Preparation for the Big Winter of Backcountry Skiing – Happy Labor Day!

Post by blogger | September 5, 2011      

Labor day today. This morning I’m thinking back on my life in the trenches. Literally, as my first real construction job was hand-digging ditches in Aspen. Being on the less massive size in stature, I hated that. So I graduated to pulling down hundred-year-old plaster ceilings. All led to a lengthy career as a carpenter, with a segue to guidebook writer and now blogger. Life sure takes some twists and turns. Like many guys, I still enjoy manual labor and building things — just not 50 hours a week. Harvesting firewood, yeah, that’s fun.

Backcountry skiing wood cutting for cabin.

My buddy MK's chainsaw keeps him fit. I've always wondered how he stayed so strong, now I know.

Did some wood cutting up at a friend’s cabin yesterday, with crisp September air smelling like winter. When autumn hits and the chainsaws howl, I start scheming on how to grow my ski quiver, sort of like a dog growing thicker fur when summer ends. This year, my goal is to extensively test and review a half dozen of what I feel are the best mid-fats for human powered pow. Getting ready for that is a blast. Got some Voile planks on the list, along with Dynafit, BD, perhaps Tecnica and Volkl, Trab, more. Can’t wait.



13 Responses to “Preparation for the Big Winter of Backcountry Skiing – Happy Labor Day!”

  1. Owen Darrow September 5th, 2011 1:22 pm

    Every September my mind starts to wander to skiing again. Can’t wait for the snow to start falling and for the reviews to start coming in.

  2. brian h September 5th, 2011 6:02 pm

    Hey Lou, I was wondering if you guys are seeing any beetle kill forest in your area. I was up in the Weminuche this last weekend and saw some immense stands of dead spruce. I was talking about it with a buddy about it and we both felt that there has been very little public discussion regarding this region changing problem.

  3. Lou September 5th, 2011 6:27 pm

    Hi Brian, quite a bit of beetle kill around here but not as much as some other places. Problem with discussion is that the folks who think everything from headaches to Somalian exchange rate are controlled by global warming insist the beetle infestation is caused by GW as well. Perhaps so, but a lot more is going on than that. Like forests that haven’t been logged or burned in years.

    What makes most sense to me is that it’s indeed a natural surge, just doesn’t look good from our human perspective. In a natural environment, those huge dead forests would just burn up and start fresh. Aint going to happen.

  4. brian h September 5th, 2011 6:58 pm

    Exactly. The pine beetle is an old school forest manager (from hell). Lack of forest diversity coupled with decades of total fire suppression is coming head to head with the planets latest temperature changes. But man! We gotta come up with something. I’m not advocating logging in wilderness areas but the stuff in regular forest service territory should be/could be used for something, right? We had a big burn down here ( ’03?) and as I remember it, most of the salvage logging that could have taken place didn’t because of E.I.S. stuff.

  5. Brian September 5th, 2011 7:53 pm

    Lou, what will you be testing from Voile?

  6. Lou September 5th, 2011 9:14 pm

    Vector, 180! It might make a terrific tool for human powered vert, I’m excited about the whitish color and textured top, to shed snow. Wider skis get too much weight in snow piled on top. Makes a joke out of our lightweight gear.

    Was tested and reviewed here on WildSnow late last season by Anton. He did a good job, but I need to add my take as well so that’s what’s happening this winter.

  7. Lou September 6th, 2011 7:48 am

    Brian, after seeing how they utilize biomass in some areas of Europe, I’m appalled at how we waste ours. But our situation is different in that we don’t have population near much of the biomass, so transportation costs negate. Apparently, what they’re saying will happen in some areas is ridiculously huge fires. That’s unfortunate, my understanding is the those types of fires are unnatural and sterilize the soil, making succession revegitation difficult. It’ll all be interesting to watch.

  8. Nate Cook September 8th, 2011 8:42 pm

    What are the other skis you’re thinking of trying?

  9. Skiing September 15th, 2011 7:40 am

    Which slopes are you planning to hit this year?

