Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — Facebook & K2

Post by blogger | August 21, 2009      

I’ve truly been having fun with the WildSnow Facebook page. The fan (like) thing seemed like a gimmick at first, but when I saw all you guys’ faces it really hit home. Thanks so much for your support, some of you over many years! I figured out how to embed you all in a blog post, so here you go. Your mugs now have their moment of fame on!

(Max the panel below will show is 100 Fans, refresh your browser for a different set of 100.)

You probably heard about the death of Fredrik Ericsson’s partner Michele Fait while on their attempt to ski K2, but I’ll include in this roundup anyway. Ericsson and Fait were on an acclimation and practice descent when Fait simply took the kind of minor fall any of us can stumble into, only he didn’t stop and took a long drop to his death. Very sad, and shows just how serious these endeavors are — when your practice slope is a “fall you die” ski descent. More here at Ericcson’s website.   

They’re baaaaaaack… Powderhoe’s released their trailer for their annual backcountry skiing fest, titled “Flakes.” The snow prostitutes are of course big on the tele whacking, and the skiers they film take genuflecting on planks to levels of athleticism that few people could ever consider. Press release says the boys and girls used remote control helicopters (for carrying cameras, not people, but I still wonder what Andrew thinks of that?) for some of the filming. They’ve been playing around with that for a while and the results are always terrific. Trailer has a nice spirit, am looking forward to a peek at the whole deal. Their website. We’re waiting for the remote control snowmobiles (ride it up, joystick it back to the bottom of the run for the next ride.)

In more “obit” type news, incredible pioneer climber Riccardo Cassin has died after a century of living large (as in, Cassin ridge on Denali, for one example.) Check out this huge Cassin article at Climbing Magazine online. Highly recommended reading, a sample “THREE WOMEN DETERMINED MY SUCCESSES IN LIFE—without them I would not have become the climber I am today. My mother, Emilia, would cook for me; my sister, Gina, would take care of the sporting-goods store for me to let me go climb with my friends on the weekends; and my wife, Irma, would sew my climbing outfits out of scratch: backpacks, crampon laces until 1 a.m. in the morning.”

You want to draw the ire of every environmentalist from here to China? Dick Bass, who owns Snowbird, is part owner of a company that’s submitted permit applications to build a coal mine directly on top of prime salmon fisheries feeding the Cook Inlet in Alaska. Nearly all the coal excavated from the mine would be exported to coal markets in China and other Pacific Rim countries.

I’m no more a fan of burning coal than anyone else, and supplying our coal to China so they can continue their radical build of power plants seems insane. But, why China can’t just go nuclear is mysterious to me. Japan and France are doing fine from what I’ve heard, and are they not our energy mentors? Especially France? We of course burn zillions of tons of coal in this country because the nuke power industry pretty much went into stasis after 3-Mile-Island, but in my view we should put nuclear power back in play other than just limping along with our existing nuke plants (which amazingly still provide about 20% of our electricity, carbon free, thank you very much). So, Dick, how about building a nuke plant to power Snowbird?


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


25 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — Facebook & K2”

  1. Colin in CA August 21st, 2009 10:39 am

    I didn’t know you guys had a FB page. I’m now a fan.

    I’m definitely looking forward to the new Powderwhore flick, even though I’m no longer teleing. Sweetgrass Productions should be great too.

  2. leroy jenkings August 21st, 2009 11:50 am

    “every environmentalist from here to China” Lou? Try most conservation organizations, commercial and sportfishing groups, alaskan native american tribes, businesses and local governments….it isn’t just enviros who oppose threats to the last great salmon fisheries in the world.

  3. Lou August 21st, 2009 2:27 pm

    Define environmentalist. I wasn’t using it in a bad way. Touchy touchy?

  4. harald b August 21st, 2009 2:43 pm

    Lou –

    My semi informed understanding of nuclear power is that compared to coal it is vastly more expensive to build and operate a nuclear power plant. Likewise, uranium needs to be processed before it can be used in a reactor, adding a second complex and expensive process that consumes a lot of energy on top of your already complex and expensive reactor.

    Coal as a feedstock on the other hand, is cheap, abundant, and does not require much processing before it goes into the power plant. Likewise a coal fired plant is much cheaper and easier to build and easier to operate. With no pesky radioactive waste product.

    So, for a rapidly industrializing country that hopes to get the most out of every capital improvement dollar / yuan, a coal fired plant makes a lot more sense.

  5. Lou August 21st, 2009 4:06 pm

    Harald, I was getting too starry eyed, thinking the Chinese might see coal pollution as at least somewhat of a cost, but come to think of it, you are correct and they’re just doing what is quickest and cheapest. Pretty obvious. And the cultural/political thing that many folks seem to conveniently forget about China is that the government there doesn’t exactly highly value human life. Thus, the cost of lives lost due to pollution is not factored in emotionally nor economically. Not that we did much better… seems to me if we’d really figured all that out just from a money standpoint over the past decades, nuke plants would have made a lot more sense than coal pollution. With the C02 issue now being IT, I guess that’s finally obvious to some folks. But sure was not when nuke was promulgated as the great satan, as it still is in many circles.

