Friends of Flagstaff is holding a meeting tonight at REI in Salt Lake City about the potential for a chairlift on Flagstaff Mountain in Little Cottonwood Canyon accross from the Alta Ski Resort. The impact of this on popular backcountry terrain would be huge.
Over the past several years Alta Ski Lifts (ASL) has been planning to expand north of SR-210 (LCC Highway).ASL, Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT), and the Town of Alta are in the planning phases of examining alternative avalanche control methods on the slopes above the Town of Alta.The current method of shooting explosives over occupied structures is attempting to be minimized.Pressure from the federal government as well limited munitions seem to be motivating factors. However, ski area expansion is a likely incentive as well.
A mechanized lift on Flagstaff Mountain is being planned to aid snow safety personnel access to Emma Ridge to deliver hand charges and thereby turn Flagstaff Mountain and Emma Ridge into a pay-to-play ski area.This would aid controlling avalanches via “skier compaction”.
Time to show our appreciation for the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC). The inaugural Snowball Dinner and Auction to support NWAC is less than two weeks away...Friday, April 10! Please join us at the Ballard Elks Club on Shilshole Bay in Seattle and show your support for a service we all rely on to plan trips and stay safe in the mountains.
NWAC's budget is extremely threatened next year with a projected shortfall of over $100,000 right now. Your support is more important than ever. And besides, what better way to spend a Fri evening than sharing stories with 200+ other skiers and riders, enjoying dinner and drinks with friends, and going home with a selection of over 100 great auction items.
Tables are filling up...we have less than 50 tickets left, so buy yours before it's too late. We have to plan dinners, so we won't be selling tickets at the door!
We have begun testing the 2009 skis here on Mt Hood. The weather has dished out some classic March Mt. Hood conditions with over a foot of new snow during the past few days. Of course, the snow has been delivered with some serious winds and relatively balmy temps hovering around the upper twenties.
Nonetheless, skiing has been great for testing. I find a good dense snow quite nice for testing, actually. Soft, full-bodied snow really works the skis and defines their personalities nicely.
We test a mix of free and fixed heel set-ups, including the latest rendition of the new NTN from Rottefella with Scarpa's new TX Pro boot.
I have never been an outspoken fan of the NTN system. It just seems to go in the opposite direction of touring friendly gear for my tatses, but the new Scarpa boot and the latest version of the binding proved to be quite fun for resort ripping. It's a powerful setup for sure. It's not for everyone, in my opinion, but it clearly delivers a tight, responsive interface for resort-style skiing. I was pleasantly surprised at its on-piste functionality. The system mates well with a big ski for aggressive skiing.
On other fronts, the new G3 Tonic and Zen Oxide (lightweight ski with same dimensions as the Hombre) have been popular as was the Rossignol Powder Bird. The Powder Bird is one heck of a stable ski for aggressive resort skiing. The Zen Oxide and Tonic have more touring apeal and proved to be very adept in soft snow.
We will have more from K2, Atomic, Dynafit, Volkl, and Karhu in the coming weeks, as well as a look at the BD Method AT boot, the Scarpa Skookum AT boot, and more.
OSLO, Norway (March 20, 2009) – Rottefella AS, a leading manufacturer of bindings for Nordic skiing, this week announced that it will close Naxo AG, its wholly owned subsidiary that produces Naxo alpine-touring bindings. The move will allow Rottefella to refocus all of its resources on the Nordic and telemark skiing market, where it dominates ski binding sales worldwide and has introduced 13 new binding designs in the last five years, including the innovative New Telemark Norm (NTN) binding system.
“Despite strong sales and marketing support for Naxo since Rottefella purchased it in 2006, the bottom line is that Naxo hasn’t achieved the critical mass worldwide that we needed in a very crowded market,” said Torbjorn Ragg, Marketing and Sales Manager for Rottefella.
The upside of Naxo’s closing is that it will free up resources to help Rottefella re-double its focus on the core of its business, Ragg said.
“And that will help us continue to lead the market in innovations for Nordic skiing in all its forms – racing, touring, backcountry and telemark,” he said.
I just read an interesting article describing the various dynamics at play on the SB 22 - the public lands bill that failed to pass the House a couple of weeks ago. It sounds like the bill is now an amendment to another low controversy bill that is pending vote any day. Rather than pretend I know what I am talking about with regards to the process, check out the article here
We get a lot of inquires for back issues. Rather than charge money to ship them out, we offer them online as PDF downloads. All back issues are available here. We only offer PDF's for previous seasons. Current season issues are available at ski shops or by subscription. The idea here is to encourage you to subscribe and support what we do!
