| January 2008
Mt Hood has been in the midst of a major snow cycle and I used the opportunity to give G3's El Hombre a good test. El Hombre measures in at 136/105/124, the snowpack has measured in double digit every day this week. The combination seemed like a good match.
The Hombres are mounted with AT binders and I have skied exclusively at the ski area with them. Although they weigh in at a respectable 3.9kg/pair, it is a big board for touring and I simply have not broken the touring barrier with such a big ski yet.
On the snow El Hombre likes to go. There is no need to be shy in any condition, these skis make short work of it all. They are remarkably lively for their size. They prefer medium to big radius turns but I have found them equally as reliable when a few short radius turns are needed.
El Hombre simply like to go fast, turns with ease in all snow, and rides up and over everything you would hope it would. That said, the Hombres do all this without taking you for a ride. Some big skis make me feel like I am just along for the ride. With the Hombre, I always feel like I am driving.
From windbuff to fluff and cut-up pow to groomers, El Hombre is up for the task. The skis have personality and allow you to ski in snow and places you would not venture with a narrower ski. Hood is famous for its wind and dense snow. The Hombre never waivers, regardless of what is underfoot, they float up on everything, and really come to life at speed.
More lifts, Less Backcountry
The Backcountry Snowsports Alliance sent out an alert regarding the Peak 6 area at Breckenridge in Summit County, CO. I am no expert on the area so i will let their release give all the details. The bottom line is that the ski area is proposing expansion into an area that is popular with backcountry skiers. It sounds like an example of one more area getting gobbled up by ski lifts.
Here is an excerpt from the release:
BACKGROUND Breckenridge opened as a ski area in 1960 on Peak 8. Since then, it has expanded to peaks 9, 10, and 7, in that order, and now covers a large area. A major expansion onto Peak 7 was approved in 2000. In 2005, the Forest Service approved installation of a controversial new lift almost to the summit of Peak 8, allowing lift riders to use terrain that was formerly accessible only after an hour or more of hiking.
When the White River National Forest first issued a draft revised forest plan in the late 1990s, it proposed to confine Breckenridge and other resorts to the existing areas then allotted for ski area development. But in the final plan, Breckenridge got a huge gift - a possible expansion area well to the north of the existing resort. The plan did not, however, approve any specific expansion.
THE PROPOSED EXPANSION The ski area now seeks to expand onto Peak 6, to the north of the existing resort. The top lift terminal would be at about 12,300 feet elevation. There would be runs above timberline, and runs would be cut though the forest further down. The base terminal, at about 10,750 feet, would also have a large restaurant. Access for construction would be provided by former timber roads that are now used by backcountry skiers.
Get all the details and learn how to let your voice be heard here -Peak 6 pdf
Trade Show Report - II
More trade show fun. Here is an image of the new Garmont Radium Dynafit compatible boot. It uses the new overlap cuff/tongue designa nd weighs in on par with the Megaride. Looks interesting for sure. Seems like the price was around seven hundred bucks. They have a 3-buckle version called the Helium too, which still seemes like plenty of boot for genral hut tripping.
There are some cool packs out there this year too. Black Diamond expanded their offering of Avalung equipped packs...
Trade Show Report - I
I have been in Utah at the annual outdoor retailer winter show this past week. The backcountry ski world had a good showing with a variety of new skis, boots, and various gear from the usual suspects such as Voile, G3, Karhu, K2, Atomic, Garmont, Scarpa, and Black Diamond.
The word in AT boots these days is downhill performance and overlapping tongue/cuff design. New AT boots from Black Diamond, Scarpa, and Garmont all focus on more power and downhill performance. BD and Garmont are using overlap tongue design reminiscent of Alpine ski boot design. Both companies say the design still tours well but we are keen to try the new format before we jump on board with idea. On the telemark boot front, Scarpa introduced a new NTN boot, the Terminator X-Pro - bigger and stiffer than the existing Terminator X. BD introduced a new tele boot line alongside their new AT boots but the boots utilize a traditional "3-pin" duck bill. Garmont's tele boot line remains the same as 2007 aside from a change in color for the Syner-G and Venus boots. New from Gramont is the Radium, a four-buckle, Dynafit compatible AT boot on par with the popular Megaride for weight and power, although, the Radium features the new overlap tongue/cuff design. A three buckle version is due as well.
New skis from Karhu, G3, K2, BD, and Dynafit turned up as well. BD has a new one called the Megawatt that is turning heads with its flat camber, rockered tip, and big dimensions. G3 has five new skis including the Saint, a ski that matches the Reverend's 126/93/114 dimensions with new lighter weight construction. Karhu has two new skis, the Storm at 96 underfoot and the Spire at 86 underfoot. Each ski comes in a regular and BC (lighter) version. Most of the K2 line remains the same but they are introducing the Coomba (135/102/121) into the tele/At line-up as well as the all new Sodo, a twin tip board for tele and AT. I've got pics and more on the way soon.
January Issue of Off-Piste
The January Issue is on the street. At forty pages, it is our longest issue to date. I have been getting questions about downloading issue PDF's and why you can not download this season's issues. We only post last years issues as PDF's. To receive this season's mag you must subscribe or pick it up at your local shop.
The January issue is issue 36 and includes an interview with nordic/freeheel pioneer Chip Chase, a look at the new Ortovox S-1 Beacon, the Barryvox Pulse beacon, and the Pieps DSP, as well as tales of adventure from Morrocco, Tuckermans Ravine, and the Canadian Rockies.
