Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | November 28, 2005      

Arapaho Basin, arguably Colorado’s most soulful alpine ski area, wants to add terrain taken from nearby backcountry. Some of this terrain is already popular with lift-served backcountry skiers, so it’ll be interesting to watch the tug-o-war. That is, if there is even a battle. The question in my mind is if lift-served backcountry skiers really want uncontrolled natural snow, or are they just going out of bounds because the ski areas don’t provide enough “pseudo backcountry?” Time will tell. Aspen Times article

Over on Telemarktips, publisher Mitch Weber recently put up an excellent review of the “Sanctified” ski video that was distributed with the last issue of Backcountry Magazine. His take on the enviro rant was about the same as mine from a few weeks ago, but Mitch liked the skiing footage better than I did. When reading Mitch’s review and watching more of the movie to refresh my memory, I realized another thing that bugs me. I’m somewhat of a mountain mystic, and “Sanctified” seems to dabble in that, what with the soulful music, comments about spirituality and such. More, the vid seems to skim the surface of ye olde question: why do we do this stuff? What would have been cool is if they’d made Sanctified without the weird enviro stuff, and just concentrated on what gives backcountry skiing soul, and the motivations behind it. And did so in such a way that it was more than just shots of people skiing to music, as the movie seemed to have potential for. Perhaps next year?

And speaking of global warming, in my Sanctified review I mentioned that a common estimate for necessary carbon reduction was 50 percent. On NPR the other night, someone said we needed to reduce carbon consumption by two thirds to stop global warming! How exactly we were supposed to do that was not clear, but nuclear power was mentioned.

In skiing news, yesterday I got a bit of first-hand experience with Aspen lift served. Aspen Mountain actually had some soft crud and bumps, but most of the terrain was closed. We’re looking at a string of storms coming in all week, so things should be looking better soon. From what I’ve heard our higher altitude Colorado backcountry is skiing well, I’ll have to check that out soon.

Fourteener skiing: Someone let the cat out of the bag over on the TGR forums, so I might as well do so here. Well known movie skier and freeskiing promoter Chris Davenport is gearing up for an attempt at skiing all 54 Colorado fourteeners in one season (winter/spring). I’ve spoken with Chris several times about his plans, and was keeping mum at his request, but now his plans are public so I’ll say a few things, with more to come when Chris makes his official announcement.

This idea of skiing all the fourteeners in one season was first hatched by Crested Butte skier Sean Crossen, who made a spirited attempt in 2002 but was thwarted by dry conditions and time limits. Sean continued skiing peaks the past few years, and only has a handful before he’s done them all and possibly becomes the second person to ski them all (depending on who else does what in the meantime).

Sean has made a huge effort to ski from all historically skied summits, and to ski the peaks as completely as possible. I give him props for that. Skiing all the 14ers is significantly tougher when you use a fairly strict definition of “skiing a peak,” rather than just counting it because you got up there one day and made a few turns, and Sean has taken that ethic to heart. Folks have made fun of me for taking 13 years to ski them all, but what they don’t realize is that my ethic was strict, and I was also a stickler for safety (as what worth was the project if I died trying it?). So I went to many of the peaks multiple times, and summited many several times before I felt that checking them off my list was legit.

Another guy, Jason Ivanic, also came close to skiing them all in one season when in winter and spring of 2003/2004 he skied on all the fourteeners but Culebra in an amazing solo push, thus nearly becoming the first person to ski them all in one season. As for who the second person is to ski them all, according to emails I’ve received from Jason, though he came darn close to doing so he’s not claiming to be the second. He missed skiing from at least one important summit (Pyramid Peak) that our somewhat loose ski mountaineering ethics still holds needs a “summit descent” that needs to be claimed as hit for a “ski ’em all” project, based on the style of first descent of the peak (it has continuous snow from the summit during months of any average snow year, was skied from the summit by Chris Landry in 1978, and much much harder to ski from the summit than from lower down). Nonetheless, Jason’s feat was still notable and certainly paved the way for guys such as Chris.

I have to admit to a bit of amusement about all this. During my own fourteener skiing project, it was such a fringe activity I could barely get a free fleece jacket and a half page in Powder Magazine. Now one of the best known free skiers in the world is tackling them, fully sponsored and obviously considering the goal a worthy one to add to his amazing list of accomplishments. If indeed Chris Davenport goes after this, my wish for him is that he’d achieve a stunning and definitive success, done with the excellence, safety, and the sharing spirit he’s demonstrated throughout his career. And I hope the movie is good.


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