Ski Touring News Roundup – Mid December 2017

Post by blogger | December 14, 2017      
Backcountry ski touring news.

Backcountry ski touring news.

This just in, edited 12/19 to reflect more information received: I’d heard allusions for some time that Black Diamond would soon be ceasing production of their current Jetforce avalanche airbag backpack, and would not put their new “Jetforce 2” version into retail for a year or more. Thus there could be a delay in availability. Such production info rumors were recently seconded by sources, while official word from BD is that Jetforce 1 is “in production” and ver 2 is in the process of being certified by TUV, which takes an inordinate amount of time. Rumor mill says changes in production of Jetforce 1 and possible delay in availability of version 2 are due to factors such as an airbag saturated market, expense of production and potential liability issues (lest we remember the whole reason BD exists is because of a gear liability lawsuit, they thus have a right to be touchy). In terms of availability, my guess is plenty of Jetforce packs are stocked in warehouses, and will remain available for some time no matter when or if production stops. So no need to panic.

(This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.)

My informed guess as to the elephant in the BD meeting room? Simply this: Jetforce competes with a slew of less expensive and lighter weight options that function perfectly (compressed gas operated). According to product developers I spoke with when Jetforce was first released, Black Diamond put weight and price as lower factors in their design philosophy. That was disappointing to myself and many others who know for certain that weight in the ski touring market trumps nearly every other factor in gear purchase decisions. We had high hopes for electricity doing something marvelous (at least in terms of weight) for the avalanche rucksack — and Black Diamond taking the lead on that. While the Jetforce electronic pack was cool, especially at first look, it was ultimately disappointing. Sure, it makes air travel easier — until you leave behind your ice axe due to exceeding your weight allotment. Looking at the total picture, if packs based on super capacitors work the way I think they will, BD might be making a mistake releasing Jetforce 2 just when a possibly better electrical technology makes batteries obsolete for this sort of thing. On the other hand, the capacitor packs might prove to be very expensive, in that case it’ll be amusing if the premium price point for airbag backpacks creeps significantly above $1,0000, and rucksacks such as Jetforce look like a deal!

The lack of snow in our home state Colorado has been a disappointment — though last night we did get a dusting of stellar crystals over most of the state’s mountains. Cake icing, though with rocks instead of sweetness underneath. We’re all watching the OpenSnow website like our meals depend on it. For some of us, especially smaller retailers, that is so.

In any case, amusing yesterday when Joel at OpenSnow recommended snowshoeing the Colorado thinlands. I’m not sure where he came up with the idea of how snowshoeing on 4 inches of snow had any utility — you can just as well hike the same terrain in trail running shoes.

But whatever. Many Colorado resorts have embraced uphill skiing, could snowshoeing be the next big thing? Think of it, ‘shoes work on rocks, scree, dirt and the thinner the snow the better. Quite versatile compared to skis. Perhaps we should all switch. It’s an incredibly fun activity for the whole family!

Dry winters in many regions of the world can bring bare ice on lakes and streams. That’s when the enormous mainstream sport of extreme backcountry ice skating rears it’s helmeted head. This little video evokes the appeal.

Well, yet another of many chances (ha) for your’s truly to become famous in the New York Times — that didn’t happen. The Grey Lady recently published an article covering ski resort uphilling. That’s like National Geographic publishing a photo essay on a previously undiscovered indigenous people of the Amazon. Somehow, my shameless self promotion radar didn’t get my new book on their plate. Oh well, good article anyway. Consolation prize, we did get a mention of the new book in Denver Post.

Not to be outdone, check out this uphilling article in the Rutland Herald. The breathless coverage of all this reminds me of the great telemark revival of the 1980s. Skiing, like anything, gets attention when something somewhat new is going on.

Indeed, as it was always funny how the word “mecca” was used in conjunction with telemarking, I thought I’d utilize Sir Google on a mandatory word search to see if “mecca” and “uphill skiing” were being used on the same webpages. Sure enough, I got a number of hits. Sunlight resort near here, for example.

