Dawson To Author ‘Mellow’ Colorado Ski Touring Guidebook

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 20, 2017      

Shop Amazon: Uphill Skiing and Light Tours of Colorado

New book in Ski Atlas series.

New book in Off Piste Ski Atlas series.

The sport of alpine ski touring has exploded in Colorado. If you’re an experienced practitioner, the state has an amazing amount of options for you — covered by numerous guidebooks. Lou Dawson, publisher and prolific writer here at Wildsnow.com, was an early pioneer in both exploring the alpine touring of colorado, as well as writing the first guidebooks that covered “modern” aspects of the sport, such as detailing steeper alpine terrain (see books option in nav menu above).

All well and good, but a best kept secret of ski touring is that a vast number of individuals seeking to enjoy the sport would rather not deal with avalanche danger and difficult snow — not to mention super steep terrain. A new ski touring guidebook by Lou, due out late fall of 2017, seeks to help.

“I’ve been ski touring — and writing about it — for half a century,” says Dawson, “frankly, ever since I was a teenager I’ve enjoyed both the moderate routes as well as big mountain descents. I guess it was the enthusiasm of youth, in that the books I authored in the 1980s and 90s tended to ignore the easy stuff — even though a ski day for me could have equally been a fourteener summit or a scenic shuffle to a mountain hut. Well, with the help of publisher Andy Sovick, I’m correcting my oversight. Andy and I have a book in the works that covers a curated selection of both backcountry and resort uphill routes. Each is moderate in terms of difficulty, as well as the backcountry routes having minimal avalanche danger.”

Titled “Uphill Skiing and Light Tours of Colorado,” the book will be published by Off Piste Ski Atlas, available at ski touring retailers and online. A while back Lou filed this review on the Atlas covering Crested Butte. The new guide will be similar, spiral bound at about 60 pages, with well crafted oblique aerial photos and curated information for each route.

“I’m really excited about this project,” continues Lou, “I’ve always viewed my books as a way of giving back, and I’ve met so many skiers over the past 10 years or so who simply are not interested in going big. Instead, they simply desire to get outside for a mellow workout during a Colorado bluebird day, perhaps with their kids or significant other. Thus, I hope this will be a gift to the sport in that regard.”

Andy and Lou will do a brief ‘book tour’ in December. With Andy’s publications now covering the gamut of Colorado options, the pair’s presentations should be fun and interesting. Watch this space for schedule.

New ski touring guidebook due from Lou Dawson, winter 2017-2018.

New ski touring guidebook due from Lou Dawson, winter 2017-2018.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


52 Responses to “Dawson To Author ‘Mellow’ Colorado Ski Touring Guidebook”

  1. Joe John September 20th, 2017 11:27 am

    Just what the kids and I need for our next winter trip to Colorado. If we can locate the Wildsnow.com headquarters, will you autograph it? I also agree that “pillow case” should suffice for the answer to your spam question.

  2. Tom Gos September 20th, 2017 12:35 pm

    Awesome! I’ve often felt that there is a gap in the American ski touring culture between the nordic skiers and the kids who want to pretend they are in a TGR film. This will be a great way to help fill that gap.

  3. Brad September 20th, 2017 1:15 pm

    Lou, Curious as what ski touring guidebook you would consider to have the best layout? Written information, photos, maps and so on… Seems like everybody has a favorite or not so format. Thanks in advance.

  4. Dave J. September 20th, 2017 1:30 pm

    Looks great, Lou!

  5. Lou Dawson 2 September 20th, 2017 1:46 pm

    Brad, I’m not sure. Maps used to be a big thing — in my “Dawson’s Guide” (out of print) I did an amazing series of maps that were the peak of my digital mapping skills, very under appreciated, and now everyone either has maps on their phone, or they simply don’t use them and just follow skinner from the trailhead. Even when I use guidebooks in Europe, I generally just use my phone or computer to check out the mapping, and when I set a GPS track before I go, that has me using the phone or Garmin unit. Oblique aerial or high elevation photos are now the gold standard, I think they’re great, but too many authors/publishes get seduced by how cool they look, when photos taken from, say, the trailhead, can be much more descriptive for the actual finding of the route. Ideally, both should be included if space permits. Written info can be brief, again because that’s what people expect these days. Just good trailhead directions, mentions of hazards, tricky turns. Overall, I think guidebooks these days are much much easier to write. They’re certainly easier to produce, by a factor of 100 at least, compared to the old days of publishing. Lou

  6. Phil Harvey September 20th, 2017 2:23 pm

    I recall one of your reviews a few years ago about Doug Sproul’s guidebook on Rogers Pass. Like you, I was very impressed with his layout of that guide both as an ebook and hard copy. I had previously used one of his maps and that was superb. They are so easy to follow.

