First, this Utah Skilink bugbear. (I’m calling this Skilink instead of Interconnect, since the latter has been the name of a Utah resort connecting ski tour for decades). If I read reports correctly, the idea is to connect Utah’s Solitude and Park City area resorts with a gondola. Ostensibly this would reduce some automobile traffic, but more, have a synergistic effect on how attractive these resorts are, as in, “Wow Virginia, let’s ski in Utah instead of Colorado, so we can spend all day sitting on lifts and see even more mountainside burger restaurants.”
Can you tell I’m unimpressed? The gondola Skilink project would develop or at least aesthetically compromise some fairly pristine backcountry land, as well as requiring the USFS to sell 30 acres of public land into private ownership. Sometimes various public/private land deals can benefit the public (e.g., consolidating and cleaning up Wilderness boundaries using land exchanges). But land deals like this outright sale should always be suspect. Once that acreage goes out of public ownership, we’re never getting it back.
Beyond all of the above, apparently some Utah ski resort industry boosters are panting over continuing this idea and eventually connecting all the Utah Wasatch resorts to make the “Super Seven Connection.” They claim that somehow the Super Seven would be so unique that skiers would flock to the Wasatch like never before. We’re supposed to believe that? Newspaper take. And a nicely done anti-take here. And you can sign protest petition here.
One thing that interests me when traveling in the alpine European countries is the biomass to energy facilities you frequently see. I’ve been told these have a pretty much neutral carbon footprint, as they supply from sustainable forestry using wood that would otherwise rot (producing nearly same amount of carbon as burning it), or simply not grow due to the slowed growth of choked-up overgrown forests. In other words, by “farming” the forest the trees grow faster to compensate for harvest, along with grabbing wood before it falls to the ground and rots.
So, along comes this interesting article in the Summit County Voice about burning wood for fuel. The gist of the article is that small scale biomass to energy may work (especially when already dead wood is used), but large scale takes out too many trees that would otherwise continue as carbon sinks. The writer has a point, but rather than logging-paranoia I’d sure like to see a bit more enthusiasm about biomass. After all, once the spruce beetles are done around here we’ll have two choices: Watch the wood burn on the mountainside, or harvest and burn it ourselves.
Ever wonder about how we go about naming all our ski and climbing routes? In the big wild North American West, most terrain features and peaks have never been officially named. The same is true for alpine climb and ski routes; since alpinism came relatively late to these regions the naming process has been slow in coming. Nonetheless, “common use” names have begun to take root. Such names take decades to filter into USGS “offical” use, if they ever do. But that doesn’t stop the process of naming. It’s just something we humans tend to do. The naming of ski and climbing routes can be amusing. For example, I’ve heard up to four different names for the same terrain feature or ski route at one of our local backcountry skiing haunts. Guide book writers try to sort it out, and sometimes have to arbitrarily pick a name that one person or group uses, at the expense of the name another group likes. More here.
Another issue that won’t go away is that of how to combine ropes, skiing, and glaciers. Fact is, glaciers have big dangerous holes you can fall into. Sometimes, those holes are covered with thin skeins of snow that resemble a jungle pit trap. It’s wise to be liberal with rope use when you’re skiing up a glacier, but trying to ski down while roped to other people is incredibly difficult. Thus, common practice for ski alpinists is to go up with the rope, but ski down without if the skiing is anything more than flat gliding. If you ski downhill fluidly and you’re aware of crevasse patterns in the glacier so you ski perpendicular to the cracks, the odds are probably with you. Nonetheless, skiing down a crevassed glacier while unroped has its risks. This guy on Decker in Canada was unroped on a glacier, and is lucky to be alive. Look carefully at the photo in the article, and notice the wide crevasse with the thin shell of snow that broke as well as all the old ski tracks that crossed it. Sobering.
What do you guys think about roping up on glaciers? Or about that Utah endless cable ride they’re trying to create?