  10. Kurt September 25th, 2011 7:02 am

    Hello Lou & everyone,

    first, let me thank you for the tips leading up to my happy season of touring last year with a pair of 174 BackUps. They proved to be a good foul weather companion for my much loved 174 Combacks, (both set up with Marker Tour 10’s, which i’m loving for their stability, though slightly regretting for needing to kick out each time i take skins off, or would wish to just release the heel booting on a long traverse without skins..)

    I write because i’ve been able to broker a 3 month ski ‘sabbatical’. I’ve been living in Europe the past 23 years, and get my skiing in primarily throughout Austria, and several weeks a year in the Chamonix Valley. With the sketchy, warmish weather and lack of snow the last years in Europe, i’m wishing to do my 100 days of paradise in Canada or the States.

    The question i’d like to put out to you and all of you, is: if you could station yourself anywhere for a season of mixed lift-assisted and self-powered touring – Where would that be?

    I can easily come up with a list of ‘dream ski retreats’ in Europe, but my knowledge of sweet spots in North America is … well, just patchwork.

    At the moment the TOP spots on the list are:

    1) Banff / Lake Louise: looking for a place in Banff, or up the valley towards Lake Louise. (i’ve heard great things about the touring from Golden in BC just on the other side of the divide), and from the bit of research i’ve been doing, the Powder Bowls backside looks like it has potential. I don’t get a sense yet of whether there’s the sort of backcountry touring range that i’d have, for example in the Wasatch, … which leads to

    2) Salt Lake City: my brother skied backcountry in the Wasatch for 20 years. i know it’s rich and the powder is light. Having SLC in proximity would mean affordable rent and manageable auto shuttling to the mountains. The smog, clutter and frequent temperature inversions of the city are not as attractive as being in a bit wilder place, which lead me to thoughts also about:

    3) Driggs, Idaho / Grand Targhee, or,

    4) Colorado::::: and from this land of plenty, i’d really need some advice from veterans.

    let me wrap up by saying, i’m in my early 50’s, very fit, and this will be my 10th year skiing backcountry. i feel it’s time to step up my game NOW, and make the most of this life and this opportunity. i’ve just left a day job directing a university program, and it’s time to really give a new lifestyle a try.

    i’d be very appreciative of any directions or tips that you or you well informed readers can offer!

    Wishing you all a good last couple of months of pre-season training!
    (My legs are getting that good burn on from the increase in my ‘mid-september plyometrics training diet’!)

    ps: not sure if i submitted this to the best discussion thread… k

  11. Lou September 25th, 2011 8:53 am

    Hi Kurt, glad to hear things worked out for you last season!

    I’d vote for SLC, though the lift assisted options are not exactly proliferous (probably not a real word, grin), while the human powered could be an amazing season with sebatical time like you have. Good guidebooks and maps exist, hire a guide now and then to show you around, you’d have an incredible three months. In my view the climate there is more reliable for a one-shot powder season. Whistler would be a good bet as well, but you could hit a bad season. Same with Colorado.

    Anyone else?

  12. Kurt September 25th, 2011 9:36 am

    Hi Lou, (from after midnight in Seoul, Korea just now…& no snow!),

    thanks for your quick comments! Have been looking around every blog and report i could google the last few hours, as season ticket pre-season sales are soon ending many places! Yes, i keep coming up with SLC again and again. Alta would be not such a bad place to have a pass for when wishing an easy way up, or hitting a powder day. The guiding idea is also good for learning some spots. and i might be able to connect with a few of my brothers old friends occasionally.

    Is it so that SLC has so much better conditions than CO? Certainly the city makes the prospect of just finding a place to live much easier i imagine, than being in a ‘resort town’.

    Thanks for your thoughts, and i’ll sure be interested to read anyone else’s thoughts!

    …also, if you think i shall ask in another thread you have online, i’d be happy for you moving me over or telling me where.

  13. Lou September 25th, 2011 9:59 am

    Kurt, we have excellent conditions here towards the end of nearly every season, but Jan/Feb/March can sometimes be iffy due to crumby snow and avy conditions caused by thin snowpack and cold temps. Wasatch gets lake effect. Much more reliable year-to-year. Short drive to CO if things are good here (grin). Lou

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