  7. Clyde September 20th, 2017 2:34 pm

    And that makes 4 new books for Colorado coming in the next few months. The CMC Press (ie., me) is publishing “Classic Colorado Ski Descents” by Jon Kedrowski and “Ski & Snowshoe Routes:Colorado’s Front Range” by Alan Apt–in stores end of October. And Mountaineers Books is publishing “Backcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes: Colorado” by Brittany and Frank Konsella–in stores mid-November.

  8. Lou Dawson 2 September 20th, 2017 2:37 pm

    Clyde, yeah, pretty amazing. Please stay in touch so I can do some reviews of the CMC books as soon as review copies available. Lou

  9. Howard September 21st, 2017 9:13 am

    I realize I’m wasting my time writing this as it will fall on deaf ears, but…
    I believe if you truly and absolutely love something in this world with all your heart, then don’t write a guidebook or blog/facebook about it.

    Over my lifetime I’ve gotten to climbing or skiing places like Indian Creek or Marble grow in popularity with each guidebook and magazine article. Like most, I was a first welcoming to new people, new friends, etc., and then the Internet came along and brought it to a different level.

    So I’ll repeat: If you truly and absolutely love something in this world with all your heart, then don’t write a guidebook or blog/facebook about it.

  10. chris beh September 21st, 2017 9:29 am

    This is such a great concept. If you cover the Front Range and near adjacent terrain comprehensively you will need to print a lot of copies.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 September 21st, 2017 10:36 am

    Howard, the other side of that is if you absolutely love something in this world with all your heart, it is sometimes generous to share it, while not doing so could be considered selfish. Two sides to this issue, for sure. Also, you give guidebooks too much credit. With the internet, guidebooks simply come after the fact, and might even help spread out use that would otherwise concentrate on one trailhead skintrack. Same for blogging about ski routes, so long as the blog isn’t just me-too repeats of the same crowded routes.

    Also, if you’ve ever shared a place with a friend, then you did the same thing as sharing it on FB or whatever, as that friend will share, who will then share with another friend, etc. To think that’s somehow a superior process to other forms of sharing is not logical, perhaps elitist.

    At least in Colorado (and perhaps in the Cascades and thousands of miles of northern coastal mountains?) we have plenty of terrain. The problem is access, not what guidebooks get written. Instead of slagging on guidebooks, perhaps working on creating more access would be much more productive in terms of preventing crowding. Or shall we just go to the same old tired skin tracks, and complain about the other people there because of the guidebook?


  12. Ian September 21st, 2017 10:52 am

    Sounds like a great and useful book. While maybe not as impressive as skiing lines on the big peaks, it can be just as hard to find safe lines that hold good mid-winter snow, especially when traveling or new to an area. I agree that it seems like most skiers, most of the year, are looking for exactly these sort of routes.

    Howard — I love my secret spots as much as the next person, but there are lots of places out there that don’t fall into that category. Getting more people out enjoying the best activity in the world (skiing backcounty powder), is always a good thing in my book. I’d imagine (and hope) that Lou can easily fill a guidebook without any routes that a reasonable person would consider secret. Anyways, its hard to keep secrets in the backcounty – a parked car and skin/ski tracks will give you away if people care enough to look.

  13. Ian September 21st, 2017 10:54 am

    Ha, well it looks Lou like replied while I was composing my thoughts! Well said Lou.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 September 21st, 2017 11:32 am

    Chris, I tried to do the Front Range as best I could, it was tough everywhere to find the kind of routes we were looking for, places with generally low avy danger, low angle, but still skiable, without things like epic tight trees on exit. I did a number of routes as research that didn’t cut it. If it goes well, I’m sure Andy and I will do a second edition fairly soon, with a few more routes and perhaps swapping a few routes for better ones after Lisa and I do more road trips around the state.

    The intended demographic of the book is people who have possibly never been ski touring, or have only done it a few times, perhaps only uphilling at resorts.

