Winter Sports “a Great Experience” providing . . . 

we approach them correctly.

I have heard many stories   of how people were introduced to winter adventures. Some were funny and others not so funny.   If you feel like you must simply tough it out, then your approach may be off.  Winter requires a different attitude, different equipment and a good amount of judgment and self discipline.  Taking a *class, and pre-planning go a long ways towards making a great trip.

Getting ready to cut a few Telemark turns.  I think this was last year, no maybe the year before . . . or was 20 years ago?  Notice the big aluminum break apart shovel. for digging Pits, and for rescue.  What size and quality of shovel do you want your partner to carry?

Winter time conditions require extra time, to insure we maintain and deal with the priorities.  Using the correct clothing, adjusting layers, and putting them on before we are cold.  It is easier to stay warm than it is to get warm.  Also, remove layers before we get too hot; if we sweat it gets us wet, and moisture reduces our clothing’s ability to insulate us from the cold.

We must understand things like, the five rules of staying warm: 1. Stay dry.  2. Stay dry.  3.Stay dry.  4. Stay dry.  and 5. Stay dry.  Since our situation changes (hiking, skiing, sitting, sunlight, shade, wind, no wind, etc.) we must use layers.

With time you notice small changes in temperature, that signals it is time to ventilate, zip-up and close up; add or subtract layers.   We must understand the why’s and how’s of the vapor transmission layer, the insulating layer(s) and the protective layer.

Winter time is great for family too.  To these are two of my kids, Michelle and Paul on a ridge in the Wasatch Mountains.  Notice the small cornice on the right side.  Cornices are an indication of snow loading by wind, that can lead to slab avalanches.

We often use ski poles while snowshoeing.  If you are new to these activities you may choose to take the advice that most any skilled mountaineer or outdoors person gives you.  They can teach many skills, but will also explain the merits of “good”  formal instruction and training.    It has been my experience that way we must take training, or attend the school of hard knocks; both cost us and require a certain amount of time to learn.

Did you know there is no such thing as a warm hat, a warm coat, or even warm boots?  They only assist us in “staying warm.” Our bodies produce heat, and if they keep operating well, and we can prevent heat loss, so we will stay warm.

Our torso, head, and neck are most important to our survival, so if we start to get cold, the body automatically reduces blood flow to our extremities (skin, hands and feet) to prevent heat loss.  Our bodies have a narrow operating range; ideally within  a few degrees +/- of 98.6°.

If our core temperature drops or climbs 5° we are in trouble.   Get too hot, the body sends blood to the skin, hands, and feet, to cool us down.  What color does our skin look when we are hot?  Red.  Especially our head, face and neck.   Did you know the head and neck account for about 50% to 75% of the body’s heat lost?  

This is a very large slab avalanche.  If you are interested in learning more about the winter environment,  please give me a call or an email.

On the other hand, if our core (heart, kidneys, lungs, head …) is struggling to stay warm, the body shuts down the flow of blood to our skin, hands, and feet, which prevents heat loss, but that means cold feet and hands.

If we keep our core warm, the body can send warm blood to our hands and feet.  “If our feet are cold, we can put on a hat and scarf, along with a good coat.”  There are other things we can do to “stay warm and reasonably comfortable.”  Also, remember, to eat and drink plenty of fluids.   Food is fuel for the furnace, and water helps metabolize the food, and transport the heat to the extremities.

Avoid cotton clothing.  When cotton becomes wet it loses almost all of its insulating qualities and is hard to dry.  Wool insulates even when wet.  Synthetics dry relatively fast and do have some insulating qualities when wet.

It would be great to share a training experience with you.  Until then read up on it, watch videos, but don’t forget, a skilled instructor is able to fill in the large amount of information that can not be communicated in books, videos, and such.

Base Camp On the Kahiltna glacier.  20,320 foot high Mt. McKinley (Denali) in the background.  From here we use skis and sleds to carry our gear up the glacier. Denali is the highest mountain on the North American Continent, and the Coldest Mountain on Earth

Some sports and activities are more forgiving than others.  If you make a mistake on some adventures you will be punished (cold feet, frostbite, minor injuries), and with other types of adventures,  a mistake may cost you your life.    As far as winter goes, it is not very forgiving, make mistakes and you will be punished, if it is a big one, or a combination of a lot of small ones,  you may die.

Lunch break. Behind Davee  you can see we have cut some nice S turns, down the north face of Ten Dollar Knob.  On the left center is our low angle trail up the slope, which allows us to make multiple runs down the slope.

