Also in the Gorge, the Telluride Mountain Film Festival returns to Hood River on Sunday, February 1 at Andrews Skylight Theater. The film festival is a fundraiser for the Mosier Community School. Tickets are available in advance at Waucoma books or at the door. Shows are 3pm 5:30pm, and 8pm.
If you are a little further south, check out the Bear Valley Tele Festival Feb 6-8. These guys put on a great show. It has been a few years since I have been to the event, but it is one of the bigger tele events in the west. Loads of clinics and demos come together into one big party on Saturday night.
If Montana is more your style, the Whitefish Winter Carnival is celebrationg its 50th year Feb 6-8. It is sure to be a big event and a good family event. The website offers the following tale
Once upon a time, there lived a god named Ullr who reigned over winter activities in the Nordic regions. Aiding him were his Prime Minister and Queen, who were skilled in creating the beauties of winter. full legend
Don't forget Kootenay Cold Smoke at Whiewater, BC Feb 20-23. Quality, clinics, killer terrain, and legendary evening fun make Coldsmoke a great event. The event is great excuse to pack the rig and head for Nelson, BC. The combination of personalities, snow, and terrain is hard to beat. Get on board!
Finally, if you are in the East check out the Magic Mountain Rando Race Series in southern Vermont Feb 16 and March 14. Races include several divisions and are open just about any touring gear you might have. There will be backcountry related clinics and demos following the races.
The trade show yielded a few cool items this season. Given my relatively short time in the show, I focus on the main hardware related to backcountry skiing. There are a variety of cool items in the pipe for fall 2009.
BD has a new skin that is designed for skis over 110mm underfoot. The skin is split in the middle and a strip of ripstop nylon runs up the center of the skin, seperating the skin into two sections that cover the outside edges. If you have ever skinned with 100+mm of skin, you know that this is a cool idea. According to BD, offering it in a narrower version simply did not offer the advantages they found at 110mm and above. Great idea and good to see some thought going into the weight and drag of skins.
On the skin front, K2 jumps into the climbing skin world this year. Rather than reinventing the wheel, K2 pursued Rick Liu, former partner with the original Ascension skin company, to source skins. The new K2 skins use the well known and trusted Ascension skin materials paired with a new tip and tail connection system developed to work with K2's new skis. The skins use a simple, low profile tip and tail connection system that works with tip and tail holes found in all of K2's new skis (see images). The system is slick and easy to use but we have not had them in the field yet.
K2 did not stop with skins. They developed a line of new adjustable poles as well. They are modeled on the flick-lock type mechanism for adjustability. The poles are marked with centimeter markes on both the upper and lower shafts to allow for on the fly snow evaluation purposes, checking the new snow depth and such. They also include marks that allow you to measure slope angle without an extra inclinometer. They are clean and straight forward and available in alluminum and carbon fiber models.
Moving to bindings there was a big buzz at the show surrounding G3's new Onyx AT binder. G3 stepped up to the plate with the first binding to go head to head with Dynafit's "tech" binder. The Onyx uses the same toe and heel attachment system found on any Dynafit compatible boot, but they set their sights to take the binding to a new level. I was able to ski the binding for a few runs at the on-snow demo, and I got the full run down on its functionality from one of the two primary engineers behind its design.
The Onyx is well thought out and offers a solid platform for skiing. The big debate amongst show goers was simply - is it better than the Dynafit? The answer is not so cut and dry. Both are rated to Din 10. Both offer brake and crampon compatabilty. Both have their idiosyncrasies for stepping in. For some, the fact that the Onyx weighs in at 1.43 kg/pair and the Dynafit TLT Vertical weighs in at .85kg/pair answers the question. Some see the extra beef of the Onyx as a positive. We should get a pair here before too long so i can spend some more time getting to know it.
I have a bit more on some new boots from Garmont and other assorted items.
I am back in the Hood after several days of trade show fun. I managed to get out skiing a couple of days while in UT. In fact, we found good skiing on Friday despite the Utah Avalanche Center's discouraging words about the snow quality . . .
We got slimed yesterday afternoon and overnight with weather right out of Blade Runner—drenching rain falling through the choking smog. Rain fell yesterday up to 9,200’. Sundance reported over 2 inches of water overnight, almost all from rain, while Alta UDOT reported 1 inch of water with 6 inches of snow, which is a leg-wrenching, 20 percent. It might pass for powder in Oregon but it goes by much less flattering terms around here. Ridge top winds are light and temperatures have barely dropped below freezing at 9,500’.
