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

The 13 Types of People You’ll Meet on a Colorado 14er

by Ice and Trail

The allure of a 14er summit beckons to people from all walks of life. To some it’s simply a thing to do during summer break, to others it’s the realization of an enduring dream. Colorado’s mountains are tools used to achieve personal fulfillment, escape the doldrums of urban life, seize untapped vitality or feed a fragile ego. Whatever brings them to the base of the mountain, most 14er hikers fall into one — or a combination — of the following categories.

1. THE FUNDRAISER
Whether it’s for an incurable disease, natural disaster relief or their cat Bojangles’ memorial 5K, The Fundraiser can’t take a step without shaking you down for money. Literally — each stride on the trail earns a nickel pledged from their benefactors. The Fundraiser’s pack is overflowing with color-printed summit signs designed in Microsoft Paint, and you’ll probably recognize them from the local news feature they earned after four months of harassing a reporter on Twitter. You can rest easy, at least, knowing your money is making a real difference in the world. All the proceeds go toward financing The Fundraiser’s next awareness-raising trip to Nepal. Wait, what?

Probably Overheard Saying: “I’m the first 1/8th-Cherokee male between the age of 16 and 27 to climb all the 14ers that start with an ‘S’ to raise awareness for babies born without hair.”

2. THE LAISSEZ-FAIRE DOG OWNER
Ranger is the world’s best dog. Everyone loves him, even the child he just barreled over, the pika he just crunched and the leash-aggressive husky he just spooked. How could you be upset at such a cute face? He’s even wearing a cool backpack! The Laissez-Faire Dog Owner spent hours training Ranger to play dead, but didn’t see much point in working on off-leash control. Ranger always comes back, eventually, so what if he’s trailing a wake of resentment and destruction? It’s your problem if he ate your summit sandwich. You shouldn’t have put it down in the first place. Don’t trouble them to pick up their dog’s poop, either. The bags are way too smelly and gross to carry the quarter-mile back to the trailhead.

Probably Overheard Saying: “He’s friendly!”

3. THE WHITE GOODMAN
Only one thing matters: Absolute domination. Of the mountain, of other hikers, of crippling and deep-rooted insecurity. Like Ben Stiller’s character in Dodgeball, The White Goodman is misguided and probably a little dim. The summit is merely a secondary objective. Priority is passing everyone in sight while taking care not to make any social contact other than a mutter of “got ’em” as they whisk past. Everything in life is a competition, and a pleasant hike on a bluebird morning is no exception. They are easily recognizable due to their painted-on Under Armour baselayer and habit of constantly looking over their shoulder. On the summit, they are the ones broadcasting their ascent time or peak list loudly to no one in particular.

Probably Overheard Saying: “Suck failure, freaks.”

4. THE RELUCTANT SIGNIFICANT OTHER
The Reluctant Significant Other didn’t sign up for this. They didn’t sign up for any of it. Why waste a perfectly good Sunday on a 14er when they could be drinking bottomless mimosas at brunch or watching NFL football? Their loved one wanted to hike, however, and bonding time is important. Each step is a further descent into hell. Everything hurts. Danger lurks beyond every bend: raging avalanches, hungry mountain lions, the beckoning abyss. Forget that they’re on a groomed Class 1 trail with 200 other people in the middle of summer. They voice their displeasure often and want nothing more than to turn around, but the White Goodman they met on Tinder just elbowed a toddler out of the way 200 feet up the trail. Left with no choice, The Reluctant Significant Other trudges onward to certain death.

Probably Overheard Saying: “I’m going to die and I didn’t even set my fantasy football lineup.”

5. THE NATURE KNIGHT
If the Kingdom of Nature Knights had a flag, it would be a singular color: khaki. Staples of the uniform include a floppy wide-brimmed hat, a button-down shirt with mesh in bizarre places, binoculars, a nature journal and a giant beige chip on their shoulder. Forget that you’re on public land two miles from a paved highway within an hour of Denver. Your presence is ruining their wilderness experience. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying on trail, picking up after your dog and carrying out all your trash — something you’re doing is wrong, and you deserve to get yelled at for it. Well-meaning and helpful conversations have no place in the Kingdom of Nature Knights. The goal isn’t to spread knowledge, it’s to feel superior. If they lack the courage to discuss their disdain in person, you can find their anti-social rants every Monday on a 14ers-related forum.

Probably Overheard Saying: “I spent four hours on a volunteer trail crew in 2013, what have YOU done?”

