Neal Beidleman, Art Burrows, Dick Jackson, Chris Davenport and Jordan White — all distinguished mountaineers in the Aspen community — discussed how advances in information sharing and technology have changed the sport of backcountry skiing over the past few decades, at a presentation that brought them together Wednesday night.
“Five Decades of Backcountry Skiing” was hosted by the Aspen Historical Society at Highlands Alehouse.
“Backcountry skiing today is so connected to the internet that a lot of the risk and some of the trepidation has really been taken out of the whole sport,” said Beidleman, 57, who was introduced to backcountry skiing in the late ‘60s as a child on Snowmass by his father. Before his well-documented climbing trips to the Himalaya, he would tour what is now the Big Burn and High Alpine areas with his father, a ski area planner, as he would flag trails and survey for lifts.
“You got all your information from someone who had been there before, looking at a map as a primary guide, or you did a manual inspection by just going there and seeing,” Burrows, 64, a noted telemark pioneer, agreed.
By the time Davenport, 46, began backcountry skiing in Colorado, “the CAIC [Colorado Avalanche Information Center] was around but the internet wasn’t,” he said. In order to gather information, he relied on calling a network of skiers as well as the CAIC hotline to listen to the recorded forecast.
“The more information you have the better your capabilities to make a good decision out there,” Davenport said.