Randosteve gets a facial during the early days on Wimpys.
Maybe it’s the gear, the skill level, the media, or the now easily accessible backcountry terrain out of ski resort gates, but it seems like today, many skiers are forgoing the natural progression of steeping it up from easier to gnarlier lines. Instead, going right to the gnarly stuff…without paying their dues.
Now, I have no scientific data to back up these comments and I’m not sure there is any to be had. But when I was getting started, I spent many days at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort fine tuning my skills and strengthening my endurance levels before heading out towards the bigger peaks of Grand Teton National Park. And then, once you learned your way around, you would slowly move up the ladder. First skiing Peak 10,696 or Albright, then moving on to Buck Mountain or Disappointment Peak, and then stepping it up even further to mountains like the Middle Teton, and South Teton. Finally, capping off your hit-list with a descent of Mount Moran or Teewinot. Skiing the Grand Teton was one of those things that you dreamed about for years, eventually building up enough skills to give it a try and maybe or maybe not ending up successful. Today, sometimes it seems like after only one or two tours in the park, skiers are heading right for the bigger peaks, skipping the apprenticeships that should be allowed to progress.
Randosteve scores some great corn at the bottom
of the Ford Couloir on the Grand Teton.
I guess I could blame myself for some of this stuff happening locally, because I post pictures on the internet of skiing some of these peaks, maybe reducing the fear factor a little bit. But I feel like posturing and spraying (instead of pure challenge and sense of adventure) are the main reasons skiers these days are jumping head first into higher consequence, steeper terrain…possibly before they are ready. The big thing that bugs me is that there is often very little room for error when pushing the limits in ski mountaineering and falling is sometimes not an option. Far too many times I have seen skiers with poor form skiing couloirs and faces that they have no right being in or on. Unfortunately, conditions are not always perfect in the high mountains and a skier must be able to handle anything that is thrown at him/her…something many resort skiers fail to realize, thinking it’s always soft snow that will be under their skis.
I know I’m leaving myself open for critique, since one could easily state that I am the one spraying and posturing with this TetonAT website, but I have paid my dues and think very seriously about what, when and how I am skiing in the backcountry. What’s your take???
As a backcountry skier of 3 seasons sometimes my friends and I read your blog and wildsnow and feel like were not getting the most out of our seasons because were not skiing the coolest stuff. Its great to hear someone else saying that we have to pay our dues and get the mileage to ski bigger terrain smarter. At least we know we are on the right track.
You are absolutely right and the reason is modern “shaped”skis which have allowed people who fundamentally don’t know how to ski to go out and try anything. These people are as dangerous as snowboarders at a ski area. The “shaped ski revolution” is a mixed blessing.
I think it has less to do with equipment and more to do with mass psychology. We live in an society that expects everything immediately, and sometimes five minutes ago. Immediate gratification combined with attention deficits have produced the latest ego building skiers. There isn’t time to build up those skills anymore, it is all about give it to me now, and you better be filming me and paying me big time as well.
Blaming this phenomenon on shaped skis and snowboarders will not get to the root of this issue. Kinda like blaming the bullet for killing, when it required someone at the trigger.
I’m not a skier (low lander from KY but love the backcountry of the Tetons and Winds) so I probably shouldn’t weigh-in on this topic but here goes anyway….What’s the problem with newcomers skiing the backcountry? If they get in over their head they will crash and burn, right? Shouldn’t everyone have the equal opportunity to crash and burn? Maybe newcomers in the backcountry have contributed to more accidents, rescues, deaths. Is that the case? Maybe skiers who are rescued should be charged a fee.
Thanks for the challenge Tri.
I have nothing wrong with beginner BC skiers…as long as they stay on realitive terrain for thier a abilities. You don’t want to be falling down all over the place in the BC. As far rescues go, you never know when you might need one, so it’s hard to truly be too harsh on a patient/victum. I think each accident is different as to the level of natural selection that should truly be taking place.
Damn snowboarders mess everything up! LOL..that is the most played out scape goat…Billy Bob must be from Alta or Taos…wait Taos has been freed.
Steve-you are right that bc is like an apprenticeship and one must work their way up. It would be like someone going to the rock gym all their lives and then thinking they can saunter into the Cirque of Towers and flash a 5.10 multipitch route. Two words…stupid and dangerous.
