Ski Touring News Roundup – Mid December 2016

Post by blogger | December 16, 2016      
Backcountry skiing news.

Backcountry skiing news.

Top news, college students who exercise have better memories.

“In a small-scale, qualitative study of 75 college students over a two-day period, researchers found that those with the lowest fitness levels struggled the most to retain information.”

I gather that pot consumption levels were not part of the study.

I’m staying tuned, but I’ve always felt that treating life as a “mind – body – spirit” process was best, and that skiing helped with all of it in various ways. Yet, if this memory enhancement by exercise theory is valid, why do I still do things like leaving my skis and boots at a hotel in Chile?

Time to bring global warming back into our news roundups. Remember the unpardonable sin of geoengineering? I’m told that while we’re allowed to engineer our climate by accident (smog and global warming) it is the ultimate transgression to engineer our way back out of this mess. I tend to disagree. In recent news, theoreticians at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have figured out a way to use an antacid substance that might cool the earth along with preventing acid rain and ozone damage. Bring it on. According to nearly everything I read, we have nothing to lose. More here.

Speaking of energy news that could change the planet, solar panels are getting amazingly inexpensive. By some measures the cost of generating electricity via solar is cheaper than natural gas or wind. This Bloomberg article tells part of the story. What it doesn’t mention is that solar has a huge problem: the energy has to be stored for times when the sun doesn’t shine. Doing so costs money, often quite a bit of it. And storage is inefficient, thus raising the cost of each watt obtained from the otherwise inexpensive panels. We be watching.

And yes, Virginia, we do know a bit about solar power as we run WildSnow Field HQ on a solar power system we built ourselves, with battery storage — and a gas generator hard wired in for when the $1,000 worth of batteries are not enough.

Perhaps I’m spoiled from last winter, but we still don’t have much of a snowpack here in Colorado. But we’ve got enough to avalanche. Got me thinking about how you can get seduced into alpine terrain when you begin your day on discouraging terrain but the snow gets thicker higher up. With avalanche danger. That exact situation appears to have happened in the Tirol a few weeks ago. Use Google Translate on this report, it’s concise — and sobering.

Did you notice Google Translate has improved? Monster word count style reporting in the NYT says so.

In my testing Translate does seem slightly better, but not as amazing as I was led to believe by the article. At least that’s so in the skiing and alpine sports realm where the relationship between language and concepts is skewed from the verbal expressions of everyday life. For example, in this article about heli skiing in the Tirol, the translation reads “With the many peaks in Tyrol, which already leads a train or a lift, that would make little sense,” says Dagostin with a polemical undertone.” How that should probably read is “With so many peaks in Tyrol already accessible by mechanization such as ski lifts, heli skiing makes little sense,” says Dagostin with obvious distaste for the idea.

Or, how about the first sentence in the heli ski article. In German it reads “Sie heißen Mehlsack und Orgelscharte,” which Google translates as “They are called flour sack and Orgelscharte.” Weird that Google would leave one proper noun as is (Orgelscharte), while translating Mehlsack to “flour sack” in regular case.

All that said, I’m having fun with Google Translate. Talk about helping us become global in our understanding of the world, this is a big thing. For example, check out this Italian article on the state of snow cover and weather outlook for the Alps. Translate works pretty well on it.

That’s it friends. Looking forward to a nice weekend here in Colorado as we did get some snow. Stay tuned next week, big stuff going on.


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44 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup – Mid December 2016”

  1. See December 16th, 2016 10:09 am

    Ok, Lou. Suppose you manage to convince us all that our planet’s climate is basically screwed, and that the only possible solution is geoengineering. What, then, is our motivation to reduce carbon emissions through conservation, investment in alternative energy, technological innovation, legislation, etc.?

  2. Dan December 16th, 2016 10:09 am

    Hey Lou, imagine what you might have forgotten in that Hotel in Chile if you had not been so active, etc. all those years.

    Happy Holidays (Merry Xmas too).

