Mountain Magazine should apologize to the families who will soon lose loved ones because of its latest magazine.

Sidecountry? Whoever invented the word should be flogged in downtown Breckenridge.

The winter 2012 edition of Mountain Magazine had its cover headline as “Ski in the Sidecountry: There’s untracked powder waiting out there for you. We have the skis, boards, guides, resorts, and advice you need to get after it.” The editorial director’s article was titled Slacker Lexicology and tried to justify the cover title. Then a two-page article, with numerous mistakes, was inside that was the basis for the cover title. The entire purpose, article and cover were solely used to promote gear in time for the SIA show.

Mountain Magazine: You don’t know what you are writing about.

backside of the backside

Cover to cover, there was not one paragraph to support the claim the magazine had advice to “get after it.” That’s probably good because most of the information they provided was wrong. Nor was there anything of substance other than buy this neat clothing and gear, and you can ski out of bounds.

What Mountain Magazine does have is the idea that anything to sell a magazine is worth the effort, even if it kills people.

It is not the resorts that are going to pay the price for this stupidity. It is two groups. The idiots who believe that the other side of the rope is fair game and the Search and Rescue volunteers who will go out in all types of whether to rescue those idiots putting their own life on the line.

Even if resort employees are part of the rescue the resorts not liable, and rightfully so. In most cases when an employee leaves the resort to participate in a SAR, he is no longer working for the resort but now working, as a volunteer for the county sheriff. You should not be liable for what happens outside your boundaries or outside of your control. However, the article sure as heck did not point that out. In fact, the article could lead you to believe that if you paid for a lift ticket to ride up, skiing out of bounds is OK, and you are still protected by the resort.

Sidecountry does not exist. Under the law, you are either inbounds or out of bounds. If you are out of bounds, you have no back up, even if you hired a guide except volunteer SAR. If you are out of bounds, there is no avalanche work, no marked hazards, no place at the bottom of the hill to warm up.

There is backcountry, which has the definition attached to the word that indicates, it’s not a resort. If you go in the backcountry you should have training, a beacon, a shovel, a probe, an airbag and at least one friend who have the same.

The entire issue was devoted to selling gear, allegedly, that you could use out of bounds. The article promised you great skiing if you hired a guide to get there.

The article then talked about UIAGM guides as the people to hire to guide you. UIAGM does not make guides. The article has no clue what it’s writing about with regard to the UIAGM and the “statutes” it developed. The UIAGM has organizations for 17 countries that grand guide status based on the UIAGM to its members. Nor does the magazine understand the Special Use Permits the US Forest Service issues to ski areas operating on USFS land. The writer thinks backcountry gates were opened a decade ago. USFS permits have always required backcountry gates; they’ve never been closed. The only comment in the entire article about the risk is “It’s still wild out there.” Does that mean dangerous or wild like Saturday Night Live?

The article even quoted one company as saying they gave a pledge of “safe return” to its customers. I suspect you still have to sign a release. What happens if you don’t come back safely? My $250 bet is not going to stop an angry spouse who watched their spouse sign up at the resort to go die out of bounds.

On top of that, what type of problems is created using a marketing line of safe return. Two people have already died in-bounds due to avalanches this year and out of bounds you are going to be safe?

What about injury? Out of bounds is not covered by the ski patrol. After you are dragged downhill for miles, if possible, or your wait hours for SAR to arrive, you are still hours from definitive medical care. Is that covered in the article?

Do Something

lovely lovely sidecountry

Normally, I link to the article or the website of the magazine, but in this case, it’s not worth it. Or maybe I won’t dignify the site or degrade my article.

Everyone in the US has the right to access USFS lands. Everyone has the right to study and take classes and learn how not to die out of bounds. Everyone has the right to die. However, when a magazine makes the ordinary reader think they can access the dangerous area by calling it sidecountry or making it sound safe, you are not violating any laws, you are just being schmucks.

Way to exploit the first amendment.

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One Comment on “Mountain Magazine should apologize to the families who will soon lose loved ones because of its latest magazine.”

  1. Dale Atkins says:

    Interesting, entertaining and accurate! Only in the minds of skiers, riders and journalists does sidecountry/slackcountry exist. As you infer the most capricious judge of all — Nature — will render decisions regarding excited powderhounds’ abilities to judge stability. Sometimes, and I suspect in more cases, her judgments will be final. 😦

    Here are some numbers. This winter, so far, 7 people have died in avalanches outside of ski area boundaries. The average number killed during the previous 10 years (2001/02 to 2010/11) is 3 per winter. This year is the most OB/sidecountry deaths since 1986/87 when 8 skiers died outside of ski areas. We have a lot of winter to go.

    I hope your blog will make folks stop and think before they venture outside of ski area boundaries.

    Dale Atkins


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