Roger J. Wendell
Defending 3.8 Billion Years of Organic EvolutionSM


Jim and Annetta Skiing from Bakerville to Loveland - 01-28-2006
Jim and Annetta
Backcountry, Cross-country, and Telemark:
No Crowds.  More Nature.  Less Expense.  Lots More Fun!
(Often referred to as "Free-heeling" since the boot binding allows your
foot to lift up and down - unlike downhill bindings that "lock" your heel
into place...)



Forest Logging Clear Cut Q: What's the difference between a commercial ski slope and a logging clearcut?

A: Clearcuts grow back!!


"I don't do downhill. This is for cross-country."
"Don't like the lift lines, huh?"
- Robert Redford asking Faye Dunaway about her purchase
in the 1975 spy flick, Three Days of the Condor


Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for my skiing experience at Margy's Hut and the house of Hunter S. Thompson!
Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for a few pix of Steve Farley and I skiing in our "backyard" on Green Mountain!
YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for my video of a ski run down the Butler Gulch trail...


A Definition

Lito Tejada-Flores Lito Tejada-Flores in his 1981 book,
Backcountry Skiing (The Sierra Club
Guide to skiing off the Beaten Track) pp. 1-2
"Backcountry skiing is not new. No more than skiing itself. In fact, what I think of as backcountry skiing - skiing away from ski area, off the beaten track, far from the crowd - has much more in common with early skiing than with today's prepackaged, high-priced versions of the sport. You don't need a lift ticket or a trail pass to go backcountry skiing. You don't have to join a ski club or wear the right clothes in the right colors. You don't even have to use a certain type of skis or a particular technique. Simply skiing into the winter landscape, away from prepared terrain, on your own or with friends - that's what I'm talking about and what this book is about."

"Backountry skiing, like the backountry, has a lot to do with one's state of mind. The backcountry does not begin 3.7 kilometers or a two-day walk from the roadhead. Rather we feel ourselves in the backcountry when a mantle of overcivilized responses slips away, when a peculiarly urban weight lifts from the spirit, and the landscape seems to promise adventure, or at least the possibility of adventure.

"So with backountry skiing. It is not synonymous with arduous expeditions in remote regions, though they are definitely a part of backcountry skiing. It is not a sport reserved for super athletes, though they will find it endlessly challenging. Backcountry skiing is accessible to families, to children, to those who have spent their whole lives skiing and to those who never saw a ski before the age of forty. The essence of backcountry skiing is skiing on your own. You and winter. Your skis and untracked, unprepared snow. It is definitely a state of mind you put on, much as you put on your skis and boots. It's a state of mind composed of audacity and prudence, a love of winter and of effort, of graceful movement, and of exploration. In this overexplored world of ours, the winter backcountry is always fresh and unexplored because it's always changing; each storm, each shift in temperature creates new terrain. The backcountry - mountains, forests, high plateaus - has been renewing itself every winter beyond all memory. And as long as I can remember, skiers too have been renewing themselves in the challenging, white environment."

Ten Essentials Click Here for the Ten Essentials - Don't leave home without 'em!


(Click on any of this page's "Thumbnail" images for a larger view)


The Case Against Ski Resorts:

ALAW and the Liftline - 02-18-2006
ALAW and the liftline...
Okay, I have an obvious bias here! I've been to ski resorts in California, Canada, Europe, Utah and all over Colorado and they're all pretty much the same - expensive fashion shows that have little respect for the natural environment (they're usually crowded, overbuilt clearcuts that take too much water for snowmaking and saunas) or solitude. However, downhill skiing does offer you a lot of social interaction if you love long liftlines, packed parking and crowded shops!

Backcountry, cross-country, telemark, and touring are modes of skiing much different than the "downhill" drudgery I mention above! First, these types of skiing excursions don't cost much since you're not paying for an expensive lift ticket or latte. Second, since you need to get to the top under you're own power it's a much healthier workout than you'd ever get at Aspen, Mammoth, or Chamonix.

Finally, the backcountry (if you're lucky enough to be free of the snowmobiles!) is a clean, healthy, beautiful, and exhilarating experience that can't be matched in any manmade artificial environment! There's nothing like carving a few turns down the side of the Continental Divide with nothing but wilderness visible in every direction!

There's no doubt that backcountry skiing is about as low impact as it gets - just a couple of tracks through the snow and wildlife that's protected from another parking garage or ski lodge. Give the backcountry a try and you'll never go back to Vail!

