Temple of Gear – Day 2


This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Wow. That’s my take on the backcountry skiing segment this year. The pace of innovation appears to have reached a new level, especially in boots. Combined with new binding system from Salomon, as well as premier avalanche beacons, airbag backpacks and so much more, wildfire!

A guy has these rodel sleds at OR show, this shot taken a week or so

When the backcountry skiing gets rough, the tough go sledding. A guy has these rodel sleds at OR show, this shot taken a week or so ago in Austria, when Fritz got me going on the joys of road gliding on the rodel. More info below. Was the Avalung essential? Only my sledding guide knows for sure.

Ortovox Zoom + avalanche beacon.

Ortovox Zoom + avalanche tranceiver will go retail early next winter, will replace F1 and Patroller, includes their 'smart antenna' technology and signal analysis, limited features for multiple burials. $249 MSRP makes owning a transceiver much less of an issue for the new backcountry skiers out there just itching to join our sport.

All this will ultimately benefit you WildSnow readers, as the competition and volume will at least have a moderating effect on prices even as quality and function increase. More, in my view we’ll also see an increase in “price point” gear that combines quality with somewhat reduced cost, thus allowing easier entry into the sport for everyone.

Thinking through above, as always we need to be concerned about exactly where all the backcountry skiing newbies are going to go. Is slackcountry the new backcountry for all these folks? Do we need more trailheads, more parking? More guides? More huts? Truly, I enjoy covering those issues more than I enjoy writing about gear, so perhaps the pace will pick up and we can do more coverage in the land use arena. But for now I’m here in Salt Lake City, and bow at the temple. More highlights:

K2 Coomback new graphics for 2012 and on.

No term limit on Doug Coombs. New Coomback ski retains same build, but gets new graphics that'll be renewed in a 3 year cycle, with iterations showing phases of Doug's life as a ski legend, Jackson, Bridger, Valdez, La Grave. Beautiful idea, and a percentage of sales still provides significant financial support for Doug's wife. When K2 comes up with excellent stuff like this, they just leave me speechless. They've got a new, lighter weight price-point shovel as well, ski pole improvements, and so on.

Backcountry Access has done a substantial revamp of nearly all their products.

Backcountry Access becomes an ever more dominant player. For next season they've re-worked all the Float packs. Simplified with fewer zippers (no back panel access, no more 'file cabinet' confusing array of endless zippered compartments) and nicely installed plumbing, the packs weigh significantly less and are very competitive with other brands in terms of weight. For example, the Float 20 model will mass at 5.5 lbs. That is light. More, the plumbing will easily move from pack to pack, colors have progressed from basic black. Helmet carry is integrated so you won't lose it (hint, helmet good idea when using airbag). Trigger can be mounted right or left side, and so on. When looking at these I couldn't help but think I was witnessing a MAJOR transition in design style.

BCA announces Tracker 3 avalanche beacon.

BCA announces Tracker 3 avalanche beacon, available next fall. Fully 20% smaller and lighter, marking/masking for multiples, if you're tired of trying to pocket beacons the size of a queen mattress, nice to see BCA tightening it up.

Alternative transport.

I got turned on to rodel sledding while in Europe recently. Kind of a basic and less extreme version of tobogganing, done on snowpacked roads and places where the angles are not too steep and you can do a lot of gliding. Enjoyed by the old, young, skiers, non-skiers. Hike up the road to the restaurant, have a few beers, and glide back down to parking. Perfect for those years when the snowpack is less than ideal. We need more of this sort of thing. Saw this one at the OR show, being made and sold by a guy in Canada. We'll see if we can do some WildSnow rodel action.

Mystery Ranch Blackjack airbag backpack.

Patrick (left) of Mystery Ranch explains their Blackjack avy airbag pack to Joe. MR has been carefully developing this pack, with much influence of ski patrollers. Refined retail version will be on the mountain shop pack walls starting this coming fall. Improvements over previous incarnations we've tested include less weight, no tool required to deflate bag, and an interesting interior accessory system that's probably too fiddly and weight adding for most normal users, but could be nice for those who want the ultimate in compartmentalization.