I agree. When i first moved to jackson, just skiing telemark bowl was a huge deal! Now i see first timers out all alone, no avy gear, and skiing glory bowl on considerable days.
It only really bothers me when it endangers others not in their group.
I would also agree with steve that this site probably has some blame to take at least here in jackson.
Maybe just try to be clear somehow that skiing couloirs in the park is very dangerous.
But you can’t babysit people.
Truth! I can’t even babysit myself.
I’ve got to agree with tri. If someone’s not endangering another person it’s really their own decision to make. You put up this site probably in large part because you’re stoked about skiing. You will get people accusing you of dick-waving or giving up “da goods”. Nothing you can do about that.
I am such a rookie I don’t even know what is over my head. I’ve just gone on tours with those in whom I trust and who have a bunch of BC experience. That has been a good strategy, but I can recall one situation last spring that made me quite uncomfortable. Some folks just sandbag you and say “it’s nooo problem.” Ask the route before-hand and get another reference from someone who is not going. Find out if your buddy is a sandbagger and is going to drop a bunch of vertical on your weak ass and leave you with nothing for the descent…happens.
Well I have skied and boarded and have been doing both for about 14 years so I guess I have a 7 year average that I wasent endangering others.hahaha!!! Its all about respect, respect for yourself the mountains and others you may involve with your poor decisions. Accident do happen and any one of use may need help at one time or another, but try to understand you bad decision or luck may have a huge effect on someone else. Other then that I believe Tecnology has played a huge role in it, growing up in the Wyoming mts. especially the winds you knew to take you time and play it safe because chances were if you made a big mistake it would be your last. Now I believe there is a false sence of confidence that if you screw up a chopper is on the way, and thats to bad. I can see many time that I didnt play by these rules and I am not claiming to be perfect, but I think everyone need to take a step back before they take there first step into every BC trip. Keep up the good work Steve.
Steve you are 100% correct. Progression only can be achieved over years of experience. Statistic’s show that most people do not become proficient at their profession for 5 years. No doubt that comes with any sport, hobby etc. Unfortunetly their is the majority of skiers/riders that watch the TV and decide that “They can do this”. So they take a holiday and decide they are going to ride/ski some big lines. “I believe that is were the problem starts” No knowledge, No past experiences, No training etc. The least they could do is buy a book and read about snow conditions prior to take a leap of faith. I am sorry if I voiced my opinion to much, but it is very frusterating when you are out their and you see people taking chances. None of us should claim to expects, we all just take calculated risks.
I feel that fat skis, not shaped skis are a huge reason why this lack of skills on snow is seen everywhere in the Tetons, not just Teton Park. Like myself and many others, I learned to make small controlled turns on skinny skis, in all types of conditions, gradually increasing skills, and opening it up a little bit when conditions were right. Remember trying to make turns in a breakable crust on skinny skis, it was an expert skier skill.Not any more, now you have intermediate skiers that do not build their technique before moving to fat skis. Once on these “magical” skis these skiers love to ride fast and in the back seat with offensive technique. Teton Pass, and the easier lines on Cody Peak is a great place to observe this phenomenon. As you said Steve, this is now moving to the bigger peaks in the park. The park is perfectly set up for this apprenticeship your referring to. Many do not see the natural progression that is right in front of them. There loss.
Amen. Let’s hear it for Fischer E99’s (paired with vinyl Snake-Skins). Not only straight, they had some bouncy camber. That’s where I learned “survival skiing” and it has paid off for years.
William Robert, oh sorry Billy Bob (uhuh uhuh) It is time to remove your head from your A$$. The anti-snowboard wave is dead! Get over it!
As to the post at hand. I agree that equipment, movies and the get it done yesterday attitude is to blame. I ski the pass nearly everyday and I see people who have little to no understanding as to the education or the skills necessary to be out there. Nor do they care. “Nothing bad can happen, right?” is a common response to any question.
