Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | June 5, 2006      

Snow Report
Backcountry skiers all over North America are still getting the goods. Sierra has plentiful coverage. Skiers in Montana and Wyoming recently enjoyed fresh snow on a good base. Colorado’s high alpine is still providing turns, though this spring is warmer and dryer than usual so I wouldn’t call Colorado “epic” this time around. Northwestern U.S. is yielding its usual excellent plethora of wet and scrappy spring turns that frequently seem to last longer than anywhere else.

Colorado Fourteeners
A week ago diehard fourteener baggers were still getting Colorado’s highest alps via long quality lines. Prolific backcountry skier Dave Bourassa and friends did a nice job on Castle Peak’s east face about a week ago, while Ted Mahon and Neal Beidleman nailed South Maroon Peak from the summit down the classic east couloirs. That’s Neal’s last Elk Range fourteener, making him the third person to do complete descents of all six Elks fourteeners, several of which could be the most difficult of all fourteeners to make complete descents of (Pyramid and Capitol). Congratulations Neal — if you’re gunning for skiing them all you have a good start!

Chris Davenport’s spirited fourteeners ski-them-all project ended on a high note with his recent success on the Holy Cross Couloir. Due to dry conditions in the Sangre de Cristo range Dav was not able to complete his quest of skiing them all in one winter/spring snow season, but he’ll try to finish up before next January so he can get them in a calendar year. Time records aside, what’s terrific about Davenport’s project is how hard he’s working at sharing the beauty and joy of skiing Colorado fourteeners, along with honoring the mountains he calls home. Over the years I’ve tried to do the same thing with my guidebooks and such, but Dav has raised the bar with his website and coming movie.

In other fourteener news, the Aspen Times published an interesting overview on the issue of how one defines a ski descent of a peak. And why would we be interested in standards in the first place? In a nutshell my take is that we’ve got to have some standards if we go public, as in projects such as mine or Davenport’s, but for day-to-day recreation whatever you do up there is your own business. Problems arise when people (as in newspaper reporters) try to compare individual recreational pursuits to more formalized and publicised projects. It’s like arguing that an apple is an orange, and since people eat more apples, the orange is somehow getting the short end of the deal. (If that doesn’t make sense, you get the point.) At any rate, check out the article and leave comments here if you like.

We’re having fun testing the Click-Clack Dynafit add on (see previous blog posts). We hope our recent reviews have helped some of you figure out how appropriate these aftermarket heel lifters are for your style of skiing. By early next winter we’ll have a long-term use report.

As testimony to Colorado’s unusually solid snowpack this past winter, we only had four avalanches deaths this 2005-2006 snow season. Nonetheless, all four were poignant tragedies. The season’s first death was a man who snowboarded solo down an avalanche path, triggered a slide and was buried. Nearby backcountry skiers who eventually found him with probe poles might have been able to save him if he’d been wearing the beacon that was left in his car. The season’s second death occurred when a tragically ignorant pair of teenagers tried to climb Kelso Mountain. Both were caught, one ended up on the surface and one buried. With rescue gear and training the outcome might have been different. As it was the buried boy died. Our third accident of the season was nothing less than a blunder reminiscent of something from the Darwin awards. Twelve snowmobilers were illegally riding in a Wilderness area, highmarking an avalanche slope. Seven of the group were caught at once, five partly buried and two fully buried. Both buried riders were killed. The group had almost no rescue gear. They used tree branches as probes, and only had one shovel between them. Lessons learned?

Web News
Backcountry ski oriented websites continue to grow and change in fascinating ways. Over at Telemarktips, publisher and forum moderator Mitch Weber had to shut down his off topic section after the discourse devolved to bombastic and crude levels that were a marked contrast to the generally upbeat and civil style most Teletips patrons ascribe to.