Comments

23 Responses to “Temple of Gear – Day 2”

  1. RyanB January 20th, 2012 1:55 pm

    Great coverage of OR as usual. While your there can you firm up the details on the price, weight, availability and maybe subjective initial opinions on fit and stiffness of the new sportiva boots, the dynafit PDG and any other similar boots. I’m debating buying TLT5′s or waiting and it would be helpfull to know if the PDG will be priced like the tlt5 mountains, if the sportivas will have a higher volume fit and if the cheeper sportivas will handle big skis better then the tlt5 mountains. Thanks!

  2. JordanD January 20th, 2012 2:14 pm

    Do you have any more pictures of the new BCA Float packs, Lou? Thinking about replacing my BD Agent Avalung with an airbag, and it seems like the Float 20 might do the trick.

  3. Jason January 20th, 2012 2:51 pm

    End of the season will be time to sell the Float 36 then! I can do lighter :)

  4. Tom Gos January 20th, 2012 3:03 pm

    Lou, do you have the name of the maker/importer of the sleds? I’ve I always thought it would be fun to keep a few of these around for times when non-skiing family visit or the skiing stinks. Does it come with a bottle of appropriate Euro hooch?

  5. Matt January 20th, 2012 5:45 pm

    Hi Lou, I’ve got a quick question about the Dynafit toe piece’s locking mechanism. I just mounted the Speed Radical and it’s obvious that if you push the button down it widens for your boot, but what’s not so obvious is the stops when you pull the lever up. Are these degrees of locking? Should the toe be locked fully when locked? I’ve read that skiers like to tour with it locked; is that preferable? Thanks.

  6. Lou January 21st, 2012 6:02 am
  7. Frank K January 21st, 2012 10:04 am

    Tom, check out Mountainboysleds.com- handmade and unbelievably beautiful sleds made right here in Crested Butte. No euro hooch, but maybe they could throw in a bottle of montanya rum, also made locally.

  8. Taxman January 23rd, 2012 2:19 am

    Lou, saw the picture of you on the rodel sled and it took me back to Austria 1981 and a big night on the schnapps :(

  9. Lou January 23rd, 2012 7:43 am

    Tax, you obviously survived… for myself I’m not seeing the attraction of being drunk while sledding, it’s fun enough no matter what…

  10. Brian January 23rd, 2012 11:08 am

    rodel sled, great, more gear……..just what I need, but how can I resist. looks like fun!!! just add beer

  11. Lou January 23rd, 2012 11:19 am

    As Euro stuff tends to go, it gets super popular over there than migrates over here. Main thing is you need something like a snowpacked or groomed mountain road with little or no vehicle, and no snowmobile traffic. I saw some trails in EU that they actually groomed for this, using a nordic groomer without the track setter. Folks were strolling up for a few hours and riding back down, usually stopping in for some victuals at the restaurant at the top of the walk…

    Bear in mind that while folks do go fairly fast on these things and you can get a thrill, the idea isn’t to rip down the steeps (though I’m sure that’s being done…)

  12. gringo January 23rd, 2012 12:16 pm

    Hey Lou,
    Any more pics of the other Coomback sizes / artwork?
    I agree completely with you about how cool it is that K2 continues the Coomba /ck and to support Emily and David. Without having seen the artwork, (or having the money to do it) I immediately thought how cool it would be to have all of them…

  13. Taxman January 23rd, 2012 3:09 pm

    “… for myself I’m not seeing the attraction of being drunk while sledding, it’s fun enough no matter what…” Think its called young and stupid. Fortunately survived to become older and somewhat wiser?

  14. Brett January 23rd, 2012 4:07 pm

    Anymore rodel beta? Hard to find good ones here in the US. Remember the guy’s name or how I might find online?

  15. Lou January 23rd, 2012 4:31 pm

    Hey Brett, the Rodel guy is typical of sellers who show up at OR but don’t have their marketing or PR act together. Indeed, I sometimes wonder why guys like that show up at all! He was there, in a booth with some other guys. No website that I could ascertain where he is promoting his rodel sales. The man’s name is Markus Peter, of Quebec, he has a business doing carvings, http://www.mastersculptures.com/ang/index_ang.html

    We asked if he could send a loaner for some blogging and he said he probably could, but I’m pretty leery of getting review gear from Canada due to return issues and cost, so I’m not sure that’ll happen You can get el-cheapo rodels in Europe, but part of the fun for me is seeing and using the traditional wood one, so we might try to acquire a couple and have them shipped.

