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What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

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What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby SeracZack » Wed Jun 06, 2012 1:32 pm

So I have been wondering about this. What does it mean to "ski a 14er" (or any mountain for that matter)? I am sure it is different for different people but I would like to hear from others. A "ski descent" seems straight forward enough, but I think there could be differences there as well.

What say the masses?
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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby Carl » Wed Jun 06, 2012 3:00 pm

In my attempt to ski the 14ers (still one left) I try to follow Lou's thoughts on this subject since he was first. If you're not claiming a ski descent to the public, I don't think it should matter to anyone but yourself whether you think you skied a peak. But if you're claiming you've skied all the 14ers, as I hope to be able to do, I think there is something to be said for trying to adhere to some type of standard.

Here is a link to his page that discusses this topic http://www.wildsnow.com/biography/lou_fourteeners.htm with part of his words quoted below....

For his project (and for subsequent projects) Dawson defines a ski descent of a fourteener as skiing "the best (most often the longest) continuous descent available on an average snow year, almost always from the exact summit, with the exception being the few fourteeners (such as Wetterhorn and El Diente) that have rocky summit blocks or boulder caps that were never known to be in skiable condition prior to the project. "

"Since you're skiing natural snow, some descents might have gaps where you remove your skis and move a few feet across rock or tundra. Again, if you're up there on an average snow year with decent coverage, such maneuvers are legit so long as they are not excessive. But, and this is the big BUT, if I'm on a peak with bad coverage because it's too early in the year or a drought, and I have to connect snow patches that would otherwise touch each other, then I don't count it as a descent of the peak. Instead, I go back again and again 'till I get it right. To me this is a critical part of my standards, because doing otherwise would allow me a sort of 'post modern' style of ski mountaineering wherein I could claim a descent of a peak even if I skied a few hundred feet of snow on the thing in the middle of summer. I don't think people would buy that, and it just wouldn't feel good."


Last year I skied from within 100 vertical of Columbia's summit, but couldn't call that a ski descent. Also went back and skied Shavano again last year because in 2008 I reached the summit, but didn't put skis on until about 100 vert below the top because I thought it was thin. This season was tough for me because I went into it with only four 14ers left. Uncompahgre I took the skis off in the first 1000 feet for a decent bit, but I think most of the folks who have skied this peak did the same, so I feel ok about it. Challenger and Kit Carson I took the skis off for a small bit after skiing off the summit to negotiate one talus section on each peak, but I feel it was insignificant. Perhaps others would disagree. With Crestone Needle, I didn't feel the coverage was good enough to call it a summit descent (or for it to be safe) this year or last year, so the wait continues. The primary goal of course is to have fun and be safe, but I also try to keep some standard in mind so when I look back at this adventure I won't feel like I wrongly claimed a ski descent on any of the 58 on my list.

Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby dubsho3000 » Wed Jun 06, 2012 4:11 pm

I'm curious about skiing the "best" continuous line. Does that mean, for instance, skiing the East Ridge of Quandary would not count since the Christo Couloir is superior? That seems fuzzy to me. What constitutes "best"?

For the record, I've only skied the Christo so I'm not concerned with myself here (and I doubt I will ever ski all the 14ers anyway - only 57 to go \:D/ ).

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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby moneymike » Wed Jun 06, 2012 4:21 pm

Great question. I was just chatting with a non-skier about what constitutes a ski descent of a 14er.

I'm also trying to ski all of the 14ers. I don't really have any set standards for skiing a 14er. In my opinion, if you've skied any portion of a 14er you can say that you've skied it. My friend asked me "what if you just ski a bunch of pine needles in the summer time?" I told him that still counts in my mind...as long as you're honest about what line you skied. The fame you will acquire will depend on what lines you have done.

I agree with Dawson's idea of skiing the "best" line. However, different people will have different opinions of what is "best." I don't agree that an exact summit descent is necessary. One day, someone is going to ski off the summit of Wetterhorn. Will that mean he was the first and only person to ski the 14ers, and everyone else failed? I don't think so.

