Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A second heli-ski operation in Colorado?

Right now the state has one, Telluride Helitrax, but apparently, there's another being studied for Silverton. No word on how likely it is to be approved.

Powder Alert!

Some sled dogger in Aspen just told us there is 2 feet of snow there and it's still snowing. The mountains seem to be reeling in an epic day. Most other places reported half a foot at 5 a.m. this morning and it's been snowing hard since. Tomorrow could be a great snow day. Use it wisely.

Less than 24 hours to Ascent sign-up

What more can I say? Want to run 7,000 feet up to the top of Pikes Peak with 1,800 other folks? It's fun. I've done it for five years in a row. Sign up starts at 8 a.m. Thursday and will probably be full by 3 p.m. Here's the link to the webpage. It should have a sign-up link to Thursday.

Why put flags on trail signs? You won't believe the reason.

There was a letter in the Gazette's opinion section today lambasting the Friends of the Peak for putting up fiberglass markers for the Ring the Peak Trail on Section 16. The writer thought they were unnecessary, unsightly, and worst of all, he said, the markers each have a small American flag on them.
"as if you might somehow fail to remember what country you woke up in this morning."
I won't get into the trail marker debate, but I have a funny answer for why the flags are there. At first, there were no flags on the markers, and the markers kept getting vandalized, stolen, or knocked down. Another trail group told the Friends of the Peak that American flags would help stop the destruction (this was closer to 9/11 and before the Iraq war was quite so unpopular, so the flag had a little more heft in stirring sentiment than it might now.)
So, FOTP stuck flag stickers on almost every marker.
Did it work? I once asked club president Mary Burger.
"Not really," she said.
You know what I bet would work better? A cute picture of kittens.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Yellowstone needs cast of thousands

If your life list (things to do before I die) includes "work in a national park," here's your chance. Yellowstone National Park concessioner Xanterra Parks & Resorts is looking for people to work this spring and summer. By the time lodges open and the season's vacationers arrive, the company will have hired 3,000 season employees to staff lodges, restaurants, gift shops and concessioner-operated tours and activities in the park.
Employees are assigned to Mammoth Hot Springs, Grant, Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, Grand Canyon and Roosevelt Villages where they live in dormitories or employee RV parks. For more information, call 1-307-344-5324 or go to

Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent sign-up Thursday

I may be shooting myself in the foot by reminding people. Judging by how fast these races fill up, reminding isn't necessary, but you can sign up March 1 at 8 a.m.

Don't wait.

Snow coming down, tulips coming up

Snowstorms have Steamboat on the ropes: it hit the northern mountains with over a foot Friday and Saturday, then clobbered it with 18 more inches in the last 48 hours. Steamboat tends to be feast or famine. The northern-most mountain in the state has insanely good conditions right now.
Meanwhile, down on the Front Range, I noticed late last week that after months of snow, bulbs in my front yard have decided it's time to do their thing. The tulips are uncurling their broad leaves. The bright green nubs of the daffodils are starting to poke through the leaf litter. Gotta love Colorado. Spring is coming... get out your snow shovel.

Friday, February 23, 2007

South Slope map is wrong

By the way, just so you don't get you hiking socks in a bunch, our South Slope map in today's Gazette had some very big errors. Disregard all the red blotches. The grayish area should be a red "restricted" zone with trail corridors through it. We'll publish a corrected one Saturday.

Finally ringing the peak?

As Dave Philipps reported in today's Gazette, Colorado Springs Utilities officials said Thursday night they will allow trails on the south slope of Pikes Peak.

It's an abrupt turn from previous statements there could be no general access to the area for fear someone would contaminate - intentionally or not - a major community water supply. Local residents have lobbied for years for access.

This would include a 10-mile-or-so bit of trail that's part of the Ring the Peak Trail encircling Pikes Peak. Sure, there are issues to be worked out, but what do you think?!? Are you ready to hike? Fearful of contaminants? Hankering to fish?

Out There Cribs presents, the yurt

I shot a little painful amateur tour of the yurt we stayed in for today's Out There story.

Check it out!

Been on a yurt or hut trip? Fess up to your foibles and pass along your best tips.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Refuge from the airport

Have a layover? Spend a few hours with a redtail hawk or a bald eagle or a prairie dog. In an interesting marketing move, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is promoting its wildlife refuge system as the perfect layover diversion for airline passengers. Here's the headline from the press release the agency sent out: "National Wildlife Refuges offer quick stops between airline flights for children to stretch their legs and parents to take a deep breath of fresh air."
Among the refuges the agency is suggesting for a visit:
- The 1,000-acre John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, located on the south side of Philadelphia one mile from the airport, where visitors can see blackbirds, hawks and bald eagles from the parking lot.
- Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel Md., 30 minutes from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, with a variety of waterfowl.
- Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, two miles from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport , a floodplain where bald eagles nest, herons and egrets wade and mallards swim.
And closer to home: The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Widlife Refuge, next to DIA outside Denver, with birds, prairie dogs, and deer.
For an airport-wildlife connection that's even closer? It's not a part of the national Wildlife Refuge network, but Bluestem Prairie Open Space is within walking distance of the Colorado Springs Airport. Watch for coyotes, prairie dogs, waterfowl and rattlesnakes there.

One week to Ascent Sign up!

You have seven days to decide if you're up to running Pikes Peak. Registration for the Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon begins Thursday, March 1, at 8 a.m. on You can find a link to it at It fills up fast. Last year it took about 9 hours. This year it could go faster. There are big cash prizes!

