Mount Rainier National Park just announced their new 2011 climbing permit fees. The new fee is now $43 (up from $30 last season). The permit is valid until December 31 of the year purchased, so if you are a regular user or are shut down on your first foray above 10,000 feet, you can try again with the same permit. According to Park officials, the price increase was needed to cover the rising costs of administering the climbing program. Nearly 11,000 people attempted to climb Mount Rainier in 2010. Read the full explanation of Rainier's cllimbing fees here.
The climbing program at Rainier is more extensive than any of the other Cascade volcanoes. But almost all of the volcanoes require a paid permit to climb or ski above treeline. The exception is Mount Hood. Hood requires registering for a permit, but permits are free. Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and Mount Shasta all require paid climbing permits.
Volcano skiing season is not far off. Pick up the lastest issue of Off-Piste for a full spread on skiing the volcanoes from Mount Rainier to Mount Lassen. Or Subscribe and we'll send you a copy...
I am a fan of synthetic insulation. Its all-weather versatility is unbeatable for backcountry skiing. Sure, I live in the land of heavy precip and moderate temps, but even when skiing in colder climates, I still find my gear gets damp. Maybe it is my afinity for storm cycle skiing, or maybe it is my not-so-careful gear management skills, but one way or another my gear often ends up damp by the end of a day of ski touring. Synthetic insulation handles the rigors of storm cycle use with ease, insulates when damp and drys quickly when the opportunity presents itself. Recent advances in synthetic insulation have created insulation that rivals down for weight, compressibility and warmth. One such synthetic insulation is Primaloft® One.
I have been using a couple of great, super-lightweight insulation pieces this winter that use Primaloft® One insulation.
The first is the Rab Xenon Jacket. Rab is a UK based company that makes high quality clothing for expeditions and climbing use, many of which fit backcountry skiing needs very well. The Xenon is a no-frills hooded jacket that weighs in at an airy 12 ounces. One chest pocket and two hand pockets add utility. I'd like to have zip closures on the hand pockets, but it is a minor complaint. Rab uses a super-light Pertex fabric for the outer shell material and 60g Primaloft® One insulation. The Xenon is incredibly warm for its weight and bulk. It has become a go-to piece for day tours and go-light adventures.
The second jacket is the Patagonia Nano Puff Pullover. The Nano has no hood, but the pullover-style jacket has quickly become a favorite layering piece on bitter cold days and as a quick lunch break layer. Like the Rab Xenon, the Nano Puff packs down into its own pocket for easy storage and weighs in at a stealthy 10 ounces. A couple of handwarmer pockets would be a nice addition, but it is the sweater's no bells and whistles style that make it such a simple luxury.
If you have not checked out synthetic insulation in few years, it is time to consider it. Down is great and has its place in extreme cold, but a quality synthetic unsulation layer will stand the test of time and abuse of day to day ski touring use while keeping you warm to boot.
We have begun our annual ski testing for our 2011 ski review. March has proven (once again) to offer some of the finest skiing of the season around here, and we have been running skis through the ringer up at Mt. Hood.
Our testing focuses on touring minded skis. In addition to the usual suspects, there are several new players this season with skis constructed to cater to the touring market. Kastle, Volkl, La Sportiva, Faction and Movement all have new skis for 2011 that are touted as light construction.
Also new into our testing mix is Hagan, a long standing European ski brand that has a new North American distributor. Hagan has several skis in the mid 70's-80mm waist category, but they also have a new ski called the Daemon that measures in with a 93mm waist. The Daemon has proven to be a versatile ski in our testing and it is light at 6 lb 10 oz.
Other standouts in the line-up thus far include the new G3 Saint and Zen Oxide, both of which use light construction and new early rise shape. The new G3 Saint is modest at 93mm underfoot, but one tester described the Saint as one of the nicest telemark skis he has been on in years.
Faction has two new boards with light construction: the Agent 90 and the Agent 100. Although not as light as a Dynafit or similar, the skis are lighter than lastyear's Faction boards and have many of the same excellent on snow qualities - lively and confident. Both skis also have nice modest rocker in the tips.
The new Volkl Nunataq is also garnering a lot of praise. The new light construction backcountry ski from Volkl has its roots in the Volk Gotama, but it weighs in at 7 lb 12 oz per pair - not bad for a ski that measure 139-107-123.
We have been able to ski the new Dynafit Manaslu, too. We have been huge advocates of the original Manaslu. The new ski features new core construction designed to stiffen the ski up. The new ski is definitely stiffer throughout. The resultt has been that bigger skiers (175+) have found it more responsive to their needs, while smaller skiers (150 and below) have been less pleased with the new construction.
We still have loads of telemark and alpine touring skis to test and will follow up with more deatils as we get out and ski in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is a short slideshow from behind the scenes of our testing - all taken with various i-phone cameras.
This weekend is the annual Sven and Glenn Memorial Telemark Race at Stevens Pass. This year marks the 28th annual Glenn Race and the 4th annual Sven Race. The whole weekend makes for a great teleamrk festival event.
