Ski Mountaineering Has Its Ups and Downs – WSJ

Kaitlyn Archambault’s ski mountaineering gear includes lightweight La Sportiva RSR carbon skis with low-tech ATK bindings; adjustable poles; lightweight Dynafit pack; helmet; lightweight Dynafit PDG boot, that buckle into ‘walk’ or ‘ski’ mode; buffs; warm hat; a lightweight layer to wear while skinning uphill; gloves for skinning; goggles; skins; water bottle; down mittens; ski strap; headband. PHOTO: TRENT BONA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

by Jen Murphy, The Wall Street Journal 

Skiing up a mountain might seem … counterintuitive. But people always on the lookout for a new fitness challenge may want to skip the ski lift and earn their downhill run by “skinning” uphill first.

Kaitlyn Archambault was introduced to ski mountaineering, also known as “skimo,” when she moved to Crested Butte, Colo., last year. It involves skiing both downhill and uphill. Skiers attach a pair of fabric strips called skins to the bottoms of their skis for traction on the trip up.

“People talked about going skinning like they were going to spin class,” says Ms. Archambault, a 32-year-old paralegal at Huckstep Law, LLC. “It’s a very foreign concept if you don’t live in a mountain town.”

Ms. Archambault is a longtime downhill skier, and after attending a ski-mountaineering camp, she decided to train for the Gore-Tex Grand Traverse. The ski-mountaineering race takes place March 25 and 26, starting at midnight in Crested Butte. The 40-mile traverse with 7,800 feet of vertical gain reaches its finish in Aspen. It requires at least 10 hours of uphill and downhill motion and is done in teams of two. “My boyfriend bravely signed on with me,” she says.

Ms. Archambault used to be a runner but suffered iliotibial (IT) band pain after she ran a marathon in 2011. “Ski mountaineering gives me the same cardio rush as running, but it’s lower impact,” she says. Being in the back country—on unpatrolled, ungroomed terrain—surrounded by nature, away from the crowds, is what appeals to her most.

“It’s very meditative to be outside in the fresh air taking in unbelievable views,” she says. Recently, she says, she and her boyfriend, Zach Guy, director of the Crested Butte Avalanche Center, were out for eight hours. “It’s the best thing in the world to be in the wilderness, powering yourself across the mountain.”

Ms. Archambault says major components of ski mountaineering are learning the basics of back country avalanche safety, as well as how to layer and fuel properly. The transition from uphill to downhill takes practice. “Some people can just kick a foot up, rip the skin off the bottom of their skis and then be zooming downhill,” she says. “When I need to put my skins on or off, I use it as a chance to catch my breath.”

Training has given her extra incentive to get in a workout during the winter months, Ms. Archambault says. “When you leave work at 5 and it’s dark out, all you want to do is go home. But once I get up on the mountain under the stars with my headlamp, I completely decompress. It’s a great way to end the day.”

The Workout
Ms. Archambault skins two to three evenings during the week. After work, she usually heads to Crested Butte Mountain Resort and aims to go uphill for 45 to 60 minutes before skiing down. “The slopes are groomed and safe,” she says. “I go up with a headlamp. It’s cold, but once you get moving it’s invigorating.” On weekends she goes for longer back country tours, anywhere from four to eight hours, with Mr. Guy.

Ms. Archambault on the downhill portion of a workout. When she does training intervals on the uphill, she says, ‘it’s like hell for me, like an hour-long, redlining, anaerobic nightmare. But I go into a different mind-set and push myself harder.’ PHOTO: TRENT BONA FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Some days she brings her dog and skins up a trail through the woods on Snodgrass Mountain. On many Tuesday nights, she meets a group of women who do an uphill interval workout on skis. “It’s like hell for me, like an hour-long, redlining, anaerobic nightmare,” Ms. Archambault says. “But I go into a different mind-set and push myself harder.”

Two mornings a week she rides 45 minutes on a bike trainer, and once a week she pops in a yoga DVD. “I’m not good at stretching, but my body feels the difference and thanks me when I do yoga,” she says.

Gear & Cost
Ms. Archambault says ski mountaineering isn’t a cheap sport to get into. Alpine touring skis can range from $600 to $1,300 and tech bindings cost between $300 and $800. She uses Lightweight La Sportiva RSR carbon skis with low-tech ATK Bindings. She looks for deals on a gear-swap Facebook page. Skins range from $100 to $250, and poles from $75 to $200. She says superlight race Alpine touring boots can cost up to $2,000, but you can find them on Craigslist for $400.

“If I was paying $200 a month for a gym membership, it would probably cost more in the long run,” she says. “This is, for the most part, a one-time investment on the main gear.”

She wears a Lululemon Swiftly Tech long-sleeve base layer, which retails for $68. “I generally pooh-pooh spending a lot of money on a shirt, but staying warm is worth the extra cost,” she says. On top of that she wears a Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody, which costs $149. Her Aether Apparel ski pants retail for $375, and her shell, $695. She usually wears two buffs, one around her neck and another as a headband/ear cover.

The Diet
Ms. Archambault tries to make scrambled eggs for breakfast but often runs out the door with peanut butter on toast. She packs a salad topped with cottage cheese, apples, pears and feta or goat cheese for lunch, and keeps nuts at her desk for snacking. She always has piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon. Dinner is salmon with couscous and broccoli, or a curry over quinoa. Her boyfriend, races mountain bikes in the summer. “He has an incentive to eat well, and that rubs off on me,” she says. Her ski pack is full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Honey Stinger energy chews, trail mix with extra M&Ms, a thermos of tea and another with soup. “After a long day out on the mountain, all I crave is a good beer,” she says.

The Playlist
“When I skin at night, I love the silence and solitude,” she says. If she skins during the day, or rides the bike trainer, the songs that get her going include “Next Episode” by Dr. Dre, “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn and “Dangerous” by the Ying Yang Twins. “If one of those three songs comes on I get a second wind,” she says.

Write to Jen Murphy at workout@wsj.com

Source: Ski Mountaineering Has Its Ups and Downs – WSJ

Joel Gratz Knows More About Snow Than Anyone | Outside Online

“I may not be perfect all the time, but my audience realizes that they are better off overall because of what I do for them.”

by Michael Behar, Outside Magazine

Joel Gratz is making me nervous. It’s midmorning on a snowy Colorado day in March, and we’re riding the Sun Up triple chair in Vail’s Back Bowls. Gratz has scooched his butt to the very edge of the seat, and now he’s thrashing his right arm to and fro, determined to capture a few flakes with his mittened fist. Whenever Gratz talks about the weather – snow especially – the 31-year-old meteorologist can forget where he is, speaking in a nonstop stream. “I usually just tune it out,” says his girlfriend, Lauren Alweis, who is skiing with us.

