Ski Touring News Roundup — April 2018

Post by blogger | April 19, 2018      

In local WildSnow news with international import: Through the funding of a variety of private sector sources, including publishing partners Cripple Creek Backcountry and The North Face, Colorado Avalanche Information Center will continue daily regional for an additional week, but more importantly, instead of virtually shutting down their operation while people are still snow recreating, they’ll provide various types of forecasts through Memorial Day. Anyone know how this compares to European avalanche forecasting operations? Colorado Avalanche Information Center

Clearly, big (belated and well covered elsewhere, google it) news is Mike Foote’s record uphill/downhill of 62,000 vertical feet in 24 hours. I’m told he did 1,020 vertical foot laps at Whitefish, Montana. North Face sponsored the effort, which was quite elaborate though nicely grass roots. “Amenities” included a grooming cat assigned to keeping his route smooth, and a TNF dome tent at the bottom of his route where helpers maintained several pairs of skis so Foote could simply ski into the tent, step out of his planks, then step into another pair ready to uphill or downhill. More than 60 laps… it’s said the lapster couldn’t walk for a week afterwards. Just a week? Even that is amazing. I like the video.

Bonus linkage: For those who are not Mike Foote and looking to purchase a trailhead approach vehicle (TAV), here is what not to buy, but fun to read about.

At the OR show in January, I ran across Quietkat, a company making super slick off-road electric bicycles. Gated roads getting you down? A solution exists. Check them out.

Electric bicycles and other such things lead me to thoughts about public lands. As I’d imagine is the case with many of you, I’m sick of biased news media and downright fake content — junk that’s sometimes only obvious when you drill down into an issue. For example, High Country News is excellent — and clearly biased. Which is fine so long as they’re up front. But they fell recently into potentially misleading reporting about the U.S. Department of Commerce designating “Outdoor Recreation” as a specific economic category generating “$373 billion toward the gross domestic product in 2016, about two percent of the total.” Moreover, in another HCN article the Outdoor Industry Association is quoted as stating “nationwide, the industry generates $646 billion in consumer spending each year.” The latter for 2012, so somehow the number went from 646 billion in 2012 to 373 in 2016? The answer to that discrepancy is probably too complex to detail here, but either number is rather large, and perhaps not “fake” other than how they’re derived.

Beyond the bouncing numbers, here is the problem and what shifts this possibly into the “junk” category. These numbers are gleefully alluded to in various ways when the human-powered side of the outdoor industry, represented for example by the Outdoor Industry Association — while those same numbers conflate motorized recreation (power boating, snowmobiling, off road vehicles and resort skiing) with rock climbing, hiking and other human powered pursuits. Don’t get me wrong, I like anything that supports human powered fun, but let’s not fake it. Something to think about.

Want to see something mind boggling? Regarding the issues of heuristics and cognitive bias when it comes to making life-and-death decisions while having fun skiing a bit of powder with your friends, check out this flow chart. Easy to see how mistakes are made. Trust me, this thing is amazing, just don’t let avalanche educators get hold of it, in five minutes of reading they’ll have 25 new jargon phrases to add to their heuristics lecture.

I’ve got great faith in some aspects of the latest adult generation, mainly their willingness to act or at least advocate out of the box on issues such as housing and transportation. Huge issues anywhere, and certainly in our mountain towns. Check out this take, it’ll make you fume but perhaps have hope. Operative point: Municipalities have spent a century bowing to the automobile, now they whine and moan about scooters and e-bikes that might solve the problem. Please.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


33 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup — April 2018”

  1. milt April 19th, 2018 10:01 am

    fyi here is a blogger really into diy and the market of backcountry electric bikes

  2. Lou Dawson 2 April 19th, 2018 10:43 am

    Thanks Milt. Incidentally, I decided to stick with my blue Bosch cordless tools rather than shifting to another brand, mainly due to cost though I’ve never been happy with the battery quality. Just the other day, Bosch announced better quality higher capacity Li batteries, have you seen those? Are they in ebikes yet? Lou

