Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home

Free Snow, 1990-99

Free Snow, 1993

Spring 1993, p. 4 - Wilson, Geordie, "That's Steep"

A short article about extreme skiing in the Cascades, published at a time when this branch of the sport had only a few participants. The article features comments by Jimmy Katz, Don Pattison, and Doug Ingersoll.

Jimmy Katz skied Mt Rainier's Liberty Ridge on free-heel gear in 1989. He chose to use free-heel gear because it provided more challenge without having to tackle the very steepest slopes. He admitts to ambivalence about the motives of many extreme skiers, including himself: "It generally has to do with macho insecurity," he said. "I had some of that myself, but I don't think it's in any way admirable. Go work in the Peace Corps."

Don Pattison, one of Katz's skiing partners, says, "I'm just trying to look for the nice aesthetic ones I feel I can do and pull off. I don't go anywhere near 'em unless it's perfect for me." Pattison cites the Early Morning Couloir and Cooper Spur on Mt Hood, as well as Rainier's Fuhrer Finger, Monitor Ridge on Mt St Helens, and the SW Chutes on Mt Adams, as memorable routes. His favorite steep descent is the Wy'east Route on Mt Hood.

Doug Ingersoll, one of a group of adventurous skiers loosely affiliated with the Feathered Friends store in Seattle, skied Utah's Monte Cristo in the Wasatch Mountains with Carl Skoog and Alex Lowe in the winter of 1993. He has also skied Dragontail's West Couloir and Clark Mtn in the Cascades. In the spring of 1993, Ingersoll and a group of friends are hoping to ski the Mowich Face of Mt Rainier. Ingersoll notes that "a lot of what gets called extreme skiing here would probably be guided in Europe." He feels that the North Cascades offer practically unlimited opportunities for skiers seeking steep descents.

Spring 1993, p. 6 - Garibaldi, John, "Silver Skis"

This well written article includes quotes from interviews with Don Amick, Hjalmar Hvam, Matt Broze and Robert Odum. It briefly describes the Silver Skis races in 1934, 1936, 1938, 1940, 1942 and 1947. The article contains a few errors, but they are relatively minor. Two photos from the Seattle P-I collection are included.

Fall 1993, p. 7 - Bune, Kaj, "The Friendly Game"

An essay on preserving the sense of discovery in backcountry skiing. Excerpts:
Where is this place? I can't tell you. All of us that day took the unspoken oath of the backcountry skier. Anyone who has ever made a similar "discovery" knows what I'm talking about. There is absolutely no reason to believe that we were the first to enjoy this beautiful place, but that isn't the point, is it? The point, I think, is that the great thing about mountaineering of any kind is that every day is a new set of circumstances to be seen for the first time. [...]

So it doesn't matter where Orgasmatron Ridge is. When you go there it will be different, and you will call it something else, I'm sure. The same will be true when you go to Powder Horn Bowl. The deep powder will certainly be there when you arrive and the cornice jumping as good as ever, but it will be something new and different to you. Sometime this winter we may even meet there and share a few runs, never revealing to one another the significance of the place. That would risk "giving it away" and breaking the spell. So when you ask me where Orgasmatron Ridge is, don't be offended when I answer with the reply--"somewhere in the North Cascades".

It's all part of the friendly game.

Fall 1993, p. 8 - Wilson, Geordie, "Huts in High Places"

Most of the huts in this Northwest survey are outside Washington. But the author discusses a few huts in the Cascades.

Scottish Lakes Nomad Camp in the Chiwaukum Mountains has been operated for years by Bill and Peg Stark. The huts are just below 5,000 feet and provide sleeping space for six groups. There are 25-30 km of cross-country ski trails, lower elevation skiing through clearcuts, and high elevation touring on peaks such as Mt Baldy. The Starks are trying to sell the camp and are currently leasing the huts to another operator.

Dale Caulfield's Rendezvous Outfitters operates four heated and insulated huts on a 60-mile trail system northwest of Winthrop, in the Methow mountains. The huts are popular mostly with cross-country trail skiers.

The Mt Tahoma Trails Association operates a series of three cabins and one yurt just outside the Mt Rainier National Park boundaries. The system is run by volunteers who maintain the buildings and ski the trails. The huts are above the park's Nisqually entrance and the yurt is located on the west side of the mountain.

Free Snow, 1994

Winter 1994, p. 4 - Geiger, Beth, "The Man Behind the Number"

Originally an engineer, Mark Moore took time off to work as a ski patroller in California in the early 1970s. Eventually, he migrated north to study avalanches and meteorology at the University of Washington. In 1976, he helped start the first local avalanche forecast center. Initially he forecasted avalanches for the Highway Department. A recorded public phone message was added in the late 1970s. At present, the Forest Service's Avalanche Forecast Center in the NOAA Sandpoint Way complex in Seattle has a staff of three and a network of 16 automated recording sites located throughout the Cascades, primarily at highway passes and ski areas. They also get daily reports from all the ski patrols and the Highway Department is another major cooperator.

