Ski Touring News Roundup January 2018

Post by blogger | January 19, 2018      

(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)

Backcountry ski touring news.

Backcountry ski touring news.

Austrian ski touring news is always a good stop on the web train. Look for their issues with resort uphilling to increase stateside, and check out these safety statistics. Enlightening. From the Bergsteigen article: “…ski resorts are realizing that there are two products to market, the lift ride and the slope…but two separate offers.” When you use cold logic on this, the reality becomes apparent. When you uphill a resort you are using their vegetation clearing and snow farming services, not to mention depending (during operating hours) on their paid ski safety people to help if needed. Money talks. Look for more resorts to charge a fee for using their slopes — even if you do not ride their cable. (Google translate works fairly well on these pages.)

Apparently at least one resort in Austria has the clever idea of including a single lift ride in their uphilling fee. In some situations that might be smart, perhaps when you’re luring customers to a mountain-top restaurant, and you want to avoid losing potential diners after they’ve done a lap and don’t fancy a repeat. Or how about a day of uphilling, and a bit of lift riding? I do that occasionally, fun.

January 2018 western U.S. water map.

January 2018 western U.S. snow water map. Click to enlarge.

The new year is certainly upon us here in Colorado, only it’s not as “upon us” as usual — a mostly statewide drought that extends westward into Utah and Nevada is alarming everyone from skiers to farmers. We recently returned from visiting the PNW, where lack of snow only seems to occur when too much moisture in the form of rain melts the snowpack. But it’s usually quite thick up there in the wet and scrappy, apparently so much so that NASA is recruiting “citizen scientists” to record backcountry depth measurements. That sounds interesting, though I wasn’t aware that anyone could be a scientist. Are these not lab assistants?

The Popular Mechanics website linked above is interesting in many ways, not the least of which is issues of site design. Recent emphasis on new browser versions with native ad blocking, as well as Google talking about down-ranking search results for slow sites, are factors clearly having an effect on website design. I’m recently noting a marked upsurge in well designed “clean” sites with “polite” advertising. We aspire to that though I don’t pretend to be a master, check out the following for perhaps better examples (they’re nice on both mobile and desktop). Krebs On Security provides a good reading experience, and though Bloomberg has about 25 ads on their homepage according to my browser (!) their revenue generating component seems to be unobtrusive. Dig into Bloomberg for a read of something like this piece on electric car batteries, things continue to be clean and readable.

Those of you who don’t prefer seeing a few advertising banners on WildSnow, please be considerate of the fact that instead of a half dozen we could imitate Bloomberg and go for 25!

Bloomberg article linked above, detailing issues with the mineral Cobalt, is fascinating. It perhaps disabuses one of the notion that electric cars will save the world any time soon. I couldn’t help by compare that photo of an “artisanal” (kind word) cobalt miner in the Congo to that of a well paid oil worker in Canada or the U.S., I’d prefer to picture the latter as I drive rather than some poor exploited soul entering a toxic cave — but I’ll admit to being obsessed with electrifying our transportation and of course I see the benefits. Bloomberg predicts that demand for cobalt will drop off eventually, due to factors such as recycling and alternative battery designs.

Back to our WildSnow website designs — improving is a never ending project. Recent changes mostly involve trimming our loading speed, but we also devote hours to how our advertising is presented. End goal being a website that’s fast loading and relatively easy to read, while giving a nod to revenue. For now we’ll stick with the 3 column desktop design and 2 column for mobile, when summer rolls around I’ll probably try other themes. We did that last summer, but fell back to tweaking our existing custom theme as it’s super secure and efficient, albeit not winning any design prizes.

Geo engineering is in the news again (does it ever go away?). My prediction, despite the nearly rabid disaffection you get with the concept amongst certain demographics, we are engineering our way into global warming, and we need to engineer our way out. At the least, how about treating some of the symptoms? Check out this idea.

Amusing watching the takeover of resort skiing by the ubiquitous uphillers. This guy came all the way from the UK to experience the amazing east face “wall of pain” on Buttermilk Mountain.

We’re loving all the skimo races held from east coast to the west. Nice article about what they do on the Thunderbolt trail, a wonderful meleforus melee? As every race should be! More here on World Cup level racing that’s coming on strong.

But Google just doesn’t understand. Or does it? Go to Goog’s news concatenator, use keywords “ski mountaineering,” you’ll notice an impressive indexing of skimo races and related news, but where is the ski mountaineering news — as in climbing wild mountains and skiing down? Shucks, as with our skiing terminology such as “extreme skiing” we’ve had another phrase co-opted.

Ski touring, the best sport on the planet. Nice writing about that, here.