Capri pants for men?

There's a funny thread on today about whether men should wear capri pants.
It begins: While hiking in Switzerland last fall, I noticed a lot of European men in Capri pants ... Recently, in a climbing gym, I noticed some men wearing Capri pants ... And downtown Boulder yesterday, I saw a man in Capri pants. Perhaps I'm out of style, but I could never see myself wearing Capri pants. I just don't see the point (if it's cold, wear pants; if it's warm, wear shorts; if you can't decide, wear zip-offs) ... and I can't get over the fact that Capri pants were originally made for women, and have been for some time (until recently). Does anyone here wear these things? And, if so, please enlighten me on the function and/or fashion advantages. Perhaps I'm missing something.
The question drew considerable response, most agreeing that capris were for sissy metrosexuals. But wait a minute. Call them capris, or shants, or culottes... this half pants used to be de rigeur for mountaineers. They were called knickers back then. They were made of wool. And if you called a guy like Edmund Hillary or Robert Ormes a sissy for wearing them, you might get a hob-nail boot to the skull.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Benefit local trails without getting out of your seat

The Banff Mountain Film Festival is coming to the Benet Hill Auditorium (2577 N. Chelton Rd.) Saturday, March 3. 100% of the ticket sales for this event will go to the Rocky Mountain Field Institute.
What is the Banff Mountain Film Festival? Think of it a a big steaming plate of mountain culture paella. There's a little of everything. Quirky mountain culture. Adrenaline rush climbing and river footage. Enviro advocacy films. You name it. You get it. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll get vertigo.
For information call

Mountain Chalet 719-633-0732
Tickets are $10.00 and are being sold at Mountain Chalet and REI. Any tickets not presold for this event will be available at the door (while supplies last).
Additional information can be had at:

Hope for skiing on Pikes Peak

Monday I wrote a story in the Colorado Springs Gazette about the dim prospects of a ski hill ever returning to Pikes Peak, especially if local Harvey Carter, now in his 70s, sells land that could be used for a ski area to a housing developer.
Well, after writing the story, I was contacted by two people who said they were interested in trying to turn Carter's land into a ski area. One met with him yesterday, and just sent me this email.
"I met with Harvey this morning. Thank you for helping me to get in touch with him.
He has an interesting property. To me, the key issue is whether the road that accesses the location can be improved and widened to extent that it could service such a ski area.
I am looking into it and will let you know what I find out."
Maybe there is hope.

The fall-out from Mount Hood

It's intriguing to watch the debate over whether climbers on Mount Hood should be required by law to carry a personal locator beacon. At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer. A small, light-weight satelite transmitter can be rented for just a few bucks and guarantee if something unexpected happens that rescuers will be able to find climbers, or at least their bodies. But here's the thing. This proposal by the Oregon legislature is almost universally dissed by mountaineers.
According to the AP, climbers who showed up to voice their disapproval at the capitol warned the locator requirement would foster passivity among climbers who get into trouble and activate the beacons.
"They will wait for a rescue, and not do enough to rescue themselves," said Leslie Brown, a spokeswoman for Access Fund, a national mountaineering group.
But more than that, it seems to me that the idea is just plain distasteful to climbers. After all, part of the joy of going out into the wild is severing the ties of civilization. Edward Abbey said "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread."
Cell phones have made severing the ties harder. A locator beacon would add another binding thread. Perhaps there will eventually be a debate about how communication corridors like cell phones and GPS technology do the same thing to wilderness as transportation corridors, i.e. roads.
Can one exist with the other? I don't know.
On the other hand, civilized folks who pay their taxes and don't recklessly go into topographically dicey, road-deprived areas have a very good point when they gripe about the cost of finding and retrieving lost wilderness travelers. Maybe someday society will decide that you must enter and exit the wild at your own risk. This seems fair. Harsh, but fair.
But can the civilized folks who pay their taxes and don't recklessly go into topographically dicey, road-deprived areas resist the urge to bring a straggler back to the fold. After all, that urge is what humanity, and civilization itself, is based on.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dog's best friend?

An Out There blog reader (who just commented on the Mount Hood post below) read my mind, questioning the love behind climbers taking pets up mountains with them.

A short version of a story by the AP:

Despite the feel-good story of Velvet, the black Labrador mix who helped keep three Mount Hood hikers warm and alive, some experts say taking dogs up the mountain for warmth and companionship is a foolhardy practice that could do more harm than good.

“Any sport that requires safety gear, like harnesses, crampons, ice axes and rope, is probably not an appropriate place for a pet dog to be,” and could endanger both the dog and owner, said Julie Kittams, a Portland veterinarian for sled dogs in the Iditarod.

Taking a dog on a mountain-climbing expedition, she said, is “like caring for an injured team member. It just hinders your ability to get safely off the mountain.”

The rescue prompted climbers to chatter on mountaineering Web sites such as about the wisdom of bringing a dog on an expedition. Climbers noted that some dogs are bred for snowy environments, but other hikers wondered about potential risks for the animals.

Velvet’s owner, Matty Bryant, did not respond to requests for an interview Tuesday. Velvet suffered cuts and scrapes on her feet from exposure to the snow and went home with bandages, antibiotics and pain medication. She was expected to make a full recovery.