6. THE HEAD-SCRATCHER
He takes many forms. He could be barefoot hippy, a foreign tourist in slacks and a V-neck, a lone pre-teen in skate shoes or a mustachioed man in a leather vest and motorcycle boots who apparently dropped out of a portal from Sturgis. In whichever way he appears, he’s going to turn your head. Questions overwhelm you. How did he get here? Where is his gear? Who is he with? Why did he choose a 14er? Should I say something? Before you have the chance to satiate your curiosity, he’ll smile warmly, nod a polite greeting and continue his journey toward enlightenment.

Probably Overheard Saying: “Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.”

7. THE VICARIOUS PARENT
She’s accomplished a lot in her 40 years. She finished 12th in a trail marathon, came close (twice!) to summiting Mt. Rainier and once climbed 5.10b in the rock gym. The highlight, of course, was producing three beautiful children — all of whom are going to make Ueli Steck look like a total bitch. Despite not yet hitting puberty, little Reinhold, Arlene and Alex Honnold Jr. (no relation) have climbed more peaks than you could ever dream. The entire gaggle is brightly decked out in top-of-the-line gear they’ll outgrow in a couple months, complete with those adorable child-sized glacier glasses. As you’re passing this wandering circus, the Vicarious Parent will proudly tell you all about the family’s future goals as Alex Honnold Jr. sobs into a block of talus.

Probably Overheard Saying: “Climbing Capitol isn’t that big of a deal, Reinhold did it when he was 5.”

8. THE EAGLE SCOUT
No, they’re not training for Everest. No, they’re not on an overnight trip. It’s simply unsafe to enter the wilderness without The 49 Essentials shoved into an 80-pound pack. The Eagle Scout is carrying tents and sleeping bags for everyone on the mountain, just in case, as well as enough gadgets to be properly considered a cyborg. The annual fees on their personal locator beacons, tracking software and GPS apps cost more than a mortgage. They rock a helmet on Class 2 and never leave the house without a week’s worth of food. The Eagle Scout is totally prepared for anything the wilds might throw at them, unless the batteries die on one of their devices.

Probably Overheard Saying: “Hold on, I haven’t sent an OK message for like 10 minutes.”

9. THE INTERNET CELEBRITY
Oh, you haven’t heard of them? They have, like, more than 800 followers on Instagram, bro. A DSLR camera set to “Auto” swings from their neck and an iPhone that’s at storage capacity from free editing apps sits holstered on their hip. More advanced versions can be spotted with a drone and a helmet-mounted GoPro. Hiding behind a facade of energetic passion, they’re on a quest to #neverstopexploring while #inspiring others with #mountainstoke and #coloradotography as they #travel the world in constant search of #validation from strangers. Most of the scenery is observed through a viewfinder rather than the human eye. The trail and the wildlife and the personal challenge of summiting are neat and all, but the real accomplishment is breaking 100 likes Facebook. Set that saturation slider to 100 and rake in the Internet affirmation, homie.

Probably Overheard Saying: “Let’s pop off our tops.”

10. THE SMUG CLOUD
What you’re doing is lame, it sucks, and you should be ashamed. Any grandpa can walk up a 14er, but you’re not rad unless you run it in less than 1:17:04. That’s The Smug Cloud’s personal best, for the record, and they’d beat it if you’d get your sorry ass out of the way. Whatever their chosen sport — paragliding, mountain biking, trail running, rock climbing — the most enjoyable part of the hobby is being better than you. Sure, they could practice their passion on any number of other trails or mountains, but that’s not as satisfying to the ego as Mt. Bierstadt. The worst type of Smug Cloud, ironically, is the longtime peakbagger. They completed the 14ers in 2006 and their profile on Lists of John reads longer than War & Peace. Instead of dispensing advice and serving as mentors, however, they retreat to insular cliques and look down their noses at all who come after.

Probably Overheard Saying: “Back in my day, on 14erWorld…”

11. THE BUCKET LISTER
The Bucket Lister just wants to get this over with. It’s criminal to be a Centennial State native and not climb at least one 14er, and an ascent to a rugged Colorado mountaintop can yield decades worth of stories for a visiting flatlander. It’s time to dig out that threadbare bookbag from high school, load it full of plastic water bottles and earn a story to tell at happy hours until the end of time. The Bucket Lister’s uniform is usually a cotton sweatshirt emblazoned with a university logo, basketball shorts or yoga pants, old running shoes and aviator sunglasses. Most of the previous evening was spent creating a cardboard sign reading “Mt. Quandry, 14,762 feet” that’s destined to remain as litter on the summit alongside a rock with a Sharpie autograph. Though seemingly ill prepared, most Bucket Listers are fit and competent. In fact, many of them go on to become one of the other archetypes.