    A big departure from all other guidebooks, which clearly are aimed at experienced ski mountaineers. Which is totally ok. I could have for example re-editioned my 14 guidebooks, as I already had a manuscript that I’d been updating, but I wanted to try something different. That’s always been my style, actually. I mean, a guidebook with resort uphill routes!? Crazy.

  15. Howard September 21st, 2017 1:02 pm

    I’m not saying anything about secrets and keeping it to yourself. I’m just saying that blogging and guidebooks expand sharing with friends to sharing with everyone in the world. That’s a lot of sharing. So we disagree: I believe sharing a place with a friend is not the same as sharing a place with Internet.

    I guess you gotta ask yourself what the motivations are for writing blogs and guidebooks.

    Blogs can be fun for gear, history, stories, news, etc. But go tell everyone in the world to come ski at Marble and guess what…parking issues, road issues, access issues will follow! I’ve watched this happen at other areas and it’s only gonna get worse.

  16. Bumgaar September 21st, 2017 2:21 pm

    Sure glad I don’t live in Colorado! The reason we here in “Undisclosed Location” don’t have access issues is because we don’t have anything close to resembling a guide book. Find out the way everyone did before the Internet – GO EXPLORING. The “beginner” areas will continue to get busier, yet the effect will be a slow but painful trickle. Coming to a wilderness near you!

  17. Lou Dawson 2 September 21st, 2017 2:54 pm

    Howard, you know that saying about your lover, that when you do the deed, you’re doing it with every other person they’ve ever done it with? Same thing with inviting your friend to a new place. You’re inviting every person they’ll invite to that same place in the future, for the rest of their ski career, as well as the people their friends will invite, and their friends, and on and on (smile).

    I’d venture to say that this effect is significantly stronger than that of a guidebook. It’s basic epidemiology and math.


  18. Zach September 21st, 2017 6:48 pm

    Guidebooks are low hanging fruit. Colorado doesn’t need any more. At this point the authors are just glorifying themselves.

    At least at this point the guidebooks kind of work to keep the kooks contained in certain areas.

  19. benwls September 21st, 2017 8:01 pm

    Meh. I ski plenty of lines that are in CO guide books without seeing a another soul. I experienced the same thing when I lived in the Northeast. It’s the same in the Dolomites, where I make an annual trip. A large number of people crowd into the areas that are most well known and easiest to access. If you can handle a bit of an approach you will usually be alone for most for the day. The growth of backcountry skiing over the last 20 years corresponds with a much smaller growth in the number of people who take on even slightly ambitious objectives. My favorite easy to access stash gets tracked faster than I’d like these days, but it’s not in any guidebook. I blame the proliferation of fat, rockered skis. But I’m still happy they exist, because 20 years ago skiing bad snow was much less fun.

  20. Kevin Woolley September 21st, 2017 10:50 pm

    Guidebooks are not the reason that the roadside zones in the Wasatch and Front Range are crowded, these places are crowded because backcountry skiing is fun and millions of people are moving to the interior West. Fortunately, a quick roadside trip is what the majority are looking for. I have lived and skied in both places, and a one mile hike (or in Utah, a drive away from the Cottonwood Canyons and then a one mile hike) will provide solitude in almost every instance.

    And the internet and social media are such that there are no more secrets. And mapping tools make it easy for anyone to scout out new places.

  21. Scott Nelson September 22nd, 2017 3:09 am

    Look forward to the new guidebooks Lou. You’re a great ambassador for the sport. And your willingness to share via your guidebooks and Wildsnow have inspired many, including myself, to pursue their passion on skis in the backcountry.

  22. Rudi September 22nd, 2017 8:26 am

    I can report that here on the dreaded front range of Colorado most trailheads continue to have zero other skiers through the winter/spring/summer. It’s down right lonely in the late spring even in the infamous I70 corridor or the supposedly overrun summit county. If anybody needs information on where to go skiing id happily share it with them whether in person or digitally. We’re not conquistadors out seeking the riches of el dorado were just going skiing and it will snow again next week so don’t fret over those tracks. This idea that there are enough backcountry skiers to track out whole mountain ranges is just tired old dogma from resort skiing days.

  23. afox September 22nd, 2017 9:18 am

    Perhaps you could be the first to implement augmented reality to display ski ascents/descents on the phones real world live image of the terrain? This would be most useful for steep routes with good visibility.

