Are backcountry skiers really rednecks in drag? Our gals might not have hairdos that can be ruined by ceiling fans and us boys know a Volvo is not an anatomical reference (right?), but recent changes in ski culture have me wondering.
Twenty years ago I began hinting at the possibility that snowmobiles might be a good tool for backcountry skiing access. A certain group prayed I’d choke on granola for uttering such blasphemy, and I’m still not welcome in certain circles.
All I can say to those haters now is you’d better keep your granola to yourselves and work harder at shutting snowmobiles out of the backcountry, because they’re pretty danged popular with skiers. Like automobiles, snowmobiles give one an amazing amount of freedom and mobility. For those reasons, in my view their popularity among skiers was inevitable. Used for skiing in areas with suitable terrain (low angled approaches to steeper peaks), sleds eliminate long flat hikes so we can enjoy human powered climbs and descents. Sure, it’s a fast-food motivated approach that requires less suffering than the old ways, but does that make it bad?
Watch the latest hip ski movies such as TGR’s Anomaly and snowmobile footage is prevalent. Check out occasional debates on web forums about snowmobiles, and you’ll notice an obvious lessening of anti snowmobile hate speech. Perhaps most poignant, look at what ski culture publishers are willing to spend money on for paper and ink.
Specifically, I’m talking about a book called Powder Road. Published about a year ago, Powder Road uses sparse words and copious photos to document a road trip from Colorado to Alaska, with snowmobile assisted skiing along the way. It’s a fun read, especially the chapter describing what has to be the worst day of skiing ever experienced anywhere (with broken snowmobiles and a truck camper fouled by an animal, what else can go wrong?).
But what struck me most about Powder Road is how, yes, redneck it is. A goodly part of the book is about wrenching; trucks, snowmobiles, propane heaters, endless hardware store trips, driving trucks, getting snowmobiles stuck. And that’s the redneck way. Go backcountry, but involve machinery in the process. More, just like a bunch of rednecks the Powder Road boys party hard and wonder about their love lives (the only thing missing from the story is a dog and ex wife, and one suspects at least one of those ingredients might have been in the background). Apparently the wrenching and associated traveling gets in way of the wenching, but powder skiing is better than you-know-what — or at least it lasts longer, right?
At any rate, we’ve got hunting threads on backcountry skiing web forums. Snowmobiles are gaining popularity. Carhartts and look-alike clothing are in style. Wild Turkey is known to be the favored libation of at least one extreme skier. I’d suspect that soon enough a backcountry skiing magazine will have snowmobile reviews. Skiboys, at least you know a Volvo is a car, right? And girls, keep those dreads below the ceiling fan.
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.