Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | February 6, 2007      

24 Hours of Sunlight and the rando races in Colorado are receiving some of the same. Columnist and blogger Alison Berkley gave it her unique treatment, with her usual (and well deserved, he he) veneration of mountain boys. I have to hand it to Alison, she knows where the real guys are. I have a question for her, however, what’s the difference between atmosphere and vibe? And check out Alison’s inside take on working at an X-Games cultural center.

Polly McLean after winning woman's solo class at this year's 24 Hours of Sunlight.
Polly McLean with her Sunlight winnings. We’ve got a few things to learn from her about pacing.

I’ve actually never been much of a competitor when it comes to sports, I’d rather just go out and do stuff. But the occasional participation in a race does tune my body and mind and really helps with staying fit and efficient for whatever activity the race matches. Not only that, but the culture of “citizen” style racing is all about fun, and that’s a part that’s always attracted me.

Indeed it was fun crewing at 24 Hours of Sunlight, but I kept wishing I was up there slugging out a few laps. Some minor physical issues kept me from it; perhaps next year. As consolation my wife and I have a trip scheduled to do the Utah Black Diamond Powderkeg rando race in March, that’ll be fun! In fact, more than fun, as it’s a press trip that includes a few nights in the Peruvian Lodge at Alta, with plenty of decadent activities such as petroleum assisted ski testing capped off by fine dining.

Speaking of fine dining, we were of course expecting Andrew McLean to have showed up at Sunlight with his wife Polly. But Andrew was off on some press junket getting stuffed with caviar and riding ski lifts. Was this the result of brain damage from last 24 Hours — that he would skip the sufferfest in lieu of high-fat dining? Actually, Andrew was fully intending to attend the festival of pain but his travel arrangements got messed up.

I know Andrew was bummed not to be with his gal, after all, he’s probably feeling rather domestic since Polly is a few months into having a little one in the oven. She was being super careful about this at 24 Hours, which is why she took some time out and skied well under her record laps from last year. As it were, Polly’s positive demeanor and strong athleticism was inspiring for the Young Gunz and other’s involved in the race. Not only that, but I enjoyed pointing out to the boys that Polly is an attorney, has a terrific career, and still skis as much or more than any dish-washing ski bum out there. College, boys, you’re not getting out of it! We wish Polly the best (and we’re looking forward to a unique form of crewing for her next year — as we do know some excellent baby sitters)!

In more somber news, we were saddened to learn last week that avalanche safety pioneer Ed LaChapelle has moved on to the snowy mountains in the sky. Ed was an amazing individual. I remember an interesting phone and email conversation with him a few years ago when I was researching early avalanche beacon development. He described how in the 1950s in Alta, Utah they built a broadcast antenna into a jacket, then rigged up a directional antenna to find it. This was way before even the earliest production beacons. Condolences to all Ed’s relatives and friends.

Also on the subject of avalanches, did you track the dramatic rescue in Utah this past Sunday? News reports say the two men plucked off the Pfeifferhorn were backcountry skiing, but sources told me they were actually snowshoers. Whatever the case, it’s a miracle that Utah’s “Colorado” snowpack has not ‘lanched more people by now. Must be because they haven’t had enough snow to build up any significant slab yet. Best scenario for them now is that they’d get a major avalanche cycle to clean out the depth hoar crystals, then a series of huge lake-effect storms to build up a safe, well bonded pack.

Lastly, we have a few news-of-the-weird items for you.

In Utah, Park City Chamber of Commerce spokesman Craig McCarthy says of skiing the resort: “It’s really backcountry skiing with lifts.”

Last time we looked, we thought the DEFINITION of backcountry skiing was that it was totally or at least mostly human powered. Oh well…

And weirder still (or perhaps to be expected), today’s Aspen Times reports that Dan Richardson, the city’s “fix global warming project” manager has recommended that they fix the town’s huge twice-daily traffic jam if they want to make any sort of significant reduction in greenhouse gas production. This is news? Duh. But more, Richardson also recommends shutting down the fireplace on the town’s mall, but comes up with no solution to the immense amount of pollution spewed from hundreds of private jets landing and taking off at the town’s airport.