    Or develop the first “mtb project” for ski touring. If you haven’t used mtb project check it out. Its the best implementation of online guidebook ive seen and it could use a ton of improvements. Mainly the trail information is not consistent since it is written by many. Also the mapping sucks. But there is nothing better and its incredibly useful. A “mtb project” like app with currated information and descriptions/ratings written by one trusted author would be ideal. Reviews could be written by the masses.

    Also, I totally disagree about keeping ski touring route info secret. If anything BC skiing tends to be incredibly concentrated in specific locations known to many in CO. Few venture out from trailheads where there other skiers arent parked. A guide-book could help spread out the users. I ski on the front range and have no problem finding uncrowded terrain. Im really good at mapping and am not afraid to ski where others do not. Im guessing howard just needs to get out and explore more, perhaps your guide-book will help him.

  24. Andy September 22nd, 2017 9:47 am

    at Off-Piste Ski Atlas, we’ve been working with the guys at Rakkup. Check out their app for climbing and ski guidebooks. All Off-Piste books will be published within this app by this winter, and the Crested Butte version is live now. You can download a “book” and get off-line turn by turn gps navigation, terrain filters (aspect, elevation, slope-angle), photos, and all the same information from the guidebooks. Just like you mentioned: One trusted author is ideal. And that’s what makes Rakkup unique. They are simply publishing a trusted guidebook, in app form. The paper book, alongside the digital app is incredible. If you try it out, come back to WildSnow and tell us what you think! Cheers,

  25. Douglas September 22nd, 2017 9:59 am

    Go Lou, go!

  26. Matt Kinney September 22nd, 2017 11:01 am

    For those complaining about another ski guidebook you don’t realize how good you got it. Most the arenas in my guidebook and some in Stocks Factor series are open to sleds. They have taken full advantage of the information on most my routes since it’s publication. You are fortunate that your only gripe is a dozen more skinners on the way to your stash versus sharing it with a dozen sleds. Consider yourselves fortunate in CO, Utah etc… that you have public lands managed for backcountry skiing, sleds, or both.

  27. Lou Dawson 2 September 22nd, 2017 11:11 am

    As many of you know, I’m not a fan of adding any more legal Wilderness to our system until things like bicycle use get worked out, but until then, the legal W we do have creates amazing, if not “elitist” places where we can do human powered skiing and those pesky sledders are entirely shut out (unless they choose to go outlaw). Quite an interesting situation, and in my opinion under appreciated by many backcountry skiers, as Matt alludes to. Lou

  28. Mitch R. September 22nd, 2017 6:53 pm

    Thank you! This is dream come true for this moderate backcountry skier! Will be the first in line to buy.

    BTW: i liked really your moderate routes in your 14er guidebooks of 20 years ago!

  29. Howard September 23rd, 2017 12:28 pm

    Lou, you will justify in your mind the reasons that guidebooks and blogging are great things, and I wouldn’t expect to change the mind of someone who writes on his blog a story about himself, in the third person, about the guidebooks he is going to write.

    We all have our motivations; yours might be pride and making money. You can explain that to your grandchildren when you try to take them up to one of the places you guidebook or blog about and there’s no place to park and it’s overrun.

    I really don’t appreciate folks telling me that I need to get over it and go explore more. It’s hard for bloggers and guidebook authors to conceive, but it’s not about ME vs. YOU, what I do or what you do. It’s about the future, and how that future is becoming compromised, whether it’s about crowding, or just removing any sense of adventure from every type of outdoor activity. I’d like my kid to be able to go out and have adventures, but at the rate we’re going every single line will be documented and have a line of folks following their cell phones up the thing.

    And if you’re leaving a trail of trip reports, blog posts, or guidebooks behind your travels, think about how contradictory and conceited it is when you tell people they just need ignore those now crowded area (that you posted online) and how they need to explore more. Now that you’ve helped bring more crowds and reduce adventure, everyone behind you is living with that consequence.

    End rand. No hate here. Just hoping for the best.

  30. Lou Dawson 2 September 23rd, 2017 1:53 pm

    Fair enough. Happy to get your opinion.

    As for writing PR, in the third person, done all the time in the publishing industry. You think all those author blurbs on book flaps and websites are always written by editors or writers other than the author? Sorry to disabuse you of that notion. They are not. I don’t understand why one would imply that it’s inherently wrong or somehow equates to excessive pride. It’s just a guy trying to make a living. Nothing more. Saves money on hiring a PR firm or a writer, simple as that. In other words, I’d ask you to not read more into it than it is. Ten minutes of writing by a self employed guy…

    As for the ethics or downright morality of writing about ski routes, it’s all quite debatable depending on value systems, and I respect your take.