  3. Lou Dawson 2 December 16th, 2016 10:48 am

    I’d have probably left my pants there or something (smile). Lou

  4. Lou Dawson 2 December 16th, 2016 10:54 am

    See, according to nearly everything I read, there is no need to reduce emissions as any practical amount of doing so is not going to make any significant difference. So, there is no motivation. Perhaps that’s why it’s not being done despite the amazing amount of talk and print devoted to the subject. I think the problem is many people view global warming as a big club that’s going to somehow force the world to do what they already think is right in terms of how we manage our energy use. In other words, GW is being used as a power play.

  5. See December 16th, 2016 11:16 am

    I disagree with almost everything in the above comment, Lou. But rather than go through it point by point, I’d really appreciate some references to back up your statement that “there is no need to reduce emissions as any practical amount of doing so is not going to make any significant difference.”

  6. biggb December 16th, 2016 12:24 pm

    Come now Lou … pot doesn’t make you stupid.

  7. jay December 16th, 2016 12:32 pm

    Here’s a story from the week pertaining to skiing.

  8. Jim Milstein December 16th, 2016 12:35 pm

    You are rightm, biggb, pot doesn’t make you stupid, but I forget just what it does do to you.

  9. Lou Dawson 2 December 16th, 2016 1:16 pm

    See, there is debate all over the internet about how possible or impossible, geopolitically and practically speaking (not in theory) it would be to reduce emissions enough to make a significant difference. I think you know that, what I’m bringing up is a simple take that in my opinion it’s impossible, not because the technology doesn’t exist but because of the geopolitical issues, human nature, economics, politics.

    As for the big club, for decades environmentalists have been looking for ways to motivate the world’s population to live with less impact. GW is viewed as the ultimate motivator. I’ve spoken with many people who feel that way, who make naive statements like “finally, this will convince the world to change to solar power.” It’s a form of eschatology, in that the “end times” are hoped to be a motivator for people to mend their ways.

    And the argument that “doing something is better than doing nothing” is sophomoric or worse. It is the politician’s syllogism.'s_syllogism

    Another thing that amuses me is how you read about the U.S. being a “leader” in all this. We’re of course a has-been world power who does everything wrong, according to world opinion, but then suddenly we’re a “leader” when it comes to climate change action? That’s just plain weirdness.

    Anyhow, I’m setting a bad example here. While we do open this up to a bit of this sort of discussion, I’m treading dangerously close to having my comments deleted by the moderator and being told to go somewhere else for these sorts of discussions.

    The site linked below has some wonderful comment threads. It expends a lot of energy on the tired “does GW exist?” debate but gets past that and hosts discussion of how CO2 can be reduced, technically, and also from a geopolitical point of view. Technically, sure. Actually happening in real life? I’m rather unsure.


  10. Lou Dawson 2 December 16th, 2016 1:34 pm

    Jay, good find, thanks!

  11. See December 16th, 2016 2:26 pm

    Fair enough, Lou. But I don’t know which is more implausible, widespread cooperation to solve a problem that threatens us all, or some sort of technological magic bullet that fixes the astronomically complex global system we inhabit.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 December 16th, 2016 3:07 pm

    I’d agree on that somewhat See… the problem might be entirely unsolvable and the only solution is adaptation. I’m not trying to be negative or flippant, really looking at this constantly and listening to everything I hear. Thanks for chiming in on it, I totally understand your point of view.

    The way we broke the system is pretty simple, and the scientists claim they can predict the future of our complex climate, so one step from that, engineer it?

    ‘best, Lou

  13. See December 16th, 2016 7:25 pm

    It’s a lot easier to break something than it is to fix it. Predicting the future is pretty easy compared to engineering a solution (especially considering the fact that the evidence is already obvious).

  14. Jim Milstein December 16th, 2016 7:44 pm

    There are several things to say about climate engineering. First, unintended consequences are virtually certain. Second, for any change induced in the climate, there will be winners and losers. Who decides? And, will there be compensation for the losers? Third, this is not just a big government project, it’s a world government project. No single country can or would try to engineer the world’s climate alone. You think there are disagreements now over the reality of climate change? See what happens when climate engineering is seriously proposed.

