UPDATE, Thanksgiving Day 2016. Best wishes everyone on this day of thanks. We are thankful for the wonderful alpine sports we all enjoy. We are thankful for the friends we have made here, and continue to make. To your health, wealth, and plentiful recreation of the powder persuasion! Lou and Lisa
Big news in the U.S. is here in Colorado, where dry and warm conditions have prevented many traditional Thanksgiving ski resort openings. I remember in highschool in Aspen, 1960s, when we had a winter like this. It seemed like half the kids in my class were in families running small mom-and-pop lodges or working for the resort, and in danger of going broke. Now our resorts are dominated by big hotels that can probably absorb the reduction in bookings, but a few small operations still exist. We wish them the best.
In a broader take, our warming climate is clearly causing part of this problem for the resorts. Reason being that if it’s cold and dry, they can still make enough snow for guests to enjoy, if the weather is warm you get the double whammy of rain instead of snow, along with no snowmaking. Clearly, time to adapt. How? Higher elevations and later opening dates. Will that happen? The later opening dates are already forced. Yet sadly, many of our existing (and nascent) resorts did once have the opportunity to build at higher elevations back when regulations were lenient and private land was available. Now, those doors have mostly closed.
Fortunately we have the sport of skiing without lifts and can pretty much go where we want. That’s how skiing was done before mechanization. Perhaps it’s going back to that. Meanwhile, the Alps are looking good.
Are you a winter multi-sporter? One thing about dry winters, in some places that makes the ice climbing better. As a retired waterfall ice lover, I still have a place in my heart for the sport. So I noticed Scarpa is attempting to keep some ice content current on their corporate blog. Could be useful if you’re grabbing picks instead of sticks. See here.
Our WildSnow media travels are getting finalized for this winter. We’re not sure who will cover what. But we’re excited that Salomon will be introducing new gear that’s oriented to the high energy lightweight ski touring as practiced worldwide, and Dynafit may be introducing gear that’s specific to uphilling at resorts. We’ll also try to have at least one person at ISPO trade show again this winter, as we like the energy that injects into our blogging. The weird thing about all this is we end up raging about gear that won’t be available for up to a year. The blog posts get buried. I’m not sure what the solution to that is with a chronological blog. Always working on it.
Circling back to climate and weather. A new GOES-R weather satellite is up there now, said to “change the game when it comes to severe weather prediction.” We think GOES-R will also make animated images that are plain fun to watch, and could help with mountain storm predictions relating to skiing. As with former GOES sats these will listen for emergency beacons, only GOES-R will be able to detect weaker signals. More here. And a good FAQ that you can wile away your midweek time with.
According to the GOES-R FAQ: “Beginning with GOES-I, the Search and Rescue subsystem has been carried on each of the GOES. Distress signals are broadcast by Emergency Locator Transmitters carried on general aviation aircraft, aboard some marine vessels, and by individuals, such as hikers and climbers. A dedicated transponder on each GOES detects and relays signals to a Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (SARSAT) ground station. GOES-R’s transponder will be able to operate at a lower uplink power than previous GOES transponders, enabling GOES-R to detect weaker beacon signals. Through a rescue coordination center, help is dispatched to the aircraft, ship, or individual in distress.”
The battle of free speech is always interesting. Exum Guides, that venerable crew based in Wyoming, recently signed a renewed contract with the Park Service. The new legalese includes a clause prohibiting Park Service concessionaires from talking to the media without permission. It’s a blanket clause, but clearly is directed at accidents and other “newsie” events. Exum’s situation is a good way to look at the issue from both sides.
In my opinion, full access for reporters ultimately results in better information that can enhance the progression of safe practices. On the other hand, during the initial stages of accident aftermath, incomplete information can result in pointless confusion and unnecessary ill will or grief. This article in the Jackson Hole News is a good take, worth a read.
From the WildSnow European desk: Be careful where you sport ski boots in Austria, you might get arrested. The mayor of ski resort town Ischgl responded to the dire issue of noisy ski boots clomping around town, and banned them after eight in the evening. Ishgl is where you begin the famed Silvretta ski touring traverse. Thus, the burning questions: Did they ban ski touring boots as well as alpine boots? And, will they have boot checking stations located around town to evaluate what type of shoes you’re wearing? News report here.
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.