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Backcountry Magazine, 1990-99

Backcountry Magazine, 1995

Dec 1994/Jan 1995, p. 20, Ramer, Paul, "Where's the Adventure?"

"There seems to be some magic line that separates the ordinary from the unusual. On one side of the line, life is safe, predictable, and a bit boring. On the other side lies Adventure. Some cross the line by taking more personal risk -- ski faster, steeper, bumpier, more air, more chances. [...] But there's another way that can bring back the Adventure of skiing to everyone. Consider this: The definition of Adventure is simply, 'an undertaking with uncertain outcome.'"

"These days you can expect trails to be groomed, rocks to be marked, and avalanche danger to be controlled. You can expect bindings to release (or not release), skis to perform, and boots to provide total control. But I think skiers are getting a little restless with all this coddling, and the ski resorts are beginning to respond with new ungroomed areas and legal 'out-of-bounds' skiing. The point is, there is no Adventure Skiing out there waiting for you. You have to create it for yourself. [...] Some people have to face death to feel alive. If you cultivate your ability to create Adventure, wherever you are, you will feel alive."

Mar 1995, p. 20, Bard, Allan, "Telemarking is NOT a sport"

The author notes that he has been asked many times why he often makes parallel turns on nordic ski equipment. "I've been teaching skiing for almost 20 years," he writes, "and it amazes me that people still ask this question. [...] Perhaps it's time to set the record straight. Telemarking is not a sport, it's a turn, just a turn. Not the turn of the century, just another in a repertoire of many turns."

"Before we were tele skiers or backcountry skiers we had one pair of skis that did it all. With the lightest and least substantial of all skis we skied all terrain, all snow. Does anybody remember that? [...] Well, remember this, my friends: We're nordic skiers, not telemark skiers. [...] "Aren't we just out there searching for beautiful scenery, crisp winter air, fresh turns and most important, that sliding feeling? Yes, that's it, that's the real glue that connects us all -- sliding on snow, any kind of sliding."

Oct 1995, cover photo by Carl Skoog

Lowell Skoog, skiing in a storm, near Crystal Mountain, Washington.

Oct 1995, p. 26, Coats, Larry, "Urge to Merge: The harmonic convergence of AT and free-heel equipment"

"When Lito Tejada-Flores wrote his definitive work on backcountry skiing in 1981, he predicted the day when 'the distinction between nordic and alpine skiing in the backcountry (will) disappear altogether.' I humbly suggest that this day has come. When discussing the heavier gear available on the market today, the only difference between the two approaches is whether the heels are free, or locked down. Consider this: With a high-topped, plastic-cuffed, buckle-closed tele boot, what difference does it make whether the heel is free, or locked down? [...] I argue that in all other aspects, downhill technique is the same, regardless of the equipment you have chosen."

Oct 1995, p. 48, Turiano, Thomas, "High Anxiety: Strategy for the Steeps"

This article explains techniques for skiing steep terrain, which the author defines as anything over 35 degrees where the consequences of a fall could be severe injury or death. The author's technique employs a double pole plant, parallel hop initiation, retraction of the skis, and a hockey stop to control speed. The article includes a photo sequence of the author hop turning on sturdy free-heel gear.

Backcountry Magazine, 1996

Nov 1996, p. 16, Litz, Brian et al, "Livin' Large"

Wider and more shaped skis are reaching the backcountry ski specialty market. "If you downhill ski, you know that an earthquake of technology and design has rocked the industry in recent years. The shockwaves now ripple through the backcountry. The rumbling began a few years ago with cap skis and now there's a whole lot a shaking going on with deep sidecut and shaped skis that cut curves with the precision of a laser beam, with hyper-fat skis that drool over suffocatingly deep powder and heavy spring chop." Examples in this review include the Dynastar Big (115/90/108mm) and Rossignol Cut 11.5 (115/85/104mm).

Dec 1996, p. 42, Petterson, Jimmy, "Sylvain: Extreme Skiing at a Full Gallic"

Sylvain Saudan was born in Lausanne, Switzerland on September 23, 1936. After ski instructing and working as a mountain guide for eight or nine years, he realized that he had spent an entire winter without falling. He decided he needed new challenges. In 1965 and 1966, he began training to sharpen his balance. His preferred mode of training was to ski on rocks. "You know, in spring, when the snow begins to melt, we are often forced to ski across patches of grass as we proceed from one snowy area to another, and there the idea came to me." When training on rocks, Saudan would ski for 30 minutes at a time, sliding down almost any terrain.

In 1967, he began to put his special training to use with the descent of Couloir Spencer, a short chute of about 500 vertical meters and an average steepness of about 55 degrees. From the beginning he put major effort into promoting himself by arranging for photographers and journalists to record his efforts. This, according to Saudan, was not for fame or fortune, but to eke out a living through his skiing.