Richardson said “he shared … frustration with the lack of tangible steps to reduce jet emissions, but said city staffers were unable to identify significant steps that could be taken.” This is truly weird but to be expected, as Aspen worships the wealthy celebrities that dump pollution on the town while flying their jets in and out.

In reality, the solution to jet-pollution is right in front of Richardson and the town council’s faces. It’s called mass transit, the same mass transit that they’ll do nearly anything to get us proles to use. They guilt us about it, build HOV lanes to “incentivise” us to use it, and punish us with parking restrictions and traffic jams if we don’t use it. If Aspen is so enlightened, how come they don’t apply the same principle to the wealthy who jet in and out of town? First, the wealthy private jet riders should be required to use commercial air travel, which compared to a private Lear is indeed mass transit. Second, Aspen and Pitkin County should restrict all taxi cabs from the airport, and only allow buses to service the airport to/from Aspen. Now that would be a democratic application of their global warming solution. (How to limit jets? Perhaps restrict private jet travel to a limited number a week, via lottery.)

Instead, they’ll probably turn off the mall fireplace and re-paint the HOV diamonds on the highway. No wonder global warming continues.

(Addendum: It just occurred to me that those jet flying money bags are the ones paying for most of the prole housing in Aspen, via the incredibly lucrative real estate transfer tax that subsidizes the town’s affordable housing program. Perhaps some folks don’t want to bite the hand that houses them?)

And if all that sounds like something a “certain overweight talkshow host” would come up with, then so be it. I’m going skiing – I’ll walk up – and I’m not overweight. Though after being crammed into coach class on my Europe trip I’d probably take a private jet ride if someone offers.


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9 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. dave downing February 6th, 2007 12:43 pm

    Dawson For President!

  2. Chris February 6th, 2007 12:44 pm

    typo police: its prole, not proll.
    i.e. proletariat, or those of us who can’t, among other things, afford to travel by private jet or who can’t afford the 4-wheeler, snowmobile, or the trailer, truck, and gasoline bill to power those wonderful backcountry toys.

    why not just tax the heck out of private jets than somehow try and force them to use commercial air transportation?

  3. Lou February 6th, 2007 12:53 pm

    Woops! Thanks Chris.

    As for taxes, I just can’t think that way. Against my brain chemistry.

    Good point about who’s prole and who isn’t. Who decides? That’s what’s dangerous about this whole blame the wealthy thing. Compared to someone, somewhere, we’re all rich. But when it comes to private jets, I’d say it’s pretty obvious what’s going on.

  4. Ben Pritchett February 6th, 2007 1:50 pm

    Looks like you might not have heard that Colorado just had another avalanche fatality on Feb. 4th near North Mountain in the South San Juan’s. It was a 45 yr old snowmobiler. Thought you might be interested. The CAIC report should be online in a few days.

    Ben Pritchett
    Education Coordinator

  5. Lou February 7th, 2007 8:27 am

    Indeed Ben, I had not heard that. Thanks for letting us know. If it’s another one without beacon and rescue gear then double sad.

  6. Claire Walter February 7th, 2007 8:49 am

    Love your blog. Love your frame of reference. Love your identification of problems and practical suggestions for attempting to solve them. Don’t love the phrase “press junket.” Makes journalists who take them sound shabby and grabby and easily bought off. As many politicians have proved, we all have our price. I’d like to think that mine is higher than an airline ticket, hotel room and lift pass. No matter who pays my way (a public relations person or agency, magazine’s expense account or my own pocket), I bend over backwards to reamin as objective and non-pandering as I possible. Many travel writers do the same. The word “junket” demeans our efforts. Please consider eliminating it from your wonderful blog.

  7. Polly February 7th, 2007 10:33 am

    Thanks Lou for the kind words. I couldn’t have done the little I did without your and Lisa’s support! Polly

  8. Lou February 7th, 2007 11:18 am

    Claire, I’ll keep that in mind!

  9. Scott B February 7th, 2007 12:03 pm

    I like the Orwellian reference to prole. Makes me wonder who in Aspen belongs to the outer party.

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