Ski Touring News Roundup — End of May 2017

Post by blogger | May 26, 2017      
Backcountry skiing news.

Backcountry ski touring news.

Almost forgot this one, it’s a big deal. Outdoor Retailer and SIA trade shows are merging, with the new mega-show probably held in Denver during January of 2018. Two U.S. trade shows covering skiing — and ISPO Munich — the situation was truly lame. This will be so much better for those of us doing ski journalism. What is more, attendance at both shows has not exactly been exploding, time to consolidate. Condensed press release follows:

Under the new ownership of Emerald Expositions, the January SIA Snow Show will merge with Outdoor Retailer to become the Outdoor Retailer + Snow Show endorsed and sponsored by SnowSports Industries America and Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), and will be the largest outdoor and winter sports industry gathering in North America.

SIA will remain an active partner in support of the event. OIA will be the co-title sponsor of all Outdoor Retailer winter shows and the title sponsor of Outdoor Retailer summer shows.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our members and the industry as a whole,” said Nick Sargent, SIA President.

“For quite some time, the industry has asked to merge the shows. A consolidated trade show not only helps reduce the stress on our industry, but also provides a platform that offers more impact for our members to do business, while delivering a greater ROI.”

“By merging these two January shows, we will bring the outdoor and snow sports industries together under one roof, creating an optimal and authentic forum for exhibitors and retailers alike,” said Marisa Nicholson, vice president of the Sports Group for Emerald Expositions and Outdoor Retailer Show Director.”

BCA, K2, Dalbello, Marker… The list goes on. All sold to Kohlberg & Company LLC private equity firm. I doubt this will make much difference to us or the normal consumer. (Though we’d hope they have more money for advertising on a website called WildSnow!) In the interest of full information, see the open letter below (condensed) from Newell Brands (K2) president and CEO Robert Marcovitch, previous owner (if you didn’t know who the heck owned these companies, you are not alone).

May 26, 2017. …Newell Brands announced today the sale of its Winter Sports businesses, inclusive of Völkl®, K2®, Marker®, Dalbello®, Madshus®, Line®, Full Tilt®, Atlas®, Tubbs®, Ride® and BCA® to Kohlberg & Company, LLC, a leading private equity firm with expertise in the consumer products sector… We are pleased with the outcome as we know that Kohlberg & Company, LLC is the right owner for our Winter Sports businesses. Kohlberg brings many years of successful experience investing in leading consumer branded companies, and with Kohlberg we will have an owner who is exclusively focused on helping our company achieve its full potential. We expect the sale to close late in the second quarter or early in the third quarter of 2017. During this time period, we will continue to operate business as usual… Robert Marcovitch

Mount Everest is having a somewhat normal climbing season, meaning the mountain is overcrowded and dangerous. Condolences to the friends and families of those who have perished there. Less grim, it’s being reported that the 2015 earthquake dismantled the Hillary Step, which is the crux for making a ski descent with minimal or zero downclimbing. That’ll be interesting. For more Everest reading, check out Alan Arnette’s blog, where he’s broken down the cost of climbing Chomolungma like he’s prepping for an IRS corporate tax return. Also, this BBC article about Everest as a “graveyard in the clouds” is quite an epic read.

In the cyber-world, virtual tragedy can happen. Some of you might have frequented the website, a fairly large “forum” style publication that covered literally all aspects of snow skiing. The site existed from 1999 till a few days ago, accumulating what must have been hundreds of thousands of posts. All that user generated content had to be worth something, yet the site was bought ostensibly by “Vail” whose representatives write that “a number of operational, legal and other considerations made selling or giving the archive to anyone else too challenging.” If you put soul into an online community, be aware it could go away in a puff of smoke.

Europeans do interesting studies regarding avalanche rescue. Check out this evaluation of shovel shape vs snow volume moved over at They come up with several conclusions I found interesting — though the study in my opinion is flawed due to the digging scenario involving a big box of snow rather than a more realistic “conveyor belt” excavation that involves moving snow both horizontally and vertically. In other words, this study is strictly measuring how much snow can be moved by a given shovel shape, NOT how those shovel shapes could be optimally deployed in combination during a real rescue dig. In any case:

1. The stronger people in a group should do the digging.

2. Swap diggers often if you have available manpower.

3. And the winner!? They tested three shovel shapes
— Deep shovel blade connected straight with the shaft (DS), meaning a shovel with raised sides.
— Flat shovel blade connected straight with the shaft (FS), has minimal side flange height.
— Deep shovel blade with the shaft connected in clearing mode (DC), what I call “hoe” mode.

Results summarized in the abstract, bolded emphasis and comments by us here at WildSnow:

“The deep shovel blade (DS), with a 47% larger volume than that of the flat shovel blade (FS), both with a straight shaft, proved to be much more effective in the given test environment. Both the snow mass shifted per unit time and the snow volume per scoop were approximately 15% higher with DS as compared to FS. The increase in the snow volume removed per scoop corresponded to the difference in the volume size of the shovel blades. Interestingly, the mean and maximum shoveling rates did not depend on the shovel shape used. The smaller amount of snow removed per scoop with FS did not lead to an increase in the shoveling rate (that’s always been my theory with smaller shovels; that you’d just shovel faster, wrong?)…”

(Thanks Hacksaw for alerting us to this study).

