Ski Touring News Roundup — Summer 2019 — Housing and the Shredder

Post by blogger | July 1, 2019      

It’s summer, how about I cast a wide net?

Here in the USA, we have a pervasive problem with housing our population. The issue hits our mountain tourist-economy regions as much as anywhere. It’s challenging to live where you can ski tour without excessive driving — or more altruistically, tough to raise a family in a place you might love. And if you do raise a family in a mountain town, your kids might be forced to leave when they become adults. I’ve always had a vague unease with the government’s role in this. Seems like they might be the problem, and the solution. Worth pondering. Here are a few articles that zapped me. First, the title says it all: How San Francisco Planned Its Own Housing Crisis. And on an up note, check out what Oregon just put in motion!

Here in the Aspen, Colorado area towns outside the resort cores are housing most resort workers, thus enabling the astronomical real-estate appreciation places like Aspen are known for — which in turn creates jobs for the workers. Yeah, I get it. But I can’t help but thought experiment: what would Aspen look like if nearly all its workers still lived there?

Reminder: as it usually does winter has occurred south of the Equator. For one example. Looking forward to hearing about your southern adventures. Check out a few of our past ones.

I’ve been pondering big-W wilderness. What makes it special? It’s not hard to find the same trees, animals, and even solitude a few hundred feet off the side of a country road as you’ll find after a backpack into hills — where it’s legally called “Wilderness.” Conversely, if you’re not careful you’ll find legal Wilderness to be crowded, noisy, beat to a pulp: Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range, in July, for one example of a “sacrifice zone.” So, that’s what we’ve made for ourselves, a mixed bag we call “Wilderness.” Being a recreation advocate I can live with that, as the vast majority of our Wilderness is not trashed.

Okay, sacrifice zones, but there’s one aspect of Wilderness I can’t abide giving up: oases where there’s no cell phone signal, no internet, no easily connected DATA. Places where you can take a screen addicted kid on a grand adventure, fishing, hunting, climbing, carving sticks with a pocket knife, and their phone will flatline. What made me think of that? This brutal article in The Atlantic was the catalyst. It begs the question: if Google or whomever blankets the planet with thousands of cell-phone internet satellites, is this heaven on earth, or nothing more than a path to digital tyranny? When the satellite constellations are launched, will Wilderness activists fight for “blank” areas encompassing these haloed lands? Is that even a concept within the “wilderratti” community, as they click wine glasses at their fund raisers? Readers, your comments?

So, continuing the subject of screens… A few days ago I was killing my eyes with artificial blue light, when I found a source of healing adrenaline. As my heart slammed like I was listening to “Shoot to Thrill,” I could only think why had I not reviewed this thing when it came out several years ago?

I’d happened upon the solution for all gated roads and other annoying access problems, something much better than installing our own locks and otherwise being bad. Something that’ll work on packed snow as well as dirt, but way cheaper than a tracked ATV and easier to sneak around with. Is the DTV Shredder the solution? Or just “yipee, I can now shred at ten miles an hour!” And thank heavens for legal Wilderness!

If you got this far… I’ve seen “Shoot to Thrill” called the most “perfect” rock song ever written. I’d probably reserve that for something from the 1960s. Your thoughts?



18 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup — Summer 2019 — Housing and the Shredder”

  1. RCL1 July 1st, 2019 2:08 pm

    It’s all for naught until we cap the world population.

  2. Kristian July 1st, 2019 4:33 pm
  3. Rudi July 1st, 2019 8:11 pm

    The proliferation of cell phones with internet connection is a serious problem. People are fully screen addicted, young people’s time for reflection and even momentary boredom is being usurped by behemoth companies in a quest for “increased user engagement”. Specific to their use in Wilderness areas, cell phones certainly have life saving features that can easily justify their addition to a packing list, they are also so multi functional that they save one from bringing additional devices such as camera or gps, but once they are with you they rob the sense of solitude and self sufficiency that is unique to a Wilderness area. The idea that one is never really fully alone even in wilderness certainly deserves more considerations as to its affects on adult brains, child development and society at large.

  4. Bruno Schull July 2nd, 2019 5:53 am

    @ Rudi, I agree with you 100%. As a high school teacher, I see this every day, but it’s not just teenagers. Just visit any city…people on their phones constantly, everywhere. I know it seems reactionary and curmodgeony to complain about it, but it is strange, a marked change for present times, and there must be significant effects, cognitive, social, and so on. I don’t own a mobile phone and never have. I will try to maintain that as long as possible, but it’s getting harder (SMS messages from companies, verification codes, boarding passes, and so on). When I go into the mountains, I carry a simple PLB, a compass, a map, a camera, and, when I’m in Europe, a cheap disposable phone programed with only the relevant emergency numbers. Despite having multiple devices, I think that’s lighter and more reliable than carrying a smart phone with a stand alone battery pack and/or solar charger. Others obviously disagree. Wilderness with instant communication is not Wilderness.

