Dave Hanscom, Alexis Kelner & Wasatch Tours 0

| March 10, 2011

When I first got into backcountry skiing in the Wasatch, people were always referring to runs that were “in the book,” which unfortunately was out of print. You either had one, went skiing with someone who did, or figured it out on your own. I’d given up hope of ever getting a copy of the book, until one day my Great Uncle gave me his copy with a typewritten note in it: “…the risk of avalanches terrifies me so I’m not sure if you ought to have this or not.  It worries me!  Please don’t take chances!  Bruce”  Ironically, Uncle Bruce lived a full life of hiking and skiing in the mountains only to be run over in a crosswalk soon after moving into a retirement home in Salt Lake City.

The coveted "Wasatch Tours - 0" book. Rumors have it that there are pristine versions buried in forgotten libraries of Deer Valley mansions and that they are listed on eBay for $600.

I started touring on the See’m & Ski’em program which involved wandering around until you saw something to ski, and then go do it.  The first thing that caught my eye when I finally saw “Wasatch Tours” was all of the beautiful aerial photos with routes named “A.”  These always looked like the choice lines and I assumed there were routes B, C and D elsewhere in the book, but in fact the authors, Alexis Kelner and David Hanscom, were marking known avalanche paths.

A page from "Wasatch Tours 0" with the distinctive "A" marking.

During an early outing in Cardiac Bowl, Dave Hanscom’s touring party triggered a huge avalanche which caught and carried a member of their group, who luckily survived.  This was pre beacons, and in a large part, before avalanche eduction even got started. As such, a major impetus of “Wasatch Tours” was to identify, and thus avoid, known avalanche paths.  By the time I got my hands on a copy, the prevailing attitude had swung 180 degrees with a friend telling me “Look for the “A’s” – that’s the best skiing.”   I was thinking of this progression (?) the other day when I read a Powder Magazine article on Extreme Skiing which said the the future of the sport finding big, steep lines and skiing them in deep snow, as fast as possible.  Time will tell, but meanwhile, Kelner and Hanscomb are still very much alive and still skiing.

Dave Hanscomb (left) and Alexis Kelner with a copy of the original "Wasatch Tours."

In 1993, Kelner & Hascomb updated and expanded Wasatch Tours into a three book series which is still the bible of backcountry skiing in the Wasatch. Before that, Alexis Kelner was very involved with proposing the Lone Peak and Mt. Olympus Wilderness areas, and getting them passed. Every time I skin by one of those wooden signs marking the boundaries of these fantastic resources I say a quiet “Thanks Alexis!”  Alexis and two other friends later went on to form the conservation group “Save Our Canyons” which has been an instrumental voice in protecting the mountains, water and environment that makes the Salt Lake area such an attractive place to live.  Save Our Canyons is still going strong 37+ years later.

Help support StraightChuter.com and ski the “A” zones with an Ortovox S1 Tour Deluxe Package from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…


Category: Commentary, Random

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. The White Blog 6 | Powder Magazine | April 4, 2011
  1. John Regehr says:

    I’ve often seen copies in SLC-area used bookstores, and not for $600. I got mine at Sam Wellers; Ken Sanders had a copy or two last time I was there.

  2. dug says:

    i have all three of their books.

    and i completely agree–the value is in the pictures. when they say “don’t go there” what i hear is “that place must be F%$#ing awesome!”

  3. Tay says:

    “the future of the sport finding big, steep lines and skiing them in deep snow, as fast as possible” I guess by that Powder mag means the Kangshung Face right after the monsoon and with lots of wind loading.

  4. MM says:

    Skiing those “A” areas on 2″ wide 215s in baseball shoes was tough in the 70’s.

  5. d3 says:

    meantime, dave hanscom enters and places in nordic races, organizes events for the greater salt lake and summit county communities, and seems not to age. amazing!

  6. btrand says:

    I’ve heard there is a photo series or home movie of the cardiac slide on a sunny pre-beacon, pre-snowscience powder day. Probably puts the A’s into even better perspective.

  7. Andrew says:

    Hey btrand! I’ve seen Dave Hanscom’s video in past presentations and it is classic. First off, it is a major avalanche (2-3′ crown line?) but even more amusing is that the touring party seemed completely unfazed by it. “Whoa… where’d all that snow come from?” kind of thing. One person lost a ski, so the end of the video is of two people skiing out on one ski apiece.

  8. Luke says:

    I went to a presentation last night from Alexis Kelner at on “the history of skiing in Utah” — It was an esteemed exhibition. “A great historian has first hand knowledge.” Without his personal references, you couldn’t get the sensation that you were there. Those unique tellings bring the past to the present.

    Just saying thanks, I enjoyed it.

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