Wasatch Backcountry Skiing – Outdoor Retailer

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 30, 2007      

I finally got out ski touring. Did a medium length walk in the Wasatch near I-80 yesterday, a bit north of where most of the popular touring is. Snow here is what locals call a “Colorado snowpack,” meaning it’s been thin all winter and cold temperatures have metamorphosed the snow crystals into faceted depth hoar grains that make skiing difficult, and will inevitably cause a huge avalanche cycle once the storms come again (and they will). So the tour was more of a fitness walk than anything else, but still good exercise and scenic.

As for gear (this is the OR trip so I have to talk about gear), during the tour I used a super new backpack from Backcountry Access. The “Squall” is a low volume, fully featured ski touring pack with a nice diagonal ski carry system, back panel access flap, combo zipper/topload opening, stretch panels and more — all for about a $50.00 street price! Is outdoor gear getting cheaper? In general I’d say slightly, and any trend that direction is welcome. Driving this process is that ever more U.S. outdoor companies are having products made in the far east, then importing, as opposed to importing European product. A good example of this is the Squall pack, but a more radical example is the Black Diamond ski line, which has excellent pricing for the kind of quality they’re offering — both made possible by having gear built in the far east. As far as I know BD is planning on having their soon-to-be ski boot line made in the east as well — we’re hoping that means the stratospheric prices of ski boots my someday be history.

Key element of our backcountry skiing tour was being above the now infamous Salt Lake City pollution inversion that’s been in place these past days, and was really bothering my eyes and throat. More than one person has commented on the irony of having Outdoor Retailer in one of the (for the moment) most polluted cities in the United States. When you think about it, the foul air kind of puts things into perspective. You can wander the show floor and see all sorts of green products with recycled this and natural that — but what’s any of that stuff doing to solve our real environmental problems? It’s a buzz killer, but the truth is all that junk does has very little effect. The way I see it, If we need to make a huge 50% reduction in carbon economy to reverse global warming and end extreme air pollution, things like the OR show may need to be sacked or at least reinvented — perhaps done in a more de-centralized way that involves less traveling and less concentration of humans in one place.

But wait…, advantage of trade shows is economy of scale. If you’re a buyer, having nearly everything you’re looking at located in one building is an incredible time saver. Same thing if you’re a journalist. So perhaps OR is better than the alternative, which would involve buyers having to travel even more as they trotted all over the continent looking at product lines, or else suffering through virtual sales presentations that only shadowed the process of actually looking at and feeling the goods. Yeah, as with any aspect of life in modern civilization, when you start trying to figure out just what things you’d ditch to get that 50% carbon reduction, trade shows start sounding like yet another thing on the “keep it” list — after all, they do power the show with wind credits, so not all is lost.

Perhaps the most amusing part of this is that the Outdoor Industry Association and certain larger outdoor companies are putting quite a bit of pressure on Utah and the Fed to create more legal wilderness and roadless areas in the state, ostensibly because this land is needed for the outdoor industry to thrive (somehow things like mountain bikes get left out of the equation). Instead, how about they devote their political clout to anti pollution initiatives so OR show participants can breath? After all, if the 14,000 core outdoor people attending the OR show all choked, there wouldn’t be much of an outdoor industry anyway.

At any rate, I avoided choking because My OR show activities yesterday were limited to attending a “Bloggers Ball” party in late evening. Unlike many parties during the show, this one was small and a bit quieter, though it was crowded and noisy enough to still qualify. The idea was to have a number of bloggers there, as well as industry folks of various sorts. While not as many bloggers and web people showed up as I expected, it was fun to meet guys like PowStash, the famous Backcountry.com web forum supporter and poster (google his name), as well as a couple guys from Gear Junkie who are in the midst of building and operating a substantial gear related website and blog. For me the order of the evening was to talk money whenever possible, as in how to get paid for working. Funny how that was always the dilemma in the freelance magazine and book writer days of my life, and is still the subject of the hour when I get together with internet colleagues.

Thanks to all you blog readers WildSnow.com is able to sell enough banner advertising and do enough affiliate and pay-per-click advertising to keep me going and keep the site afloat. But selling a few more ads would give me the freedom to make much needed improvements to how our back end functions (comment spam prevention, post editing, stuff like that). Thus, other than covering gear and trends, I’m here at OR to schmooze existing advertisers and try to get a few new ones. Proof will be when you see another banner ad or two — it looks like we may have a bit more advertising revenue coming in soon. If so, that’s because you are reading this, commenting, and generally supporting what we’re doing here. Thanks!