“These flakes are pretty sweet!” Gratz shouts. “And look at the way they’re falling – from northwest to southeast. That’s good! But the moisture layer is thin.”

Gratz, a lifelong skier who lives in Boulder, loves nailing a forecast, and today he did just that, having predicted that Vail would get nearly a foot of new snow. To prove it to the tens of thousands of people who follow his powder forecasts—posted daily on his website, OpenSnow.com—he whips out his iPhone and snaps pictures of freshly covered glades that he’ll upload later. Gratz also has a ruler affixed to a ski pole; ten minutes earlier, he jammed it into the snowpack and photographed that, too. “A week ago I said today would be a very good day,” he says. “It turned out that it was. That’s pretty cool from a weather standpoint.”

Gratz is what weather buffs like me call a microscale forecaster, which means he focuses on a particular kind of weather event (in his case, snowfall) for an audience that is particularly interested (skiers and snowboarders). He got started five years ago, frustrated by his inability to find the tailored forecasts he craved. “I was livid whenever I missed a powder day,” he tells me. “Nobody could forecast them, so I started doing it myself.”

What eventually became OpenSnow started with an e-mail to 38 friends, sent on December 17, 2007, which said: “You’re on this list because you know there’s nothing better than the feeling of skiing in deep, untracked powder!” Gratz’s first advisory predicted dumps at various Colorado resorts, including Vail, Aspen, and Steamboat. “Friday could be a great day to play hooky,” he wrote. A buddy pinged back, “You are a great man! People will sing songs about you.”

Today, OpenSnow, which went live in 2010, attracts a million unique visitors a year, including 1,600 members who pay up to $45 annually to receive customized powder alerts by e-mail and time-lapse video feeds from the slopes at 24 Colorado resorts. OpenSnow has also expanded to cover Lake Tahoe, New England, Utah, and portions of the mid-Atlantic. Each region gets its own forecaster, handpicked by Gratz for both weather knowledge and powder addiction.
OpenSnow is one of several newfangled websites offering such fine-tuned information, on everything from surf conditions to wind speeds for kiteboarders to the likelihood that thunderstorms will drench your mountain-bike ride. These sites exist because they meet a demand that government weather agencies aren’t filling.

“Government forecasts don’t focus on the recreational side of weather—the fun side,” Gratz points out. The sole mission of the National Weather Service (NWS) is to protect lives and property. For this reason, its winter forecasts often cover hundreds of square miles and are intended mainly to scare drivers off the roads during snowstorms. OpenSnow targets people who want to put themselves in the crosshairs of a blizzard.

Prior to one snowstorm last March, Gratz projected different snow totals for Copper Mountain and Vail, even though the two resorts are only 12 miles apart. The NWS, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), would never bother with such a distinction. After the front rolled through, Copper had amassed only two inches, while Vail got nine – a difference Gratz saw coming. A spread like that is momentous to a skier or boarder.

“It’s fun to forecast in Colorado, but holy shit, is it hard,” Gratz says. It helps, he says, that “I’ve got a little bit of OCD in me. But without wanting that powder day myself, I would never have the motivation to do all this work.”

ONLY RECENTLY has weather forecasting become a high-tech business. Back in the 1950s, the NWS refused to issue tornado warnings because the science was notoriously inaccurate. Mike Smith, a senior vice president for AccuWeather, a Pennsylvania company that produces made-to-order forecasts for some 175,000 industry and government clients, recalls that even in 1971, when he got his first job at a TV station in Oklahoma City, they still relied on radars that used World War II technology. “It was considered taboo for meteorologists to issue tornado warnings more than a day out,” he says.

Nowadays, thanks to an explosion in satellite data gathering and supercomputer power, it’s possible to forecast more than two weeks in advance. We can also zoom in on areas of a few square miles and make up-to-the-minute spot forecasts. Smith’s team is beta testing a new system called SkyGuard Mobile, an app that continually monitors your location using the GPS in your smartphone and then alerts you when something nasty is coming. “If you’re a trucker, it can warn you if you’re about to drive into an unexpected ice storm,” Smith says. The app would be indispensable to a mountaineer, he says, or a “fisherman out in a boat as a thunderstorm approaches.”

Generally, meteorologists base their forecasts on three major models. Two of them, the Global Forecasting System and the North American Mesoscale Model, are produced in the United States by the NWS. The third, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, is run by an intergovernmental agency in Britain. There’s ongoing debate among weather nerds about which is best and why, but most agree that the Europeans are kicking our butt, chiefly because they’ve invested more in computers.

To feed these models, data is gathered from dozens of sources. There are remote-sensing satellites that can detect minute atmospheric changes – even “seeing” through clouds to measure subtle temperature shifts on the ground. There are also pulse Doppler radars, which visualize storms in four dimensions (spatially and chronologically). Weather balloons and backyard hobbyists all contribute to the data trove, while the Internet and wireless networks facilitate a grand information exchange.

What’s more, thanks to NOAA and a handful of other taxpayer-funded agencies, virtually everything is available for free, online, with just a few mouse clicks. “There’s a huge potential business for people who want to predict recreational weather,” Smith says.

And that’s exactly what Gratz is doing, working full-time as CEO and overseeing a growing operation that started turning a profit during its second season, with nearly 10 percent of its 18,000 registered users signing up for paid extras in the first two months they were offered. In a recent public message to OpenSnow readers, Gratz confided, “I pay about $200 a year for two websites that provide data, but 98 percent of the data I use to make forecasts is freely available … and OpenSnow wouldn’t exist without it.”
ON VALENTINE’S DAY, a week before I skied with Gratz, we met for lunch at a trendy bistro in downtown Boulder called the Kitchen Next Door. The previous month had been dismal for Colorado snow, but that day it was dumping. Our waiter immediately recognized Gratz – he’s been featured in the Denver Post and on local TV – and wanted to know when to expect the next powder day.

“You should take Thursday off,” Gratz told him.

“Gotta work,” the waiter groaned.

“Switch with someone,” Gratz said, sounding quite serious. “Something big is going to happen. Trust me.” Gratz then launched into a discussion of weather-model behavior that went on until the waiter’s eyes glazed over, as did mine. Gratz didn’t notice: he was already busy checking an iPhone app that displayed animated radar images of the day’s blizzard. “Look at this incoming band of snow!” he said, shoving the screen in my face. “The wind direction!” Eventually, he snapped out of it and started telling me how he got into all this.

Gratz was an only child raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and he loved snow as far back as he can remember. He started skiing at four, and when he was ten he began tracking and charting the weather as a hobby. “In high school, I’d check radar on the Internet in the library to see if it was going to snow enough for us to get out of school,” he told me. “Whenever there was snow, I wanted to know how long it would last, was it heavy or light. I was obsessive.”

