Lou’s (Obewhanskinnoobie’s) New Years Predictions 2015


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 2, 2015      

1. Avalanche airbags will become as common as beacons (nearly everyone ski touring in avalanche terrain will use them).

2. Airbag backpacks will continue to lose mass, with around 2 kilos (4.4 pounds) being in my opinion the operative goal for a 30 liter capacity rucksack. In the farther future, better balloon fabrics and improved gas or electric inflation tech will lower the weight even more. I’m waiting to poll retailers on how well the BD Jetforce electric fan pack sold through after its limited release. I’ll not pontificate further, and let the retail shoppers have their say. If you clerk in or own a shop that got an allotment of Jetforce, how did they do?

3. Despite the admirable efforts going to making full-on alpine bindings out of tech bindings, the majority of the ski touring public will look to the lighter weight binding options — to the extent of using skimo race bindings for touring. This will require more involvement from retailers who can properly mount and test such bindings — whether that happens or not is an open question and beyond my powers.

4. Swap sole ski boots (touring and alpine) will continue to disappear. Instead, we’ll see more boots using soles such as WTR and other configurations that mesh with alpine bindings or beefy frame touring bindings. (Note: Thanks readers for reminding about WTR — a good idea that perhaps needs more development and less hype. As for swap soles, Dynafit helped originate this concept in touring boots, and they now don’t sell any boots with swap soles.)

5. Fashion perceptions change. In the case of ski poles, adjustable models will begin to be considered ugly and somewhat geekish; photographers will want nice slim clean sticks in their photos.

6. As airbags gain popularity, large clunky beacons will begin to feel impractical or downright stupid (compare features to a phone 1/4 the size). Likewise, multiple burial features will become a non-issue. As one reader suggested a few days ago, due to the popularity of carrying beacons in a pocket they’ll be sold naked, with harness as an option. (Corollary: look for more touring pants with special beacon pockets.)

7. Several ski bindings using the tech interface (at only the toe, or both toe and heel) will prove to ski hard on the resort as well as the backcountry. While some of these bindings will be certified to ISO standard 13992 for ski touring bindings, more research and testing will show whether or not these bindings actually do offer adequate leg protection and retention. Don’t be fooled by marketing spreech nor our own yammering about ISO standards. We need much more information to determine how good the latest bindings are — despite how nicely anodized the aluminum is or how good the photos look on some website (grin).

8. The one-kilo touring ski will go mainstream, with budget versions available.

9. Brands will continue to produce classic (brake-less) tech bindings that boast modern materials and design, using Fritz Barthel’s decades old design to continue winning the weight wars.

10. Despite efforts to market climbing skins with alternative adhesion, weight will trump things again when thinner skins are introduced with incredibly low mass and tiny storage profiles. Will we get miracle plush to match: fur that climbs like a Honnold and slides like a Hoji? Not sure I want to step in that one; seems that making plush do everything might be like making gum into a neck gaiter.

11. “European” style clothing fit (slimmer) will continue to make inroads, as North American skiers realize they can look good without skiing outfits resembling a burka with a southern waistband.

12. Travel style will continue to influence avalanche accident outcomes worldwide, unfortunately in a negative way due to the propensity of groups to bunch together like hens in a barnyard.

12. Skimo racing will boom in North America, and “uphilling” at resorts will continue to grow like a well fed puppy.

13. Ah, and lest I get staked over a double burner propane cooktop at glacier camp near Haines, I’ll give a nod to splitboarding as a ski touring tool and predict it’ll reach “mainstream” status by the end of 2015. What gives me hope is that I’m seeing obviously fewer snowboarders booting, snowshoeing or otherwise parasitically destroying skin tracks. Instead, they’re skiing uphill! Progress!

14. And what’s the next BIG thing? In my view, the exponential growth of “backcountry skiing” is the biggie. It’s phenomenal, a total example of compound interest. I’m not saying this is good or bad. Sure, fewer people at my favorite haunts would be nice. But I’m enjoying having a nearly endless variety of folks to ski with, and more users on our public land will hopefully lead to powerful advocacy for access and recreation friendly land management. And honestly, since I make my living from backcountry skiing I can’t help but be biased towards at least some degree of growth. But growth does have a downside — comments appreciated. What’s your take about the tracks on your private stash? And if you don’t already ski with an airbag, have any plans to change that?