As for me selling more advertising, it helps immensely if you loyal blog readers explore our advertisers here on WildSnow.com. More, when communicating with those advertisers please thank them for supporting this website! (And if you talk to a company that isn’t advertising here, ask them why not?!).

I’m back on the road today headed for home. Looking forward to less traveling and more backcountry skiing!


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


14 Responses to “Wasatch Backcountry Skiing – Outdoor Retailer”

  1. Derek January 30th, 2007 1:30 pm

    Yup, the air is nasty right now. Maybe we can all buy carbon credits to rid ourselves of the guilt of driving in for the dog and pony show (sarcasm disclaimer) 😉

  2. Cory January 30th, 2007 1:54 pm

    Doesn’t a wilderness designation keep out mountain bikes? I thought that wilderness areas banned all machines? Just curious.

  3. Cory January 30th, 2007 2:00 pm

    Did some googling and answered my own question:
    (c) Except as specifically provided for in this chapter, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area.

  4. Tyler January 30th, 2007 4:38 pm

    Lou wrote: “Instead, how about they devote their political clout to anti pollution initiatives so OR show participants can breath? After all, if the 14,000 core outdoor people attending the OR show all choked, there wouldn’t be much of an outdoor industry anyway.”

    Good news. Peter Metcalf (BD) is a member of the new Utah Governor’s “Blue Ribbon Advisory Council” on climate change. See the following web page for details and description.


    Kudos to Peter for putting forth time and effort to help tackle this very important issue.

  5. Tim Carroll January 30th, 2007 6:31 pm

    Cory, the question you’re asking is one that’s been under debate in the access discussions between MTBers and the USFS for several years now.

    Personally, I see the “mechanized transport” language as intended to ban internal combustion powered vehicles like motos, ATVs, jeeps, snowmachines, and the like.

    Extending it to include MTBs under the logic that they are mechanical and therefore “mechanized” is silly. I’d say that such reasoning has to ban all skiing because skis use mechanical binding features and most ski boots use mechanical buckles. For that matter, camp stoves and battery powered lights should be banned as well because they are mechanical devices. And what about those backcountry horsemen who use bridles, bits and saddles that have metallic fasteners or pieces? Those pieces are mechanical in my book, so unless they’re using a rope hackamore and riding bareback, they shouldn’t be back there.

    See how silly it is?

    What it’s really about, in my opinion, is a slow reduction in recreational access and use. The fewer people use the US Forests for recreation, the easier it is to turn them into places where the whole purpose is short-sighted resource extraction like clearcutting and strip mining.

    That’s my view informed by experience dealing with the USFS. It may be different elsewhere in the USA, I don’t know. But from what I’m hearing from fellow backcountry MTB riders, it’s pretty much consistent.

  6. Lou January 30th, 2007 6:59 pm

    Yeah, mine it and log it, but keep those pesky recreationalists OUT!

  7. Cory January 31st, 2007 9:33 am

    It seems to me the original intention of the 1964 law was to keep some of the wild places wild. I think the wording “mechanical transport” was intentionally vague to address anything that may come in the future (such as mountain bikes, logging trucks and drill rigs).

    As much as I love a good conspiracy, I have to to hope (against all my personal intuituon) that the folks in Washington really are good people at heart.

    Personally, I’m cool with staying out of wilderness areas with my toys if it means my kids will get to enjoy them on equal footing in the future. I’m fortunate enough to live in a state where we have tons of public lands with varying designations. I’ll take my skis and bike to the other millions of acres where their ok (and sneak into the Weminuche once a summer to see if the griz really is still in the state).

  8. Tim Carroll January 31st, 2007 11:30 am

    Cory, I’d love to think that it’s all just “conspiracy” but I’m a little insulted that you use such a cheap shot term to deride my legitimate observations. I was president of our local IMBA affiliate club for 2 years. I dealt with USFS personnel for access issues during that time. And I’ll tell you, they have a whole litany of excuses for why mtn bikes are bad and not a single one of them measures up to the damage wrought by clearcutting done in the name of “thinning” or “healthy forests”. And they are limiting MTB access in newly designated areas this coming Summer 2007 with no legitimate demonstration of MTB trail destruction or degradation. Not coincidentally, they want to do a lot more logging in those same areas.

