Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | June 23, 2006      

This just in: Viagra may prove to be a magic drug for high altitude athletic performance. In a study reported in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers say they saw improvements of up to 39% in time trials on a stationary bike at a simulated altitude of 12,700 feet. Altitude related side effects are unknown (pun intended). Previous studies had shown the drug might have this effect, but this latest trial appears to prove it. Who would have thought: you’re heading for Everest, don’t forget your little blue pills!
And if you go with your honey stay in separate tents or you might not get the climb done.

What do NASCAR and skiing have in common? Answer: many things, but is one sport a lot more risky than the other? An amusing Florida newspaper article describes how certain famed and sponsored race car drivers can’t get enough and race in “extracurricular” small-town events every chance they get. Such racing is not without danger, as smaller tracks my not have the rescue manpower and medical wherewithal of larger venues, not to mention the quality of the track itself. At issue is whether the high dollar drivers are taking excessive risks that make their sponsors uncomfortable. In answer to that, driver Ken Schrader says “”It’s not like I want to go to the mountains and go skiing or something… all I want to do is go to the race track.” Yep, if you’re thinking skiing might be too risky, take up automobile racing. We’d like to think Schrader was talking about backcountry skiing avalanche slopes, but probably not. Perhaps he’s referring to the slopes of Vail during Christmas? (defunct link removed 2015)

China is in the ski news, with an environmental slant. While the United States is most certainly an energy glutton and causes its fair share of environmental degradation, let’s not forget the thousand pound panda lurking over there in the east. Ski resorts are popping up in China around the gigantic city of Bejing. All well and good since skiing is the world’s greatest sport, but, Bejing’s resorts use snowmaking and there isn’t enough water to go around. It’s estimated that the 13 ski resorts around Beijing are sucking up 3.8 million cubic metres of water a year, which is enough for 42,000 city residents. Adding insult is the most environmentally incorrect resort of them all. The Quabo Ski dome is a gigantic ten story indoor ski resort that provides man made snow on two slopes, and is refrigerated to a constant temperature just below freezing during the scorching heat of Chinese summer. And to think the U.S. didn’t sign the Koyoto treaty. Oh my.

On a serious note, a public memorial service will be held for Doug Coombs this Sunday at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. A nice article in USA Today sets the stage with touching copy about his wonderful family and leadership in ski mountaineering. Read full article here.

And speaking of mountain safety, owner Mitch Weber recently published an incredibly thorough article about ski helmets. The piece is not without a few interesting twists. Despite a disclaimer (Mitch writes that he’s not worn a helmet in his three decade ski career) in general tone the article appears to advocate helmet use. More, Mitch writes that while helmets are voluntarily tested by the makers, there is no official regulation of ski helmet quality or efficacy. (2015 defunct link removed)

Weber says we can probably depend on corporations to regulate themselves for helmet quality and performance as it’s in their own best interest to do so. Perhaps, but my trust of corporations is simply not that high, is yours? Also, Mitch relates that different ski helmet standards exist and the manufacturers are self regulating to the lower standard. The assumption seems to be that the lower standard is adequate. Another disconcerting tidbit in the article is that makers may be staying with the lower standard because helmets made that way look better and cost less. Which begs the question, are ski helmets truly protective devices or just well padded (and cool looking) chapeaux that can withstand a bit more trauma than a bare head? Wearing one didn’t save Doug Coombs, nor many others.


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One Response to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. Mark June 23rd, 2006 7:50 am

    The “telemark” comp video segment of the aspen tree hitter didn’t include any genuflecting. I’m disappointed. Glad the competitor’s head is okay.

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