    I can tell you and I think you probably know, if I thought anything I’m doing is messing things up, I wouldn’t do it.


  31. Kevin Woolley September 23rd, 2017 2:12 pm

    I’m not a blogger or a professional guidebook writer, but I enjoy high quality guidebooks, as do many other curious and adventurous people, and I don’t begrudge anyone from earning an honest living sharing their outdoor expertise. The world is a big place, it helps to read before you go, one person can’t possibly see all of it.

  32. Fox September 23rd, 2017 5:33 pm

    HI – excited to have another adventure reference.

    Can you discuss locations of this book? Will any of them feature Lou’s home turf?

    Also – Andy, your post about rakkup. Pretty awesome app!


  33. See September 23rd, 2017 7:27 pm

    I gotta say, Lou, that your “they all do it” response to Howard’s point regarding writing about yourself in the third person reminds me a bit of Lance Armstrong.

  34. See September 23rd, 2017 7:35 pm

    Except he didn’t admit it until everyone already knew.

  35. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2017 6:31 am

    Guys, while I’ve been blessed to acheive my life dream of making a living as a writer, it has its challenges. Always has. Yet more so in the information age, as due to economics and technology all but the top tier “best seller” writers have to pretty much do everything themselves. The hard work in that area often comes down to the mechanics of publishing and maintaining your own website, as well as running a sole proprietorship business, but it also involves sales, marketing, PR; stuff like that. This is a good example. We needed some verbiage about the book. Done. Lisa and I are the “Editors of WildSnow,” no secret there. I felt and still feel totally comfortable pumping out my own shameless self promotion. Third person, second person, first person, or fourth person…

    If you all would like, I can put a disclaimer at the end of the post stating that Lisa and I are the “editors” responsible for the post. The source is no secret. Never was.

    As for Lance, if I’d made a career out of secretively writing about myself, enriched myself by doing so and kept it secret at all costs, then admitted doing so after hundreds of “wins” due to the secret authorship, and in the process completely destroyed my personal integrity. Sure, good analogy.

  36. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2017 6:48 am

    Fox, the book’s destinations by intent are not all that exciting, they’re mostly the standard places folks already go for reasonably easy and avalanche safe ski touring. Some near our home, some out of the San Juans south of here, some in the Front Range, and so forth. Examples: Van Horn Park out of Aspen, A couple on Cameron Pass, spring skiing on Independence Pass, a Crested Butte moderate or two, and so on. Mixed in we have a selection of what I feel are the better resort uphilling options.

    The overarching goal is to help newcomers to the sport of ski touring. To give them a “list” that’s well documented and quickly accessible, instead of doing tedious web browsing looking for ideas on where to go. Though the web side of it will always be useful as well.

    This publication is very very different than any other published North American ski touring guidebook, though I’ve seen some similar stuff in Europe.

    Much much different than my 14 and High Routes books, that had mostly advanced ski routes, many of which had never been covered in guidebook,

    The new book is similar to my 10th Mountain Huts guidebooks in that the routes are quite moderate.

    In writing, it’s always given me great pleasure, as a creative outlet, to do things “different” and sourced from my own creative impulses. This is yet another case of just that. Whether it’s useful enough to work for Andy as part of his business is an unknown, but he’s betting on it of course. As for me, I’d be delighted if it paid for a few nice dinners out with my wife, or perhaps just one a year on that special day we tied the knot, but the financial part of it is not a big concern, it’s definitely what would be called a labor of love, and of course fits into my overall business in various ways that are non monetary, such as helping keep my brand front and center as my other books are all out of print.

  37. See September 24th, 2017 8:50 am

    Point taken, Lou— the Lance analogy was not fair, but that’s what the “they all do it” justification reminds me of. I guess I’m just sick of bs and it’s making me cranky. My sincere apologies. (And I expect the new book will be a fantastic addition to the Wildsnow catalog and to the sport.)

  38. Aaron Mattix September 24th, 2017 9:11 am

    I’m stoked on this simply for the fact that it sheds light on the under-represented “mellow” segment of ski touring. Hopefully it signals a shift away from the emphasis of backcountry skiing as a high-risk sport, and presents the alternative that skiing out of bounds can be a reasonably safe choice.