Probably Overheard Saying: “How much longer to the summit?”

12. THE (SELF-PROCLAIMED) EXPERT
They’ve caught the bug. What started as doing a 14er or two for fun has turned into a life-altering quest to conquer them all. They’ve tackled their first Class 3 route, knocked out most of the Front Range and are considering a Very Difficult-rated mountain next weekend. They know just enough to be dangerous. With a peak list now in the teens, they’re ready and willing to unload advice on anyone within earshot. You can spot them most often lounging on summits or at trailheads wearing brand-new gear from head to toe, regaling resting hikers with tales of their daring ascents up Mt. Princeton and Redcloud/Sunshine. They are a factory of Ed Viesturs and John Muir quotes, as well as admonishments about building storms for anyone still ascending after 10:30 a.m.

Probably Overheard Saying: “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.”

13. THE ONE WE ALL THINK WE ARE
The One We All Think We Are is a certified badass. Like The Head-Scratcher, they come in many forms: retired grandparents, world-class mountaineers and average joes. The unifying knot is that they climb 14ers, whether it’s their first or 300th, purely for personal enjoyment. They aren’t measuring against anything or anyone but themselves. Their online presence, if it exists at all, serves merely to share information and discuss adventures with family and friends. They might have strong ambitions or goals, and that’s OK, because they’re humble and helpful and respectful toward everyone else on the peak. Mountains are viewed in balanced perspective. Their dogs are leashed or well trained, they practice Leave No Trace and they know the rules of the trail. They give advice when asked and offer encouragement instead of deprecating laughter or lectures. This is the category in which we all place ourselves. Which one are you, really?

Probably Overheard Saying: Nothing. They’re listening to you, instead

Source: The 13 Types of People You’ll Meet on a Colorado 14er – Ice and Trail

In Boulder, Where Inner Peace Meets Outer Beauty – The New York Times

NYT writer offers historical context to one of the the country’s most beloved outdoor-adventure cities.

Source: In Boulder, Where Inner Peace Meets Outer Beauty – The New York Times

America’s Toughest Trail: The Manitou Incline | Competitor.com

When it comes to describing the Manitou Incline, there’s no mincing words. It’s relentlessly steep and a ferocious challenge for anyone who tries to hike or run it.

Source: America’s Toughest Trail: The Manitou Incline | Competitor.com

Summer Stashes: Getting turns on Independence Pass

From our friends at Backcountry Magazine: All summer long, we will add to the growing list of places where you can find snowy terrain to beat the heat. This week, we caught up with Tami Razinger and Tim McClellan who spent four days skiing on Independence Pass.

Source: Summer Stashes: Getting turns on Independence Pass

Judge Calls for $2.5M Payout to Family of Colorado Boy Killed by Hunter 

“We want people to realize that when you come, especially to Colorado, and you are going to go into the mountains and take a gun with you that you have a responsibility,” Justin’s mother, Karla Burns, said Tuesday. “You have a responsibility to the other people in the woods.”

Source: Judge says $2.5M should go to family of Mesa County boy killed by hunter’s rogue shot – The Denver Post

HAPPENING NOW: U.S. Olympic Trials – a Colorado Preview 

Olympic trials

The 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field trials run June 30 to July 10 in Eugene, Oregon. Several Colorado runners, and runners with Colorado ties, will compete for a chance to race in Rio.  Here̵…

Source: U.S. Olympic Trials – 2016 Colorado Preview – Colorado Runner

Gearing up for a self supported trip from Durango to Denver on the Colorado Trail – Pikes Peak Sports

Good luck Brandon!

After months of toiling over logistics and physical preparation, my plan is to complete a self-supported, northbound journey on the Colorado Trail from Durango to Denver using the Collegiate West route.

Track Brandon’s progress here.

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Kayak Park Coming to Eagle, CO – Elevation Outdoors Magazine

The town of Eagle just voted to build a whitewater park that will give local kayakers the playground of their dreams and continue to draw outdoor adventurers to a town on the rise.

Source: Kayak Park Coming to Eagle, CO – Elevation Outdoors Magazine

HAPPENING NOW: Colorado 14er Speed Record Attempt

Eric Lee is attempting to beat Andrew Hamilton’s time of summitting all 58 Fourteeners in Colorado in 9 days, 21 hours, and 51 minutes.
Live updates on Eric’s progress can be found here.

GO ERIC GO!

Here are Eric’s thoughts before he took off, from his blog:

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