Every 14er skier has been out done on at least one peak by some other skier. Landry and Dawson have been out done by pretty much every skier who has skied the Landry line, but Landry still gets credit for first descent and Lou still gets credit for the first to ski them all. Several skiers have skied from higher up on El Diente than what Dawson did. I even heard that Dawson didn't ski the totally classic line down the N. face of N. Maroon (that's what i heard). I still give him credit though.

In fact, many people end up down climbing or rapping the punk rock band. Does that mean they didn't ski it? I chose a time and year where it was easily skiable, but if Nick Devore doesn't take credit away from me for skiing around punk rock, I won't take away credit from the people who down climbed it.

My friend Austin, whom I skied Wilson Peak with, told me that Dawson told him that we were perhaps only the 5th group to ski it directly from the summit without any down climbing. Yet I still wouldn't take credit away from the others because, well Christ, just look at that line!

Another question I would like to pose is what is better: skiing a bad-ass, super classic line from near the summit down to tree line in late spring, or skiing a p**sy line from the exact summit in the winter down to say 9k ft? It would be easy for a skier who made one choice to criticise a skier who made the other choice, yet in my opinion, both seem like fun and acceptable choices.

I also wonder what people mean when they refer to an exact summit descent. In my experience, the EXACT summit is almost always not skiable. There's usually some rock that's not covered by snow. I've heard of many people doing rediculous things to get an exact summit descent, like crawling across rocks or shoveling snow onto higher rocks or whatever. I really don't think there's anything impressive about doing that. I was able to get a summit descent of Shavano (except for maybe the hight of a single rock) and I have to say that there was nothing enviable about my rediculous maneuvers through the maze of rocks. Although I admire Carl's dedication and respect his right to a differing opinion, I've read TRs of his impressive descents, and I don't think anyone would be more impressed knowing that he went back for a Shavano summit descent, or tell him he would be a failure if he didn't.

It would be so easy to take credit away from people if we adhered to strict standards. I think it would also take away from the adventure of it all if we set certain standards. All I require is that someone who claims to have skied them all must be honest about each line he skied. People are then free to judge the ligitimacy.

Awesome topic! I'm really interested to hear what others have to say.

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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby EatinHardtack » Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:10 pm

I like the question and hope to see some good discussion on this one. Let me state that I DO NOT plan to ski all the 14ers. I would like to ski many of them but not all. I am also more into skiing a certain line than say the peak to be skied. For instance I would rather ski soopy's backside on Citadel over and over than ever try and ski Bross or Columbia for any damn reason. Maybe that's why my ski mountaineering list mostly consists of 13ers.

I feel that if you are trying to ski them all then follow Dawson's criteria. As high as possible with the most continuous line at the given time of the descent. A descent doesn't always have to be back to car, it could be to the bottom of a couloir then a hike out for example. As for true summit, eh as close as possible. Like moneymike said earlier, sometimes it doesn't happen and we humans have busy lives, we can't always afford to go back for a true summit descent. In my opinion what's 5-100 feet anyways, it's not like you usually don't have the skill to do it anyways.

Out of my descents I list I have one that irks me; Castle. It was too thin in the N. Couloir for a safe descent so we had to down climb quite a bit then ski. I wasn't thrilled about it then and still I would like to go back, BUT I put it as a descent. Skis made it to the top with all the purpose in the world to ski from the summit, just didn't happen.

Now I don't believe a descent has taken place when the following happens; climb Belford, hike to Oxford, ski to the saddle, re-summit Belford, ski Belford. Belford would be a check in my book but not Oxford. And this only applies to those wishing to ski them ALL; if it is not the intent to ski them all them more power to the goof that wants to do the above scenario. Now skiing Castle/Conundrum in a day via the couloirs is down right awesome, checks on both.

I applaud the whole fraternity of those who have done the entire list and those wishing to complete it themselves. Hopefully we'll here from the ones who have completed them all and get there take (although Carl has one left I still view him along side Lou, Frank, Jordan, Brittany, Dav, of course I forget others) on this topic and not just my ramblings.
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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby Carl » Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:41 pm

moneymike wrote:I've heard of many people doing rediculous things to get an exact summit descent, like crawling across rocks or shoveling snow onto higher rocks or whatever.


