I’m thinking avalanche safety, but ski gear is always a distraction. Beyond our recent focus on skis and clothing, this is the year of the climbing skins. Everything from Kohla to Gecko, Pomoca to Montana. Crazy! Yet, more insane is the variety of airbag backpacks that’ll be available to get you out of what your skins get you into.
Jetforce is still the industry disruptor in our opinion. Will it be worth lugging around nearly 8 pounds so you can fire your airbag off whenever you want — and air travel with no issues? Consumers will vote. Black Diamond appears to be banking on selling a couple thousand of the things this winter and thus getting a nice little boost in their business numbers (according to a brief mention in their Q3 earnings conference call).
I’m still thinking I’ll haul a Jetforce, only probably not on big days when I need much additional weight (ropes, stuff like that). For lighter travel the BCA Float versions are attractive, and the Alpride is seductive.
University students in Missoula, Montana: you can join a backcountry ski club. Their Facebook page has good energy. Retail shops are important, as they host avalanche awareness evenings etcetera.
I like this article about Skinny Skis in Jackson, there since 1974. Just a few years before that I was in Jackson during a cold snap when temps rocked about 50 below zero. I remember searching town for a face mask, with the only shopping game being Jackson Sporting Goods as mentioned in the article. They did have the item, a mask that was popular with ice fisherman. I wore it around town so my face wouldn’t freeze off. Does Jackson still get that cold?
It is a classic. Actually, it’s more than a classic, it’s an institution. If you want a night at the Ostrander Hut in Yosemite, get going with their bunk lottery.
Heli skiing is another institution. We generally shy from much mention of carbon dioxide spewing ships that whisk skiers to the heights accompanied by the smell of burning plastic credit cards. But just like snowmobiles, helis have their uses in human powered skiing. So we give them the nod now and then. Check out this well written article covering the history of heli skiing, with a Canadian slant.
Scrapping continues in Utah over plans to link a pile of ski resorts into one mega complex. On the surface, I’ve liked the concept of resort linkage. But that’s an uninformed view and one I’m gradually being disabused of. Fact is that linking resorts often uses terrain that’s otherwise excellent for ski touring, and not truly needed for lift skiers. Really, what’s the point? You can spend all day riding lifts so you can have an expensive poorly cooked lunch at one end of the megaplex? Are you there to ski, or at the end of the day brag about how many ski lifts and gondolas you’ve planted your butt on? Truly, this stuff has to be marketing driven, not real life. Read here for opinion on the matter.
On the shopping front, look for more Dynafit 20% off sales such as we’ve been helping our advertising partner Cripple Creek Backcountry promote. More, it seems a good number of companies are jumping on the “Q4 sale” wagon. Not sure why. Perhaps they’re expecting a sluggish economy and don’t want to be over-extended with product in their warehouses? Or, in the short term, manufacturer sales can perhaps make their numbers look better to investors and parent companies. In any case, be sure to check websites for deals. Example is the fire sale Black Diamond is having on their Factor ski boot.
At WildSnow HQ, we’re in a lull at the moment with beautiful Indian summer weather and a remodel project, yet the snowmobile waits, as does the hot tub up at Field HQ. I’ve got those nice looking Transalp skis lined up for a binding kiss, and a new pair of La Sportiva Vapor Nanos is on tap as well. We’re headed to Europe again in January for a few press events, only this time we’re planning on doing more skiing and less driving. Each season is different — let’s hope we all get enough snow to make it good.
Word: Make a vow to increase your level of avalanche safety this time around. If you’re new to the game remember avalanche safety classes can only take you so far. Seek out mentors. Solomon wrote something like “in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Still true.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.