  5. Steve July 2nd, 2019 10:42 am

    We just came back from a long weekend at City of Rocks, ID. Every year the cell signal gets a little stronger out there, but it’s still pretty spotty. Yes, it was nice to be able to communicate with one of our kids who was joining us later. But I do miss the days where we’d have no choice but to turn off the phone for a few days.
    Our kids look at screens, more than I’d like. It can be a continual struggle to chase them from one device to another. It’s hard to say “go play with your friends” when all their friends are on screens too. But I think I see some hope that there may eventually be a backlash and screen use may pendulum back towards something more “sustainable”. And if anything is gonna drive that, it will be outdoor experiences, because the outdoors is about the only place you can go to get away from the constant screen bombardment. To paraphrase the meme: get your kids hooked on outdoor sports and they won’t have time to spend in front of screens.
    FWIW, I’m not sure I’d say “Shoot to Thrill” is the most perfect rock song ever written. But it’s been my favorite AC/DC song since I bought Back in Black as my first cassette in the early 80’s. Those guys may not be the best musicians, but dang they were masters of the opening guitar hook.

  6. Lou Dawson 2 July 2nd, 2019 11:18 am

    Thanks for substantive comments guys! I do think the screen thing is a HUGE issue for our society, but I’m not an end-of-the-world type person and agree it could swing back. But right now, a grave concern. I can’t imagine what it’s like having a population screen addicted in a closed, tyrannical society; talk about mind control! This stuff with Google, FB etc. is getting ridiculous.

    Relating it all back to Wilderness values and outdoor recreation is so so important. Like I alluded to in post above, I wonder if the Wilderness advocates might take time out from worrying about mountain bikes, and see the real threat? An internet balloon or satellite hanging over pristine Wilderness might permanently demolish it.

  7. Crazy Horse July 2nd, 2019 12:22 pm

    Hi Lou

    re the cost of housing:

    I can’t fail to notice that the cost of basic ski town housing in places like Bariloche right now, or Slovinia next winter is closer to $350-400 per month than the $2,500-$3500 you’ll pay in Jackson or Aspen.

    On the same topic here is an article I submitted to the local paper in Jackson Hole pertaining to housing the servant -worker bees in a ski town. The Editor refused to print it of course. Why risk alienating the owner of your paper or one of the major advertisers who might have a different opinion?

    I know it is a bit long for your “responses” section, but maybe you will find a place to use it during the dog days of summer! The chart in the middle is key to the entire article, but won’t print directly through your blog, so it would have to be transcribed into it if you want it to make sense.


    Anybody with eyes can clearly see that the cost and availability of housing for someone employed in the Jackson work force has long ago escaped the constraints of gravity and is headed for outer space. All efforts to remedy the situation by government or private developers over the past two decades have had about as much impact as an extra snowflake in February.
    It is convenient to place the blame upon billionaires driving prices up and forcing the millionaires to leave, but that is only part of the picture.
    From a recent study by Eric Scharnhorst of the Research Institute for Housing America:


    Check out the comparison between Jackson and other cities in the US:

    It is apparent that even by the notoriously car-centric standards of the USA, the Town of Jackson isn’t even a town at all, but rather a parking lot for the millions of tourists who pass through each year. The combination of private profit seeking and misguided zoning and development have created a pattern of land use that completely ignores the needs of the people who live here and service the tourist hordes and the trophy homes in the remainder of the valley.

    The history of the Grove housing project seems to be the best that can be expected from the current state of planning. The initial phase was conceived as a three story market rate mixed use project for 20 homeowners. By the time it was ready for occupancy it became apparent that it was no longer affordable for the type of buyer who qualified for purchase. The developer couldn’t make enough profit with the permitted density, the buyers couldn’t afford the apartments, and the land for Phase 2 & 3 sat undeveloped.

    After a good bit of wheel spinning, the project was turned over to the non-profit Habitat for Humanity. They proposed to build out the project over a number of years with low density two-story 4plexes using public funding and donated materials. If everything goes to plan, one of the largest building sites in Jackson will eventually be covered by above-ground parking and low density housing in a pattern mimicking the rest of the town. What a waste of scarce land and a failure of vision for the future.