Free Snow, 1995

Winter 1995, p. 8 - Simmons, Drew, "Wilderness Technology"

The first use of a cell phone to launch a search in the North Cascades National Park occurred when stranded climbers on the east ridge of Forbidden Peak called the ranger station in Marblemount (date not specified). This article discusses the impact of technology--cell phones, global positioning systems, advanced ski and clothing designs, and specialized gear--on the wilderness experience. Kristin Laine of Starwave Corporation describes Outside Online, a web-based information and discussion forum to be launched in April 1995. North Cascades park ranger Kelly Bush describes the impact of information on backcountry usage patterns. When a new guidebook promoted the east ridge of Forbidden Peak as the best climbing route on the mountain, traffic switched almost completely to that route from the west ridge, which had formerly been the most popular.

Ken Keely of Voile says of technology, "It's a double-edged sword. Safety is definitely improved, but it's also definitely detrimental in the fact that it makes the wilderness area smaller." Guidebook writer Rainier Burgdorfer responds, "Wilderness is a myth. People think, assume, that because we're human beings, that somehow evolution has stopped and somehow we can preserve things the way they were." The author concludes: "No one expects anyone to sacrifice safety or abandon state-of-the-art gear for the purpose of becoming a backcountry martyr. Rather, it is a matter of considering the difference between what we can do and what we choose to do."

Spring 1995, p. 4 - Laine, Kristin, "Dressed to Thrill"

"The Mt St Helens summer dress tradition could be said to have started with Kathy Phibbs, co-founder of Seattle's Women Climbers Northwest [WCN]. She hiked up and telemarked down St Helens in 1987, not long after the mountain was re-opened to climbing, in a red chiffon dress. A photo of her--one edge of her chiffon skirt tied to her wrist in the fashion of ladies at ballroom dances--made the front page of The Seattle Times." Since 1987, the last Sunday before permits are required each spring--typically Mother's Day--has become a date for costumed climbers and skiers to converge on Mt St Helens. The tradition of costumed parties followed from WCN's tea parties at the U.W. Climbing Rock and the telemark ski party (freesnow-1994-spr) organized each spring for at least a decade.

Spring 1995, p. 10 - Simmons, Drew, "The Tele-Geek Conspiracy"

"I'm so sorry to see telemarking reinventing itself as alpine skiing," says a Northwest backcountry enthusiast. As plastic telemark boots and wide, cap skis have blurred the differences between nordic and alpine skiing, there has been a resurgence in telemarking. "Four years ago it was quickly dying out as a sport unto itself," says Jordy Margid of Black Diamand Equipment. The author writes, "For many telemarkers, alpine skiing is what they wanted to get away from when they started free-heel skiing. To go back now would be surrender. [...] And they're willing to face plant to prove it."

Fall 1995, p. 13 - Thomson, Gordon, "In the line of duty"

In the late 1930s, Gordon Stuart and Guy Imus were commissioned by the Washington Water Power Company (WWP) to survey the snowpack above Lake Chelan in the Railroad and Agnes Creek drainages in order to predict runoff into the Columbia River reservoirs. Stuart, a snowshoer, measured snow for WWP every year for 20 years. Stuart and Imus, followed later by Ray Courtney and others, traveled up Railroad Creek to Lyman Lake, over Cloudy Pass, then down Agnes Creek, typically spending two weeks for each survey. In the late 1950s, WWP began taking the surveys by helicopter instead of on foot. By the late 1970s, electronic instrumentation was developed that could measure snow depth and water content without human hands. Data could be monitored remotely via radio signal. Courtney did a survey on foot for one year after the instrumentation was installed so old records could be correlated with the new electronic data. After that, the Lyman Lake cabin was removed. Information in this article is from Mountain Air, the biography of Gordon Stuart, by Sandy Bryant (bryant-1986).

Free Snow, 1996

Spring 1996, p. 8 - Thomson, Gordon, "The Mt Rainier Volunteer Ski Patrol"

Following the disappearance of backcountry skier Jim Kampe on Mt Rainier in 1990, Stan Davis, Gerry Erickson, and backcountry park rangers conceived the idea of the Mt Rainier Ski Patrol. For the past three winters, from November through April, volunteers have patrolled the trails and backcountry around the Paradise area. The patrollers reset trail markers and relay information to the rangers in the event of an emergency, helping out as needed. Since they aren't rangers, the patrollers do not enforce park rules. Fortunately, most winter backcountry travelers at Mt Rainier are experienced and competent and the ski patrollers have had few emergencies during the past two years.

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