Making a list…
December 23, 2006
Aspen, CO Colorado
I grew up in Iowa in an ultra-conservative religion where we did not celebrate Christmas. I didn’t celebrate any holidays until I was nearly 40. The woman I was with at the time was into holidays in a big way, especially the gift giving. I have to admit, I’m a little lost on the relationship between Jesus, the tree and the large man dressed in red, but I’m all about the gift giving and receiving.
Most of you know by now, there are certain items you need to have to live here. Let’s make that clear: needs not wants. We have our summer needs and our winter needs. A lot of those needs revolve around outdoor activities. It should remind one of Doctor Seuss’ book, “The Lorax,” and his description of kneeds in our lives and how important they can be.
The following list for gifts is not too expensive, and a lot of the items could fall into the category of stocking stuffers.
At the top of the list is the G-String from Indigo. The company is no longer in business, but many of the valley’s outdoor stores still have this item in stock. This is definitely a need: You can do only one, maybe two laps in Highland Bowl with your skis over your shoulder before you will want some sort of strap system. The Highlands Patrol bowl straps work nicely, too.
The only problem is, I forget, from one season to the next, how to correctly tie the damn thing, and the last thing I want to do is go to the patrol headquarters for another lesson. I’m already on No. 4, and most of the patrollers know I’m a guide and should be able to tie knots.
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If you’re going into the backcountry, an avalanche probe is an essential tool. A few years ago ski poles that would assemble into probes were popular. While hot sellers, these multi-use poles are not superior to a strong, sturdy probe that is easy to assemble in seconds. During the tense moments following a slide, you don’t want to be wasting time figuring out how to turn your ski pole into a probe.
Avalanche beacons make great gifts along with classes on how to use them.
Snow saws, once carried only by true snow geeks, are becoming an essential backcountry tool. They have many uses, including keeping your snow pits clean and cutting out the sides and back for snowpack analysis, building snow shelters and cutting tree limbs for fires.
The least expensive gifts to give are books. The list is endless, but I’ll keep it to a few favorites for this time of year.
“Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain,” by Bruce Tremper, quickly is turning into a classic work on everything one needs to know for traveling in avalanche areas.
Possibly one of the most popular Aspen gifts this year will be the “Aspen Ski and Snowboard Guide,” by Neal Beidleman. The book is chock full of useful information for skiing and riding our four mountains, including tidbits like how Merry-Go-Around used to be a Safeway store and which cliffs to avoid at Snowmass ” namely any that involve hucking. Any terrain that someone could make a nasty limerick out of, I’m going to avoid.
There are a series of guidebooks to the Tenth Mountain huts by Lou Dawson, Brian Litz and Warren Ohrich, which qualify as needs for any hut users.
Jon Krakauer’s first-person account of the 1996 Everest tragedy, “Into Thin Air,” remains a very popular read. I have to admit, I prefer the account of the same disaster written by Anatoli Boukreev titled “The Climb.”
There are numerous books on survival and what to do when things go really bad outside. Many of us have been following the rescue attempts on Mount Hood during the last two weeks. The real life struggle of the lost mountaineers and the rescuers is heart wrenching. I recommend only one survival book, “Deep Survival,” by Laurence Gonzales. The accounts are fascinating and, in a detailed study, he explains the importance of the mental outlook to life of those who survive and those who perish epic outdoor ordeals.
Lastly, for any hut trips, winter camping expeditions and any extended winter vacations, I encourage taking any books written by David Sedaris. He might not be spoken of in the same breath as Reinhold Messner, but I’ll bet camp will be a happier place with David as opposed to Reinhold.
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