It’s actually somewhat amazing that off-topic somewhat “anything goes” web forums can even exist. The things are basically places where a person can say almost anything, in nearly total anonymity (rules exist for most such forums, but they’re almost always laxly enforced because they’re hard to interpret and apply fairly.) As Telemarktips is a leader in backcountry web publishing, we’ll all be watching where this goes. Weber is a skilled forum manager/moderator, but everyone has their limits as to time and patience — he’s no doubt got better things to do than swing a fire extinguisher and jump on hand grenades.

As a forum moderator myself, I see the need for an off-topic area. Off topic posts can quickly clutter up an otherwise enjoyable and pertinent “enthusiast” forum, and having a place to shove them usually solves the problem without forum members feeling you’ve been too “heavy handed,” (though a few will hate on you no matter what). On the other hand, trying to combine off-topic posts with political polemics seems like a good way to quickly move things to gutter levels.

In the case of Teletips, it looks to me like a solution would be to have ALL off topic posts go to the off-topic section, but moderate the off-topic area to keep a much more light-hearted tone. Along with that, I’d simply eliminate the politics and religion argument area, and refer people to other websites where such conversations and arguments are common (there are literally thousands of places for that). Let’s face it, just because people have a family-like interest in some form of recreation doesn’t mean they’ve got the motivation or skills to elegantly argue fine points of politics and religion, nor will they agree with each other any more than another group of humans. Brothers and sisters will fight as much as anyone given the right motivation and half a chance — and they’ll fight dirty.

6/6/06 Update: Looks like all the content in the Teletips OT Forum has been nuked, and the users are enjoying a discussion about the issue . According to posts there was wild stuff was going on, including things that could have been legal slander. On top off such shenanigans poisoning a convivial forum “community,” they are risky for a web publisher. I’ve heard from several sources that slander or copyright violation on a bbs you own can cause you to end up in court. That’s probably why most web forums are moderated. It’s actually quite surprising what some forums allow, considering the risk the owners are taking.

It’s also interesting to see the concept of “self policing” being experimented with. Depending on a web forum to be self policing is a noble ideal, but when such policing involves protecting the owner from legal issues, it might take a bit more than the whims of the forum members to do the job. Witness the Telemarktips off topic forum…


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5 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. Scott B June 5th, 2006 10:37 am

    I’ve enjoyed reading about Chris Davenports adventures this winter.

    He’s going to have a really difficult time, though skiing Long’s by January of next year. It normall has little coverage until March or April, if at all.

  2. Sky June 5th, 2006 10:57 am

    A TAY link? NO! Quit pointing the corn-starved Colorado contingent to the secret stashes of the Northwest!!!

  3. Lou June 5th, 2006 2:37 pm

    That’s true about Long’s, but Chris has a way with getting these things done…

    As for NW corn, I’m sending the hoards your way from our incredibly crowded Colorado backcountry that’s being trashed by hundreds of thousands of backcountry skiers and requires strict government regulations to keep us all from scaring the rabbits.

  4. Lou June 6th, 2006 6:50 am

    Romeo and all, just a reminder that our proposed new D System rating method is described, see menus above.

  5. steve romeo June 6th, 2006 6:20 am

    Hey Lou,

    Yes, the season is winding down here in the Tetons as well. I spent last weekend on Moran skiing and scoping lines on the Sickle and Triple Glaciers. Couldn’t even ski to the canyon floor. Might have one more casual ‘harvest’ trip in me to wrap thinks up on a good note.

    It has been cool to see the sickbird lines that Chris skied during his fourteener project. It seems like people are really into seeing and reading about trips/lines like these going down. Maybe it’s time for a Teton skiing website…hmmm.

    I think with the increased popularity of ski mountaineering, a descent rating system is warrented. Many times I think people aren’t really sure of what they are getting themselves into. Especially under marginal skiing/snow conditions. If I am going to travel to a ‘destination couloir’, I really want to know as much as posible about the line, to maximise the possiblity for a successful descent.

    Lame year for mountain related deaths. Now the girls on Foraker…ugh!

    Can’t wait to ski those those NW lines! Any recomendations on a good guidebook? HA!

    Ciao Lou!

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