News Roundup — Global Warming Ski Touring, Guide Insurance,

Post by blogger | September 7, 2016      

Backcountry Skiing News

The search for climbers Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson in Pakistan was called off a few days ago. Word is a couple of helicopters did extensive flying over the various places the pair could be, including a heli flight over the very top of Ogre 2 (a serious endeavor at 7,285-metre – 23,900-feet).

Some of you might remember that three years ago Outdoor Research sponsored a fun and award winning film about Kyle epic bicycling his way across Kyrgyzstan. While pulling a trailer full of climbing gear, he took two months to go about 1,300 kilometers with a few climbs mixed in along the way. As the events surrounding Dempster and Adamson transpired, we’ve seen beautiful words of condolence and wisdom. I liked what Steve House had to say.

We didn’t know either of the pair, having only met Kyle a few times in passing at film festivals and such. As always, we’d offer that while some individuals might disdain the “pointless” deaths of extreme alpinists. We’re of the opinion that while such sports are clearly not for everyone, certain individuals rise up to push the limits of what’s humanly possible, in turn actualizing themselves and inspiring the rest of us. If that’s truly your path, as it was for Dempster and Adamson, we honor that. At the same time, condolences to family and friends.

Check out the boy riding the horse at 6:29 and listen to Kyle “…This, is what we came for…” To me, that boy is Kyle, riding on…

The Road From Karakol from Outdoor Research on Vimeo.

The main fixed expense with operating a guide service might be insurance. As a former co-owner of a permitted service here in Colorado, I recall how difficult it was to come up with the coin. We were good climbers back then, but business idiots — we never did have consistent insurance. That led to a personal financial tragedy, when I busted my leg and discovered I didn’t have any medical insurance through the business, which I’d assumed I had.

There used to be quite a few loopholes in the guide’s insurance game. For example, here in Colorado you could take people on a ski tour up a snow-covered county or state road. So long as you stayed on the right-of-way you didn’t need the pricey insurance required for federal Forest Service lands on either side of the road. Or, you could take people hiking on county owned “open space.” That all changed, with land managers getting wise to what was going on. Now you’re legally required to carry liability insurance for guiding on just about any type of public land.

Nonetheless, guide service owners constantly push limits on what are truly onerous insurance requirements that make running a minimal guiding business next to impossible. This guy, for example aparantly got in the habit of running with no insurance on county owned open space, but is now being shut down. We think that’s sad. I’m not sure I understand the issue. If you get hurt on government land, they don’t have any liability, correct? So why does this guy have to carry liability insurance? Yeah, consumer protection is an issue, but to what extent does that require enriching the insurance companies (not to mention employing government ‘crats to keep track of it all)?

News from Alaska: A serial killer is terrorizing Anchorage. Sounds like random stranger murders, the hardest crimes to solve. Condolences to the victims friends and families, and godspeed to the cops trying to solve. Adding to the fray, overall deadly violence is on the rise in the wilderness metropolis. More here.

Also check this article on the overall culture of Anchorage and conjecture about what’s going on.

On a lighter note from Alaska, many of you have heard of or perhaps experienced K2 Aviation. They’re the guys who fly thousands of people to Denali, for climbs and sight seeing. From what I gather, K2 has a stellar safety record. Clearly, their machinery is reliable, but after all it is machinery. When the machine fails, all you’ve got left is the pilot. K2 has some good ones. Apparently a K2 plane loaded with clients had some sort of mechanical failure. The driver landed on a highway, everyone is safe. Brilliant.

One other AK tidbit. Check out these maps!

Department of Wildsnow Home Base: Ever need to pick up a few snacks for a ski tour, but forgot your reusable grocery bag for a store with a BAG BAN!!? One trick I use is to make a pass by the produce and pick up one of those filmy “free” plastic sacks they supply for potatoes and apples, then stuff it with the my snacks at checkout. You might get frowned at, but the store has no skin in the game. Indeed, the bag ban here at home in Carbondale is a bad joke, as the law restricts bags at the grocery market, but all other stores can still supply them. I don’t get it. Really, do our elected officials have a mental problem or something?

(Yes, Virginia, all elected officials by default have a mental problem, but that’s a subject for a different website.)

I might sound overly negative on banning plastic grocery bags, but actually I’m for it. Not because of the landfill or carbon issues (the former is a non issue here, and the latter might be a myth) but simply to reduce litter. But I’d like to see the law applied evenly, and is such a law even constitutional?

One thing is clear, banning plastic grocery bags is not going to solve global warming. Speaking of, I couldn’t figure out if this article about lizards was an early April fool’s or real. It seemed reasonable, then I got to the part about how scientists need to add the “spatial distribution of shade” to their climate models. That way they could more accurately predict what’ll happen to lizards in the heat.

Ok, joking about climate change is done. Indeed, perhaps we should ban GW jokes here on WildSnow, the way we ban telemark jokes?

Getting serious, check out this article by Bob Berwin about how Austria might be affected by GW, and what they might do about it. What stands out is that “adaptation” is now getting the attention it deserved a decade ago, while “mitigation” is clearly being viewed as somewhat of a lost cause. In other words, you can ban plastic bags and try to restrict everything under the sun, but the CO2 is already in the air and Austria is warming up fairly quickly. We can testify to that, having had our ski touring shut down by Austrian rain and melting events more times than I care to count. Not to mention seeing first hand the glacial retreat in the Alps.