2008 Scarpa AT and Telemark Boots
With the trade show on the horizon, a lot of the 2008 ski gear is starting to emerge. I was just up a Scarpa clinic where we got a peak at the 2008 boot line. All 2008 boots feature nice Intuition thermofit liners and a variety of upgrades from the 2007 line including a new NTN compatible boot and new Alpine like performance AT boots. You can get a quick look for yourself on this video clip as Scarpa's Chris Clark walks through the new line.
A friend just sent a link to the video embedded below. It is a firsthand account of an avalanche scenario in the Montana backcountry. The story is educational and sobering. The clip is pretty long (30 minutes) but is a compelling account of a day in the backcountry that turned tragic despite a high level of experience within the group.
Seems like everytime I check the news these days there is word of a new avalanche fatality. The season total is currently at 31 deaths. That is five more deaths than last season's year-end total. The 2005-06 season had 32 deaths, the 04-05 season 37, and the 03-04 season saw 34 deaths. check www.avalanche.org for details on the numbers.
Although there have been some big fatality years due to some high profile multiple burials (02-03 had 58deaths), we are well above normal numbers at this point in the season. Why so many incidents this year? Part of it is obviously that we have a sensitive snowpack and the instabilities are not limited to a single region, but there must be other factors, skier numbers, the terrain people are after? I do not have the answers but the number should serve as a sign that we need to be careful with our terrain and route choices. Be safe.
Snow, Snow, Snow
Winter has been on a roll in these parts for over two weeks now with seemingly endless snow. Given the abundance of snow, wind, and varied temps, the ski hill has provided some good skiing as the touring options have been a bit limited. Early in the week I had a chance to get out on a pair of G3 Hombres. Hood had gotten 23 inches in 17 hours along with a good dose of wind. The snow was what we call full bodied in these parts. The Hombres surfed the pow with incredible ease and given the 105mm waist, my 130lb frame was well supported through the deep snow. It was comical at times, skiing a pitch and just riding the surface not even boot deep through snow that would eat the length of a pole if you pushed on it. The Hombres made for a fun morning.
I just returned from a Karhu/Scarpa Dealer Camp at White Pass in Washington where it snowed heavily both days. Karhu unveiled a couple of new skis called the Storm and the Spire as well as their "BC" counter-parts. They made for some fun skiing at the hill and I will have more details on the new skis soon. We also got out for a day of XCD touring on the Karhu Guide. The Guides skied the new snow very well and going light always feels so nice after a day of charging around the resort. Scarpa gave us a sneak peak at a few of their new boots for the 08-09 season including a new NTN telemark boot and new high-performance AT boots. We also tested a variety of their 07/08 line including the F3, a light, dedicated touring boot with Dynafit campatibility and a telemark like belows. The F3 is a stouter version of the F1 that Scarpa has offered for several years. The boot skied remarkably well and it weighs a phenomenal 1470 grams (3.2lbs).
Black Diamond AT and Tele Boots
Black Diamond recently released info on their new boot line and it sounds like we may have a chance to put a few on snow at the trade show in late January.
The AT boots (three models) look like all business for the descent and BD suggests they make no compromise on the touring end. The teles (six models) look clean and straightforward and the release says they have different bellows flex for their different niches, "Each style of boot is designed with either...
Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan
In March of 2005, I travelled to the Altai Mountains in Central Asia with Nils Larsen and Naheed Henderson. Located in the northern most reaches of China, bordering, Russia, Mongolia, and Kazahkstan, the Altai are home to a network of semi nomadic people.
The people of the Altai are a mix of Central Asian cultures and live a simple life based in the mountains. They also ski. Skis are a tool for the people of the Altai, a tool that, as far as we could determine, has been part of their life for many centuries. In fact, evidence points to Central Asia as the birthplace of skiing, potentially as long as 8,000 years ago .
We stayed, traveled, and skied with the folks of the Altai for over a month while Nils filmed and recorded our travels. Since 2005, Nils has returned to the region several times in search of more information and and more skiing experiences with the people of the Altai. Nils recently finished a film documenting his trips and the ski culture of the Altai. The film takes you into the incredible mountain culture of the Altai and documents skis and skiing that may be one the last remaining links to the birth of skis thousands of years ago. The film is available from Nils at www.freeheels.com
Omnitrack ski day
I broke in the new year with a dawn patrol ski tour. One of my favorite ways to tour locally this year has been on a pair of Karhu skis with an Omnitrack base. The Omnitrack base is a no-wax kick pattern that allows for easy traveling on low angle terrain and snow covered roads. I have an early test pair of skis that used the Jak BC dimensions but the current model is a called the XCD Guide. The skis are 78 underfoot and 109 in the tip - very respectable measures. Matched with a 3-pin binding and...
NTN Dynafit Hybrid
Jarl Berg from Bergs Ski Shop in Eugene, OR has been experimenting with the new NTN telemark binding. His latest creation adds a Dynafit heel piece to the NTN system to create a Tele/AT hybrid - very interesting Jarl.
Here is a video of his creation and a few words from Jarl.
Sol Mountain, The Monashees
I spent the Holidays up in the Monashees at Sol Mountain Lodge. It was my third year of trips to Sol in December. These guys seem to have a super reliable early season snowpack. The snow at the lodge measured three meters when we arrived and it snowed every day we were there. Aside from from the trail breaking issues associated with so much snow the skiing was incredible. The terrain is well suited to storm cycle skiing and despite some relatively high avalanche hazard days, we always...