Gratz went to Penn State – graduating in 2003 with a bachelor’s in meteorology – and then got a summer internship at the NBC TV affiliate in Philadelphia. “I worked with Glenn ‘Hurricane’ Schwartz,” he said. “I did all the background stuff for the forecasts. But when the cameras shut down, I never knew if anyone was listening or making decisions based on what we just did.”

He nixed the idea of pursuing a career as an on-air weatherman, in part because he didn’t want to end up with a starter job in “bumblefuck nowhere.” During his junior year at Penn State, he got involved in an on-the-ground research project with scientists at the University of Oklahoma who were investigating thunderstorm formation. “That was my first chance to actually see the weather developing,” he said. “We drove all over the plains with radar trucks. But I ruled out research, because you’d get all this data and then have to spend years trying to get grants to write code that would forecast the weather.”

Gratz moved to Colorado in 2003 to work under Roger Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He earned a master’s and tacked on an MBA. In 2006, just out of grad school, he was hired by Boulder-based ICAT, a provider of catastrophic property insurance, to do risk-modeling analysis.

It was a high-paying job, but he hated cubicle life. He would leave work and immediately head home to geek out on local weather at his computer. “Every night, I would look at some stuff, make notes, and after a storm moved through I would check the snow amounts,” he said. “I was looking at the weather for hours a day.”

He got better at identifying potential snow-makers, which he would deconstruct in weekend forecasts that he e-mailed to friends. His list grew to 500 and included professional big-mountain skier and Aspen resident Chris Davenport, who met Gratz at an event in Boulder and asked to be added. “Once he saw it, he realized it was legit and passed it on,” Gratz told me.

After that things ballooned. Gratz started blogging in late 2008, quit his job, and launched OpenSnow (originally called Colorado Powder Forecast) on a shoestring in 2010. He was joined by meteorologist Andrew Murray, who came from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where he’d been designing and coding weather-themed websites. Gratz also recruited Bryan Allegretto, who was writing a popular blog featuring powdercasts for the Lake Tahoe area.

“I had no kids, no wife, and a mortgage half covered by a roommate, so I decided to do it, even though I had no business plan and no clue what I was going to do the rest of the year,” Gratz said. But making money and building a company were never his principal goals. “I wanted to feel useful, really useful,” he said.

POWDER FIENDS aren’t the only ones seeking out—and paying for—microscale technology. At his home in Redmond, Washington, Michael Fagin, founder of a forecasting operation called Washington Online Weather, is able to monitor conditions on Mount Everest—comparing six different models—and advise climbing teams who hire him for the service. “I e-mail detailed forecasts directly to the Base Camp manager,” says Fagin. He’ll also speak to climbers by satellite phone if a fast-moving front could put lives at risk.

AccuWeather and WeatherFlow (which tracks wind speeds for kiteboarders, windsurfers, and sailors) refine their services with proprietary models designed to run on off-the-shelf computers. Both companies collect data from several thousand networked weather stations that dispatch regular reports to their central servers. From this data, meteorologists can run simulations in-house and then compare the outcomes to the conventional models.

Gratz has something similar in mind for OpenSnow. He’s developing a model to compute the impact of wind direction and topography on snow totals at various winter resorts in Colorado. “It should be able to tell us that, when Vail gets a northwest flow, they’ll get twice the amount of snow that other models forecast,” he says.

Gratz plans to test-drive his homegrown model in the fall, when forecast season -begins. At the first sign of snow, he’ll make it part of a daily ritual that has gone unchanged since OpenSnow went live in 2010. Every morning before dawn, working in bed in his underwear, Gratz will check the latest global models, view infrared feeds from satellites, examine Doppler images, and peek at the resort and highway webcams. He’ll note variations in barometric pressure and ripples in the jet stream. Sometimes he’ll call or text ski patrollers he knows: firsthand eyes on the hill. The effort can take as much as three hours, at which point he’ll post his prognosis to OpenSnow, usually by nine. On snow days he often files updates.

The process will get faster for Gratz as emerging technologies mature. One such innovation is the High-Resolution Rapid Refresh model, in development at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder. Alexander MacDonald, who directs the lab, is compiling data from at least 30 sources, some never before used to build weather models. “We pioneered having commercial aircraft send us temperatures and wind speeds every hour,” says MacDonald.

Unlike conventional models, which encompass large regions of the country and take hours and even days to generate, the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model is fast and focused. It carves the U.S. into parcels measuring nine square kilometers. Click on a parcel and you get a “nowcast” for what’s going to occur every 15 minutes forward, out to 24 hours.

Not every inch of the U.S. is modeled (yet), but MacDonald was able to walk me through the process of determining air temperature six feet above the ground, at a precise location near Chicago O’Hare International Airport, 12 hours into the future. Eventually, with added computing power, he intends to shrink the parcel size—or “resolution”—to one kilometer. “By January 2015, all you’ll have to do is download an app to your phone,” MacDonald says. “It will always know where you are and what the weather’s going to be like at your location for the next 12 or 18 hours.”

“Nowcasting is likely the future,” Gratz agrees. “Right now I’d classify it as pretty good much of the time, but not great all of the time. When something fails occasionally, it’s hard to trust it.” So for the moment, Gratz is sticking to the tools that have worked for him—and made him something of a celebrity. While we’re at Vail, admirers intercept him in the lift line. “Thank you, Joel!” a woman gushes, confessing that she’d called in sick to the office because of his forecast. “I love you,” another declares.

OF COURSE, GRATZ sometimes fails, a fact he discusses frankly on a part of his site called Keep Me Honest. For several consecutive days in early April, he assured his readers that a monster powder maker was brewing. “Nearly all resorts will see about 5-10 inches from the storm, with about 10-18 inches for areas east of the [Continental] Divide,” he wrote just 48 hours before the impending storm. He added: “The best days to ski deep snow will be Tuesday … it could be very good.”

On Tuesday, April 9 – the day of reckoning – the system fell apart, and only a couple of areas saw flakes. That afternoon, Gratz posted a mea culpa to OpenSnow: “This storm has certainly turned into a pain in the you know what.” Then he provided an exhaustively detailed postmortem, complete with animated satellite imagery, on what went wrong.

“In retrospect, I’m not sure I would have done anything differently,” Gratz told me later. “Colorado is one of the more difficult places to forecast, because it’s got big topography, chaotic topography. You have all these mountain ranges going every direction with no rhyme or reason.”

Occasionally, Gratz gets surly comments from readers. When a storm didn’t materialize in February, an OpenSnow user lashed out in the site’s comments section: “Two days before the storm, he was calling for significant accumulations over the next two days. That didn’t happen. He was wrong about the overall snowfall in the high country over the last five days by a LONGSHOT.” But in the same thread, many defended Gratz. “Since discovering Joel, I’ve found he’s spot on or in the range 95 percent of the time,” one user wrote. “If chasing pow was the equivalent of the Range Game on The Price Is Right, I’d want Joel sitting in the audience telling me what to do.”

