Breaking news: Louie reported a while back that the Sea to Sky gondola in Squamish was a useful amenity for ski touring as well as sight seeing. I’d also heard it was (understandably) controversial — that some folks didn’t like the backcountry “improvement.” Two sides to everything. Well, a possible act of eco-terrorism occurred yesterday (Saturday) morning and the 2-inch cable was cut. Most of the gondola cars crashed to the ground, along with the cable. It’s not exactly easy to cut a 2-inch steel rope, nor is doing so safe when it’s under tension. If it was indeed cut, surprising nobody died. I’m no fan of terrorism. Whatever the pros and cons are for the Sea to Sky, if it was terrorism I hope they catch the perps and they receive Canadian justice. More here.
Austral skiing report: New Zealand is getting enough snow for a reasonable spring season. As for the Andes, the key (as always) for a 4,000 mile long mountain range is to suss out the best accumulations. Do so by researching social media and resort reports. Along with that, avoid erupting volcanoes? Or, enjoy a few days of lava tourism? One wonders what the view is like from the hot springs near Volcán Chillán.
Sledneck heaven? Back in late spring, when the snowline finally retreated from high altitude trailheads of Colorado, snowmobilers rode high-altitude areas that are relatively inaccessible in winter. Good on them if they’re legal. But the law was clearly scoffed in a case near Aspen. Check this link. The guy outlaw rages through legal Wilderness, then barges his sled down bare, sensitive tundra, in full view of a local ecologist/activist. He then brags it up on social. I thought I’d seen it all.
Climate watch: It’s interesting how often “ski touring” is mentioned in context with global warming. This Reuters article is mostly filler. But it does present interesting content about preventing glacial melt. More, it mentions the decline in popularity of lift skiing, while implying that ski touring is growing.
“Europe’s population is ageing and younger people are less interested in skiing. Snowshoeing, winter hiking, sledding and ski touring — in which people hike up mountains, are on the increase, industry lobby Swiss Tourism says.”
One might conclude that resorts, with their fixed terrain, are relatively inflexible in their ability to adapt to less snowfall at lower elevations. While human powered sports are flexible.
So true. In general, ski tourers are an exceptionally mobile population. We don’t mess around. We look for the best snow and go. If the warming climate takes away our lower altitude skiing options, we’ll go higher. I suppose that someday snowfall could cease to exist. But everything I read says that’s a far-fetched scenario. Meanwhile, get an electric car and drive to the snow. It is still somewhere.
Alex Honnold is the most famous climber in the world. But is he the best? While I have great respect for Honnold’s skill, I’m not convinced his way (climbing solo, without ropes) is “pure” or “best,” as we see so often implied or outright stated.
When I parse what Honnold is doing, I find moral dilemmas. What brought that home for me was a good read in the New Yorker.
Titled “Do Good Climbers Make Good Capitalists,” the article describes Honnold’s participation, as a presenter, in a self improvement workshop held at a climbing gym.
After predictable comparisons of climbing’s traits with successful business, e.g., “sent the problem,” the closing paragraph circles back to an interesting tale, which read well between the lines…
A young kid at the gym asks if Honnold could solo one of the harder routes. Honnold answers, “I definitely could, but I prefer to make responsible choices…I don’t want to get kicked out of the gym [or] void the insurance policy.”
Perhaps the article left out the rest of what Honnold said. I hope it was something like: Free soloing is super dangerous, it’s not for everyone. If you commit to it as your sport you can easily die — a brutal, perhaps ultimately selfish thing to do to your loved ones, friends, parents — would you do that to your mother…?
I’m getting preachy here. But allow me. Extreme steep skiing; free-solo rock climbing, I’ve done it all and have nothing against taking it to the limit, conditionally: Only do these things if you’re called to it by a deep personal commitment, and be realistic about the consequences of a mistake. Remember the “mother factor.”
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.