriptor along with “Torped” are Aspen originals!

    Some days I miss my old Silverettas, Kastle Tours and Dachstein boots along with the gear Ramer was evolving as we toured with no crowds. But I’m thankful for certain of the crowds these days as the gear is wildly better…

  19. Jim Milstein June 16th, 2017 8:57 am

    Hey, Kevin, I doubt that “torped” is an Aspen original. “Jet trash” according to the not very reliable Urban Dictionary was coined by Tom Waits. Is anything original to Aspen?

  20. Kevin S June 16th, 2017 9:29 am

    Hey Jim I suspect you may not recall the infamous adventures of Ken Torp and his group of Aspen BC skiers from back in the early 90s. They made some challenged decisions that led to the phrase “torped” making its way around BC skier circles. As for Jet trash I bow down to the Waits references as there are few better song writers. Thanks!

  21. Jim Milstein June 16th, 2017 9:33 am

    Okay, I’ll give you “torped”, Kevin. In common usage it means “torpedo’d”. Please expand on the unique Aspen usage.

  22. See June 16th, 2017 10:14 am

    I think Tom Waits meant something entirely different– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BU-vNpmjfsI

  23. XXX_er June 16th, 2017 10:22 am

    people are gona come
    you just can’t get away from that but up here we are 3hrs from any major market so crowds are not much of a concern and if I meet someone from away on the chair I show em around cuz I will never see em again

  24. XXX_er June 16th, 2017 10:35 am

    A 13 hr drive that is on a 2 lane highway, or take an expensive flight into a small airport all of which keeps the riff-raff out …and in !

  25. Jim Milstein June 16th, 2017 10:40 am

    Thanks for the Waits’ link, See. For him, “jet trash” seems to mean flight attendants. For Kevin, it seems to mean rich people who fly into Aspen. I prefer Kevin’s. It is more sporting to go after the rich and powerful instead of humble airline employees.

    I get Waits’ point, though. For some the American Dream is a nightmare. Tastes differ.

  26. See June 16th, 2017 11:43 am

    Yeah, I thought that “jet trash” crack was beneath him (Tom Waits, that is).

  27. Jim Milstein June 16th, 2017 12:40 pm

    I looked up the Torp episode from 1993, and it all came flooding back: That was when the leader of a group of seven BC skiers broke all the norms and rules during a long and severe storm. The group of seven skiers became three groups and, amazingly, none died. There was frostbite and dehydration. It easily could have been much worse.

    So, it seems that “torped” means led astray and abandoned by your “experienced” leader. When torped in the Aspen sense, you have also been torped in the general sense.

    Kevin is vindicated.

  28. Paul Diegel June 16th, 2017 1:07 pm

    As much as I enjoy being a curmudgeon and missing the older, quieter backcountry days, I think increased users in the backcountry benefit us by giving the backcountry more tangible value. Here in Utah, undeveloped open spaces and solitude are considered to have no value and are vulnerable to being given away for development and profit for a few. It’s proving to be more difficult to give away land that gets a lot of use than land that only a few people use. I think change is inevitable and I’d rather share my happy places with other human-powered users than resorts.

  29. See June 16th, 2017 7:35 pm

    What concerns me about crowding and territoriality is the potential for actual harm. Inconsiderate behavior can have serious consequences for people below from rocks or slides, for example.

  30. See June 16th, 2017 7:44 pm

    And consider the s***show that is Everest these days, apparently…

  31. Kevin S June 17th, 2017 7:56 am

    Jim -Vindication feels good this AM! Back to the Waits reference, he has a special place in my BC yore as ol ’55 was playing on my Walkman as I sat on the top of the North face of Torrey’s and the sun was just popping up just before I skied that epic face in the early nineties. So back to the NIMBY theme, that was a time when few were skiing the 14ers during consolidation and the gear was average compared to what we have now. Again, I’m glad for the evolution of AT gear and without those who are infiltrating our BC we wouldn’t have the incredible gear we have today. So lets just hope most of them stick with side country glory and leave the real BC to us, the elite BC Trash who would never Torp our party!

  32. See June 17th, 2017 8:07 pm

    Re. Tom Waits and the American dream, Jim… seems like it’s been pretty good to him.

  33. Bruce Moffatt June 19th, 2017 9:02 am

    Lou,
    Thank you for sharing the Stein article. Very pertinent in the backcountry and in town.
    As to the backcountry as several posters have mentioned easy to find quiet untracked if you look. Lots of room if you look for it.

  34. Jim Milstein June 19th, 2017 11:14 am

    Thanks, Bruce, for reminding me to read the Stein article Lou linked. Affordable housing in the backcountry is an idea whose time has come! I’d like to think old, feeble, and destitute skiers like me could aspire to have affordable housing in the BC.