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Comments

66 Responses to “Lou’s (Obewhanskinnoobie’s) New Years Predictions 2015”

  1. Sean January 2nd, 2015 10:40 am

    Did you get a Mr. Fusion for Christmas? 😉

  2. Dan January 2nd, 2015 10:56 am

    Lou, how about helmets? It surprises me to see so many back-country skiers wearing helmets, even on the up, esp. in the Whistler-Highway 99 area. Although, I don’t drive my car as fast as some of those folks ski. My prediction is that people, like myself (and you), who do not wear helmets in the back-country, will soon be in a minority (and looked upon with the contempt reserved for people who fail to clean up after their dogs).

    Your “airbag” query: Briefly, I would buy one in a heartbeat if it had functionality at least nearly equal to ski packs that I like. They are getting closer, but no cigar yet. Also, why the obsession with black? Personally, I want to be seen and I want to be able to see/find my partners and my pack on those rare occasions that I drop it to tag a summit, or whatever. Happy New Year.

  3. ty January 2nd, 2015 11:40 am

    wore my helmet yesterday and was very glad once i got off route a little bit and there was suddenly only about a foot of snow. i like these predictions, but the majority of people wont carry an airbag anytime soon, you cant charge on tech bindings no matter what any marketer says (i regularly ski two pairs in a day, and there is a difference between my bury titanal sandwiched-full tilt-16 din setup and my “freeride” tech setup. stop arguing, there is a difference)…if tight ski mo looking outfits become the norm thats fine…I prefer my baggy bibs and coat that extends beyond the pack belt, with big skin pockets above the pack belt, all trimmed with no extra nylon. what you wear is a moot point compared to what you ski anyways, so i go with whatever is the lightest while remaining durable. imo arcteryx has nailed that category.

    I ski with an airbag pack for safety and also cause its a really nice pack (MR blackjack…out of production?)

    pretty sure split-ski is already mainstream…i see way more split skiers about than i do snowshoe-booters

    beacons aint going nowhere…people fail to engage their airbags…one thing id like to see, and ive never heard of this, is an airbag pack that can be activated by a partner watching from the ridgeline…dont steal my idea!

    adjustable poles will die? uh, they are pretty useful if you have any kind of flat approach to the goods. i also like to shorten them to 95 cm for steep couloir climbing

    thanks for listening to my crazy rants about the future of our sport. some takeaways that need to be seen in the coming year is that its more about fitness, creativity, passion and deep thought than it is about gear.

  4. Max January 2nd, 2015 11:47 am

    I disagree on the ski pole “involution” (seriously?) and the one kilo category skis. Surely, their market share will continue to grow, but i don´t expect people to seriously consider them a daily driver.
    What is growing at an interesting rate is avalanche awareness in the southern hemisphere. Everything is still fairly rudimentary, institution-wise, but at least the BC skier can choose from a number of programs to sharpen their mountain tools – maybe more cooperation in this department for next winter?

  5. Drew Tabke January 2nd, 2015 12:22 pm

    Prophetic as usual.

    I hope for more accommodation for uphill traffic at ski areas (and single-ride lift tickets), more huts in the mountains of the American West, more Euro-style paravalanches and tunnels on mountain highways that are frequently affected/closed by avalanche activity, wider use of guiding services by mainstream American skiers, and a Kingpin rip-off from Plum.

    Happy New Year!

  6. Drew Tabke January 2nd, 2015 12:24 pm

    Also, I ditched my adjustable poles (as Lou predicted) at the behest of my stylist. Plus, non-adjustables have the added benefit of being more durable and lighter.

  7. Jeremy January 2nd, 2015 1:20 pm

    @Ty

    ABS has had a remote activation option for their airbags for years. Maybe the 300m range is not enough though.

    https://www.abs-airbag.com/en/conf/WIRELESS-ACTIVATION/GR1504WL.html

  8. Jaz January 2nd, 2015 3:26 pm

    I have a question about snow boots.
    I’m taking a back country skiing and winter ecology course at my college and they are providing me all the skis, ski boots, skins, and trekking poles. But I need to buy snow shoes/boots. I don’t know much.. My question is what are some good brand snow shoes that’ll last me 4 weeks of intensive use? Thank you so much for your help!

    -jaz

  9. VT skier January 2nd, 2015 4:23 pm

    I did a Level 1 Avy course last winter at Rogers Pass. Of the the five ‘younger” participants , four were on splitboards; and they were the most active backcountry skiers in the group. The last guy was on Alpine boots, with a passport Marker Duke binding. He suffered.
    Based on this small sample size, I think splitboards will be big in the backcountry.