Gratz offers this: “I may not be perfect all the time, but my audience realizes that they are better off overall because of what I do for them.” Some clearly more than others. Shortly before Christmas, an admirer, presumably female, submitted a private message to OpenSnow. “There’s nothing better than reading your forecast for pow every morning while I’m laying in bed,” she wrote. “You look pretty cute in your picture. Are you single?”

When I ask if anything still stumps him, Gratz doesn’t hesitate. “Steamboat Springs,” he says. “It’s the last unexplained thing for me in Colorado. I call it the Steamboat Surprise. Every year they’ll get a foot or two overnight when they should have got a few inches and nobody else gets anything close. It has frustrated me for the better part of eight years, and you can’t explain it due to orographics.”

I sense a dissertation coming, so I interrupt. “I know a tree run that rarely gets skied,” I say. “It’ll be untouched.” Suddenly, the other Gratz reappears. “I’m game,” he says. “Show me the way.”

Michael Behar (@michaelbehar) wrote about gene-based endurance research in February 2011.

Source: Joel Gratz Knows More About Snow Than Anyone | Outside Online

Athletes Go Live To Gain Attention

by Jayme Moye, 5280 magazine

Last May, alpinist and professional photographer Cory Richards, who was a resident of Boulder at the time, shared his ascent of Mt. Everest live via Snapchat. His stream, titled #EverestNoFilter, introduced hundreds of thousands of viewers to vertiginous peaks and stunning vistas—as well as some of the climb’s more unsavory aspects (e.g., packing out poop).

It marked the first time anyone has provided a live, unedited look at what it’s like to climb the world’s tallest mountain on what’s become one of the fastest-growing social media platforms.

Richards’ broadcast is just one example of how Colorado athletes are flocking to real-time feeds as a new outlet to reach their fans. Aspen resident and big-mountain skier Chris Davenport jump-started the trend in November 2015 when he became the first person to use Facebook Live from Antarctica. Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram all have invested significant dollars in live-streaming capabilities since then, making it easier than ever for followers to watch your moves as they happen. (Snap Inc.’s version of Google Glass, called Spectacles, launched in November.) “It’s kind of like how reality television took off in the ’90s,” Davenport says. “Only this is reality internet.”

When it comes to extreme adventuring, though, nothing is easy. In contrast to static social media posts, live video streams require Wi-Fi or a 4G connection on your mobile phone. In remote areas of the world, that means tapping into the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), a satellite network that provides internet coverage nearly everywhere on Earth. Users connect to one of BGAN’s three geostationary satellites through a portable, laptop-size terminal, which creates a Wi-Fi hot spot.

123: The number of professional athletes who have signed with Like a Pro, a Denver website that alllows sports stars to share training tips directly with with fans

Of course, this type of access comes at a price. Davenport’s handful of posts in Antarctica cost thousands of dollars, and Richards’ sessions on Everest totaled $23,000—all paid by the athletes’ sponsors, who tend to see the feeds as a valuable tool to promote their brands. (See the Kästle logo in the photo above.) So while it may seem like athletes are reaching fans directly through live streams, sponsors are certainly involved, although the real-time nature of the feeds makes it impossible for sponsors to edit them.

Not all expeditions lend themselves to live streams. A BGAN terminal weighs eight pounds, making it impractical to add to certain climbs. (On Everest, porters help carry your load.) Other times, stopping to live-stream might actually be an impediment to your adventure, like when you’re, say, trying to clock the fastest known time (FKT) for the Longs Peak Triathlon—biking from Boulder to Longs Peak, running the approach, climbing the Diamond, running down, and biking back—like Boulder superstar Anton Krupicka. His sponsor, La Sportiva North America, also based in Boulder, was happy to pay the higher cost for a video crew instead.

For many adventure athletes, the ability to let passionate fans feel like they’re part of the action makes up for such downsides. That’s the belief of Ridgway mountaineer Chad Jukes, who became the second combat-wounded veteran to summit Everest in May and plans to document his attempt on the Moose’s Tooth peak in Alaska this month. In his words: “You can’t beat the excitement of a live stream from a truly remote and wild place.”

Source: Athletes Go Live To Gain Attention | 5280

No Snow: North America’s Biggest Ski Race Canceled

Organizers canceled the American Birkebeiner today for just the second time in the race’s 44-year history.

by Sean McCoy, GearJunkie.com

North America’s largest cross-country ski race will not take place this year. The American Birkebeiner is the premier Nordic ski race in the U.S.

Each February, thousands of skiers race the 32 to 34 grueling miles between Cable and Hayward, Wis. But this year, conditions forced race organizers to pull the plug on the iconic race.

Officials also cancelled shorter races associated with the event.

“After days of unseasonable weather, rain, and a predicted snow storm front missing the Hayward and Cable areas, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation regretfully announces the cancellation of the 2017 American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet, and Prince Haakon cross-country ski races,” the organization said in a release today.

This is the second cancellation in race history. However, it was postponed for two weeks in 1981. Organizers shortened the course in 1998 due to warm weather.

2017 Birkie Cancelled
After record high temperatures and more than 1.5 inches of rain, race organizers closed the Birkie Trail from Cable to Hayward eight days ago to preserve it for this week’s races.

Shortly thereafter, Lake Hayward — which the race course normally crosses — was deemed unsafe for use. Organizers put a contingency to re-route it in place.

But even that wasn’t enough. Citing areas of the trail that lack snow, race officials said a timed event would be unsafe.

“While we know Birkie, Korte, and Prince Haakon skiers are disappointed with this announcement, I am confident that the ABSF staff did everything within their power to preserve the trail for a safe race,” said Ben Popp, ABSF Executive Director. “We know that the Birkie is so much more than a race to so many.”

In lieu of racing, organizers will host several events.

Beginning at 9:30 am on Saturday, February 25, buses will transport riders from the Como Parking Lot, off of Highway 63 and south of Cable, Wis., to the American Birkebeiner Trailhead.

There, skiers can lap a 5K loop built by a trail crew. Live music will play until 5 p.m. Fatbikes will be available to demo as a viable winter sport alternative, and as a true consolation, there will be beer in the form of the Birkie Brew-ski.

Source: No Snow: North America’s Biggest Ski Race Canceled

​What it’s like camping and backcountry skiing in below freezing temperatures in Utah | Men’s Health

 

by Aaron H. Bible, Men’s Health

By now you’ve probably heard enough about glamping: that eye roll-inducing portmanteau of “glamorous” and “camping.” There are now legions of luxury camping experiences with platform tents, white linens under Pendleton blankets, maybe outdoor solar showers, plenty of staff on hand, and high-end cuisine.

In between full-on glamping and proper camping, with just a tent and some essentials to ensure your survival, is a nice middle ground and it’s how I recently stayed in the freezing tundra that is Utah’s backcountry.

