Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on August 13, 2014

Guests staying in Aspen hotels could be allowed to smoke marijuana in their rooms if the hotel had smoker-friendly units, but few if any local lodges do.

Assistant city attorney Debbie Quinn noted the potential way to provide tourists with a place to smoke during a panel discussion Tuesday between Aspen Chamber Resort Association (ACRA) members and the Valley Marijuana Council. The session covered the impacts of retail marijuana on the hospitality industry.

The city restricts marijuana consumption in public, however Aspen hotels are free to create their own policy allowing or prohibiting guests to consume marijuana inside their hotel rooms, Quinn told ACRA members.

“If you have private rooms where guests can only be, that does not fit our definition of public,” Quinn said.

Quinn noted there is a state law making it illegal for businesses to advertise as being marijuana friendly to residents outside of Colorado. That means hotels have to be careful when they’re advertising their smoking rooms, she said.

Most Aspen hotels have no-smoking policies in most rooms, said Warren Klug, general manager of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel.

“We don’t want smoking in our rooms — it’s offensive to our guests,” Klug said of his hotel.

Klug also asked whether it would be legal for guests to smoke on their hotel balconies.

Unless hotels allow smoking in their rooms, there is no legal place for their guests to consume weed in Aspen, said Jordan Lewis, owner of Aspen’s Silverpeak Apothecary. If hotels don’t create a way for guests to consume marijuana, they’ll likely do it anyway, Lewis added. That’s why it’s important that hotels offer smoke-friendly rooms and provide pamphlets with information about local pot laws to guests.

ACRA members in the room liked the idea of providing information to guests, and asked about ways hotel managers can educate staff.

In some hotels, employees are allowed to take home food that’s left behind by guests, Klug said. Employees might mistake marijuana edible products, which look like regular candy when out of their packaging, for common treats and eat it, he said.

“The issue of our hospitality workers taking it home is huge,” Klug said, referencing an incident in June when a 7-year-old Basalt girl was hospitalized after eating a pot candy her mother, an Aspen hotel worker, brought home without knowing the edible’s nature.

Lewis admitted marijuana edibles can be extremely potent and they’re currently designed in a way that can confuse people who don’t know it’s marijuana, which is dangerous. That’s why it’s important both pot shop proprietors and the hospitality industry try to educate guests, he said.

“Familiarity is what we need here,” he said.

About half of Silverpeak’s business comes from selling edibles, Lewis said

Quinn noted there is a legal “gray area” around whether or not guests at private events in hotels are allowed to consume marijuana legally. The city currently prohibits private businesses like restaurants and bars from converting into marijuana clubs where people can visit and get high. Hotels are not currently in that category, she said, so if the hotel was rented for a private event, guests could consume marijuana there.

“If it’s truly a private event, then it’s allowed,” Quinn said, adding that small events are not likely to draw police attention.

“Just don’t supply cannabis,” advised local attorney Lauren Maytin, who specializes in marijuana laws.

Since pot became legal, the Aspen Police Department hasn’t issued any tickets related to people smoking herb in public, Pryor said. Meanwhile, Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies have made one arrest for driving while under the influence of marijuana, DiSalvo said.

Quinn added that Aspen City Council’s approach to regulating the industry has been conservative, because the federal government might decide to make Aspen an example due to its reputation of having a drug-friendly culture.

DiSalvo noted that it’s better be proactive and deal with the potential issues that may rise in the community in light of marijuana legalization instead of taking a “head-in-the sand” approach.

Marijuana has always been a part of the culture partly because of its connection to skiing, he said, adding that one of the first times he smelled marijuana was in 1980 when he was riding an Aspen chairlift.

“Whether we want to believe it or not, marijuana has been a part of the community for a long time,” DiSalvo said.

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on August 12, 2014

Aspen Skiing Co.’s Power of Four summer race series has grown since the first event was held four years ago, so much so that it’s being considered for the international stage.

The Power of Four summer race series consists of a mountain bike race, which covers 36 miles of terrain gaining 9,000 vertical feet, and a 50-kilometer trail running race, covering more than 31 miles and nearly 10,000 feet of vertical gain. Both races cross each of SkiCo’s four ski mountains, including Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk Mountains. The bike race is in its fourth year and the trail race is in its second. The bike race was held Aug. 2 and the foot race was on Aug. 3.

