Backcountry Skiing News Roundup

Post by blogger | July 25, 2007      

Backcountry skiing news in northern hemisphere August? You bet.

It was sad to hear about the altitude related death of London businessman John Peacock during his Mustagata climb and snowboard trip last week. Apparently, the 7,500 meter mountain’s low angled and moderate terrain gets many folks into trouble because it’s easy to gain altitude.

Peacock was on the mountain with the so called “all-female” Lipstick Blonds expedition (defunct link removed 2014). The expedition blog reads like surreal fiction (google for the blog, it seems to have changed locations…). Mountaineering at these kinds of altitudes is frequently risky and demands expertise and skill, but the chatty writing larded with forced references to crochet projects and mini skirts makes you wonder if these guys were serious about what they were doing. This type of attitude and associated prose crops up occasionally during expeditions to the big peaks, and it always makes me ponder. Sometimes you have to laugh in the face of danger, but doing so doesn’t make a trip any safer, and could indicate you’re not taking things seriously enough. Perhaps I don’t understand British humor? Quite possibly…

The fabric of space and time was rent this past Friday when the web server at melted down — their ever popular web forum was unavailable for five days! Word is a sudden increase in worldwide work productivity ensued, and is visible as a blip on financial statistics charts maintained by gnomes who study that sort of thing. Today the ether is back to normal, and the gnomes are scratching their heads over where that telemarking blip came from.

Back to Colorado. As many of you know, we have a serious problem with dust being blown in from the west and contaminating our snowpack. Off the cuff observations over the years have shown this speeds up spring melting of the snowpack, thus not only compromising the spring ski mountaineering season but messing with the gradual melting that Colorado water supplies depend on.

Now a scientific study by an organization directed by none other than pioneer extreme skier Chris Landry shows the dust is indeed doing what we thought. The easy part of proving the obvious is done, now they have to figure out where the dust is coming from. I’d guess western Colorado, Utah and Nevada, or if the Sierra has the same problem, perhaps Asia? For Colorado skiing, in my opinion this is a much more important problem than that of a few degrees temperature fluctuation due to global warming, so its definitely got my antenna up.



12 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup”

  1. Jeff Prillwitz July 25th, 2007 8:13 am

    Be careful Lou,

    Dust from the west. Sooner or later somebody will blame you and your trips jeeping to Moab!

  2. Andrew L July 25th, 2007 7:47 am

    Hey Lou,

    Maybe GW is increasing the dust. I wasn’t aware this was such a big problem for Colorado. If you’re in the mood, maybe you could put on your journalism hat and do some more reporting on this issue in the coming months? I’m interested in reading more about it.

  3. Lou July 25th, 2007 7:55 am

    Andrew, it’s indeed an issue. We had a really thick and dark dust layer this year, and the spring snowpack melted faster than I can remember. The dust has been happening for years (I have photos), but this last winter was much worse than normal, with one event being almost a mud rain that left splotches of mud on parked cars.

    I’d imagine that some sort of climate change is at work, but whether it’s global warming or not is going to be tough to say. Though I’m sure it will be immediately blamed on global warming in some circles. And just wait till Al Gore gets hold of this — he’s probably editing his slideshow as we speak, to include Colorado’s dust on snow and how it effects the life cycles of marmots…

  4. Lou July 25th, 2007 8:20 am

    Never thought I’d eat my own dust!

  5. Chris Crossen July 25th, 2007 8:24 am


    See last week’s Wall Street Journal (7/20/07) article: China’s Dust Plumes Cause Climate Changes

    One tainted export from China can’t be avoided in North America — air.

    An outpouring of dust layered with man-made sulfates, smog, industrial fumes, carbon grit and nitrates is crossing the Pacific Ocean on prevailing winds from booming Asian economies in plumes so vast they alter the climate. These rivers of polluted air can be wider than the Amazon and deeper than the Grand Canyon.

    “There are times when it covers the entire Pacific Ocean basin like a ribbon bent back and forth,” said atmospheric physicist V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

    I can send you the entire article if you like.



  6. Lou July 25th, 2007 8:31 am

    WHAT! You mean it’s not us American’s causing all the world’s problems!? That sounds like blasphemy! (grin)

  7. Matt Kinney July 25th, 2007 11:26 am

    We had a good dusting of volcanic ash here a few years ago and the increased melting of snow on glaciers in summer was dramatic and lasted about 5 years til the ash dissappeared.

    Since then, increased global warming caused by hot air from those who dismiss the theory as silly liberalism, has also slowly dwindled to a few miscreants in of all places…. “CARBON”dale, CO.

    Lov ya lou…..waiting fo the NOLS report!!

  8. Lou July 25th, 2007 11:43 am

    Hi Matt, appreciate the humor, but are you not aware I know the climate is warming? I’m just not into the associated religion and its high priests.

  9. howie July 25th, 2007 1:02 pm


    Mike Horn did an interesting piece on this in the December 06 issue of Backcountry. Landry was his main source. Would be worth a look.



  10. jaja July 25th, 2007 1:16 pm

    High Country News had a good article on this last spring. It’s available on the web here:

  11. Robin July 25th, 2007 1:22 pm

    I was skiing in west-central CO this past February. It was warm, and there wasn’t much snow…anywhere. In fact, a lot of the west lacked the “normal” snowfall (whatever normal is these days), which accounts for the absurd number of fires this summer. Just wondering if the dust, and the subsequent quick-melting pattern, is simply because of the lack of snow last winter. (My disclaimer: I know nothing about science… I just ski!)

    Think Snow!

  12. Lou July 25th, 2007 4:06 pm

    Indeed, the dust has been getting some attention… what’s hot about the latest from Landry is that they have definitive numbers. But, I remember dust events happening years ago, I’m talking decades, so I don’t want to fall into the trap of being short sighted. Also, to be serious rather than trite about it, one has to admit that nearly everything that happens these days is being seen through the lens of global warming. That’s fine, so long as reason prevails, otherwise we have, religion?

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