I’ve lost count of how many OR shows I’ve been to. Could be easy to burn out, but every OR has a few things that keep the WildSnow buzz going.
One of my first stops was a visit with the grand master of the backpack geek council, otherwise known as Graham Williams. Graham and his company Cilo Gear have worked up their usual stunning array of scientifically infeasible but nonetheless real Dyneema backpacks. I’ve got one coming that’ll work for backcountry skiing day trips. The NWD 30 liter weighs a pound. Gad, that’s heavy!
What is indeed more (or less), the NWD is made with this crazy non woven material that’s kind of like having a pack constructed from a large plastic bag — only this sack can stop bullets, and rocks, and sticks, and anything other stuff that makes regular nylon backpacks run scared. Cilo Gear website here.
My day began with a little Dynafit chat. I was psyched to hear the kings and queens of lightweight are still swinging a scepter in the shape of a Manaslu ski. More, they’re still pushing their ZZeus, Titan, and Gaia urethane freeride boots.
Titan is stiff enough to shut up even the most persistant “my AT boots are too soft” whiners, while ZZeus continues as a stiff but tour able version coming from the same mold. We’re assuming they will have relocated the instep buckle a bit on these, so it won’t bind in the cuff break during heavy flexing, as last year’s did for some folks. Gaia is of course the ski boot beefcake designed to keep the ladies happy, same features as the other Dynafit freeride shoes. Salewa North America (Dynafit) will be importing more Salewa product and more summer product, which will help their already excellent distributorship remain viable. We’ll be interested in how their line fills out.
Next stop, Tecnica, to talk about where they’re going with AT boots now that they’ve branded the Lowa boot as their Agent AT. Tecnica is serious about keeping AT in their line, though they’re up front about their need to concentrate on the alpine market.
Even so, we’re told Tecnica had two more molds made for the Agent, in smaller sizes down to 22! (Molds are expensive, so good to see that measure of commitment.) This is GREAT news for the ladies as we get at least 25 emails a season from asking how to get AT boots that fit pixie feet (don’t get me wrong, pixie feet are very attractive…) Tecnica also says they may slap rubber cleated soles on some of their freeride boots, and in a few years they’ll have a redesigned AT boot all originated by them.
Update, summer 2009: Agent small sized for winter 2009/2010
Size 25.0/25.5- sole length 298 mm
Size 24.0/24.5- sole length 288 mm
Size 23.0/23.5- sole length 278 mm
Moving along, I checked out Aspen Expeditions owner Dick Jackson’s new tent design. Dick has been working for years on a lightweight shelter for backcountry skiers. He got Brooks Range Mountaineering behind things and bingo, they’re showing a production ready one person (or two in a pinch) 1.5 lb tent that sets up using your ski poles and avalanche probe. We love stuff that honors the gear multi-use concept — this delivers the concept.
Dick’s little love shack is awesome. I mean, what a cool thing for the alps. It weighs little more than a bivvy sack, but is way more comfortable. Don’t like how expensive or noisy the hut is? Stop in for a brew and rub shoulders with some Frenchmen, then head outside to your quiet domain under the stars. Dick’s tent is called the “Rocket.” He said the name comes from Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” book, wherein the guys land on Mars and discuss their sleeping logistics. One guy pipes up and unequivocally states “tonight, I’m sleeping in the ROCKET.”
Then, Cloudveil — an esteemed WildSnow supporter we’ve worked with since their company began as the first to really go with the softshell concept, and thus germinated a revolution in clothing design. Cloudveil is constantly tweaking their line. Sometimes that’s frustrating, as when you fall in lust with the perfect softshell, go to replace it, and the item you know and love has ceased to exist. But the upside is these guys keep innovating at a furious pace and coming up with great stuff. More, they’ve made their line much less confusing by dividing into three specific price classes. Our favorite item in the new lineup is the Albright Jacket, a hybrid hardshell softshell which offers the easy arm movement and fabric draping of soft shell, and the ultra weather protection of hard shell in the right places. Perfect for backcountry skiing. One is coming for testing.
I saved some of the best till last. Spot Satellite messenger is now downsized! Not only that, but the new unit has a few more buttons to access the features, a cover for the S.O.S. button (previously and misleadingly called “911” even though it didn’t dial 911 but rather contacted rescue people by whatever phone number necessary).
Weight of the new svelte model is 5.2 ounces and it’s 30% smaller than the previous bulky unit. Only downside is you’ll now have another device that runs on AAA batteries instead of AA, and the battery life is slightly reduced – but still good for 4 full days broadcasting an SOS message. Durability is said to be even better, and it’s even got an LCD that indicates satellite lock. In a nutshell:* 30% smaller and lighter than the original model at 5.2 ounces
* New enhanced satellite antenna for improved performance in foliage
or canopied environments
* Advanced GPS performance chipset
* GPS Acquisition light
* “Message Sending” indicator light
* Dedicated GPS Tracking button
* New, dedicated pre-programmable Custom Message button
* Protective covers over S.O.S and Help button to prevent inadvertent
* Illuminated buttons (much needed in previous unit, for true emergencies.)
* Choice of orange or silver
* Included case and neoprene fastening band
Rarely do you see a product this improved so quickly, kudos to the Spot folks for staying on the case!
That’s all for now, more later and thanks everyone for visiting WildSnow.com!
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.