The ski blogosphere exploded this week following news that yet another East Coast big mountain skier had wandered too far from the corduroy and gotten stuck tits-deep in a spruce pit somewhere in resort side-country. In the two week window over Christmas and New Years, Vermont search and rescue crews saved forty five skiers from a hypothermic death by their own design. And, to the dismay of local power hounds and non-skiing taxpayers alike, they were left picking up the bill.
It's a wonder that during this same time period yours truly at Noreaster BC were chided, ridiculed and scolded like schoolchildren for posting detailed maps of our recent trip report from Lincoln Gap (comments about Andy being a Masshole have since been deleted). Critics said we had committed an egregious violation of the sacred blood oath of backcountry secrecy, while our more forward thinking readership complemented us on the service we do, which saves them both time and mental anguish trying to schwak their way to popular top secret BC powder stashes.
I'd like to think that we've done a whole lot more for them though. I'd like to think that those maps, which are absolutely essential to us executing a successful BC tour, might just save your life someday.
Does it make me a techno geek because I like to paw through Google satellite images looking for thin cover and steep slope angles, along with other telltale signs of quality backcountry skiing? Yes.
Does it make me even a bigger dork because I then take a screen shot, hit Ctrl-P and spit out a paper MAP of my upcoming tour? No way.
It makes me a lifelong boyscout at heart, which I guess is kind of a step backwards where coolness is concerned, but it also makes me prepared for my upcoming tour. I know where I'm going, how long it's going to take me to get there, and what to expect along the way to my anticipated powder stash. And, long after it's gotten dark and my cell phone battery has shit the bed, that dorky paper map is still there to guide me home.
Why keep an important state-of-the-art lifesaving tool like a paper map top secret??
Whatever your baseball affiliation or strongest feelings about the Garden Sate might be, blame for this epidemic of flatland ignorance cannot be squarely placed on the shoulders of wayward resort skiers who are lured out of bounds by third party directions to the local's favorite powder stash.
Next time your sitting around the bar at the K1 Lodge sipping a highball of Gran Marnier, do a little eaves dropping. Have you ever heard how people talk about sidecountry skiing around the local resort watering hole??
Masshole: "I know a guy who's friends with the director of Kmart ski patrol, and he says that all the best backcountry is just off the top of the triple, through the spruce to skiers left. He says just push, and push, and push a little more, and things will start to thin out. He says ski that, and when it chokes up again, push due west for a few hundred yards to find the next thinned section. It goes on and on and on like that! Ski, left, ski, left, ski, left. And when you hit the bottom, find the snowmobile trail back to town!"
Jersey Trash: "God that sounds amazing! Do you think there's time to slug another beer and head back up there before it gets too dark!?"
Yankee Pie Eater: "Damn right there is. Bar Keep! Three more MGD 64s, on me! We've got some top secret powder stash to snatch!"
So, to all you xenophobic flatland haters and ski elitists out there, know this. Eventually someone will pay the price for your need for privacy. And it's going to be pretty hard to stick them with the bill when they're dead.
You may think you're keeping secrets but really you're only giving them just enough information to make them extremely dangerous. If they don't think to pack a map, how do you expect they'll remember to bring food, water, and emergency shelter? So what if it says DON'T!! at the top of the triple chair just before heading out of bounds. What's more exciting than that???
When they inevitably do die, try not to obsess about the fact that it's all your fault.
There are thousands of amazing backcountry tours in New England. On your next trip, take along a map. Then, pass it on when you're done.