  3. Spence April 19th, 2018 11:06 am

    Does anyone else have issues viewing the flowchart? Tried in a few different browsers…

  4. Lou Dawson 2 April 19th, 2018 11:26 am

    Shoot, now I’m having trouble. Perhaps I got the link wrong. I’ll work on it right now, the chart is worth seeing. Lou

  5. Lou Dawson 2 April 19th, 2018 11:28 am

    Here you go, let me know if it works:

  6. Shane April 19th, 2018 11:44 am

    Nope, not yet.

  7. Lou Dawson 2 April 19th, 2018 12:07 pm

    Hmmm, works for me, perhaps you could be getting some caching issues with your browser.

    The graphic is based on a Wiki list:


  8. NT April 19th, 2018 12:39 pm

    It loads for me now. Wow, a lot to digest.
    PDF available here:

    Risk compensation/Petlzman affect, Bandwagon effect, Anchoring/Focalism, Confirmation Bias, Authority Bias, Halo Effect, Illusion of validity, on and on.

    Thanks for sharing Lou.

  9. TimZ April 19th, 2018 12:45 pm

    Awesome news about CAIC, I always have been frustrated that they shut down when do many of us are still out there enjoying the snow, and while fresh snow is still coming down

  10. Ryan April 19th, 2018 12:48 pm

    Lou, your thoughts (and perhaps the HCN article?I didn’t read it…) about the economic power of outdoor recreation seem to be confusing two different things and also reflect a divide between the “official” government numbers and the industry’s numbers. The 2016 numbers cited ($373billion) are for GDP, there is a separate measure called Gross Output which is pegged at $673 billion by the government. This metric is closer to what the Outdoor Industry Association found, both in terms of the actual dollar amounts but also in terms of what and how they are measuring. That being said they OIA did a followup study last year where they revised their numbers to something like $800billion so there is still a big discrepancy between their numbers and the “official” numbers.

    Those initial OIA numbers were a big driver in the feds actually starting to quantify the impact of outdoor rec on the economy and gives the industry and us as end users more sway in the recreation vs extractive industries debate.

    Like you, I do think there is a big range of things falling into the outdoor recreation tent. In terms of $ amounts the biggest contributors to those numbers are motorized products like RV’s, ATV’s, etc. So the question then becomes how do you bridge the gap between the human powered folks and the ATVs everywhere crowd? Or whether this is even a gap that needs to be bridged. who knows.

    Here are the definitions of GDP and Gross Output per the Bureau of Economic Analysis :
    “Gross domestic product (GDP) or value added is the value
    of the goods and services produced by the nation’s
    economy less the value of the goods and services used up
    in production. GDP is also equal to the sum of personal
    consumption expenditures, gross private domestic
    investment, net exports of goods and services, and
    government consumption expenditures and gross

    Gross output (GO) is the value of the goods and services
    produced by the nation’s economy. It is principally
    measured using industry sales or receipts, including sales to
    final users(GDP) and sales to other industries (intermediate

  11. Jernej April 20th, 2018 12:53 am

    Regarding european avalanche services operation… They continue as long as necessary, most are part of some meteorological office so they’re at work anyway. Obviously the updating frequency changes to when required rather than daily or whatever is normal schedule.

  12. Lou 2 April 20th, 2018 8:07 am

    Thanks for commenting Ryan, I probably made the mistake of covering two different issues in the same op-ed paragraph (smile), so yeah, as you allude to, the real issue here is the numbers (however disparate) conflating motorized and non-motorized outdoor recreation, while the non-motorized folks use those same numbers while making points and advocating for things that would restrict that same motorized recreation (national monuments and big-W wilderness to name a few). I’d suspect that for example in Utah, the number of human power recreators is minuscule in comparison to motorized that includes everything from jet boaters on Powell to ATVs out of Moab. What bothers me about all this, again, is the “fake” aspect of it. If we’re going to advocate, argue and lobby for human powered recreation, doing so needs to be based on clear facts as well as seeing the reality of the “big tent” of outdoor recreation where. Or am I just to old fashioned?

