Any guidebook that begins with a Nietzsche quote and ends with a local mountain man’s poem is worth examining. In the case of the Off-Piste Atlas, the Teutonic philosopher who brought us “gott ist tot” weighs in with “For this is our height and our home…”
Whatever Nietzsche really meant by height and home (let’s just leave “gott tot” alone), it rings true for ski alpinists — and this Atlas does the job of providing the foundation for a study of CB backcountry highland philosophy.
Other “pamphleteers” promulgate these types of short, sweet and heavily illustrated guidebooks. This is one of the nicer ones. Full color oblique high-angle photos (many from aircraft) of the route areas are crisp, with good color balance. Each photo includes a useful compass rose, multiple numbered routes, brief access description, and meta such as summit elevation/loss. When necessary, the routes have brief descriptions. Snowmobile access info is there for the taking, and you get the exact starting point for your skin track.
Looking at this book from the point-of-view of a noob, I found two things lacking. First, exact GPS coords for trailheads and summits. Perhaps that’s not essential in a compact area such as that around Crested Butte, but in my travels I’ve found punching in the “gyp” for parking/trailheads to be super useful in avoiding confusion during early morning drives, sometimes in the dark. Likewise, it would be wise to provide value added with some route tracks available on the publisher website. Simple routes don’t need tracks, but skiers unfamiliar with gigantic ‘liths such as Mount Axtell could benefit from a pile of waypoints. Second thing: The overall coverage map is simply an aerial photograph with a few annotations. For the newcomer a nicely scaled topographic map would probably be more useful, seconded by a basic road map that gave a better idea of the overall driving layout.
My perfectionist niggling aside, with perhaps a supplemental topo map for some areas in this 34 page book is all you’d need to do a full season or two of human powered glisse out of Crested Butte. After that, you might want to range farther but you’d also find yourself returning to discovered classics such as the controversial Snodgrass, historical Red Lady, and enigmatic Schuylkill. More, this is the kind of publication that helps you arrive cold as an out-of-towner, find the “skinners” and have at it while pounding fluffy Colorado pow and laughing at the over-priced ski lifts.
(Oh, and let me shout out the nice supplement of David Rothman’s poem on the closing pages. Rothman is a prolific writer/poet who works hard at interpreting the alpine sports experience as something more than basic me-and-Joe stories. Good to see his work get shared in this venue.)
Check out these guys’ website for this book as well as a Silverton, Colorado atlas. They’re probably planning on raiding WildSnow HQ next, in that case we’ll ask for a different opening quote to balance out Friedrich, how about:
…Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,
A universe of sky and snow!”
— John Greenleaf Whittier
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.