Lazy Sunday- Powder Skiing, Sugar, Gear Testing and Avalanches

Post by blogger | December 14, 2009      

Just got back from a mellow afternoon of skiing powder with some friends. None of us were feeling particularly energetic after a full day of pounding vertical at Aspen Highlands, but felt a short tour would suit us fine. With the avalanche report indicating high danger above treeline, we thought the lower woods would be a good place to poke around, play it safe, and perhaps even get a few faceshots.

Backcountry powder skiing

Tyler throws some graupel around

We hadn’t skinned more than a few feet before we had our first WHUMPH, something that was to accompany nearly every step or turn we made all day. Despite experiencing it over and over again, it always has the same stomach wrenching effect. We altered the usual skin track a bit and attempted to break a new one through the lowest angled trees we could manage.

One particular settlement sent a huge shooting crack that we couldn’t resist excavating to take a closer look. The BCA Arsenal EXT shovel did the job nicely, revealing the failure to be at the depth hoar lying on the ground. It has an ovalized shaft which makes extending the shovel to full length lightning quick as there is no need to align the buttons in the holes. The Arsenal EXT comes with the Companion Blade, which is square and flat, perfect for pit work. It does the job of cutting smooth pit walls better than my older, more rounded shovel blades.

Shooting crack in the backcountry

This shooting crack went all the way to the ground, about 2 1/2 feet down.

Another bonus for the snow pit is the included 35 cm saw, which is easily drawn from the Arsenal shovel handle. It features a very aggressive tooth pattern and a good handle. The blade is fairly stiff, helping to keep it from wandering; but there is no built in way to attach it to a ski pole or the shovel handle to extend it.

Backcountry saw

The saw comes out of the shovel handle seen on the left.

The new BCA Slope Meter showed the slope to be at 30 degrees. A little steeper and it might have slid. This slope meter is handy as it’s smaller than the gold standard Life-Link inclinometer, allowing it to fit in your pocket for convenient access. It’s also much easier to read and seems considerably more durable.

Backcountry slope meter

We set the slope meter on the saw blade sheath (which I had previously been tempted to throw away).

Our observations confirmed our feelings of needing to take it easy and we were soon on our way to threading turns through the gentle pitched aspens and firs.

Tele chica rips powder

Rachel tastes the goods.

Backcountry powder skiing

Tyler trying to get faceshots. He might have succeeded if he'd been on teles like the rest of us. 😛

Back at the car, we were wet but decided to rally for another lap. Lou had previously given me a couple packets of Acli-mate mountain sports drink to try out. In addition to the usual energy drink benefits, it claims to aid in preventing altitude sickness. I’m not sure I can verify that one yet, at least not until I get to some higher elevations, but it certainly helped us get energized. Rachel and I were feeling a little sluggish at the start of the skin back up, but after putting down some Mountain Grape flavor, we were buzzing along on the sugar train. I don’t use sports drinks very often, but this has got to be the most sugary tasting one I’ve tried — next time I’d dilute it more than the 10z of water per packet suggestion. I was worried that we were going to be crashing from our sugar highs before long, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, I was feeling great and awake the rest of the day, even on the car ride home which I usually fight to stay awake on.

Tele chica rips powder

Sarah enjoying the snow.

I’m not sure the Acli-mate can take all the credit for keeping me awake the rest of the day, however. On our second run, we skied some tight trees that lead to a large, steep clearing. As I pulled to a stop a good distance back from the edge, the expected whumph and crack shot out under me, but it kept going and ripped out the entire clearing. Sorry, no photos as I left the camera in the car for the second run. I would give it a D2,R3, as it surprisingly didn’t propagate across the entire path. It’s always a thrill to watch an avalanche from a comfortable position; the rumbling chunks and powder spray hitting the trees below serve as a sobering reminder to take it easy. I believe careful travel during high danger days can be a rewarding learning experience. You get to see how snow reacts on different slope angles and can get instant confirmation of your judgments. It’s a great time for going on a “walk” through the woods with few expectations beyond maybe scoring a turn or two, and perhaps even some avy excitement.