    Look Cory, you can close your eyes and call it all a “black helicopter whacko conspiracy” but the truth is that “conspiracy” merely means people acting with the same goal in mind, it’s not some kind of psychotic nefarious cabal. You should try reviewing the logic and factual premises on which you base your negative accusations before you utter such negativism.

  9. Cory January 31st, 2007 12:15 pm

    Tim, I’m talking about places with the wilderness area designation (not national forests). I realize they are both goverened by the USFS, but as I understand it, their is different “legaleze” behind them. I feel that some areas (“wilderness”) need to remain as completely natural as possible. I’m not saying “open them to logging and strip mining and keep mountain bikes out.” I’m saying, “keep ’em all out.” I feel it is ok to have some areas accessable only by foot and hoof.

    It is tough when talking about public land usage because everyone wants their prefered usage to be preserved. While I agree that MTB’s probably don’t degrade a trail much, I know that personally, I have scared the hell out of quite a few deer and other critters while racing downhill on my bike. Even when running, you don’t get the same reaction as when you come around a corner at 25mph on your bike. I just feel we should give our furry friends a little space.

    A few other points-
    – “black helicopter whacko conspiracy” are your words not mine
    – According to your descriptions of your relations with the USFS, and your definition of conspiracy, it seems as if it was, in fact, a conspiracy.

    I didn’t mean to demean your legitimate observations. I’m sorry you felt insulted.

  10. Lou January 31st, 2007 12:33 pm

    Both you guys have some good points. But come on, the people in Washington being good at heart? They’re like any other group, a mix. And opinion varies about the definition of “good.” For example, “good” could easily be defined as creating jobs with economic development and resource extraction. And Tim, I didn’t really see Cory’s comment as a cheap shot aimed directly at you.

    Anyone who knows what’s going on in the Forest Service knows there are some strong agendas at work. Heck, how many times have you heard a college student say they are studying for a government career so they can “change the system from within.” I hear and read that quite frequently, and usually coming from kids who are tree huggers and planning on a job in public land management so they can “save the planet” from ourselves. So now we have all these tree huggers scrambling around trying to shut down various forms of recreation, and while we’re divided, the mining and timber interests just forge ahead, supported by law, tradition, greed and yes, need (I like my natural gas heat). Divide and conquer is not exactly a new strategy. Perhaps it’s being done by default and not by intent, but it’s being done.

  11. Lou January 31st, 2007 12:36 pm

    Tyler, wouldn’t it be interesting if Peter M. and associates were to say “fix the pollution” or we’re all leaving? I’d love to watch that one.

  12. Tyler Cruickshank January 31st, 2007 8:27 pm

    Lou, It sure would be great if that happened, but the majority of the problem here in SLC is caused by my car, my wife’s car, and everyone else’s car. The problem is large. We need to get us all into fuel efficient cars and be smart about our driving.

  13. Lou February 1st, 2007 7:53 am

    No need for a “but.” I think the city and state government should implement a series of tax credits and cash incentives to get people to buy fuel efficient cars and to drive less.

    Cash incentive could easily be done when cars are registered.

    I’m really starting to think the governments of towns with pollution problems need to think about rewards rather than punishments. For example, for years Aspen has punished folks who drive, by forcing them into a traffic jam. They do this deliberately, in polite company it’s known as a “disincentive.” What a crock. Instead, I believe they should fix the road that makes the traffic jam, but at the same time should give cash to folks who drive smaller fuel efficient cars, give cash to people who carpool, and give more cash to the bus system so the busses are less crowded and faster and thus incentivise more people to ride them.

    Amusing if not depressing aside: Aspen gives free parking to hybrids, but does nothing to help people who buy and drive regular cars that get as good or better real-world mileage than the hybrids when commuting up and down our valley. I bring this up because it’s an example of how misguided and just plain stupid our governments are on this sort of thing. No wonder we still have traffic jams and pollution.

  14. Norman Clyde February 2nd, 2007 10:26 pm

    Lou, great perspective on the OR show and phillosphy on snow journalism. keep it up.

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