    Climate engineering may have to happen later, but now mitigating greenhouse gases is far easier, less controversial, and without bad side effects. Actually, the side effects mostly involve cleaner air, water, and soil, not to mention lots of new jobs. Going after greenhouse gases may not be the whole solution, but it will certainly help.

  15. ptor December 17th, 2016 2:06 am

    Well…once again everybody is still in denial that geo-enginering has been ongoing and increasing for the last 50 years (and not the accidental kind) and it’s just recently that green hearts are being coddled into accepting it’s full scale implementation based on the continuing myth that CO2 drives the climate and there’s some impending disaster looming. These last weeks there has been massive obvious spraying and zapping over the alps almost daily. One has to be really looking for Pokemon to not notice the skies full of artificial clouds. SRM has been in full swing for many years already…the problem of which is that heat is also trapped by the very agents used to block the sun.The MSM has been trying to pass it off as a fuel dumping scandal.
    Furthermore, the debate on climate change (which is what our planet does anyways) is actually NOT over and recently scientists that aren’t permitted to speak through the MSM fake news industry have spelled it out for those willing to listen..

    Keep reading Lou! Disaster has been continually wrongly predicted by the paid off quacks and their computer models for a long time now with zero correct results. Our only disaster so far is geo-engineering and pollution in general as toxicity to humans condoned by the mass reluctance to stand up to the military industrial/banking complex as the main polluters of earth and repressors of technology.

  16. ptor December 17th, 2016 2:12 am

    I find it hard to trust an outfit funded by Mr Depopulation (Bill Gates)…

  17. Lou 2 December 17th, 2016 7:01 am

    See, indeed, entropy is indisputable. I totally agree that if the world ran on clean energy it would be a better place. Getting there is impossible in the short term, that’s my point. The proof is all around us. And the exceptions are interesting. For example, Norway running their country on hydro and selling their oil so the rest of us can warm up the climate and make their country more comfortable in winter (smile). Or, consider France, creating loads of hot waste there is no solution for… Lou

  18. See December 17th, 2016 9:24 am

    As the saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And no, I’m not a politician, but neither am I a pessimist. As Jim suggested, our environment is noticeably cleaner thanks to the steps that we’ve already taken. Doing nothing but moving to higher ground and observing the damage seems like a lame response to the problem, if you’ll pardon my saying so.

  19. Frame December 17th, 2016 12:08 pm

    Ptor, the article doesn’t actually say anything, except GW is wrong. Apparently there were lots of charts and graphs, to prove this… but where are they, how is it wrong?

  20. Ronald Cassiani December 18th, 2016 8:36 am

    Hey Lou,
    You mentioned the batteries for storing solar energy. CAn you can you tell me where you purchased them and their setup. Inquiring minds want/need to know.

  21. Matt Kinney December 18th, 2016 10:39 am

    Humans have messed up our atmosphere and oceans since the industrial age began without trying to fix it with more chemical concoctions. We simply need to stop being dependent on oil.

    I wish more skiers lived near glaciers so they could witness first hand how serious the situation is. It’s not good. What’s worse is it is accelerating. I’m surrounded by hundreds of melting and disappearing glaciers and am seeing a substantial loss of snow at lower elevations in what is arguably the snowiest place on the planet. We don’t have time for any more discussion on this lou or ptor’s conspiracies.

    You may be seeing all sorts of internet discussion on solutions, but the scientific community across the world agrees that the only way to solve this is to dramatically reduce carbon emissions at all levels and for each of us to do our own part no matter how small. Some may think that at the individual level nothing can be done to reduce our carbon footprint., but that is fatalistic and wrong.

    I’m not hopeful at all and see why every season in Thompson Pass as most mechanized skier don’t give a sh$% about the planet, only themselves.

  22. Lou Dawson 2 December 18th, 2016 11:00 am

    Ronald, the first few years we had the following:

    Then when those wore out we replaced with same size and voltage, only in a sealed version as it was too tricky doing all the upkeep. I forgot which brand, but they’re pretty basic.