- Roger J. Wendell


Fridtjof Nansen "I know of no form of sport which so evenly develops the muscles, which renders the body so strong and elastic, which teaches so well the qualities of dexterity and resource, which in an equal degree calls for decision and resolution, and which gives the same vigor and exhilaration to mind and body alike."
"Where can one find a healthier and purer delight than when on a brilliant winter day one binds one's ski to one's feet and takes one's way out into the forest? Civilization is, as it were, washed clean from the mind and left far behind with the city atmosphere and city life; one's whole being is, so to say, wrapped in one's ski and the surrounding nature. There is something in the whole which develops soul and not body alone, and the sport is perhaps of far greater national importance than is generally supposed."
"...those wonderful, long, steep mountainsides, where the snow lies soft as eiderdown, where one can ski as fast as one desires... From the tips of the skis... the snow sprays knee-high, to swirl up in white clouds behind; but ahead all is clear. You cleave the snow like an arrow... you just have to tense your muscles, keep your body under control, and let yourself wing down-wards like an avalanche."
- Fridtjof Nansen, En Skitur fra Voss til Kristiania, 1884
[Ed note: Fridtjof Nansen was a Norwegian explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian, and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In his youth he was a champion skier and ice skater.]




Avalanche Awareness and Safety:

Avalanche blasting waring sign at the BUtler Gulch trialhea near the Henderson Mine, Colorado - 12-27-2008
Butler Gulch trailhead warning
On 03/22/05 my friend Janet Farrar took these photos of an avalanche northeast of Jones Pass here in Colorado (this avalanche was just west of Vasquez Peak on the south east slope of the unnamed 12,316' peak on the Continental Divide). As beautiful as these pictures appear avalanches kill many people each year. Ken Booker (and other acquaintances of mine) died in an avalanche so I hope you'll visit the Colorado Avalanche Information center page to raise your safety awareness level! Jones Pass Avalanche
Jones Pass avalanche
Jones Pass Avalanche
Jones Pass avalanche


Please take an avalanche safety awareness course, at a minimum, if you're going to spend any amount of time where's there's a chance of an avalanche! Each year, 20 to 40 people die in avalanches in North America. 90 Percent of those deaths are from slides triggered by the victim or members of the victim's group. And, unfortunately, there's only a 30 percent chance of survival if you're buried by an avalanche. So, it's very important you know what you're doing in backcountry snow conditions! Here, in Colorado, we have a variety of resources since our mountains and snow conditions can be so dangerous. The best place to start is with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Also, the Colorado Mountain Club is a great resource for training and information as well.
Slope Meter with hole drilled by Roger J. Wendell 01-06-2018
Slope Meter (front)
Slope Meter with hole drilled by Roger J. Wendell 01-06-2018
Slope Meter (back)
There are all kinds of slope meters out there that do a great job. I liked this one, especially, because I was able to obtain it at avery low price! However, I had to drill my own hole and supply my own lanyard for it. (A lanyard isn't required but helps people, like me, from losing the device!). Other items you should have with you in the backcountry, where there's snow, are an shovel, avalanche beacon, and probe pole. Please learn how to use all of these items - if not for yourself, to at least assist others in the area who may need your assistance!




Back to the Backcountry!


Montezuma, Colorado
Population 42, Elevation 10,200 feet (3,109 metres)

Montezuma is located near the resort of Keystone, Colorado and provides
some handy parking for backcountry skiers interested in sometime quiet
destinations like St Johns or the Hunki Dori and Wild Irishman mines.
Unfortunately noisy, smelly snowmobiles have access to much of the area,
as well, so be careful!

Montezuma, Colorado Towne Centre - 01-06-2007
Towne Centre
Montezuma, Colorado Parking - 01-06-2007
Public parking
Montezuma, Colorado Public Restroom with CMC Leader Dave Callais Town Centre - 01-06-2007
Public Restroom
Montezuma, Colorado CMCers on the Move - 01-06-2007
CMCers on the move!
Montezuma, Colorado Wild Irishman Mine Cabin - 01-06-2007
Wild Irishman Mine Cabin

On January 6, 2007 CMC leader Dave Callais took 13 of us on the seven mile roundtrip tour of the Wild Irishman mine. Temperatures, that day, averaged about 10 degrees with strong wind gusts later in the afternoon (there was a huge avalanche near Berthoud Pass, not far from us, while we were skiing that day...).