The Guinness Book of Records cites Saudan for having achieved the world's steepest ski descent--the Gervasutti Couloir on Mont Blanc, about 60 degrees, in 1967--and the longest vertical descent--from 6200 meters to 1900 meters on Mt McKinley in 1972--and for being the first man to ski from an 8000-meter peak--Hidden Peak in 1982. Saudan's other descents include the Whymper Couloir in Chamonix and the Marinelli Couloir from Zermatt down into Italy. In the early 1970s, Saudan obtained the sponsorship of Salomon and felt compelled to seek even more good publicity to give the company a return for their sponsorship. In 1986, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, he skied Mt Fuji in Japan, 1500 vertical meters, all on rocks.

Saudan says, "I am not crazy, and I am not fearless. Someone who is never afraid is crazy ... he is dangerous. Before a steep descent, I have much feeling of apprehension. There is a big difference between apprehension and fear. If you are afraid, you lose control." The author writes, "There is, perhaps, no tangent of the sport which is more representative of the consummate skier than steep skiing. [...] It contains all the variables of what makes a complete skier." Saudan feels, "For me, what is steep, is if you make a mistake, you are dead."

At the time of this article, Saudan has a ski company making a "Sylvain Saudan" ski and a heliskiing company operating in Kashmir. He is also involved with the organization of an annual Himalayan marathon in Pakistan.

Backcountry Magazine, 1998

Jan 1998, p. 22, Ingersoll, Doug, "Wicked Wich of the West"

On July 19, 1997, Armond DuBuque, Doug Ingersoll, Andrew McLean, and Carl Skoog climbed and skied the Edmunds Glacier headwall on the Mowich Face of Mt Rainier. The party approached from the Mowich Lake road, which was officially closed five miles from the end. The gate was unlocked and they managed to shuttle their loads to the end before meeting two park rangers who required them to park outside and hike back to their packs. Two days were required to reach a high camp below the face. During the approach, the author wondered: "Would it be warm enough to soften the snow at 14,000 feet? How would it feel to watch a friend lose an edge and plunge to his death? Was it really worth playing around with this mountain in this way?" Luck was with them and the freezing level rose from 8,500 feet to 13,500 feet on their summit day. They all climbed the face to Liberty Cap, and DuBuque and McLean continued to the true summit and back. The 4000-foot descent, which measured 48 degrees near the top, proceeded without incident. The article includes action photos of McLean and Ingersoll skiing and an aerial photo of the face.

In the March 1998 issue (p. 14), a letter from Lowell Skoog commented on the article: "What I appreciated most about the piece was that it described the decision making involved in extreme skiing. Too often, the press plays up the macho aspects of steep skiing without stressing the judgment and self restraint required."

Dec 1998, p. 20, Byerly, Doug, "White Line Fever"

In late winter, 1998, Jon Allen, Doug Byerly, and Lorne Glick traversed the entire Wasatch Range in Utah on skis, travelling south to north. Using caches along the way and travelling light, they spent 23 days skiing 275 miles, ascended 108,000 feet, and reached 29 summits during the trip.

Dec 1998, p. 36, Dappen, Andy, "$ummit$"

The author argues against the USFS Fee Demonstration Program and the trend toward "pay to play" management of National Forests, Parks, and Monuments. According to the author, Fee Demo is part of a carefully orchestrated strategy by sympathetic Congressmen working with the "wise-use" movement. In this strategy, public land management budgets are deliberately cut, starving the responsible agencies. In the meantime, private/public joint ventures and fee systems are promoted to "rescue" the agencies from the shortfall. The result is increasing commercialization and privatization of public lands to the benefit of interests like the American Recreational Coalition, which represents recreational and off-road vehicle manufacturers, downhill ski areas, tour and lodging companies, and oil corporations. The author urges readers to boycott the fees, spread the word, and lobby elected officials to kill the Fee Demonstration Program.

In the January 1999 issue (p. 8), Carl Skoog writes supporting Dappen's point of view, while Tom Medema urges readers not to buy Dappen's arguments and not to break the law in protest. Issue #19 (March 1999, p. 6) includes four more letters, most opposing the Fee Demo Program. D. Sherer writes: "Along with this development comes the steady elimination of recreational activities that do not generate revenue in favor of activities that do. I am extremely concerned that the children of today will have little or no opportunity to experience a natural world without the interference of commercialization and development."

Backcountry Magazine, 1999

Dec 1999, p. 42, Hirschfield, Cindy, "The Avalung: A Look at the Backcountry's Newest Player"

The Avalung was conceived by Tom Crowley, a Colorado backcountry skier and professor of psychiatry. The device is a vest with a mouthpiece at the collar and tubing and valves that direct incoming and outgoing air to different parts of the vest, enabling the wearer to breathe if buried in an avalanche. Crowley begain experimenting with the concept in the early 1990s. After obtaining a patent in 1996, he approached Black Diamond to refine and commercialize the device. During development, test subjects were buried in snow for up to an hour wearing the Avalung. Subjects found the experience unpleasant and nervewracking, but had no problems breathing. Some critics fear that the Avalung may foster a false sense of security.

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