What do you think? I took my Lab on backpacking trips in the Sierras when I was a kid, but there was no technical climbing involved and no snow, either. She didn't go up Whitney with me and she never went anywhere that she couldn't easily be carried out.

Fewer snowmobiles, better air

A new study by the National Park Service shows the air quality at two of the most popular winter spots in Yellowstone National Park continues to improve. Levels of carbon monoxide and particulates at West Yellowstone, the park's west entrance, and Old Faithful, are well below national ambient air-quality standards. The pollutants have decreased since the park lowered the number of snowmobiles allowed in, and because of new requirements that all snowmobiles meet noise and emissions standards.

10-year-old OK after 50-foot fall from chairlift

Kids and chairlifts are a dangerous combination. The chairs aren't made for little people, and once you take off, you're on your own to hold on. Monday in Aspen, a young skier visiting from Germany slipped off a chair on the Cloud Nine Lift at Aspen Highlands. She was riding with other students in ski school. The safety bar wasn't lowered, and she began slipping from the lift at one of its highest points. Miraculously, the girl (who was wearing a helmet) wasn't seriously injured.

The crowds have left, but the snow hasn't

It's warm and sunny in Colorado Springs. Pretty hard to imagine new snow in the mountains. But check out the reports. Breck has 6 inches. Vail has 6. Silverton has 10. Warm air and sun are now hovering over the Rockies. This is the type of ski day people tell stories about.

Just be careful if you are skiing out of bounds. New snow and wind has made for a squirrely snowpack in most of the state. Let the recent avy deaths in other states serve as a reminder. The stakes are high.

And they wonder why some people make fun of them

A group of Wisconsin snowmobilers set out for some sleddin' last Thursday in the woods near Clark, Colorado. After a few hours of "Git 'er done" they had gotten lost, gotten all but one of their snowmobiles stuck in several inches of new snow, and run out of gas.
Here the La Crosse Tribune takes over the story:
"When their last snowmobile ran out of gas, the seven young men, including brothers Colton and Cody Lechnir of La Crosse, tried to blow it up. Create smoke. Signal their location. Alert rescuers.But it failed. The engine didn’t have enough gas left to flame [uh, yeah, remember guys, you're out of gas] and the blizzard on the mountain near was too thick for anyone to see through, anyway. The men began hiking through the snow drifts, at times sinking up to their armpits.“We’d go two minutes and feel like we just ran a marathon,” Colton Lechnir said."
They were able to build a fire to keep warm. A day later, they were rescued by other snowmobilers.
“Going through that gave me a whole new appreciation for everything I have,” Colton said.
Hopefully, that includes the gas gauge.
Here's the full story from the La Crosse Tribune.

Monday, February 19, 2007

New improved

We just got a note from on what's new on the site for the upcoming climbing season. There's a lot to like.

*Route "Stash" Photos:
4,500 high-resolution route photos for nearly every route in the Online Guidebook.

*3D Peak Models:
3-dimensional peak models are now available for each of the 14ers.

*3D Route Flyovers:
3-dimensional route flyover videos using satellite photos and 3D imaging software.

*3D Topographical (Map) Route Flyovers:
3-dimensional topo map flyovers provide yet another view of a route. These videos fly above the route in a simulated environment constructed out of topo maps. 3D Topo Flyovers

*TOPO! (National Geographic GPS/Mapping Software Downloads:
Many of us use the Nat Geo TOPO! software for mapping, route plotting, and as a primary interface to a GPS unit. The files contain a route line that was plotted using a GPS unit on one or more hikes. Using TOPO!, the raw data can be converted to waypoints and uploaded to your GPS for use on a hike.

*More Flexible Route "Print" Pages: Make it easier for you to customize and print out the routes you want.

Not-so-happy trail

We had a limited window to get out and catch some fresh air Sunday. We thought perhaps the trails at Red Rock Canyon would be dry - at least more so than at other parks. It does get a lot of sun, we rationalized.

Well, we still had a great time, but under less-than-desirable conditions. Mud, mud, mud. And because it doesn't do the trails any good to widen them by avoiding the mud, we trudged on. Some areas were perfectly fine. Others. Well. Not so much.

Did you get out? Where? What are conditions? Where should I hike this afternoon if I can get outta here early?

(What happened to my trip to Monarch? A snafu here at work prevented me getting away. Sometimes the stars align in ways we can't imagine.)

Remembering Ford

U.S. post offices and other federal buildings have to have an act of Congress before they get a name change. Ski resports can do it just because. Vail and Beaver Creek resorts are honoring the late President Gerald Ford by naming ski trails for him. Ford,who died in December at age 93, had a home in Beaver Creek. In his younger days, Ford was an avid skier. Vail will rename the lower part of the Giant Steps Trail "38" in honor of the 38th president, and Beaver Creek is renaming its Pitchfork trail, which winds past Ford's former home, "President Ford's" trail.
We aren't looking for the proposed Beaver Creek alpine slide to have any Ford designations. The late president was among BC residents who opposed that attraction.