    When I first visited the new ski area at Whistler, what is now a village of 20,000 people was home to black bears raiding the town dump 8 miles up the road from the ski area. A few visionary individuals had a dream of a European style walking village developed with a completely different style than suburban model common in the US.

    Density is the key to Whistler’s success: The entire town is built over underground parking garages. At street level there are no vehicles—just public walking streets. Street level accommodates shops and restaurants, many with boutique hotels above. The top of two 5,000 ft ski mountains is never more than ten minutes away with your skis on your shoulder. But the real key is the 12-story hotels scattered throughout the walking village that provide the density to keep all the street businesses vibrantly successful. Like Jackson, Whistler isn’t primarily a ski area—in fact it’s more crowded in the summer than winter.

    If the Town of Jackson is a parking lot fed by traffic jams at either end, Whistler certainly isn’t a traditional European alpine village where the cows are brought in for the winter. But it doesn’t take much imagination to envision how different life in the Town of Jackson would be if it had Whistler’s infrastructure instead of the 1-5 million dollar low density mish-mash that has grown up in Jackson.

    To take a real example, I’ve lived in several different locations in Vancouver BC, one of the most expensive cities in North America. The nicest was a ½ mile long development along the Fraser River. When the salmon runs collapsed the entire area was re-developed with five story garden apartments with elevators and underground parking, ponds and natural landscaping and a boardwalk along the river to an active fishing village. The building I lived in had 150 one bedroom units that were less expensive than the least expensive housing in Jackson—. My neighbors were singles and young couples who didn’t want to commute from the suburbs or retirees living on pensions.

    Of course nothing comparable exists in Jackson.

    Impossible you say? Change the parking requirements, allow 12 story buildings and 5 story garden apartments, and redevelop the fairgrounds following the Whistler model. You’ve just created 10X the number of affordable housing units built in the entire history of Jackson and opened the door to a more viable community.

  8. Kristian July 2nd, 2019 4:20 pm

    To me, it sounds like Crazy Horse is actually a Real Estate Developer looking to up zone his already purchased holdings so that he can make a huge profit on rentals.

    Up zoning is the preferred way of making money, costs nothing, and suddenly your property is worth up to many times more.

    We see these same exact words and arguments in places like Boulder CO. A dead give away.

  9. Jim Milstein July 2nd, 2019 11:21 pm

    Is it not ironic to complain about ubiquitous screens, when this very blog, which we all love, of course, depends on the same infrastructure?

    Post Gutenberg many educated persons thought affordable printed books would bring political and religious chaos. They were right. No doubt you could have heard people whining about how too many people have their noses in books nowadays and get trampled by horses because they are not truly present in the real world.

  10. Bruno Schull July 3rd, 2019 5:01 am

    Fair points Jim. I thought of that irony as I wrote my message on my computer. There’s a big difference, however, between sitting down and reading/writing on a computer, say, 2-3 times a day during moments of repose, and walking around with a digital device, absorbing stimulation, content, and distraction nearly constantly. Likewise, while I see and appreciate the historical comparison with books, I think there’s also a big difference between books and digital devices, which are uniquely optimized (through intentional design or merely as a consequence of their performance) to to seize our attention. The word “addicted” is often used in reference to these devices, and I think its appropriate. They stimulate and dominate the same brain centers. My sister is an anthropologist and university professor, and she wrote a book about the design and impact of machine gambling in Las Vegas (Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas). Her book is highly regarded, and I think many of her points about gambling machines apply equally to phones. The good things is that you can put down the phone! I used to accompany groups of young people on month-long rambles in the Rocky Mountains, without phones or other devices for weeks, and everybody did just fine. Incredible scenery and intense physical and mental experiences (a combination often found when recreating in wilderness) help focus attention elsewhere. Break the habit!

  11. Lou Dawson 2 July 3rd, 2019 7:05 am

    It’s always good to point out any irony or hypocrisy, as a human I exhibit both traits at least once every ten years (ha) so it helps to be called out. Regarding screen time, it’s similar to the alcoholic vs the casual social drinker. The two are sometimes difficult to differentiate, but most times it’s pretty obvious, and the consequences of social drinking vs addiction are clearly demarcated.

    After much research and direct observation, I believe there is something dreadful going on with “iGen” children when it comes to screen time. We’ll know for certain in another ten years or so — perhaps my take is just the usual “multi generational Luddite alarm.” Though greater minds than mine seem to overwhelmingly be of the opinion that this is indeed a serious problem for our society, if not our civilization.

