Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | December 29, 2005      

Big news for at least some backcountry skiing telemarkers (tele lifties need read no farther) is the introduction of several telemark bindings that have a touring release that allows a free hinging pivot for walking. If you’re not a telemarker you’re probably thinking: “but, I thought free heel bindings already did that.” If so, you’re wrong. As telemark bindings have evolved (or some would say devolved), they’ve gained more and more of a quality that free heelers call “active,” meaning the binding has a degree of resistance to your heel rising. Such “active” bindings may help you ski better, but make walking harder.

Looking back in the distant past, the desire for resistance to heel lift is at least part of what led to fixed heel skiing, but today’s telemarkers are not yet repeating that part of ski history — instead they’re still lifting their heels — albeit with more and more resistance as cable springs get stronger and the rear boot attachment point moves ever closer to the heel. Hence the need for a touring mode on what used to actually be a touring binding… Who would have thought.

Tired of ski lifts, can’t afford a helicopter — but you’re still a motorhead? It’s been happening for a long time, but the media seems to recently be paying more attention to the fact that many backcountry skiers are also snowmobilers. I’ve always been amused by the “conflict” that some backcountry skiing advocates seem to relish portraying between skiers and sledders, when in reality many people combine both activities, or in the case of skiers they simply know how to go places where they won’t see snowmobilers (or if they’re a sledder, not see pedestrians). With more people seeing how useful snowmobiles are for backcountry skiing support, it’ll be interesting to watch the 50-something granola crunchers try to figure out how to deal with 20-something Red Bull quafers. Hint, it’s spelled W-I-L-D-E-R-N-E-S-S.

Department of unintended consequences. In the Tetons they opened up a ski area boundary for backcountry skiers, but they forgot about some bighorn sheep that might not be into skiing. More, one of those pesky wildlife biologists says “The less we know from the public, the more there’s going to be restrictions because we didn’t know.” I thought “knowing” was why our taxes paid for wildlife biologists — but what do I know?

I do know that down the road from here a herd of bighorn winters right next to the highway and enjoys watching people using the hot springs by the river. I guess if people are not skiing they don’t bother bighorn sheep — must be something about skiers that makes them different. Perhaps the wildlife biologist can tell us what the difference is.

Dynafit innovations. The heel unit of the Dynafit binding seems to attract moders. Check this cool item out, a heel lifter that eliminates the need to rotate the heel unit to change heel lift height. This could be a huge improvement, as rotating the heel can be awkward, and may cause extra wear on the thimble bushing inside the binding. I’ll try to review this item as soon as possible.

A warm rain’s a gonna fall: It’s all over the news — Warm rain in the Pacific Northwest may lead to avalanches. Sounds wet and scrappy to me, but hey, perhaps a good Gortex testing system?

News of the weird: A snowboarder got lost in the woods near Keystone ski resort in Colorado. He was found alive after spending three days in a snow fort a few hundred yards from the ski area boundary. After being rescued, he was cited for carrying a concealed weapon. One wonders, did he live on rabbits he shot? Or perhaps he blasted a few endangered lynx and that is why he’s conversing with Johnny Law?


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


3 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. AKBC December 30th, 2005 4:49 am

    holy cripes, that Dynafit mod is 129 euros! Il expensivo. Plus, for the record, I really don’t see how snowmachines are “useful for backcountry skiing support”…what exactly needs supporting? More snowmachiners than skiers die in avalanches every year by about 2x (and generally don’t get avy education), they pollute the air, the are loud and they destroy the wilderness characteristics of our wild places. Sledders should have a place to play but please don’t lump them in the same group as BC skiers just because they like snow too. And plenty of 20 something red-bull quaffers just happen to skin up mountains Lou…we’re not all motoheads (and there seem to be alot of 50-something flabalanches out there on sleds)

  2. Lou December 30th, 2005 7:41 pm

    Thanks for the comment AKBC (Alaska, per chance?)

    Of course I know various age groups do both activities (categorizing was done to make a point) — my field observation is that the snowmobile skiers tend to be the younger set, while the anti snowmobile activists tend to be baby boomers. Just a generalization for sure.

    So when I ride a snowmobile to access a backcountry ski area, am I a sledder or a skier? My point is that I’m both, and so are a lot of other people, and that when the two activities are mixed it becomes harder to make value judgments and segregate uses.

    As for who dies where and why, what’s your point? That snowmobilers are inferior to backcountry skiers because more of them die in avalanches? Perhaps there are just more of them and they go bigger. Or too much Red Bull?

  3. AKBC December 31st, 2005 12:57 am

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Lou

    Admittedly, the “who dies where and why” comment is a bit of a value judgment. I don’t think wild places should be reserved only for those who recreate responsibly (keeping themselves and other safe) but I do think it is the responsibility of each BC adventurer to be as safe as possible. It is frustrating that the safety line seems to segregate so cleanly between sledders and skiers (at least according to accident literature and avy class enrollment). But it is not fair to lump all sledders into the irresponsible pile.

    More to the point, if you are riding a snowmachine, you are a snowmachiner – regardless of what else you are doing (skiing, hunting, checking traplines, etc.). A major issue in this discussion, at least in terms of land use, is what kind of wilderness we are talking about. No matter how you slice it, snowmachines have a greater impact on the wilderness characteristics of our wild places (they are loud, can access more remote terrain, pollute, scare animals, here in AK they mess up tundra, etc.). These are fungible qualities of the machines, not the riders (and it doesn’t matter how much Red Bull they drink). I think the value judgment is easy when you look at it that way – how much noise, wild life disruption and pollution will we tolerate in the hills? I say it shouldn’t be much. These are slippery slopes for sure, and there are major questions involved a person’s right to be in the wilderness but I think a very hard line can be drawn (and indeed has been) between motor/no motor – it just doesn’t seem that complicated.

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version