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Thread: Riding Lifts

  1. #1
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    Riding Lifts

    Yes, I know this is the slide zone. Hang with me for a sec.

    Over the past few years, I've noticed what I would consider to be a mistake on the part of some avalanche professionals (instructors/guides/forecasters) when it comes to riding lifts as a mitigation strategy. It's rarely, if ever, discussed as a skiing option. In fact, I'd even say that among a certain subset of these pros, there's even a snobbishness when it comes to riding lifts. At best, they might admit to riding lifts with their kids (if they have to!)

    Skiing is skiing for me. Yes, there are a host of issues related to resorts these days- most notably parking and traffic. And yes, there are costs involved although in my opinion, passes are dirt cheap compared to 25 years ago (although sadly single day tickets are a different story). Pow days can be a shitshow that not everyone wants to deal with.

    Too often a forecast on a high or extreme day will read "today is a good day to stay home and work on your knitting" Perhaps that should sometimes say "today is a good day to shred pow at a local resort". This past season, my area had a 16 day stretch of considerable or higher, and another 21 day stretch of considerable or higher. There are only so many times that the forecast can read "ski slopes of 30 degrees or lower". People can only be expected to stay vigilant so long. Maybe during prolonged stretches of the same messaging the forecast can toss out a "go spin a few laps inbounds if low angle skiing is getting old for you". I think a lot of avy instructors don't mention inbounds as a strategy at all.

    I get it. No one wants to take a level one just to be told to go ride lifts. Nor does anyone want to read a forecast that says go to the resort. There are plenty of skiers that are perfectly happy meadow skipping as well. But there are times when that might be the right answer. This is perhaps a more acute issue in continental climates and/or bad seasons.

    Maybe it's just the air of superiority that a small subset of pros have against resort skiing that bugs me. I don't know. Just food for thought, feel free to tell me that I'm an idiot or that no, perhaps I have a point.

  2. #2
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    I'll give it a 7/10. The other thing ski areas are good for...practicing your skiing. All to often, when the shit hits the fan or the conditions are shit fuck, BC only guy flails. And yes, this can impact your groups safety whether is because you get tired and fall or you are scared and your SA in compromised and so on.

    Average skiing becomes below average skier in the backcountry and becomes I liability pretty quickly.

    Sent from a 6 m/s face melting thermal

  3. #3
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    ^^^ fair point.

    avalanche professionals (instructors/guides/forecasters)
    Do not generally focus on ski areas, that is left to the ski area forecasters (completely different discipline IMO)

    Most if not all have some type of a patrolling background.

    And this year especially, what with widespread PWLs, several very experienced skiers have shown that sticking to lower angle slopes isn't as easy as it sounds.

    Good topic for discussion though.
    I have been in this State for 30 years and I am willing to admit that I am part of the problem.

    "Happiest years of my life were earning < $8.00 and hour, collecting unemployment every spring and fall, no car, no debt and no responsibilities. 1984-1990 Park City UT"

  4. #4
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    Whenever conditions get to high or extreme it's usually after a big snow event. Have you tried riding inbounds in Colorado after a big snow event lately? Yeah, fuck that.
    Is it radix panax notoginseng? - splat
    This is like hanging yourself but the rope breaks. - DTM
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  5. #5
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    Love this. Agree.

    I also totally agree with Foggy's take on ability. Know what my b/c goal this season was? To get my inbounds ski legs stronger so I ski better in the b/c. I'd had been focusing so much on the approach and "up" fitness in the last few seasons I was skiing crappier in the b/c, often left with too little gas in the tank because I burned it before the drop. Fixed that this season.

    In the FWIW category though, I have seen a gradual thaw of "resort vs b/c" in Backcountry magazine the last couple years. Inbounds is mentioned more in this context of yours GB in their articles, and inbounds advertising is notably much more prevalent. Up until and including actual resorts buying ads.

    I see them as wildly complementary halves of the ski world. And I could *never* pick one over the other. I enjoy both, and both have their place.

  6. #6
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    One of my friends gave me a saying a few years ago that I've been using ever since "chairlifts are highly underrated by backcountry skiers."

    And I totally agree with the sentiment that skiing inbounds can and should be used as a mitigation tool - especially by anyone that is prone to bias towards steeper and more complex terrain (as many/most good skiers are). It is something that I try to talk about in my awareness classes.