Fortunately, Larry, Tim, and I all have plenty of experience with such snow. Despite the report's Oregon reference, the UAC does an awesome job with thier reports, and their icon driven style along with the avalanche rose and excellent presentation should be a standard for other avalanche centers around the country to emulate.
The snow quality did not seem to keep too many people away from the mountains though, and we took to referring to the mountains around Little Cottonwood as the Wasatch Mountain Resort give the plethora of skin tracks and skiers we saw out in the "slimy" conditions.
A trip to Salt Lake is not complete without a meal at the Lone Star Taqueria. We stopped in for dinner and made sure to update the "sticker mobile" with some new Off-Piste stickers.
On the trade show front, I have many more details and images of the gear we checked out, and i will get that up tomorrow - if not later today.
I am in Salt Lake for the annual winter Outdoor Retailer show this week. We spent today up at Snowbasin Ski Resort for the on-snow demo. We checked out new skis from all the usual suspects including, K2, G3, Black Diamond, Karhu, Dynafit, Rossignol, Atomic, Movement, and Goode.
Predictably, rockered tips and big dimensions are the name of the game in 2009 ski design. BD showed a full fleet of revamped boards as did K2. BD introduced a couple of new skis, but also has updated versions of the Kilowatt, Havoc, and Zealot. K2's entire line is new and is flush in rockered tips, with the Coomback, the Sidestash (108 underfoot), and the Darkisde(128 underfoot) among others. G3 introduced two new rockered tip skis, the Tonic and the Zest (women's). Ski conditions were on the firm side for testing backcountry powder skis, but it is remarkable how well most skis handle the firm snow despite their dimensions.
It was great to get to check out the new G3 Onyx Alpine Touring binders in person. It offers an interesting variation on the classic Dynafit TLT. I look forward to spending more time on it in the near future.
Tomorrow, we head indoors for the traditional inside show. More details to follow.
Avalanche hazard has, for good reason, been receiving a good amount of press around the country this season. North American avalanche related deaths have already reached 31 this year. Conditions are settling out in many areas, but as three new deaths last weekend show, not all areas are seeing better stability.
Black Diamond has been passing around this video of Chris Cardello who was caught in a slide in Alaska (last winter) while wearing a helmet cam and an Avalung. Chris is fortunate to have survived. The footage is compelling. It is not hard to imagine what is going through his head.
An interesting new article in the New York Times looks at Dr. Ed Adams and avalanche research he is conducting in Bozeman, MT. Dr. Adams is looklng at snow dynamics in a laboratory setting, hoping to better understand the science of snow.
There is also a new avalanche film out this winter called The Fine Line. From the moment it begins, The Fine Line captures your attention. The movie is billed as an avalanche education film, and it is, but it is not a run-of-the-mill avalanche education film. The time-lapse photography alone is worth watching. The dramatic skier triggered avalanche footage is worth watching, and the amount of professional dialog is impressive. The whole package makes for a unique and creative film. It is an inspired spin on the often predictable ski film category and a fresh take on avalanche awareness.
Given the number of skier and snowmobiler deaths this winter, it is obvious that more can be done to reach folks who recreate in avalanche terrain. Although there is no single way to do this, The Fine Line is an innovative approach to making an educational film that appeals to a wide audience.
For years we have watched ski films flaunt avalanche safety. Modern ski movies are about how big and how fast you can ski - not about safety. The Fine Line begins to address this. The film shows skiers going big and skiing fast too, but it also presents first person accounts of avalanche survival.
The bulk of the film is a 50-plus minute “hook” that sets the scene about skiing in avalanche terrain. Firsthand accounts, radical slide footage, great animation, and solid wisdom from numerous avalanche safety professionals sets an excellent tone. In addition to the main feature, there are four shorter, educational films: Understanding Bulletins; Choosing Terrain; Predicting Avalanches, and Common Signs of Instability.
The shorts range from eight to 20 minutes in length, and offer clean, professional windows on each topic.
The Fine Line is a must see regardless of your skiing ability or knowledge of avalanche dynamics.
Since we have not had any new snow in the past couple of weeks, i thought i would post a vid from back in late December when we were able to ski the east hills here in town. The terrain is pretty basic, but it is a real novelty to be able to ski it - especially with nice boot top pow . . .
The Bend Backcountry Alliance is working to protect human powered access in the Century Drive corridor around Mount Bachelor. The Forest Service is proposing the construction of a massive sno-park at Kapka Butte. This will add more snowmobiles to the Century Drive corridor but will not address the safety, parking, and access needs of skiers.
