author
 

Avalanche Airbag Waistbelt Mods

By Louie Dawson | February 12, 2016  
First iteration. I simply looped a carabiner through the slot in the waist belt. I've seen a few people do this, and it is a quick and easy solution. This helps with the ease of use of the leg loop, but the waist belt is still as hard as ever to take off and put back on. Also, the carabiner is a bit uncomfortable.

First iteration. I simply looped a carabiner through the slot in the waist belt. I’ve seen a few people do this, and it is a quick and easy solution. This helps with the ease of use of the leg loop, but the waist belt is still as hard as ever to take off and put back on. Also, the carabiner is a bit uncomfortable.

I’ve been using a variety of airbag rucksacks for some time now. They’ve all had advantages and disadvantages, but one consistent annoyance is the waist belt buckles and leg (crotch) straps.

Almost all packs use a metal waist buckle that seems designed to invoke profanity, especially with gloves on. Also, nearly all packs use a simple webbing loop that the waistbelt is passed through to provide a leg loop for the harness system. The main issues are that the leg loop falls off or tangles nearly every time the waist belt is undone, and it’s time consuming and sometimes frustrating to be threading the waist belt back through the loop when you need to take your pack completely on and off.

I’m not the only one who has these gripes, we’ve noticed quite a few airbag users clip a carabiner to the end of the leg loop and use the ‘biner to attach to the waist belt. A bit kludgy but better than the downright weird “loop threading” that’s somehow become a design standard for most of these things. (Perhaps most importantly, the hassle of threading the crotch strap instead of easily clipping it on and off causes users to leave it off, more about that below.)

After seeing Acteryx’s awesome new airbag pack at the ISPO, I was inspired to do some mods to try to improve the waistbelt of my current pack. The Arcteryx pack uses a strong “carabiner” system to attach the leg loop, so that the waist belt can use a standard plastic side-release buckle.

(Note the Arcteryx leg strap attachment looks simple at first, but besides using a small carabiner it also has a clever system of anchoring the leg-loop attachment from the waist belt to the airbag structure. My mods detailed in this blog post don’t change the anchoring system so a strong waistbelt buckle is still necessary. Perhaps my next stage is to create the Arcteryx anchor in my test pack.)

I’ve used BCA’s Float 32 for the past few years. I like the pack for the most part, but the waist belt has all the problems mentioned above. In order for the pack to function safely in an avalanche, it’s MANDATORY to wear the leg loop, however I’ll admit I often don’t use the loop because it’s a hassle. If the waist belt system was easier and faster to use, I’d definitely use it more. (Note, there is a least one documented instance of an airbag user being strangled by their balloon pack because they were not using their leg loop.)

Read more backcountry skiing

author
 

A Weekend Of Weather Contrasts In The PNW

By Louie Dawson | February 10, 2016  

After an awesome time exploring Greece and Austria, it’s good to be back in Washington USA. It’s sunny and 65° right now in North Bend, but just a few days ago we were skiing powder — and I’m sure we will again — soon. The PNW is terrific like that.

I spent a day at Crystal Mountain Ski Resort last weekend. Yeah, yeah, it’s a ski area, but it was a good day to avoid unstable slopes and lap some lift accessed pow. I hadn’t skied the Crystal area until this winter, and I’ve been impressed with the lift-accessed side country, as well as the copious backcountry in the area.

We made up for our impiety the next day by enjoying a sunny tour up to Camp Muir on Mount Rainier. Muir is a fairly decent choice in unstable conditions, although there is one steep slope that must be ascended. Although the NWAC forecast was moderate, I felt uneasy about the recent snow, rain layer, and warming temps. Our suspicions were confirmed as we witnessed a few sizable avalanches on south facing slopes throughout the day.

Matt finds deep snow on Saturday. It rained on Friday, so I wasn't expecting much, but the foot of light pow exceeded expectations.

Matt finds deep snow on Saturday. It rained on Friday, so I wasn’t expecting much, but the foot of light pow exceeded expectations.

Read more backcountry skiing

author
 

WildSnow Browsing Security & Safety

By TheEditors OfWildsnow | February 10, 2016  

Not a day goes by you can’t find another news article about compromised websites that can be dangerous to you as a reader-browser of the internet. Our page explaining our security measures is here, but we thought it time to put a blog post up so anyone can ask a question about our website safety, or leave comments and suggestions. (Once or twice a year we’ll bring this post up to the homepage, and we’ll link to it from various locations.)

Essentially, we are doing everything within our power and budget to make WildSnow a safe place to land your browser. Every time a comment is made, it is scanned for bad links. The website is scanned for threats every day. All our advertising banners are served up by Google, they scan every advertiser’s links for threats and will shut down advertiser accounts if they ID something nefarious (they have caught a few). Our webserver is fire-walled and country-blocked to the max, and we run real-time software that constantly adjusts for new threats or suspicious activity.

Read more backcountry skiing

author
 

Anti-Communist Binding — Polish Ingenuity Keeps Shipyard Workers Skiing

By Lou Dawson | February 9, 2016  

The time, late 1980s. The place, shipyards of Gdansk Poland (where the Solidarity movement began that eventually liberated the country). Shipyard machinists and fabricators made 250 surreptitious copies of the Silvretta 404, obviously by hand. The bindings were called the “Trawers” (Traverse in English) and used the heel clamp from a Polish alpine binding called the Gamma. Any of you European readers ski on these? More details in our Trawers Gamma Polish ski touring binding museum display.

'Trawers' hand made copy of Silvretta 404.

At bottom of photo, ‘Trawers’ hand made copy of Silvretta 404 shown at top of photo.

OLDER POSTS »
Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 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 ski touring news and information here, and tons of telemark info.

All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise). This includes publication and display on other websites by whatever means. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

Backcountry skiing is a dangerous sport. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. While the authors and editors of the information on this website make every effort to present useful information about ski mountaineering, due to human error the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

Switch To Mobile Version