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Tejada-Flores and Steck - Wilderness Skiing
This is a pocket-sized handbook, great for explaining the state of backcountry skiing shortly before the telemark revival began in the United States. It's noteworthy that the authors were unsure of what to call this book (p. 9), since the expression backcountry skiing was not in common use at the time. The standard expressions to describe this sport were ski touring and cross-country skiing, but each was usually limited to a particular technique of skiing. (See offbelay-1973-dec-p51.)


p. 10: "Wilderness skiing, as we understand it, practice and love it, and hope to explain it in this book, is any form of skiing away from the confines of an organized ski area--any sort of skiing that takes place, and takes the skier, far from the madding crowd. It is not one homogeneous sport, but rather a whole variety of feelings, of excursions, of movements: walking, plodding under giant packs; loping and gliding through forests; sliding endlessly down gentle glaciers and spring snowfields; plunging through steep forests, down long chutes. It may last for hours, days or weeks at a time."

p. 13: The authors don't discuss snowshoeing in this book because they are convinced that skiing is easy to learn and because they value "the extra dimension of kinesthetic involvement with the landscape that only skiing provides: the quality of the sport in its rhythmic, controlled yet free movement."

Chapter 1 - The Two Styles

p. 19: The beginning wilderness skier must chose between two styles: Nordic skiing ("cross-country") or Alpine skiing ("ski touring"). In this book, Nordic skiing is associated with flat or gently rolling terrain and with travel from one point to another. Alpine skiing is associated with steep, rugged, often precipitous terrain, where skiing downhill is the main goal. The authors recommend that the beginner choose a style based on the terrain he or she wishes to ski, as well as his or her ambition and outdoor experience. They note that Nordic skiing is easier to learn and the equipment is cheaper. "Perhaps the most complete wilderness skier is the one who adapts himself most perfectly to the kind of landscape he is moving through (p. 23)."

Chapter 2 - Nordic-Cross-Country Ski Techniques

p. 25: "In the last few years there has been a minor explosion in the availability of Nordic ski gear in this country." Skis are classed in three categories: racing, light touring, and touring skis. The touring category includes so-called "mountain skis," which may have metal edges. The authors don't say much about such skis.

p. 48: For downhill running, the step turn and snowplow are described. Advanced turns include christies (skidded turns) familiar to Alpine skiers. Performing christies on Nordic equipment requires old fashioned downhill technique, characterized by hopping, weigh shift, and heel thrust. "An advanced turn which is purely Nordic is the telemark. It carries us even further into the past than the technique described above, and it's a matter of open debate among Nordic specialists whether or not it's still really useful for anything (p. 53)."

Chapter 3 - Alpine Touring Ski Techniques

p. 58: "Alpine touring boots, ideally, are of about the height and stiffness of heavy mountaineering boots. And so, in many cases, if you already own a pair of really heavy climbing boots, these will do just fine." Old-fashioned lace-up ski boots are also recommended. Boots made specifically for Alpine ski touring are much harder to obtain in the U.S., but major outdoor suppliers have a few models. As examples, the authors mention the Minaret, Galibier Haute Route, and the Val d'Or touring boot. Most Alpine tourers use conventional Alpine skis, sized somewhat shorter than for lift skiing.

p. 61: Three categories of Alpine touring bindings are described (with drawings on p. 57):

For skins, the Trima and Vinersa models are recommended (p. 64).

Chapter 5 - Multi-Day Ski Tours

p. 155: Ski mountaineering is presented by the authors as a way for winter and spring mountaineers to increase mobility and "consequently [have] a greater likelihood of making your peak." They add, almost as an afterthought: "Climbing a peak on skis, just for the run down, is also a form of ski mountaineering."

Chapter 7 - Snow and Avalanches

p. 195: Skadi avalanche transceivers are discussed briefly. "It's been calculated that a Skadi-equipped searcher looking for a Skadi-equipped victim is the equivalent of nearly 500 men with probing poles. [...] But, since each unit costs over a hundred dollars, and you need at least two, the Skadi is not likely to become popular with touring skiers."

Chapter 9 - The Ski-Touring Scene

p. 228: The authors discuss the Pacific Northwest briefly and offer high praise for Northwest Ski Tours by Ted Mueller (mueller-1968): "This book should serve as a model for future ski-touring guidebooks produced for other areas around the country."

Chapter 10 - Beyond Touring

p. 240: "In recent years, expert skiers--of whom the most famous is the Swiss guide, Sylvain Saudan--have realized some astonishing exploits on skis. In Alpine circles a subtle competition has developed around making the 'first ski descent' of slopes, couloirs and mountain faces, hitherto considered impossible to ski. These skiers have certainly skied slopes over 45 degrees. And steeper than 50 degrees has been claimed, though we are extremely skeptical. At this angle, the experienced alpinist is clinging to the slope with ice axe and hammer, and moving up on the front points of his crampons." The authors describe a jump turn technique for steep terrain (the "windshield wiper" turn).

p. 246: "It's our contention that skiing maximum slopes is only possible on consolidated or spring-type snow. At 40 degrees, a powder slope will almost certainly avalanche or slough off as you ski it." This has been proven untrue in the Cascades, where fresh snow can be stable at alarming angles, but the author's concerns are quite sensible.

p. 275: "Climbing is an entirely different art, and you would do well to treat every phase of it with respect. For the climber generally plays for higher stakes than the skier."

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Last Updated: Mon Aug 29 09:06:29 PDT 2005