Summer reading: The secret map building process, Google. Or why you got directed across a broken bridge into a high crime area, or don’t.

Central Colorado locals, ALERT ALERT: it looks like Independence Pass will be opening possibly event today, so this weekend will be the time. We expect the snow up there to stay good for at least 4 weeks. More, with our amazingly solid snowpack we might have summer skiing up there on into July. Note that the informal picnic and party on the Pass is said to be occurring this coming Saturday, May 27. We hope to see you up there! (Weather date is the next weekend Saturday, June 3).



10 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup — End of May 2017”

  1. OMR May 26th, 2017 9:05 pm

    The two most dangerous terms to innovation and creativity in the outdoor industry (RIP Black Diamond):
    “Private Equity Firm” and, “IPO.”
    Once they take on the bottom-line-investor mindset the courageous creativity is toast.

  2. Kevin S May 27th, 2017 12:40 pm

    OMR You are mostly correct but many of these companies would have never grown or innnovated without help from righ minded Private Equity. The trick for young, growing companies is to find the right Equity folks who share the vision and are willing to subordinate outsized profits for reasonable profits for the risk taken.

  3. Harry May 27th, 2017 1:36 pm

    Also all of these companies, save Dalbello, which was a relatively recent Jarden acquisition prior to the Newell acquisition of Jarden, have been publicly traded for years, to the detrimental effect you describe.

    The alternative was either being shut down or left to rot on the vine as Newell made it clear that the highly variable performance of wintersports brands were dragging down the performance targets, and stock price, of a many billion dollar company that they are a tiny little part of.

    Even bankruptcy couldn’t turn K2 into more of a hot mess than it is at the moment. So I wouldn’t worry to much about what these unknowns might do.

    Furthermore, Newell made it known that they were uninterested in selling their wintersports operations piecemeal. Many parties were interested in some of the individual brands but not the whole. Kohlberg parting out the division to private buyers would be a very good thing in my opinion.

  4. Phil May 27th, 2017 1:56 pm

    Re. Shovelling study. While the results aren’t surprising, it seems to me that an avalanche debris study that uses loose granular snow is not very applicable to reality. Also, shovelling out of a box isn’t really representative of a real world scenario either, nor does it make using paddling techniques very possible/effective. That may influence shovel shape/size performance. I can imagine other box designs (e.g., a buried, wedge-shaped box) that would be better. I wonder how it compares w other studies….

  5. Lou Dawson 2 May 27th, 2017 4:41 pm

    Yeah, it seemed a bit strange to just test what shovel could move the most snow in such a contrived situation. I would have done everything possible to simulate a medium to deep burial, and tested with a few different team number strengths (one companion, 3 companions, unlimited volunteers, and so on. As for snow consistency, in a soft slab avalanche live burial rescue, the deposition snow usually doesn’t “set up” all that much until life is probably gone, so their snow consistency choice is ok by me. It’s what you’d be digging if you’re actually saving someone’s life. Lou

  6. Lou Dawson 2 May 27th, 2017 5:03 pm

    Pass party didn’t go off today due to weather, folks say meet up there June 3, next weekend.

  7. Scott May 27th, 2017 5:46 pm

    We were there Lou! Missed having a Brat when we got down.
    It was a full blown winter storm day up there today!!!

  8. Crazy Horse May 27th, 2017 8:02 pm

    As someone who had a company I created eaten by an “entrepreneur” employing the private equity model, let me describe how it works.

    Find a company whose hard assets value exceeds its market capitalization but is in need of additional capital to expand. Borrow money to loan to it in exchange for executive control. Load the company down with management fees to siphon all its lifeblood into the hands of the private equity vulture company. Sell off anything of value, bankrupt the company, fire all its employees, , and leave the dry husk blowing in the wind.

    One of he individuals often credited with inventing or perfecting the model is former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. When Romney was a young and ambitious junior executive at Bain Capital, he presented the idea to Bill Bain. Bain said “Great idea, but you can’t screw any of my existing clients or approach them for start up capital.” The idea went nowhere until Romney had the brilliant idea of using money he laundered for oligarchs from El Salvador who were funding the death squads maintaining control over their country. To this day their families are still major investors in Bain Capital.

    Just business as usual.

  9. Kevin S May 27th, 2017 8:39 pm

    Crazy Horse- To give Mitt Romney credit for a business model that has been around longer than Mitt has been wearing that funny undergarment is giving him too much credit. I am sorry to hear you were taken by evil financiers hence one of the many reasons I exited that world many years ago.

  10. Paul Diegel May 30th, 2017 9:50 pm

    Crazy Horse – the scenario you describe sucks and is all too common. Be careful though not to assume that that is always what happens. There are other examples of Private Equity firms that really do want to create sustainable value, even if they just believe that is a more effective way to get rich. And the basic concept, finding deep pockets to develop a company or technology when it can’t be done organically, is still in theory at least a reasonable model. Getting a publicly traded company to think long term sustainability and consider the public good is more complicated, but sometimes happens. I don’t know if it is the low margins, the competition, the weather dependency, or whatever else, but holding companies and publicly traded companies don’t seem to fit well in the outdoor products world, though

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