Well, another one bites the dust.
2020 has brought the end of many facets of American life we hold dear, and the print magazine industry has not been spared. The latest casualty: Powder magazine, the glossy print rag that’s been around even longer than WildSnow. Steve Casimiro, who was editor of Powder for 11 years and now runs Adventure Journal broke the news on his magazine’s site this past Saturday.
American Media, the conglomerate company that houses Powder, Surfer, Snowboarder and Bike magazines (all being shut down) as well as mainstream consumer titles like Men’s Journal has not yet released a statement. I expect though it will be similar to other print media facing shutdown or widespread furloughs this year: When Covid hit, outdoor industry brands panicked and the advertising budgets most publications (including this one) rely on to sustain operations shriveled up.
This is a sad moment for ski media. Publications are sources of information but they’re also reflections of culture and it takes resources to report, write, edit and publish (yep, even at our ragtag publication here). Support the publications you love by subscribing, shopping through affiliate links in reviews and sharing articles with your friends. At the end of the day, it’s readers who keep the lights on.
Early season gear sales skyrocket
In other news, the fever pitch around the upcoming backcountry ski season hits new heights. Avalanche professionals and educators have issued warnings that this could be the most dangerous year in ski touring history. Gear shops specializing in backcountry equipment are reporting early season sales that rival a typical November. A friend commented recently on how he hopes ski shops are stocking up or else by January boot and ski walls will be as bare as the TP aisles were last April.
I guess one silver lining is that unlike last spring when resorts closed overnight and people flocked to the backcountry, there’s at least a little time to plan ahead this season. So here’s some better news about the impending winter.
Bluebird Backcountry expands terrain and offerings
Given the current state of events, it’s tempting to wonder if Erik Lambert and Bluebird Backcountry had a crystal ball when they put the off-piste ski resort/backcountry education hub on the map last winter. Sure, the increasing number of backcountry enthusiasts prior to the pandemic was reason enough to offer programming to teach novices how to use their equipment and start the season off right. But this year it will be more crucial than could’ve been anticipated. If education, mentorship and good partners are barriers to people moving safely in the backcountry, the simple answer is to increase accessibility.
Luckily, Bluebird had a season to work out its systems and find a new, bigger spot to land. According to this article in the Vail Daily, they’re increasing terrain 3-fold for the 20/21 season. On offer are courses to introduce new skiers to backcountry skill sets, including avalanche education and the opportunity to ski with a mentor. Total newbs can rent gear and decide whether they like the sport before committing. Oh, and they offer five free days of car camping in their parking lot. Queue up the Sprinter van train…
Online avalanche education takes off
For better or worse, we’ve officially reached ‘the future’ where so many (too many?) human interactions take place on computer screens. Weird. But it does make some things more accessible, and avalanche education is one of those things.
Know Before You Go is launching an expanded version of its worldwide curriculum, BCA just launched a web series on backcountry communication, Mountain Sense, who offers a ski mountaineering course I reviewed last winter, is releasing a new course A Skier’s Guide to Avalanche Safety on October 13.
Additionally, many avalanche course providers, including regular WildSnow contributor Sarah Carpenter of American Avalanche Institute, are moving classroom portions of courses online. We’ll have a more in depth post on online and in person avalanche resources soon.
Uphill skiing at (at least) some resorts is a go
Aspen Ski Co issued the unofficial word last week that uphilling at the four mountains will go on as usual. According to Rich Burkley, Senior VP of Strategy and Business Development at Skico, uphilling at the four mountains will be available as in year’s past with a few tweaks: Uphillers will need to remain on designated, signed routes during operating hours; uphilling will not be allowed during operating hours on certain holiday blackout periods; closures on the designated routes may be possible due to capacity challenges. Routes will be more regulated than in year’s past, and he advised uphillers check the Aspen Snowmass App to make sure their chosen route is open for the day.
This is of course great news for the Roaring Fork Valley locals who use the four mountains for regular fitness skins (including yours truly). But it’s even better news for people who are buying new touring boots, skis, and skins that they don’t know how to use. We’re still waiting to hear about Vail and other ski area uphill policy this coming season, and hope it will be something of the same. Readers: What’s the news from your neck of the mountains? Leave a comment.
Take the avalanche forecast pledge
During my days as a university instructor, I used to have students sign a pledge not to plagiarize. While the reader may argue the effectiveness of such a measure, my take is that the pledge 1) provided a record that could be used later if there were issues and 2) embedded a certain subconscious accountability on the part of the student.
The Friends of CAIC new forecast pledge offers a similar mode of accountability. They’re asking that every backcountry user officially pledges to check the avalanche forecast before heading into the backcountry this winter. And if you sign the pledge before December 1, you can be in the running to win a spot in an AIARE Level 1 or 2 course.
Here’s to the safe season ahead.