  23. aemono December 18th, 2016 3:08 pm

    Lou, “And the argument that “doing something is better than doing nothing” is sophomoric or worse. It is the politician’s syllogism.” …you’re probably better off sticking to skiing, that’s a ferociously poor application of philosophy to other people’s arguments.

    Ptor, i’ve been having wretched bad luck recently looking for Pokaemon round my way… maybe if i drop by La Grave over the holidays, you could help me to find a few..up in the air among the chemclouds probably?

  24. Lou Dawson 2 December 18th, 2016 3:56 pm

    Matt, I’m not promulgating any conspiracy theories. I see the melting glaciers as well, and the rain instead of snow. In my opinion we’ll never do the drastic carbon reductions necessary, so we need to turn to climate engineering. Apologies for re-stating my position and sure I’m just another citizen, not a scientist or anything like that. But I’m reasonably well read and I just can’t help but have this take. Lou

  25. aemono December 18th, 2016 4:29 pm

    Matt, to be fair to Lou, i think it’s true that he’s not pushing any conspiracy theories. In over ten years of dropping by Wildsnow with some regularity, i’ve perceived a certain, perhaps at times grudging, evolution towards a tenable, science-informed stance on AGW. What i would however acuse Lou of is a kind of nihilist-rationalist attitude.. something like as if Americans in 1940 had said “well, what the hell can WE do about the situation in Europe? It’s hopeless.” Hey, wait a minute..that IS what a lot of Americans were saying in 1940.. and it’s not too difficult to see why they were saying it.

  26. Lou Dawson 2 December 18th, 2016 4:35 pm

    Aemono, exactly, and we’re still under appreciated (smile). The distruption and pain caused to our country by involvement in WW2 is clearly as not as big as the utter tragedy of much of Europe, but still… And if we had not done what we did? Lots of alt history novels about that, that can be amusing in small doses. As for grudging, why not? The history of science includes an enormous amount of BS. You buy into everything the white coated gods tell you? Lou

  27. See December 18th, 2016 4:55 pm

    Lou, you did say “I think the problem is many people view global warming as a big club that’s going to somehow force the world to do what they already think is right in terms of how we manage our energy use. In other words, GW is being used as a power play” and, “As for the big club, for decades environmentalists have been looking for ways to motivate the world’s population to live with less impact.” This makes it sound like you think the brouhaha surrounding global warming is a conspiracy by environmentalists to force the world to drastically reduce consumption of fossil fuels— that it’s all about power, not protecting the climate. Considering your argument that “there is no need to reduce emissions (or fossil fuel consumption, presumably) as any practical amount of doing so is not going to make any significant difference,” I can’t help wondering if maybe you’re a little sweet on the fossil fuel industry.

  28. Lou Dawson 2 December 18th, 2016 5:09 pm

    Sure thing See, I happen to think the fossil fuel industry has brought us the world as we know it, which I like for the most part. Anything else?

    P.S., I know some of these environmental organizations with some intimacy, and indeed it’s often about power, due to economics (funding). Some things never change.


  29. Peter December 18th, 2016 5:39 pm

    Actually, there are fairly simple things that can be done (usually by governments) to reduce carbon emissions quite quickly – if they have the will to do so. e.g.:

    – Increase the cost of fuel – in the US gas is cheap and consequently cars are big and inefficient, in many other parts of the world gas is expensive (usually due to extra tax) and cars are a lot smaller and more efficient with less carbon emission,
    – Encourage development of renewable energy – the cost of solar panels has fallen so dramatically over the last few years mainly because the Chinese government incentivised investment & production of them.

  30. See December 18th, 2016 5:50 pm

    Stone brought us the world as we knew it until the bronze age.

  31. Bill H December 18th, 2016 6:26 pm

    Yes Lou, true as you say, the industry has helped bring us ‘the world as we know it’.

