We are working to wrap up our 09-10 ski testing with a few final days of ski comparisons. Basically, we have skied everything, and now we are doing some final side by side comparison skiing. For example, skiing the G3 Tonic side by side with the K2 Coomback, the new Dynafit Mustag Ata side by side with the Ski Trab Stelvio XL and the K2 Wayback. Side by side testing helps define subtle differences in the skis.
Other skis of note include the Black Diamond Zealot and the Havoc. Both are new for 09-10 and, although they fill distinctly different categories, both are very capable skis.
The majority of our ski testing is done by riding lifts. There is no other way to get through the volume skis with any efficiency. However, we do hand pick a few skis every year and tour on them. One ski I was able to get some good soft snow touring days on was the Voile Insane. The Insane, at 100mm underfoot int he 172cm length, is a prime choice for a fat touring board. It is light, accomodates just about any turn radius, and makes short work of a wide variety snow. It is far more than a powder pig. It handles mank and chunder with ease, too. No other ski offers the same realestate underfoot for the same weight.
You can learn more about Voile in an interview with Voile founder Mark Wariakos that appeared in the January 09 issue of Off-Piste. download the interview pdf and you can see the voile insane in action below
I just posted the current season’s issue as PDF’s on the site. All back issues of the mag are available online as PDF’s. To help encourage you to subscribe, we wait until our publishing season is over before posting the current season’s issues. We now have ten years of Off-Piste Mag available online for your viewing pleasure. Most of the PDF’s are between 5 and 15MB in size. Get pdfs here
Check them out, and if you like what you see, support us with a paid subscription so you can get the mag delivered to your door next season!
On the subject of PDF’s and anniversaries. The Alpine Club of Canada recently released a DVD with 100 years of the Canadian Alpine Journal (CAJ) in PDF format. The collection includes all text and images from the CAJ from 1907-2007. The collection is indexed and searchable by text. It is an impressive collection of Canadian mountaineering history and is a veritable tome of information.
I have made a few forays into the archives in search of notable ski history and hope to share some tidbits soon.For the mountaineering history buffs out there, you can get your own copy from the ACC here.
In other news, Washington Pass (highway 20) between Marblemount and Mazama is now open. DOT crews worked all month to get it done and now it is the time to ski North Cascade Classics! Check out WADOT photos of the process here.
LODGE: noun; Etymology: Middle English loge, from Anglo-French, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German louba porch. 13th century
1. a rude shelter or abode 2. a house set apart for residence in a particular season (as the hunting season)
HUT: noun; Etymology: French hutte, from Old French hute, from Old High German huttahȳd skin, hide. 1655 hut; probably akin to Old English
1: an often small and temporary dwelling of simple construction :shack2: a simple shelter from the elements
I went on my first backcountry hut trip close to twenty years ago. For me, little matches the sense of being in the field for multiple days, living and breathing skiing and snow. There is a civility and level of comfort in even the most modest of huts that sets the experience apart from camping in the field.
My first hut trip was to a modest Colorado Mountain Club Hut. It was hard to beat for character and my characteristic last minute planning skills. And it served up some fine high adventure skiing the nearby terrain.
Since that first trip, I have enjoyed huts from Alaska to South America, the Himalaya and beyond. Hands down one of my favorite and arguably the most hedonistic of hut trips is the classic heli-accessed hut in British Columbia. Hut is a bit of a misnomer for these trips as most of the heli-accessed operations deserve to be called lodges. Running water, wood fired saunas, gas cooking stoves, and warm sleeping accomodations warrant the lodge terminology.
From BC's private lodges to the Alpine Club of Canada Huts, these trips are worth planning a winter around to make happen. From the group experience to full days of touring and over the top meals, a weeklong heli-accessed hut is a must-do experience for any avid backcountry skier. Consistent snows, remote locations and mind blowing terrain all go hand in hand when hut skiing in BC. Here are some images to get you scheming for next winter . . .
While I was up at Powder Creek in British Columbia, Nils Larsen took an afternoon to test out a pair of Altai skis that he built in the traditional style of skis from the Altai Mountains of China. If you have not heard about Nills' trips to the Altai Mountains and his building of Altai skis, check here for an interview with Nils or check his website at www.freeheels.com.
The skis are about six or seven feet long, made of spruce, and the bases are covered with horse hair skins. I travelled with Nils on his first trip to the Altai in 2005 and watched the local folks make a pair of skis. Nils has been back to the area several more times to learn more about and to document the culture of skiing in the region. The skiers of the Altai offer a window into the roots of skiing that we thought was long gone. Nils' film, Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan, offers a great perspective on the culture and roots of skiing in the Altai Mountains and he is getting to be damn good at skiing in the Altai style, too!
I am back to the ski testing regime at Mt Hood following a week of ski touring up at Powder Creek Lodge in BC. Our week at Powder saw the move to spring weather. North slopes stayed cold and dry while solar aspects began the spring transition.
