I recently came across an interesting blog entry on the Utah Avalanche Center’s website. The post, titled “We Created the Monster. Now Let’s Bury It,” discusses the widespread usage of the word “Sidecountry” when referring to lift-accessed backcountry skiing. I am guilty of using it often in daily conversation and in this blog.
Reading the article, my first reaction was to defend the use of the Sidecountry. It’s not only more descriptive, it doesn’t sound as intense as a day spent hiking, skinning and skiing in the backcountry. Personally, sidecountry skiing sounds as if you were skiing around a resort with your avi gear and decided to duck out of bounds for a few laps. Which is exactly the reason why it makes sense to eliminate usage of the word altogether. As Jake Hutchinson says in the blog,
“It’s just sidecountry…” probably the most common response to any line of questioning. It’s almost like a crutch, the easy out. Reminds me of the all too cliche “everyone else is doing it”. It seems to allow reasonable people to justify, feel better about, or minimize the risks they are about to undertake. It’s almost as if the term resolves any internal moral dilemma they may have – it helps speed their way into those heuristic traps we speak so much about as educators.
Hard to argue with that point. Just recognizing that backcountry skiing is backcountry skiing, regardless of how you got there, will lead to better decision making in avalanche terrain. I know there have been times when I have taken unnecessary risks because I was so close to a ski resort. In reality, if an avalanche did occur just outside a resort’s boundaries, a buried skier would not survive long enough for ski patrol to be of much help.
From the NSAA Journal article referenced – there is a “Kinder, gentler implication…” in the term sidecountry, it suddenly becomes something attainable for normal people, from the 20 something kid mentioned to the family of four vacating from Texas.
Since reading the article, I have tried to eliminate the word from my vocabulary. It’s not easy, but I’ve found that simply correcting myself when I am standing above a line in the
sidecountry backcountry, is enough of a reminder that I stop for a second to reconsider the slope I’m about to ski. It really does work.
Instagram celebrity and Freeskier.com writer, Brody Leven, recently wrote up an outline of some key takeaways from the UAC Freeride Avalanche Summit at Snowbird. All ten points are worth re-posting, but I think that would be plagiarism or at least frowned upon in some circles. So, I’ll just post a couple that I think may entice you to read his full article.
- 3. Ongoing education is essential, regardless of your personal experiences. The longer you’re in this, the more theories and practices change and develop.
- 4. It is vital to communicate a plan with everyone in your backcountry party. Never assume anything and never become complacent to decisions being made.
- 5. Snow isn’t static, but very dynamic. Because it is constantly changing, situational awareness is key. Become familiar with the snow, your run, your partners, and yourself.
“I’ve never seen anything like that, it was a pretty mind blowing experience,” August James said.
James and his group hiked out of bounds at The Canyons to find fresh powder, that’s how they ended up at Dutch Draw, an avalanche zone.
“We got down to the bottom of Dutch Draw and were kind of celebrating and that’s when I looked up and here comes a tsunami of snow about 200 yards wide,” James said.
August is a friend of a friend, another Park City local that triggered an avalanche on Dutch’s. Last year, my friend Timmy was killed a few hundred yards from where this slide occurred. Pretty crazy stuff.
Liz and Gold were skiing Canyons today when the police, fire, and search and rescue crews showed up. I was sitting at home with a knee injury. The Utah Avalanche Center listed today’s avalanche danger as “considerable,” and noted today could be one of those days where something bad happens.
These persistent slabs are now generally buried 18-36″ deep across the Wasatch…and I suspect they will continue to be problematic for the next few days, if not more. A poor snowpack structure -as described – with a significant load – as described – should be treated as suspect. To me they are particularly dangerous because they are covered now by 5 star powder and stubborn wind drifts. They are also inconsistently at best, dangerously at worst – reactive to ski and slope cuts and cornice drops. Clear skies, excellent powder, and slowly dropping hazard with a persistent weak layer has long been a tragic combination.
Looks like the Utah Avalanche Center got it right again.
I can’t help but wonder what I would have done today had I been healthy enough to ski I typically would not ski out of bounds on a day with “considerable” avalanche danger. The clear blue skies and three feet of blower powder would be tough to resist. Lesson learned. Thankfully no one was hurt this time.
It seemed like just yesterday when I crossed the 10,000 view threshold. My popularity is growing exponentially. That exponent is rather small, but it is growing in a non-linear fashion!
–> Subscribe today ——-> (this is not a real link, just a satire of YouTube’s mid-video subscription ads).
If it’s not snowing, there isn’t much to do this time of year. I have spent a lot of time working, working out, and re-organizing the house since Thanksgiving. I also dedicated a lot of time to geeking out over weather. It turns out there are a lot of people that care a lot about weather. Following them is time consuming (a good thing) and rewarding. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
For a few days now, I’ve watched a massive storm head towards Tahoe. I’ve been hoping the storm would find it’s way to Utah, delivering some much needed snow to the Wasatch. Most models didn’t predict that happening, with the main portion of precipitation falling on Tahoe, Idaho and spots north of Utah. The GFS predicted a chance of snow here this weekend, but accuracy is low on predictions that far away.
As of a couple days ago, a storm that looked extremely promising, was poised to miss us completely.That prediction changed a little this morning with the latest GFS model predicting some precipitation headed our way this weekend. Powderchasers.com was the first to mention snowfall headed our way on Sunday or Monday.
UPDATE:I just added Utah to yesterdays Powder Alert as the latest model are showing pretty good moisture over… fb.me/196NokeCE
— PowderChaser (@thepowderchaser) November 28, 2012
The third and final wave from this series is scheduled for late Sunday and Sunday night into early Monday. This is the strongest wave of the three and it is progged by all models to track the farthest south. GFS/GEM/GFES all bring a good open wave and cold front into Utah, allowing for decent snow accumulations.
The National Weather Service seems optimistic as well.
Friday night’s wave is looking a bit better so maybe a few inches will be possible, especially north of I-80. Continuing to gain confidence in the late Sunday/Monday system as well. It’s fast moving and lacks great dynamics, but it has truly insane amounts of moisture to work with — so it could very well be a significant event for the Wasatch. I’m praying this works out and Monday will be a first true lift-serviced powder day of the season.
Time to start looking for someone to cover my Monday and Tuesday shifts at work. I think I could get used to this geeking-out-over-the-weather thing.
I cancelled my cable service yesterday. I’m not really sure why I chose to do it yesterday, while at work, but I did it and there’s no turning back. It’s going to save me $100 a month, plus a lot of time that I waste watching tv shows and sporting events that don’t matter. I can still stream a lot of media via my laptop, an iPad, and a Wii. Instead of watching random sporting events, sitcoms, and movies, I will have to search out free media on the internet.
I am going to post the best free entertainment on the internet here, on my blog. This is the first video I felt like reposting.
I made an edit last week documenting my first turns of the season and the social media frenzy that followed. Through all of the excitement, I remained an anonymous skier. I documented this in an edit and posted it on the web… no one noticed.
That was until Powderhound Matt reposted my first ski edit of the 2013 ski season, 2013 – Ski Edit #1: Overnight Ski-lebrity, on the Ski Utah Blog. I guess he watched the video and felt sorry my “struggle to make it big in the ski world.”
It’s time for Adam to become the next Ski-Lebrity and he is pretty crafty when it comes to making his own video edits. Adam was probably the first guy in North America this season to receive full on faceshots. You know how I know? I was there to document it at Powder Mountain. The amount of people that viewed the photo was off the charts, something like 290,000 and my Powder Mountain ski movie edit was equally well received.
I once again have a chance to shine. I am now famous for being famous – the Kato Kaelin of skiing.