    BTW, everyone, don’t think I’m of the opinion that nuke is the end all be all, I’m just saying that in my opinion it could be used a lot more to solve our crises. Especially in the interim as we create mass quantities of alternative sources.

  6. dongshow August 21st, 2009 4:12 pm

    Lou, thank you so much for mentioning the Chuitna Coal Project. I work with the Alaskan Tribes and ski with friends who have been running the fish impact study for the last 2 summers. The entire project has been notorious for bad practices from the beginning.

    Dick Bass has continuously dismissed calls for consultation with the local tribes with claiming he didn’t have the time, despite personally flying out to the area in an attempt to butter up the students working on the environmental impact study.

    The Cook Inlet is already an extremely sensitive area due to the massive levels of pollution emanating from Anchorage and Off Shore Drilling. Our stocks of Wild Salmon have been declining for years and the Cook Inlet Beluga (a unique species) is currently listed as an endangered species. This mine would absolutely devastate both species. The mine would destroy the Salmon runs, and in turn the Beluga who calf in the mouth of the Chuitna River and depend on the salmon for food.

    And from a skiers perspective, we can all look forward to the Neacola and Tordrillos Mountains being tarnished with coal dust.

    I’d suggest concerned skiers boycott Snowbird

  7. ScottP August 21st, 2009 5:17 pm

    Lou, it’s not often you use the word “environmentalist” in a postive way, so I was as confused as Leroy. But after a sentence or two it became pretty clear you weren’t for this either :).

    Herald, if you live near a power plant, you actually get more radioactive exposure from coal plants than nuclear plants. Nuclear fuel comes in dense rods that are easily kept track of and shielded. The radioactive source stays in the power plant. Coal exhaust contains minute amounts of radon and uranium and as it’s blown out the smokestack, it gets everywhere including in our lungs. Annual dosage per person from coal is significantly higher than from nuclear. This is ignoring NOx, SO2, and Hg emissions from coal, which are of course even worse. The waste products from nuclear are only pesky because we no longer deem it acceptable to just dump them in a river, but the products from coal are nearly as bad and for some reason we’re fine with just scattering it into the wind.

    Lou already pointed out the cost in human health from coal. It’s hard to quantify, but there is a definite price on the health of a populace. Coal is only cheap in the short term, and only if you don’t value human life. Developing nations may only think in the short term, but as a developed nation I would hope we would be able to think in the long term and perhaps not prey off of developing nations in that way.

  8. Lou August 21st, 2009 5:23 pm

    Thanks ScottP, I’ve known that about coal for years, really annoying what’s been put over on us.

  9. Randonnee August 21st, 2009 5:26 pm

    In regard to the Alaska coal mining, I certainly hope that it does not screw up the area. Are there not strict controls in place these days? This is a serious statement, my ancestors were in the coal fields in W VA and KY, those places were ravaged. Here they have to control the silt for any project to move dirt, surely there are strict controls in place?

    The above linked page from Earthworks seems just a rant without really any substance. It would be good to know who owns the land, what is the nature of the mining, controls, etc. Right now it seems to be just alarmist and anti-(etc) ranting. To read that and other words above it seems that some think that Mr. Bass is automatically a criminal (?). If some folks hate coal and oil so much, I hope that they do not drive or ride motorized transport and use blubber for a lamp instead of electricity. Oh yeah, just a reminder- the luxurious standard of living and leisure that we all enjoy results from the use of oil and coal for energy.There is not a reasonable and sustainable replacement for oil and coal to sustain current populations…unless we all just die.

    As far as CO2 here is something of current interest from a guy at MIT- “Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT’s peer reviewed work states “we now know that the effect of CO2 on temperature is small, we know why it is small, and we know that it is having very little effect on the climate.””

  10. Lou August 21st, 2009 5:27 pm

    If the “environmentalists” are doing something I don’t like, then I state my opinion. If I agree, I state that as well. I’ll admit I’ve done a lot of blog posts about how the enviros muck things up (as they did by being so against nuke and letting coal get to where it has), but please don’t stereotype me. Heck, by most less extreme definitions I’d have to call myself an environmentalist. Perhaps a realist environmentalist would be a better term (grin).

  11. Lou August 21st, 2009 5:31 pm

    Randonnee, I had to cut a bit from your comment. Sorry. Lou

  12. Randonnee August 21st, 2009 5:32 pm

    Good job mentioning nuclear power. My immediate family members are employed in the business of refining uranium, and I hiked with an engineer involved with the same. I have argued for nuclear over coal, many advantages, as Europeans and other countries have proven and carried forward.

  13. Randonnee August 21st, 2009 5:36 pm

    Yeah, all good. I guess the point would be that some should consider the harmful human impact of some initiatives. After all, the folks creating initiatives are humans. These initiatives designed to limit potential harm to humans, cause harm to humans in other ways.

