Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | September 12, 2011      
Backcountry skiing news.

Backcountry skiing news.

Like most of you, 9/11 affected me profoundly. I remember that morning so well, sitting here at this same desk ten years ago I turned on the radio to get the news — there it was.

I was making my living as a computer consultant at the time as well as doing some writing here and there, having transitioned out of the construction trades a few years before. After that day, my phone quit ringing. Along with the rest of the country my wife and I began a lengthy struggle to keep our finances working. We gradually clawed our way up by virtue of hard work and optimism, but we’re still far from giving Apple Computer a run and we both work our tails off. Main thing, yesterday I continued to grieve for innocent life lost at the Twin Towers and in subsequent wars.

We do live in a wonderful, beautiful world. But it is most certainly not 100% roses. Optimism, confidence and hard work are key. As our President said last night, “It will be said of us that we kept the faith, that we took a painful blow and emerged stronger.” That’s definitely what happened to, and I wish that for all of you.

To that end, to bring it over to the positive side, is the following face shot fest the ultimate stoke? You decide.

Brody Leven, eaten by Tahoe pow from Brody Leven on Vimeo.

Above, Brody Leven backcountry skiing in the deepest of deep Sierra powder. Enjoying the liftless Lake Tahoe mountains.

So, what’s happening at HQ as we keep the faith according to instructions from Mr. Obama? Nick is back on the case with our avalanche airbag backpack coverage. He and I are working keeping our avalanche airbag overview updated and accurate. Along with that, we’ll have more airbag pack reviews filtering in over the coming weeks and months.

As the backcountry skiing airbag rucks achieve new levels of weight reduction combined with function and ease-of-use, we expect this to be the big winter when airbags achieve significant market penetration.

That said, we continue to feel many available packs are too heavy for backcountry skiing, and encourage all manufacturers to disabuse themselves of the notion that they have to build airbag packs for military combat missions. In our view, so long as the airbag stays attached to the user when the avalanche comes to rest, the pack has done its job. If everything else gets ripped away or destroyed, who cares. Why? Because if the danged thing weighs so much you need to pack an extra stash of muscle relaxers for your back spasms, it’ll probably get left at home — or on the rack where they’re sold.

Some of you have asked about my personal ski quiver for this winter. It’s shaping up something like this, in no particular order. Trab Volare, Dynafit Manaslu (latest version), Black Diamond Amperage or Element (women’s version), Black Diamond Justice, Volkl Nunataq, La Sportiva Hi5, K2 Wayback (in some length experiments). No doubt I’ll throw some mystery meat in there as well along with something different come spring mountaineering season, but that’s the gist of it.

The idea with our ski selection is for me to be a bit more aggressive with spreading my ski days out over more skis and do fairly extensive reviews of each. Oh the pain. (The quiver will also be farmed out to some of our more respected testers, end result being some super complete takes on these planks). Beyond that, I’ve got the Gecko skins here and ready for another round of testing, along Outdoor Research and Mountain Equipment clothing, and a bunch of other backcountry skiing gear review ideas as always.

It’s interesting how much attention our guest blog by Roland Fleck received. I honestly did not think that day’s post would become Socratic discussion of the ethics, style and definition of civil disobedience and elitism, but it did. So be it. But news is we have no doubt that uphill skiing at resorts will continue to grow exponentially, and we encourage various resorts to simply look at this as another way to serve their snowsport guests and do business.

How exactly resorts will produce revenue off uphilling is up to them. All I know is that the people are there, or will be. Incidentally, a few resorts in question that make uphilling difficult but perhaps could accommodate it: Eldora outside Boulder, Colorado, and of course Jackson. Praise goes to Aspen Skiing Company for embracing the sport while at the same time regulating it so everyone is safe.

Speaking of Aspen, don’t forget the 4-Skin! March 3, 2012 will be what’s possibly the coolest ski mountaineering race in North America. More here, register early. We’ll make our best effort to spectate and report this year, now that we know the splits from last year and can shift “spectation” locations during the day of the event.

Backcountry skiing Events to possibly attend these coming weeks: On the evening of Friday, October 21, 2011, the Summit Huts Association here in central Colorado will present the 10th Annual Backcountry Ball fundraiser featuring Telluride Mountainfilm on Tour at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The event will start at 5 p.m. with a reception, casual dinner and silent auction (with a lot of good backcountry candy!) for a group of 200 people. At 7 p.m. the doors open for a larger 700+ person event with a selection of films from the Telluride Mountain Film Festival. Over in Utah, be sure to attend Utah Avalanche Center pre-season fundraiser bash. Thursday, September 15, 2011, from 6-10pm at Black Diamond, 2084 East 3900 South, Salt Lake City, Utah. Info, tickets and all. More info.