    Given the ever-rising cost of lift tickets, and the increasing availability of ski touring gear, the numbers of people skiing outside the resort are bound to increase. Growth, and change are inevitable. One can either bemoan the fact that it is happening, or try to take an active hand in guiding it. Props to Lou for doing the latter.

    An author writing 3rd person PR copy for their own books is no more shady of a practice than a carpenter building their own house.

  39. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2017 9:17 am

    See, yeah, wasn’t so much making excuses as I was simply setting everyone straight on the reality and normality of the situation. If it was illegal or immoral to write about yourself in the third person, then yeah, the Lance analogy would be more appropriate and I’d be making a dumb ‘everyone does it’ excuse. I should have worded it differently.

    I can put a disclaimer at bottom of post that says Lisa and I wrote it. Would that be better for everyone?


  40. Bruno Schull September 24th, 2017 12:15 pm

    Hi Lou–I don’t really think the disclaimer is necessary. Anybody who has spent any time here, or any newcomer who puts in a little effort to look around, and check out the site, will not doubt your integrity or motives (or should not, in my opinion). I have no problem with either guidebooks or self-promotion! I applaud you for living your life your way, and for sharing so much with so many people. I am sure the great majority of readers of this site feel the same way. Another options: instead of a disclaimer, you could edit to say, “I” am going to release a new book….maybe just using the first person would be the simplest, and I know you could strike the right balance between just singing our own praises, and explaining how your new book fits into the lexicon of other books your have written, and other guides that exist. Or maybe you need the third-person copy for other media. In any case, I would say, no big deal. And the emphasis on more “realistic” ski objectives is awesome.

  41. Lou Dawson 2 September 24th, 2017 1:27 pm

    Bruno, thanks. I’m glad you’ve got a sense of the mission here, nearly 4,000 blog posts and counting… Yep, the idea behind this sort of thing is to get the media stuff out of the way, it’s just a press release, nothing more evil than that (though let’s not get started on press releases, smile). I could have buried it but figured it did double duty to announce the book as well as giving the media folks some “sound” bytes. I agree it’s quite “off” from the normal tone of WildSnow as a real blog…


  42. See September 24th, 2017 6:54 pm

    I agree— no disclaimer needed (especially after all this discussion). Sorry to take my anger and dismay about scams, alternative facts, “truthiness,” etc. out on you, Lou. You certainly didn’t deserve it.

  43. Dave H September 25th, 2017 6:27 pm

    I’ve been a bc rider for 30 years now so I’m in the group that has seen amazing changes. For CO snowpack, you’ll probably save lives by listing out low hazard routes, but I doubt they will be the same in 2-3 seasons unless they are already heavily trafficked already. I have to go with Howard a bit there despite always treating travelers like brothers and sisters when encountered, and I’ll add that guidebooks, and internet posts, etc. rob future folks of the adventure of scouring out the routes that work in a given weather spell and snowpack situation.

    If I was directed to so many of the places I eventually discovered, it would have been so less exciting, novel and rewarding (even if it is a basic quiet meadow surrounded by trees or some other apparent barrier that directs folks away from an area).

  44. Dave H September 25th, 2017 6:37 pm

    I’l add that I like your blog Lou! Fellow tourers are our allies and our numbers now are actually needed against resort development, heli permits and motorized access. If “nobody” goes there, ten folks at a council meeting = no opposition to development. Brace for the snowbike!

  45. Bard September 25th, 2017 8:22 pm

    Think I’ll grab a copy Lou, sounds perfect for tours with the wife. In this day and age, human powered recreationalists “loving a place to death” is sometimes best-case scenario.

  46. Lou Dawson 2 September 26th, 2017 9:49 am

    Dave, one thing I don’t think some of you guys are getting is a fairly significant portion of skiers have little or no desire for adventure, they’re simply after some exercise, social companionship, good views, etc. Yes, I’m included in the group that likes some spice, but I’ve been known to go out skiing and be perfectly comfortable with zero adventure. So I guess I’m in both categories.

    More about adventure, firstly, it’s “where you find it.” Ski a crowded route at night, during full moon. Go during a storm. Try skiing minimalist gear. Bicycle to the trailhead instead of driving. Do an early season mission. The list is big.

