Austrian Invasion — Part II

Post by blogger | March 9, 2011      

Okay, so your house guests are a pair of super experienced ski tourers from Europe (inventing the Dynafit binding? I count that as a 300 on scale of one to ten in experience). The question, what to do that’ll give Tyrolean aces Fritz Barthel and Riki Leitner great skiing but a pinch of American flavor? To begin, when things are good in Colorado, they’re fine, and yes, this winter has treated us well. More, what better place than the western Elk mountains, which have a snow climate close to that of the Utah Wasatch?

Backcountry skiing Colorado.

Here comes Riki. First stop was of course a multiple lap day near Redstone, Colorado. I was reluctant to show the place to Tyroleans, as the next thing you know there'll probably be thousands Andreas Hofer revolutionary wannabes swarming our local stash. But perhaps not, since the nearest place to buy beer is a 20 minute drive from the trailhead (not to mention our own revolution being over with more than two centuries ago).

To make it happen, we’re blessed because we have access to a variety of accommodations that easily access the western Elks. Our home is only a 45 minute drive from day trip trailheads, we have a 4 stroke snowmobile to eliminate road slogs, and we have numerous friends with private cabins where you ski from the door and back. So we did all that, including six days at a friend’s deluxe chalet with at least 3,000 vert a day of fine Colorado fluff. Check it out (photos by Fritz and Lou, click most to enlarge).

There goes Riki.

There goes Riki. She skis fast in a clean minimalist style. Fun to watch, and your skiing always improves when you're out with top notch athletes. Click image to enlarge.

Colorado backcountry skiing.

Conditions were perfection. Could have been breakable crust everywhere, which of course these guys carve like it's groom, but nice to shovel up the promised soft stuff.

Snow in Colorado.

Fritz liked the clean looking and symmetrical aspen trees, and took lots of vegetation photos. One day, he disappeared for a while. Turned out he was taking pictures of trees -- with 18 inches of untracked fresh waiting. Fritz!

Fritz Barthel on the uptrack.

Fritz Barthel on the uptrack. For some reason he's always wearing white. He's even got Lisa and I wearing the white look. What next, pink? Click image to enlarge.

Next stop, friend's chalet.

Next stop, friend's chalet. Phenomenal amount of snow was present and accounted for. Austria has not exactly had a deep winter, so to say Fritz and Riki were delighted is like saying a 6-year-old slept late on Christmas morning.

A little spec, a few scrambled eggs. Not sure it looked Tyrolean, but it got eaten.

A little speck, a few scrambled eggs. Not sure it looked Tyrolean, but it got eaten.

Backcountry skiing trail breaking.

The heavens opened and we were blessed. But gifts can be faceted. This one included trail breaking. Luckily, a nearby cabin was inhabited by a 7-man group of hormone addled hardcores. Somehow, we kept arriving at their nicely broken trails soon after they'd been there. Interesting how that happens. Thanks Al.

Backcountry skiing food.

One of our planned US style dinners, ribeye steaks with grilled vegies. Food prep for this trip was a laugh, as we stopped at Costco for supplies, and ended up with about twice as much of everything as we really needed. Like the jumbo box of potato chips that somehow never made it to the cabin, or five pounds of bacon that I'm still trying to finish off two weeks later. Costco's business model, pure genius. Sell cheap food because you know everyone will buy twice as much as they need.

MK, owner of our humble abode.

Michael Kennedy, owner of our humble abode. In this photo, MK is auditioning for an artificial knee advertisement. Two of them, as a matter of fact. We'd call him the Terminator, only he's too nice.

MK again.

MK again. Super tough. He's always got the heaviest pack, due to the full-on SLR and some guide type gear. Appreciated. A super consistent skier, MK got his chops from years of ski photography and endless adventures with his ski goddess wife.

Fritz, backcountry skiing from Austria to Colorado.

Fritz, classic Austrian style. I told him any farther with the hand and we call it a ball scratcher. That's a PSIA ski instruction technical term overheard at Vail. Click to enlarge, if you dare.

Riki, need I say more?

Riki, need I say more? Click to enlarge.

Unlike pampered European accommodations, we had to carry our own wood.

Unlike pampered European accommodations, we had to carry our own wood, and carry more than a cell phone and a shovel in our backpacks. Oh well, sorry guys.

My wife Lisa made this a major vacation, and was there for the whole show.

My wife Lisa made this a major stay-cation -- she was there for the whole show. Knowing that Fritz made his living at one time as an Austrian ski instructor, she asked him for a tip as every ski vacation should include tips from a ski teacher with a German accent. 'Move your ass an zee skis will follow,' was the infinite wisdom that resulted. Try it, it works.