Lastly, in our B-to-B department: Dan Green, who has worked at Arc’teryx for 17 years, has been promoted to VP of Design. If you love your rucksack, now you have a name to associate.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


22 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup January 2018”

  1. Jim Milstein January 19th, 2018 12:28 pm

    “the best sport on the planet”

    It’s better than that, Lou. It is the noblest sport.

  2. justin January 19th, 2018 12:42 pm

    It looks like the western states are about to get some decent snow. I guess you got your wish.

    Is anyone hiring out west?

  3. Doug Hutchinson January 19th, 2018 5:03 pm

    The most important ski touring news today is we can finally see the 22Designs low tech binding!!! Best news I have heard/seen in years.

  4. Eric Steig January 19th, 2018 6:08 pm

    Hang on a second. You are assuming a lot when you say that when uphill a resort you are using “their vegetation clearing and snow farming services, not to mention depending on their paid ski safety people”. This depends a lot on location.

    The reality is at the several resorts in WA and BC that I know something (in some cases, a lot) about, the resorts are built on public land, and the snow clearing is partly or wholly paid (even OVERPAID in low snow years) for by the state/province, etc. Major rescue operations are done by volunteers, often having to rescue people that the ski resort didn’t manage to keep out of dangerous areas because of poor signage, or whatever. (Not saying this is the ski resorts’ fault; simply that it’s not always they case they are paying these costs).

    It’s true that the grooming is probably meaningfully something the resort is almost always paying for. Then again, I’ve paid to ski at XC ski resorts that haven’t bothered to groom the runs I paid them to groom…

    Another thing: some places I like to do uphill have been the uphill places of choice since *before* the ski resort got there.

    I am not going to sweat a few bucks about this, but there’s a principle of fairness, priority, rights to ownership, etc. These resorts generally make a profit from OUR land. Assuming that their then choosing to charge us to ski on our land is “fair” is a stretch. I’d want to see solid evidence and breakdown of the real costs before I’ll believe it.

  5. See January 19th, 2018 7:08 pm

    I try pretty hard not to make too many assumptions based on demographics. It’s just not a very reliable way to understand what people actually think and believe, in my opinion. Re. geoengineering: we didn’t exactly engineer our way into the problem. Climate change is an unwanted and unintended side effect. It’s just this sort of unintended consequence of messing with unfathomably complex systems that makes me very leery of geoengineering.

  6. Andy Carey January 19th, 2018 7:44 pm

    Years ago, White Pass Ski Area (my home lift-served area) charged $10 for a one-time lift ticket that allowed bc skiers to access the goods (Hogback) all day then ski out. Of course, now the area has expanded greatly (to my pleasure) and the one-time tickets are no more. But my wife gets and annual pass for $20, I’m still paying $$$

  7. Aaron Mattix January 20th, 2018 8:20 am

    Selling individual lift rides has merit beyond the uphill skiing demographic. I’ve seen plenty of examples where beginner level skiers can only manage 3 runs before their skills and fitness are exhausted. Or consider parents who have to alternate the day between one adult looking after kids, and another getting in a lap or two. Or take the case of an uphill skier who does their early morning skin lap, then sees the stoke factor of friends who are riding the lifts in epic conditions, and wants to join in on the fun. For all the above cases, it is easy to imagine the participants would prefer the option to buy 5 lift rides useable at any time during the season, rather than paying for a single day pass. If they only use 2-3 lift rides in one day of skiing, the remaining lift rides are incentive for them to return to the mountain another day, for another cycle of ancillary spending – food, beverage, rentals…

  8. Andy Carey January 20th, 2018 9:48 am

    @Aaron … My ski area sells half day tickets, but they only can be used afternoon. The best deal I ever saw was at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. They sold tickets that had a certain number of points. Different lifts cost different points (based on length of run, I guess) and one could use the same ticket on subsequent days. So good for a one-ride day, 2 ride-day, … 10 ride day or, I suppose, 10 1-ride days. But ski areas are so crowded (around here anyway) now, the operators don’t need to do such stuff. I just hope my area hangs in there for the 73+ year old $20/season ticket LOL, many don’t do reduce tickets for geezers anymore.

  9. Dan January 20th, 2018 10:53 am

    Brighton used to sell one-ride passes for $5. That was the bomb! Now they’re $15…

    The quality of the terrain that can be accessed off the top still makes it worth it though, some days!

  10. See January 20th, 2018 11:33 am

    Just read the Atlantic article. In it, Michael Wolovick (the guy proposing this massive project of submarine sills) says “While the broad-brush solar geo-engineering is more planetary scale, the problems may be more planetary scale too.” So his idea has less potential for global catastrophe, which is a good thing. But he also says “It’s important to emphasize that any sort of geo-engineering is not a substitute for emissions reductions.” And this gets to my other major problem with proposing geoengineering as the solution for climate change— if we put our hope in some engineering magic bullet to fix climate change, then we don’t need to bother with reducing carbon emissions. That said, the strategy described in the article looks interesting.