I also agree Steve. You see the same thing at resorts as well. I do think that technology has something to do with it, but I also see that mentality (or lack thereof) is the antagonist here. It is all about the bigger-better-more-seewhatIcando thought process that has pushed people to areas beyond their ability. Then skiing becomes survival, and because the aggressive/survival technique tends to look cool, it sporeads like wildfire, and no one wants to learn how to make tight/safe/efficient turns anywhere. I have tended to stay in areas where few other people ski, just so I don’t have to worry about the skill level of those that may be there with me. I say with me because even if we are not in the same group, their decisions will affect me, expecially if they are inexperienced in the BC.
Strange. Maybe I’m missing something only just having started reading tetonat. What’s with all the rage on snowboarders and fat skis? Do you seriously think that equipment is a significant determinant to cause natural progression to be thrown out the window?
Where you been Lee?
I think this shows when the only technique a skier has is a survival mode style gorilla stance. This comes from only skiing fat skis at high speeds. Unfortunately…to some peoples surprise…this is not always an option in the high peaks.
[…] I think Rando Steve is right. We all need to pay our dues first. Scot Schmidt, Doug Coombs, Sage Catabrigga, you name ‘em, they learned and honed their skills the old fashion way, working their way up to ever greater challenges. Just because you can rope and kick you way up onto the Grand doesn’t mean you can ski down it safely. […]
What about all the experienced skiers that get out often,have been backcountry skiing for years and still get hit hard.
Mike, my rant wasn’t about people getting hurt in the mountains…but more the lack of progression…or apprenticeship…that is seen in backcountry skiing these days.
Paying dues is for Boilermakers Local 73 and the Elks Lodge. Not trying to be flip here but I’m of the opinion any bumbly should be able to cast off with whatever contraption they choose on the flanks of whatever mountain they choose. I love stories of the cops from Scranton who mount a Denali expedition, or the big wall climber from Florida that climbs El Cap. Or Sandy Pittman. Human expression takes many forms and not always in a line that moves from A to B to C. Also, it makes for entertaining crapper reading for the armchair enthusiast!
Who is the keeper of this magic flame of entitlement? Who decides when you are ready, if not you?
I agree with JohnHemlock, who’s the gatekeeper here? As long as they don’t harm someone else, every neophite idiot should have the right to ski the BC.
I think style is a key factor in how you travel/ski in the backcountry…and if you’re falling and flailing down the mountain…that’s POOR style!!!
From the mailbox…
Rando Steve was off on a tirade about the inexperience of some people in the bc and suggesting the dues hadn’t been paid by paying homage and working up to the levels of extreeme he is doing by taking years and years to advance their skill. I Thought the idea of any adventure sport was to be ultimately responsible for oneself and their own safety and to accept challenges on your own terms without someone judging whether you deserve to do what you do. I have seen other passionate endeavors clouded by that “only when the experts say you can” mentality and in it’s self is pious and counter productive to what you seem to advocate for your self. Isn’t that what OUT of BOUNDS is all about anyway? Getting beyond some one elses imposed limits? On your own terms? and getting out of line, lifts or otherwise?
just a little thought to share, I still love the site.
I think it’s Bill Brigg’s fault. He fell like three times going down the Grand. If he would have done it in better style not so many people would push thier limits and style would be preserved.
THAT GOOD SH!t
If you want to have the mountains to your eliteist self then you should really shut your hole and just go skiing. BTW I find it revolting that you make money off a site like this and then go complaining about people in your mountains not playing the way you want them to. Please go home or shut up!
Skier, obviously you have no idea what your talking about. You probably did not even read the article, just the posts. In the mountaineering realm it takes time and a concentrated effort to be able to steep into an uncontrolled environment and take your skiing and climbing to new levels. Its like anything else one does in life, you must start from the bottom and hone your skills (ex: resort, the pass, olive oil, and so on up the chain). Alpine climbing and ski mountaineering are dangerous endeavors that must be approached with training, learning, and a steep by steep process that will ensure the “safest” outcome. No one starts from the top, quite the opposite. Any true skier or alpinist will tell you that to be good at climbing, skiing you must put hours upon hours of time into training, reading, watching, and applying the skills you learn in the field to hone your craft. Steve never mentioned that people should not be out in the backcountry skiing/ climbing and taking their individual abilities to new levels or just enjoying the environment. Steve created this website for just such a purpose. Making money is just a slight benefit for his efforts. If you have ever meet steve you would know that he is by far a non elitist, and a cool guy (Props). So instead of making disparaging remarks why don’t you take your tough guy internet persona and go do something positive, like train for the upcoming season. Odds are your fat ass hasn’t done anything in preparation beside taking J on the internet. Steve’s original post’s message was about doing things the right way, read the avalanche handbook, take a course, drop the necessary funds for the proper safety gear…even if it means eating cup of noodles for a summer and take your time, the mountains will be there no need to rush into dangerous situations that might endanger your life or others. – word
And for the op-ed Skier!!!! See you on the slopes!!!