Some of the more popular back issues for download are typically the most recent seasons, but there is a solid collection of older issues that seem to make the top ten list every month. These include Issues number, 1, 15, 18, 19, 23, 29. Also popular are all of our ski reviews, ten season's worth.
We appreciate all the web traffic and interest in back issues. Help yourself, and spread the word! If you feel inclined to show your support, subscribe or pick up some Off-PisteVoile straps or a sweet organic cotton ball cap!
Ball caps are only $16 and the price includes shipping. Voile straps are two for $9 (including shipping), and are one of the most useful items you can add to your bag of tricks. They are functional on a day to basis to bundle your gear, and they make a great repair kit item, too.
Beyond the obvious ski gear, what gear is important for a ski tour? There are a few fundamental "must haves" - a shovel, probe, beacon, skins, but beyond these items, there is a fair bit of lattitude as to what is necessary for touring. I went through my pack for a typical day trip and my pack is pretty sparse. It goes along with the pack light mooch heavy program to which I like to subscribe, but it is also utilitarian.
This selection includes a spare hat and gloves, but does not include my normal synthetic puffy layer that I pack, too.
The contents here are for day tours where I am familiar with and confident about the terrain. I use and inspect my gear regularly, so I do not carry much repair gear. I have spent more time repairing other people's gear over the years than I have my own.
A good criticism of my day gear is that I am noticiably short on first aid, but even when I pack first aid it is typically minimalistic - athletic tape, advil/vicadin, gause pads.
Climbing skins are, obviously, essential equipment for backcountry skiing. For a piece of gear that we use as much as we do, climbing skins do not get a lot of press. Skis are more fun to talk about for sure, but a good skin is key to a good day.
I have a variety of skins going at the moment. Dynafit makes a skin to match their Manaslu ski and I have used them quite a bit this winter. The skin's unique attachment system interfaces with the slot in the tip of the Manaslu ski. I am not one for equipment designed for a single use, but the tip attachment system does work well. It is easy to release and I have never had any trouble with it getting kicked free or falling off during use. The skins are one of the better gliding skins out there,too, and their uphill traction is pretty good, not the best, but i would rather have a skin that glides well and climbs pretty good than a skin that glides ok and climbs the best. One of the best things about the dynafit skin is that it stays pretty darn dry in all conditions, and it is, as you might expect from Dynafit, nice and light. The glue has been reliable, but I question its ability to stand the test of time as it seems a bit thin. So far so good, but time will tell.
Another skin I have been impressed with is the G3 Alpinist. It has proven to glide as well as any skin I have, and climbs great. Like the Dynafit, the G3 skin is also quite light. It is tough to compare them as they are cut to different width skis, but they definitely fall into the lightweight skin category. The cool thing about the Alpinist skin is its unique and functional tip attachment. The system uses two swiveling clips and the design accomodates a wide variety of tip shapes. It has proven to be bomber. With a season-and-a-half of use, the glue has proven reliable, too.
The last pair of skins i have in the mix is a pair of Black Diamond Glidelites. The offer a great reliable tip and tail attachment. The tail clip is similar to to the popular tail clip systems available, but i think it is one of th best. My complaint on the GlideLite is that the glide does not measure up against the Dynafit or G3's. The old blue and white GlideLite had one of the best glides around a few years back, but the newer version is sluggish. They do climb great and the glue is the oldest of all the skins i have and has stood the test of time well.
Key to a good skinning experience is good skin care. It is not rocket science to treat your skins well, but there are a few key elements to using skins.
Rule #1 - Do not let the glue side touch the snow.
Rule #2 - Keep them folded glue side to glue side when not in use. I fold them in half as best as the wind will allow.
Rule #3 - If the glueside begins to ice up, tuck the skins inside your jacket on the descent, and or you can scrape the glue side against your ski edge - holdskin on either side of the ski edge and run it over the edge - and then stuff them inside your layers to warm up.
Rule #4 - keep the glue clean. Things like pine needles, sap, and animal fur will compromise your skin glue.
Rule #5 - Be sure to dry your skins over night
Rule #6 - Keep the skin side away from open water. Skins ice up when they get. stepping in wet snow or letting the tails dip into a creek on a creek crossing will set you up for clumping. I like to carry a plastic ski scraper (it has numerous applications) and use it to scrape my skins if they begin to clump up at all. A ski scraper and some skin wax go a long way, but applying skin wax without scraping them will limit the effectiveness of wax.
Winter continues here in the Northwest. Some of the best skiing all season has been found in the past few weeks. Gotta love March cycles.
