Big thanks to Backcountry Access for sponsoring this avalanche education content. Check out the additional plethora of avalanche safety resources on their website.
Sad avalanche news coming in from around the world, for example, the horrible tragedy in Switzerland. Close to home, long time Jackson ski patroller Mark Wolling was caught while doing control work and is fighting for his life. Prayers from here for him, friends and family. Wolling’s accident is reminiscent of the ski patrollers who got caught in Highland Bowl (near Aspen) in 1984, in that they were standing on what they thought was solid and safe, threw hand charges below them, but the slope fractured above them. Tricky stuff to deal with, for sure. More on Wolling accident here, the photo is chilling.
Speaking of avy safety, I should mention that near here (up in Aspen this evening), Pieps is doing some beacon seminars that anyone who seeks excellence in avalanche safety should attend. More here.
Big news here at WildSnow HQ is that we’re having fun with the new Black Diamond “Efficient Series” gear; lightweight boots and skis that have BD’s stamp of innovation. Look for reviews starting tomorrow. Meanwhile, I should mention that since last winter I’ve been using the BD pure mohair skins quite extensively. While my testers did require a bit of break-in before I got the glide I expected from mohair, they nicely fit that “efficient glidy” gap in BD’s skin line and are worth considering for a couple of things. First, if you do long, low angled tours mohair is the way and the truth. Second, if you need a spare set of skins for carrying in your backpack, mohairs are usually lighter than nylons and pack with less bulk, so they’re good for that as well. Thirdly, if you want something really efficient, buy a pair of mohairs to cut lengthwise and make two pair of “skinny skins” for those endless snowcovered road walks and stuff like that.
Things to remember about mohair skins: They do have nearly the climb of nylons when they’re new, but they loose that fast and are thus the wrong choice for areas with steep skin tracks, such as the Wasatch. Also, mohair skins wear out at a much faster rate than nylons. To address the wear and climbing angle issue, BD, Dynafit and other companies do make mohair skins with nylon mixed in. I find the “mixers” to be an excellent compromise — but still enjoy wall-to-wall nylon when the skin tracks are testosterone inspired, or for missions such as wind scoured fourteeners where walking over rocks and scree is a normal part of the day. And if you can only afford one set of skins, nylon is probably the way to go.
More news from the home front is I’m packing today for Salt Lake City and Europe. I’ll drive the Silverado to SLC tomorrow, and hop over the pond the next day to Munich. Then it’s back to SLC for the OR show at the end of the month. If all goes according to plan, I’ll hang out with the Barthel family again (the inventors of the Dynafit binding), and attend Dynafit’s annual “Press Event,” this time held at a hut in the Swiss Alps.
The idea with these press event “FAMs” (FAMiliarization) is they inspire jaded journalists such as myself drink the company Coolaid so we’ll write more favorably about their stuff. Advantage of doing this in Europe is that instead of Coolaid they serve Weissbier. Crisp perfectly tempered Weissbier usually induces clarity of mind, but in this case it’s suspected that the engineering gnomes at Salewa/Dynafit still come up with ester compounds extracted from blueberries that cause the Weisbeir at their events to transform your baggy North American softshell pant to Lycra racing tights. Whatever happens, look for the usual series of trip reports and gear overviews over the coming two weeks (it’s said Dynafit has some interesting new product!)
That’s it for now. As you can imagine, packing is the priority.