Ski Touring News Roundup — Snow in a Few Weeks?

Post by blogger | July 27, 2016      

Despite global warming I’m thinking we’ll have some skiing here in Colorado come September. Indicators: Main thing I noticed in my seemingly endless perusal of the oracle is that if you stick a crackmeter in a crack, you’ll notice changes going on that in my heavily educated scientific opinion indicate the coming storm. No jokes folks, this is real. The crackmeter never lies.

I was googling around and landed on this: Skiing 50 peaks in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. Nice, also couldn’t help but think it must have been wonderful to only need a few trailheads instead of dozens and dozens — as most “list” skiing projects in the Rocky Mountains seem to entail. Just finding the trailheads used to be a major challenge when doing things like skiing all 54 14,000-foot Colorado peaks. Back when I was doing those, we didn’t have much information and we’d drive around for hours (or sometimes a full day) just looking for access. I remember thinking more than once how nice it would have been to be heading to the same parking place enough times to feel comfortable, instead of stressing out. More here.

In places such as Austria, it seems all you have to do is blink and a new ski tow cable appears. Say what you will about the U.S. in terms of our environmental sensibilities, but you can’t fault us here in Colorado for being cavalier about building resorts. New ones are now rare as hen teeth. Check out this article. What with the uncertainty of global warming, I’m wondering how any sane investor could throw money at anything below 10,000 feet in elevation; the summit of the proposed resort is at 9,727 feet. When there actually is snow up there, I’m wondering how it would be for ski touring?

What is it about South America. It seems nearly every “summer,” pro skiers go there and don’t come back. September of 2014 was horrible in that way with the loss of Liz Daly, J.P. Auclair and Andreas Fransson, now we’re hearing that pro skier Matilda Rapaport has perished in an avalanche in Chile. Our sincere condolences from WildSnow to Rapaport’s friends and family. Our sport can be so beautiful, yet turn dark all too easily…

Accidents happen other places as well, but my gut is telling me that despite a relatively small number of Northern Hemisphere skiers spending time in the Southern, accidents are all too frequent. The usual media articles are popping up with titles like “Is Pro Freeskiing Too Dangerous?” While many pros do beat themselves up and deal with constant orthopaedic problems, my impression is that the profession is actually pretty safe in terms of catastrophic accidents. It’s not as controlled as Hollywood stunt acting, but it’s not total insanity as the films sometimes portray. Instead, quite a bit of thought and planning goes into each “stunt” and I’m told that usual procedure is the guides or safety “officers” have final say in what gets skied. That said, the culture of personal safety is different in South America than that of the U.S., could that have something to do with all this? Thoughts, commenters?

Politics. Ok, I’ll cave and mention our presidential race. Since I don’t really like any of these folks very much, I’m picking my own nominee based on nothing more than skiing. She is married to a president, and photographed on planks in Vail and Aspen. Clearly that’s not the H gal, but rather Mrs. O. Beyond that, the nefarious T-man was spotted years ago arguing with his now x-wife on the slopes of Aspen, ostensibly due to him playing around with at least two different paramours. Something like that is simply never done in Aspen. Wait, I’m wrong, the skiing backwards and shouting part is clearly part of Aspen skiing. More here. Relationship spats are an honored tradition on ski slopes, but still, fighting turns me off even if it’s done while skiing switch. So I’ll pick the M.O., perhaps she’ll want to get in a ski tour with Lisa and I some time.

Back here in cowboy country, we’re looking at the repatriation of wolves to our fair ecosystem. Not a big deal to me, perhaps a concern if you’re a rancher. Or, if you live on the urban-wildland interface and you’ve had 6 cats and 8 dogs dined on by coyotes, can you imagine what’s going to happen when you’ve got a nearby wolf pack with mouths to feed? In other words, our state does have areas of vast wilderness where wolves could perhaps exist in their pre-columbian state of edenic ecosystem stasis, but what’s to keep them from living where getting food is a simple matter of chomping on a lap dog? This article is interesting. Grizzly bears are probably next to be re-introduced. Would that be such a great idea?

I’m always fascinated by the ski scene in New England, where the main issue in backcountry skiing is vegetation — though according to the magazines it’s all about powder, all the time. Powder is easy to handle, vegetables are another matter. It seems like such a no-brainer to me, just form clubs or groups and start making trails through the bramble. But of course laws, politics and tree worship all get in the way. Nice to hear they’ve cut through the bull in various places. I was amused to find out about the Angry Beavers of Black Mountain Maine volunteer cutting group, making what sounds like some epic tree runs. More power!


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9 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup — Snow in a Few Weeks?”

  1. Max July 27th, 2016 2:07 pm

    Lou, regarding the avalanche that took M. Rapaport, it is very important to highlight the fact that there was a total of three avalanche incidents in the same area (Farellones) in a single week. After a major thaw in the winter, it started snowing again and powder fever took hold. The other major incidents were in sidecontry areas near La Parva and Colorado, where the FWT is to be held this weekend.