This year, SkiCo saw about a 25 percent increase in the number of participants competing in both races, according to Deric Gunshor, senior event marketing manager for SkiCo.

“We’re seeing about 25 percent growth, year after year,” Gunshor said.

About 120 cyclists competed in the bike race, which is up from last year when about 100 racers competed. The trail race had 100 participants, which was up from last year when about 75 people registered to compete.

With participation on the rise, SkiCo is trying to build the brand and draw more elite athletes to compete.

“Both races have tremendous potential to be iconic races in the area,” Gunshor said.

SkiCo is currently trying to get the Power of Four Trail 50K included in the Skyrunning World Series, which is a race governed by the International Skyrunning Federation. “Skyrunning” is a term for the extreme sport of running above 6,600 feet where the incline exceeds 30 percent.

The Skyrunner World Series is an annual international championship series that includes between six and eight races in at least five different countries. Racers receive points for their placement, and points are doubled in the final race. At the end of the season, points are totaled and the racer with the most is declared champion.

The Power of Four Trail 50K is an ideal candidate for the series because of the steep terrain covered throughout the course, Gunshor said.

“I think it would be a good fit for our race,” he said.

There is no formal bid process to host the race, but Gunshor has been having conversations with the director of the event. A decision will be made after this year’s Skyrunning World Series ends, most likely in the winter, Gunshor said.

“There are not a lot of other events that qualify [to host the race],” he added.

Local athletes who competed earlier this month were generally pleased with the courses and how the races have grown over the past few years.

“It’s been fun watching the size of the field grow and the level of competition grow,” said Max Taam, a local athlete who has competed in all but one of the Power of Four races since the series began.

Jessie Young, who placed third in the women’s division of the bike race and has competed for the past four years, said the course showcases the mountain bike trails that SkiCo has invested in over the years.

“It really shows the variety of what we have to ride in the upper valley,” she said, adding that she wishes more women would compete.

Young noted that the cash prizes that are offered probably draw more people to the race. This year, both races awarded first place $750, second place $350 and third place $150. It was the third year a cash purse was awarded, according to Gunshor.

Kathy Fry, who competed in the trail race and has run other ultra races, noted that the Power of Four Trail 50K course was more challenging and steeper than other ultra races.

“I think it’s an extremely competitive race,” Fry said. “And I think it’s great to have it in Aspen.”

Fry added that she would like to see more locals compete in the relay races.

Michael Barlow, who placed fifth in the trail race, said SkiCo does a good job utilizing the resources in the area, and noted one of the challenges organizers have is attracting racers from outside the valley to compete. Getting the trail race included in the Skyrunning World Series would likely do that, Barlow said

“That would increase its visibility in a big way,” he said.

The biggest challenge with hosting both races is maintaining the trails and clearly marking the courses, Gunshor said. That’s something that organizers are trying to improve each year, he said. Some competitors aren’t from the valley and don’t know the course, and the last thing competitors want to do is run extra miles because the trail isn’t marked well, he said.

“Really we’re just trying to be as diligent as possible to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Gunshor said.

The company also wants to build the local community’s involvement in the race, and refine elements of it like offering full water bottles to competitors at the aid stations, he said.

Another goal is to have more people participate, Gunshor said. That’s why SkiCo offers team relay races for people who want to participate, but who don’t want to complete the full courses.

“More than anything we want to offer something for everyone,” Gunshor said.

A 74-year-old woman from Crested Butte finished the trail race on Sunday, Aug. 3.

“The Snowmass rangers did an amazing job of supporting her and encouraging her to finish,” Gunshor said.

She completed the race in 10.5 hours, he said.

Over that weekend a few participants dropped out of the race because they couldn’t complete the courses, including a father-and-son team from Denver competing in the bike race.

“They were humbled by the experience up here,” Gunshor said. “But you know, that’s all part of it. Pushing people to their limits and for them they pushed themselves to the limits.”

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on August 8, 2014

It’s August, and that means afternoon rainstorms are pretty much a sure thing in these mountains.

Daily rainstorms may be good for our water reserves, but it can be frustrating when you’re trying to squeeze in an afternoon hike in the middle of the week. That’s why I consider a good rain jacket – like Marmot’s Rincon – a necessary investment for living in the mountains.