    But in light of last year’s (somewhat-reported) revelations of leaked and semi-public internal ExxonMobil documents going back 40 yrs, and numerous other events, we have a reasonably well-documented history of ongoing and intentional obfuscation of scientific knowledge in the public arena, and millions spent in coordinated public propaganda campaigns to delay or reverse important climate mitigation actions –actions that might have had a chance for meaningful impact if they had been implemented in 1988 ( after Jame’s Hansen’s first major congressional testimony on anthropogenic global warming/CC), 1997 (US hamstrings the Kyoto Protocol, or generally declines to take any form of global leadership and instead becomes reactionary and progress-blocking global power on all climate issues instead of pro-active and useful), 2000-2008 (The Cheney presidency in general ? 😉 )

    In light of the industry’s self-promoting public process dominance since 1970s, rather than calling it ‘the world as we know it’, it seems perhaps a lot more appropriate to say ‘the world as they wanted it’ ? Dunno…

  32. See December 18th, 2016 8:00 pm

    Since you totally understand my point of view Lou, what is my agenda? I thought I was just doing my bit to try and preserve a nice place for future generations. If my actions are serving some other purpose, please let me know.

  33. Lou Dawson 2 December 18th, 2016 8:03 pm

    Bill, I’m aware that it’s a common take to blame corporations for what’s happening. Perhaps that’s fair (along with enjoying our road trips and airline travel fueled by petrol). But the point here is what do we do now? All this talk is interesting, so is the talking in Paris and elsewhere. But the glaciers are melting. Lou

  34. Jim Milstein December 18th, 2016 8:44 pm

    Some of the needed changes are happening due to economic advantages. Solar and wind and (gasp!) fracked natural gas are now cheaper than coal, the worst of the fossil fuels. The intermittency problem of solar and wind is being solved by various means, not the least of which are the now fast improving battery technologies and the rapid increase in electric vehicles. Their batteries can be recruited for grid storage when not in use, and when they age out for vehicular use they are valuable in the secondary market for stationary use. These changes require little or no government intervention.

  35. See December 18th, 2016 8:49 pm

    I’m not against geoengineering if it will work, I just think it’s ridiculous and irresponsible to give up on the obvious solution of reducing carbon emissions to reduce the effects of carbon emissions.

  36. Eric steig December 18th, 2016 10:42 pm

    I’m all for geoengineering research,but it remains that it’s all speculation at this point. The known solution is to reduce CO2 emissions. And Lou, your statement that from nearly everything you’ve read we have nothing to lose just shows you need to read more. If you’re interested I can point you to the scientific (not ‘pop. sci’) literature on this. None of these solutions — even if they worked perfectly otherwise — address ocean acidification, by the way.

  37. aemono December 19th, 2016 3:40 am

    Like i said earlier, many Americans didn’t want to get involved in the European war in 1940. Why? well, it wasn’t so easy for many people to see reality. Then, like now, there was a lot of deliberate distorsion. Many powerful and influential public figures thought Nazi Germany was a cool thing. Joe Kennedy (JFK’s dad) was a big fan. JFK hisself was super-impressed by Germany on his late 30s travels in Europe. Charles Lindbergh was another famous isolationist. Hitler was notoriously Time’s ‘man of the year’ in 1938, the same year he had destroyed half of Spain, village by village. So yeah, a lot of deliberate distorsion, reality wasn’t so easy to discern for a lot of people..and quite a few Americans were beholden to the Japanese for helping them to get a clearer picture of the world in 1941. And then when you do have a clearer picture..well yeah, sometimes you want to – when you have that kind of capacity – ‘engineer’ a solution to the problem, maybe for example like the final solution to the Japanese problem that was engineered in 1945. And yeah, why not? Geo-engineering might work too..

  38. Lou Dawson 2 December 19th, 2016 5:15 am

    See, I agree. Problem is, humanity is often ridiculous and irresponsible. At the risk of stating the obvious…

    Also, I don’t think reducing carbon emissions is such an obvious solution. On the surface, yes, but big picture, no. It’s like saying the solution to the icy roads in Sweden is obvious, scrape it off, so… one guy says hire 10,000 people to scrub the roads by hand with wire brushes? Or what? Then we start debating the “solution.” The problem is obvious, the solution that actually works is not so obvious.