I’m still not buying it. What did anyone do before there were Avy certs and WFR certs and the interwebs to tell them what they can and can’t do?
I get weary of people trying to portray ski mountaineering as this secret and magical kingdom that can only be peopled by those who are worthy. Go buy some old Tuas at a garage sale, get some leather boots off ebay, don’t tell your wife where you are going (gasp!), and go get in over your head. Good times!!!
Just thought I’d chime in on this one. got in a little late though. It’s tough to have the same progression in skiing as say, rock climbing. The rock keeps the inept off. Whereas, anyone can drop into a couloir…they just might not survive! Last winter was my first winter on skis. a total newb with an AT setup, psyched to hit the backcountry. Don’t be misled though. I’ve been rock climbing/mountaineering for 15 years and have had plenty of winter experience…just not on skis. Anyway, I took to it quickly (probably having something to do with the equip. but I like to think there’s some natural ability there :). I skied about 30 days last winter/spring. (much to my wife’s chagrin.) Sometimes with accomplished skiers, sometimes with novices (like me), and sometimes alone (on safer terrain). Soaking up any tips or constructive criticism I could get, I began feeling more confident. Focusing on form all the while, not speed! I ended up skiing my first couloir in March: 800′ of vert. at 45/50 degrees…snow was stable, a little icy…and I ate shit once. However, this was not a no fall zone and I learned from the experience. In fact, I emailed Steve and told him about it. (sent a video too!) I found Steve to be surprisingly tolerant and accepting of me, a newcomer! I didn’t feel criticized in the least by his post! Steve works with Search and Rescue in some of the most accessible extreme skiing terrain in the country. Of course his view is a bit slanted…it should be!
Keep up the good work, Steve. Thanks for tolerating us rookies! …and thanks for TetonAT.
I m sooooooooo with you on that one! makes guiding even more challenging….
Having fun in NYC Gilles?? I might be in Austria in January this winter.
I’m new to the AT world and I hear you loud and clear. thanks for the advice.
just wanted to pop in to respond to those who might attempt to cast a light on randosteve’s site as mere “dick-waving”.
it is true that in many pursuits — and to a degree the very nature of a blog — involves ego.
that said, steve’s clearly a passionate guy who likes to share information (both tech tips and routes) with others in what is still a fringe pursuit. yes, numbers are on the rise, but as ski mountaineers we are still in the minority.
also, it would take a HELL of a huge ego for that to be the sole motivation for getting out of bed at 1am to climb and descend 7+ thousand vertical.
i regard steve’s site as sharing information that otherwise might never get out. will a “secret” escape every once in a while? sure. will someone inexperienced be “encouraged” to attempt something they otherwise shouldn’t? maybe.
but that shouldn’t be used as reason to denigrate the blog or steve. in fact, i’ve found him to be helpful and encouraging on a personal note.
if this were about pure ego, he wouldn’t share any failures or foibles.
climb (and ski) on!
Live to get SHUTDOWN!!!!
Thanks for the post and it is true people are jumping in way over their heads too early. On the flip side maybe a post on extreme skiers pushing the limits beyond their boundaries every year is necessary. I am curious if you have any statistics on search and rescue operations (injuries/deaths) the past 5 to 10 years. Specifically if the majority are inexperienced skiers going above their levels or folks who have a ton of knowledge and experience pushing the limits or taking unusual risks. I can think of several instances by expert ski mountaineers in the last 10 years who have been seriously injured or died in the Tetons.
an awareness of the clueness of youth and especially complaining about “The kids these days….” is one of the telltale signs of old age. sigh. i’m with you buddy.
people have always gotten in over their heads. you just notice it now because you have gotten old and wise.
