NPR Discovers Backcountry Skiing

Post by blogger | April 27, 2005      

Most of you probably are aware of Nick Paumgarten’s terrific article in the April 18 issue of New Yorker Magazine, covering Andrew McLean and the author’s own family involvement in backcountry skiing and avalanches.

National Public Radio recently interviewed Paumgarten, with somewhat interesting results.

I liked Paumgarten’s talk of how backcountry skiing a big chute was "sublime," and sort of like biting into a really "good cheeseburger." Nice mix of eastern intellectual elocution and western gut talk!

Paumgarten’s gigantic New Yorker article is a good read, but it won’t be easy to get on the web. Best way to find it is on paper at your local library (April 18 issue). I may publish a synopsis here, but it takes time to synopsize 9,000 words!

I spoke with Nick at length when he was gathering back-story for the article. He’s a nice guy with a genuine interest in ski mountaineering culture.

Nick emailed me this a while ago (edited for privacy):

Lou, The piece is on newsstands this week. It came out Monday. It is as much about me and my relatives, I’m afraid, as it is about Andrew… There is also a picture of Meta, from 1972. Pretty striking terrain in the background, which no one could identify, but which i am sure you will know. Please let me know where it is, if you can. My father and I are curious. …Believe it or not 9000 words isn’t a lot, especially if you need to pause to explain what a skin is. Thanks at any rate for your time, and I wish you a safe, happy, and corny spring. Best, Nick

The person Nick speaks of, his aunt Meta Burden, died in a Colorado avalanche in 1972, in backcountry out-of-bounds terrain on Aspen Mountain ski area. The photo of Meta that Nick asks about was taken at the top of Buttermilk Ski Area near Aspen. The mountains behind Meta in the photo are Loge Peak and Maroon Bowl, basically the west side of Aspen Highlands ski area. I was acquainted with Meta and her friends/family in various ways, and had an interesting conversation with Nick about avalanches and their relationship to mountain families. Details on that, my friends, will have to wait for my memoirs (grin).

Aspen Highlands ski area and  Meta Burden.
The photo in question, with features noted: Nick’s late aunt Meta Burden, photo was taken at Buttermilk Ski Area near Aspen, Colorado, looking at west side of Aspen Highlands ski area. Circa 1971. Photo annotated and used for commentary and history education, under fair use provision of copyright.


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