Ski Touring News Roundup — June to July “Summer”

Post by blogger | June 30, 2016      
Another perspective of the crew and their route on Mt. Darwin. Noah ended up skiing the route with one boot in walk mode! Never a dull moment in New Zealand. Photo: Beau Fredlund

Time to think about a trip down under? This be Mt. Darwin. Never a dull moment in New Zealand. Beau Fredlund photo.

We’re glad to hear this gal survived a fall down Montana backcountry snow. According to one news report the accident was ostensibly caused by a binding failure or pre-release, perhaps exacerbated by hard snow. She’s hurting and in the hospital, sounds like her helmet was useful. We’ll put this out there: If she or her companions want to contact us we’d love to report on what happened regarding any sort of equipment failure. In any case, best wishes for speedy healing.

More from Montana, the wildlife nightmare we all try not to dream about. Brad Treat, 38, was knocked of his bicycle by a grizzly bear and died due to the attack. Condolences to family and friends. Bear attacks have been increasing, boffins say that’s because bear-human interaction is at an all-time high. One also has to wonder, however, when bears were hunted more aggressively did they not shy more readily at the presence of humans, and now that they’re definitely at the top of the food chain, they truly know no fear? Moreover, when humans basically lived off the land and eventually hunted certain species to near or total extinction (both pre-columbian as well as early settlers), were not “human wildlife” interactions also occurring at a pretty good clip? Wildlife biologists, comments on. News report here.

Thinking of a ski mountaineering trip to the southern hemi this “summer?” An eternal dilemma is New Zealand vs Australia. We’d like to do this ourselves and indeed find the NZ/AU discussion recurs at least several times a year. Then there is Chile, the disrupter. My take is if you want the best adventure travel go to Chile, if you want the most accessible alpine mountains go ski touring in New Zealand, and if you’ve always been fascinated by the Aussies one needs to ski AU at least once. I like this opinion column covering the NZ/AU question.

Going local to our WildSnow Colorado homeground. Roger Marolt is one of my favorite writers here in the old mining districts. He comes from a skiing multi-generation skiing family and often pens his thoughts on glisse. This is a nice recent one, summer ski adventures on high.

Staying local, how about some land use issues? Foot and bicycle trail development around here has been at a fever pitch since younger and more enlightened individuals have gradually inculcated themselves into power. Even so, the “traileratti” runs up against difficult obstacles now and then. For example, near Aspen a land holding family donated a prime backcountry area into the public trust, only it turns out they stipulated there would be no developed trails other than one out-and-back to a memorial site. Weird thing is, as this whole thing was taking shape one of the original owners built a popular and nearly essential trail that crossed the parcel. After this was in use for a few decades, for some reason someone noticed that the deeds for the land contained language restricting the trails. Simply weird. Now the lawyers are sorting it out.

A bit more to pass the time this hot Thursday? I’m not exactly sure how I missed this incredibly important moment in the history of ski innovation. Video below. The hundred foot bungee cord is radical, as is his try at the most literal rail slide ever attempted. Your thoughts?


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29 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup — June to July “Summer””

  1. ANZ June 30th, 2016 6:00 pm

    The NZ/AU *ski mountaineering* comparison doesn’t even exist. Please research your content a little more deeply. NZ is the clear winner. In fact it is the only contender. The gaper article you linked to relates to ski resorts. Not backcountry skiing, and certainly not ski mountaineering. You let yourself down with this rushed piece. Now 3,2,1… all the AU people rushing in to defend what they have. Nice unique place, but NZ has mountains. AU has a few minor peaks and then mostly “high” flat lands with escarpments.

  2. Lou 2 June 30th, 2016 8:30 pm

    I probably should have used the words “ski touring” rather than ski mountaineering. The point is if you can go south, which place? I know lots of people who’ve been to both and had tons of fun either way. And yes of course the NZ mountains easily win if you want the biggest most alpine! As for links, was just trying to find something informative, no agenda, suggestions welcome. Lou

  3. ANZ June 30th, 2016 10:53 pm

    Of the two, AU has quite unique snow flora and fauna, which I think is a selling point. Otherwise, NZ for terrain scale.