Despite temps ranging from -5 degrees F to a balmy 14 degrees F, this particular weekend was hosted by Allied Feather & Down, one of the largest down suppliers in the world for the last 30 years. Thus, regardless of the fact that it was dumping snow where we were camping on the shores of a frozen lake in East Canyon State Park west of Salt Lake City, Utah, down pillows and comforters, and eco-friendly, water-resistant down Blue Kazoo sleeping bags from The North Face helped stave off the chill.

As we drank under the stars, socializing and sorting all the gear we would put to use the next day moving through thigh-deep Utah powder, professional ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich showed up to deliver some backcountry ski poles from Leki, a necessity for the avalanche-prone Wasatch terrain.

Tomorrow’s trek seemed light years away, especially when presented with a decadent dinner. Allied’s director of marketing Matthew Betcher previously worked as a sous chef in a Michelin-starred eatery and cooked up a five-course survivalist-themed dinner served under the guise of military rations and winter foraging. Starter courses like Miso Corn Soup with fresh Winter Truffles and Grilled Mackerel with Chili Tomato Sauce slid down easy, as did the main course: Tea Brined Honey Lacquered Duck Breast on Malted Pureed Potato. Not a bad meal for a bunch of frozen journalists. For a gourmet camping meal any guy could pull off, check out this recipe.

The next morning, when we reached the parking lot of Brighton Ski Area in Little Cottonwood Canyon, we geared up with some of the lightest alpine touring gear on the market: Blizzard Zero G skis mounted with the new Marker Kingpin binding, complete with new Tecnica boots. After seeing a video of one of our ski partners pulling off a double back flip in the terrain we were about to ski the day before, plenty of those new boots began shaking.

Five guides from Utah Mountain Adventure assuaged our fears, and a quick lift ride up the face of Brighton put us within striking distance of the famed Wasatch backcountry — or what could be called a prime sidecountry expedition, given our breezy lift access and the fact that we would ski back in bounds and down to the base of neighboring Solitude Mountain Resort.

The snow was crashing down like wetted-out cotton balls. Beacons on, we skied the first pitch of untracked pow one at a time, landing us on a frozen, snow covered lake where we snacked up and transitioned, pulling skins from packs and switching boots and bindings into hike mode.

The uphill slog began with our objective barely visible in the background through the falling snow. Our mission: Twin Lakes Pass and Wolverine Cirque, a popular – yet remote – bowl of steep couloirs, where even the relatively few ski tracks already laid were quickly filling back in from the pounding snow. That’s what ski bums call free refills. (It’s not too late to book this year’s ski trip. Here are 5 great spots for spring skiing.)

Switching back and forth up the ridge through Heaven’s Gate, traversing one at a time to mitigate avalanche risk, we reached the top and transitioned back into ski mode. The day would allow us two long, glorious, untracked and thigh-deep laps up and down, logging about 5,000 vertical feet in the process.

That night, as we again nestled down in goose down and settled in our canvas-wrapped, not-quite-luxury accommodations, I paused to consider all the incredible experiences I’d been afforded. The warmth of the memories forged during the trip, augmented by the tired muscles, helped me speedily drift into a blissful slumber.

Source: What it’s like camping and backcountry skiing in below freezing temperatures in Utah | Men’s Health

How Localism Is Ruining Backcountry Skiing

An attitude of nativism has spread to a remote Colorado valley, besmirching an experience that should be joyous for everyone.

by Heather Sackett, Adventure Journal

 

Somewhere near Telluride, Colorado is a super-top-secret valley. You can find it on maps, but if you attempt to make the trek there, you might not be so lucky. The highway sign pointing the way has disappeared so many times the department of transportation gave up replacing it. Lost drivers are pointed the wrong way and given directions out of town. Unsuspecting posters to social media are scolded for hash-tagging the name of the town in photos. Some inhabitants of this unnamed valley don’t want the outside world to know it exists. It’s The Valley That Must Not Be Named.

This Shangri-La does not have a single store or restaurant or paved roads. It’s the middle of nowhere. But with a bunch of other people and houses and dogs roaming free. “Settlement” is a better description, although it technically has a mayor and town manager.

It also has epic backcountry skiing. And certain skiers go to great lengths to keep it a mystery valley because if you can’t find it, you can’t ski it.

Two beautiful canyons are easily accessed from town and provide sweeping views of the high alpine, gnarly couloirs, perfectly pitched tree runs, all often covered in plenty of powder. If you have trouble finding fresh turns in this vast valley, it’s due to extreme laziness or lack of creativity. It is the antithesis of the Disneyland that is the nearby ski resort of Telluride. Peace and solitude reign.

Skiers have been protective of their powder stashes since the day they first strapped long wooden planks to their feet. Powder is a finite resource and when this valley is good, it is gooooooood. But the attitude of some valley skiers goes too far. It is an attitude of hyper localism.

Localism has long been rampant in surf culture and is now spilling over into the valley’s backcountry skiing. Parking wars have become frequent. Passive aggressive notes are being left on vehicle. Would-be backcountry skiers who reside one or two towns over are made to feel like unwelcome outsiders. Acting like the self-appointed steeze police, a few local skiers try to determine who has the street cred to ski there and who does not. To be fair, not all the skiers of the valley have this attitude; some longtime residents are embarrassed by their neighbors’ actions. But the ones that do have this attitude are ruining it for everyone.

In a world where resort skiing is increasingly a sport reserved for the rich, backcountry skiing is the great egalitarian equalizer. Freed from the tyranny of expensive lift tickets, touring requires little more than the will to go uphill. That is the main reason residents of The Valley That Must Not Be Named need not worry about their ski runs getting discovered and tracked out: Most people are just too lazy to do the required 3,000-feet-plus vertical on an icy skin track. The valley and its people are nothing if not hardcore.

But there is another reason the harassment of visiting backcountry skiers needs to stop. In a time when our country’s administration is seeking to alienate and exclude certain sectors, this animosity toward fellow skiers smacks of nativism: the policy of protecting the interests of established inhabitants against those of immigrants.

This attitude of I-found-it-first-now-I’m-closing-the-door-behind-me is a shame, because one of the joys of recreating in wild places is sharing them with others. Getting there first doesn’t mean you can horde the outdoors for yourself. Let’s face it: Nearly all of us are transplants to these mountains and few of us have been here in this tiny southwest corner of the state longer than a generation. Being a “local” does not give anyone the right to intimidate others who are simply enjoying the very same thing they share a passion for.

Localism goes against the backcountry spirit of camaraderie, friendship, and community. The love of skiing should unite, not divide. It shouldn’t be cliquey; it should be inclusive. It is not a place for barriers. Skiers should be free to bring their friends to their favorite ski runs without the fear of being heckled and hassled.