Shooting crack

Shope for BCA shovel here.

(Guest blogger Nick Thompson is part of the WildSnow Denali crew. He tele bashed Telluride for years, and for some unknown reason moved to the Aspen area and locked down his heels at least part of the time.)


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37 Responses to “Lazy Sunday- Powder Skiing, Sugar, Gear Testing and Avalanches”

  1. Caleb Wray December 14th, 2009 10:30 am

    Looks like you guys had a good day Nick. Avy conditions sound identical to Marble last Wednesday. Way to work the terrain.

  2. Clyde December 14th, 2009 10:35 am

    After looking at the web site, it’s clear that Acli-mate is 100% Finest Kind snake oil. Nothing in there will help with acclimatization, altitude sickness, or cramping. It will give a little energy boost but there are a lot better alternatives to sucrose and fructose. Eat real food, don’t waste money on over-hyped crapola.

  3. Forrest Gladding December 14th, 2009 12:45 pm

    Cottonwoods got up to 50 inches in 48 hours with this storm. Avi conditions pretty darn high at the moment.

    Try Carbo Rocket, its not a hyped up drink mix, it has what the body needs. Take a gander and give me your opinion.

  4. bruce friedman December 14th, 2009 3:16 pm

    Is this a blog post or a commercial for BCA gear and energy drink?

  5. Lou December 14th, 2009 3:31 pm

    Bruce, both. Sorry if Nick overdid it with the links, he’s learning the WildSnow style, which as you know does include some commercial links, but we try to limit the amount and usually put them at the end of the post. Please bear with us.

    All that aside, the BCA stuff really is nice… but I agree that the athletic drink appears to be mostly a variation of sugar water.

  6. Cory December 14th, 2009 4:09 pm

    Cheers to Bruce and Lou-
    Totally what I was thinking. I kept thinking of that movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks. Every scene had a Fedex box in it. I figured, “rookie writer” and Lou confirms. Nick- The Lou(sers) like to hear about skiing, avalanches, gettin’ out there kind of stuff (then you subtlly sneak in a few product placement things here and there. Good on ya on the skiing though!

  7. Dana December 14th, 2009 4:49 pm

    Whoa. First you bash the Gunnison Valley for not allowing some industry and then you bash one of our homegrown products? Dichotomy? Hmmm…

    I use Acli-mate. I think that its only altitude sickness curing properties come from getting people who aren’t used to altitude to drink more fluids, and we’re not talking about adding it to your Coors Light. However, as a sugar drink, it does what it’s supposed to. It gives you a quick sugar-blast, which, in combination with real food, prevents the dreaded bonk. I used it all summer biking in CB and thought that it was way better than other drink mixes because it wasn’t too sugary, but then I was making it more diluted than recommended.

    Forrest, CarboRocket looks great, but is fundamentally different from Acli-mate. Where Acli-mate is designed to give you a quick sugar blast to help prevent short-term energy loss, CR seems likes it a longer-burn fuel, which is awesome on longer rides or trips. They each have their use.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. Hope you get your money’s worth.

  8. Lou December 14th, 2009 5:12 pm

    One person’s opinion is another person’s bash. And all I say is that a drink is a variation of sugar water, and that’s bashing? Isn’t that the point, that it’s a sugar hit? Lord forbid I’d actually formulate a longer sentence, then it would be what, sledge hammering?

  9. Halsted December 14th, 2009 5:27 pm

    ”One particular settlement sent a huge shooting crack that we couldn’t resist excavating to take a closer look.”

    It’s a minor point to some folks but to snow nerds like me its a different matter.

    For the record, “whumphs” are not “settlements.” Settlement is a slow natural process or a period of time. Settlement takes place over time, because of the weight of the snowpack slowly compacting under its own weight.