If you are familiar with the area, your comments are valuable in helping to shape the future of the area for skier access. Get all the details here: Bend Backcountry Alliance
I recently got a helmet cam for some testing. I have always been a still camera guy and know very little about video. The camera I have is a VIO POV cam, and it has proven to be nearly fool proof. Not only was it easy to use, but it was also painless to edit and upload.
The video below is my first attempt at skiing with the camera. It is no TGR, hopefully the conditions will improve and i can atleast capture some good turns. Yesterday the conditions for skiing were grim, but the weather was great. I went up on Hood's northside where the temp was pushing 50 degrees, and the wind was howling out of the west. As you can see from the vid, the snowcover is poor. I skied down through a burn from last summer, known locally as the Gnarl Ridge Fire. Most of the snow is covered with a light coat of ash, but it is an interesting window into the burn if you know the area.
Back in early December I wrote about the various telemark boots we have here at the office. The line-up includes, Scarpa T1 (all black vintage), Garmont Syner-G, Garmont Veloce, and the newest boot - the Black Diamond Seeker.
The Seeker is BD's three-buckle, touring friendly freeheel boot. We selected it over the Push as our preferred toring boot. Our choice of a three-buckle boot for touring sets our bias for a lighter boot for all-around touring use. The bigger boots certainly have their place, and there are many skiers who prefer big boots for all pursuits, but I believe that a boot like the Seeker or the Syner-G are plenty of boot for a wide range of skiing.
The Seeker is similar in cuff height and general style to the a boot like te Syner-G and it weighs in at about 3lbs 13oz (1.73kg) - about five ounces more than the Syner-G.
On snow, the Seeker performs well. It offers excellent control and power for a boot of its size. Skiing it at the resort on a pair of K2 Work Stinx, I found that I could crank down the liner, snug up the buckles and get everything I needed from the boot in mixed, cut up snow. The flex is reasonable and the upper boot is there when you need it.
The Seeker tours well too. Although I have only used it on day trips, I found it to be soft enough for a comfortable all-day fit. I did find myslef loosening the liner and upper buckles to allow for good uphill comfort, but all in all the boot tours well.
Overall, I found it a bit stouter than the Syner-G in both flex and touring comfort, but some of this could be attributed to the small number of ski days on the Seeker versus the large number of days on the Syner-G. There may be better boots for driving a twin tipped fat ski, but for all around use on more moderately waisted, touring oriented skis (mid 90's and narrow), the Seeker is solid option.
The third issue of Off-Piste is off to the printer and is scheduled to ship next week. If you subscribed in the past couple of weeks, your subscription will begin with the new issue. The new issue includes, shovels, an interview with Wally (founder of Voile Equipment), cautionary avalanche tales, cloud microphysics, great imagery and more. Subscribe now to get the issue shipped to you next week.
This weekend is the annual Tele-Fest at Hoodoo in Central Oregon. Sponsored by Bergs Ski Shop in Eugene, Tele-Fest is, as you might expect, nothing short of a wild pack of nordies out for a good time. Jarl puts alot of energy to running the event and there are demos and activities all day.
The wild winter in the Pacific Northwest appears to be mellowing for the moment. It has been from one extreme to another around here this winter. From big snows to big rains, we have had seen it all, and it is only early January. Mt Hood appears to have weathered the extremes relatively well. Skiing yesterday proved that we have recovered qickly - coverage is good, and although the forecast for high freezing levels this weekend may take their toll on ski quality, we are looking pretty good for the next round of snow.
G3 Announced their new Onyx AT binding today with a fancy interactive website. The binding takes its basics from the Dynafit TLT binding and requires a Dynafit compatible boot. We have yet to use the binding, but it looks very promising. It weighs in at 1430 grams. check it out www.g3onyx.com
Winter has gone from zero to sixty in a matter of days here in the west. Avalanche fatalities are in the headlines everywhere. Even inbounds, resort based terrain is getting hit hard with avalanche activity - whistler - jackson - jacksonII - telluride. It is shaping up to be a year of sensative snowpacks accross much of the west including the often relatively predictable Cascade snowpack - newsI - newsII - newsIII
Locally, it would appear that the nearly five inches of water which fell on Mt Hood in the past 24 hours could make for a good "reset" of the snowpack, but not all regions are getting hit with the same warming we are.
Appropriately, we are in the midst of an avalanche shovel review that is pending for the January 15 issue. It may not be the most glamorous piece of gear we carry with us, but when the time calls for one, there is no substitute for a good shovel.