Most important, these mountains are public lands open to and owned by everyone. If you are willing and able to earn your turns, you have just as much right to be there as anyone, with or without proof of residency.

The ranks of those initiated in beacon checks, kick turns on skin tracks, face shots, high-fives on ridgelines and celebratory after-beers in the parking lot always has room for more members. The skiers of The Valley That Must Not Be Named should hope that they don’t succeed in scaring off their backcountry brethren. Because after all the effort to make sure they are the only ones out there, they might just find out it’s lonely at the top.

Source: How Localism Is Ruining Backcountry Skiing – adventure journal

Arapahoe Basin adds backcountry-like terrain with chutes, glades and more

After almost 10 years of planning and four years of federal environmental review, Arapahoe Basin ski area will add 468 acres that include steep chutes, gullies and glades”

by Jason Blevins, The Denver Post

ARAPAHOE BASIN — The shouts from the chairlift drift down to ski area boss Alan Henceroth.

“How is it, Al?”

“Are you getting it ready?”

“Where’s the good snow?”

Henceroth, who started as a ski patroller 29 years ago and now runs Arapahoe Basin ski area, peels the skins off his skis, transitioning from uphill to downhill after a short hike from beyond the ski area’s soon-to-change boundary.

“Still pretty good on the north-facing stuff,” he hollers to the passersby above. “We’re getting there.”

After almost 10 years of planning and four years of federal environmental review, Henceroth and his Arapahoe Basin team are preparing to open snowy, steep terrain west of the 960-acre ski area. The 468-acre expansion into the Steep Gullies and the Beavers — including steep chutes, glades and a couple intermediate runs — marks A-Basin’s step into the big leagues of steep skiing, joining expert destinations like Alta, Jackson Hole, Crested Butte and Silverton Mountain.

“This is a big piece for the Basin. It’s going to be completely different than what we have now,” Henceroth said. “The best part of my job is when someone comes up and tells me what a great day skiing they had. I think there’s a lot more of those to come, especially with this project.”

Ski area expansion plans across Colorado in the last two decades have largely focused on growing intermediate terrain for the vacationers who float resorts’ financial boats: Peak 6 at Breckenridge in 2012; Arapahoe Basin’s push into Montezuma Bowl in 2007; Telluride’s expansion into Prospect Bowl in 2001; Vail’s addition of Blue Sky Basin in 2000.

While some ski area expansions have focused on expert terrain — Eagle Wind at Winter Park and Telluride’s Revelation Bowl, for example — A-Basin’s next boundary push will open the Steep Gullies’ precipitous, rock-choked descents, which easily will rank as the already-challenging ski area’s most rowdy lines.

“It’s gonna put A-Basin, which is already a good expert ski area, into the great expert ski area category. It brings up the game for sure,” said Summit County local and backcountry guidebook author Fritz Sperry. “It’s definitely legit terrain.”

Legit, with a dark history. Since 1982, there have been six avalanche deaths in the expansion area, a popular, lift-accessible zone a mere minute’s ski beyond A-Basin’s boundary gate. The Forest Service’s review of the expansion plans estimated 2,324 to 16,640 skiers a year access the backcountry terrain through gates on the Arapahoe Basin boundary. That’s a lot of skiers venturing into uncontrolled, avalanche-prone terrain.

Corralling the terrain into the ski area’s operating boundary — it’s already part of the area’s Forest Service permit boundary — will allow ski patrollers to mitigate the avalanche hazard with explosives and other strategies.

“I think we can have a tremendous impact on the snow out there. People are already treating it like a ski area with a full-blown mitigation plan, which it does not have. A big part of our purpose and need for the project was public safety,” Henceroth said.
Sperry hopes skiers will approach the expanded territory as if it were wild territory and continue to practice avalanche safety protocol like wearing a beacon and being prepared to find buried partners.

Since the late 1990s, Arapahoe Basin’s patrollers have kicked around the idea of pulling the Steep Gullies and Beavers into the area’s boundary. After opening the 400-acre Montezuma Bowl in 2007, the idea got more attention. It was not nearly as clear-cut as Montezuma. Henceroth and his team — snow safety experts and patrollers who have been on board, like him, for decades — spent years scheming where to put a chairlift, how to reduce impacts to wetlands and wildlife and, of course, how to improve the ski experience.

Henceroth says he’s spent countless hours exploring terrain that didn’t end up as part of the expansion.

“We went down a lot of rabbit holes,” he said. “We knew there was a lot of extraordinary skiing over there but it took a long time, a really long time, to figure out the right proposal.”

The final plan — formed after a two-year snow survey by Arapahoe Basin’s snow safety team and vetted by the White River National Forest in a four-year, 250-page Environmental Impact Statement that concluded in November — includes a pair of groomed runs with natural berms and islands of trees, open bowl skiing above treeline, gladed tree skiing and the Steep Gullies. A fixed-grip quad chair will service the bowls and glades, while the double-black-diamond Steep Gullies will be accessed from the area’s famed Pallavicini chair. To get out of the Steep Gullies, skiers will need to hike 15 or 20 minutes up a groomed track.

Placement of the lift was a difficult decision, Henceroth said. It won’t reach the valley floor, stopping instead a bit higher where the snow remains deep long into the season. That mid-hill perch will enable the chair to keep turning, Henceroth hopes, for more than 150 days a season. And the chair won’t allow egress from the Steep Gullies, which will remain a somewhat wild experience, requiring effort and skill to both ski and regain access to ski lines.

That somewhat wild experience meets a surging demand for all things backcountry. SnowSports Industries America, the trade group that tracks the retail snowsports industry, has shown skyrocketing sales of backcountry equipment in recent years — like splitboard snowboards, alpine touring boots, technical bindings that allow for uphill travel, and avalanche beacons and probes. In 2015, SIA surveys found backcountry participation had climbed 25 percent over 2014, with 6.3 million skiers and snowboarders saying they explore backcountry terrain. The backcountry equipment market — while a fraction of the overall retail scene for skiing and snowboarding — remains one of the industry’s strongest and fastest growing segments, with sales topping $52 million in 2015-16.

“We have absolutely seen that shift,” said Henceroth, who in five years has doled out more that 5,000 uphill passes to skiers who like to hike up the ski area’s runs. “It’s no longer about that one simple thing of riding a chairlift and getting down. People want a more diverse experience. We think this meets that demand. Especially the Steep Gullies. We set it up so it’s a little harder to get. It’s suited well for experts. It just adds to the special feel of the place. I think people are willing and happy to do a little extra work if they can be in a more remote place.”

The Steep Gullies and a portion of the Beavers will open as part of the ski area next season. But the chairlift won’t be ready until the 2018-19 season.

