Friday, February 4, 2011

Sled Enabled Sloth

Doug and I have just returned from a couple of nights at the Huckleberry Hut in the Bonnington Range. Times have sure changed since our first visit to the tiny old miners hut almost 10 years ago. Back then, the area was quiet, and, on almost all our trips we were the only people in this southern end of the Bonnington Range. Now, the area is busy with heli-skiers from nearby Snowwater Lodge and the inevitable "sled assisted tourers", who are, in reality, anything but.

We came to call these sled assisted tourers Sled Enabled Sloths or SES's for short. Their practice is to drive sleds to the top of Cabin Peak, and then, while two or three (depending on party size) ski down the SE face of Cabin Peak to the road (near 1600 metres), a third or fourth sledder drives back down to pick them up. And, in this way, they shuttle back and forth never actually doing any touring. In fact, I came to wonder if they even had skins. The whole practice seemed incredibly inefficient, Doug and I, skiing in from the road with overnight packs, did more vertical than the SES's.

Not only is the practice inefficient, but it seems to go against the very grain of ski touring, which is to experience the freedom of traveling over and across the backcountry without constraint. While Doug and I were free to search out untracked powder and good snow - of which there was plenty - the SES's were chained to one slope, which, ironically, had the worst snow in the area. There is a price for everything, and clearly there is a price for being chained to a machine, and, I came to wonder, if the SES's had any idea what they were giving up for a few measly metres of unearned turns.

In the end, to ski is to travel fast and free - free over the untouched snow covered country. Hans Gmoser.

 Doug on a summit in the Bonnington Range

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