Mount Hood climbers are found, all alive

The three climbers who had fallen on Oregon's Mount Hood were found alive Monday morning. Here's the AP story:
GOVERNMENT CAMP, Ore. (AP) — Rescuers who camped out on MountHood set out at daybreak Monday to try to reach three climbers who fell from a snowy ledge and were huddled in sleeping bags and cuddled with a dog amid ferocious winds and blowing snow. “They are on the move,” Russell Gubele, coordinating communications for the rescue operation, said of the rescuers. Other rescue teams from the ground were also on the way to the site, which is believed to be around the 8,300-foot level on the11,239-foot mountain. The rescuers, about 30 in all, were hoping to beat a snowstorm expected later in the day. The three climbers, two women and a man, fell on Sunday. They are believed to be good shape. Rescuers were moving into the White River Canyon, where the climbers had taken shelter behind rocks during the night. They were moving cautiously because of a “very severe avalanche danger,”Gubele said. Rescuers planned to “blanket that canyon” in search of the three climbers, he said. Teams had reached the general area earlier Monday, but they decided to wait until daybreak because they couldn’t see anything ,Gubele said, and “it’s extremely treacherous up where they are. One false step could be not good.” Battling winds up to 70 mph and blowing snow, rescue teams had worked through the night trying to locate the climbers. The three who fell were part of an eight-person party that set out on Saturday, camped on the mountain that night, and then began to come back down on Sunday when they ran into bad weather,officials said. As they were descending, the three slipped off a ledge. Someone in the party placed an emergency call to authorities. The sheriff said the group was thought to be well equipped and have GPS capabilities, cell phones, mountain locator units and adequate climbing essentials. Rescue officials were in frequent cell phone contact with the three who had fallen. The three had gotten into their sleeping bags to stay warm. “They also have a Labrador dog with them that is cuddled up with them to help them keep warm,” Gubele told AP Broadcast News. “My understanding is that they are experienced rock climbers, but not necessarily experienced in mountain climbing.” Still, officials were worried. “There’s always danger of exposure on Mount Hood,” Gubele said. At least one of the three had a mountain locator unit, which emits signals used to find missing or stranded climbers. Rescuers were using the signals to try to locate their precise position. “They’re wet, shivering and cold,” said Jim Strovink, a spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office. “Hopefully we’ll be able to home right in on their exact location.” Sgt. Sean Collinson, a spokesman for the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office, said the two women appeared to have suffered some bumps and bruises and their male companion is in good condition. He said all three “were in fairly good spirits when we talked to them on the phone.” The drama began shortly before noon Sunday, when someone in an eight-person climbing party called emergency dispatchers to say three of the climbers had fallen about 100 feet off a cliff. Battling snow and high winds, a team of rescue mountaineers scrambled up the mountain to search. The other members of the party were told to dig a snow cave and wait for help. Authorities said the climbers’ electronic locator device helped rescuers find them. One of the devices was activated after the fall, authorities said. The five rescued climbers were taken to Timberline Lodge, a ski resort at the 6,000-foot level of Mount Hood, and all are reported in good condition, the sheriff’s office said in an e-mail. At a news conference at the lodge, one of the rescued climbers, Trevor Liston of Portland said he was optimistic for companions still on the mountain: “So far, they’re doing pretty good up there from what we’ve heard.” Liston said he saw the three fall but didn’t say how it happened. The names of the other climbers have not been released. The mountain can be treacherous, particularly in the winter. In December, search teams scoured Mount Hood for days in the hopes offinding a group of missing climbers alive. The bodies of Brian Hallof Dallas and Jerry “Nikko” Cooke of New York have not been found. Another climber in their group, Kelly James of Dallas died of hypothermia. In the past 25 years, more than 35 climbers have died on the11,239-foot mountain, one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

20 years later, remembering "The big one" avalanche

The Summit Daily has a good 2-part series this weekend on a slide that killed 4 skiers and caught 4 more in 1987. It's an interesting tale of ignoring warning signs, mayhem, destruction and how a small community comes together in an emergency.
Here's a link:

If you happen to be in Summit County tonight, there's a lecture on the slide.

When and Where: 7 p.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18; The Village in Breckenridge, Forest Room.
What: Nick Logan and Brad Sawtell of the Summit County Office, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, will present a slide show on the Peak 7 slide that killed four people in 1987.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Is Dave full of it.

After today's story about Utah vs. Colorado skiing (I said basically that Utah is snowier, but both are nice) skiing, I got this email. Anyone else who has skied both have a take?

Hi Dave,

What a timely article. My wife and I just returned from a ski trip to Utah. I have to tell you, the reason we go there is that there is no comparison. Colorado's ski freeways, with the over-developed base areas, are resorts made to take money from people from Ohio and Texas. I can enjoy a day here, and appreciate some of the discounts the resorts offer locals in the pre-season, but the challenge of the actual skiing is very limited in Summit County.
In your sidebar you declare Colorado harder based on the number of black runs. First, I'll point out that there is no objective standard. To that end, I've skied double-diamonds at Vail that would be blue runs at Snowbird or Alta. At least you admit later in your article that Utah is steeper. I suppose the real difficulty in Summit County is dodging rocks in the moguls.
The availability of a variety challenges is why I make an annual trip to Jackson, Salt Lake City, or Taos. Crested Butte and Steamboat are nice if they get 70+ inches of base (and the 'Boat usually does), but they aren't a day trip.
Colorado has some enjoyable skiing. but the difference between Colorado and Utah is the difference between McDonalds and a burger I'd grill at home.