    With that said - the trend in avalanche education is to really hammer home "appropriate terrain selection for the conditions" because that makes sense, it's the only piece of the puzzle we can control. And talking about being able to safely go backcountry skiing on days with higher hazard and/or tricky avalanche problems is a part of that. I'm not super connected to the professional world but I absolutely agree that messaging fatigue is a thing (I have seen some forecasters recommend going resort skiing, this probably could be done more) and it's probably something that more professional educators should talk about as well.

    It's tougher in some areas, where there either isn't good resort skiing, the resort skiing is a shitshow, or the local resort is pricing the locals out (the case for me). Fortunately, the snowmobile has been giving me my adrenaline fix this year.

  7. #7
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    ^^^ username checks out
    Is it radix panax notoginseng? - splat
    This is like hanging yourself but the rope breaks. - DTM
    Dude Listen to mtm. He's a marriage counselor at burning man. - subtle plague

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MakersTeleMark View Post
    ^^^ username checks out
    It's funny, I picked this name when I was like.... 19? I don't feel like I really identify with it too much anymore, I am way more laid back and less of an adrenaline junky now, at least consciously.

    Keeping it gives me a reminder and a mental check though that it was once a big part of my mentality and motivation for the sports I do, and that though it's subsided from the front of my consciousness, it's still there as a subconscious motivator that I need to be aware of in my decision making.

  9. #9
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    Terrain appropriate for the conditions should be everyone’s mantra. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t understand what that means. People want to get rad in the BC. Sometimes, if you really want to make it home that means meadow skipping. If you can’t be sated with that you need to go ski inbounds.


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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenboy View Post

    Maybe it's just the air of superiority that a small subset of pros have against resort skiing that bugs me. I don't know. Just food for thought, feel free to tell me that I'm an idiot or that no, perhaps I have a point.
    Me too.
    No, you're not an idiot.
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  11. #11
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    I definitely had a chip on my shoulder the first few seasons after I got into BC skiing. I spent most days seeking untracked runs and wasn't at all interested in skiing the resort, other than as a means to access tours.

    At some point my wife and I realized it was holding back development of skiing skills too. Compared to skiing primo pow or corn it is freaking hard to ski at a high level in the resort through chopped pow, chewed out chutes, etc. especially for more than a few laps.

    Last season I skied inbounds more than I had for years and midway through the season I was wrecked. A coworker and I were talking about it and she said BC builds you up and the resort breaks you down.

    I actually think I do remember skiing inbounds mentioned as a mitigation strategy when I took my level one. Or maybe it's in one of Tremper's books?

  12. #12
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    I get a lot out of a little down hill on my skinny cross country skis.

    I view these as the only true Avalanche Safety gear I own.
    All conditions, all terrain.
    Expect nothing, don’t be disappointed.
    Too Old To Die Young (TOTDY)

  13. #13
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    Terrain management can equal not going backcountry skiing. When it was all I did (no pass) I was probably more at risk.

    The big one for me with Berthoud, was as it got substantially busier, I found myself making increasingly questionable choices to get away from tracks and people.

    Sent from my Turbo 850 Flatbrimed Highhorse

  14. #14
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    Sometimes I'm happy to Meadow skip, but I love skiing steeps. I joke with my friends that buying an Epic Pass is a cheap way (for me) to not die in a slide, but I'm actually somewhat serious.

    I've thought about not buying a pass or just buying a Powderhorn pass, but I think it would push me to make questionable terrain choices mid-winter.

    I hang out with a few elitist backcountry only skiers, and the air of superiority makes me laugh. Very few of them are what I would consider good skiers.

  15. #15
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    This is an interesting thread in that it's something I didn't even really consider. It seems self-evident to me that you'd ski inbounds when avy danger is too high, and I'd think many skiers are happy to ski inbounds vs not skiing. And personally, I'd rather ski inbounds than meadow skip pow that's low enough angle it doesn't qualify as avalanche terrain. But I love skiing inbounds.

    Quote Originally Posted by goldenboy View Post
    This is perhaps a more acute issue in continental climates and/or bad seasons.
    I don't think so. I do think it's different in mind set and challenges though.

    In the PNW, storm skiing inbounds is pretty common. To me, the challenge there is the sidecountry. As the inbounds terrain gets tracked (and gates start to open), you start exploring controlled sidecountry. As that gets tracked, you go further and further. As your terrain choices start to expand after a storm, it can be tough to remember that "lift accessed" does not mean "safe."