  10. swissiphic January 2nd, 2015 4:27 pm

    Poor Lou; never skiing snow deep enough to warrant adjusting adjustable ski poles. 😉 Can’t live without them in northwest b.c. Max extension for hard snow flats, max shortening for steep hard snow ascents, normal medium length for colorado snow ;), assymetical for steep sidehill gullies in coastal powtatos. If the adjustable poles are indeed eradicated from the marketplace at least we know who to point our adjustable ski pole tips at for starting the idea meme. 🙂

  11. Sedgesprite January 2nd, 2015 5:26 pm

    2015 Resolution: Quit trying to convince nonbelievers in airbags. Okay, one last try: If airbags were optional on your car, would you elect not to have them and save the money, the weight/milage, and the less than 100% reliability? Alright then i’m done.

  12. Stewart January 2nd, 2015 5:52 pm

    Much is obviously different in Colorado, but in my small Kootenay corner of the backcountry skiing universe nobody I know uses an airbag. The only ones I see are cat-skiing, worn by visiting Euros or wealthy intermediates who’s wives wouldn’t let them come without one. Understand that there are many different and equally valid ways of playing the backcountry game.

  13. OMR January 2nd, 2015 6:11 pm

    Euro sizing? What’s the point? Let’s bring back the terrain park/punk look! Euro sizing blows for most folks. I’m not fat (5’7″, 158lbs) but with the current trend I have to size up just to get the right fit for my thighs and chest, leaving sleeves and in-seam way too long. How about rugby bod sizing? Maybe it’s time I go back to my army surplus wool pants? (Yeah, way too ‘granola’ but the best ski pants ever in terms of warmth, breath-ability and fit.)

    B.C. Popularity? Yea, I agree Lou, it will keep growing, at least until the younger generation starts aging, having kids and starting real careers, and probably longer. I started b.c. In the ’70’s to get away from the resort crowd, yet that same vibe is now skinning for turns. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s plenty of lonely terrain if one is willing to put in the time and effort to find it, even in the way-too crowded Wasatch. That said, resorts should allow uphill traffic (during certain hours) as that fits the needs of many skinners who just want a winter work out and don’t necessarily want powder in avy terrain.

  14. See January 2nd, 2015 7:10 pm

    I’m not sure I understand the attraction of skinning at the resort. I’m thinking it may have something to do with the large population of people getting into BC without trying XC.

  15. George January 2nd, 2015 7:12 pm

    I predict the light gear seekers and airbags won’t cross paths until the airbag weight penalty is 1-2 lb. over a similar pack. Additionally the price must be more reasonable and/or the airbag system transferable between packs. I agree on lighter gear, euro clothing and more touring.

  16. pete h January 2nd, 2015 7:46 pm

    Yes for more huts, more winter recreation access, and euro style steezy ski clothes for skinny dudes like me.

  17. JP January 2nd, 2015 11:15 pm

    A lot of people, self included, get up at the crack of dawn and skin at the resorts before the lifts run as a low exposure way to drop the cardio hammer and stay in shape for when it counts……and its more fun than going to the gym.

    Once the lifts open you are either on your way to work, chose to make it a resort day because BC conditions might have been a bit sketch, afternoon shift, stay at home dad, etc.

    Then there are the Zealots that pass you like you were standing still.

  18. ptor January 3rd, 2015 1:21 am

    The next revolution must be to develop kids (starting at age 5) touring gear including ‘wild’ snow skis. Everything else is unimportant until that happens because there’s been no lack of fun for the big kids for many, many years.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 January 3rd, 2015 2:33 am

    Ptor, indeed, women and children have been under-served by the ski touring gear industry. I don’t know if that’s because of economics or male bias, but it’s a fact. I’ve seen the picture changing but it’s slow. Just this past month a few people contacted me about modding tech bindings for their kids. Shouldn’t have to do that. Bogus that out of the dozens and dozens of tech binding models there isn’t one kid’s model. Or is there one that’s not on my radar?

    You can take one of the springs out of the rear heel unit of most tech bindings and really lower the lateral RV, but the vertical (upwards at the heel) is tougher to mod. You can reduce it somewhat by widening the heel gap a millimeter, but if the child is too small they could still easily get hurt at the lowest possible vertical setting.