    I’ve thought of several places around here where rodeling could be fun…

    You can contact him through his website. He seemed like a nice guy.

  16. Nick January 24th, 2012 9:48 pm

    how did the BCA Tracker 3 perform. Did the masking/marking function work? Did you find the beacon as quick as the Tracer 2.

  17. Jonathan Shefftz January 25th, 2012 6:47 am

    Nick, all beacons perform flawlessly at trade shows!

  18. Lou January 25th, 2012 7:40 am

    Also, bear in mind the trade show verity that much of the stuff we’re previewing is pre-production and not worth really wringing out. Especially beacons, which generally are shown in a dummy or nearly dummy configuration at Winter OR, before release of retail units in the fall. Which getting back to Jonathan, is one reason they all perform flawlessly (grin).

  19. RobinB January 30th, 2012 7:32 pm

    Re: rodels – Also known as Natural Luge. At the winter Carnival in Rossland BC they groom a track at the base of the ski area and have learn to luge clinics. If you demonstrate control over three runs, then you can join the luge club.

    This club has an agreement with the ski hill that allows them to ride last chair and luge down the ski hill from the summit, after sweep of course!! They use a long green run – Rino’s Run (AKA Long Squaw) for anyone that knows Red Mountain.

  20. Bill February 1st, 2012 7:10 pm

    Some nice youtube footage of Airbags in action on January 25th posted up recently…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=h7QFRXc0R8M

  21. backcountry gaper March 13th, 2012 11:02 pm

    Google tells me that the largest airbag pack BCA will offer next season is 32L. This is very disappointing. Maybe my research is wrong?

    A few people remarked on another post that the BCA 36L pack is too big for their needs, but I wonder why there are so few larger volume airbag packs available. My regular winter ski pack is pretty much the perfect size at 45L and it is usually full of:

    down jacket
    puffy pants
    shell jacket
    1-2 light puffy jackets depending on the temperature
    hooded synthetic insulated jacket (in addition to the down jacket, when temps are -10 or below)
    3-4 pairs extra gloves and mittens
    windproof hat
    windproof balaclava
    emergency bivy sack
    first aid kit
    1L water bottle in insulated sleeve (more for a very long day or very cold temps)
    6-10 energy bars
    2-3 pairs chemical heat packets
    2-3 ski straps
    screwdriver
    knife
    albuterol inhaler
    foam sit pad (very cold temps only)
    shovel
    probe
    skins
    ski crampons
    helmet and goggles on the outside
    crampons (rarely)

    Basically, I am always prepared to spend the night outdoors. I might get cold and hungry, but so long as I am not seriously injured, I should survive.

    I live in Alaska, so maybe I carry more stuff than lower 48 skiers because I am dealing with colder temperatures and help that is probably farther away. In January my coldest day in the backcountry started at -22 F and ended at -10 F. Beyond -25 F would probably be my threshold for a ski tour. It is true that I am a worst case scenario imaginer and I like to be prepared. I have also skied with people who never seem to bring enough clothing, so I also am somewhat packing for them, or for a stranger who might get hurt and need help.

    But I think it can get just as cold as AK in the Rockies and in Canada. Do most backcountry skiers really only carry a water bottle, a sandwich, and a NanoPuff jacket? Because that is about all that seems to fit in a 30L airbag pack in addition to a shovel and probe. I have tried to ski with a regular 29L pack on warmer days and that is a squeeze.

    I am very tempted to get the BCA Float 36 right now because it is easy to refill locally and because next season’s BCA packs are smaller. But it is so small that I am afraid I would not be able to fit everything I need in it. I am considering the Snowpulse Tour 45L because I know it would be big enough, but the cylinders seem to be more of a hassle to refill. Or I could wait until fall to see what ABS has to offer. I can’t find anymore ABS Vario base units online in small. I am torn!!!

  22. Frank K March 14th, 2012 6:52 pm

    bc gaper, next year’s large float will be renamed the float 40, though it is realistically the same size as this year’s 36. You carry a lot of stuff, but you should be able to fit all that into the 40.

  23. backcountry gaper March 14th, 2012 7:32 pm

    Frank, I will try to check out the Float 40 next year. Would it be weird to bring my stuff to the store to see if it will all fit? I have to confess one reason I carry a lot is so that I can blame my slowness on the uptrack on my giant backpack.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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