    And, speaking ironically, perhaps once that satellite constellation is hovering over every deep Wilderness on the planet, the kids will go there because they know their screen will work, lift their head, open their eyes, and turn off their “devices” when that first rainbow trout rises or that first pale-grey granite cliff demands their caress.

  12. Lou Dawson 2 July 3rd, 2019 7:22 am

    Crazy Horse, no problem with the long comment. I’ll see about adding in your charts.

    Kristian, your comment borders on a personal attack. Adding density and “infill” are legit ways to solve housing problems while keeping the tax base high enough to run a town, any planner can tell you that. I’m not saying it’s my preferred solution, but please cut Crazy some slack.

    How about instead of attacking, you offer your own opinion about how we provide more housing in our mountain towns without basic ideas such as under-grounding parking and adding higher density buildings? For example, in my blog post I was alluding to how zoning, indeed, has created much of the problem. Perhaps you can find an example of where zoning has changed, or perhaps you could suggest specific changes?

    Or, perhaps places such as Boulder, Colorado and Jackson, Wyoming should be entirely regarded as cash cows for both government tax revenue and private enterprise, and the workers should live in satellite villages some distance away, connected by mass transit and well designed 4-lanes? I think the latter is actually a legit solution, that’s how we live, thirty miles from Aspen (though Aspen somehow manipulates the state highway department into weird highway designs that cause carbon-polluting time-wasting traffic jams just outside of town.)


  13. Mike H July 3rd, 2019 7:39 am

    Technology changes life. Farmers probably hated the TV. As we moved away from farms for the big cities, through technology, we required less and less daily chores. Leaving more time to fill. My two kids spend a lot of time on their phones and iPads, but ijust because we did things different when we were kids, who are we to impose our views on them. They are happy. We spend several weeks a year in Brec. When we’re here the kids hardly use their media—because there is so much to do. Our home is Kansas City, much less to do there—more time to fill. I’d bet the kids that live in the mountains use less screen time.

  14. Jim Milstein July 3rd, 2019 9:09 am

    Books are, or rather used to be, every bit as engrossing as smart phones. People took them everywhere, even into battle, even into bed. They were revolutionary once but are no longer in first place. You will have to pry the iPhone out of my cold, dead fingers.

    When I was a wee lad studying computer science back in the age of punched cards and fanfold paper I finally gained insight into gambling and its addictive allure. You invested resources into laboriously writing or revising a program, then submitted it to a great and terrible machine which judged it and and noisily returned a pile of fanfold paper usually showing that you lost. Every once in a while you won! Whoopee! The similarity to a slot machine could not be missed.

  15. Other Aaron July 3rd, 2019 10:00 am

    I was definitely told off in middle school (early 2000s) for reading in class too much. and reading too far ahead of class (To Kill a Mockingbird, Good book). This was in English Class

  16. Aaron Mattix July 5th, 2019 10:35 pm

    Numbers are a much more important metric than type of users when defining the Wilderness experience. I have frequently experienced “Wilderness” quality solitude riding my mountain bike in OHV areas; likewise more than a handful of my experiences in officially designated “Wilderness” have been more reminiscent of waiting in line at the DMV (minus the flourscent lights).

    The distinction of whether or not “Wilderness” users are mechanized or not seems like straining a gnat while swallowing a camel in regards to the digital era. I used to be so proud of my “Kill Your TV” bumper sticker until I realized how much time I was spending staring at my phone…

  17. Lou Dawson 2 July 6th, 2019 8:31 am

    Aaron, good point. I’ve had some times doing nothing more than driving our Jeep that were just fine as “wilderness” experiences. And I’ll say it so this doesn’t become a debate, motorized “sphere of influence” for one person is a zillion times larger than non-motorized. Hence, legal wilderness should for the most part stay non-motorized. What’s my little “for the most part” qualifier? IMHO they should allow tools such as chain saws for trail upkeep. Lou

  18. Aaron Mattix July 6th, 2019 9:19 am

    Lou, I definitely agree the motorized “sphere of influence” is at least a million times larger ;).

    The trail project I’m currently working on faces enormous logistical challenges because of its Wilderness status. The alignment passes through a region of pine beetle blow down stacked head high. Current estimate is that approximately 7000 blown down trees will have to be cleared in order to open the corridor for trailbuilding. All of it will have to be with handsaws. Fortunately I’m working on the section outside of the Wilderness boundary…

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