The Austrian ski instructor himself.

The Austrian ski instructor himself. Click to enlarge. If you dare.

Riki, over her jet lag. Look out!

Riki, over her jet lag. Look out! Click to enlarge.

A pinch of American flavor.

After our seven day powder push a rest day was required. Instead of cranking turns I played tour guide and took the innocent Tyroleans on a drive through the Aspen wealth zone. Rubbing up against the patina of money is ok as a spectator sport, but even though surrounded by overpriced mobile homes and overlooked by golden mansions, the Woody Creek Tavern keeps its road house cred and brings you back to reality (however alternate that reality may be, when Hunter Thompson's friends show up). Main thing is, the 'Tav yields reliable burger feeding. Hamburgers are important when you've got Tyrolean tourists in tow. Enjoy those sandos kids, nothing quite like that back where you came from, perhaps a schnitzel in a bun?

Trailer house

A bit of the Lou and Lisa Dawson family origins. When Lisa and I first got together we owned and lived in this trailer in Woody Creek. As a career carpenter at the time, I extensively remodeled the trailer but kept the 1950s 'look' it presented. That was more than 20 years ago, and the funky trailer house is pretty much as we left it, and now one of the oldest remaining mobile homes in the park. Those days in Woody Creek were crazy. When Lisa first visited, the park owners had dug up the endlessly clogged sewer lines to ostensibly do an upgrade. Only they hired some drunks off the Tavern bar stools to do the work, which as a result moved decidedly slow. After a week or so of not being able to use our bathrooms, most park residents just started flushing anyway, resulting in the ditches the drunks had dug becoming open sewers reminiscent of something in a Peruvian barrio. To reach our front doors off the street, each trailer had a plank over the vaporous trench. When my future bride visited, that was her entrance. Amazing she didn't just give up on me right then and there. I guess the flowers I bought her did the trick.

The crew.

The crew.

Snow leapard backcountry skiing.

In closing, may we offer this photo of Fritz running a rope out to rescue our snowmobile. After seeing Hunter Thompson's photo and quote at the Woody Creek Tav ('At the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards') Fritz the wag came up with this caption. The joke is of course Dynafit's snow leopard logo on the back of the ever white Dynafit top layer, which we all agree is pretty cool but nonetheless a fun thing to joke about. We figure that's okay, since Hunter started it.

I’m exhausted, but rallying. The Tyroleans are back home, using their altitude enhanced lungs for max vertical. Lisa is moving her *** and skiing better than ever. Excellent!

(Austrian Invasion – Part 1)


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


31 Responses to “Austrian Invasion — Part II”

  1. Paul March 9th, 2011 9:46 am

    Da wir man ja neidisch!

  2. Tyler March 9th, 2011 11:12 am


    You’ve got me Googling for real estate … Redstone, Marble, etc … Looks like a great area and much different than the Wasatch people-wise.

  3. Lou March 9th, 2011 11:39 am

    Plenty of stuff available up that way. Lots in Marble are going cheap these days. Redstone is a better bet in my opinion as it’s a bit easier to manage the amount of snow, and a shorter drive to groceries etc. Problem is, the snowpack is much less reliable than Wasatch, some years it’s too thin and too much depth hoar. But when it’s good it’s really quite something.

  4. Scott Nelson March 9th, 2011 12:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing Lou. Looks awesome. Do they not have trees in Austria?

  5. Lou March 9th, 2011 12:22 pm

    They’ve got lots of nice trees of course, but everything is cultivated and not allowed to go semi-natural as our forest are (most of our forests are not truly ‘natural,’ of course, as they’re overgrown and unhealthy due to fire suppression and lack of sustainable logging). Very different. They have some sort of beech tree that’s similar to aspen, but not as symmetrical. Also, their timberline vegetation is quite different, why I do not know.

  6. Tuck March 9th, 2011 1:28 pm

    Have they decided to relocate Dynafit to Boulder yet? 😉

  7. Lou March 9th, 2011 1:50 pm

    Boulder!? So they can ski the traffic on I70?