  35. Steev June 20th, 2017 9:56 am

    Haha this is great. I live in possibly the country’s oddest nimby locale – I wont say where for fear of being run out of town.

    Within an hour from my driveway (near town) there are a roughly 35 different trail heads or accesses that I would choose to ski. The approaches are long and not without bushwhack but each one offers a great adventure tour. I fully understand why there are not many skiers here but I do not understand the insanely high level of nimby.

    Nobody is going to move here to ski. At best (like me) they’ll move here because you got one of the very few good jobs here and you can ski if you don’t mind long days, bushwhack and scrappy cliffbands in all the wrong places.

    There are a few easy access spots that may have a car or two on a weekend pow day, but the rest of the range is empty.

    There are only a few good sled access zones (the rest is mostly wilderness) that are sweet with pillows and couloirs and amazing steep burn trees but I rarely see any skiers (or sleds). Then one day I ran into a group of old dudes with old sleds and old skis. We were 13 miles from the trail head. They approached cautiously and seemed confused. It went like this-

    Me: Hey guys!
    They: Hi. Where are you from.
    Me: From town, moved here two years ago – pretty sweet!
    They: Who told you about this.
    Me: I looked at a map.
    They: We are the only ones who ski here. Don’t tell any one.
    Me: Haha. ok no worries (are these guys serious?)
    They: where are you going?
    Me: Gonna bowl hop North then west till I get to the one with couloirs.
    They: Have a good day. Don’t tell anyone.

    The trail head is 14 minutes from my house and that winter I skied up there one day almost every weekend and covered a lot of ground. Never saw them again. In fact I never saw anyone. I never crossed track. I saw an occasional old skin track, but it was always in the same place. Ten small bowls with great terrain and snow, 50,000 people in the valley 50 of whom backcountry ski and maybe 10 of whom have a sled (including the 5 I just met). A total of 6 skiers who ski here, and these guys were grumpy to see me?! – a 30 year old local with a wife and kid and no ski partner, a prematurely gray beard and a big giant grin. Wow – these guys have a seriously clinical case of nimby.

    I know a few of them now. I ski with them occasionally and have brought them to a number of new to them zones (I’m halfway decent with a map). They have yet to return the favor. Good folks though. Then I made the mistake of talking skiing at a gathering – stone walled… nothing… no conversation. They were serious.

    It’s all good, I love it here. By the time it’s crowded, kids may not know what snow is.

  36. Lou Dawson 2 June 20th, 2017 12:34 pm

    Good stories Steev. “Clinical case of nimby..” I love it! Lou

  37. Jack June 20th, 2017 1:03 pm

    Steev. that’s hilarious. powder induced paranoia? you know, the cold, H20 based powder, no the other categories. Your story would make a great sequence in a movie.

  38. Redsmurf June 20th, 2017 3:12 pm

    NIMBY in my mind is fighting to keep the places you love from being negatively impacted. Nimby attitudes have stopped many environmental disasters. Good and bad, it has a purpose.

    F**k Joey! way too many attention seekers and FOMO addicted millennials out there. Strava is evil in so many ways.

    Steev, good story, sounds like your friends are just smart. I say share willingly but you do not need to advertise when you found a nice spot that is uncrowded. You found it fair and square, and it sounds like your stoked, now do not ruin it. Do not name it either. Trust takes a while to build, you have not been in town that long. Take your cues, pay your dues and maybe new places will be revealed to you.

    By the way, the man who published this article does make his living from promoting backcountry skiing.

  39. Steev June 20th, 2017 5:07 pm

    Thanks for the comments folks. Redsmurf, I hear ya, I’m not real vocal. I don’t spray beta on the interweb. I like the solitude, though I wish I had a few more options for partners.

  40. Lou Dawson 2 June 20th, 2017 5:14 pm

    Redsumurf, yes, I do make my living from the ski touring industry. Lou

  41. Jim Milstein June 20th, 2017 6:29 pm

    Steev, stop teasing! Give us a hint. Anyway, they are not going to run you out of town. They had their chance and passed.

  42. Armie June 21st, 2017 7:25 am

    Sounding a bit fight club…
    Rule1
    You do not talk about Ski Touring
    Rule 2
    You DO NOT talk about Ski Touring
    At least you can keep your shirt and shoes on.

  43. Aaron June 21st, 2017 3:23 pm

    By any definition I am local (born, raised and still here with my kids and skiing). I chuckle when I see newer folk getting protective of their “zones” going as far as to not contribute field observations to Avalanche Canada for fear that others will see where they skied. I also find it amusing when features that have been skied for years get named or renamed.

    Perhaps I am naïve to the reality of super busy areas like the Duffey but man alive we have a lot of space up here. It was probably only 5 years ago that I saw the first person not in my party in the backcountry =. That still only happens at the commonly used areas. Still endless valleys to explore and ski where you will never see another person and may be making first descents. If you are really that worried about privacy and virgin tracks get out the maps and bash some bush.

