Alone with my principles

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.)

Courtesy of

A 2009 avalanche at Loveland Pass. The slide visible in the picture broke close to 4-feet at its deepest and ran several hundred vertical feet. Photo courtesy of Bob Berwyn,

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.

No friends on a powder day.

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?



Filed under Musings, Outdoor & Adventure

8 responses to “Alone with my principles

  1. Hmm. You bring up an interesting query. I agree that backcountry users should carry the proper gear, and you don’t want to support those making the wrong choices. But, there might be another way to look at this.
    If you give the non-gear carrying guys a ride, its a great opportunity for a little education. As in, “what the hell? Where’s your beacon?” But if you never interact with them, they’ll never know why you feel so strongly about it. They might not even realize how important the proper gear is. Being a member of a community of skiers means sharing the love, and the knowledge of conditions. Maybe these guys just don’t get it. But they’ll never change if someone doesn’t point them in the right direction.

  2. Good points, Kim, but the attitude you get sometimes from people on Loveland Pass when you bring up avalanche safety is unreal. Not all, but many, are ungrateful punks who leave all kinds of garbage along the road and don’t give a damn that they’re endangering themselves and others. I speak from a lot of personal experience (and time spent picking up garbage in the parking lot) on that pass.

  3. I hear you Bob. Ignorance is a tough plague to fight. Having not skied Loveland Pass, I haven’t seen it first hand. It’s sort of mind boggling to think that a backcountry user would get angry if you show concern for their safety. Sheesh!

  4. Yes, it’s very much of a “It’s none of your concern” attitude for avy safety among some, when rescue volunteers risk their lives to help some of these folks. I do think that more dialogue is better.

  5. Hey Emily.

    Nice blog. You need to keep it up to snuff with all your happenings. 😉

    Been over Loveland a few times and have picked up a skier/boarder or two. Interesting stories they tell as you give them a “lift” to the top. But I had my Jeep (and you know the Beast of which I speak) so there was plenty of room.

    But these folk were also found around Aspen. The lesser educated just went to Conundrum Basin and skied after the lifts closed. Some, without the necessary avy gear.

    Thanks Emily and have a great day.


  6. Thanks Pablo! Your Jeep is quite the Beast indeed. I guess in many ski areas there’s a place people ski without safety gear. Backcountry skiing is exploding in popularity, I just hope the knowledge & awareness follow suit!

  7. Joe

    Everyone should know that as a hitch hiker you are not the problem of a driver by. Back country gear or not, you as a hitch hiker are not my problem. I will help when I can. I drive this area quite often for work and do not always have time to stop for people. Do not feel bad, these folks are out playing! Somebody will always stop. It just may not be you this time.

  8. Andrew Commander

    That’s messed up. Not giving a ride in an empty car, just because you think you are going to make them use safety gear next time???!! What are you thinking? Give em a ride and maybe you’ll pair up with the next big somebody in the singles line

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