  8. Alan March 9th, 2011 1:51 pm

    Hit my funny bone with the forestry editorial Mr Dawson. As a college edumacated and veteran forestry technician, I do not agree with the assumptions you use to claim forests are “semi-natural” and “unhealthy.” How would sustainable logging create a more natural or healthy forest? Forest health is a human concept that the forest does not recognize. The fire suppression take is subject to debate also. Western US high elevation forests are known to have fire return intervals that are several hundred years in length. Oh, good site and I really like skiing

  9. Lou March 9th, 2011 2:03 pm

    Whatever. My opinion comes directly from another educated Forester I heard speak at a conference (not to mention 40 years of my own direct observations, sometimes of the same exact forest). Sounds like you scientists need to get your opinions in line? (grin). ‘best, Lou

  10. Alan March 9th, 2011 2:18 pm

    Your reply does not answer my questions. Logging and fire suppression are appropriate when they meet human forest management objectives. We all know the cliche about opinions

  11. Lou March 9th, 2011 2:27 pm

    And if there is no definition for a healthy forest, then it’s pretty pointless to debate about what makes a forest healthy, eh?

  12. Alan March 9th, 2011 2:47 pm

    About as pointless as many other debates, some in the skiing world, but we keep doing it. It causes me to debate because I think the more people broadly claim the forest is unhealthy, the more the over-generalized view makes it into the minds of the masses. Sorry for the derail

  13. skidmark March 9th, 2011 2:59 pm

    A healthy forest is worth protecting and appreciating, no matter what the definition.

  14. JQ March 9th, 2011 5:16 pm

    Low battery transceiver test. (per story 2 days ago)
    I got to the trailhead this morning and turned on my 6 year old Tracker. Unfortunately it was already on, I forgot to turn it off the day before. I turned it off and back on, it showed 12% battery reserve. I turned it off and climbed to the top. I turned it back on and it had recovered to 15%. At the end of the ski day I turned it off and then on, I was at 13%. Then I switched it to search. 4 hours later it was still receiving a signal (at home) from my wife’s transceiver. I turned mine off and back on, it was at 3%. 5 hours on search and it is still getting a signal.
    Not proof of anything, but somewhat reassuring. New batteries going in tonight.

    Any updates on the issues with the new 3 antenna Trackers?

  15. Lou March 9th, 2011 7:20 pm

    JQ, what issues?

  16. Peter March 9th, 2011 8:10 pm

    The key phrase in Alan’s comment is “high elevation forests.” It’s quite clear that low elevation ponderosa pine forests have been dramatically altered by fire suppression, and that selective logging can be useful for restoration in those forests. But, as Alan says, that story probably does not apply to the subalpine forests where we do most of our skiing. In those areas, current conditions likely fall within the range of conditions experienced historically (call it “natural” or “healthy” if you want). I actually assign my Utah State undergrad class an essay about why one-size-fits-all management prescriptions are a bad idea when we are dealing with different forest ecosystems with very different climates and disturbance regimes.

  17. JQ March 9th, 2011 8:58 pm

    I read that some of the new Trackers were having software problems. I think Jackson Hole Mtn. Resort returned maybe 200 of them.

    FYI- Low battery transceiver test is still underway (see above). 9 hours of constant search and still getting a signal.

  18. Ryan J March 9th, 2011 9:06 pm

    Excellent set of photos. Looks like a great time for sure. Always love these trip reports Lou. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.

  19. Silas Wild March 9th, 2011 9:40 pm

    Wow! Been too busy until today to keep up with wildsnow blogs. Instead I have been trying to follow MY Austrian friend Alfred Sperlich from Innsbruck uphill the past couple weeks as I showed him around Washington state ski terrain. It seems a good time for Austrians to finally venture away from their own paradise, since they have pretty lean conditions this year.

    Alfred arrived February 22, and daily powder dumps every day since then have occurred; we are thinking of holding him here forever! After skin glue failure the first day when we told him we do laps in the USA, not just one up trip to a summit, he spent the evening regluing and has adapted well to our style of skiing. The long drives (ie more than 15min each way) and minimal gemutlichkeit apres ski events took some getting used to.

    After the first couple days of knee deep powder, he asked “Why do you bother to come to Austria?” After the first couple weeks of knee deep powder, he asked “Can we ski somewhere with less snow?” He is finally getting used to tree skiing, which if tried in Austria, results in major base damage.

    He heads home Sunday, and will prepare Kaiserschmarrn for his farewell party Saturday night. Hope Fritz is making great desserts for you too!

  20. Lou March 10th, 2011 5:54 am

    JQ, that was all taken care of months ago. My Tracker 2 works flawlessly. In fact, I’m pretty impressed with it during beacon drills. Super smooth and fast.

  21. Lou March 10th, 2011 6:05 am

    Silas, sounds good, but feed him burgers and steaks! He can get Austrian food in Austria!

