Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
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.