Thanks to Ortovox for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
The other day I got a phone call from photo editor Morgan at Powder Magazine, and last evening Tom Bie (Editor of Powder) rang up. They were looking for information about ski descents and a few shots of yours truly from olden days. According to Tom their Thirty Five Year Anniversary issue that’s coming up has a big retrospective covering what’s happened in skiing over those 35 years. Talking to the Powder boys reminded me that my debut as a ski writer was with Powder back in 1977, and that the musty article was still floating around the Dawson family archives.
I have to admit that in 1977 I thought by 2006 I’d either be dead or trying to move a spoon of oatmeal from bowl to mouth without spilling any on my pajama top. (Things have gone better than that, thank God, and life has been good. ) Titled “Out of Bounds and Out of Luck,” the antique article is amusing as a period piece, somewhat embarrassing, and worth kicking around. So I keyboarded it to WildSnow’s vast hard drive array and used it as a “look back” article that fits with our recent mountain safety theme. ( Link at bottom of this post.)
Powder editor and mascot David Moe (Captain Powder) solicited the article. It was 1977, I was doing handyman work at the Climbing Magazine office in Aspen, and Moe was there talking to Climbing editor Michael Kennedy about some of Mike’s photos that Powder was publishing. Moe and I got to talking about recent unfortunate ski related events in my life, and asked me to write something and send it to him. At the time I couldn’t write with the quality Powder wanted, nor in the hyperbolic ski hipster voice their writers have made a standard (I probably still can’t) but Moe liked the theme of my piece, so it got printed.
At the time, according to the Powder’s intro squib I’d been “skiing 13 years, was part owner of a climbing school, and was well respected.” I don’t know where the latter came from as I was a dirt bag and proud of it, but my ski mountaineering had been going well and Aspen Climbing School was the first permitted mountaineering guide service in Aspen (that permit is still in use by one of our present guide businesses.)
Then it all came apart when I badly busted my leg while out-of-bounds skiing on the backside of Aspen Mountain, in an area all local skiers called Keno Gulch or Keno Gully. I wrote about the rescue in the Powder article, but didn’t write about the year and a half of being crippled afterward, and what it was like changing in a few hours from a fireball mountain boy to a depressed gimp with a leg bone that wouldn’t heal. Someday I’ll put pen to paper and share that time of life, as doing so would be good and cathartic in many ways. Meanwhile:
“It snowed all day Friday and through Friday night. Saturday turned out to be one of those beautiful clear March days. The skiing was outrageous, bumps with piles of soft snow on top, good powder everywhere. It was crazy mach-ten all day except for a rest at the Sun Deck restaurant before last-run. We decided on the out-of-bounds shot down Keno gully…” Read the rest of the article here.