    A “whumph” is really a triggered collapse. The snowpack is reacting to your weight. Basically, the whumph is a small triggered reaction where to weak layer(s) failed within the snowpack. On steeper terrain these whumph often result in an avalanche.


  10. Tom Gos December 14th, 2009 6:40 pm

    Lou, this is off topic, and you may have seen it before, but it’s pretty cool. Euro extreme ski videos at I like to show these to friends that believe that Dynafits aren’t suitable for “real” skiing. Ha! FYI – no promotion here, just fun vids to watch.

  11. bruce December 14th, 2009 9:03 pm

    Lou, Nick – don’t get me wrong…

    I’m a HUGE fan of the BCA gear, and I’m a big believer in affiliate marketing. I think the product call outs do much better when mixed into product reviews, as opposed to TR’s.

    All that said, everyone’s gotta make a buck, can’t deny that.

  12. Nick December 14th, 2009 11:06 pm

    Wow, I’ve really stirred up the hornet’s nest. Bruce, I think you’re right. Mixing gear reviews into a trip report seems to be too much for some to handle. I’ll try to keep the commercialism subdued and separated next time. I’m figuring this out as I go- trial by fire with this audience. Please excuse the slow learning curve.

    Halsted, you’re right about the settlement vs whumph. I’m aware of the difference and must have forgotten it as I typed. Definitely a confusion that gets spread all too often. Thanks for the correction.

  13. Randonnee December 14th, 2009 11:44 pm

    Good article, Nick! i enjoyed it. Nothing to apologize for here.

    Wildsnow has great information and normally has few of the ‘mine is bigger’ or ‘I know better’ blowhard comments. Nattering narcissistic self-important nimrods…Really, nothing to apologize about here. Wildsnow has better information than magazines that are purchased. Despite the marketing and blogging about stuff to buy, Wildsnow has integrity of opinion that is rare.

    I understand the use of the term ‘settlemen’t; as above, eg when a slab collapses or fails there is the immediate sensation of settling down on one’s skis slightly. It is felt at times when nothing moves. It seems to me that it is something like the facets collapsing beneath a slab causing the little feeling of settlement. Bla bla, semantics.Keep up the good work. lad.

  14. Christian December 15th, 2009 12:46 am

    Hey Nick Great TR,

    I must be more accustomed to our commercialized world so I enjoyed hearing about the gear you used out in real world settings, i’m going to be going for a new shovel so thanks for that review.

    as for going out in potentially dicey conditions; I usually avoid that but you make a great point of going out but taking it easy and using that opportunity to learn

    keep it up

  15. j3rr3my8 December 15th, 2009 6:49 am

    God this is just spam!!! I stumbled upon this page thinking it looked like an interesting post – but it’s just b s. If you’re working that many links into an article then the whole article is either fabricated or it at least feels that way. People can see through this stuff so easily… you know you really would be better off writing some good content that engages readers and makes them want to come back for more, and say at the bottom, Nick the ski dude endorses these products… at least that way, you’re being honest, you’re not dfuping anyone, you’re not making your article suck and people might take the article seriously. I laboured through but it’s so irritating and so so old fashioned.

  16. Lou December 15th, 2009 7:04 am

    Hey, it’s a learning process for all of us. This time of year we do a lot of gear reviews as time and time again I’ve been told that’s what people want during the Christmas shopping season. Mixing it up with a trip report seemed ok, but we’re always adjusting things and will keep doing so. Thanks for the feedback and crit, couldn’t do it without so please everyone keep it coming!

  17. Lou December 15th, 2009 7:10 am

    Randonee, I of course now have to scold you about the name calling, but then, the word Nimrod always makes me laugh out loud. :angel:

    This from Ask Yahoo, who is apparently trying to compete with Wikipedia but probably never will…

    “The American Heritage Dictionary offers two distinct definitions of a nimrod — either a hunter, or a person regarded as silly or foolish. The dictionary goes on to explain that the second meaning probably originated with the cartoon character Bugs Bunny. The wily Bugs used the term in its original sense to refer to dithering hunter Elmer Fudd, whom he called a “poor little Nimrod.” Over time, however, the “hunter” meaning got dropped, and the “dithering” connotation stuck.