The jacket’s shell has what Marmot calls a “PreClip Dry Touch coating technology,” which makes the jacket waterproof, while still being breathable – a combination that’s hard to find.

In general, when you’re buying a rain jacket make sure to check the label to ensure the jacket will indeed keep you dry. A jacket can be water resistant, water repellent or waterproof. Water-resistant fabrics shed water, because of their tight weave or because they’ve been treated, but will soak through in a heavy rain. Water-repellent fabrics are more effective, and are either very tightly woven or coated with a finish that causes the water to make little beads when it hits the fabric rather than soaking through. The finish may wear off over time, however, or come off in dry cleaning. Waterproof fabrics can’t be penetrated by water and should keep you dry, even in heavy rains.

The Rincon jacket is waterproof and it’s designed to keep everything above your waist dry. There’s a Velcro seal and elastic chord just below your chin to tighten the face opening and ensure your head stays dry when the hood is raised. There are also Velcro seals around the cuffs so water won’t get up your sleeves, and the jacket has two deep pockets with water-resistant zippers for items as big as your cell phone.

The best part of the jacket is that it’s designed with ventilation, so if you’re hiking in a rainstorm sweat vapor works its way outside the jacket, while keeping water from coming in. To be frank, I don’t know how the technology works exactly, but I do know it’s worked for me.

The Rincon jacket has kept me warm when I was caught in a hail storm, dry during city deluges and comfortable during sun showers while hiking around the mountains. I’ve even worn it as a makeshift ski jacket during spring ski season. (The material is not only waterproof, it’s wind-proof too!)

The jacket is light enough for most outdoor activities, except maybe running. It comes in black, white, bright green, blue and purple. It starts at $140. I consider that a steal for how often I use it.

Get Your Own
Available online at marmot.com, starting at $140

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on August 8, 2014

Opening marks first JCC west of Denver in the state

Hundreds of people made their way to Main Street for the opening of the new Chabad Jewish Community Center.

Outside the 10,550-square-foot building that houses the synagogue at 436 W. Main Street, a trio played classical music as rabbi Mendel Mintz posed for a photo with his wife and five children.

“Your family is so big, it’s hard to get them all in a picture,” said the photographer.

The center’s opening is significant, because it indicates that there is a strong, proud Jewish community in Aspen, Mintz said in an interview Thursday morning. The JCC is the first synagogue and mikvah — a bath used for ritual immersion — west of Denver in the state, according to Mintz.

“This is a paradigm change,” Mintz said. “This is a new era in the annals of Aspen.”

Although construction started two years ago, the $18 million center has been in the works for more than a decade, when the Jewish Resource Center originally purchased the property, Mintz said.

“I knew it was going to happen, I just was hoping I would be a live to see it,” Mintz said.

The center is located between Third and Fourth streets on a block that was previously the home to L’Auberge d’Aspen tourist cabins. Six of the L’Auberge cabins remain on the site for housing and guest accommodations. The remaining three cabins were deemed historic and moved off site.

“It’s been quite the journey,” Mintz said of the project.

Mayor Steve Skadron addresses attendees of the grand opening of the Aspen Chabad Jewish Community Center on Main Street on Thursday evening. It took nearly 10 years to complete the $18 million mega Jewish community center.

The original plan for the JCC included a 4,500-square-foot social hall next to the building that houses the synagogue, the rabbi’s offices and classrooms. In 2012, the developer changed the plan and replaced the social hall with a 3,500-square-foot, single-family home for Mintz and future rabbis.

Mintz moved his family from New York City to Aspen 14 years ago. He knew Aspen had a Jewish community that had the potential to thrive here, he said. However, the process to get the center approved through the city was lengthy and challenging, he said.

“But everything that is good in life is not easy,” Mintz added. “That’s my philosophy.”

During the opening reception on Thursday, hundreds of people made their way through the lobby to the synagogue on the second floor. The synagogue has high ceilings and an A-frame roof with square glass windows. Outside, a balcony wraps around the side of the building overlooking the L’Auberge cabins and a large lot being excavated for the Mintz family’s future home.

There was standing-room only in the synagogue as U.S. rep. Scott Tipton, a Republican who represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District, took the stage. After Tipton’s short remarks, Democratic state rep. Millie Hamner and Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron spoke. Three donors who contributed funds to the construction of the center also spoke, along with Mintz.

