Backcountry Skiing News Roundup


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | September 28, 2006      

Time to whip out the lariat and rope a few of them little dawgies.

Caribou get props:
Snowmobilers lost big on this one, are backcountry skiers next? To ostensibly help a caribou herd, a judge recently declared 470 square miles of National Forest in Idaho as verboten to snowmobiles. The sledders are bummed, and say backcountry skiers also bug the ‘bou. Should backcountry skiers be banned as well? What happened to fairness? Stay tuned.

Frontcountry excitement:
Despite global warming (or perhaps because of it) Colorado is boasting some amazing early season skiing. Silverton ski area is the clear winner in the frontcountry category, with 28 to 36 inches of snow at the mountain’s lower 11,600-foot elevation, and more on the heights. Silverton has made stunning progress in establishing their resort. They now have a 40 year lease for their public land, have resolved a private land controversy, and recently approved un-guided skiing. Frontcountry as close to being backcountry as you can get.

How we eat it:
No, not oatmeal, we’re talking the bummers that happen out there. Backpacker Magazine has some words on this and lists the top ways we backcountry folk end up on the off ramp. Interesting to note that avalanche made it on the list. I thought the white tomb was actually quite rare compared to other bummers. The gotchas:
1. Falling
2. Drowning
3. Heart attack
4. Hypothermia
5. Heat stress
6. Lightning
7. Avalanche

More here:

And speaking of avalanches:
Did you see the latest issue of Backcountry Magazine? Inside you’ll find a brutally honest account of the tragic Mount Tom avy in March 2005 that took the lives of well-known mountaineer Will Crljenko, and Christine Seashore. When this event occurred it was quite the stunner to those of us who envy the Sierra snowpack for its safety. How could such a bad avy tragedy happen in such a place? The article clarifies the human factors that one can guess might cause such a thing. Over confidence, gang skiing, expert halo, ignoring clues — it’s all there. Kudos to Jon Turk for sharing, he lost his wife and it must have been beyond tough, but his account will save lives.

Helments in the news:
A while back the Journal of the American Medical Association published a Norwegian study that shows reduction in head injury for helmet using skiers and riders, and with ski season approaching it’s time to pay attention. The study is interesting and easy to read, available here with a guest membership. It supports the common wisdom that wearing a helmet can reduce or prevent head injury, but doesn’t address the definition of “helmet,” nor address the issue of helmet quality. The study will no doubt be used to bolster helmet sales. In the meantime, we’d like to see better helmets. More, we still think all the emphasis on helmets is a sneaky switch from the fact that ski bindings are not preventing blown knees the way they should be. Perhaps patience is the key here. Soon everyone will be wearing a helmet and attention will shift back to ski bindings. We hope. Nonetheless, I won’t be surprised if the next great thing is neck guards. After all, neck injuries are not uncommon and certainly as threatening as head trauma.

Regarding neck injury, a most interesting aspect of the Norwegian study is they saw a slight trend in reduced neck injury among helmet users. Why that’s so is an open question, but it at least rests concerns that helmets might increase cervical trauma due to increased weight and a tendency to catch on things during falls. It’s unknown if the study included full-face helmets which common sense says might tend to hook on snow and vegetation, thus increasing chances of neck injury.

Department of electronic convergence:
Enough talk about trauma, how about gadgets? What will the iPod of the future bring? How about a built-in radiation detector, or a GPS for backcountry skiing. A fun article at the Mac Observer lists possible devices that could exist in your iPod case. Interesting that “phone” was last on the list. Geek typical. More.



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  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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