Salt Lake City, in the halls of the Salt Palace convention center, last couple of days. You could easily see a downturn in attendance numbers compared to the last few shows, due no doubt to our economic woes. Even so, things were upbeat in a lot of corners, with old timers such as myself sharing how we’ve just kept on keeping on through many other stale periods. Best example in my case is when my web and writing work dried up after 9/11, so I concentrated on building WildSnow.com and created the massive pile of content this website has become. Ever onward. To that end, the rest of my show reports:
Timex launched their new Expedition altimeter watch (to left). I'm still a fan of altimeter watches, but no one offering seems to have all the features I want. Expedition has a super big LCD (a want) that can present tons of information but it doesn't have a control lock and the light-on duration is too short. Even so, I'll probably give one a shot at some point. Yep, that's a funky old Suunto Vector on the right for comparo. I picked the Vector up on the cheap just for this trip. It's been ok but the lack of dual times, short light duration and lack of control lock continue to be the Vector's downfalls. But if the price is right, whatever...
Gibbon Slacklines (pictured above) had a nice booth that featured athletes bouncing around on their interesting style of slacklines. Basically, these things are made from the jumbo ratchet straps used by folks like truckers to secure loads. Tensioning is easy, click click click. The line is really wide, however. Cheating?
Ah yes, G3's new ski graphics.
Saint model tip sports this this photo of prayer flags, or is it laundry hung out to dry? Perhaps the idea is that before the big drop you say a prayer, then after that you launder your underwear?
This is interesting. I'd heard Fritschi was coming out with a new binding. My hope was for something Tech compatible or at least a radically different frame type binding. Instead, the Eagle is just a Diamir evolution. Main difference is the walking pivot is 25 mm farther back than that of other Fritschi bindings, meaning a much more ergonomic and efficient stride. Safety release at the toe is said to be smoother, and heel operation is said to be more facile. The combination of light weight, step-in entry/exit and downhill performance that Fritschi offers is still unequaled, so check out the Eagle if you're looking for bindings in this category.
Check these out. People have played around with split skins for years, ever since skis got wider. But without something connecting the skin strips they're super hard to handle (guest of wind = spaghetti pile). Black Diamond offers a version with a connector material in the middle. Lighter than full skins and better glide. BD will also offer a 100% Mohair skin this year. Hmmm, are the youngsters over there in SLC maturing and laying down lower angled skin tracks or something? Also, if you can't decide to go full mohair or stay nylon, BD will also offer their 'fear of commitment' 65/35 nylon/mohair model.
Seth Morrison wanted an Avalung pack but he didn't want to look like just another guy with just another BD pack, so this is his model. Kinda cool, actually.
The McLean redheads. Andrew, all I can say is, always stay ready to duck.
Big news we reported a while ago is how K2 consolidated their backcountry ski line into one series they're calling Backside. This chart shows how the new models translate to last year's planks. Main things to remember for many of us is that the Baker is now the BackLash and is 4 mm wider at the waist, the Backer SL is now the WayBack, and the Shuksan is now the BackUp. I have to say I'll miss the Shuksan and Baker names, as they harken to such amazing places. But getting rid of all the complexity of having telemark and AT models is something we welcome.
K2 is also trying to round out their backcountry line with climbing skins and adjustable ski poles that use a nicely designed cam lock. The skins are sourced from Climbing Skins Direct, but have a very nice tip and tail anchor system that uses the tip/tail holes in all BackSide series skis. Speaking of which, a lot of people continue to question or just plain dislike having tip and tail holes. K2 solved that by making the holes look more finished, and selling the skis with plugs in the holes.
I also spent quite a bit of time at Outdoor Research. Good to hear they’ll continue making their Tremor pant, though it’s slightly changed with a bit more seam welding instead of stitching. Louie’s favorite jacket, the Motto, will also continue. Best new piece is their Alibi jacket, which is body mapped with four different fabrics and includes a built-in helmet liner/hood as well as wrist gaiters.
Beyond specific gear, OR appears to still be working hard to provide truly solid clothing that works well in harsh weather. At the same time they’re continuing with items such as Tremor pant that may not be suitable for a long day in a PNW storm, but are perfect for moving light and fast in just about any other type of weather. In other words, they have a really complete line that we’ve found is well worth looking at whenever we need to re-work our layering systems.
On top of all that, an inside source told me that OR may be working with a well known skier as a consultant to develop a line of clothing that’s backcountry ready but with a more youthful cut and look. I’ll welcome that, because WildSnow bloggers such as Dave and Louie are well aware of how important clothing performance is, and at the same time frequently disappointed in how difficult it is to find a pair of technical pants with a full cut.
Speaking of clothing fit. I was joking around with a guy at Outdoor Research about how something like their Tremor pants appear somewhat trim and tight in the North American market, but while spectating a ski mountaineering race in Europe, my Tremors were the baggiest thing there out of about 2,000 people. Human nature. Fashion. It’s frequently worth ignoring the latter, but fun to ponder and play around with nonetheless.