The center does not have an official membership, Mintz noted.

“It’s a place for everyone from the community,” he said. “I would love for people to come out, take a tour and see for themselves.”

The center will have a preschool and Hebrew school, and there will be regular lecture series held at the center, Mintz said. To find up-to-date information on events happening at the center visit http://www.chabad.org.

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on August 7, 2014

Two Mountain Rescue Aspen members were injured during climber’s recovery mission

Two Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteers were hospitalized after being injured in the field while they were recovering the body of Jim Nelson from Salt Lake City near Capitol Peak on Wednesday.

A team of two MRA members went into the field via helicopter above Moon Lake at an elevation of about 11,000 feet. As they were attempting to reach the body, a climber above them set off a rockslide and triggered several rocks the size of trash cans to tumble down onto the MRA members, according to Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy Alex Burchetta.

The civilian also sustained lower leg injuries, and along with one MRA member who had a shoulder injury, was transported to the hospital via helicopter. The other MRA team member who had minor injuries retrieved the body, and then flew back to the Aspen airport where an ambulance was waiting to take the volunteer to the hospital. All three sustained orthopedic injuries that are not serious, Burchetta said.

At 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a family member of the deceased contacted the sheriff’s office to report that a 53-year-old man from Salt Lake City had not returned home as scheduled and he didn’t show up to work on Tuesday. Nelson’s car was located late Tuesday night at the trailhead to Capitol Peak.

On Wednesday morning, a search team from MRA and the Colorado National Guard’s High Altitude Aviation Training Site (HAATS) searched the area surrounding Capitol Peak. At 11:30 a.m., the team located what they believed to be the body of a man located in the Mount Daly basin. The search team was able to land nearby and identified the body as that of Nelson’s.

Jeff Edelson, president of MRA, said it was the first time this year that MRA volunteers have been injured during a rescue. The nature of the work is dangerous, so volunteers can get hurt on the job, he said. Edelson added that it’s important people are prepared when venturing into the backcountry.

“Make sure if you’re climbing in the backcountry that somebody knows the route you’re going to take,” he said. “Climb with a partner and stay on the established routes.”

The recovery couldn’t have happened without the help of HAATS, Edelson added.

Nelson was described as an experienced climber and outdoor enthusiast. Details about what caused his death or where exactly he was found have not been released.

Capitol Peak is 14,131 feet high and the 32nd highest mountain in the United States. It’s located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. It’s the first death on a 14,000-foot mountain recorded in Pitkin County this year and at least the fifth in the state.

(Carolyn Sackariason contributed to this report).

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on August 6, 2014

Event will have tortoises
with iPads mounted on them

“Since when is animal abuse art?”

That’s the question a group of protesters are asking Aspen Art Museum officials who plan to place iPads on tortoises during an art exhibition this weekend.

The stunt is planned as a part of the 24-hour public opening of the new art museum on Saturday. The debut show on the rooftop sculpture garden, put together by artist Cai Guo-Qiang, features desert tortoises wandering around the space with iPads attached to their shells with specially designed mounts. The iPads will be showing footage of abandoned ghost-town cabins from around the valley, images that were previously recorded with the devices while they were attached to the tortoises’ shells.

On Tuesday afternoon, more than 200 people had signed an online petition on the website change.org asking the art museum to abandon its plan.

Lisabeth Oden, who was born and raised in Aspen, created the petition around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. By 6 p.m., people from states as far away as Ohio had signed it.

“This is just so wrong in so many ways!” wrote Karen DiBenedetto of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Oden said she was pleasantly surprised that the petition was attracting so much attention.

“I normally don’t stick my nose out in public like this — by any sense of the imagination,” she said. “But to me this is just flat-out animal abuse.”

Oden said she has spent time rehabilitating tortoises in Florida, which led her to take action when she heard about the exhibit. Tortoises are a family of turtles that live on land, and their shells are sensitive.

“These creatures were not designed to carry 2-pound iPads,” she said.

Aspen has a reputation for doing the right thing when it comes to the environment and animal rights, Oden said, and that’s why the exhibit is so egregious.

“I can see them doing this is some rural town in some third-world country, but not here,” she said.

Stephanie Bell, cruelty casework director with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said the organization received a complaint about the exhibit. PETA officials are concerned about the exhibit, she said.