  11. See January 20th, 2018 7:17 pm

    Just read the Bloomberg article. Sad but not surprising that miners in poor countries have terrible working conditions. Mining has historically been very tough on the people down in the hole, be they extracting cobalt, diamonds or coal, in Kentucky or the Congo. And the Congolese people have suffered appalling exploitation for generations as rich countries consumed their abundant natural resources. Long before our phones, balloon packs and cars required their cobalt, we were consuming their copper, rubber etc.. The problem is not sourcing materials from places like the Congo, it’s dealing with the people in such places in a fair and just fashion.

  12. Jim Milstein January 20th, 2018 7:49 pm

    Not just the Congo, See. I worked the night shift in the Ohio Creek #2 coal mine between Gunnison and Crested Butte long ago. It was mediaeval! Surpassingly dangerous too. I would sooner be dead, and if I’d stayed much longer likely would be now.

    There really is no wage that can compensate coal miners. Probably true in hard rock mines too, but I have no experience of them beyond a tour into the Cerro Rico of Potosi, Bolivia. The tunnel we entered was above 14k’. It was harsh. It was “artisanal”. What a weasel word.

  13. Kristian January 21st, 2018 3:50 am

    Long brutal history. Matewan Mingo is an example.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 January 21st, 2018 5:55 am

    Jim, yeah, am well aware of the difficulty of coal mining, as we live in a former coal town in a coal district. When they closed the mine near here (said to be one of the worst), nearly all the miner families sold out to a hippy influx and raced off as fast as they could — they were clearly not impressed. Interesting part of our town history. In any case, when speaking of mineral resources I figured using above ground petroleum mining as comparison to that miner in Congo was more appropriate, since both are directly related to automobile transport, while coal is not. I’d also add that I’ve known plenty of coal miners, many of whom did describe difficult conditions, but not ridiculously so, and they to a man appreciated the money. We’re lucky that the mining operation near our field HQ is an underground marble quarry, pretty clean compared to coal, or gold, or, cobalt! Lou

  15. See January 21st, 2018 9:26 am

    Just did a quick count. I’ve got nine devices on my desk right now that use lithium ion batteries and none of them is a car. And the history of oil extraction and the effects it has had on the people living on top of those reserves is also not pretty.

  16. phil January 21st, 2018 9:52 am

    In regards to Andy’s mention of White Pass that they stopped the one ride ticket a while back and it has been a double edged sword that keeps the backcountry there pretty much deserted mid week and nicely used weekend. The area expansion from a few years ago and the building of a lodge at about 6000 feet near the two new chairs gives access to big bowl skiing a mere 20 minute hike away to summit or you can actually drop right into a 1500ft descent backside without a hike. The semi-expensive lift ticket keeps the crowds away. A boon to locals like myself but a bane to outsiders. I always thought the mgmt. missed the boat on not promoting that aspect for tourers, but have no complaint about the Euro style situation created just a stones throw SE of mighty Rainier and the lack of crowds.

  17. Kristian January 21st, 2018 9:58 am

    Afghanistan = Lithium. Explains a lot.

    (And lithium vehicle starter batteries are awesome.)

  18. Gordon King January 21st, 2018 5:34 pm

    For Fritschi 2017 Evo binding users – has anyone had their ski brakes spontaneously deploy for no reason while in the touring mode? This is not caused by the stomp pad breakage issue detailed in an earlier WS blog post. Nothing appears to be broken on the binding and the folks at Black Diamond say they’ve never seen this problem. I’m just walking along and the brakes will deploy for no reason that I can tell. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  19. Gordon January 21st, 2018 5:38 pm

    For Fritschi 2017 Evo binding users – has anyone had their ski brakes spontaneously deploy for no reason while in the touring mode? This is not caused by the stomp pad breakage issue detailed in an earlier WS blog post. Nothing appears to be broken on the binding and the folks at Black Diamond say they’ve never seen this problem. I’m just walking along and the brakes will deploy for no reason that I can tell. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  20. Jim Milstein January 21st, 2018 6:37 pm

    Just remove the brakes, Gordon. That never fails to cure brake problems. Brakes are a pointless complication. They don’t always stop a runaway ski when you most need them to, and they compromise the binding mechanism (usually). Also, they have weight.

  21. See January 21st, 2018 8:04 pm
  22. See June 10th, 2018 7:50 pm

    Re. the Congo, I recommend Bourdain’s Parts Unknown season 1 episode 8.

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