Steve who are you to say what people should or shouldn’t be allowed to ski based on their form. Maybe they have a fused hip and can’t ski as pretty as you. Most of the stuff you show is average stuff that is skiable by mid level ski mountaineers anyway. The Ford is hardly pushing the boundaries. Once you have a trip report for the Hossack or a first descent then you can spray, but until then get off your shoe shine box.
Well Dan…I don’t think that recommending that people progress slowly and ski within their abilities is that big of a deal and no one said that the lines in the Tetons are the sickest around, but sometimes the photos and stories are worth sharing. Maybe you enjoy them.
Let me guess…you’re still in your twenties???
Steve I love your trip reports they are very well done so stick with those. For progression to occur you must push beyond your abilities. Skiers of all ability levels have found themselves beyond their limits intentionally or by accident at one time or another, it just comes with the game. For the record the Tetons do have the sickest lines around that is why I live there. I wish, but I am actually 31. See ya in the Tetons.
sickest lines around…… i mean come on….;-)
44 comments on this topic so far. Is that the record? Good post. Keep up the good work of sharing information and backcountry trips.
I think it is a record Tri, and it is VERY interesting to see what motivates people to feel the need to chime in via the comments. I post all kinds of events, descents, racing stories, trip reports, photos, videos, gear reviews, interviews…which granted get some comments, but never as much as these ranting type posts.
Thank you all for your comments and opinions. It’s good to get a cross section of the population and all sides to an opinion.
i’m with dan . most of the comments sounded like school girl succaphants!
now here’s a sick line.
Progressing in the “proper” way by working your way up to more challenging ski mountaineering descents is no guarantee that you’re going to avoid serious injury or death. Doug Coombs, Trevor Peterson and a number of other highly experienced and seasoned ski mountaineers eventually made mistakes that cost them their lives, or led to serious injuries. Plenty of backcountry enthusiasts who are doing everything right have gotten burned, often from objective hazards that they have no control over.
What I’ve found in my own experience is that skiers of lesser abilities with less backcountry experience often don’t have the drive and determination to tackle lengthy approaches and arduous climbs. The number of people flailing their way down the Ford Couloir or the Sliver on Nez Perce is miniscule. The segment of backcountry skiers who are survival skiing the steeps are the same group you see heading out-of-bounds at JHMR every day of the season, regardless of the avalanche danger. They spew about their latest near-death exploits on the TGR boards and have little interest in proper mountaineering protocol. If you’re concerned about the presence of these skiers on more technical descents, I think your fears are misplaced.
There’s always going to be a segment of the ski population that’s ignorant of potential dangers, or who don’t realize what they’ve gotten themselves into until it’s too late. They’re the ones that keep you busy with SAR call-outs, and they’ve existed since before the days of fat skis and this website. Like Bart said, we’re just getting older and noticing their presence more.
While I can certainly sympathise with your point of view, the reason I like skiing (and climbing) in the BC is that I am solely responsible for my decisions – and the consequences!
If individuals don’t want to do the hard yards learning the game, well it’s on their own heads (and no, I’m not advocating an Everest-every man for himself mind set!)
Interesting conversation, lots of viewpoints. Responsibility and self determination seem to be key. Is it irresponsible to get in over your head considering you may need help from helicopters that will have to fly in bad weather to retrieve you? Should anyone tell another person how to experience the mountains? This discussion highlights conflicting principles of adventure and personal responsibility as well as the highly personal experience of being in the high peaks. The UIAA Mountain Code and Declaration of Tyrol give guidance but not concrete answers, rules or laws to these conflicts of viewpoint. Interestingly, one of the codes is that mountaineers will attempt to help others in mortal need, but offers no exceptions for those who are being “stupid” or “careless”. It also urges mountaineers to choose their ‘goals according to thier own skills’. These philosophical points are worth pondering before your next foray be it Edelweiss or something “burly” in the Park. In some way most of us have allready done this pondering but these documents frame the major points well for clear consideration in making convincing arguments(for either side) without venom.
Link to UIAA page with Mountain Code and Declaration of Tyrol