    Even in the Wasatch all you’ve got to do is add a few hours to your day and you can head into the legal Wilderness remote areas, many of which I hear are still pretty much unused by anyone in the winter. Same here in the Colorado Elks, and don’t even get me started on Alaska or the Canadian coastal mountains.

    What’s weird to me about “crowding” is that as soon as you pick a route with other people on it, you are going into a “crowded” situation by default, because YOU are there! If you don’t like other people around, and want adventure, make that your priority and plan ahead.

    Luckily, there are guidebook authors who help keep most of those pesky other people on the standard routes!


  47. JCoates September 26th, 2017 11:43 am

    A strong case could be made that there isn’t enough published info on ski touring routes in the US.

    Case in point would be Switzerland. In Switzerland you can buy topographic maps from the SAC (online or print) which have every conceivable variation of ski tours in each canton which are so good that you really don’t need a guidebook. Every mountain from ascent to descent route is mapped out. But even though the Swiss Alps are much smaller in terms of range than the Colorado Rockies, you rarely run into the kind of shite show you see in the front range, Teton pass or Wasatch (unless, perhaps, you are around Verbier) because there is so much published info that everyone can find something to do without funneling into one trailhead.

    The Swiss–being damn Socialists, however, have this crazy notion that encouraging all of their citizens to get outside and exercise in the mountains by improving access for young and old is overall better for their society. Clearly their consistently high “quality of life/overall happiness” ratings are related to high chocolate/fondue consumption.

    Of course that goes against the American way which seems to be wanting to limit access so we can maintain the illusion (delusion) that we are the first adventurers to ever discover and climb “Mount X” even though the American natives were doing it years before our ancestors pushed them off. Of course the natives didn’t have Instagram or TGR accounts back then to document it so I guess that doesn’t really count…

  48. Dave H September 26th, 2017 2:26 pm

    Hmm, that never occurred to me although it does explain why people actually want to tour up ski areas. I understand this actually happens.

    “You can head into the legal Wilderness remote areas, many of which I hear are still pretty much unused by anyone in the winter” that sounds like WPG talkin.

    My upcoming missions are to find the longest north facing 25 degree slopes for me and my kids that aren’t consistently trampled out by the weekend or surrounded by nasty steep walls. It is a challenge since they aren’t all keen on long approaches or heavy brush exits. To that end, I admit I’d be all over your latest guide if I had the time for road trips 😉

    Still, the mainstream tapping into the great outdoor sports has been so much worse for surfing, still glad I live where I do. Thanks for the chat, Cheers.

  49. Lou Dawson 2 September 26th, 2017 2:49 pm

    Dave, regarding the situation with WPG, it’s most certainly an imperfect world, I have no wish to be cavalier about the situation in the Wasatch, which is overall a bit much (though no different than places such as Chamonix) just using that as an example of what one _could_ do if they wanted more adventure and fewer people.

    JCoats, I agree, I don’t know what kind of perverted mental process would cause a government to map out and make known every ski touring route in existence. If nothing else, putting the guidebook writers out of business! My God!


  50. Lou Dawson 2 September 26th, 2017 2:51 pm

    Regarding the book, the routes are really really basic. Most would be good for going with kids, but an adult would quickly grow out of them. Again, it’s for people starting the sport, or those who due to various factors need really easy stuff to do. Lou

  51. Slim October 5th, 2017 8:13 am

    Hi Lou,

    Could you write a post for those of us considering taking up backcountry skiing, discussing the styles of skiing/routes with relative avalanche risk? Specifically in a North American context?

    My reasoning is this: We all hear of the high number of well know skiers dying in avalanches. But we also know that that they are skiing (for interest and sponsor exposure) lines that most of can’t or don’t need to ski.

    The lower angled, or less deep powder lines, or late spring easy mountaineering objectives don’t get attention in movies and online that the steep, deep and extreme does, but it’s a large and valid part of the world of backcountry skiing.

    Basically my question comes down to this:
    What kinds of routes and skiing styles are possible with low avalanche risk?

  52. Lou Dawson 2 October 5th, 2017 9:21 am

    Hi Slim, that’s a good idea, I think. I’ll try to whip something up quickly. If I fail on it I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, if you inculcate some basic rules, and never break them, your chances of getting killed in an avalanche are slim to none. Here they are:


    Albeit these are rules assuming you are skiing fairly high risk terrain. So it doesn’t totally answer your question. I actually already thought of how to come up with a blog post. I’ll work on it today!

    Thanks for asking about content, really helps.


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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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