    Nimrod was in fact a Biblical figure — the great-grandson of Noah. He was a haughty king who declared himself a “mighty one in the earth,” founded the great city of Babylon, and presided over the construction of the mythical Tower of Babel. Nimrod was also a renowned hunter, though at least one source we found claimed his game of choice was not animals but men, whom he would enslave upon capture. Whatever his prey, his name became synonymous with a skilled hunter.

    And for the record, the University of Tulsa publishes a well-regarded literary magazine called the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry. They are actively seeking submissions. “

  18. Mark December 15th, 2009 7:44 am

    Trip report replete with avy tidbits and gear blurbs works for me. Nice work.

  19. Randonnee December 15th, 2009 8:18 am

    OK, but all the words made it past the filter, eh? :devil: I recall the myth of Nimrod staring at his own reflection in the pool of water….

    Don’t know what is up with the ragging on this article. There is lots or real junk writing in publications that are purchased, and that prose is a small part of pages filled with ads. The discussion of gear on Wildsnow in my view is rather overt, a good thing, it is not crafty or hidden endorsement, it is not the selling of ‘cool.’ Straightforward and honest commentary here. Gear must be discussed on Wildsnow for revenue from ads, it is a private for-profit business, not PBS fer cryin’ out loud!

    I enjoyed the stuff about avys and shovels .Anyone who can demonstrate deliberate and controlled release of a slab safely shows good evaluation skills and judgment. Keep up the good work!

  20. Lou December 15th, 2009 8:53 am

    Do you think we should make a submission to the “Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry?”

  21. Ashley December 15th, 2009 9:06 am

    Way to stir the pot here Nick 😉 Didn’t know you were such a rebble-rouser!
    Good trip report and way to get some fun turns!

  22. Dave F December 15th, 2009 9:22 am

    Only on Wildsnow can you share some recent skiing adventures and learn about how bugs bunny quoting the bible provided a common insult!

  23. Lou December 15th, 2009 10:08 am

    Nimrod presided over the construction of the mythical Tower of Babel. The Internet? :angel:

  24. Cory December 15th, 2009 10:39 am

    Randonee’s comments left me howling!
    First he chastises people for ‘mine is bigger’ or ‘I know better’ .
    Then he follows up with his own version of “I know better”:
    “I understand the use of the term ’settlemen’t; as above, eg when a slab collapses or fails there is the immediate sensation of settling down on one’s skis slightly. It is felt at times when nothing moves. It seems to me that it is something like the facets collapsing beneath a slab causing the little feeling of settlement.”
    Contradiction and hypocracy always make me smile, but when you can make it happen in a couple of paragraphs, it is priceless. Keep up the good work!

  25. Lou December 15th, 2009 10:50 am

    Would be nice to laugh together, instead of at each other…

  26. Njord December 15th, 2009 11:21 am

    With writings skills like that, I think that Nick is ready to head-up the gear review section at OUTSIDE magazine!

  27. Clyde December 15th, 2009 11:56 am

    Ouch Njord, it wasn’t THAT bad! I didn’t mind the BCA comments though of course I like in-depth reviews better. But I do object to pseudo-science sport fuels that don’t back up their claims.

    Sue, unless the label lies, there is no stevia in the Acli-junk. Both flavors are pretty much fructose and the orange has few other sugars tossed in. The various anti-oxidants might have a slight benefit in megadosages and daily consumption but are useless in a sports drink. Overall, a waste of money.

    CarboRocket is slightly better for performance but about half the ingredients are for marketing and won’t really help. Any company talking about “magic ratios” is blowing smoke where the sun don’t shine. Not a total waste but not significantly better than real food.