Source: Arapahoe Basin adds backcountry-like terrain with chutes, glades and more

Instagram Takeover: Crested Butte Mountain Resort – Elevation Outdoors Magazine

by Tyra Sutak, Elevation Outdoors

Crested Butte, Colo. is receiving record-breaking snowfall this winter, luring skiers and shredders from all over the Centennial State and beyond to the town’s historic Crested Butte Mountain Resort. And just like this year’s snowfall, CB’s resort is epic — offering the perfect blend of extreme terrain and easy-going hills for beginners. But don’t take our word for it. Crested Butte Mountain Resort is taking over our Instagram account this week with photos that will make you want to ditch the office and head west immediately. Stay tuned to @elevationout on Instagram this week and read our Q&A with CBMR to find out just what makes this small mountain resort, and mountain town, the perfect place to explore this winter.

What makes Crested Butte stand out from other resorts?

Crested Butte is Colorado’s Last Great Ski Town. In the winter, Crested Butte is located at the end of Highway 135 and is surrounded by National Forest, making it the epitome of adventure! Crested Butte’s main drag, Elk Avenue, is a registered National Historic District featuring incredibly colorful facades and classic architecture from Crested Butte’s mining days.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort embodies the adventurous and classic personas of this small Rocky Mountain town. Incredible terrain for the whole family, great snow, short lift lines and very reasonable lodging and lift ticket rates set CBMR apart from many other resorts.

Tell us a little bit about Crested Butte’s awesome terrain.

Although Crested Butte is often revered as an “extreme mountain”, the resort truly offers runs catered to the whole family. The terrain at CBMR is “naturally divided” so that most of the beginner runs are not overlapping more challenging runs. This natural division encourages people to spread out across the resort, shortening lift lines and providing you with the feeling that you have the mountain to yourself.

Beginner skiers and riders enjoy the wide, consistent runs off of the Red Lady Express Lift.  Featuring mellow grades, open trails and the ability to explore, these runs are an excellent stepping stone for those who are new to the sport.

The Paradise Express Lift offers countless options of long, intermediate cruisers and mellow bump runs. Located within the middle of the resort, guests can easily access many different runs from the Paradise Lift. For intermediates looking to take the next step, head over to the East River Express Lift and the impeccably spaced trees of Gully Glades. East River is a popular spot due to its generally warmer temperatures and excellent snow conditions.

For a consistent challenge, the Silver Queen Express Lift and the Extreme Limits terrain is the perfect area to explore. Long, steep runs will exhaust your legs as you lap the frontside terrain underneath the Silver Queen Lift. The High Lift and North Face Lifts will elevate you to the top of the most challenging runs on the mountain.

As the snow continues to fall on Crested Butte’s famed slopes, Ski Patrol is hard at work controlling and opening some of North America’s most revered extreme terrain. The Extreme Limits at CBMR consist of 542 acres of bowls, chutes and glades. Whether you are a professional skier looking to push the envelope, or a guest looking for an additional challenge, conditions at Crested Butte are providing everyone with some of the best turns they’ve ever had.

Any advice for a skier or snowboarder who hasn’t ridden at Crested Butte before?

Don’t be intimidated. Crested Butte Mountain Resort features lots of terrain for all ability levels. Of the 121 total trails at CBMR, 26 percent is rated as beginner and 57 percent is rated as intermediate.

Another piece of advice is to take a lesson. The Crested Butte Ski and Snowboard Instructors are some of the best around, and are passionate about taking your skiing and riding to the next level – whether you’ve never skied before or have been multiple times before. Learn more about the different lessons and programs at skicb.com/lessons.

Where’s the best place to grab a beer on the mountain?

There is no better place than the Umbrella Bar at Ten Peaks to grab a drink during the day! For après ski, Butte 66 is the most convenient and best spot to grab some food, a drink and watch the game.

Give us a few tips on how to blend in like a local

Ride the bus. Crested Butte offers an unbelievable bus system that runs every 15 minutes between the mountain and downtown Crested Butte.  This free bus system virtually eliminates the need to drive when in Crested Butte.

Flannel is fur: When heading out on the town, locals are much more likely to throw on their favorite flannel shirt and beanie, rather than their finest fur and leather shoes.

Be happy. One thing that is unique to Crested Butte and the local community is the overwhelming friendliness of the people who call this valley home. Many guests have turned their vacation into a permanent residence after embracing the friendly, happy and passionate local community.

What kind other activities does Crested Butte Mountain Resort have to offer?

Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers many different activities! In addition to skiing and riding, CBMR also offers: snow biking, fat biking, zipline tours, the Adventure Park, uphill skiing, snowshoe tours, snowmobile tours, cross country skiing and more. For more information, call our Adventure Services team at (844) 993-9545 or visit skicb.com/winter-activities.

What is Crested Butte’s most popular festival or event?

The first thing to note is that there is always something going on in Crested Butte! In the winter, Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s annual spring concert – SkiTown Breakdown – is a very popular event. We are excited to announce that Leftover Salmon will be headlining SkiTown Breakdown on March 18, 2017.

Are there any good resort deals to lock down now for the season we should know of?

Guests should take advantage of the multiple Ski Free & Stay Free packages that offer free lodging and free days of lift tickets if you stay three or four nights, depending on the time of the season. For families, children 12 and under receive free lift tickets from April 1 to 9, 2017. In addition, children ages 6 and under ski free all season long. No strings attached, no parent ticket required, no lodging stay required, no advance reservations, no purchase of a bottle of wine (though that is not a bad idea), just a good old free ticket for the littlest rippers.

Source: Instagram Takeover: Crested Butte Mountain Resort – Elevation Outdoors Magazine

Honest Answers from a Longtime Ski Bum

by Paddy O’Connell, Teton Gravity Research

Like TJ Burke told his boss in the greatest ski film of all time, Aspen Extreme, “Skiing’s the easy part, Karl.” It’s wintertime and the livin’ ain’t always easy. I mean, at its core ski town life is simple. When it snows, the people must shred. But what about the housing shortage, how is dirtbag cuisine crafted, where are the best jobs, and how in the world do you figure out the mountain town dating scene? Fear not, my friends. Look no further for sound, compassionate, often sarcastic, and loosely truthful advice about all things mountain culture. Dear PaddyO is THE reliable source for ski town guidance, dirtbag instruction, and general foolishness.

Dear PaddyO,

What’s the difference between “ski bums”— like, the smelly ones that sleep in their cars and are broke as a joke and work weird jobs — and “ski bums” — those whose parents give them money, they rent a room in a ski town, they have a season pass, and they actually eat food? Asking for a friend.