    Come to think of it, I might look into this more while I’m at the heart of things over here in Austria.

    Lou

  20. Lou Dawson 2 January 3rd, 2015 2:38 am

    See, what you should do is just try it, then you’ll know what it’s about. Go uphill a resort before the lifts open, with some lightweight gear and tiny backpack. It can be fun but like any other recreation it’s a matter of taste. In some ways it’s a form of backcountry skiing or training for backcountry skiing, which is why we cover it. Also, when you live in a place with limited backcountry skiing access and lots of avalanche danger (most of Colorado), it’s a way to stay on top of your cardio and ski skills game without the complications and danger.

    Another thing, uphilling resorts can be a way of accessing the backcountry without needing to buy a lift ticket. Done that a few times over here, and in Colorado.

    Lou

  21. Lou Dawson 2 January 3rd, 2015 2:47 am

    Dan, helmets are ok, but think about it, are you more likely to get a head injury or an avalanche incident while backcountry skiing? Avalanches are the A-number-one hurter and killer. Sure, wear the helmet and the airbag, but if you have a choice you need the airbag, not the helmet. Thinking that a helmet is some kind of necessity for backcountry skiing, and not the airbag, is wrong thinking, the result of this somewhat weird helmet evangelism that’s been going on for some years now.

    Know that I’m not “against” helmets. I’m just a realist when it comes to safety gear. Mainly, if we’re going to wear helmets I’m of the opinion they should offer more protection than the current standards, which are meager.

    The tragedy is we’re all still skiing on bindings that essentially use technology developed 30 years to a century ago, binding that can still damage our bodies to the extent of being life altering — and we sit around pontificating and nattering about helmets.

    Lou

  22. Lou Dawson 2 January 3rd, 2015 2:55 am

    Ty, I like your strong take, and Drew, you have the max days and experience so your take is valued as well. Thanks everyone!

    BTW, just this morning in the Austrian newspaper, 12 people at one time caught in avy. Can we ever get to a trend where these large groups stop getting entrained all at once!? As predicted, the trend seems to be the opposite. I’d suggest to anyone that some of the best ways to make the day safer is to spread groups out, and keep your groups small.

    Lou

  23. rhd January 3rd, 2015 6:09 am

    Here in Euro land I’ve seen the skin track getting wider and wider with many people mixing big skiis and light tech bindings.

    Some places can be considered skin accessed resorts their are so many people visiting. Infact a lift shut a few years ago and there are more people in the car park now than there was ever whilst a lift ran.

    Helmets: As boots/bindings/skiis get so much better the ability to shred harder does make me think about my skull.

  24. Lou Dawson 2 January 3rd, 2015 7:14 am

    RH, I’ve seen the same thing in just the 7 or so years I’ve been coming here, it’s been amazing. The locals seem to take it in stride though I’ve heard plenty of mumbling. What really ticks off the locals is then they show up at their favorite touring hill and they find a new cable, that’s even happened to us, very disappointing. Luckily the Alps are just huge, and if they spread out the touring there’s room. But just like North America people seem to concentrate due to access issues, parking, and human nature. Lou

  25. ptor January 3rd, 2015 7:18 am

    Lou, I think it’s been just a lack of vision and a real perspective on what skiing actually is. Whoever is first to make kids touring gear will rule the gear world!

  26. George January 3rd, 2015 8:08 am

    @Ptor – The only small people tech binding I found is the Plum Guide XS (lowest release of 3.5), which is still too high for most kids. The tech compatible boots are the biggest problem assuming binding mods work. For my 9 year old son. I found Scarpa Velvets in 22.5 (Sierra Trading Post), Dynafit comfort bindings (ebay) and Volk Mantra 128 cm (used). Last year we used Fritschi Diamir bindings with alpine boots, but that is too heavy and unfair when I am on tech bindings.

  27. See January 3rd, 2015 8:38 am

    Lou, point taken— don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it. I guess all I’m really suggesting is that (in my opinion) nordic is the original and still champion “low overhead” bc ski workout.

  28. dmr January 3rd, 2015 10:07 am

    @rhd: Indeed. An 82mm waist in 2006 in the Alps meant that the downhill ski was halfway out of the track. Now an 82mm waist ski in the Alps is no problem and on the narrower side of average.

    @Lou regarding helmets: I know that you are primarily addressing the descent in your comments, but for those of us who do a fair amount of ski-mountaineering (ice axe/crampons, couloirs, etc.), a helmet is useful protection on the ascent against rock and ice fall.