  28. Sue Melus December 15th, 2009 10:56 am

    Hi Nick,
    Thanks for checking out the Acli-Mate Mountain Sports Drink. I want to note that it is actually sweetened with stevia, a natural sweetener, so it has a low glycemic index that prevents a sugar crash later in the day. If you’re not used to the sweetness of stevia it can throw you off at first. It was formulated by a naturopathic doctor in Crested Butte who works with the high altitude performance laboratory in Gunnison. Pretty good stuff for mountain athletes

    Thanks for the review and the write-up. Keep up the good work. Ski ya later. 🙂

  29. Randonnee December 15th, 2009 11:58 am

    But Cory, mine is bigger and I am correct (nimrod??me??yup.)…I hope that you had a laugh.I think it is funny that we all write brilliant things on a blog and admire ourselves for it.

    But again, I appreciate the article, good stuff.

  30. justin December 15th, 2009 12:53 pm

    Personally I don’t mind the occasional affiliate link/mini-review inside of a TR as you’ve got to make your money and I’m not going to get butt hurt over what people do on their own site on the internet – and it works as long as you call a spade a spade (which you did do on the comments re: the drink). Would be great if you linked to longer reviews you do on the products as well though, may help to alleviate some of the spammy vibe that others are getting.

    I DID have to laugh at the sports drink inclusion after you called out Steve in this post :cheerful:

  31. Cory December 15th, 2009 2:37 pm

    You know, I’ve always admired that Dynafit stuff and if someone from Dynafit would like me to have some Dynafit Manaslu’s with Dynafit FT 12’s and Dynafit skins, I would proudly climb to the highest mountain and yodel the merits of all their wonderful Dynafit equipment. Any takers?

  32. Lou December 15th, 2009 4:32 pm

    The joke is DEFINITELY on me!

  33. matt December 15th, 2009 5:22 pm

    I just haveto say that i also dont mind the occasional plug. But this was just too much. Really, look at what you wrote.
    ” The new BCA Arsenal EXT Shovel did the job nicely, revealing the failure to be at the depth hoar lying on the ground. It has an ovalized shaft which makes extending the shovel to full length lightning quick as there is no need to align the buttons in the holes. The Arsenal EXT comes with the Companion Blade, which is square and flat, perfect for pit work. It does the job of cutting smooth pit walls better than my older, more rounded shovel blades.” Ok are you trying to tell me about the depth hoar or about the BCA shovel that S Edgerly probably gave you? Which is it?
    I love the sight, but dont need to be force fed product reviews. It is bad writing as well as cheesy.
    On another note, Still charging on my FT 12’s with no pre releases, and yes, i paid for these and have no affiliation.

  34. canwilf December 15th, 2009 4:30 pm

    Re: the sugar drinks.
    I like to bring ‘hot tea’ – Orange Pekoe, in an insulated jug.

    Adds a slight caffeine boost, lots of antioxidants, and 250 teabags at grocery store for less than ten bucks.

    Oh, and your ski chicks will dig you if you share a sip.

  35. Lou December 15th, 2009 5:40 pm

    Good points you guys and well taken. This was only Nick’s second time doing a WildSnow post, and I probably should have done a better job of editing. On the other hand, letting it go over the line is probably good, as this makes it very obvious where the line is and does nothing but improve WildSnow, so thanks everyone, including Nick for getting involved and being willing to take some risk with your writing.

  36. Ryan December 16th, 2009 11:45 am

    I just got tired of reading all the whining on Ttips and TGR, thought I’d head over here and to my disappointment I found more whining! The article title tells it all, gear reviews, sugar… It didn’t say read this creative short story on skiing. How about everyone chill on the whining… focus on what’s important to you, and get out there and go skiing!!!

  37. Lou December 16th, 2009 11:51 am

    Good point Ryan, I’ll do what I can to take the whine level down a notch or two! Thanks, Lou

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