Speaking of events such as those above, we regularly get emails from folks just starting backcountry skiing, wondering how to meet potential partners and mentors. I always respond by mentioning how terrific attending fundraisers and such can be for that type of networking. Be outgoing, humble and nice, chat people up, and you might get something going. Another good way to meet folks is to take community avalanche classes. Still another method is just go to an easier communal hut as a solo traveler.

I’ll close with a local issue that’s been quite interesting. We’ve got a boatload of legal federal Wilderness around here. It is wonderful. That said, the opinion of our WildSnow editorial board is we’ve got enough legal Wilderness in Colorado and we’d like to see the remainder of our public lands managed for multiple use, with emphasis on broad based outdoor recreation. One of our biggest reasons for this is you can build huts and bicycle on public land when it’s not big-W wilderness, and once it’s Wilderness, forget anything of that sort.

Our local environmental advocacy group, Wilderness Workshop (WW), is committed to making as much public land as possible into legal Wilderness. For the past few years, WW has had a Wilderness proposal in the works called “Hidden Gems,” which has been roundly opposed around here. This is a surprise as Wilderness proposals in the past have been so politically correct and widely favored that opposing them placed you in the shunned social class of “radical right wing weirdo land hater petroleum addict.” At any rate, a while back one of our local newspapers published the Wilderness Workshop funding numbers. 2008 — $403,632, 2009 — $925,923, 2010 — $680,635. Kudos to them for being able to sustain that kind of funding, but man, if you don’t agree with their mission that kind of money makes you take pause and wonder just how many bumper stickers it takes to compensate.

I’ll close with thanking all our sponsors and readers. The past few weeks we pushed to update our banner ads, negotiate sponsorship deals, and overall set things up so we can keep the same or better level of production here at WildSnow HQ. Thus, thanks sponsors for the support — and thanks to all you backcountry skiing WildSnow readers and commenters for making that happen!


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


24 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. Paul September 12th, 2011 10:38 am

    Hi Lou,
    Looking forward to the upcoming season here in CO, supplemented by your continual blogging. Keep up the great work.
    Since this post has some generality to it, I thought I could nudge in a topic of conversation, that being, Patagucci has again returned to seeing the virtue or reality of the need to put Gore in their top end garments. I thought it was an interesting turn for them. I think they used it previously about 10-15 years ago.
    I bet it will increase their sales.

  2. Lou September 12th, 2011 11:05 am

    Paul, that’s interesting, considering the plethora of other options and from what I’ve been told Gore is hard to work with…

  3. Uphiller September 12th, 2011 11:42 am

    Speaking of the 4-skin…

    Last year, at the starting line of the meanest race I’ve ever done, a guy came up to me and asked if I wanted a 4-skin sticker. My response, “No thanks, they cut mine off years ago.”

    Seems like such an awesome race might want to re-think it’s moniker…

  4. Paul September 12th, 2011 12:37 pm

    I’ve heard that gore is hard to work with because they have such tight specs, like the seam taping, etc, also, the laminating process, etc.
    But I think that the Gore brand is the most recognized by consumers who shop REI and such, and, I admit, it is pretty good stuff, but as you mention, there are several other competitive alternatives out there.
    I am really only interested to hear the company’s take on why they have finally switched back to Gore, their reasoning. I want to hear the PR spin. I mean, if H2No was so great, why are they switching?

  5. Lou September 12th, 2011 12:50 pm

    Paul, it’s part simple branding (and associated expenses passed on to consumers and manufacturers) and part quality. But one of the things they make it hard with is that they’re very particular about how their products are purposed. For example, even though Windstopper actually adds some nice water resistance to things like gloves and jackets, they don’t allow the makers to mention that, hence many folks don’t realize that gloves made from the stuff can be quite good, thus they don’t sell as many of such gloves, and so on, self fulfilling prophecy. For example, the original OR Omni glove was a thin Windstopper fleece. The things were awesome. They’re still good and favored here, but when they quit using Windstopper they went down a notch in how good they were, but really, I doubt most folks who were shopping realized how much the Windstopper contributed to how good that glove was.

  6. Lou September 12th, 2011 12:51 pm

    Uphiller, they should make a sticker: “If you had one at the start of the race, it’ll be gone by the end…” and so on. (grin)

  7. Joshua September 12th, 2011 5:27 pm

    Why is Brody skiing deep pow with a whippet? Sweet video though.

