Ski Touring News — Snow Immersion and New Computers

Post by blogger | November 30, 2016      
Backcountry skiing news.

Backcountry skiing news.

Public service: With all our emphasis here on avalanche safety, a reminder that deep snow immersion (tree wells, etc.) is a very real danger and in many ski touring situations might be of more concern than avalanche risk. Tricky issue, since skiing avalanche terrain best involves spreading your group out and ideally skiing one-at-a-time, but an entrapment in a tree well may require rapid assistance to prevent tragedy.

Two-way radio use is perhaps part of the solution. While skiing one-by-one, riders can speak with each other before, during, and after descending. If someone is skiing and you don’t see them or hear from them within a comfortable interval, another person heads down to evaluate. On a big backcountry run this doesn’t work for the last skier (when you’d have to climb to render aid) but it works for everyone else. Another reason to have one of your strongest and most cautious skiers be your tailgunner. What got me thinking about this is news from Whistler of a snow immersion death. Condolences to friends and family, so sad when an innocent day of fun shifts over.

Operating an REI store in Aspen may soon be illegal (are you laughing or crying?). The old mining town’s command and control gods of economics have swiveled their spotlight to the issue of “chain stores” cluttering up their carefully curated downtown retail environment (as if locals who buy underwear and toilet paper at real stores outside of town really care). The one real backcountry alpine sports shop in Aspen, Ute Mountaineer, would benefit by REI staying away, but they’d probably do ok either way. Interesting to watch, from a distance.

When two insurance companies battle in court, it’s interesting what happens. Ever been scourged by an apparently manic rider when you’re making a mellow run down moderate resort terrain?

With due respect to both skier and snowboarder expert and polite skiers, the “scourge” effect does happen. It happened in Colorado at Keystone resort. This article tracks back from what you might think is an excessive monetary settlement for the accident victim, but makes sense of the whole thing. Beyond what the jury came up with, may I suggest that if you’re sharing terrain at a resort, and skiing slow, you might practice diligent defensive driving? The simple fact is that despite laws in places such as Colorado that require yielding to the downhill skiers, safe in-control skiing and snowboarding are not enforced or encouraged in any meaningful way these days (if they ever were). Result is carnage we’ve witnessed many times in person.

Circling back north, I remember my Arcteryx hosted trip to the Callaghan area last year and the somewhat thin early season snowpack that’s apparently common to the area. The terrain there is rough. It needs a thick snowpack to hide and mitigate hazards such as snags, pits, and rocks. They’ve had two heli rescues already this year, for injuries ostensibly due to terrain issues. Whistler Question reports that in both instances the victims were not equipped for an overnight, yet entirely non ambulatory. As always, consider a small amount of lightweight bivvy equipment if you ski tour remotely enough to require a helicopter instead of a sled ride in the event of an injury. A tested fire starting kit and bivvy sack are the minimum. Theory is if you do get stranded, dig a snow hole. Problem is that digging in can get you wet. So sometimes it’s better to sit by a fire or simply huddle if temperatures are not desperate.

In any event, a well thought out clothing system is the foundation of it all. Wall-to-wall waterproof breathable shell garments with several optional insulating layers can do an amazing job if you do need to survive a night out. But the coverage of a bivvy sack can make the difference, especially for someone hurting. Shop for our favorite bivvy sack (all bivvy sacks should be breathable, and if only for emergencies, very lightweight).

Out of gamut department WildSnow digital machinery: I’ve been travel blogging for years now on an Acer Aspire One 725-0412, a lightweight 11.5 inch Win-7 beater that simply won’t die. Sir Acer has been everywhere from Chile to the Yukon, eight or nine Europe trips, and innumerable jaunts around our home base. But the little guy is tired. Touch pad is acting funny, battery life is down, and I’m not sure upgrading to Windows 10 will be of any help (or even work). Worse, the Acer has an SD card slot that requires using sticky tape to remove an inserted card. So I grabbed an Amazon deal on a cheapo Lenovo Thinkpad 11e, a somewhat toughened basic “education” laptop with 8 gig of ram, excellent battery life, SSD drive, and reasonably fast processor.

Downsides: Aspire masses at 1192 grams, while the Lenovo floats at 1518. Sizes are nearly identical. Hopefully I get speed and battery life in return for lugging Mr. Leno. The 12 second cold boot is indeed quite nice. On the other hand, Windows 10 semi-forced update feature is worse than a persistent panhandler. This is what happens. You’re sitting in an airport cafe, down to the wire, you’ve got 5 minutes to pack up and get moving to your departure. You power down. Instead of shutting off, Win 10 comes up with the “Blue Screen of Uncertainty” stating “Getting Windows Ready, Don’t Turn off your Computer.” You wait. The minutes tick by. Clearly, somehow disabling this silly update nonsense is key for an efficient travel computer.

Supposedly a bunch of update settings do exist that’ll solve the “Blue Screen of Uncertainty” challenge. Configuration is ongoing.