  29. XXX_er January 3rd, 2015 12:29 pm

    I think kids sized touring gear is just around the corner the reason being the popularity of uphill skiing, look at sales of alpine gear which I understand is pretty flat while AT is booming, if there is a market look for the big companies to make kid sized gear

  30. larry crispell January 3rd, 2015 3:13 pm

    Hi Lou, Maybe you could help me with a boot problem. My normal backcountry setup is Scarpa Maestrales with Dynafit binding on Wailer DPS. My boots are size 32 (Scarpa may actually sell on the half size so they may actually be 31.5) I would like to also get a lighter boot for a more rondo race setup, more like a Dynalfit TLT or Alien, but haven’t been able to find any boot like that in the large size. My friend thinks the old green Scarpa F1 was made in large sizes and I should look for a used one, do you know if this is the case? New ones would be fine if you have any ideas about a lightweight AT boot in a large size. Thank you, Larry

  31. Jim Milstein January 3rd, 2015 5:18 pm

    I am not real thrilled with airbags. First, they’re way too heavy and expensive. Second, they add complexity to an already fiddly sport (ski/walk modes for skis and boots, skins, temp regulation, adjustable poles(!), &c.). And, third, I personally worry much more about a slide straining me through trees than burial.

    There are so many ways an avalanche can harm a human, and airbags mitigate (but do not cure) only one of these.

    It’s likely that the greater confidence given a backcountry user by an airbag cancels its contribution to his/her safety.

    I have a simple proposal for a better bag. It is worn always inflated, and it is inflated with hydrogen. Forget the pack. This solves the weight problem and the fiddly problem, and it helps keep your gross gear weight down too due to the built in lift. It should be cheap. Initially, wearers will seem very dorky, but eventually Miley Cyrus will be spotted twerking with one in the Alps, and the dorkiness will be forgot. You read it here first.

  32. Alin January 3rd, 2015 8:07 pm

    I had to buy for my kid Marker F10 bindingds that make his gear heavier than mine. I can’t wait to see some tech bindings designed for kids.
    Going uphill at resorts would also be great for getting the kids into touring.

  33. Eric Steig January 4th, 2015 12:41 am

    Regarding beacons in pockets, I agree, harnesses are probably going to be a thing of the past; but I hope they still sell them as an option…

    I was once doing beacon practice (thank goodness it was only practice) and the zipper on my pocket got stuck. Really stuck. I could not get the beacon out. Scared the heck out of me. I wonder how many people think about this possibility when pocketing their beacon. I’m now extra-careful when thinking about which pocket, what kind of zipper it has, whether there are any loose threads that could get stuck, etc…

  34. Steve January 4th, 2015 1:18 am

    Lou,

    There’s a fairly modern study out that was presented at ISSW about the role of helmets being a “trauma reducer” in avalanches. I’ll try to dig it up.

    Steve

  35. Tom January 4th, 2015 1:41 am

    There are lots of comments about tech gear for kids. I think there’s a very real reality check here – would you trust a 7 year old to keep it together when his dad is buried and ever have a shot of finding him, then having the physical capacity to dig through avi debris (something most professionals find incredibly demanding) to get him out… If you couldn’t confidently say yes (I don’t think you could) – then why put that kid in the backcountry in the first place? Therefore, why bother with kid sized tech gear?

  36. Lou Dawson 2 January 4th, 2015 1:42 am

    Jim, it will indeed be very interesting to see if the new wave of technology use has any effect on reducing avalanche deaths. It will take some sophisticated studies to figure that out, but I won’t be surprised if there is little to no reduction, due to people taking more risks. The key is to be self disciplined and be a member of the demographic that still takes care, but also uses the safety gear, then you get the benefit. Moreover, as I’ve stated many times, the only true way to stay safe from avalanche injury or death is to not get caught in avalanches. Sure, that’s stating the obvious, but it’s obvious many people don’t pay much attention to that and still adhere to the myth of the gentile puffy avalanche ride that ends with a smile as your airbag, beacon, Avalung and helmet shield you from all harm. Lou

  37. Lou Dawson 2 January 4th, 2015 1:54 am

    Come on Tom, in most areas with active ski touring there are routes with little or no avalanche danger, and uphilling at resorts is also fun for kids. Lou