I skied the Scarpa Spirit 3 and Spirit 4 boots while up at Powder. I have skied the Spirit 3 for about two seasons, but this was my first time on the Spirit 4. The boots appear to be virtually the same mold, but the four uses four buckles while the three has, you guessed it, only three buckles. The four also comes with a second toungue for downhill performace and a small spoiler for the back of the liner. I skied both boots with the same liner and spoiler, but did not experiment with the downhill tongue. The black downhill tongue is significantly stiffer and has no hinge point like the traditional touring tongue. I have no doubt that it adds downhill support, but to keep the boots touring friendly, I opted for the hinged tongue.
Both boots tour well. The three is my known quantity, and over the course of a week I skied the four on one foot and the three on the other and skied with just the threes and just the fours. The boots are very similar. Although subtle, the four does offer a snugger fit with the extra buckle. The three can be buckled down to compare, but the four is capable of a more uniformly snug fit. Anyone with a low volume foot or more used to the snug feel of an alpine boot could benefit from the four's fit. When it comes to actual ski performance, both boots are capable of managing a good sized ski and skiing any terrain.
From a touring perspective both boots were super comfy. The new Scarpa Intuition liner is one of the best liners I have used. They are super comfortable, durable, and hold their thermofit molding shape very well. From a downhill ski performance perspective the differences between the Spirit Three and Spirit Four are subtle. I see the Spirit Three as a very capable three buckle boot and the Spirit Four is a solid four buckle performer that tours like a three buckle boot. Both boots use the same foward lean adjustment and it can be dialed into your favorit angle with the twist of an allen bolt.
Our ski testing of next year's boards continues. We have had some killer soft snow conditions up at Hood with classic tweener conditions (spring temps with new snow) thrown in for good measure.
A couple of interesting boards of note include the new Volkl Gotama (rockered tip and tale and 105ish underfoot) and the new Ski Trab Stelvio Plus which, at 90mm underfoot, is Trab's widest ski to date. Although the Volkl and the Trab are very different beasts, they both proved to garner praise while testing.
The new Gotama is a confident agile ski that makes short work of just about evrything we could find at the ski hill. The subtle rocker in tip and tale make for a very responsive ski, yet showed no weakness when ramped up on firmer carvable snows. It is a heavy beast at about 10lbs 10oz/pair unmounted (178cm) when compared to more touring oriented boards. I see it as a classic slackcountry ride, but that does not diminish its fun factor. I skied with a relatively light boot (Scarpa Spirit 3's) and had a blast.
I am stoked to see Trab with a fatter ski. I have been a fan of the Stelvio Freeride for a couple years. The new ski takes the Stelvio light construction and adds 6mm to the waist and more to the tip. I talked to their designer about such a ski last spring, but he did not give up too much info. It could have been the language barrier though as my Italian is nonexistent and hisenglish was limited. Trab also has a Dynafit style binding in the works, but they would prefer to keep it under wraps until they have finalized all the design charcteristics and such. The new ski is a classic look and has the fine workmanship you would expect in a handmade ski. These guys lay up all their skis by hand in their Italian factory and source all their own materials. It is a great set-up, and thier skis reflect the care they receive during design and construction.
On the boot front, I have been running the Scarpa Spirit 3 head to head with the Spirit 4. The boots (sans liner) weigh in at 3lbs 1oz and 3lbd 6oz, respectively. I have always suspected that there was little difference between the spirit 3 and 4 aside from an extra buckle on the four. Ski performance with the touring tongues is hard to differentiate. The Spirit 4 does come with a "ski tongue" that is remarkably stiffer than the tour tongue, but I have yet to use it yet. I am taking them out this next week for extended side by side touring, i'll report back any obvious differences.
Just got a note from Stuart Craig up in Seattle about his annual Wingnut Telemark Free-For-All - WTF. Join the fun at Crystal Mountain on April 11.
Yes, the Wingnut Telemark Free-for-All – or, put a more inclusive way, the Wingnut Tool-Independent Free-for-All – is back, Saturday, April 11, at Crystal, for its 3rd year!
I certainly hope your season has been full of the wonder that only skiing can bring, and that you are unwilling – in mangled homage to Dylan Thomas – to go gently into that (not so) good summer! Which, of course, if what the WTF is all about!
We’ll gather in the main lodge at Crystal at 830 (that’s a.m. in the morning – as opposed to evening – in case you were wondering) on the 11th (and we’ll plan for lunch at Campbell Basin about 1130 in case you’d like a less early start). The program: to ski lots and hang with like-minded snow people! There are no “levels,” this is decidedly just for fun – a bunch of folks, on any kind of snow sliding gear, ripping around the hill. Yes, that’s right: this is a Tool-Independent event, so come on Alpine skis, Tele skis, snowboards, etc., but come and slide with us!
We’ve been very successful over the years and keeping a pretty large group of diverse characters together, no matter where we ski, and we’ll go for the same this year. We’re out for fun, nothing else!
At the end of the day, we’ll gather in the Bull Wheel for some, uh, Bull .... Wait: I mean some beverages!
So come play with us on the 11th! If you have any questions, drop me an email or give me a call.
Ski hard, play fair...Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over!