  44. Lou Dawson 2 June 21st, 2017 5:10 pm

    Aaron, indeed, a little drive from Seattle to Anchorage will reveal the incredibly crowded and limited terrain of the coast ranges, it’s really a drag how such once pristine places have been entirely trashed. Just the number of skiers on Mount St. Elias alone boggles the mind. Lou

  45. Lou Dawson 2 June 21st, 2017 5:22 pm

    Mount Robson is quite crowded as well, or so I hear.

  46. Kevin S June 21st, 2017 6:55 pm

    Steve- Great post! Even in the crowded Summit and Eagle Counties of Colorado it doesn’t take much work(relative) to get away from the BC crowds. Most of the “extreme” skier folks (with all of the latest save me gear) are fixated on a few easy access areas that the old and ex-locals rarely ski anymore. So much snow, so little time to ski it all, even along the I-70 corridor…

  47. Benny June 22nd, 2017 4:28 pm

    Interesting topic for discussion. For those here advocating longer tours into more isolated areas to avoid BC crowds, my initial reaction is I sure wish I still had as much free time as you folks. Due to family obligations I now have at most 4-5 hours to get out-and-back, so I have to utilize relatively close, accessible tour routes. And they are definitely more crowded than even just 5 years ago. Recently read that 200,000 people moved to CO in just the last two years, so the crowding is not a surprise, especially along I-70. For the most part it does not bother me much since my tours are still infinitely better in terms of snow/experience quality than resort skiing. It is still My Happy Place. And thinking of public lands as “MY backyard” is almost an oxymoron in my opinion….or perhaps a logical fallacy.

    My one pet peeve in these popular BC areas is when solo riders try to join our touring group for a descent, either due to unfamiliarity with the area and/or looking for safety in numbers. In my opinion it is rather parasitic behavior, not unlike booting up a skin track. And it introduces an unknown variable into an already potentially dangerous situation. For example after the last CO winter storm in mid-May I was touring with two friends on a popular route off a mountain pass. We were on our second lap of a bowl that was skiing great. As we finished ripping skins at the top of the descent a solo skier we had passed on the way up the skin track began to do the same. We had exchanged pleasantries with him on the way up, and there was another group in the vicinity too. So if he chose to ski the same bowl after we exited it, no big deal. Avalanche conditions were stable except for some minor surface sloughs. We then traversed over to the lip of the bowl. While we were discussing our descent plan, the solo skier sidled up and said with a big grin, “hope you don’t mind if I join you.” I half expected my buddy who is much more territorial than me to tell the stranger to straight up F**K OFF, but I think he was too startled to respond. After a pause I replied, “we generally do mind but since you’re here let us descend first and then we will watch you down.” Apparently that burst his bubble because after the first member of our party began to descend he skied off by himself in the other direction. Later when ascending back up the valley we saw the solo skier’s attempt to descend down and across a steep rocky ridge on a very different aspect than our beautiful powder bowl. He obviously did not know the terrain in the area at all, even though you could see the whole mountain from the road. I felt bad for him, and maybe I’m a jerk for shooting him down. I certainly didn’t expect him to wind up in harm’s way so quickly. At least the snowpack was isothermal. Anyway my personal advice to such solo skiers is to approach a potential new tour group in the parking lot or at the trailhead BEFORE venturing out. I’d at least like to know what safety gear and etiquette you possess before accepting any responsibility for your welfare or vice versa. Otherwise GET OUT OF MY BACKYARD….just kidding 🙂

  48. Andrew Wagner July 27th, 2017 9:12 am

    I think this tight rope maybe at its narrowest and most threadbare in the Northeast. Here in Vermont, while we do have great mountains, (and pretty often good powder believe it or not), we are not blessed with open bowls and idyllic meadows. Most, if not all backcountry skiing in Vermont involves some down and dirty bushwacking, and there are very few places where the trees are naturally spaced to allow smooth turns. Many Vermonters take matters into their own hands and for better or worse (legal or not) do some artificial thinning of the flora to improve their stashes. This is hard and time consuming work, and thus “lines” are usually pretty narrow, like one or two skiers can get fresh tracks before having to venture into harrowing dense underbrush.

    Having lived in a lot of western mountain towns for a lot of winters (and never once claimed the “L” word), I’m normally pretty opposed to localism. I totally get it in the surfing world where too many folks sharing one peak literally reduces the number of rides and therefore amount of enjoyment available to everyone involved. In most mountain ranges there are infinite possibilities for great fun lines, and if you are getting bummed out about somebody else skiing in one spot, you are completely missing the point.