  38. rhd January 4th, 2015 6:23 am

    Reducing absolute deaths via airbags will not happen as we have an ever increasing population of back country skiers with the same amount of risk (maybe more with perceived risk decrease from airbag wearers).
    Statistically their maybe a reduction in surviving an avalanche with an airbag but in life and death scenario’s I’d like to see an increase in education available for reduced rates at resorts (Europe is virtually zero) not product weight decrease.
    I am aware that commercialization works on selling stuff though :/

  39. VT skier January 4th, 2015 7:06 am

    Backcountry setup for kids?
    Small telemark boots are available, and 3 pin bindings. A light , free pivot binding like the Voile Switchback would suffice. Small kids don’t need the complexity of a pin-tech binding with an iffy release for their light weight. You won’t be taking them into very steep terrain either, just meadow skipping.
    Generally speaking, the flexibility of a duck bill toe will protect them from injury in a crash, and they might learn a beautiful turn 😉

  40. Lou Dawson 2 January 4th, 2015 9:16 am

    VT, I somewhat agree with you but I’ve seen some young folks brought up telemarking who didn’t learn how to do a beautiful alpine turn, though they quickly caught on… Lou

  41. ptor January 4th, 2015 10:23 am

    Reality check for you Tom…Kids on touring gear has nothing necessarily to do with skiing in avalanche terrain…or even going uphill at ski resorts for that matter. Anybody that lives on hilly terrain (let alone in mountain valleys) where it snows… has kid-friendly touring terrain. Remember as a kid how huge everything seemed? No need for ski lifts anymore with kiddy powder skis. And that’s the whole point, introducing the youth to skiing and not lift-skiing. But maybe your kid needs to wear a transceiver and airbag while tobogganing?

  42. Jim Milstein January 4th, 2015 10:44 am

    Lou sez, “but I’ve seen some young folks brought up telemarking who didn’t learn how to do a beautiful alpine turn . . . .”

    The horror! But as a consolation prize they learned another beautiful turn. Someday there will be another Telemark Revival, and they’ll be ready.

  43. Lou Dawson 2 January 4th, 2015 11:22 am

    And the revival will be held at the new telemark mecca!!

  44. Lou Dawson 2 January 4th, 2015 11:31 am

    Hey, in all seriousness, I just consulted with the guru of the tech binding about how to work typical tech binding for kids, example being Dynafit TLT type. He said that the toe unit alone, without the heel unit engaged to boot, is equivalent of about DIN 3 in lateral release value. Further, the lowest you can set the binding to with the heel unit engaged to the boot, is about 4, with the inner of the two rear lateral release springs removed. Thing is, you have to have some tension in the rear lateral release spring or the binding housing will pull up off the center post. In my experience bringing up our skier son, the tech binding with one of the rear springs removed and set low was low enough in lateral, but needed to be a bit lower of a release value in vertical (upward at the heel) release. Guru says you could perhaps take a millimeter off the internal vertical release springs and get a reduction of 1 step in release value, making the vertical value a 3 instead of 4. Sounds like something fun for the mod shop.

    Bummer is that small boots with tech fittings are rather scarce.

  45. Billy Balz January 4th, 2015 1:12 pm

    I have my 7 yr old on some speed radicals set at lowest setting using his mom’s 23 mondo boots with socks stuffed in the toe area to make them work (he’s probably a mondo 21). We are super careful and he’s competently racing/carving at U10 level so we just take it slow on the AT rig. Powder still has him confounded, so we are even more careful with that.

  46. Lou Dawson 2 January 4th, 2015 2:48 pm

    Billy, at least do a bench test, carpet test, with the smaller internal spring removed from the heel unit. At 7 years old you might want a lower side/lateral release… Lou

  47. Billy Balz January 4th, 2015 4:58 pm

    Thanks Lou, actually will be fun venturing inside a Dynafit for the first time. Been married so long it’ll be like my first time.

  48. Mark Worley January 4th, 2015 9:46 pm

    I use only tech bindings–backcountry and resort and have exclusively for about 9 years. And I now have 1 kilo-ish skis that will be my daily drivers without doubt! Airbag packs I want, but also want them MUCH lighter and more affordable before I take that plunge.

  49. powbanger January 5th, 2015 12:09 am

    The WTR norm is going to be a strong direction for boots in the next 24 months. It isn’t just a BC thing as many users have discovered apre (or hike mode if you wish) to be a comfort option rather than its marketed or intended use. I will agree AT boots (TLT, etc.) moving exclusively to the weight savings of bonded rubber soles, but as long as skiing public wants replaceable toes and heels to increase boot’s life span there will be replaceable toes and heels with WTR or Alpine DIN norm options.