The mother of all mountain races

The Gore-Tex TransRockies Run is looking for runners. For this first-ever event, 150 teams of two will run, eat, and live together as they cover 125 miles Sept. 16-21. Based upon the popular Gore-Tex TransAlpine Run in Europe and the TransRockies/TransAlps mountain bike races, the TransRockies Run will feature a multi-day point-to-point format. The race will start at Beaver Creek Resort and go through Leadville to Aspen on a course of single-track trails and forest roads with nearly 25,000 feet of elevation gain. Each night, racers will be fed and housed in a tent city with showers and other amenities; the next morning, they run another stage until they complete seven stages. There are seven stages; a day's mileage ranges from 10 miles to 29 miles. To register or get more information, go to

Should it be the law?

How far should the government go to make sure we're safe in the mountains? Several Oregon lawmakers want to improve the odds of climbers' survival by requiring them to wear electronic locators above 10,000 feet on Mount Hood. Mount Hood is one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world, and in the past 25 years, more than 35 climbers have died there. Rep. John Lim, chief sponsor, contends that three climbers who perished in December might be alive had they carried the devices, which send electronic signals that can give search and rescue teamsthe precise location of stranded climbers. But many climbers are against it, according to an AP story:
“It’s a very dangerous undertaking, but that’s part of the beauty of it,” Dave Sauerbrey, a leader of the Mazamas climbing group, said of mountaineering. No state requires climbers to carry the devices. Lim says Oregon should be the first, especially in view of the December tragedy. Three out-of-state climbers became stranded atop the mountain in gale-force winds and snow that produced whiteout conditions, setting off a rescue operation that made international headlines. Nine days later, after the weather cleared, searchers found the body of Texas climber Kelly James, but his two companions, Brooklyn resident Jerry Cooke and Texan Brian Hall, are still missing, presumed dead. James was able to make a distress call to his family using a cell phone. But the trio did not carry electronic beacons. Lim said having to carry a beacon shouldn’t be that big a deal to climbers and the requirement would cut the cost of search-and-rescue operations. Lim said that seeing the grief of Jerry Cooke’s mother firsthand convinced him that such a law would be worth it if even one life could be saved. “It will send a strong message to climbers — this may save your life and spare your loved one’s misery,” he said. The climbers have a strong ally in Rep. Scott Bruun of WestLinn, a climber who’s been to the summit of Mount Hood a dozen times. “I don’t see this bill passing,” he said. “This was a tragic accident that happened in an extreme sport. This is a situation the Legislature can’t fix.” Rocky Henderson of Portland Mountain Rescue said his group has taken no stand on Lim’s bill, but he believes that “if you try to legislate so much safety, you lose the adventure.” Missing mountain climbers accounted for only 3.4 percent of the total number of search-and-rescue missions mounted in Oregon in 2005 — not a disproportionate share compared with hunters, mushroom pickers or others who get lost in the wilds, Henderson said. “The Oregon Legislature shouldn’t waste time on something that’s such a small problem in the overall scheme of things,” he said. But a lawmaker who’s co-sponsoring the bill said the climbers “are being a little bit selfish” and the legislation would reduce the risks faced by rescuers at high altitudes. “Those rescuers are putting their lives on the line,” says Rep. Jerry Krummel, R-Wilsonville. “I want to give them all the tools they need to help them save lives. This bill does that.” Jim Whittaker, the first American to conquer Mount Everest, said it’s fine for individual climbers to make a decision to carry a locator, but imposing the requirement would take a lot away from the mystique of climbing. “If you take all of the risk out of life, you lose a lot. You’re removing a personal liberty from somebody who wants to goand explore without having a safety net,” Whittaker said by cellphone from Idaho, where he was on a climbing trip. “You want to go into the wild and enjoy nature and not be followed.” Charley Shimanski of the Mountain Rescue Association, which represents 100 search-and-rescue groups in the U.S. and Canada,said he worries that relying on electronic beacons could give climbers a false sense of security. “They might think, ‘I’ve got this gizmo that tells everybody where I am, so I can take greater risks,’ “ Shimanski said in a phone interview from Evergreen, Colo. He called Lim’s bill an “overreaction” to the December deaths. Even if they had locators, the climbers would have likely died because conditions were so perilous, he contended. Outfitters at Mount Hood have offered locator devices to climbers since the worst climbing accident on record at the mountain — a 1986 expedition in which two instructors from theOregon Episcopal School and seven students died after being trapped by a storm. Portland Mountain Rescue estimates that about half the climbers on Mount Hood carry the devices. Climber Terry Cone, who’s ascended the summit of Mount Hood 84 times, had a locator unit when he fell and broke a leg on a recent climb. He activated the device, but credits his rescue to quick action by other climbers who notified Portland Mountain Rescue. Volunteers climbed to reach Cone at the 9,000-foot level and brought him down on a sled. Cone said he thinks anyone who climbs Mount Hood should be equipped with an electronic beacon — but he opposes making it mandatory. “What are you going to do, have a cop on every corner of the mountain to enforce this?” Cone said. “You cannot legislate this stuff.”

Snow alert

Just got a call from a friend on ski patrol in Breck. They have severe winds, but have also clocked over 10 inches since 5 a.m. They may close down the lifts. Could make for amazing conditions Saturday.

Cheyenne State Park a money pit?

I'm following up now on this story the Denver Post carried yesterday. It's nice to see someone questioning why the state wants to build so many buildings in a place that's supposed to be a park.