Tortoises are shy, docile animals who view humans as predators, Bell said. Taking them from their natural environment and placing iPads on them is wrong, she said, calling it “the height of disrespect.”

Even if tortoises’ shells could bear the weight of an iPad without being harmed, it’s still the wrong thing to do, Bell said.

“The only message that this artist in conveying from our interpretation is that nature is here for our manipulation, and of course we disagree with that,” Bell said, adding that this is the first time PETA has heard of such an art exhibit.

PETA officials plan to contact the art museum about the issue.

“We hope that people will choose not to support the exhibit because of the cruelty concerns,” Bell said.

Multiple attempts to reach art museum officials for comment on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

The petition will close on Friday, unless Oden decides to extend it.

The opening will mark the art museum’s relocation from its 7,200-square-foot building off North Mill Street to the new, 33,000-square-foot building on East Hyman Avenue designed by artist Shigeru Ban.

In addition to tortoises walking around with iPads on their backs, the opening features a range of activities that include a 24-hour event featuring live music, gallery tours, sunrise yoga, a “silent” dance party and film screenings that will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new museum was Saturday, followed by a members-only event at the museum.

Published in The Aspen Daily News on July 7, 2014

What makes for good art?

To be fair, that’s a loaded question, and one that artists and critics have debated for ages. In general, however, “good art” transcends cultures and ages, ringing true to a wide range of audiences.

The music of 25-year-old Jon Batiste — a singer, pianist and musical savant — did just that when he played a late-night, hour-long set at The Little Nell on Monday, June 30, as a part of the Aspen Ideas Fest.

That night, Batiste’s most moving pieces began in the classical realm — starting with the sort of songs you imagine classical pianists play to perfect their finger-placing technique and music-reading skills. As those songs progressed, Batiste began to improvise — throwing in ditties from classic song standards like “The Entertainer” and “Moon River.” At other moments, he would slow down the rhythm to create a blues jazz beat.

When Batiste finished his short set, the audience shouted for more. Batiste smiled and agreed to play one more song in honor of Aspen. It was an improvised classical piece weaving “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in and out of chaotic discord. The harsh juxtaposition was poetic and seemingly appropriate for an audience full of second homeowners visiting a resort town for a conference on “big ideas” related to the world’s problems.

Batiste blends musical genres, creating a complex pastiche, where music melodies from childhood songs swell up and disappear in the midst of a classical opus like fleeting memories. That’s why his music appealed to both the young and the old, the diners and the servers in the room. And that, I would argue, is good art.

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News July 7, 2014

If you’re camping this weekend, you probably already know that you should keep food out of your tent.

Food attracts bears and there are plenty around these mountains this time of year.

I’ve heard horror stories about campers waking up to bears sniffing for food in their tent. Those stories have been enough to inspire me to keep food far from my campsite. I’ve been told to hang food in trees so bears won’t get near the tent, but that method is not necessarily bear proof.

Martha Moran, recreation supervisor for the U.S. Forest Service’s Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said there was a recent incident near Crater Lake during which a couple of campers hung their food in a nearby tree. A bear climbed up and swatted it down, Moran said.

That’s why the Bear Keg sounds like a good investment for avid campers.

The Bear Keg looks like its namesake — it’s a cylinder that resembles a mini-beer keg. It has smooth round corners so that bears can’t easily hold onto it and includes three stainless-steel locks, which humans can easily open with a coin or screwdriver but proves impossible for bears. The keg has 716 cubic inches of storage for food — that’s enough for say a gallon of milk and a few sandwiches.

The one negative aspect of the container is its weight. The Bear Keg weighs a little over 3 pounds. That may seem light to some folks, but when you’re going on multi-day hikes into wilderness areas the 3 extra pounds are no joke. It’s also bulky, making it a challenge to pack.

Still, if you want to keep your food safe and bears away from your campsite, the Bear Keg is a reasonable option.

Get Your Own
Ute Mountaineer

This story originally ran in The Aspen Daily News on June 22, 2014.

There’s no accounting for taste.

That’s according to Food & Wine Editor-in-Chief Dana Cowin and three top chefs — Jacques Pepin, Marcus Samuelsson and Jonathan Waxman — who spoke at the annual Food & Wine Classic on Saturday.

