Last week I snuck up the hill to do some mid-week skiing. Driving from Golden to A-Basin over Loveland Pass means encountering skiers & boarders hitching their way back up after a run down the main gully. Loveland Pass is a very popular and accessible backcountry route. All good stuff.
Here lies the rub: Not one hitchhiker we’ve ever given a ride to at Loveland Pass has any avalanche gear. It’s always the same reasoning, “Well here you don’t need it.” (As long as you stay on the main trail, some add.)
While that may be true (if one stays on the main trail; those without gear that decide to hike up are playing burial roulette), I have two qualms surrounding that argument. First, we’re in a major avalanche cycle, with the possibility of seeing avalanches bigger than we’ve seen in decades. (Check out these crazy pics!)
My bigger bugaboo with people riding & skiing Loveland Pass sans gear is the norm we’re supporting. A culture of “no big deal” in the backcountry. With more and more folks venturing out to earn their turns than ever before, I feel that picking up hitchhikers without proper gear tacitly supports that ethos.
These days we’ll only give rides to people with at least the basic gear.
So it went, when last week I scurried up for a morning of looping Pali before responsibilities brought me back to the foothills. There were two snowboarders and one one skier with their thumbs out. With limited time and icy road conditions, I decided to thin slice.
If there are no friends on a powder day, there are definitely no new snowboarder hitchhiking friends. Stopping to see if they had gear, then giving them the, “Sorry, I’d really like to give you a ride, but …” would suck up precious ski time and 6 new inches called my name. So I drove on by. The lone miser in her warm Subaru.
Surprise, surprise, they sent me knife-blade hate glares loaded with “WTF?”
I suppose I should have given them the benefit of the doubt and stopped. What if they each did have a beacon, probe and shovel? But as aforementioned, I was dangerously close to spending more time driving than skiing that morning.
Still, I felt badly about it. So my question is, did I do the right thing? And, what is my karmic balance from such a move?