Day two at Outdoor Retailer was for me a time of shifting – letting loose the reigns of WildSnow, my crazy ride of 25+ years, seeing our new editorial crew stepping up, throwing a leg over the old digital steed and riding into the new dawn of human powered skiing. Proof, it already got a little crazy, what with Gary joking about the Dalbello boot, and our other shenanigans in the Day 1 overview posts.
Beyond walking around with a dumb smile on my face, I did attempt to Sherlock a few tidbits for you guys:
Yeti has a new cooler. Tired of the heavy, low volume Yetis of yore? Yes, they are insulated beyond all others, but…enter the Yeti V-series, with real thermos-bottle type vacuum walls, clearly the best insulated cooler on the planet. Also the most expensive at around eight bills MSRP. The PR guy said it looks good in the backyard next to your spaceship BBQ rig.
I did an informal survey of releasable ski pole straps. I’ll say it: nobody — that is no person who sports two planks or one — should in my opinion ever ski without pole straps that’ll part ways in the event of an avalanche or tree snag. In the former case, you need your hands free to (hope springs eternal) create an air pocket. In the latter, there’s probably no more efficient way to destroy a shoulder than trapping an arm and yanking it backwards while your entire body mass is forward ballistic. The two releasable pole families I liked were the BCA (which also boasts that nice scraper grip), and the Leki. Ignore this issue at your peril. Or ski without straps.
Also along the line of ski poles, WildSnow blogger Louie won our “find the weird” contest with his discovery of the trekking pole fishing rod. We’ll be doing extensive posting on this incredible innovation. The plan is to test it on a boat out of Valdez. Will it bring in the big ones? Stay tuned.
A never-ending source of amusement at the OR show is how all us ostensibly and proudly human powered beings crowd around the various non-human-powered conveyances that are somehow snuck into the event. The classic Ford Bronco caught my eye. But the most “I want one too” item was the Cake electric trail motorcycle. This two wheeled steed looks kind of like an electric bicycle, but is not pedel-lectric. The Cake is simply a low geared throttle actuated motorcycle with an enormous 2.6 Kwh battery and a sweet paint job. The crate it’s delivered in would probably fit our front yard, so yeah, out comes the credit card? “Honey, call the fork lift, my new ‘bicycle’ is here!” Cue maniacal laughter.
Back to the WildSnow reason for life. A few more things. Mammut says they’ve worked their arses off with the carbon gas cylinder importation question, achieving little to no progress. Word on the street is you can still cross the pond with the uber-sweet cylinder in your checked baggage, thus the source remains a friend who’ll bring one back at the risk of a TSA conversation.
Moving along, I also engaged in my bi-yearly ski touring pant pilgrimage. A few options stood out. Regarding La Sportiva, their Orizon and Crizzle both have the rear “wallet” pocket I find nearly essential, and the Euro fit is fond of my chicken legs. Mammut intrigued me as well. Their Base Jump SO touring pant: back pocket, included suspenders, three inseam length choices per waist size! Pant winner might be the Ortovox Bacun, for no other reason than it uses a 7% wool blend fabric that continues the tradition of Schoeller soft shell – hands down still the most comfortable and well wearing pant fabric ever produced (that is if you’re not sitting on ski lifts).
That’s it for my quickie take. The future? Rest assured I’ll be deep into ski bindings as WildSnow moves along, as M assured me I’ll be the resident binding expert so long as I’m interested (no problem there). I’ll also get you my “mellow guy skier take” on a few of the new boots, such as the intriguing, “pant-swallowing” Dalbello and the evolutionary Scarpa F1 LT.
Overall, while this was not the most radical show I’ve been to, in terms of fresh product, the vibe was healthy and fun. The torrent of new and improved ski touring gear shows no sign of desiccation.
Revamped Kastle TX Series
There is a saying that I long ago paraphrased and applied to the touring world: “a ski can be light, high performance and durable. Now pick two out of the three.” Kastle has a reputation for downhill performance across all of its lines and the TX Line is certainly light. But with new semi-cap sandwich-sidewall construction and reinforced mounting plates — a notorious weak spot from previous years — the new series attempts to be all three. I’ve had the chance to ski the 20/21 TX77 on steeps and hard snow at the resort and they performed well, even with my Alien RS at the helm. However, I am most excited about the new TX93, a brand new width from Kastle. At an incredible 1275 grams in the 170 cm length and a a snappy turn radius of just 15.1 meters, these skis will be a strong contender for a daily driver focused on both ski precision and full touring efficiency. These skis could do everything except glow in the dark. Wait… what’s that? Oh they do that too!
Karakoram hard boot riding plate
Our merry band of skiers stomped our way through the Outdoor Retailer trade show and viewed hundreds of ski products with often questioning lenses. I personally took on our splitboard related meetings in hopes of providing our snowboarding readers with some valuable content. The Karakoram team has been working on a hard boot plate for a while now, and I was given a sneak peak of the prototype along with the green light to release this photo into the wild. The prototype Karakoram plate weighs in at about 380 grams- roughly 30g lighter than the competitor’s offering. The plate uses their 4-point connection system and is compatible across their line. Meaning hardbooters can use the plates on any existing pucks and their solid deck via the connect system. The plates also contact the deck in 4 additional points with a very dense vibration dampening rubber. EVA foam under the boot sole (seen in photo below) is canted 3 degrees in the current tester, and the foam itself allows the boot to roll slightly. Hard boot roll within the binding is supposed to closer mimic a soft boot, surf feel. This exact prototype pictured has been in the wild with our own hardbooting expert, Jonathan Cooper. Stay tuned to WildSnow for a detailed review from Coop. Retail option coming next season, if not sooner.
Swisswool — the forgotten sheep
Local wool was long the gold standard for lofted and water resistant insulation in the Alps. Soft and supple merino blends replaced the alpine sheep’s coat for next to skin applications, and synthetic lofts eventually outpaced it as a water resistant insulator. The folks at Ortovox feel that the departure from Swiss wool was too abrupt and distant given this naturally sourced product’s durability and insulating properties. Swisswool lays up into mats that do not require baffling, eliminating the need for stitching that creates micro gaps in the garment. It also has a fiber diameter of 28-30 microns, on the higher end of the spectrum for wool, meaning more durability. The Piz Boè layer, seen below, has a great look and feel to it; we’d happily throw it in to the rotation.
Atomic Backland AutoClimb Binding
For the ski tourer who could just do away with the effort of manually flicking heel risers, Atomic has the solution: the Backland AutoClimb Binding. “Ski touring has never been as uncomplicated as this,” claims Atomic. Has it though? Building on the platform of Atomic’s Backland Binding, the Autoclimb adds a roughly 3-inch long chamber that extends from the heel piece and has pistons and antifreeze inside. As you increase the slope angle under the ski, the pumping action of the heel of your boot on the chamber primes the pistons, causing the chamber to rise anywhere from 2 degrees to 13 degrees underfoot. It auto-adjusts back down for mellow grades. Is this the dropper seat post of ski touring? Maybe. If nothing else it could make touring more pleasant for beginners, if, that is, they’re willing to drag around the extra weight. “Maybe nobody asked for it,” said the PR gal who showed us the system. “But we’re skiing and innovating and trying new things.” Cheers to that.
While most of the WildSnow backcountry skiing blog posts are best attributed to a single author, some work well as done by the group.