Is inverse segregation a political issue?
Nope, “inverse segregation” is not some kind of affirmative action debate buzzword. It’s just the scientific term for the “Brazil nut effect” whereby larger objects in a debris flow tend to end up on top. It’s why avalanche airbags work. Or, rather, is it really? Instinct, of course, tells us an airbag floats us because it makes us lighter for our given volume. Experts tell me that “inverse segregation” has nothing to do with weight. So, if the avalanche airbag was filled with lead pellets instead of air, would it still work? That’s the unanswered question.
Are the latest helmets really much better than one I bought at the thrift shop?
Ah, MIPS, that holy grail of helmet technology that somehow makes what was already good, good again? Snowsports helmets do of course offer a modicum of protection. On the other hand, it is a laughably small amount. I won’t list the accidents we know of that involved horrible head injuries despite a helmet, but there’s plenty. Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Or, back in the helmet company accounting office, it’s all about an accessory that’s become a profitable commodity.
While it’s politically incorrect for me to say this, I’ll do it anyway. You can get a perfectly good used helmet at your local thrift shop for a dollar. Just check for cracks, make sure it’s not otherwise damaged (liner not compressed), good to go.
Ski industry, how to bypass the thrift-shop drain on your yearly corporate helmet fashion sales? First, make helmets look better (goggle gap, weird syfy shapes?) Next, make them fit better (that one is still all over the map). Third and most important, try to bypass the ugly scientific reality that simply making the helmet thicker could add a quantum leap in protection. How to avoid thicker? Add technology that increases protection but doesn’t increase volume. MIPS is said to do so. Reality? Incredibly difficult to do an epidemiological study that would prove MIPS actually works in real life. Meanwhile, the only common sense way I know of to improve helmets without increasing volume is reactive technology, essentially airbags that inflate upon impact. How that would be done in real life remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the unanswered question: does MIPS really work, is it any better than wearing a ski cap under your helmet? More reading.
What does DPS actually stand for?
Yes, we’ve blogged on that before. Yes, DPS has their own take. But we believe it remains a quandary, and perhaps should stay that way.
Will telemarking rise again after dropping to both knees?
Free heel skiing is very much alive and well, albeit in numbers at a mere fraction of the “revival” that peaked decades ago. In my view, the positive aspect of this is that the skiers I see telemarking are the hardest of the hardcore. No more linked fall amusement. Instead, these guys and gals have it down. They’re fun to watch, fun to ski with.
More, in a laughable shift of the paradigm, telemark gear that used to self-deconstruct with uncanny regularity is now for the most part reliable, while our fixed heel touring “AT” gear has seemingly endless issues.
My answer to the tele question is “probably not, it’s not coming back” Why? Two things brought the North American tele revival. First, fixed heel gear of the early days was heavy, ridiculously so. Second, European gear was designed for touring in the high alpine of the Alps. While North Americans did do alpine touring, the popularity of touring for pow turns is what drove our North American backcountry skiing industry for many years — early AT gear was torturous overkill for that endeavor. Telemarking wasn’t easy in those days, but once you learned the art it worked better than the euro gear for the sub-alpine (and sometimes alpine) pow fields.
Clearly, if fixed-heel gear had not gone through the amazing design evolution of the last thirty years, free-heel skiing would have remained a popular option. But that’s not what happened, and it never will again.
Are climbing skins really just strips of carpet?
Sometimes, yes. From what I’ve heard there are indeed textile makers, some say in Belgium, who do make material specifically for climbing skins. On the other hand, it’s said that the first self-adhesive nylon skins were indeed nothing more than conveyor belt “carpet” with glue applied to the backing. I’ve seen climbing skins in the final stages of manufacturing. In that particular factory, the stuff comes on big rolls and was stripped and shaped on a computerized laser cutting table.
Why is PBR still popular beer?
Because it’s mass produced and made partially from rice? I do not believe that’s the correct answer. Mystery remains. I don’t call it beer. It is fermented rice fluid, FRF.
Will global warming eliminate ski touring?
My take: Traditional haunts at lower elevations could entirely disappear, albeit some years from now rather than tomorrow. High elevation winter touring, such as is done in Colorado, will exist for decades though snow-rain lines will slowly creep uphill. What’s more interesting and quicker would be some sort of “Al-Gorian” event involving changing ocean currents or something else on a macro scale. Oddly enough, this sort of thing could plunge the Alps into an ice age. How fast can glaciers and ice caps develop? With fairly thick winter snowpack remaining through summer, the approximately 300-foot thick ice required for a glacier to flow could probably build up in 30 or 40 years, faster in places with wind loading or avalanche deposition.
Commenters, can you come up with any answers? Or how about more questions?
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.