  4. LJS June 30th, 2016 11:36 pm

    As an Aussie I have to agree if you want to skimo or need to feel in among the mountains head to NZ. If heading up on the glaciers just pick your weather and be self sufficient, the alpine huts are luxurious by AU standards but minimal by NA/Euro standards. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll have the place to yourself if up on e.g. the West Coast glaciers. Just ridiculous amounts of terrain. NZ resorts/club fields also make for good jumping off points for day tours or longer and often cater to this with specific tickets.

    As ANZ says AU lacks altitude to its “peaks” so the steep terrain ends pretty quickly! The high plateaus get wind scoured so Spring corn is the best skiing IMO, outside of rare properly cold dumps. The unique experience of skiing among snow gums may be a draw card (naturally spaced apart for your skiing convenience), or skipping around on the rolling terrain visiting old cattlemans’ huts. If you toured to e.g. Jagungal mid week (classic multi-day outing, if snowline is low enough keep going all the way to Kiandra but that is getting rarer,) fair chance you’ll be it for miles around. Back country is a little more popular than it used to be but it’s still pretty quiet in the AU back country.

  5. JCoates July 1st, 2016 6:14 am

    I’d love to hear some bear experts chime in if I’m wrong, but Lou, I don’t think your logic regarding bears no longer being afraid of humans because they aren’t hunted anymore is correct. I suspect in this case–like most bear attacks–that Brad and the other mountain biker probably suprised the bear and it simply reacted instinctively. Flight or fight and in this case the bear probably didn’t have time to get out of the area before two mountain bikes bore down on it. I don’t know the whole story in this case but from growing up in Montana, more often the case, the bear had cubs too.

    In this case, probably bad luck for the bikers and bad luck for the bear, but to subtly suggest maybe we should start increasing the bear tag limit doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe the number of bears is increasing, but I bet it’s not as much as the amount of back country human travelers are, and to suggest that it’s the bear’s “fault” might give folks with no experience with bears the idea that they are stalking humans–which is almost never the case.

  6. Frame July 1st, 2016 6:29 am

    Not that I’ve skied in Aus, but I understand the mountains/hills are much older than what I know in NZ, so often grass underneath and less sharp rocks etc to be filled in by start of season storms. In Aus you can be up and running pretty quick once the snow flies.

    With the small distances in NZ, it would be doable to add seeing a game of rugby into the schedule for the visitor. Christchurch or Dunedin if in the South Island. Auckland if that’s where your flights depart from. Also, the skiing on the volcano up in the North Island is great fun with the terrain features the volcano gives you.

  7. Rudi July 1st, 2016 8:18 am

    Am kind of glad we do not have Grizzlys down here in CO….Plenty of people recreating in MT though. Do people just view it in the same vein as shark attacks? The idea that a 600lb carnivore was prowling about the BC while I was hiking/camping/sleeping is a bit unsettling for me.

    I like these news roundups a lot.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 July 1st, 2016 9:00 am

    I’m not kinda glad, I’m totally glad we don’t have griz around here in central Colorado. It’s enough that our black bears have become dangerous destructive pests due to mismanagement and the powers not enforcing laws about camp and residential trash hygiene. Now the bears are calling the shots. It’s just going to get worse.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 July 1st, 2016 9:02 am

    Rudi, I like writing the news roundups, it’s more along the lines of traditional blogging, some opinion mixed with grist… Thanks for the encouragement. Lou

  10. Shane July 1st, 2016 12:46 pm

    Jeeze, why didn’t Bozeman’s local paper have as much information about Julie’s accident? Oh, that’s right, our paper is terrible. Thanks for the link to the ABC article. I was wondering what the snow conditions in the Great One were like during that event.

    On one hand, it would HAVE to be icy in order for someone to fall that far down it. It’s steep but not so much that you couldn’t self arrest in soft spring snow. On the other hand, with the 90 degree temps that were happening that weekend, I think a lot of people would have assumed a dawn patrol was in order. I’m surprised the snow was frozen. I hope she recovers.

    Grizzly bears. Yeah, we have ’em and they do cause many to rethink their plans. There are places that I won’t ride a MTB unless I’m with a group of 4 or more – typically south of Big Sky or in the Gravelly Range but their range is growing. It’s one of the reasons I find backpacking less and less appealing too. I’ve been packing bear spray during some spring ski tours – it adds a whole other level of stress.

