Affordable mountain town housing? Oxymoronic? You might get tired of me beating the drum, but in my opinion, solutions exist. Government price controls and subsidies help when the money is there (e.g., wealthy enclaves such as Aspen). But private sector can mix is up as well — if they’re allowed to. In Seattle, the apparatchiks could have solved much of their housing “crises” but they chose not to do so. Instead, by the process of a thousand cuts they’ve nearly canceled out the concept of affordable downsized housing. Do you live in a place with a housing “crisis?” Could you live in a tiny house or smaller apartment, but such options don’t exist? You might look at the why in that equation. This guy did that in Seattle and look what he found!
Helmets — always in the news. Here in the U.S.A. I like the attention NFL brings to the issue of whether helmets are somewhat imaginary in their protection. One fact is indisputable: nearly any helmet for any activity is more oriented to preventing skull fractures than to preventing concussions. Why? Because a thin shell and mere millimeters of foam can do a pretty good job of keeping your skull from getting crushed or opened, but still do little to slow down and cushion impact.
(Bear in mind that “spreading out the force” as a helmet shell does has little to do with concussion prevention, though it’s hard to wrap your head around the concept, no pun intended. What’s necessary is cushioning that causes your head to “stop slower.” Like braking long before a stoplight so you don’t spill your coffee. Current helmets provide very little of such cushion. The problem is physical reality. Again, like your slow stoplight approach, slowing your head down gradually requires distance, which equals a thicker helmet.)
Check this article out: Why NFL Helmets will never be Concussion Proof. Same probably goes for ski helmets unless they get crazy with tech such as reactive cushioning. Also, NYT reports NFL is planning on spending a hundred million dollars on helmet research. Something could actually come of that, we’ll be watching.
Check out our WildSnow ski helmet coverage, extensive.
Here in Colorado, our uphill resort skiing situation continues to develop. We recently reported that one of our last holdouts, Eldora, would allow uphilling this season. Well, that’s not the whole story.
Apparently Eldora will only let you uphill during resort operating hours — and only on weekdays. This is a huge disappointment as it’s popular amongst the cardio fitness crowd to do after-work and early morning uphilling. Further, serious skimo racers need flexible training times so they can work around family and career obligations. What annoys the heck out of me is here we have a ski sport that’ll probably be sending a few Colorado athletes to the next winter Olympics, and a resort apparently can’t see the viability of training for that sport, and instead niggles their way along with how permissive they’ll be. Excuse for no uphilling on weekends is crowding. From the looks of Eldora’s trail maps and photos, they’re in a large area of land where uphill routes could be made up through unused forest. Having uphilled resorts literally all over the world, watching this, a few words come to mind: provincial, childish.
For an example of how a resort can embrace snow sports, check out what’s going on at Les 2 Alpes in France, where they’ll not only be boasting a “ski touring slope” this winter, but a fat bike riding area as well. Oh, and did I mention the ice waterfall and paragliding? Yeah, a perhaps a bit “industrial” for our taste here in Colorado. But the ski touring slope sounds like just what we’re needing.
In industry news: Remember to enter our special BCA WildSnow contest to win a pair of BC Link radios. To enter, click on the BCA banners in our sidebar or leader. And thinking of airbag backpacks, BCA Float 32 is such a nice blend of function and affordability I’m not sure looking farther is necessary, but, we did just get our final retail version of the Arcteryx Voltair here in the WildSnow workshop-studio. Look for a teardown and more coming soon! Voltair full dress weight is 7.75 pounds. On the clothing front, we’ve been noticing the Strafe Outerwear brand now for a few years as they build their vibrant start-up here in our Colorado mountain valley. Lisa and I headed up there yesterday for an “official” Wildsnow visit and product line overview from owners (and world class skimo racers) John and Pete Gaston. I’m working on a Strafe overview and we’ve got some test gear for the winter.
I had fun chatting with the Gaston boys about skiing narrower skis, and how the “80 mm” stuff can be so fun for touring. Indeed, it’s been amusing watching differences in ski culture rising around around ski width and overall kit weight. A recent magazine ski test, for example, included nobel equivocating from folks who liked sacrificing uphill comfort and efficiency for the ride back down. In my opinion, most skiers can get a wonderful ride on gear that’s not full-on freeride, and utilizing such gear might be more a matter of how experienced you are and what gear you’re used to — rather than what gear you really need. Each to his own on that, but of course, yet I can’t help notice how many amazingly good backcountry skiers I see all over the world using setups that are clearly not “freeride touring.” Like John said during our meet: “a pair of race boots on 80 something mm skis, light bindings, excellent.”
For what it’s worth, our “ultimate quiver” picks for skinny skis this year include the Volkl VTA 88 and Scott Superguide 88. What’s that about 88? A magic number or something?
WildSnow outer local: Those of you near our Colorado locations, we’ll be up at Marble Field HQ this weekend getting ready for the season of white. Stop by and throw a few logs around. My back will thank you.
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.