Wasatch Backcountry Skiing – The Map(s)

The Wasatch Backcountry Skiing website is a nice resource I’ve perused, or, more often, used to check out a zone after skiing to see if I could find a name for it. As someone that likes to get out and ski off-the-beaten-path stuff every once in a while, I like to discover what a zone or particular line is called. I’ve written about this in other posts, but with the Wasatch’s long and awesome ski history, there are a lot of competing names out there. Not only for ski descents; even some peaks have multiple names here in Utah!

Moving past the sublime – or is that just ridiculous? – however, the wbskiing site is a clear effort by one man to put names to a lot of (ski) faces. Word is, there are now over 1,100 points of reference on the map, primarily in the central Wasatch. I like this resource, use it here and there, and link to it in the sidebar over there ———>, under the ‘Wasatch Info’ header. It’s labeled ‘Ski Line Locations’ because ‘Wasatch backcountry skiing map’ is just a hair too long to fit on one line.

Steve Achelis (pronounced A-kay-less), the man behind the resource, got in touch recently and we sat down together to collaborate on a few changes to his information database. We corrected a few errors I’ve noticed over time, and added some reasonably well-known ski descent names to the map as well. I also learned how to link to a particular descent, rather than to the map as a whole, so I may occasionally put a reference link in future write-ups if I ski an obscurity. It happens.

Steve, beer in hand, during our map update session.

Steve, beer in hand, during our map update session.

Apparently, the map has ruffled some feathers here in the Wasatch. Some folks presumably don’t like their ‘secret’ powder stash being named or pointed out, or their hidden couloir’s location revealed. Others are miffed because the map doesn’t use the name that they know a line by. In reaching out to them, Steve has gotten the cold shoulder from a few individuals who could probably expand the knowledge base of Wasatch skiers.

Here’s my stance on the map. I like information; I share it often, I use it copiously. You can find over a hundred write-ups on steep Wasatch skiing under the ‘Wasatch Descents‘ header at the top of the t&w website. If I want to keep something secret, I either don’t write about it, or don’t name it when I write it up.

I also enjoy learning the history behind ski descents. While the Wasatch backcountry skiing maps (either about $12 for a paper version, or free online) don’t give historical details, a name is enough to begin to suss out that history for the interested person.

Confucius said, ‘The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.’ I learned this quote from my skiing mentor, and I agree wholeheartedly with it.

However, I can see the other side of the coin as well. Towards that end, as I admitted to Steve, I know of other lines that have been skied but aren’t on the map. I didn’t give him that info. He respected that, and appeared happy at what information I did proffer. Nothing that I shared hasn’t already been written about on the Internet in one form or another.

For others out there that like the sharing of information, the online version of the map includes an ‘Improve the Map’ button in the bottom right corner. Anyone who wants to suggest a new line, or improve the location of an existing line marker, can do so. I wish you would. Inaccurate info is the bane of society.

As for bragging rights, also called naming rights, it’s a delicate balancing act. Suicide Chute is also known as Country Lane. What name to use? Well, someone named Shane was skiing the line regularly many decades ago, before either of those names was in use. It used to be called Shane’s Chute. No one calls it that anymore. Or, maybe a few old souls out there do?

I personally don’t care about naming rights. I put names on things as a point of reference in the absence of beta about a particular line, in case someone else wants to get out and ski a rad line I mentioned on tetonsANDwasatch. If some intrepid soul skied a line years ago that I think is a first descent, I’d rather hear about that and use the name they applied than take inappropriate credit. I’m pretty sure my ski partners are in the same boat. That’s the cue for Wasatch old-timers to step up to the plate. The younger generation wants to know what you know. If you die without sharing historical information, what’s the point in creating the history in the first place?

As for now, lines such as Plinko, the Lars Line, the Angelic Doorstep, Cocoa Puffs, Rampage, and more, are on the map.

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