We are a long ways from deliberately riding avalanches. Well, maybe not so long, if you consider the popularity of “sluff management” among certain groups of digitized gladiators. Thing is, there’s another tribe for whom avalanche riding is their heaven. I’m talking about big-wave surfers who tackle mountains of water so tall and violent they ravage, and sometimes kill riders like they’re beetles caught in a dishwasher.
How does big-wave relate to WildSnow.com? Enter the Patagonia Personal Surf Inflation Vest (PSI). In a fashion remarkably similar to our avy airbag packs, the impressively engineered PSI is designed to be triggered by a surfer who’s fallen off their board and looking at a beat-down. I’ll not get into more technical details than that.
Instead, I find it fascinating that Patagonia will only sell their PSI to surfers certified by a safety outfit called Big Wave Risk Assessment Group. Could this happen with avalanche airbags — purchase allowed by only those skiers with “Level Eleven” avalanche safety certification? More, does this seem backward, or even elitist? Why not just sell the PSI and let people decide for themselves regarding their education? More here. (And yes, other companies sell surfing vests without requiring credentials.) I can easily see many sides to the above issues. Your opinions folks?
We’re rolling up on the final United States 2020/21 avalanche metrics. In jumping from 23 fatalities for the 2019-2020 season to 36 for 2020-2021, we’ve increased the tally 56.5% percent to 36! And in Colorado, we’ve doubled it from 6 to 12! Even one death is horrible, but this is unconscionable. Or perhaps user numbers increased to such a degree this math was inevitable, and I’m overreacting? In either case, it’s clear more people could do with dialing back their expectations, as well other behavioral modifications. This is evidenced all too well by the accident reports, and thoughts popping into the readers head such as: “I can’t believe those guys did that, but come to think of it, could have been me.” On the other hand, I grok the siren call of the pow… Please, just do your best and think of your loved ones when you’re out there. Stats here.
Also speaking of avalanches, my “Light Tours” Colorado guidebook sold out last season. In seeing we’ve got a viable product, the publisher and I are working hard on a new edition. We’ve added more backcountry routes, retained a selection of piste touring options, and improved the photography. Look for our contrarian — and I hope lifesaving — tome at Colorado shops in late fall, or check Beacon Guidebooks (who, by the way, have other new and improved books in the spout).
Oh yeah, we knew it would happen. Didn’t we? Looks like they’ll soon be opening the entire EU to vaccinated “tourist” travelers (Greece, for example, is already open). Believe me, Lisa and I have plans. Heck, if I could just hike up a trail in the Alps and sit on the deck of a hut for three hours, while gazing at the flowers and sipping a tea, I’d be floating. More, maybe you’ll see a few industry visits again from old Lou — now that would be fun. Good info here.
Check this out: Skimo racer Grace Staberg recently chased and nearly caught the women’s 24-hour vertical record. She skied 56,153 feet (weeks after Rea Kolbl set the record to 55,045). Just out of curiosity, anyone know how much it would cost to heli-ski that much vert? Grace has become quite the skimo star. Relating to my above comment about EU travel, perhaps I’ll be watching her podium, live, in a few Worldcup races next winter. Go Grace!
This past winter, Steamboat ski resort, Colorado, required uphillers to purchase a $20 season pass. Then get this: they diverted nearly $20,000 from the pass proceeds as a donation to their local search and rescue team. I love that, but it’s also kinda weird. Shouldn’t they have “donated” to their ski patrol, since the ‘trollers are who haul broken uphillers? I suppose the logic is that uphillers are also backcountry skiers. But are they? More here. Your opinions dear readers?
Housing, so common an issue for us folk of the mountain regions. According to this article in The Economist (paywalled), average home values in Bozeman, Montana rose 20% from February 2020 to February 2021, and other places are experiencing similar economic explosions. This may bode well if you’re a builder, or have a house to sell. But it couldn’t be good for folks seeking the mountain town dream. Will the prices rubber-band back to pre-viral levels?
To preview the conflicts coming to ever-more-popular backcountry skiing, pay attention to rock climbing. Check out the melee at Tensleep, Wyoming, and this disturbing destruction of ancient petroglyphs by a climber in Utah.
In view of the above issues with climbing, we all know the first challenge to occur in any popularized backcountry skiing area is lack of parking. Teton Pass might be the exemplification of this — they even paint parking lines on the snow while attempting to mind the mayhem. Excellent article here. What bugs me about these sorts of things is they hardly ever apply the simplest solution. It’s called a bulldozer and a gravel truck. Yeah, I know, I’m not nuanced. Your solutions?
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.