Miscellaneous Ski Trips:

Janet's Cabin at 11,600 Feet
Roger and Bob Kinter near Janet's Cabin
Wild Irishman Mine
3. (Photo by Tom Bresnahan)
En Route Boreas Pass - 02-11-2006
Roger J. Wendell En Route Boreas Pass Near Breckenridge - 02-11-2006
Roger J. Wendell Skiing alongside I-70 between Bakerville and Loveland - 01-28-2006
  1. Me at Janet's Cabin - 11,600' in the Colorado Rockies (2001)
  2. Me and Bob Kinter heading down from Janet's Cabin on the Guller Creek/Colorado Trail
  3. CMC Leader Jeanie Marizza took a bunch of us to the Wild Irishman Mine near the old mining town of St. Johns, Colorado
  4. Mary, Laurie, and Larry making their way up the road to Boreas Pass near Breckenridge, Colorado
  5. Me at a very cold (-20° Fahrenheit) start on Boreas Pass Road, near Breckenridge, on the morning of 02-11-2006
  6. Me again - this time a little "Kick 'n Glide" along I-70 between Bakerville and Loveland, Colorado (01-28-2006)




McCullogh Gulch
(Quandry Peak, Colorado - leader Rocky Smith 03-11-2006)

McCullough Gulch Sign - 03-11-2006
McCullough Gulch Sign
Rocky Smith and Roger Wendell - 03-11-2006
Rocky Smith & Me!
Rocky Smith Breaking Trail - 03-11-2006
Rocky Smith Breaking Trail
McCullough Gulch Going Up Hill - 03-11-2006
Going up hill...
McCullough Gulch Trail - 03-11-2006
McCullough Gulch Trail
McCullough Gulch Death to Trespassers - 03-11-2006
Trespassers will be shot!
McCullough Gulch Trespasser - 03-11-2006
A Trespasser...
CMC Group at McCullough Gulch - 03-11-2006
Our group
Skiing in Line at McCullough Gulch - 03-11-2006
In Line...
Andrea at McCullough Gulch - 03-11-2006




Spruce Creek
(Frasier Experimental Forest, Colorado - leader Mark Porter 02-25-2006)

Spruce Creek Trail Marker - 02-25-2006
Typical Trail Marker
Kay Removes Skins - 02-25-2006
Removing Skins
Mark Was Our Leader - 02-25-2006
Mark, our leader!
Nancy at Spruce Creek - 02-25-2006
Nancy and Roger - 02-25-2006
Nancy and Roger
Spruce Creek Up Hill - 02-25-2006
Going Up Hill




"Waxless" skis:

Waxless Skis Waxless skis usually have little fish-like "scales," on the bottom (beneath the boot binding), to provide traction for forward motion. Depending on local ski conditions they generally work okay. Waxless skis can be rented everywhere and are useable by almost everyone. However, my experience has been that traditional skis, that require waxing, are superior in the long run.
Although waxless skis require almost no maintenance, they do, indeed benefit from glide wax at times. Also, waxless don't seem to do any better when going up hill - I can usually keep up with somebody on waxless, while using my waxable skis, if I've applied the correct temperature of wax. And, of course, "skins" (a friction fabric attached to the bottom of each ski when going up steep hills click Here for an explanation and comparison) beat waxable and waxless on terrain only snowshoers can access. Skins for Skis

Free Heel Photo Example Finally, everybody agrees that waxable skis are vastly superior on flat terrain, and when going down hill. Those using waxable skis can "kick and glide" with substantially less effort than those on waxless skis. Also, you'll find that so much less effort is required with waxables, while going down a slight incline, that you can some times just drift along motionless while your waxless partner is kicking, poling, pushing, and panting to maintain forward momentum.

I'll admit that waxless skis sometimes provide more control, due to their enherent friction, when going down really steep terrain. Again, if conditions are that bad I usually slap the skins back on to my waxables to slow me down a bit. Of course telemark turns, if you've mastered 'em, are usually the solution in any steep terrain...

My Unofficial Waxing Notes:

Stuff to Wax With I'm not that good with wax and have to admit that I've struggled with it on occasion. However, during all those times when I "get it right" it is simply wonderful - gliding is effortless and there is plenty of up-hill "grip" and traction for kicking. When done properly, and with the right conditions, the system is vastly superior to waxless skis or even the "on again," "off again" procedures with skins.

