Welcome – Let’s Communicate for Safety

Hello all, Lou Dawson here. As far as we’re concerned, the more people who enjoy backcountry skiing near Marble, Colorado, the better. It’s a wonderful place, and the word is out. Yet unfortunately, over the past few years we’ve seen what we feel is a degradation in friendliness and sharing by backcountry skiers in the Marble area. Specifically off Quarry Road.

As a property owner on the most popular ski hill as well as long-time Marble skier, this trend has concerned me. At best, lack of communication begets the “surfer” mentality of self-entitlement and crude possessiveness. At worst, not sharing information creates danger because shared experience is one of the best ways to know and mitigate alpine hazards.

While we have no wish to be elitist ourselves and “dictate” behavior, we would like to help everyone to be more communicative and friendly. To that end, myself along with others will operate this website during winter of 2013-14 as an experiment. We’ll see if we can lead in the open sharing of information, and promote congeniality.

What is more, many of you know where the WildSnow Field HQ “portahut” is located below the most popular parking area. If we (the Dawsons) are there, feel free to stop by and say hi. Or if in need of assistance, we’re willing. We always have a satphone ready for emergency calls, and we are fully trained in first-aid and rescue.

One other thing. For whatever reason, we’ve seen a remarkable lack of sharing about Marble conditions on the Colorado Avalanche Center (CAIC) website. We’d prefer not to post avalanche conditions reports here at MarbleSki.org. Instead, we’ll push for more of you (and ourselves) to file more conditions reports at CAIC.

Yes, Marble has some of the best backcountry skiing in Colorado. That used to be a secret and many of you did a good job of keeping it. But those days are over. Last winter we had our first avalanche death up on Raspberry Ridge, and the number of near misses over the past few seasons has been alarming. Parking has become a problem, with up to 30 cars counted during peak weekend days.

Let’s try something different. Share place names. Chat up strangers in the parking areas. Seek out local property owners and business people (Yule Quarry) and show your support. Examples: Yule Quarry keeps the road open totally at their own expense. Property owners along the road maintain their access turnouts for summer use, which results in more parking for skiers.

Have a good winter of 2013-14! Lou Dawson

(P.S., some of you may wonder at our .org domain name. Yes, if this website proves effective we’ll consider creating a not-for-profit. For now, this site is simply an un-official volunteer effort, with hosting and technical upkeep costs absorbed by the advertising in the right sidebar. More information on this will be forthcoming as we refine our process.)

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    • George on November 17, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks Lou & Lisa! Great experience today.
    We cherished the Porta-hut warmth, a stomped skin track, good greetings and warnings from the early risers and dozens of awesome powder turns.

    • Steve on December 4, 2013 at 11:56 pm

    This is really unfortunate.
    Adding a website to publicize the famed Marble touring area will only alienate the people who have wanted to keep it away from the front range crowds.( Who already now drive here from Boulder). People are not going to share more info on this site.

    The focus should be placed on submitting regular obs to the CAIC, the professionals. Lou is not a trained forecaster nor a trained guide. By using this site we just dilute the already few observations that come out of the western Elks.

    We already see many people in Marble who don’t have a clue what they are doing. The skin track is slick and steep like it was in Little cotton wood canyon.

    This is just another site for Lou to sell adds, like the ones we see on the right side of the screen.

    • Skier33 on December 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Steve, your take appears to be exactly why this website exists! As for Lou, if he’s not a “trained guide” than who is?, what with his years of actual guiding, climbing, instructing for years for Outward Bound and NOLS, first aid courses, avalanche classes, apparently more than 40 years of that stuff! And what does it matter if Lou is a trained guide or not, or for that matter an avalanche forcaster or not? This site is just an information site and a place to encourage people to be nice, it’s not CAIC!

    Furthermore, it’s written right there in the website introduction that this is NOT the site for avalanche observations! Why not read the website first, before making comments. As for the ads, boohoo, web hosting isn’t free and keeping sites going takes people’s time.

    I’d also like to address the issue of “front range crowds.” Who exactly are the locals who are so deserving of this place over the “front range crowds.” Please define. To be a local do you have to be from Carbondale? Aspen? Marble? Paonia? Grand Junction? Or perhaps you need to be living on the Quarry road? Ridiculous. It’s public land.

    Last, you call the area “famed.” That’s the whole point. It’s famed. People know about it. They come skiing. Let’s be friendly and communicate so we can all be safe and have fun.

  1. Thanks Skier. I’ve been repeating the same mistakes for 40 years, that’s true (grin). But seriously, where on this website does it say I need to be a guide or avalanche forecaster to work with other people to show some names on a map and communicate some safety information? I really don’t get where that comes from. Perhaps just anger. Or selfishness. Mainly, would the first person to ski in Marble please raise their hand? They are the only one who has any right to whine about other people enjoying public land up there. And they’re only one vote. That said, if this website turns out to be unpopular and useless I’ll take it down, but we’ll give it one winter. Meanwhile, I’d encourage anyone to really look at what I got started with here. It’s really not a big deal, just a friendly attempt to help get everyone on the same page in various ways. Lou

  2. Just a shout-out to the Quarry for what a stellar job they’re doing plowing the road. Shane with his wedge and wing plows is keeping the snow plow banks down to reasonable heights, and the entire road is being kept wider than ever. Much safer, way more parking than any other winter.

    THANKS Yule Quarry miners!

    Reminder: Please, only all-wheel-drive or 4-wheel-drive on the Quarry Road in winter, with adequate tires. If you insist on 2-wheel-drive, at least bring a set of tire chains and make extra effort to tuck your parking into the side of the road since you’ll be hesitant to do so.


    • NB on March 11, 2014 at 9:11 am

    How has the snow been holding up with the warmer weather? What have people been skiing?

    Would be nice if there was a forum for people to discuss trip reports, etc. Nate

  3. NB, thanks for chiming in. We’d have to set this up a bit differently for it to be a good forum for trip reports etc. Also, many people who ski Marble are either not interested in sharing information, or actually dislike doing so. That’s the culture.

    The spirit of this website is to cut through that at least to some degree in the interest of safety as well as in the interest of folks simply being nice to each other while they’re doing what’s supposed to be fun. But for this to become a full-on forum will require some evolution.

    As for conditions up there, warm weather in March always results in crusty snow on the more sunny exposures, but you can usually find some softer snow if you look around. Sometimes our strategy in March is to ski smaller storms that bond to crust, thus forming safe powder opportunities. But we also just go whenever we feel like it (if deemed safe) as we backcountry ski for the whole experience, not just for better conditions.

    BTW, we’re also still working on the webcam, but it’s proved to be a real challenge due to the small amount of solar power we have available.

    • NB on March 12, 2014 at 8:39 am

    I agree, I think a discussion more of, “Skied a west facing slopes, >35*, not reactive, minor sluffing” would go a long way. Does not necessarily need to be a full on TGR trip reports. At least some discussion for safety and help spread people out.

    Will be out there Fri-Sun. Hopefully the small storm Sat verifies.

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