The Sven Race, Saturday March 26, combines nordic skills with classic cross-country downhill technique. Pay tribute to a longtime Stevens Pass local at this race that includes jumping, relpelykkje (360), skate and downhill gates.
The Glenn Race is a giant slalom down Big Chief. Glenn Willcut first introduced telemark ski racing to Stevens Pass in the 1980's. The Glenn Race includes a "best costume" division.
Both races have novice, open and mature divisions. Join the crew for a weekend of freeheel fun!
Here is episode two from Sweetgrass Production's 12-part webisode following the making of their two-year backcountry ski film project, Solitaire.
Episode two sets the South American stage in Huaraz, Peru and explores the emotions of hopping off a jet plane into a world totally unlike your own. At the end of the day, most things that go into making a ski film often have very little to do with skiing. So, witness June of 2010, the genesis of Solitaire, and take the leap into Huaraz.
I just stumbled accross this great old school powder skiing footage on the WorldWidetimeWaster. It is all skiing around the Red Mountain, BC area in the early 90's. Funny, it just doesn't sound that long ago, I must be getting old...either way, these folks are ripping it up!
The crew at BackcountrySkiingCanada.com checked in to remind everyone that their backcountry skiing photo contest wraps up at the end of March. They are offering some excellent prizes for the winners. The competition involves submitting a photo or video as well as 100+ words telling the story behind the scene.
We recently connected with Shayne over at Freeheelgranola.com - a site dedicated to freeheel pursuits. He has some interesting posts and is running a contest to build up his Facebook numbers. "Like" the freeheelgranola facebook page and you get a chance to win a copy of this year's PowderWhore movie and a 1-year subscription to Off-Piste Mag!
While we are in the Facebook topic, click our "Like" button up on the left of the blog! It makes us feel all warm and fuzzy when we get more friends, and we don't have very many right now. We are hardly Facebook fanatics, but our "Like" numbers on the webpage are a low relative to our readership numbers. I suppose this is a good sign that you are out skiing more than you are facebooking - that makes us all warm and fuzzy too.
Finally, we recently talked to Eric over at a Radio-Coteau Winery in Sebastopol , CA, and he has a new wine called Pinhead Red, complete with a cool freeheeling skier on the label. We have not been able to sample any wine yet, but talking with Eric it sounds like a cool project. He is offering a portion of the proceeds from the sales of the wine to some great organizations including the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center and the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. Support your avy center, drink some Pinhead Red!. Learn more about Pinhead Red Wine
Ski testing season is upon us. 2011 is our twelfth season of testing and reviewing backcountry skis. We have already been able to get on a few skis, but the bulk our testing happens in late March and early April. I will post more information about our ski line-up as they begin to arrive, but the list includes backcountry skis from Voile, Black Diamond, K2, Volkl, La Sportiva, Dynafit, G3, Armada, Faction, Prior, Movement and more. We just got word from the crew at Backcountryskiingcanada.com that they have been out on a variety of the new G3 skis and posted beta on some of G3's new skis here
There are a surprisingly large number of new backcountry skis for the 2011-12 season and quite a few holdovers from this season. We conduct most of our testing up at Mt. Hood with a dedicated crew of experienced skiers. A handful of select boards then head up to BC for a final hut trip of the season where we put the them through rigorous field testing and discuss their merits on the uptracks. Yes, it is a difficult job, but we manage.
We get more requests for our ski review issue than any other copy of the mag all season (it is always in the October issue). We always hold off on setting the review loose on the web until our publishing season comes to a close. The idea here is that you subscribe to get the mag - thereby supporting our dedicated efforts. We definitely appreciate your support.
There are a couple of great ski festivals this weekend including the 36th Annual North American Telemark Organization (NATO) Festival. Freeheel guru Dickie Hall puts on his annual telemark bash this weekend, March 12-13 at Mad River Glen in Vermont (read a great interview with Dickie Hall here). New School, old school, it's all cool at the 36th annual NATO festival - the Mother of all Telemark Festivals. The celebration includes extraordinary Mad River Glen skiing, wild-championship competitions, skill clinics, demo gear, the legendary Magic Hat Tele-Dance Party, surprises, prizes and loads of fun.
The Telelizard Classic is all about the costume and this year's theme is the Lizard of Oz. Proceeds from the day's events go to the Special Olympics. Oakshire Brewing from Eugene will be on hand to quench your thirst, and rumor has it that Northwest Freeheel Guru Jarl Berg will be in attendance as well.
March is roaring in like a lion here in the Northwest! The powder skiing is the best we have had all season. I just spent the week up in the North Cascades with the crew at North Cascade Heli and North Cascades Mountain Guides. I am not sure what I did to deserve it, but we hit the storm cycle of the season. The North Cascades have received over a meter of new snow and the ski conditions are outstanding. NC Heli offers an incredible heli-touring program that includes a morning flight into the mountains and an end of the day pick-up with their A-Star B3. The skiing is incredible right now. It looks like La Nina has finally kicked in!