State parks denied funds from lottery
By Jeremy P. Meyer Denver Post Staff Writer
The Colorado State Parks Division will not receive $8.5 million in lottery funds until officials clear up accounting issues and explain why they want to build luxury cabins in a new park.
Great Outdoors Colorado has not released 2007 money to the parks because board members are concerned about the lack of information on how the lottery money is being spent. Board members are particularly concerned about the newly opened Cheyenne Mountain State Park in south Colorado Springs.
"How can you give someone new money if they can't account for how they are spending it?" said GOCO's executive director John Swartout. "The door to the park isn't even open yet, and they want to build the Taj Mahal."

For the rest of the article, click here.

Four days of snow in a row

I can personally attest that the snow in the highcountry is (in the parlance of our time) dope. (See my post below.) And it just keeps getting better. Snow yesterday. Snow today. And it's s'posed to be warm Saturday. Anyone without a fear of crowds should go skiing this weekend. Wear a helmet, the yahoos are afoot.

outdoor school sues back

We wrote about this last summer. A 29-year-old died on an a survival trek with the Boulder Outdoor Survival School. It sparked a conversation over liability. Basically, do you know what you're getting into when you sign up for one of these courses? How far should trek leaders push their clients?

According to the AP, the Boulder outdoor school has filed a suit against the estate of Dave Buschow, who died, to bar his family from suing the school over his death.

Buschow died in the first 24 hours of what was to be a month-long trek in the Utah desert. His death occurred during a period called "impact," when the only food and water allowed come from sources found in the desert.

An autopsy report concluded that Buschow died of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, according to the lawsuit.
The suit contends that a series of lengthy release forms Buschow signed prevents his relatives from suing the Boulder Outdoor Survival School, or BOSS.

Buschow's family has not yet filed a lawsuit and could not be reached for comment.

Buschow died the evening of July 17 after a day of hiking. His group found water at least once during the day, according to the lawsuit, and course guides regularly checked students' vital signs. That night, guides noticed Buschow was not breathing and called for a rescue helicopter.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Heading to the high country to hit the fresh powder? Plan ahead for a little apres ski action and join one of many Mardi Gras celebrations. (That's a Mardi Gras parade at Crested Butte, above.)

Breckenridge plans live music, Cajun cuisine and beads, beads, beads!

Join the parade at Keystone, and then sample gumbo and other foods, listen to music and dance in the streets.

Winter Park plans a Crawfish Boil at Doc's Roadhouse and a Low Country Shrimp Boil at Club Car. There'll be beads, beads, beads, hurricane specials and live music by Jean-Pierre.

Snowmass celebrates its 25th Fat Tuesday bash with an uphill race, bead and prize throw, crawdad boils, parade, music and more. (See "Entire Resort Calendar" at the link. They're not making it easy to find.)

Another parade, more music and food and fun will take over Copper Mountain. style with parades, music, parties and more.

Grab your baubles, boas, masks and beads and join the party at Crested Butte. Parade? Oh, yeah, there's a parade.

Vail goes all out, stretching parties, a parade, food, music and other fun over three days.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

When 2 inches equals a foot

I didn't go to work today. I went to Breckenridge instead (which sometimes is going to work, but not this time.) The mountain has recieved 2 inches of snow in the last 24 hours. I was expecting good, but not great snow. How wrong I was. I decided to go all the way to the top of the mountain on the T bar. There was no line. The wind was howling so much on the way up that I often couldn't see the T bar in front of me. By the time I got to the top, I was expecting horrible storm-scowered hardpack. And that's what it was on top. But just over the lip lay deep, deep untracked powder that had been stashed in the bowl by the wind. It was heaven. I didn't cross another ski track in the entire 1,000-foot run. By the time I got back up to the top to hit the freshies again, the wind had filled in my previous tracks. It was the same way all day. And it will probably be the same way Friday. If you can disappear for a while, get thee to the T Bar.

A really great shoe

A lot of folks have written and called to ask about snowshoeing. If you're not headed to the slopes or to a Mardi Gras party Saturday, head to Estes Park between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for Winter Trails Day and try snowshoeing for free.

There'll be plenty of snowshoes to test and experienced shoers to lead short hikes. Lots of other activities, too.

You can read a full schedule, see photos from last year, and even see trail maps online.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Calling all 2-wheelers

If you're a cyclist interested in making this region a better place for all human-powered two-wheelers, head to REI on Thursday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for the Pikes Peak Area Bikeways Coalition meeting.

What is this group working toward? Focusing local efforts for maximum results; applying for LAB's Bicycle Friendly Community Award, gathering support for local events.

How can you get involved? Attend the meeting; man a table at Earth Day; work and/or ride the Starlight Spectacular; help build the freeride area at Red Rock Canyon Open Space. There are plenty of ways to get involved, have fun, and make a difference.

In praise of trekking poles

We're seeing more and more hikers on the trails using trekking poles. Treking pole fans swear by them for their ability to help ease stress on the lower body. Now, a university study backs that up. The study, by investigators at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., and Willamette University in Salem, Ore., found that using poles while hiking downhill appears to ease muscle activity and strain on the knees and ankles, even when hiking with a heavy pack.
Here's the rest of the AP story: “The poles were effective across the board, with or without the pack,” says lead author Michael Bohne, an assistant professor of biomechanics at Western Illinois University. Fifteen male hikers recruited from a Salem hiking club were studied while walking down a specially designed ramp with embedded sensors to detect impact. In separate trials, they walked with and without poles while wearing either no pack, a light pack (15 percent of body weight) or a heavy pack (30 percent of body weight). According to the mathematical models used by the investigators, use of trekking poles resulted in a significant decrease in pressure to the ankle and knee joints, suggesting that they could, in the long term, reduce pain and overuse injuries.