  8. Lou September 12th, 2011 6:25 pm

    I was wondering that myself. Goofball. Except, perhaps it’s steeper than it looks? Fun vid, though…

  9. Chris September 12th, 2011 6:45 pm

    I heard gore finally improved their manufacturing processes to be approved by Patagonia. But I’d agree that it’s one of those things they have to sell to compete on the high end

  10. recovery September 13th, 2011 3:52 am

    Really, 9/11 is the news which make the whole world stunned; hey, thanks for sharing this video; really great content.

  11. Dan September 13th, 2011 10:24 am

    RE; Wippet in powder: Last March, on an epic POW day, I was forced to use my wippet poles (If I think I need them, I use two) because I left my reg. poles in the rocket box of someone else’s car a few days prior. However, what was the skier holding onto with his right hand? It looked very solid. I thought it might be a camera, but it was so solid looking…If it was a camera, that skier must have gorilla arms/hands.

  12. Lou September 13th, 2011 10:46 am

    Dan, he probably had a camera mount triangulated to that ski pole perhaps from his pack waistbelt area, it looked pretty solid… perhaps he’ll comment…

  13. kevin September 13th, 2011 2:27 pm

    I assumed it was a POV camera mounted on one ski pole. what amazed me was, what must be, crazy good stabilization software that gave the perception of such a solid point floating out in front of some obviously RIPPING turns. Note the angle of some of the trees that blow by to get a indication of pitch. The juxaposition of lyrics with upbeat/”hiphop” arrangement of the original was a great ironic add to the video.

  14. Andrew September 13th, 2011 4:33 pm

    Any idea how much of Colorado is Wilderness? I get the impression from that it is in the 90% range.

  15. Dan September 13th, 2011 7:56 pm

    Lou, Kevin,

    RE: Camera on ski pole: Stabilization software? Sounds like a possibility to me. Like Lou, I would like to hear from the skier/photographer. Are you out there?

  16. Dave Cramer September 13th, 2011 8:19 pm

    5.1% of Colorado is wilderness, according to a quick web search.

  17. Brody Leven September 14th, 2011 10:42 am

    I know I know I know–I’m sorry, guys, I’ve been out climbing!
    Anyway. About those moving pictures of me chocking on snow:
    –I was using a Whippet because I went on a Sierra trip, packing lightly, that required one. “Too bad” it ended up snowing the entire time and I was forced to change my plans. I’m neither happy nor upset that I had it.
    –Most of the shots were in very, very mellow terrain that was nearly too flat.
    –You are all getting wwaayyy to tech. I put a gopro on the end of a ski pole and held it in front of me. It isn’t stable, it’s deception: because the ski pole doesn’t move independently from the camera, it looks stable.
    –I’m really, really glad you guys all enjoyed the video.
    –Any other brain busters? Have you seen the video posted elsewhere?

  18. Dan September 14th, 2011 11:12 am

    Brody, Thanks for the explanation and the great video. Keep it up.

  19. kevin September 14th, 2011 12:06 pm

    Ah yes – relative movement would be non-existent. “Stabilazation” was probably the wrong word, but I am pretty sure many cameras have software, or “firmware” that minimizes the apperance of movement by the shooter so you don’t get that whole “Blair Witch Project” feel.

    regardless – appreciate the effort to shoot & compile sharing the results.

  20. Lou September 14th, 2011 12:11 pm

    “Shakey cam,” my least favorite cinematic technique. On the same level as using “like” as a conjunction. I’m glad this vid lacked the shake!

  21. Greig Scott September 14th, 2011 12:16 pm

    Sad news today on the loss to cancer of Walter Bonatti. A real Tour de Force in climbing, who Doug Scott described as the greatest Alpinist of all time, Not only a great climber, his tour de force ski tour across the Alps of 1800km in 66 days showed just how accomplished he was in the mountains. Life dealt him a number of bad cards, but his spirit always shone through.

  22. Lou September 14th, 2011 12:26 pm

    Thanks Greig, that is huge. Condolences to all his family and friends.

  23. Bob September 14th, 2011 11:22 pm

    We now know your skis for the year, but what about boots? Are you going to go with the new carbon green machine or stick with the TLT5?

  24. gentle sasquatch September 15th, 2011 4:43 am

    H2NO is still being used on new shells. The gore technology is great for Pata’s mountaineering line.

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