Light a candle. On December 21, 2004, I converted WildSnow.com into a full-on blog website (I’d had the site up since 1998, relativly static). That means this past week was our sixteenth blogaversary! Sixteen years and more than 4,000 blog posts later, here we are, kicking our way through covid (which I refuse to capitalize), a site management transition, site redesigns and more. Thanks everyone for your support. If you’re curious: blog post number one is a bit banal, but I love keeping it around.
Sad to report we’ve had four recent avalanche deaths here in Colorado. If you’re elsewhere and have reasonably stable snow, feel blessed. We’ve got one of those winters that’s combined a thin snowpack with cold temperatures and clear skies, to produce heinous layers of sugar-snow underpinning slabs whose mission in life is to take you out.
Let me add my two cents regarding how one stays alive during years like we’re having in Colorado. Firstly, it’s all about slope angle — provided you can find hippy pow without steeper avalanche terrain threatening from above. Then there’s slope aspect — northerly is often scads more dangerous. Next, it’s about the consequences if it does slide. Skiers often survive avalanches — I’d venture to say more live than perish — but from my observation the survivable slides are often those on smaller slopes, with no trees, terminating into broad runouts rather than terrain traps. After that, while ski touring has become synonymous with powder snow there’s a whole world of spring skiing waiting on the wings of winter. Corn season, with little to no avalanche danger if you play it right, can last for months. Come spring, you might not capture the toe-curling photos you want, but you won’t die.
The New York Times says “It’s the Winter of Backcountry.” Should I believe it, are we really getting the tsunami of backcountry skiers the entire news world seems bent on predicting?
Shops have been selling more BC merch than ever, perhaps that’s some indication of the coming throngs. And the media, man oh man, from Forbes to Men’s Journal, they’ve gone nuts! It’s like climbing skins were invented last week. But are shoppers then driving to the nearest trailhead and taking all the parking? Or are they more often just resort uphilling, or preparing for their usual ski vacation only they’ll be hiring a guide for a few days and ski tour a handful of classic lines? We want to know. Is your local trailhead any more maxed than last winter, or the winter before? Comments on!
The Eiger. The mountain of legends, rising above Grindelwald, Switzerland. I’ve only been there a couple of times. Never climbed it, never skied near it. Always wanted to because of the mountaineering history. Now I’m not so sure. The heavy hand of Alps style industrial tourism appears to have descended on the place. Jury out. Will the Eiger be a shadow of its former self? Maybe I’ll go there and see for myself. More here.
Wondering what’s happening with the European ski resorts regarding covid? Good report here. And here. Austria, for example is shutting down but exempting anyone who tests to have the antigen and presumably be immune. That creates an interesting sociological and legal situation. One has to wonder, will the immune wear armbands or something like that, so the beer tender will know whom they can serve?
And… uphill skiing is booming. You already know that, but I needed a paragraph opener. While the boom booms, I’m enjoying watching the constant flux in how resorts deal with it. This article about Mount Spokane is a case in point. As usually bubbles through my brain, all I can think when I read this junk is: people want to use your resort, figure out a way to accommodate them without agonizing over seemingly everything, then fully monetize it. For crying out loud, you’re a business with something to sell. Quit the namby pambying around. Just sell your product. Any one remember snowboarding?
Also regarding resort uphilling, check out this report in the New York Times. Paraphrased tageline: “In France, covid closed the ski lifts. The skiers came anyway.”
And… news of the weird. Did you know that gobbling Tylenol (acetaminophen) can increase your chances of dying in an avalanche? Check it out.
Have a happy New Year, with much fine skiing in your future.
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.