    IMO most DO NOT view grizzly attacks the same as shark attacks. Whereas sharks can just grab you, I think most around here think bear attacks are 95% preventable. In most cases, when people are attached by grizzlies, those people made some easy-to-avoid mistakes like moving too fast and/or quietly in areas with limited sight distances. Of course, if you’re an archery hunter or MTB rider, it’s hard not to do those things.

    Yellowstone has started a program called “a bear doesn’t care” which is aimed at convincing ANYONE who leaves the pavement in the park to carry bear spray. Too many fishermen and front country hikers aren’t taking that precaution.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 July 1st, 2016 12:51 pm

    Thanks Shane, what’s the deal with having 4 or more people, enough to fight off the bear, or do they not attack groups? Curious, did Brad have bear spray, or did his companion? I’ve hear it works well, “most of the time.” Lou

  12. wyomingowen July 1st, 2016 4:34 pm

    most in the tetons carry bear spray on spring tours, they’re population is booming, range expanding and the hunting debate is presently raging…
    in recent years tracks are spotted first week of March!!!!!

  13. Steven Zwisler July 1st, 2016 8:26 pm

    Your readers can follow the West Glacier bear event in the Flathead Beacon {} which has thorough and measured reporting about events like these. Dealing with Grizzly bears while in the outdoors in our area creates a situation of enforced humility for we humans. It is a factor for BC skiers as well since I have seen Grizzly tracks as late as the first week of December and as early as March 15. Local lore claims that some bears no longer hibernate but follow wolf packs instead, allowing the wolves to make the kill, then claiming the kill. There are multiple approaches to being in bear country and many of us treat bears as another “objective hazard” that requires certain skills, behaviors, and the aforementioned humility. I have been lucky too.

  14. Dillon July 2nd, 2016 1:10 pm

    Montana is a big scary place. I recommend everyone just play it safe and go to Colorado.

  15. Lou Dawson 2 July 2nd, 2016 3:28 pm

    Indeed, Montana has become incredibly crowded and more all the time. Lou

  16. snowbot July 2nd, 2016 3:30 pm

    So sad to read about Brad’s death. I knew him – and his family And know the trail. He was a thoughtful, athletic guy. Not careless. The trail is close to his house and adjacent to glacier NP. Grizz sightings aren’t uncommon. Pretty regular, actually. And people with as many years experience in that area as Brad recreate accordingly. Sounds like a worst nightmare scenario. So sad for Brad and his family.

  17. snowbot July 2nd, 2016 3:34 pm

    Re four or more people: very few Grizz attacks have occurred on groups that large. It’s not about fighting off the bear; it’s about reducing the chance of an attack.

  18. Andy P July 2nd, 2016 7:42 pm

    Regarding the ski accident on the Great One, how did you determine that it was J.N. involved? Neither the linked article nor the video with the article mentioned a name. I also found two other online articles about the accident, and neither mentioned a name. I searched for “J.N.” and found that she was rescued by helicopter in March 2016 after a skiing fall in Montana’s Cabinet Mountain Wilderness.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 July 3rd, 2016 6:43 am

    Was I the victim of bad news reporting? Or my own stupidity? Apologies for the name as even the slightest doubt causes me to have no need to mention, I’ll pull it back out and redact your mention so Google searches don’t land on it inadvertently. I’ll be more careful in the future as I have no wish to be cavalier about folk’s names associated with news reports.

  20. Jim Milstein July 3rd, 2016 9:37 am

    Nice use of “gal”, Lou. Seldom see that word these days.

    Anyway, by Andy P, it seems this gal was rescued twice by heli this year. That’s an accomplishment I don’t envy. As always, don’t fall.

  21. Lou Dawson 2 July 3rd, 2016 10:49 am

    I’ve always thought it was sexist to call everyone a “guy.” In any case, if this person has been rescued twice, that makes two of us, though both of my times I didn’t get a heli ride. Lou

  22. Jim Milstein July 3rd, 2016 12:15 pm

    Better luck next time, Lou!

  23. Kevin July 4th, 2016 12:09 pm

    Do you have any evidence to back up the claim that hunted animals are less dangerous on a per animal basis? Certainly grizzly bears are hunted in AK, and they also end up killing people there. If you want to remove the danger of grizzly bears by hunting them to extinction then yes that will work and you can safely ski everywhere without worrying about bears.