Shoveling snow for a line is ridiculous. Although, for what it's worth, our man made two foot wide summit ski descent line off San Luis which allowed for no turns was by far the most intense part of the skiing that day. :wink:
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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby San Juan Ron » Wed Jun 06, 2012 5:57 pm

You ski up and hike down! SJ Ron

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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby Kitten » Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:40 pm

San Juan Ron wrote:You ski up and hike down! SJ Ron


:lol: :lol:
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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby cheeseburglar » Wed Jun 06, 2012 8:48 pm

For my personal quest to ski from just below the summit of all the 14ers, I count a ski descent anytime I'm able to make one or more turns and I reached the summit that day.
For example, I've skied Pyramid and Capital several times, because there were snowfields to take a few turns in. I don't necessarily need skis on to count this, I count a good boot glisse as well. As long as I can make a pretty looking tele style turn.
But to each their own.
I also count ski descents for my dogs if there is snow, even though they don't even own skis.
Well, I guess I don't actually count as I haven't been keeping track and have no idea if I've completed this quest or not.
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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby pioletski » Wed Jun 06, 2012 11:16 pm

+1 to my buddy Carl, who quotes Lou Dawson's criteria above. Like Carl, I'm on a quest to ski them all, and I now have 9 to go. I actually held off traveling all the way down to the Sangres this year - I might have been able to "tick off" Ellingwood, Blanca, Challenger and KC, but after seeing TRs from folks who did I decided to save my gas money for a time when there's more snow. It's not that I pretend to have higher standards than Carl, but I'm more interested in an aesthetically pleasing ski descent. If I'm going to schlep my skis to a 14,000' summit I want to get the best possible run down.

That said, I do want to get "my name in the books" so to speak, which means I have in effect signed up to adhere to the standards that others have set. I have met most of the folks who have completed the tour, and all of them agree very closely with Lou's criteria for a summit ski descent. Lou defines the difference between "skiing a fourteener" and "skiing ON a fourteener." Like Carl (and like everyone who has skied them all), I have taken 2 or even 3 tries at several summits to get a ski descent that I was happy with (including Shavano, on which I had similar experiences to Carl's). All of us have also occasionally had to accept a somewhat contrived descent, counting on the nuances of the "rules" to "make it count." These are personal decisions, though. As moneymike says, it's up to each of us to set our own goals and decide if we have met them or not, and to be honest about what we are setting out to do; my goals just happen to include skiing the 14ers in the same manner as Dawson, Dav, Mahon, Konsella, Brennan, White, Luttrell, Sauer-Mahon, and Walker-Konsella. Other folks have other goals: climbing the 14ers within the strict boundaries of calendar winter, for example, or adhering to the 3000 foot rule.

BTW - a couple of peaks have been mentioned in this thread as being unskiable from the summit, but it's sometimes just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Case in point: Jordan White (jcwhite) managed to more or less ski Wetterhorn from the true summit (http://www.elksandbeyond.com/14er-ski-descents/wetterhorn/). And the Luttrell Line on El Diente goes from the exact summit. Just sayin'.
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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby jpfeif001 » Thu Jun 07, 2012 12:44 am

Just started trying to ski 14ers, picked a bad year to start but in my view, its still fun even when the snow is crappy, just make sure the conditions are right before you leap. Was up Dead Dog a week and 1/2 ago and can honestly say, the snow was kind of scary at that time of day. Too soft, oddly, too icy and heavy with the steapness of the slope the snow kept piling on top of my ski's which added more stress to the situation. Shaky legs can cause bad things to happen, which is why I popped my ski's off and went down a bit before putting them back on, that and I am not the youngest guy out there anymore either (which can be hard to admit somtimes). So, a failed attempt at skiing a 14er but a lot of fun trying regardless. Live to ski another day. I did get a few turns in though which felt really good. There are a lot of skiers on this site that are incredible up there, just know your own abilities before making the venture to tackle all of them. Guidelines, well, if your after simply making a list of people who have done it, then follow them, if not, just have fun with what you can do.
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Re: What does it mean to "ski a 14er"?

Postby gb » Thu Jun 07, 2012 8:35 am

This comes up quite a bit- here's 5 pages of good discussion from a few years ago: http://14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=18903

Search Ivanic or Crossen if you want to read even more (on plenty of other sites as well, like tgr).

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