Anyway, here are some rough notes that might help:

  1. At the start of the season, or if you've skied a lot this season, use Paint Thinner/Wax Remover to get rid of the old stuff.
  2. Drip on glide wax (Blue, usually in the range of about -6C to -12C) from tips to tales by holding to the bottom of an iron, i.e., you're actually holding the wax stick to the iron and letting the melted prodcut fall onto the bottom side of the ski.
  3. Then iron it so it covers the whole bottom in a smooth surface that permeates all the pores.
  4. Chip off excess including the straight track down the middle.
  5. Rub kicker wax, usually a temperature rating similar to the glider, in the wax pocket directly beneath the the bindings. Blue Extra (Oc to -6C) works good for most conditions in Colorado.

YouTube Logo - Small Click Here for my video that explains the wax pocket!




Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for "Wood N Skis" (a site dedicated to wooden skis!)...


Pine Tar:

In 2002 a friend in Virginia wrote to ask how she could care for her old wooden Nordic skis with pine tar. Having no clue, I posted a note on one of the CMC's listservers and received replies from Don MacLeod, and a host of others, with all kinds of great info. Don suggested an old book he owns for an authoritative analysis of the Pine Tar question:

A beginner's guide to Cross-Country Skiing:
A step by step introduction to cross-country skiing in North America, by Ned Baldwin.
Copyright 1972 Greywood Publishing Limited, 101 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario.
U.S.A. Distribution by Simon & Schuster Inc.

"Before waxing any wooden ski, the sole of the ski must be prepared by the application of a base
preparation. This is applied to the bare wood and is usually a pine tar derivative or similar
black sticky semi-liquid compound. New skis often come with a light brown coating on their bottoms
which is to protect the wood during shipment from moisture. This should be sanded off with light
sandpaper before application of the base.

"To apply the base, place the skis against a table or some similar object about 3 feet high and
brace tails of the skis against the wall or a cleat nailed to the floor so that they will not
slip. The materials you will need are an old towel, a propane blow torch, and a small can of base
material, commonly called Grundvalla. First, heat the ski slowly from one end to the other,
passing the torch back and forth several inches from the surface, warming it gradually. When the ski
is quite warm to the touch, start applying the grundvalla with a section of the old towel until the
entire ski is coated with quite a heavy layer.

"It is wise to protect the floor with newspapers during this whole operation. But do not worry about
the grundvalla which runs off the bottom of the ski on to the top of the ski as this is easily cleaned
off later with a rag moistened with turpentine. After the ski is fully coated with grundvalla, start
heating it again with the torch, a small section at a time, until it begins to boil. Just before or
immediately after it catches fire, wipe if off with the old towel.

"Continue this process, doing not more than a few inches of ski at a time until completed. This 'cooks'
the grundvalla into the surface of the wood and when you are finished, you have a very smooth and
relatively dry surface, ready for the application of waxes. You will find that you have to repeat this
operation several times during the course of the season, especially if you ski on icy conditions very
often. If you only ski on soft powder snow, your base may last for an entire season.

"After preparing the base, it is wise, although not absolutely necessary to apply a thin binder
wax, or Grundvox, before applying your finish wax. This product comes in a small tube and is
rubbed on very lightly and smoothed out with the palm of your hand or a cork. When it is on, it is
barely visible, only sufficient wax remaining on the ski to leave a fingerprint."




Avalanche Beacon Bring These:

  1. Every member of the party must carry the Ten Essentials whenever you're in the backcountry!
  2. An avalanche beacon is important even if you're not in suspect terrain - you could be called upon to help search for others in an area near you.
  3. A backcountry shovel has countless uses that include digging a snow cave, digging your partner out of an avalanche, creating a litter/sled, etc.
  4. Avalanche probe poles can help if the person wasn't wearing a beacon of their own...
  5. Slope Meter
  6. Learn about avalanche conditions and terrain!