  13. See April 20th, 2018 8:29 am

    For sure, let’s get the facts straight. But I think it’s safe to say that outdoor recreation is a big, important part of the economy in many areas where natural resource extraction once ruled.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 April 20th, 2018 9:31 am

    See, I couldn’t agree more. For example the uranium boom in Utah was huge, ended a long time ago, now those same roads provide amazing recreation. Or take Aspen, for example, totally trashed during the 1800s silver mining, now world class ski destination. It amazes me to no end how resilient these places have been. Lou

  15. Tim April 20th, 2018 1:45 pm

    Was not the point of the HCN articles to advocate for recreation as a more “sustainable” use of public lands as opposed to a return to resource extraction?

    Lou while you did comment that HCN is excellent, I am curious why you find them “biased.”? As a longtime subscriber I find HCN’s coverage to be quite balanced, and see them as a valuable resource for investigative journalism concerning issues that concern citizens of the westerner states.

  16. See April 20th, 2018 8:55 pm

    Historical/ cultural/ religious sites (e.g. Bears Ears) are fragile and deserve protection, in my opinion. And it’s my understanding that the toxic legacy of mining in Colorado is still a significant problem. I’m reminded of a friend who found what seemed like a great deal on a property with excellent ski potential. The only problem was the toxic waste. (He decided to pass.)

  17. Lou 2 April 21st, 2018 9:06 am

    See, I’d agree some sites are more fragile than others, but it seems there are many others, or is everything fragile? I see a possible problem with logic in there. If some sites are fragile, that means some are not and there for us to utilize as oil fields and mining districts? Or, everything is fragile, just some more fragile than others, so the less fragile is there to support our industrial society? In any case, in my view this is often a glass half full half empty discussion. I like that the Aspen mining district was able to supply the world with silver that’s still in circulation in everything from electronics to Ansel Adams prints, then transform into what nearly anyone would call a “beautiful place.” The damage was extensive, some still visible if you know what you’re looking at, so I have to admit to chuckling when someone waxes poetic about the view, when it’s been sculpted by totally unregulated 1800s miners hacking their way through the mountain. And of course, there are legacies from any industry, including extraction. As I’m sure you remember, there was for example that break in a mine tunnel water dam a few years ago that badly (though thankfully temporarily) filled a Colorado river with fairly toxic mine water. Having spent much of my youth exploring mine ruins with my father, as well as skiing mine tailings dumps on Aspen Mountain, I do not wear blinders.

  18. See April 21st, 2018 9:58 am

    I think I get your point, Lou. I spent 4 hours driving my fossil fueled car yesterday, so I am not advocating the abolition of our industrial society. I don’t think it’s a “glass half full half empty discussion” so much as a matter of shades of grey. Given the current state of our society and technology, we need to drill for oil and mine for minerals, but we also need to work on reducing/eliminating the harmful impact of these activities on this planet, our home. As long as there is money to be made by trashing some beautiful place, there will be interests pushing for it. If we are an enlightened society, we will draw lines (that don’t just dump all the dirty industries on the less powerful).

  19. Lou Dawson 2 April 21st, 2018 10:30 am

    Hey, regarding your friend who found the toxic land, just how toxic was it really? The word “toxic” has very little specific meaning. Table salt can easily be toxic…, mine tailings can be mitigated or ignored, depending… Lou

  20. See April 21st, 2018 10:35 am

    I don’t recall the details, but the problem was lead, not table salt.