    Whereas in CO, I think the challenge is that it's just less clear when/how you decide to tour vs ski inbounds. During long stretches of considerable or sketchy moderate, it makes a ton of sense to mix things up by skiing inbounds some and doing some low-angle touring. As dumb as it seems, I do think some people struggle with a lack of decision-making framework for when to bail on touring entirely and just go rip inbounds instead.
    "Alpine rock and steep, deep powder are what I seek, and I will always find solace there." - Bean Bowers

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  16. #16
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    Yesterday I was talking with two friends that are die hard elitist BC skiers as I left the lot which is also the local TH. One said he wished they had shut down the lifts weeks ago and the other said I don’t need no damn lifts to go skiing. They had just told me about their day and how they rode the lift to access the higher elevation bc adjacent to the ski area. They both have season passes. I just smiled and nodded.


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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    One of my friends gave me a saying a few years ago that I've been using ever since "chairlifts are highly underrated by backcountry skiers."
    I try and take my touring gear out on the lifts once in a while just to get re-acquainted with them.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by adrenalated View Post
    It's funny, I picked this name when I was like.... 19? I don't feel like I really identify with it too much anymore, I am way more laid back and less of an adrenaline junky now, at least consciously.
    Hitting on the reason I changed my name. As I got older and switched to skiing, I found that "Shredgnar" was no longer appropriate.

    I used to ski primarily BC when I was a snowboarder, constantly pushing the limits in avalanche terrain. A couple of bad accidents made me to reconsider my path. Switched to skiing mostly to slow me down a bit. Wanted to get better before going into the BC more. Found a new love for inbounds skiing. Not having to walk uphill all day for one run that is usually mediocre at best, and constantly worry about layers and hidden dangers sure is nice. My legs are stronger than they've been in a long time from just skiing hard 2-3 times a week.

    People who complain about lift served skiing just don't know how to adjust their expectations and still have fun. Powder snobs are dumb. Powder is great, don't get me wrong, but showing up at noon and busting out a bunch of high speed chalk laps on steep technical terrain is my new pow day. Nobody around, blasting some tunes in the helmet, poking into little nooks and crannies that no one else takes the time to mess with. That's my jam. The morning lineup for first chair on a pow day makes me kind of nauseous. All the hype and chatter just gets old (as I get older).

  19. #19
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    I had a handful of years where I predominantly ski toured. I found that during that time that my actual ski strength started to go to pot. I got back into lift skiing to get stronger again then all this mega pass, covid powder chaser BS happened and I learned to appreciate moguls and packed powder skiing all over again more so than powder day skiing because it's become such a freaking zoo.

    As far as skiing steep, in bounds terrain in heavy storm/dangerous conditions I don't ever turn off that "analyzing terrain and conditions" part. I probably sound like an arrogant crusty old dude but I have a lot more experience than a lot of the supposed "experts" or ski area decision makers so there's no way I blindly trust them.

    As far as skiing being more affordable than ever maybe that's so but the cost to go to our local ski area isn't worth it anymore imo. The value is gone. The mega pass thing is great if you can travel around and go on ski safaris but for the working class local skiers that can't afford that luxury it sure isn't. I've always lived somewhere with a local ski area and had a pass and I understood and accepted that luxury ski vacations weren't really on the table. I was ok with that but now, the local ski area experience is shit most of the time. So then what? You might say then move but moving to another place with a ski area I have interest in isn't going to happen anymore either. I have much different values and responsibilities. So ya, if you don't mind crowded shit show powder days, ski runs so over run with people that it's ridiculously dangerous or are lucky enough to be far enough off the radar at a ski town like say.....Crested Butte then it's not all rose petals and chocolates.

    Now don't misread this as me being angry or frustrated because I'm not. It is what it is and the timing for me is pretty darn good as I'm losing interest anyways.
    dirtbag, not a dentist

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Name Redacted View Post
    People who complain about lift served skiing just don't know how to adjust their expectations and still have fun. Powder snobs are dumb. Powder is great, don't get me wrong, but showing up at noon and busting out a bunch of high speed chalk laps on steep technical terrain is my new pow day. Nobody around, blasting some tunes in the helmet, poking into little nooks and crannies that no one else takes the time to mess with. That's my jam. The morning lineup for first chair on a pow day makes me kind of nauseous. All the hype and chatter just gets old (as I get older).
    Same 150% for me. It's like I almost resent powder day hype BS.

