First stop on my western road trip, Outdoor Retailer tradeshow.
Outdoor Retailer can feel a lot like Grand Central Station. Crowded, hectic, impersonal. Everyone is constantly coming or going somewhere more important. Places like this usually give me a panic attack. But you can still find the ski community thriving within. Whether bumping into the guys who mounted your skis, or reminiscing powder days past with old friends and perfect strangers, you can tell that our sport brings out the best in people. Which in turn results in yearly gear innovations and style changes that delight and dazzle.
This year brings an obvious trend toward bringing more style in technical, backcountry worthy outerwear. Companies such as Arc’teryx grabbed their color palettes seemingly from a bag of Skittles. Trew Gear has come from the opposite direction as a backcountry focused clothing line with cuts and styling drawing from the park scene. Full weather protection and a baggier fit allows for unrestricted range of motion, and perfect integration into the resort. My favorite line this year would be from Flylow which has found a near flawless mix of casual cut, technical specs and brilliant colors.
I’m quickly learning that a short approaches in Montana is equal to mandatory snowmobile access in Colorado. Planning for trips into Glacier National Park this spring call for 6 miles of flat on the approach, or 10 mile hikes with skis on back. These have me a little frightened of my beefy AT boots. Suddenly, the guy (me) who wants nothing to do with lightweight can’t get enough of it. The new crop of boots (such as Garmont covered here a few days ago) coming out is blurring the line between alpine and AT boots by doing things such as blending overlap construction and low volume shells. Performance for the descent still needs to be tested, but I’m a willing subject should my assistance be required.
An Ever Growing Quiver.
Skis. I could tell you about the latest and greatest. The new technology, different dimensions, lighter weight. Skis that will make you a better skier, more attractive, and improve your public speaking ability. But what does it matter. We can lust after almost any ski out there. We love our old skis. Yet we want the quiver. Rocker, reverse camber, wider and flashier. They’re just fun to lust after. Give me a K2 Coomback, or the new Dynafit Stoke — some width, but still light enough for those long approach marches.
I Like Bikes.
The funkiest bike I’ve ever ridden was found at OR this winter. Felt like riding a continuous nose manual.
This isn’t a new idea by any means, but during a year of low snow and a super fragile snowpack, the thought of skiing powder on safe no-angle slopes with wind power sounds brilliant. After chatting with HQ Kites and Design, I hope to test out a beginner kite in the near future.
Beyond time spent at the OR show, what really grabbed my attention was “accidental storm chasing.” I headed down to Salt Lake for business, not pleasure. I was hoping to get at least one easy tour in, and test a pair of Marker Barons mounted on my “travel” ski. Sadly, as my ski partner and I watched the avalanche forecast climb from considerable to high in 2 hours, the tour was canceled. Our only consolation prize was skiing about a foot of new on top of 30″ in 4 days at Alta. Saturday followed suite with high danger, a free lift ticket, and another 17″ for our “easy backcountry laps.”
After that “disappointment” in Utah, I head to Colorado hoping for better touring conditions
(Guest blogger profile: Dave Downing and his wife Jessica live in Whitefish, MT, where he is a freelance designer and owner of Ovid Nine Graphics Lab. Dave has been told that there is nothing to see in Montana, so please move along.)