Skied the Dynafit Manaslus today. They rip. It is one of the best do it all backcountry skis available. The ski powder, the ski mank, and they are great in tough technical terrain and firm snow. Truely one of the most versatile dedicated touring boards i have used.
Come pay homage to local pinheads of lore & celebrate with fellow supporters of the telemark community at Stevens Pass, WA!
Pay tribute to a longtime Stevens Pass local who loved racing and diligently supported telemark skiing in the Pacific Northwest.BBQ following race!
Volunteers are needed! Please contact Stevens Pass Ski School and leave a message for Kati (206.812.7387).
Date: March 13, 2009 (Friday)
Location:Tye Bowl off Tye Mill Chair
Time:Race @ 10 am (Registration 8:00-9:30 am at Granite Peaks Lodge)
26th annual memorial race.Event consists of a downhill race with two timed giant slalom runs.
Volunteers are needed! Please contact Stevens Pass Ski School and leave a message for Kati (206.812.7387).
Date: March 15, 2009 (Sunday)
Location:Blue Trail run off Hogsback Chair
Time:Race @ 10 am (Registration 8:00-9:30 am at Granite Peaks Lodge) COSTUME DIVISION:Best Retro Costume!
Helly Hansen Big Mountain Battle
What comes down must first go up! Watch as teams of two competitors scramble upslope before heading back down.There will be checkpoints laid out throughout the mountain, designated lifts, runs and hikes that you must complete to finish the course.All competitors will be tracked in real time by Flaik GPS. The hike will be boot pack, telemarkers, alpiners & snowboarders are welcome and this is not a randonee.
Date: March 14, 2009 (Saturday)Time: Athletes can register online or at the event. Each event will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. with registration opening at 8am. 10 am (Arrive early for check-in, GPS instruction, etc.)
For those wanting to be within stumbling distance of the festivities, RV camping is available at the ski area.Options for electrical hookups ($30/night) in the main lot or no charge for the overflow lot (no hook-ups).Looking forward to seeing you out at Stevens next weekend!
Winter is finally taking shape here, in March. We have had another string of good cold storms. It sure beats the dry spell we endured in January and February. It must be my friends who sacrificed their ski season by heading to Nicaragua, thanks guys.
Got another day on the Karhu Storm BC. Still stoked on its performance. We had boot and knee deep conditions. The ski is quick to initiate, holds a variety of turn sizes, and has a good round feel to it. It is a different ski than the Jak BC, a bit stouter in overall flex, but it shares some of the Jak's versatility in turn bias and initiation. At 96 underfoot, the Storm is wider than the Jak. Despite its extra width, the ski weighs in at only one ounce more than the Jak BC.
The forecast has continued snow early this week. Here's to March.
There is currently a bill in the Washington Senate (SB 5596) that helps provide funding to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. The Bill adds $2 onto snopark permits and $2 onto snowmobile registrations. The revenue generated from the added costs would be dedicated to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.
The Bill is not rolling through the Senate as was hoped. Please e-mail the members of the rules committee to let them know that NWAC is important to you. Senator's e-mail addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org. It is suggested that you use these e-mails over the ones listed on their own websites.
Here is a sample letter.
Dear Senator ______________ ;
I am writing in support of Senate Bill 5596. Passage of this bill is a critical element for funding of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC). The center provides a necessary service that helps save lives. There has been one avalanche related fatality in Washington State this year and there were eight fatalities in Washington last year. Without a stable source of funding, winter recreationists will lose the only source for avalanche forecasts in the state.
Senate bill 5596 provides a stable source of funding by targeting the very groups who use the forecasts. The added fees for snopark permits and snowmobile registrations are inconsequential ($2), and provide an equitable solution for NWAC funding. SB 5596 will fill a large gap in NWAC funding, thus providing a service directly to those who helped fund it.
Mt Hood is in the midst of a storm cycle right now. I got out this morning for a few turns with F.J. from Pistil Designs. We hit the old secret stash, which is less than secret these days, but given the wind, we had the place to ourselves. It is puking toonies as they say up north, but the wind is making short work of anything that is not protected. It was a classic NW storm day, and the trees were the best bet for soft snow.
I took out a pair of Karhu Storm BC's today. I skied them a bit last spring during our annual ski review testing, but this is the first time I have been out touring on them. The ski underwent a little bit of fine tuning last summer before it was put into final production, and it skied great. It has a nice damp feel, a relatively soft tip, and was more forgiving than I remember it last spring. I weighed the Storm BC side by side with my Jak BC and it came in at a mere two onces heaveir per pair than the Jak, hardly noticabl, really. The Jak BC is definitely one of my favorite all around soft snow touring ski picks and i happy to say that the Storm BC held its own very well today. The snow was variable in places, and it did not waver. My first impression is that it is a bit stiffer flexing than the Jak BC, but it still offered a good round flex, and the tip worked the soft snow very well.