What deserves to be a black diamond?

A recent story in the Summit Daily News got me thinking -- What type of ski run deserves to be rated expert? And are resorts giving some hard blue runs a pass to make skiers and tort lawyers better about themselves.
The story was about British Columbia columnist G.D. Maxwell's impressions on a recent visit to Vail.
The story says:
In Vail, he found the trail map hard to believe: 53 percent of terrain
rated most difficult. "It's a feel-good, better-than-you-are marketing spin. Either that, or it's a paranoid fear of litigation," he reported. Blue Sky Basin he described as a "panorama of hero blacks, braggin' blacks, blacks in
name only. In fact, anything that doesn't get groomed in Vail gets tagged
black diamond. Virtually nothing in the Back Bowls gets groomed. Ergo, all
men are Socrates. So much for the theory that diamonds are a hedge against

So... is there slope inflation? Is what used to be a blue now a black? Or does it just seem that way because lighter, shaped skis and drastically better boots have made skiing easier. I was talking to a woman who taught skiing for 32 years a few days ago. She said "You hardly need to teach anymore. With today's skis people can just get on and go."

On the other hand, there are black slopes at Vail that are pretty clearly blue.

Two days of snow bring the return of decent skiing

After a windy, dry February that left ski slopes hard and icy, ski areas finally have some relief in the form of a two day storm. Summit County picked up a respectable 5 to 9 inches last night. Winter Park has 9. Beaver Creek, (pictured above) which seems to be garnering the lion's share of snow in this year's weather pattern, pulled in 10. Wolf Creek has 8 inches on top of an 86-inch base. That's on top of similar amounts yesterday. For complete reports, click here.
Life is good. Go skiing.
I have every intention of skipping work tomorrow to ski with an old friend who is in town for a few days.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Ever been stuck on I-70?

And found the three hour wait was caused by some numb-skull truck driver who didn't put his chains on? According to the folks at Colorado Ski Country USA, State Representative Dan Gibbs has proposed a new law to increase the penalties for trucks that don't chain up when chain laws are in effect to $500.
The bill is up for hearing at 9:30 Thursday.
Ski Country USA is urging miffed ski commuters to send an email voicing support for the bill (House Bill 1229.) Include your first name and the name of the city or town where you live. Send it to

Freezing rain in Colorado Springs

Sunny on the peak. See for yourself this shot from 8:30 this morning.

Dogs get altitude sickness?

The question showed up recently on and, according to the International Society of Mountain Medicine, based in Ridgway Colorado, the answer is yes.
Dogs can at least become afflicted with acute mountain sickness (AMS). A dog with AMS "goes off its feed, becomes listless, doesn't want to do much," signs very similar to those exhibited by humans, according to the societies president, Dr. Peter Hackett. One indicator that he pointed to was tongue color. The tongues of afflicted dogs, much like humans, would become "mildly dusky." The dogs all responded well to returning to lower elevations.
Cats are smart enough to not let their owners take them anywhere in the first place, so they are generally safe.
For more on how to handle AMS in dogs, click here.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Out, but not too far out

This fun fact from the Leisure Trends Group: Twenty-eight percent of the population went car camping in the last year, but only 5.6% wandered one-quarter mile or more from their car to sack out.

Other random recreation tidbits from the Boulder-based trend watchers:

+ Two percent of the population consider dancing a sport.

+ Every 90 days, 60 percent of the population makes a sport or recreation product purchase.

+ On an average day, 11% of Americans have all day free to do whatever they want.

Tragedy on ice

The mood was somber at Twin Lakes this weekend, where a recovery effort was under way. Search and rescue volunteer divers were looking for the body of a snowmobiler who had driven off the ice. The driver, whose body was found Saturday afternoon, hit open water while driving his machine Friday night. In the daylight, thin ice that bordered the edge of the open water near the power plant. But at night, those markers would be harder to see. But even with that tragedy unfolding at Twin Lakes, the ice was dotted with the trucks and cars of ice fishermen. The ice at Twin Lakes varied in thickness, and it made me wonder how much ice is safe ice? The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, in the land of 1,000 lakes, has a Web site about ice safety that says that 4" of new clear ice is the minimum thickness for foot travel; 5" for snowmobiles and ATVs, and 8-12" for cars and small trucks.

Ski instructor dies hitting tree

Ski instructor Chris Bove, 35, died Sunday after hitting a tree Saturday while skiing at Snowmass. According to the Aspen Times, Bove was skiing alone on Whispering Jesse in the Big Burn area on his day off. He was a nine-year veteran ski instructor with Aspen Skico and six-year ski instructor with Challenge Aspen, a local nonprofit adaptive skiing program for the disabled.
If I'm keeping count right, he is the 5th death this year. Almost all of them have been tree related. No word on whether he was wearing a helmet.

Forget Ludakris

The award for best rapper should go to the Northern Flicker. This cavity-nesting bird chills in Colorado all winter, but at the start of spring, males stake out their territory by rapping their beaks on any surface that will make a lot of noise. Metal roof flashing seems to be popular.
Anyway, I heard this homeboy rapping on my neighbor's roof this morning. Is spring coming? Yes, but so is more snow, by tomorrow morning. Word is bond.