Most fun with Thinkpad configuration? A micro-surgery hardware hack that involved removing the screen, then clipping wires to obnoxious glowing LCD lights on the outside of the lid. When I’m stealth, airport carpet camping or huddling in the corner of a coffee shop, I don’t need my laptop lid advertising my presence. I guess I’m not into things like having a glowing white apple blasting my incredible computer power to the world…each to his own. (Keywords for those seeking to disable Lenovo lid lights: Turn off and remove Lenovo cover LCDs, have a technician remove laptop screen and clip voltage feed wires, requires small tools and magnification.) Oh, and just for fun I “de badged” by peeling off all those dumb stickers on the palm rest, and blacking out the shiny logos with a sharpie.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


11 Responses to “Ski Touring News — Snow Immersion and New Computers”

  1. See November 30th, 2016 9:35 am

    Electrical tape is right up there with duct tape, and it peels cleanly off smooth surfaces. There’s your glowing LED (maybe not LCD) fix. And, say what you will about that glowing apple, but it looks mighty slick with my TLT-7’s.

  2. Craig November 30th, 2016 10:46 am

    Love that you black out logos with a sharpie. I’ve been doing that with sharpies, gortex patches and the like to many of my packs/jackets/pants/gloves etc for years. I find logos (especially BD & La Sportiva) getting bigger by the year. I don’t want to pay them to wear their billboards – they should pay me damnit. Back in the day, cool design/shape/function made for distinctive products and subtle advertising, they didn’t need big obnoxious logos. Maybe this rant mean I’m getting old – ha ha.

  3. Lou Dawson 2 November 30th, 2016 11:01 am

    See, you just need to install an LED to backlight inside your boots and your life will be complete!

    As for the electrical tape, it was more fun and satisfying snipping wires, though you will find e-tape over the camera lens. It’s now all black on black, very aesthetic to my own bad taste (smile).


  4. See November 30th, 2016 11:46 am

    Cool! I bet I can get the guy who installed the underbody lights on my Tesla to hook some boot LED’s right to my boot heaters! But seriously, I’ve used salvaged electrical tape for quite a few improvised mods/repairs over the years.

  5. XXX_er November 30th, 2016 1:38 pm

    my ski bud who owns a store rates LT’s on how many he has to send back, so he rates acer/asus/lenovo good to best so I also bought a Lenovo

  6. biggb November 30th, 2016 3:43 pm

    Lou, do yourself a favor (If the new laptop isn’t touchscreen – I don’t think your is?) and load Win 7. No upsides to Win10 on non-touch machines that I can see … only downsides. As I tell all my clients with Win10 … be proactive with the updates or they will force themselves on you at the MOST inopportune times.

    You might also want to do a fresh reload of whatever OS you choose given Lenovo’s persistent Man-In-The-Middling crapware / malware that comes pre-installed on many models (AKA: Superfish). Otherwise, good chance your blog posts will do a round trip to China when you hit submit … along with anything else you do on the web.

  7. Stewart November 30th, 2016 4:12 pm

    A vapour barrier sleeping bag liner works as an ultra lightweight emergency bivouac bag. Sure it doesn’t breathe, but it’ll keep you warm(er) and it’s small and lightweight enough to actually keep in your touring pack at all times.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 November 30th, 2016 4:21 pm

    Hi Bigg, it’s an enterprise laptop with matt screen, intentional, I hate the mirror behavior of touch screens. Got one on my Zenbook and it’s the worst, reflects everything in the room right back in my eyes.

    Aware of Superfish, cleaned up all the Lenovo bloatware along with more tweaking, which should take care of it.

    Eventually I’ll be forced to Win 10, just like being forced from XP to Win 7, so I thought it was time to go with 10 at least on one or two of our rigs. But thanks for the idea of downgrading, I’ll keep it as an option.

    Photoshop CS2 and Image Ready run better on 7… and those are my primary non-cloud apps.

    The panic mouth breathing media coverage of the Win 10 updates made me think it can’t be turned off. Took me 5 minutes to realize the user actually has all the control they need, but the options are buried in the settings.

    Thanks, Lou

  9. Rick November 30th, 2016 4:59 pm

    I applaud Aspen for restricting chain stores. We have enough of the same cookie cutter corporate stores in every corner of America. Though I love REI, they are just the same. It’s refreshing to see the diversity (& expertise) in the independent retail stores. Stores fueled by owner passion not Boards. And due to strength in numbers with the chains, you’ve got to do what you can to help those independents out.

  10. sock November 30th, 2016 9:00 pm

    Mt. Baker put together a good resource regarding Snow Immersion Suffocation (SIS) given how often it has been an issue there.

  11. Jonathan Moceri November 30th, 2016 9:24 pm

    In Seattle, REi is the dominant outdoor store. But many folks don’t know that a small outdoor store, Feathered Friends, has always tied its store close to REI.

    Back in the day, REI’s only store was located in Seattle, on Capital Hill. And Feathered Friends, featuring down clothing and sleeping bags, was across the street. When REI moved to its new Seattle Flagship location, Feathered Friends followed, and now is across the street, and one block south of the REI Flagship store. They like being close to REI. Good parking for customers and they offer gear that REI doesn’t. I shop at REI, then cross the street and shop at Feathered Friends.

    REI is not Walmart, It’s still a Co-op. Employees appear to like working for them, and they get good discounts at REI. Other local Seattle shops, Pro Ski, Pro Mountain Sports, offer gear and service that REI doesn’t.

    And while I live only 1.6 miles from the REI Flagship store, 90% of my skiing and climbing purchases are from smaller local shops. And I think that with REI, as the 800 pound gorilla, the other shops try to do a better job with customer service and niche products.

    And I’ll use this forum to gloat a bit. We are skiing in the PNW. Mt. Baker, Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass are all open.

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