    It makes a bit more sense to me here in the northeast where those skinny paths of actual smooth ski-ability are so few and far between, almost like set waves with long lulls. How would you like it if you spent laborious week in september cleaning out one good line (maybe in your actual backyard) and every time it snows 5 people have already “used up” all the fresh tracks?

    I do a ton of exploring, most of which results in long days of bushwacking for one or three or zero good turns, but sometimes i’m lucky enough to locate and demolish somebody else’s secret stash. For which i almost feel guilty. Almost.

    I see the need for some secrecy in this place, but it kind of hurts my soul a little bit to hide that enjoyment from others.

  49. Jim Milstein July 27th, 2017 9:46 am

    Andrew’s note reminds me of the years spent trying to ski in New England. So little good terrain, so little good snow. I always asked myself, Why am I doing this? The Colorado skier in me replied, So you don’t forget how. No doubt those years of adversity made me a better person than if I had stayed in Colorado. I have great respect for the skiers I encounter from the Northeast.

  50. Andrew Wagner July 27th, 2017 11:04 am

    Jim, we DO have good terrain, and we DO have good snow (occasionally). Only problem is we have entirely way too many dang trees gettin’ in the way. What we could really use is some good forest decimating insects, or a couple of well placed fires. Maybe you Colorado folks could share some of that loot…. just kidding. But at least we have the best maple syrup. You win some, you lose some.

  51. Jim Milstein July 27th, 2017 1:45 pm

    Andrew, I can only applaud the maple syrup of your region. As catnip is to cats, so maple syrup is to me.

    We have a lot of experience with forest decimating insects, and fires too, here in the Wolf Creek Pass region of SW CO. They make things worse. Do you like tree litter and lots of dead fall? When the snow gets deep enough, then the interlaced deadfall is fun to ski over . . . until the next windstorm provides a new layer of tree litter and deadfall. Bowls and couloirs can be fun, for sure, but there can be a very high price to pay for those joyful descents. The mid-continental snowpack with its great powder snow is not so stable as yours. Maybe you should just stay put in Vermont, considering all the problems with terrain and snow in the Rockies.

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  Your Comments

  • Lou Dawson 2: The ATK did do well in my evaluations. Lots of people like them. Lou...
  • HansDampf: In 2014 I contacted Völkl and asked for the required distance of drilling h...
  • Wookie1974: really nice idea. Put them in a little pack with a blob of skin wax and an ...
  • See: I too am ready to be amazed, but the graphic on the Bauer website comparing...
  • Andrei: So if you make one size that's about 65mm by 100mm with staggered spikes an...
  • SteveR: Need to be available in a range of widths (like harscheisen). 65/80/90/100 ...
  • Patrick Gasparro: Yes See. I think that most of us chargers like to push things to far. Ski...
  • Patrick Gasparro: Good point about the alignment of the spikes Andrei! The only reason they ...
  • See: Yeah, wtofd, I'm speaking from experience on this one....
  • wtofd: See, I am guilty of this. I keep the skins on even though I know it's getti...
  • Frank Kvietok: Very interested to learn more about and try 'Thindown'. Should allow for s...
  • See: (except maybe the south pole, etc.)...
  • See: Understood about breakable crust, and I’m not trying to suggest that Skeats...
  • Andrei: Utah is the same. Totally stoked to try these things out this season. I ...
  • Lou Dawson 2: We get a similar snowpack in Colorado, when you can go on hard crust with s...
  • Patrick Gasparro: Hi See, I appreciate your thought process. However certain situations d...
  • Patrick Gasparro: Thanks., Wtofd. The Skeats™ really are compatible with the Voile™ ski st...
  • Lou Dawson 2: It's so attractive, the goal of having a quiver of one that'll work on or o...
  • wtofd: Patrick, congrats, this is great. I imagine you'll eventually need to hand...
  • See: Just a general comment about technique: if the terrain is approaching the l...
  • David Dodge: Hi Lou, I'm aware of the Vipec. I think it solves the fundamental proble...
  • Patrick Gasparro: Dan, your point about a narrower plate is dead on., and maybe more urgent ...
  • Dan: 1C makes sense. Thanks FOR explaining that. Also a narrower option (6) woul...
  • Patrick Gasparro: I'll try to answer the previous few questions: 1. Glide: a. We really onl...
  • Dan: So you basically trade off glide for a few grams? Why?...
  • See: If the 100mm plate is good for 100mm-135mm wide skis, are the skis shown in...
  • Jusku: Seems great when youre having your skis flat on the ice. But how would the...
  • Louie Dawson 3: Thanks for answering all these questions Patrick, this is great! One though...
  • David: Hot dang! And I just shelled out for a pair of Dynafit crampons two weeks a...
  • Andy Carey: I think a pair that would fit 84-90 mm waists would be great; my mountainee...

  Recent Posts


Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. While the authors and editors of the information on this website make every effort to present useful information about ski mountaineering, due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

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