  22. Kyle Davis March 10th, 2011 11:20 am

    Hi Lou,

    This is Kyle Davis writing, we met on Denali this past summer, (the other group of skiers from Colorado, I was with Chris and Adam). How have you been?

    Anyways, I have a question regarding a ski choice for an upcoming trip to the Cordillera Blanca this summer, I know the snow is usually very firm, so I was thinking of bringing a pair slalom race skis and mounting them with my dynafits. I know this will still be heavy but I am betting worth it on the steep and icy descents. Does this sound like a good idea or is their another really stiff, short ski that would do the trick but weigh less?



  23. Silas Wild March 10th, 2011 12:49 pm

    Right Lou. Tho out here on the coast we are feeding him Sockeye Salmon, beef is Rockies food, eh? His gift to us is a feast of Kaiserschmarrn that he will prepare Saturday night; it is a meal, not just a dessert! Rest day today due to high winds and above freezing temperatures.

  24. Lou March 10th, 2011 1:02 pm

    Hi Kyle, I used to do that exact same thing, great minds think alike (grin). Thing is, I’m not sure that’s necessary nowadays because there are plenty of ‘prosumer’ skis that can hold an edge according to people I chat with, but as to specifically which models I don’t have that info on the top of my mind.

    Anyone else? Which skis out there really do hold in icy conditions?

  25. Federico March 11th, 2011 1:04 am

    Hey Silas, how are you doing? … and what about your euro trip this spring? … don’t forget the Antelao will be soon ready to be climbed 😉

  26. aviator March 11th, 2011 5:45 am

    Kyle, Lou
    What about the Dynafit Gasherbrum-II ?
    Never tried them but I think they were tailor made for the steep, firm and icy.

    * Lengths: 156 cm, 163 cm, 170 cm, 178 cm
    * Radius: 24.7 m in 167cm
    * Sidecut: 102 – 73 – 89 (all lengths)
    * Construction: Paulownia core/beech with sprung steel as well as Quadrax mesh and carbon laminates
    * Weight: 2200 g in 159cm (pair), 2460g in 167cm, 2580g in 172cm

  27. Lou March 11th, 2011 6:56 am

    Aviator, that is a very good point. Indeed, those skis are made for that sort of thing. But the kind of ski Kyle is wanting should be demoed, and I’m not sure where he could ever do that with the Gasherbraum. Thus, a better bet might be to research various offerings in the alpine ski realm, and try some stuff.

    Kyle, if you can’t find any Gasherbraum to demo, you might directly contact Dynafit customer service in Boulder and see if they have any Gasherbraum in their demo fleet, and if you could try a pair for a few days and write up a little something for us here on

    Also, Skian, do you know where/how Kyle could get on a pair of those specialized tools?

  28. Jonathan Shefftz March 11th, 2011 7:33 am

    Aviator, the GII has been discontinued for two years now. Why not just get the current Broad Peak or Nanga Parbat instead? Or competitors from Trab, Movement, Dynastar (Euro distribution only), or Fischer (ditto). Mounting up a heavy & narrow alpine downhill ski is going back to the 1980s.
    Re BCA T2, turns out to have been a false alert. Three T2 units did have cracked solder on the loudspeaker wiring, but that was it. (Part of the confusion stemmed from the incorrect and clearly contraindicated use of Li batteries in some older DTS units at Jackson that weren’t even owned by the ski patrol, but somehow this got, well, confused!)
    Re “per story 2 days ago” if you mean the claim that an old Barryvox Opto 3000 which started off with something like 70% at the beginning of the tour shut down after a very short search because of low batteries, although I hesitate to deem anything impossible, that’s pretty much, well, impossible. Possible that the unit might have failed for some other reason, but beacons have way more reserve than that.

  29. Lou March 11th, 2011 7:42 am

    Jonathan, thanks for helping with accuracy. The ski I meant to refer to for Kyle is the Dynafit Broad Peak, not the Gasherbraum. These are in the Dynafit “Speed Touring” category but my recollection is they do have more edgehold performance while being light in weight.

    Thing is, I’m pretty sure Kyle wants something for freeride style skiing, so it would need to have some beef. Hence I still would recommend he simply look at alpine skis while also considering Dynafit, and not buying anything ’till he’s had a chance to ski on it.

  30. gtrantow March 13th, 2011 9:02 am

    What skis did your Austrian guests use on the trip? They appear to be narrower than what we see touring in Colorado.

  31. Lou March 13th, 2011 9:28 am

    Manaslu, period. Still the perfect Colorado human powered ski, IMHO. That’s what Michael and I are on as well. Lisa on Gotbacks, also an amazing ski.

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