I will get some more time on them in the next couple weeks and try to give a few more details on the skis overall personality.
Nils Larsen and I will be in Portland, OR tonight showing Nils' movie about the timeless skiers of the Altai. The show is at Solstice Outdoor in North Portland (map) and is being organized by the Snowrider PDX foundation
Show starts at 7pm. Come on down for a fun evening exploring the history of skiing in Central Asia.
Aside from some good early season snow, the powder skiing at Mt Hood has been a bit sparse this season. Hopefully the renewed westerly flow seen over the past week will continue through the month of March. Historically, March can be one of the biggest snow months of the year in many parts of the West.
I managed to time a recent trip to the North Cascades pretty well. An earlier visit in late December was less productive. Their snowpack, although lower than recent years, is really shaping up now. The current cycle brought in a good foot plus of new snow and good cold temps on the east side of the range. We were able to ski a variety of aspects and had some of the bbest skiing I have had all season.
I put in several days on a pair of Voile Insanes and am happy to report that they have proven to be excellent. They make short work of wind effected snow, turn on a dime when needed, open up for bigger radius turns with ease, and, ofcourse, ski pow with ease. The insane is the first 100+ waisted ski that I have used for touring. At 6.75lbs/pair, they are lighter than many narrower skis and tour very well. Touring with the a ski this wide makes perks my interest in the new BD split skins though. Anyway to reduce the skin drag on the uptrack without compromising the skins ability to climb would be nice.
I get a lot of questions about layering and clothing for touring. I have a standard set-up that serves me well in a pretty wide range of temps/conditions. For me, everything revolves around a good breathable set-up while climbing and an easy way to stay warm when stopped. I dress as minimalist as possible for the uphill. On my legs I use a highly breathable softshell pant and a very lightweight base layer. Looking at the upper body, I normally use a simple, lightweight base layer with a light fleece layer like a Patagonia R1over it (if the temps warrant) and a superlight, breathable softshell on top. Staying well vented and relatively sweat free while climbing is key to all day comfort. A key element to my layering system is a warm synthetic puffy jacket that I can easily put on over everything when I stopped.
I never leave for a tour without a synthetic puffy. It is essential for staying warm during transitions, snack breaks, and in the event of a problem. Typically, my layering is just enough to keep me warm when working uphill and I do not have to adjust these layers. However, anytime I stop for any lenght of time I throw my puffy on over everything I already have on. This makes for a good simple system, and you never have to take off your shell or change layers below it. This minimizes transition times and reduces overall clothing management. The last thing I do before skiing down is pull off my puffy jacket and stuff it in my pack. When it is cold, I often find myself skiing down in my my puffy, and just pack it for the uptrack.
For me, it is key that a good puffy be light, compressible, hooded, and sized to fit over all of my layers. I choose synthetic insulation because I am hard on this piece of gear. It gets packed and repacked all day long, often damp with snow. The synthetic insulation stands up to this abuse very well, maintains its warmth well, and drys quickly at the end of the day without any special attention.
A variety of companies make jackets that fit the bill for this piece. Two of my favorites are the Outdoor Research Chaos jacket and the Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody. The Chaos jacket offers a bit more insulative value than the Micro Puff Hoody and it actually uses a waterproof Gore paclite shell fabric. It still packs well, and it stays dryer than my Micro Puff in marginal weather. The Micro Puff Hoody packs smaller, is a little lighter weight, and has endured several years of abuse without any undue wear. The OR Chaos has become my go-to jacket for mid winter cold, while the Micro Puff Hoody is my choice for more moderate Northwest temps.
I will look at more key items that I think are well suited to touring later this month.
Following a couple of productive weeks of travelling and ski touring, I am back in the office for a spell. Kootenay Coldsmoke was a blast and the ski touring was excellent, despite the lack of new snow. The Whitewater backcountry remianed cold and faceted for the duration of the event providing some excellent touring conditions.
Arcteryx and Mountain Gear put on a great event. Loads of clinics, tours, demos, and a lively social scene made for a great event.
After the Coldsmoke event, I moved on to the North Cascades for some more skiing. Winter has been a bit unpredictable this year, but the conditions in the North Cascades are excellent right now. The crew at North Cascades Heli showed us an excellent time and the skiing was incredible. They have some time open for heli touring days in March, and if you have been waiting for a window to get out, now is the time. They can drop you in the high alpine, you can ski tour all day and get a pick up before the sun sets. It makes for a killer day of skiing. More images and details on the way.