    While some of this is debatable, I think we can agree that any effective amount of timely carbon emission reduction requires drastic changes in the way the industrial world works, as well as somehow shifting the trend of all nations to use what energy is cheapest and most abundant (when oil and coal tend to be those options). The shift to renewables is happening. Breathless news reports on it are a dime a dozen. But it’s not happening fast enough nor on a big enough scale according to anything rational I can find for reading about it.

    This thread is a good example. Nothing wrong with dialog, but seriously, if we could harness the amount of breath that’s been expended debating climate change over the last few decades, we could probably power the whole world, forever. The debate is there for a reason: the solutions are actually not so easy, or obvious.

    What’s doubly concerning to me is beyond the clearly debatable act of geo engineering, we also have that pesky little thing called nuclear power. Again, I think engineering and political will could make nuclear work as a solution to get us over the hump, combined with hydro and the tiny amount of power the world gets from solar and wind. But just like geo engineering, nuclear when discussed has that feel of something that’s not politically correct, with kind of an ewwwww factor. Hydro has that same cachet. Damming rivers? Another unpardonable sin.

    Good discussion, but I’m ready to get back to skiing and talking about it. Headed there today.


  39. See December 19th, 2016 7:55 am

    OK, Lou. What say we agree to disagree. But regarding humanity: humanity is us. That’s why I think discussion isn’t a total waste of time. It may not be efficient, but sometimes we actually manage to get things done.

  40. Lou Dawson 2 December 19th, 2016 8:16 am

    Speaking of getting things done, see today’s blog post!

  41. Crazy Horse December 19th, 2016 8:39 am

    Lou, see what happens when you open the discussion beyond the pleasures we all receive from sliding downhill on one or two planks!

    1- Humans as a species behave to maximize their individual pleasure rewards rather than for the overall benefit of the species. Not unlike bull elk during the rut! Or yeast in a test tube.
    2- Sustainable continual GROWTH — the goal of all current economic systems- is mathematically impossible. Any seventh grade mathematics student can demonstrate the fact, but not a single PHD economist or elected politician can conceive of the reality.
    3- Given the complexity of feedback loops it is almost impossible that the global biosphere can be geoengineered to achieve a desired steady state. Unknown unknowns will be the outcome of any such attempt.
    4- What we think of as nuclear power is a product of the human species love of warfare and drive to domination rather than any rational choices among technology alternatives. The light water reactor design that is universally used is an engineering nightmare— a bi-product of nuclear bomb making. If you want to understand how it came to be accepted instead of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) –a melt -down proof reactor design fueled with nearly inexhaustible common elements that produces a drastically reduced fissile waste products stream, read a bit of it’s history.

  42. Lou Dawson 2 December 19th, 2016 8:47 am

    Crazy, yeah, but everyone has been really on top of this discussion so I don’t mind opening it up. Back to ski touring today, however. Lou

  43. Wookie1974 December 20th, 2016 4:44 am

    Hey Lou – the whole energy storage thing is super-interesting. Over near where you vacation in Tirol, there is a solar energy company I work with. (They have a facility right next to a ski lift!)
    Anyway – they spend nearly all of their time not reasearching solar panels, but researching energy storage methods. They have a huge team of young researchers, literally from all over the world working on different projects.
    Most of them are impressive in scale, but amazing in their simplicity. One guy has drilled a hole about 10 cm in diameter several hundred meters into the granite behind the facility. He uses solar panels to power pistons that compress some kind of fluid in this hole to mind-boggling pressures. Then, when the sun goes down, the whole thing works in reverse.
    Another guy built a GIANT levitating flywheel. Its sitting on magnetic fields, and these slowly spin the flywheel up. This takes a week or two. (the thing is the size of a football field and pretty thick too) Again, when they need power, they reverse the field polarity and they can draw power out for a week. Its really wierd to walk around on as it slowly turns. Its so large it feels a little like the earth is moving.

    Thought you might like that.

    PS – Science is science. While I can’t say I am ready to support geo-engineering, I’m sure we should be researching it – like everything else too. We cannot stop the future, whatever that might mean – we can only learn to deal with it.

  44. ptor December 22nd, 2016 2:04 pm

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