Backcountry Skiing on HBO

Bryant Gumbel and HBO tackle the "death-defying" subject of backcountry skiing.
Author:
Updated:
Original:
HBO Sports

I just received a press release from HBO sports announcing that an episode of Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel slated to air on Tuesday, April 17, will "explore the death-defying world of backcountry skiing." A few things come to mind. This has certainly been a terrible, tragic season for backcountry skiers, what with the Stevens Pass accident, the loss of Steve Romeo, Chris Onufer, Jamie Pierre, and too many others. It's a season we could pull a lot of lessons out of, but I won't try to do that here. And the frequency of accidents this year has predictably thrust our sport into the public eye.

One thing missing from the conversation, however, at least the parts of the conversation that make it into major news outlets like this HBO episode and Brian Williams's Rock Center special sensationally titled "The Death Zone," is the definition of backcountry skiing itself. Nothing in that short press release indicated that Gumbel's show will do anything but perpetuate the myth that backcountry skiing is all about cliff hucking and extreme risk taking. I call myself a backcountry skier and I do none of those things. My outings usually consist of skinning up what I deem to be, through observation and education and experience, safe ascent routes and then descending lower-angle slopes away from avalanche-prone zones. I'm out there for the relatively safe thrill of gliding over snow in uncrowded natural places. I'm there for the fitness, the scenery, and the fellowship of good friends. Call me a wuss—I want to return home to kiss my wife and kids—but I'm still a backcountry skier. And I would guess that the vast majority of "backcountry skiers" are more like me.

As a member of the media industry, I can understand the appeal of crafting traffic-drawing headlines, but let's hope Gumbel's broadcast showcases the kind of backcountry skiing most folks do. Not likely, considering this is the guy who famously trashed Winter Olympic athletes in 2006 when he said "try not to laugh when someone says these are the world's greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like the GOP convention." We'll see. Does anyone have an HBO subscription and an open spot on the couch for me?

Air-time info from press release:

Now in its 18th season, REAL SPORTS WITH BRYANT GUMBEL presents more enterprising features and reporting when its 181st edition, available in HDTV, debuts TUESDAY, APRIL 17 (10:00 p.m. ET/PT & 9:00 p.m. CT), exclusively on HBO.

Other HBO playdates: April 17 (2:10 a.m.), 20 (1:30 p.m., 8:00 p.m.), 22 (9:45 a.m.), 26 (5:00 p.m., 12:30 a.m.), 28 (11:00 a.m.) and 30 (9:30 a.m., 6:30 p.m.)

HBO2 playdates: April 18 (9:30 p.m., 4:15 a.m.), 24 (10:55 a.m., midnight) and 27 (8:00 a.m.), and May 1 (7:00 p.m., 2:30 a.m.), 4 (7:55 a.m., 3:30 p.m.), 6 (noon) and 12 (9:00 a.m.)

HBO On Demand availability: April 23-May 14

Related

Six Californian Backcountry Ski Huts Tout

Six Californian Backcountry Ski Huts

When "destination skiing" doesn't mean flying to a ski resort.

Backcountry Ski Tips: How to Take Set a Bootpack

Backcountry Ski Tips: How to Set a Proper Bootpack

Setting a bootpack is as simple as hiking up hill with skis on your back, but doing it efficiently can leave you some gas in the tank for another lap.

May avalanches thumbnail

Colorado's Backcountry Still Sliding

CAIC officials reported 260 avalanches in May and predict June could follow suit.

Backcountry Ski Tips: How to Put on Skis in Steep Terrain

Backcountry Ski Tips: How to Put on Skis in Steep Terrain

Because you don't want to send a ski torpedoing down the slope getting first tracks without you.

Backcountry 101: Who's Responsbile?

Backcountry 101: Who's Responsible?

Experts talk the industry’s role in avalanche safety.

Alta Backcountry

Safely Shred the Wasatch Backcountry

Utah Mountain Adventures and the Alta Lodge team up to offer three backcountry skiing clinics this season.

Backcountry Ski Tips: How to Make a Kick Turn tout

Backcountry Ski Tips: How to Perform a Kick Turn

The Colorado Mountain School's Mike Alkaitis shares tips on how to do a proper kick turn while backcountry skiing.