  50. Jernej January 5th, 2015 12:46 am

    Not very clear but might be of interest… video of the 12 person avalanche on Mölltaler Gletscher last Friday as seen from the chairlift

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEQovFDPamo

  51. rhd January 5th, 2015 1:27 am

    That avalanche is not really a “backcountry” avalanche. You can see how 12 people would have got caught in it as its basically above the piste/itinerary route. Surprised the slope wasn’t more secured by ski patrol as people will just traverse, traverse and traverse to get fresh. I might be wrong though.

  52. rhd January 5th, 2015 1:47 am

    Very interesting article about airbags vs education: http://www.sierramtnguides.com/avalanche-airbags-vs-avalanche-education/

  53. Lou Dawson 2 January 5th, 2015 2:29 am

    Werner at Contour Skins just reminded me about the touring adapter for kids. Combined with a lightweight kid’s alpine binding it could be an alternative for short introductory jaunts, with the advantage of the kid being able to use their familiar alpine gear on the downhill. Too much weight could be the disadvantage.

    http://www.kochalpin.at/en/brands/contour/startup

  54. Jernej January 5th, 2015 4:13 am

    The thing with Austrian ski resorts (also similar in Slovenia) is that under the law they are only responsible for avalanche paths that could injure people on the open piste or where damage to the lifts is possible. This particular path just goes down to the lake as I recall and doesn’t interfere with the pistes or anything else where the resort would be liable. There is no area boundary as such within which you could consider yourself “safe”. If you’re out of bounds (as in out of groomed and opened terrain) you’re on your own (usually).

    I recall one incident (might be two years ago) where a guy was swept down into a gulch just 2m from the piste (probably killed but don’t remember the details). He might not even have been there intentionally but the resort technically wasn’t responsible for that terrain. I myself have been in a small slide, one or two turns away from the piste where I was basically just cutting a corner. As that (albeit small) path doesn’t reach the groomed terrain there is no avalanche control and entirely my own responsibility. On the other hand there was an incident with some royalty (Danish prince or something) who got caught on the piste by a slide started high above him. Don’t know how that played out legally.

    Lou – I just saw that touring adapter for kids a few days ago in Graz. Seems a good solution as it’s adaptable to various sizes as kids grow and who knows how interested they’ll be over time.

  55. UNIS January 5th, 2015 5:58 am

    I think kites will become the next big thing in alpine touring.

    Currently most people consider snowkiting and skitouring as two separate types of activity, but this will change and more skiers will be kiting uphill instead of skinning.

    The reason for this is the recent developments in single skin depower foil kites. Traditionally, open or closed cell type foils have been the go-to kites for snowkiting. Cell foils get the job done, but they are heavy and bulky, so not suited for carrying on a long tour where the wind can die or on the downhills. Furthermore, switching kite size takes long enough for it to be annoying. Cell foils are therefore mostly used in pure snowkiting sessions on flat ground. In comparison, the new type of single skin kites weight much less, take up a lot less room, are way faster and easier to launch/pack down, works in a broader range of wind conditions and are generally cheaper. Carrying both a large and a small kite in a skiing backpack is now possible.

    In many ways, the new single skin foils compare to traditional cell foils in the same way that tech compares to frame bindings. Lighter, faster, more versatile etc.

    Right now the only such product on the market is the Flysurfer Peak/Peak2. Since its release only about a year ago, the Peak has gained a huge popularity for kiting in backcountry terrain. Surely Ozone, PL, HQ and others must be working overtime at designing their versions of a similar single skin foil. In two or three years, the selection of single skins will be huge and the performance and possibilities they bring will cause the market segment for snowkites to expanded to people who previously had no interest in kites. People like most of the readers of wildsnow who consider themselves ski tourers, not kiters, but who will simple adapt the kite as a compliment to skins once they realize the benefits.

    For me, bringing a kite along is now as obvious a choice as bringing skins and crampons. By carrying just 2 kg (a 6m Peak2) the long slow approach becomes a fast speed kiting trip.

    (Sorry for the bad English)

  56. dave January 5th, 2015 7:29 am

    “are you more likely to get a head injury or an avalanche incident while backcountry skiing?”

    In my case clearly head injury, no doubt. Depends on how you ski.