  24. Lou Dawson 2 July 4th, 2016 12:33 pm

    Kevin, I’ve read that while griz has always been dangerous they did shy away much more readily from humans during days when they were heavily hunted. Yes, they’re still hunted but my understanding is they’re hunted much less. For example, if a griz came around and pestered humans during early days, it would be immediately shot, and not with a camera by a bunch of tourists tossing Snicker bars. Moreover, I can attest to personal experience in Wyoming that when there were fewer black bears, way fewer, and they were hunted more, they simply did not pester humans much at all. Outfitters at the time told us with a smile that any bears that bothered them were dealt with using the shoot-shovel-shutup program, especially up on the Reservation. When I worked for NOLS in the 1970s, we just left our food bags out on the ground overnight for months at a time without a problem. I’ve recently backpacked up there and it’s like night and day regarding bears.

    There is a tendency to want to believe that we humble humans don’t influence wildlife behavior. If one has ever hunted elk, they know different.

    This is a blog, not a scientific paper, BTW. (smile). Lou

  25. Joe John July 4th, 2016 1:43 pm

    Happy 4th of July Wildsnow. Best content on the internet!

  26. JCoates July 5th, 2016 2:42 am


    Not sure of the official statistics, but I’m pretty sure the majority of maulings occur as a result of humans surprising the bear when they walk up on them (or in the case of Brad, ride) when the bear is not expecting it. Unless they have been habituated to humans (think West Yellowstone) I think most bears still have the fight or flight response with humans. They want to avoid humans but when surprised will act aggressively. Of course this is multiplied in the Springtime when they are protecting their cubs. The reasons bears don’t usually hit big groups of people is because they make more noise and the bears hear them and can avoid the groups.

    Bear human contacts are going to go up both as the amount of bears return to “normal” numbers and from the increase in outdoor recreation from us.

    Hunting bears doesn’t seem like a good conditioning method because if you are doing the right thing as a hunter you should kill every bear you shoot at. If you only hear one gunshot in your life–the one that kills you–you don’t really have a reason to be afraid of gunshots.

    Growing up I know the Fish and Game/Sheriffs department used to shoot bears that started to come into town scavenging for food with beanbags (or less PETA friendly rock-salt). If they didn’t learn their lesson they were then captured and relocated. If they kept coming back, then they might be eventually shot, but I don’t think that happened frequently in the grand scheme of things.

    With that said–even though I know bears aren’t really stalking me and if I get mauled it will be because I surprise a bear–hiking in bear country is still stressful. it’s been nice skiing and hiking in the Alps where I don’t have to wear bear bells and yell “Hey Bear!!!!” around every corner or while walking through alder. Now if only they made rude Frenchman repellant….

  27. Lou Dawson 2 July 5th, 2016 7:08 am

    J, from what I’ve seen in tracking this over the years it is indeed true that the majority of griz maulings happen due to surprising bears, worst when it’s a mother with cubs, but also when the bear is protecting a food stash. How much of that behavior would be modified if there was more hunting is an open question.

    Thing is, bears are smart and respond quickly to things. Re hunting, all it takes is for a bear to be wounded and I’d imagine it would change behavior. Not that I like that concept, but reality bites (pun intended). Hazing doesn’t seem to work very well, probably not harsh enough. Not PC to mention that, but again, reality bites.

    The bears habituated to human food are the worst problem IMHO, very dangerous especially for young children wandering around campsites and such. Yes, that’s a human problem as much as it is a bear problem… mostly caused by lack of will on the part of officials to enforce existing laws.

    Where it gets scary are the stories about bears (all varieties) trying to get into tents where folks are sleeping. Whether they’re “attacking” or just foraging, the results are not pretty.

    Far as I know from being an outdoorsman, bears don’t “stalk” humans other than out of curiosity. I do recall a few stories from folks in the north about being stalked by a griz, scary, but nothing came of it other than a scary day or two (the hikers could reach highground, look back across the tundra, and see the bear on their trail!).

    Then there are polar bears.

  28. Jim Milstein July 5th, 2016 9:33 am

    And, what about pandas! Like scary clowns, but much worse.

  29. Steven Zwisler July 5th, 2016 11:02 am

    Here’s another angle on the hunting discussion. Scavengers and predators now recognize the sound of shots as an indicator of food. The last three times I killed deer I have had ravens arrive within 2-3 minutes. No bears or mountain lions but other hunters have reported predator visits at the kill site. I don’t speak raven but I’m pretty sure they were urging me to work a little faster.

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  • 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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