I love to ski the resorts.  I don’t need to be very concerned about the avalanche danger.  I can save my energy for cutting turns down the mountain and let the lift carry me up.  They have a nice warm lodges where I can sit down, have a warm drink, something to eat, and then head back out on the slopes.

Winter camping is another great experience.  Like all less than sedentary pursuits, pre-planning, training, and a good teacher make it a much more easily learned skill.  There are many new skills to learn and to acquire, each requires your attention to detail, and the specific activities.  Prioritizing steps to accomplishing certain activities will help.

Sometimes the top of the tent will be coated with ice crystals from cooking, breathing, etc.   If it is a thin layer they probably will just evaporate as the morning sun hits the tent.  If they are a thick layer (we sometimes have up to half inch or more) morning priorities change.

We pull all our gear over to one side of the tent, and use a square tupperware type goody, that won’t cut the fabric, and scrape that side of the tent.    Then we pile the crystals to the side and shift the gear to the other side and do the same.   When we are done we scoop them up and throw them out.

Now we can boil water for a hot drink, start cooking, or get dressed without knocking ice crystals on us.   When the morning sun hits the tent it warms more quickly; and doesn’t shower us with water droplets and ice crystals.  Sound cold?  Well, with practice it not a big deal, and there is a big winter wonderland to experience as a reward for our investment in learning new .

Yes, avalanches are a concern.  They are like walking around in town, “You can get run-over by an auto, but with a little knowledge and good judgment it need not happen.

A first you may not recognize avalanche slopes and know what to look for in the snow pack.  But with time, it becomes second nature, and even on high risk days, there are places that are low risk.

When a slab avalanche occurs, the entire slope begins to move all at once. This is a fairly big Slab, but rather common in depth. Now imagine the entire slope sliding towards . . .?

Another of my favorite things to do is to ski the backcountry.  There are no lift lines, it is like having you own private resort.  We often find a suitable slope and cut a low angle trail up it, and spend the day making turns in fresh powder. But, we must be responsible for trip planning, bringing the correct gear, and other details which prevent getting stranded by night, lost, or worse yet, wandering onto, or under an avalanche slope.

Avalanches here in Utah used to kill roughly a half a dozen people each year, needlessly.   The correct approach, knowledge, and good judgement is changing this picture.  Last year there were only 12 death in the U.S. and none in Utah.

Winter time is a great time for families, friends, groups and more, but I would like to add that it is what I call an esoteric type of experience, and that is what makes it special.  Low impact (both noise and otherwise) ethics make good sense, so we can continue to enjoy these places.

As people, I believe we have come a long ways.  We are learning that we all bring value to each other lives.  Yes, we struggle some too, but “we” are getting better and better at realizing we must learn to coexist.  Yes, it is a long process, but if we have patience, give each other a little growing room,  and share solutions and ideas, “we” will be able to share a better tomorrow.  I subscribe to a comment I heard Alex Lowe say, “The best climber in the world is the one that is having the most fun.”    It is not a competition, stay in control, be conservative, it pays dividends.

Besides, if you don’t make it home?

A. “to brag, it wasn’t worth it anyway. . .”

B. “we don’t get to climb tomorrow.”

C. “Both A and B.”

I have included a copy of an ice climbing article that ran in Utah Holiday, for those who like reading about extreme adventure, and for those who pursue it.  Life on the razor’s edge can be a little like flying an airplane.  With the correct approach it is statistically quite low risk.

Also here’s a news clip on when I was able to catch the main Bridal Veil Falls frozen over.  It was a rare treat, when everything comes together like that.  I hope you find these of interest.    Enjoy!

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It should never be attempted unless the following three things come together to create good skill and experience.  Those three things are:  1. proper equipment, 2. skilled training, and 3. good judgement.  With good judgment people seek good training, good equipment and . . .

Mastering is a fleeing art, we never ultimately reach it and leave it behind.  After hard work, focus, and . . . those skills can come together making certain things reasonable.  There are YouTube videos showing people doing unroped climbing and such.  Some of these people are reckless, others are on sharp and know themselves, the conditions, and what they can and can’t do.  Understanding those concepts is absolutely essential to extreme climbing activities.

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*If you are interested in a class, or some training, do get in touch with me.   It would be great to work with you.   There’s a contact form below these articles, or you can email me at d.hansen@hansenspecialities.com

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If you would like more information, please fill out the form below, or give me a call.