  21. Lou Dawson 2 April 21st, 2018 12:49 pm

    Hmmm. More people in the U.S. die from sodium than from lead, due to high blood pressure… in any case, sorry to hear that. I don’t know the circumstances but yes while lead is serious it can often be dealt with. I used to renovate/restore ancient houses so I know a bit about lead and probably got over exposed at one time due to my own carelessness. Older houses around here often have lead paint on the outside, often easily mitigated with some power washing and paint-over with good quality latex, and attention to what’s going on with the soil surrounding. I guess a vast expanse of soil or mine tailings would be more difficult to deal with, perhaps needing a topsoil cap that could get expensive.

  22. See April 21st, 2018 3:13 pm

    I know which one I’d rather have in my bowl of chili.

  23. See April 21st, 2018 3:40 pm

    And to be clear, it was heavy metal contamination from mining not old paint that was the problem.

  24. Lou Dawson 2 April 21st, 2018 5:04 pm

    LOL, See, you have a point about the chile (smile).

    Lead paint is no joke, I’m willing to bet it has a higher concentration of lead than mine tailings. But in either case, I don’t mean to be cavalier.


  25. See April 21st, 2018 8:22 pm

    So you agree that eating lead is bad. How do you feel about protecting historic sites in Bears Ears?

  26. Lou 2 April 22nd, 2018 8:48 am

    See, I feel like the issue of designating things as historic or religious, and the associated invoking of Federal laws or even regional regulations (such as historic home designations), is nuanced and sometimes fraught. In the case of specific historic sites, it would seem that every square foot of land on our planet is a historic site of some sort, whether we know it or not. Thus, we need a process of prioritizing these “sites” rather than someone just picking up a pen and signing on the dotted line. What comes to mind: I’ve been around Utah more than a bit, for example, and you can go out for a hike in southern Utah, on land that is just regular run of the mill backcountry, and around the corner you’ll run into an Anasazi ruin, there are thousands, probably tens of thousands. The issue thus becomes interesting. Should we designate the whole state of Utah as a National Monument due to these historic cultural antiquarian sites? What about the history of the Mormons, where does that come in? What about the history of powder skiing in Little Cottonwood? All pretty historic. Perhaps we should protect the Utah canyons as ski historical sites (seriously). I don’t mind stating general positions about this sort of thing here, and attempting to provoke thought and a modicum of discussion, but WildSnow isn’t the place for extended political discussions about when Federal land “protection” becomes over-reach or a political football. Thus I’ll stop and get on with some ski writing (smile). Lou

  27. See April 22nd, 2018 10:05 am

    Fair enough, Lou. We don’t have to protect everything, but we absolutely should protect some things, imo. Now back to which binding is best for skinning up the bunny slope.

  28. Lou Dawson 2 April 22nd, 2018 10:08 am

    Clearly, the Kingpin.

  29. Jim Milstein April 22nd, 2018 3:13 pm

    Beg to differ. Post-holing rules!

  30. See April 22nd, 2018 6:06 pm

    Dukes, for the best workout.

  31. See April 22nd, 2018 6:29 pm

    Incidentally, I just searched for bunny slope workouts out of curiosity… some interesting ideas for maintaining off-season fitness.

  32. Webbed Toes April 27th, 2018 1:06 am

    Hey Lou
    I’ve been enjoying all the new (old) thumbnail links to older content.
    Just read your old post about your family Castle Peak summertime attempt. Brought back alot of memories of my old days in Crested Butte. I hiked Castle from Cumberland basin prob about 5 years before your post and have a few photos of the old mine junk that are virtually identical!
    Any chance you could turn on comments for old posts again? Or is that just too much work? Understandable if so.
    I’ve gathered you had some personal history with Crested Butte? You live there for a bit? I met an older lady ~15 years ago with your same last name . . .

  33. Bruno Schull May 1st, 2018 9:55 am

    Sad news. I’m posting this here because this is the most recent news round-up. If not appropriate please remove. A tragedy unfolded over the weekend here in Switzerland; a large group on the Chamonix Zermatt haute route was forced to spend a night out in a storm, and at least six people died, including their guide. Details are scarce, but they will surely follow. Here’s a link with updates in French.

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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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