Cowin hosted a panel titled “Food Memories,” as a part of the festival’s Classic Conversation Series. The 45-minute conversation with the world’s top foodies drew about 45 people to the Theatre Aspen tent. Everyone in attendance was sober from the previous day’s festivities, which was an impressive feat, Cowin noted at the start of the session.

Cowin asked each chef to describe their first memory of food.

Pepin, a 78-year-old internationally recognized French chef, television personality and author, said his first memory was being on a family-owned farm in France, drinking fresh milk from a recently milked cow.

“That kind of taste was more than a taste,” Pepin said. “It was comfort. It was happiness. It was security.”

Waxman’s first memory was biting into a chocolate Hershey’s candy bar when he was about 6 or 7 years old visiting his father in Los Angeles, he said. Waxman, who grew up in Berkeley, Calif., remembers how that taste tingled in his cheeks.

“I always want to go back to that sensation,” he said.

Waxman is a classically trained cook and he’s considered a pioneer of California cuisine.

For Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia, raised in Goteborg, Sweden, and worked his way up the culinary ranks, his first memories go back to his grandmother’s house in Africa. The food was rustic and minimal, because his grandmother didn’t trust electric appliances, he said.

“Everything tasted different at my grandma’s house,” Samuelsson said.

Despite their different backgrounds, the panelists all agreed that the experience of eating a meal is impacted by the event’s time, place and company. That means certain meals stick out in their memories as being the best, even though from a traditional culinary standpoint the food might have not been prepared right.

Ultimately, what defines good food comes down to the person who is experiencing it.

“To cook and to be a good host is to please someone,” Pepin said. “ … Whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant.”

Originally published in The Aspen Daily News on January 10, 2014

For all of you supposed expert skiers out there, I have a challenge: Ski Highland Bowl in Dynafit bindings.

That’s what I did on a recent bluebird day when I decided on a whim to extend my morning skin to the Merry-Go-Round on Aspen Highlands. The sky was clear, the weather warm and I was on a Black Diamond ski setup with Dynafit TLT Radical ST bindings. There’s only one way to go and that’s up, I thought. So I made my way to Loge Lift and started hiking up the bowl.

At the summit, a local wearing a purple Aspen Skiing Co. jacket spotted my bindings.

“Aren’t you scared to ski down on those things?” he asked.

“Heh ya,” I said, only then realizing that I was about to drop in on a 42-degree vertical pitch with less than two pounds of metal locking me onto my skis. “I’m just going to take it slow.”

Dynafit’s Radical ST bindings have no frame — meaning the heel and toe pieces are separate — and the heel rotates offering three climbing modes. What could be considered the best (and in my particular situation, the most worrisome) feature of the bindings are the two seemingly weightless stainless steel pins, dubbed the “power towers,” that pinch the toe of your boots.

The towers are what make the binding light and easy to mount, but despite the name it doesn’t necessarily sing stability. Intellectually I know that if technology can put men on the moon, there’s probably a way to lock a 140-pound person to skis with two pins the size of eraserheads. But as I stepped into the setup, my instincts kicked in and I started to think it might be a better idea to walk down the mountain.

Dynafit bindings are made to ensure a quick release on the downhill, almost to a fault. That feature is particularly troublesome, because the weightlessness of the setup makes it easier to jump turn and ski faster than you might on an Alpine setup. That was, at least, my experience.

Questions about the durability of my gear quickly disappeared as I got into a groove skiing down G8. But the thrill of a good powder run came to an abrupt halt at the bottom of South Fork when my left boot released from the binding for no identifiable reason. There was no powder, no random debris that caused the release. Just a small lip on the runout. With a bruised shin and ego, I remounted my skis and, like a Powder Panda on Buttermilk, snowplowed to the catwalk.

The whole experience gave me a newfound respect for the ski mountaineering pros who dominate the Battle of the Bowls each year. It’s one thing to race up a mountain, but it takes a whole other form of insanity to want to ski down on gear that weighs less than a gallon of milk.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the binding. Its weightlessness and easy accessibility makes skinning up not feel like work, but unless you’re as skilled as one of the Gaston brothers or maybe Max Taam, I would stay out of the steep and deep on the Radicals.

Get Your Own
$499.95 Dynafit Radical ST
Ute Mountaineer in Aspen