  57. dave January 5th, 2015 7:33 am

    throwing in my 50cts. There will be dozens of new drones, small enough and packable to fit in a backpack. with wristbands or other ways to have it follow you and film you. this will enable a bunch of kids to make movies that will come damn close to what matchstick put out a few years ago for under 1000$. It will also allow to scope lines before you ski it. And it will lead to even more people taking excessive risk for getting the perfect shot. Give it 2 years, the 2015 models are still too bulky.

  58. Kristian January 5th, 2015 10:50 am

    Helmets – No matter how awesome you are, sooner or later you will catch a buried rock, tree root, or unpredictable random dog, and be pitched into a tree or rock.

    Avalanche Pack – I am now a happy proud owner of a classic rucksack style Snowpulse RAS 35 liter.

    Poles – On the flats, I extend to armpit length and classic cross country style stride.

    Kids – Backcountry is potentially dangerous. Let them be kids. Start them out with cross country and resort alpine. They can progress to the backcountry when they get older.

    Super thanks for doing this awesome website!

  59. Tjaard January 5th, 2015 12:23 pm

    Re. kites:

    I’m writing this as a prediction, not as what I’d like to see happen( we seem to be mixing those two up):

    Kites will NOT become a significant part of mainstream skiing, because:
    1- they are big and expensive and require an entire new set of skills be learned.
    2- in the USA, kites can not be used in Wilderness. Much of prime backcountry skiing is in Wilderness.

    BTW, personally I am for more wind powered recreation, including in Wilderness, but that’s the way the law reads.

  60. Alin January 5th, 2015 3:42 pm

    Thanks Lou for looking into this, really useful information!

  61. ptor January 5th, 2015 11:34 pm

    Thanks Lou, those adapters are a good start but…they don’t eliminate the improper design of kids skis for wild snow. Papa could always haul the extra weight. But regardless, it was very difficult for my son to accept that he couldn’t have touring bindings like mine 🙁

  62. Lou Dawson 2 January 6th, 2015 12:11 am

    Ptor, child rearing 101, “you can’t have everything, all the time…” preparation for life…

  63. Jim Milstein January 6th, 2015 8:11 am

    How about, “You can’t have anything, ever.”? True for many many. Instead of their resentment, teach the little tykes gratitude for their happy conditions. Not everyone gets to ski.

  64. Alin January 6th, 2015 11:27 am

    My kid is happy with his setup (Atomic Mini Bent Chetler, Marker F10, Salomon Quest Access, G3 Expedition) as it looks more like his resort setup that he used for six years before getting into this. But I feel like it’s a bit unfair for him that his 143 cm skis with bindings seem heavier than my 177 cm skis with tech bindings. Anyway after two days of touring, no towing needed yet (he doesn’t even know that he would have this option). And he’s very excited to play with the skins and the climbing aids.

  65. Shawn January 6th, 2015 12:51 pm

    Re: backcountry too dangerous for kids

    Nothing beats a family summit picnic in prime spring conditions, followed by a cruise back to the car. There are many options, even in Colorado, for easy spring trips with nearly zero hazard. I think the skiing traffic at most big resorts is way more dangerous. (I have Spar Gulch at Aspen Mountain in mind.)

    I’ve been touring with my kids (now 7 and 11) for 2+ years, and I’ve tried several binding options, including Silvretta Pure Kidz and a shortened Naxo. I’ve concluded that the best option is nordic skis with skins on the way up and alpine on the way down, until they fit an adult boot, then switch to tech bindings. The burden of carrying kids’ alpine gear on my back was much less than that of watching and listening to them suffer with heavy, sub-optimal gear. Telemark is almost as good an option, but it is still heavy and uncomfortable relative to our nordic gear. My littlest one will hike/climb a good distance with the comfort of nordic gear and a short rope from Dad.

  66. Brian January 13th, 2015 8:28 pm

    After using various adjustable poles for years and not really adjusting them that often, I’m back to rigid poles. A couple of months in Cham last year convinced me to go back them. Black Crows makes some burly, belay anchor strong sticks with long grips that are truly elegant. They plunge grip first into the snow at steep transitions and are virtually unbreakable. The long grips allow some choking up on booters and sidehills. Low profile ends make them easy to stash under the shoulder strap or behind the back on rappels. I’ll miss the ability to extend them out to 135cm on the flats from time to time but the other advantages trump that for me.

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  • 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 ski touring 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.

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