This just in, edited 12/19 to reflect more information received: I’d heard allusions for some time that Black Diamond would soon be ceasing production of their current Jetforce avalanche airbag backpack, and would not put their new “Jetforce 2” version into retail for a year or more. Thus there could be a delay in availability. Such production info rumors were recently seconded by sources, while official word from BD is that Jetforce 1 is “in production” and ver 2 is in the process of being certified by TUV, which takes an inordinate amount of time. Rumor mill says changes in production of Jetforce 1 and possible delay in availability of version 2 are due to factors such as an airbag saturated market, expense of production and potential liability issues (lest we remember the whole reason BD exists is because of a gear liability lawsuit, they thus have a right to be touchy). In terms of availability, my guess is plenty of Jetforce packs are stocked in warehouses, and will remain available for some time no matter when or if production stops. So no need to panic.
(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)
My informed guess as to the elephant in the BD meeting room? Simply this: Jetforce competes with a slew of less expensive and lighter weight options that function perfectly (compressed gas operated). According to product developers I spoke with when Jetforce was first released, Black Diamond put weight and price as lower factors in their design philosophy. That was disappointing to myself and many others who know for certain that weight in the ski touring market trumps nearly every other factor in gear purchase decisions. We had high hopes for electricity doing something marvelous (at least in terms of weight) for the avalanche rucksack — and Black Diamond taking the lead on that. While the Jetforce electronic pack was cool, especially at first look, it was ultimately disappointing. Sure, it makes air travel easier — until you leave behind your ice axe due to exceeding your weight allotment. Looking at the total picture, if packs based on super capacitors work the way I think they will, BD might be making a mistake releasing Jetforce 2 just when a possibly better electrical technology makes batteries obsolete for this sort of thing. On the other hand, the capacitor packs might prove to be very expensive, in that case it’ll be amusing if the premium price point for airbag backpacks creeps significantly above $1,0000, and rucksacks such as Jetforce look like a deal!
The lack of snow in our home state Colorado has been a disappointment — though last night we did get a dusting of stellar crystals over most of the state’s mountains. Cake icing, though with rocks instead of sweetness underneath. We’re all watching the OpenSnow website like our meals depend on it. For some of us, especially smaller retailers, that is so.
In any case, amusing yesterday when Joel at OpenSnow recommended snowshoeing the Colorado thinlands. I’m not sure where he came up with the idea of how snowshoeing on 4 inches of snow had any utility — you can just as well hike the same terrain in trail running shoes.
But whatever. Many Colorado resorts have embraced uphill skiing, could snowshoeing be the next big thing? Think of it, ‘shoes work on rocks, scree, dirt and the thinner the snow the better. Quite versatile compared to skis. Perhaps we should all switch. It’s an incredibly fun activity for the whole family!
Dry winters in many regions of the world can bring bare ice on lakes and streams. That’s when the enormous mainstream sport of extreme backcountry ice skating rears it’s helmeted head. This little video evokes the appeal.
Well, yet another of many chances (ha) for your’s truly to become famous in the New York Times — that didn’t happen. The Grey Lady recently published an article covering ski resort uphilling. That’s like National Geographic publishing a photo essay on a previously undiscovered indigenous people of the Amazon. Somehow, my shameless self promotion radar didn’t get my new book on their plate. Oh well, good article anyway. Consolation prize, we did get a mention of the new book in Denver Post.
Not to be outdone, check out this uphilling article in the Rutland Herald. The breathless coverage of all this reminds me of the great telemark revival of the 1980s. Skiing, like anything, gets attention when something somewhat new is going on.
Indeed, as it was always funny how the word “mecca” was used in conjunction with telemarking, I thought I’d utilize Sir Google on a mandatory word search to see if “mecca” and “uphill skiing” were being used on the same webpages. Sure enough, I got a number of hits. Sunlight resort near here, for example.
For better or worse, a shout should go out to the masterful SHIFT binding PR-media campaign orchestrated like the Vienna Philharmonic by Salomon and their PR minions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many online articles saying the same thing about the same ski product on the same day. You’d think the SHIFT was actually the second coming or perhaps the solution to global warming. It’s just a ski binding, one that clearly might be nice for folks wanting an alpine binding they can ski tour with. Albeit at a weight penalty.
To Salomon’s cred, the SHIFT binding does what it does by virtue of an ingenious mechanism in the toe unit that hides the tech fitting toe pins while you’re in alpine mode. We of course did our own heavy breathing over the binding, and we’ll do our usual extended coverage over coming months (the binding will not retail until fall of 2018).
Speaking of Salomon-Atomic, bigger news beyond SHIFT might be that the simple back-to-basics MTN-Backland binding appears to be one of the few mainstream touring bindings in history that when released to retail did not begin displaying annoying or downright dangerous defects. That’s much bigger news. You heard it first here at WildSnow.com! (Our publishing partner and post sponsor Cripple Creek Backcountry sells the MTN-Backland, check them out.)
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.