The revised version of Austria’s “Green Plan” is here. Google translate works well on the intro page, but the actual draft plan is a PDF and I couldn’t figure out a way to get a good translation. Suggestions welcome. Perhaps someone can find an English version?

As for GW and Austrian skiing in particular, in my view not many solutions exist. More access to higher altitude is clearly essential, via roads and cable. Blanketing glaciers during summer is actually doable, as is rolling out lots of skiable artificial carpet snow in places under heavy traffic, to compensate for thinner snowpack. Overall, what’s most important is that Austria’s wonderful mountain culture is the foundation of their tourism industry. Skiing is an extension of that, not the root. The friendly people, the food, the scenery. I doubt global warming will shut tourism down, but things will definitely change — especially snow sports.

Shopping “news” Our friends at Cripple Creek Backcountry has some pre-season pricing going on. is doing some of that as well. It’s not exactly “sale” season on ski gear, but everyone wants to prime the pump so take advantage.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


9 Responses to “News Roundup — Global Warming Ski Touring, Guide Insurance,”

  1. Matt Kinney September 7th, 2016 2:45 pm

    FWIW the Chugach National Forest just released it’s Revised Plan. They were required to assess climate change impacts to the forest, including snow and glacier. That chapter was full of geeky snow stats and science which made that part interesting along with really bad skier newsi Here is the quote that should concern every skier. Though this is just about the Chugach around Valdez, it may be reflective of snowfall totals around the world in the next 50 years.

    I read every page and they never mentioned telemark skiers..specifically. (-;

    “A rapid change in snow-line is expected over time. This change is illustrated in figure 2 through the change in geographic location where an estimated 90% of winter precipitation will fall as snow. While inter-year variability in snowline is expected to be high in the next ten to twenty years, the modeled snowline shifts well inland from Valdez. By 2040, many areas are predicted to receive less than 30% of winter precipitation as snow, and by the 2060s snow line (as defined by the 90% contour) is predicted to shift to the highest peaks. In order to assess the snowline during the coldest season, as opposed to the winter as a whole, we also examined the projected snowline for the month of January alone. Results show that for many areas that typically experience almost all January precipitation as snow, this pattern may shift in coming decades.By the 2060s, Anchorage, Kenai, Soldotna, Wasilla, and Palmer may have only intermittent snow cover even in the coldest month of the year.”

  2. Lou Dawson 2 September 7th, 2016 3:33 pm

    So you’ll be wandering around in the dark, in the rain, wearing your mud boots. Sounds grim. Perhaps we need that sulfur dioxide after all. Lou

  3. See September 7th, 2016 8:48 pm

    How about banning slurs on gov employees, or any other sufficiently broad group where such generalizations are obviously unfair? Some of my best friends are telemarkers and “‘crats.”

  4. Lou Dawson 2 September 8th, 2016 5:57 am

    See, thanks, I’ll watch that.

    Problem is that the definition of a telemaker is pretty specific, while the definition of bureaucrat in my opinion is more of “if the shoe fits wear it, you know who you are…” Thus, when I use the term ‘crat it applies to those individuals who perpetuate the unwieldy and obstructive government machinery that just seems to get in the way of doing things that are common sense, efficient and practical.

    To be fair, much of what the bureaucrats do is mandated by law. So I probably do get a little excessive with my take. Again, I’ll watch it.

    But, and it’s a big but, the officials do interpret the law as well as doing selective enforcement.

    For example, In the case of the USFS dealing with outfitters, my understanding is that Federal law does require the outfitters to carry insurance, but does not require the bureaucrats to artificially limit competition (through limiting the issuance of permits) and thus up the consumer cost of hiring a guide. I would thus tend to call those officials applying their own interpretation of those laws, “crats” because I believe they are doing a disservice to us citizens for whom they are supposed to be public servants funded by our own money.

  5. Jim Milstein September 8th, 2016 7:25 am

    Lou, you may be describing “regulatory capture”, where the regulated get the regulation they want. For example, the guides who have permits are likely very much in favor of limiting permits.

    Our underpaid, under-appreciated government “bureaucrats” are easily captured. On my wish list: a strong, competent, bureaucracy sincerely dedicated to the public good. In short, good government is better than bad government or no government.

  6. Lou Dawson 2 September 8th, 2016 9:17 am

    Pretty much agree Jim. The other component of this, which in my view is poor government, is “legislation through rule making.” A heinous thing that is 100% non democratic, IMHO.

    Applies to the issue of bicycles in legal Wilderness, for example.


  7. Katie Spieler September 9th, 2016 8:45 am

    Thanks for the updates. I really enjoyed watching the film “The Road from Karakol”, it was beautiful.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 September 9th, 2016 9:40 am

    Indeed, bittersweet…

  9. Jim Milstein September 9th, 2016 11:10 am

    In defense of rule-making, Lou, it’s often impossible to make laws as detailed as they need to be to cover all likely situations. Hence, executive rule-making which, hopefully, follows the principles specified in the law. The courts are there to resolve disagreements that inevitably arise. That’s the theory.

    You may recall that one of the criticisms of the ACA was that it was so long. The intent of all that detail was to limit discretion in the execution.

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