Love, Brody Leven

Dear Brody,

Interesting question, my pint-sized friend. I would say that authenticity is at the heart of this matter. Ski towns are filled with people who love to shred, from weekend warriors to every-damn-day diehards. But genuine, real deal ski bums build their lives around skiing (or snowboarding) as a chief identifier. It’s a part of who they are rather than something they do. And just because somebody is wearing the latest gear or 10-year-old grease stained outerwear or talking about how they skied this and skied that, yaddah yaddah yaddah, doesn’t make them a real life ski bum. Look for the sunburnt gal or the grizzly guy, smile touching behind their ears, handing out high-fives and hugs to everybody. There’s your real ski bum. Also, they will most likely have ski boots on, always.

Another thing to consider, most ski towns are essentially tourist towns, and therefore rely on the tourist coin coming in. Even if they’re just “trying it on for a season,” ski towns need dollah dollah bills ya’ll. They may not be a cardholding member but the skiers who come and go in six months are still helping the cause.

Dear PaddyO,

How do I look really, really hardcore on Instagram? Like, hardcore and soulful at the same time.

Sincerely, Alex Taran

Be like Johnny Collinson. Go shirtless whenever possible (vests or tanktops, aka the brokini, if clothing is necessary), wear cool hats, leather jackets are a must, stick your tongue out in selfies, take more selfies, and grow hair so beautiful it looks as though it can be smelled through an iPhone. NOTE: if you scratch JC’s IG pics you can faintly make out the scent of angel farts and freshly baked bread. Oh, and skiing huge lines and stomping massive tricks will help too.

Having a super sick social media presence is more important to making it in a ski town than housing. Sure, a roof over your head is nice but barroom bravado is essential, bruh. How else are people going to know how supremely brodacious you are at rad gnar tenderloin sending? Pics or it didn’t happen, that’s how. Plus, use a lot of thoughtful hashtags, like #Blessed and #SendingMyTunaForDuhBoyz. Post photos of yourself looking into a sunset with your favorite Rumi quote, or whichever one comes up on Google first. Did I mention selfies?

Source: Honest Answers from a Longtime Ski Bum | Teton Gravity Research

Opinion: ‘Skiing’ Was the Magazine the Sport Deserved | Outside Online

My all-time favorite Skiing cover was a shot of a soaring hippie in skin-tight stretch pants splayed out against a cobalt sky in a joyous backscratcher. We made a T-shirt out of it. The pages were filled with images of beautiful women in braids snaking down mogul fields or basking in the sun in bikini tops. The ads featured western-looking dudes wearing nonironic mustaches, leaning against Chevrolet Impalas with their skis or enjoying peppermint schnapps from bota bags.

The vertical ceased print publication this winter, after decades of great story after great story.

By Marc Peruzzi, Outside Magazine

After nearly 70 years of publishing, Skiing magazine printed its final issue this winter—ultimately consumed by its milquetoast longtime sister title, the bigger and marginally more profitable Ski magazine.

If you’re confused about the difference between Ski and Skiing magazines and why a series of publishing houses would have bothered carrying both titles for the past 20-plus years, you’re not alone. I was the editor of Skiing magazine for six years, in the early 2000s, and even I was never clear on the reasoning. But for most of its long history, Skiing offered a unique and, at times, vital take on the sport.

Like many vertical titles, Skiing started out as a glorified regional newsletter for skiing purists interested less in the pomp and luxuries of the early days of the sport than in just getting out and ripping around in wool pants and leather boots. The magazine was big on instruction (the sport was young), gear, and new places to ski, of which there were legion in the years after World War II, as 10th Mountain Division troops returned from Europe and pioneered the West and hundreds of local hills sprang back to life in the Northeast.

In the winters that followed, Ski (still a separately owned rival at that time) focused on already stodgy ski racing and stuffy resorts, while Skiing focused on everyday skiers. The positioning nicely set up Skiing as a mouthpiece for what came next: the sport’s first truly American movement (as opposed to European-influenced racing), the Hot Dog era of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

As hair got longer in the Age of Aquarius, skis got shorter and the sport got fun. My all-time favorite Skiing cover was a shot of a soaring hippie in skin-tight stretch pants splayed out against a cobalt sky in a joyous backscratcher. We made a T-shirt out of it. The pages were filled with images of beautiful women in braids snaking down mogul fields or basking in the sun in bikini tops. The ads featured western-looking dudes wearing nonironic mustaches, leaning against Chevrolet Impalas with their skis or enjoying peppermint schnapps from bota bags. General advertisers wanted to be affiliated with the sensual, vibrant, rebellious, athletic-for-athleticism’s-sake movement as seen through the pages of Skiing. The sport, and the magazine, boomed. I still see one of Skiing’s ad reps from that golden era—he retired to Baja off the ad revenues he made, but he summers in Colorado. He and his mustache drive around Baja in a golf cart packed with ice-cold beers.

My favorite Skiing story from the early 1970s was written by Bob Woodward (the ski writer and the one-time mayor of Bend, Oregon, not the Watergate reporter). Neither flowery nor tension-riddled, the narrative simply documented Woodward’s extended road trip as a penniless ski bum wandering from resort to resort, sleeping in his truck, discovering new places to ski, and meeting kindred spirits. That story, and the magazine, captured what it was to be a skier in that moment in time. That’s not easy to do.

But skiing trends come and go, and the Hot Dog movement faded like your grandfather’s padded sweater. Powder skiing was the next craze, captured almost spiritually by Powder magazine in its early years. Blissfully, that subset never died. The extreme skiing of the 1980s followed, but the films of Greg Stump captured that movement better than any one print title. Then snowboarding came along, and the New York Times went so far as to say the sport of skiing was dead. (Yeah, and the Gray Lady also predicted Hillary would trounce the Mango-in-Chief.) For a time, Freeskier magazine rode a youthful wave of park and pipe skiers borne out of the demise of mogul skiing, but freeskiing is now a niche of a niche sport. Skiing participation has flatlined for 20 years. Snowboarding, sadly, is in decline. Backcountry skiing has the energy now, but its high cost of entry—dying in an avalanche—will meter participation as the larger sport awaits the next revolution.

Over the decades, Skiing’s relevance rose and fell with the trends and the times, but what ultimately killed it was its own success. As the sport of skiing lost its appeal to general advertisers in the late 1980s and skiing participation fell in the early 1990s, the gravy days ended, but the corporations that owned Ski and Skiing couldn’t let go. In their attempt to regain those car and booze ad buyers, they did what most mainstream magazines do: artificially inflated their circulations. Sign up for a coin-operated ski race or buy a ski pass to Vail, and you wouldn’t get charged for Skiing magazine again. Paid subscribers left, the general ads never came back, and now Facebook’s easily quantifiable ROI (return on investment) is taking a mortal swipe at what remains of the sort of brand building that magazines of all types were built on. It didn’t help that Bonnier Corporation, the multinational prior owner of Skiing before current owner AIM Media, stopped printing Skiing for a season in some reckless experiment in so-called desktop publishing.

Source: Opinion: ‘Skiing’ Was the Magazine the Sport Deserved | Outside Online