  14. ScottP August 21st, 2009 5:42 pm


    I agree with you often on the “evironmentalist” stances. That’s the same group in the Pac NW insisting on blowing up dams (a wonderful, pollution-free, cheap source of energy) to help revive salmon fisheries. I wonder which is worse for a salmon fishery, dams or coal pollution runoff? At some point there has to be a realization that people exist and need things and something has to give somewhere. Also, I agree that protecting nature for its own sake is ineffective. If people can’t get access to it and enjoy it, they’re not going to see the point in making sacrifices to preserve it. I like to think of myself more as a “conservationist” than an “environmentalist”.

  15. dongshow August 21st, 2009 5:54 pm

    Randonee, no Alaska doesn’t have strict controls of this sort. Our state government is a joke. A little bit of research into water issues up here will frighten you. Land ownership is even more complicated, and its effects will reach far beyond those who simply own the land.

    Your rant about people giving up their luxurious lifestyles falls flat when the people who will be most directly effected by this mine are already among the most impoverished in the nation, and this mine will destroy the land they depend on for their subsistence. The indigenous people of the Cook Inlet have lived off the salmon and beluga for time immemorial, and they will be forced to give up their lifestyle by this mine.

  16. Lou August 21st, 2009 6:04 pm

    I indeed like the word “conservationist.” Much more applicable to myself, especially with modern use.

  17. Randonnee August 21st, 2009 6:15 pm

    Thanks, dongshow. Then I would say that some strict controls need to be implemented- there is the technology to do so. It is a shame how other areas were (are) ravaged by strip-mining for coal. Likewise, throughout history, even in Europe, people were uprooted by mining. So we would agree that this thing has to be done without ruining what you mention. Hold ’em to it. But I would say that we still need oil and coal, that is reality.

  18. Lou August 21st, 2009 6:16 pm

    Had some dumb typos in today’s post. Sorry about that. :blush:

  19. Dongshow August 21st, 2009 7:05 pm

    Randonnee, the reality is clean water and food are more vital to human life then coal. This mine isn’t a critical link in the world’s supply of coal supply chain, it is simply located in an area where the non existent regulatory regime and easily expendable population makes it extremely profitable. Forcing implementation of proper technology and eliminating the tax payer subsidies would make this mine disappear.

    I agree our society still needs oil and coal, but it should also have to pay for the true costs of these products.

  20. Randonnee August 21st, 2009 8:16 pm

    Good points, good for you helping to bring about clean practices, hopefully in this fight there will be a decent balanced outcome. I can’t say that coal is my first choice, just reality that energy sources are needed and those are limited. Let’s just say I am skeptical about environmental agendas from my personal life experiences. In my home area I see anti-human agendas carried on by federal agencies even after data detracts from the value of the initiative- all while taking a toll on humans and communities. In these environmental-issue fights, how often is there an outcry when the people affected are just mainstream blue-collar Americans?

  21. Wayne Nicholson August 22nd, 2009 7:38 am

    Wonder how that ski resort in New England that put up a windmill to supply part of the electricity is doing. Maybe other ski resorts can do the same. In the summer, it sells the power generated and adds it to the power grid, so it’s great for helping the environment.

    If anyone is interested, I can lookup the place.

  22. Jonathan Shefftz August 22nd, 2009 8:01 am

    Jiminy Peak — the thing is massive. (The turbine, not the ski area…) Tower is 253′ and each of the three blades is 123′, so from the tip of the blade the entire structure is 386 feet tall. (No, I don’t understand the math either — I took that info from their website.) The really cool part is that when you’re skinning up this one slope early season, you’re looking up and seeing these massive blades rotating above the horizon. Looks like you’re skinning up into a weird alien structure in a weird combo ski / scifi film or something.

    Anyway, Jiminy is doing fine, although it would be doing fine with or without a turbine.

    Berkshire East is also installing a fairly sizable turbine.

  23. Jason August 25th, 2009 5:25 pm

    “But, why China can’t just go nuclear is mysterious to me.” Yes. Exactally. We run submarines off Nuclear power. I really think that science should pursue this source of power much more. It CAN be the cleanest source we have.

    Great movie, flakes, by the way.

  24. Lou October 21st, 2009 10:08 am

    Hey, we just broke 1,000 Facebook fans! I guess I’ll go celebrate! Thanks everyone!

  25. Paul Joyce January 6th, 2010 2:41 pm

    Lou, please pass this on to your readers. We are just asking Red to play by the rules.
    Do you like Wolf Creek Pass the way it is?
    Do you believe in fair and open public process??

    Stop the Swap!
    to sign a petition opposing the Wolf Creek Legislative Land Exchange and to learn more about what you can do to stop the “Pillage.”

    Texas billionaire developer BJ “Red” McCombs seeks to construct a city of up to 10,000 people near the base of Wolf Creek Ski Area. After 20 years of attempts to circumvent public review of this project, McCombs is now seeking a legislative land exchange to gain more developable property and highway access with minimal if any public involvement and scrutiny of this project’s potentially significant adverse impacts. Despite all the promises, we are aware of no public benefit of performing this land exchange legislatively.

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