    The avalanche that killed Matilda occured in a valley due west of Farellones, not farther than 40 km from Santiago. She was buried for 30 minutes, and was not in medical care until an hour later. Further details regarding the rescue are unknown.

    With regards to personal safety, i think that like in the US, it depends where you go. In the Santiago area, with all the crowding, more and more people are heading into the BC without the proper knowledge or equipment (even the “pro” skiers from the local circuit). Further south, i find the locals tend to treat the mountains with more respect.

    What is beyond any doubt is that we simply do not have the advanced avalanche resources (bulletins, forecast, rescue, in short: we DO NOT HAVE AVALANCHE CENTERS) that you folks have. Case in point, patrollers in the Farellones area don´t do beacon searches or avy related training. However, at least now there are far more providers for AIARE and AST courses, in levels I and II.

    In the short term, expect to hear much more news like this from South America.

  2. Matt Kinney July 27th, 2016 2:24 pm

    Good to see you commenting about global warming and it’s relationship to skiing. It will take “human-will power” along with the future direction of the ski industry to limit our collective carbon footprint. Time is not on our side.

    I think three young professionals on the Freeride Tour died last year unfortunately. Two competed in Haines, AK. None of the incidents happened in the controlled zone of an event. There is a pattern worth discussing at some level e. Steepness inclined skiers have been getting killed for as long as I can remember, so this is nothing new. Not sure a young profreeride skier at 18, 21, oven 30 has real backcountry skiing experience away from the safety net of lifts, heli’s and camera’s. Seems like 95% off their ski time is not in the backcountry making routes decisions on their own. They should be seeking mentorship before sponsorship.

    Seriously the closest I see to Profreeride skiers are lou jr and his posse trip reports.

    If you don’t have brown bears, don’t ask for them.

  3. Lou Dawson 2 July 27th, 2016 2:59 pm

    Hi Matt, I’ve seen our skiing clearly affected by GW, both in good and bad ways. I attribute some of the better high altitude snowpacks we’re seeing in Colorado to GW, likewise I attribute rain in December at 10,000 feet, and lean skiing in Europe, not to mention obviously retreating glaciers. I’m really not all that interested any more in endless “proof” that it exists. That stuff became a yawner years ago for any observant person who’s out in the natural world. In fact, I think a lot of money and time is now being wasted by scientists staring slack jawed at their thermometers, and yes, crack meters! All I’m interested in is governments doing practical things to adapt, as all the good science I’ve seen makes it clear that we’re on the GW path and stopping it or slowing it down is impossible for now, due to socio economic realities. I do prefer to call it Global Warming if we’re talking about heat, rather than the weird “climate change” euphemism, a semantic weirdness foisted on us for some reason I can’t quite fathom. Lou

  4. Austin Porzak July 27th, 2016 6:41 pm

    Thanks for mentioning the Ski RMNP project! We’ve been having a blast climbing and skiing these peaks. Funny you mention the TH thing. At first it was great using the same TH’s over and over but now I kinda miss going to new TH’s haha. I think I have every single inch of the Longs Peak and Glacier Gorge approaches memorized, which makes it easier on somedays and makes it worse on others.. It would be a real honor if you would ski a peak with us next year! As always thank you Lou for the inspiration.

  5. Lou Dawson 2 July 28th, 2016 6:44 am

    Hi Austin, thanks for dropping by. I hear you on the Longs approach, that burnout happened to me during my rock climbing career. I lost count of how many times I hiked that trail up to the Boulder Field, many times getting hit by weather and just turning around. And then the ski years, I was up there 4 or 5 times before finally getting the North Face route. Am looking forward to checking out some other peaks some day for skiing. Lou

  6. Lou Dawson 2 July 28th, 2016 7:26 am

    Max, thank for chiming in. I’d add, as a small voice whispering in a windy wilderness, that some of the stuff we do is perhaps more risky than we care to admit to ourselves. During my avalanche education, it was pounded into me over and over again that “if you ski a slope that avalanches one out of a hundred times, and you ski it a hundred times, what do you expect?” That’s of course an oversimplification and not mathematically accurate, but it gets the point across. As I watch myself, my friends and loved ones skiing avalanche terrain, I’m always thinking “are we pushing it, and just setting up for the inevitable?” Or are we mitigating hazard to enough of a degree, mostly through decision making, to where what we’re doing is actually as safe as we think it is? Lou

  7. Aaron Mattix July 29th, 2016 5:06 pm

    The Sunlight/Williams Peak area could certainly benefit from some Angry Beaver-style efforts. Some deadfall and vegetation clearing could open up quite a few new routes to accommodate the growing number of folks who are using the area for entry-level backcountry skiing.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 July 29th, 2016 6:06 pm

    I’m surprised I’ve not seen more maintainence up there. Some of the old fence lines clearly have some work done, as does the summit area. It’s Sunlight’s permit area, they could give volunteers permission to do some work.

    For our readers, “Sunlight/Williams” is a ski touring area in Colorado.


  9. Shawn July 30th, 2016 9:23 am

    When our chief export is weaponry, doesn’t hold much promise for solving a global issue. War hawks are no longer welcome on this planet, let’s send them all to Mars.

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