My Gear:

Most of the gear I love was 20 years old by the time I posted these pix on my skiing page! My Fischer 210 cm GTS backcountry skis were state-of-the art back then but couldn't keep up with the turns that the newer, more "shapely" skis are capable of now. Nevertheless, my Fischer skis, Asolo Snowfield II boots, and Riva cable bindings (I insalled 'em myself after having wore out the original three pin bindings...) have served me well in all kinds of terrain and conditions. At the end of '07 and the beginning of '08 I photographed my gear before it got too much more beat up!
Asolo Sports Snowfield II Backcountry Ski Boots - 02-24-2008
Asolo Sport Snowfield II
Riva Cable Binding - 02-24-2008
Riva Cable Binding
Riva Cable Bindings - 02-24-2008
Riva Cable Bindings
Duct Taping My Skins - 12-30-2007
Duct taping my skins!!
My Fischer GTS Backcountry Skis - 02-24-2008
Fischer GTS 210 cm skis
My Fischer GTS Backcountry Skis - 02-24-2008
Fischer GTS 210 cm skis
Bottom Side of My Fischer GTS Backcountry Skis with dirty wax - 02-24-2008
Bottom side with dirty wax!

Okay, you'll notice the letter "R," and even my initials, engraved in the cable binding (and on everything else!). The "R" (and "L" on the other binding) are to identify which foot that particular ski goes on. I know, you'd think I'd have my left and right figured out by now but, believe me, at high altitude or after a day of exhaustion little things like this help you keep your gear on the correct feet! For example, on my plastic mountaineering boots I even have the letter "L" printed backwards - I got that great idea from being really hypoxic one day at 21,000 feet - very much disoriented and in need of every bit of help in putting my gear on correctly! And, of course, my name and initials are on everything not so much as to prevent theft (which they won't) but to ensure my gear doesn't get mixed with somebody else's similar looking equipment...

Happy Trails!
- Roger J. Wendell
Golden, Colorado




Brainard Lake, Colorado:

he Colorado Mountain Club Boulder Group's Brainard Lake Cabin - 12-21-2008
Colorado Mountain club
he Colorado Mountain Club Boulder Group's Brainard Lake Cabin - 12-21-2008
Brainard Lake cabin
The Boulder Group, of the Colorado Mountain Club, maintains this great little cabin adjacent Brainard Lake. You'll need to contact the club to make reservations if you're interested in staying there, etc. Click Here for my YouTube video from inside the cabin!


Practice Makes Perfect!

Pulling Sleds in Preparation for Denali - 02-24-2008
Pulling sleds for Denali
Throughout Colorado's backcountry it's common to find folks preparing for big climbs in other places around the world - our 14,000 foot peaks are the perfrect workout for anyone aspiring to even higher adventures around the planet. In this case, these guys were peparing for Denali, in late spring, and agreed to let me photograph and film them. They're all pulling sleds, along with their packs, to accommodate all the gear they'll need for many weeks on the mountain. Click Here for my YouTube video of these guys pulling their sleds uphill...




Backcountry Books:




Arrow Pointing Right Click Here for red, pink, and "Watermelon Snow" at the bottom of my Snow Day page...



  1. 10th Mountain Division
  2. 12ers
  3. 13ers
  4. 14ers
  5. Alpine Rescue Team
  6. AIARE - The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education
  7. Alpine Resuce Team - Evergreen, Colorado
  8. American Avalanche Association
  9. Antarctica
  10. Climbing
  11. CMC - Colorado Mountain Club
  12. Colorado
  13. Colorado Avalanche Information Center
  14. CORSAR - Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Card
  15. Cross Country Ski Areas Association
  16. Cycling
  17. Gear - Stuff for the Backcountry...
  1. High Altitude Medicine Guide
  2. Hiking
  3. Leave No Trace - Center for Outdoor Ethics
  4. Lightning Safety
  5. Margy's Hut
  6. ORV - the Off-road Vehicle menace
  7. Russia
  8. Skins, Wax and Waxless Skis
  9. Snow Caves
  10. Snow Day
  11. Survival in the backcountry
  12. Ten Essentials - Don't leave home without 'em!
  13. Travel
  14. Travel Two
  15. Walking softly in the backcountry
  16. Waypoints
  17. Wooden Skis "Dedicated to the preservation and enjoyment of cross-country skiing with wooden skis"

Warning! Climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing are dangerous and can seriously injure or kill you. By further exploring this web site you acknowledge that the information presented here may be out of date or incorrect, and you agree not to hold the author responsible for any damages, injuries, or death arising from any use of this resource. Please thoroughly investigate any mountain before attempting to climb it, and do not substitute this web site for experience, training, and recognizing your limitations!




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