    My best days last season were in April during a week long MF corn event ripping empty groomers on my metal skis. It was like I could finally actually let my guard down and ski.
    dirtbag, not a dentist

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by raisingarizona13 View Post
    I had a handful of years where I predominantly ski toured. I found that during that time that my actual ski strength started to go to pot. I got back into lift skiing to get stronger again then all this mega pass, covid powder chaser BS happened and I learned to appreciate moguls and packed powder skiing all over again more so than powder day skiing because it's become such a freaking zoo.

    As far as skiing steep, in bounds terrain in heavy storm/dangerous conditions I don't ever turn off that "analyzing terrain and conditions" part. I probably sound like an arrogant crusty old dude but I have a lot more experience than a lot of the supposed "experts" or ski area decision makers so there's no way I blindly trust them.

    As far as skiing being more affordable than ever maybe that's so but the cost to go to our local ski area isn't worth it anymore imo. The value is gone. The mega pass thing is great if you can travel around and go on ski safaris but for the working class local skiers that can't afford that luxury it sure isn't. I've always lived somewhere with a local ski area and had a pass and I understood and accepted that luxury ski vacations weren't really on the table. I was ok with that but now, the local ski area experience is shit most of the time. So then what? You might say then move but moving to another place with a ski area I have interest in isn't going to happen anymore either. I have much different values and responsibilities. So ya, if you don't mind crowded shit show powder days, ski runs so over run with people that it's ridiculously dangerous or are lucky enough to be far enough off the radar at a ski town like say.....Crested Butte then it's not all rose petals and chocolates.

    Now don't misread this as me being angry or frustrated because I'm not. It is what it is and the timing for me is pretty darn good as I'm losing interest anyways.
    I can’t agree with any of this. Probably 90% of my skiing is in one of the busiest ski canyons in North America and despite the drive, the crowds, Ikon, shitty drivers, etc, the skiing and overall experience is damn good. Even on a powder Saturday I rarely wait in a lift line longer than a couple minutes by noon.

    I’d guess your current mood towards skiing has more to do with your own personal interest, and less to do with the changing experience.

  22. #22
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    Riding Lifts

    By noon, the pow has been shralped already for at least 3 hrs around here so no lines by noon either 🤷

    I tend to agree w the previous poster. A completely different resort experience from the late 90s and Aughts
    Last edited by mcski; 03-31-2024 at 05:25 PM.

  23. #23
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    You guys are saying the same thing. We are replaceable and some of us have already been replaced. I have no data regarding business at Snowbird and Alta now versus 15 plus years ago but I know what I'd bet on.

  24. #24
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    So yes, the degradation of the ski area experience has and will continue to push skiers into the BC often under elevated hazard.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by alias_rice View Post
    I can’t agree with any of this. Probably 90% of my skiing is in one of the busiest ski canyons in North America and despite the drive, the crowds, Ikon, shitty drivers, etc, the skiing and overall experience is damn good. Even on a powder Saturday I rarely wait in a lift line longer than a couple minutes by noon.

    I’d guess your current mood towards skiing has more to do with your own personal interest, and less to do with the changing experience.
    I'm not asking you to agree with it or feel the same. We are all different and in different places. The changes, crowds, traffic, dangerously overcrowded slopes etc. is very real here and I'm not interested in spending my free time that way any longer. We don't have the terrain or space off our lifts here and I don't really have the time or drive to tour much here anymore either but you aren't completely wrong. My interests have shifted lately. Trail building is SO addicting to me and I'm growing and progressing as a rider and a builder. That's the drug I guess that I'm chasing right now. I don't get that from skiing anymore. Skiing started to feel like the same thing over and over again. I need more than that. One of the biggest factors was spending 4 years camping and working in the outdoors. I'd become so cold and not be able to get warm sometimes for many days at a time. I don't enjoy the cold very much anymore, especially as I approach 50 and I can feel all of my old injuries!

    I'm super pumped for you and fully enjoying your time skiing though! Watching our kids get after it definitely is awesome. That factor has helped keep me more engaged with the sport over the last 15 years for sure.
    dirtbag, not a dentist

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