New meeting for Pike Forest plan comments

The Pike and San Isabel National Forests are drawing up a new management plan, and Colorado Springs Residents finally will have a chance to comment. The Forest Service scheduled a handful of meetings this winter, but none were in Colorado Springs. The closest, in Black Forest, was so overpacked that organizers turned away 50 cars.
Now Colorado Springs-area residents will get a second chance to weigh in on how the Pike and San Isabel forests will be used in decades to come. A workshop will be held from 5:30 to 9 p.m. March 6 in the Grand Ballroom of the Doubletree Hotel at 1775 E. Cheyenne Mountain Blvd.

Friday, February 09, 2007

So, where's Deb?

Spending the weekend - or part of it - with local ice divers, also known as this. Because it isn't cold enough when there's snow and ice above ground, apparently. For REAL fun, you need to dive below the ice of Colorado's lakes and reservoirs.

She'll report on it in coming weeks - as soon as everyone thaws and their teeth stop chattering.

The photo above is courtesy of Deep Sea Systems and NOAA, from a dive in the Canada Basin. Brrrr. But beautiful, no?


(that's Sealed With A Kiss, kids)

Tie the knot in style - at 12,000 feet outside Ptarmigan Roost Cabin at Loveland Ski Area - on Valentine's Day, natch.

Loveland's 16th annual Marry Me & Ski For Free mountaintop matrimonial gig is Wednesday (ahem, Valentine's Day - hint, hint). It's a noon. You gotta be able to ride up and ski or ride your board down (beginner and intermediate runs) to participate or spectate. There'll be a reception with food, drinks, music and prizes at the base area.

Registration ends Monday, so pop the question now and coordinate your outfits over the weekend. Couples pay $52 for 2. Guests pay $52 a piece for their lift ticket. The reception is $15 a head for guests. It's free for newlyweds unless you fail to register, so get on it!

Couples must have a valid Colorado Marriage License. Click here for Clear Creek County info.

Find your treasure

In an effort to lure us out of our cozy homes and into the forests, state park officials have hidden GPS units and books that are free to the finders.

They're tucked away in select cabins and yurts.

Did I mention writer Dave Philipps is on a yurt trip this weekend? Hmmmm. I think TV writer Andy Wineke is with him. I hope they bring back a new toy.

The giveaway is part of the state's Love Your State Parks program. Don't worry, you didn't pay for treasures. The GPS units were donated by the Foundation for Colorado State Parks. REI and Fulcrum Publishing donated copies of the locally written book “The Essential Guide to Geocaching.”

Let us know if your pirate skills pay off. Arrgh!

The treasures are hidden at cabins and yurts in:

Cabin and yurt amenities vary, but all have either electric, propane or wood stove heat.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Soup in the Springs, sunny on the peak

This is a live shot from the peak this morning. Notice the layer of clouds over the city, but beautiful hiking weather above.

Hits and misses from the 2007 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market

Out There went to the largest winter gear expo in the world, which, for five days every January, attracts about 15,000 gear manufacturers and buyers from around the globe. Established companies use it as a chance to show off their latest stuff. Up-and-comers use it as a chance to gain exposure.
Here's a sampling of what was hot, and what was not, at this year's show.

Vibram's new FiveFinger shoes. Yes, they look ridiculous, but so do Crocs and look how big they are. The idea with these is the freedom of being barefoot without the danger of cutting your foot.

The hiking boot with the flippable ice cleat. Flip to the metal cleats when it's slick. Flip to the regular sole when it's not. It's like built-in Yaktrax. But the flimsy look had lots of buyers saying "no thanks."


The retro-stylings of Patagonia's new "Freebox" jacket. Apparently the irony of naming an expensive boutique jacket after Telluride's communal hand-me-down box on Main Street doesn't hurt the allure of this sleek coat. It would look great with a "No Nukes" shirt.


The space blanket stylings of the Solatech aerovest. This 2 oz emergency vest made of mylar inflates until it looks like a Martian's down jacket. It's small and easy to store. Too bad it looks like it should be stored under a seat on an airplane.


Drinking tubes that give your Nalagene or other water bottle all the advantages of a Camelbak, without the floppiness. We saw these all over the show


Sleek looking Sigg water bottles. The European company rolled out some great graphics, but we don't think these aluminum bottles will ever catch on. It feels too much like drinking out of a fuel bottle. Yuck.


Everything you could possibly stick an LED light on. These waterproof baubles that can be used as a zipper pull, or attached to just about anything you need to see in the dark.

Wedding cake mountaineers. OK, it's kind of cute, but figures on the cake are sooo cheesy. Real mountaineering couples get married on distant summits, where there are no cakes, hence no figurines.


Socks made of corn. You can't eat these. The corn has been changed into polyester fibers. But, with Fox River Socks, you can wear them with the comfort that they weren't made using foreign oil, so you're helping the American farmer (corporate or not), not a distant despot.


The much touted new telemark ski binding system from Rottefella, humbly called the NTN, or New Telemark Norrm. This binding was all the hype at the show, but testers gave it a lukewarm review. It's heavy. It's hingy. It's expensive. And with Black Diamond releasing it's own step-in, releasable telemark binding next year, it may be the Beta of the free-heel world.

Smith Optics helmet, goggle, phone, iPod integration systems.
Smith's goggles fit perfectly with its helmets. Even the vents line up. If that wasn't cool enough the new Skull Candy audio system allows you to have headphones in your helmet that are connected to your music and your phone. The phone rings, the music automatically turns down. Hang up, the volume goes up again. Yowza.