For better or worse, a shout should go out to the masterful SHIFT binding PR-media campaign orchestrated like the Vienna Philharmonic by Salomon and their PR minions. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many online articles saying the same thing about the same ski product on the same day. You’d think the SHIFT was actually the second coming or perhaps the solution to global warming. It’s just a ski binding, one that clearly might be nice for folks wanting an alpine binding they can ski tour with. Albeit at a weight penalty.

To Salomon’s cred, the SHIFT binding does what it does by virtue of an ingenious mechanism in the toe unit that hides the tech fitting toe pins while you’re in alpine mode. We of course did our own heavy breathing over the binding, and we’ll do our usual extended coverage over coming months (the binding will not retail until fall of 2018).

Speaking of Salomon-Atomic, bigger news beyond SHIFT might be that the simple back-to-basics MTN-Backland binding appears to be one of the few mainstream touring bindings in history that when released to retail did not begin displaying annoying or downright dangerous defects. That’s much bigger news. You heard it first here at! (Our publishing partner and post sponsor Cripple Creek Backcountry sells the MTN-Backland, check them out.)

Wildsnow warming watch: Lots of items about carbon sequestration are hitting the news. Like this one, about using dirt to save the planet. Or, is this magical thinking? Good article in Wired as well.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


25 Responses to “Ski Touring News Roundup – Mid December 2017”

  1. Frame December 14th, 2017 9:32 am

    Lou, normally you head to Europe in Jan leaving oodles of snow in Colorado, to not much in Europe (my memory is probably only 2 seasons long). Things looking better over the pond so far this season, touch wood and all that.

  2. jbo December 14th, 2017 1:20 pm

    Impressive research by the New York Times! In our area they managed to give a shout out to a ski resort that doesn’t allow uphill skiing and failed to mention a free demo fleet of race skis available to those interested in the race series they promoted (directing folks to rent touring skis instead).

  3. Lou Dawson 2 December 14th, 2017 1:32 pm

    Why am I not surprised…

  4. NT December 14th, 2017 3:29 pm

    Speaking of ice skating, check out this traverse done in AK using ice skates with the boots removed and dynafit toe pieces mounted in their place:

  5. Paul Simon December 15th, 2017 2:54 am

    you should definitely come to Europe then – over here ski touring season is already full on. Haven’t seen so much of the white stuff in early season for at least the last 4 years. Next week I will will drive to Chamonix where I will stay until mid may – so stoked about that!

  6. Kevin P. December 15th, 2017 11:26 am

    Another option for ice skating when mother “cooperates”…

  7. Andy Carey December 15th, 2017 1:06 pm

    In relations to C capture. Afforestation is mentioned but not active, intentional, forest management. In the latter, managing forests on long rotations to tree cover in perpetuity, while removing periodicaly forest products but leaving non- or poorly commercial products can produce forests that absorb a lot of carbon, store a lot of carbon in the forest litter and humus, and a massive amount of carbon, in conifer forests, in hypogeous ectomycorrhizal fungi (underground fungi that combine with tree roots). Revenues can actually be more sustainable than industrial short-rotation plantation management. Forests and greenbelts also help with cooling, hydrology, soil conservation, and noise and pollution reduction. A bunch of my neighbors just clearcut their 2-4 acre forested lots for a few bucks. Now dealing with overly wet soils, stump farms, and trying to burn all the debris. LOL But management for sustainability and managing forests for multiple values has fallen prey to an adversarial society. Of course, applicability and procedures vary with forest type, YMMV

  8. VT skier December 15th, 2017 6:09 pm

    Re Uphilling article in NY Times.
    I drilled down to see Aspen regs (touted as a leader in uphill resort skiing) then saw this,
    “Uphilling Rules for Aspen Mountain

    Uphilling at Aspen Mountain is not allowed during operational hours.”

    So that kind of limits when you can skin up at Aspen? 7:00 am start with a headlamp for the tourist from LA?
    At my home ski resort, Jay Peak you can skin up anytime, even during lift operations, and it’s free. Just get a reflective tape, that indicates to Patrol you have signed the release form at Customer Service.

  9. Lou2 December 15th, 2017 8:55 pm

    VT, Aspen Ski Co has 4 mountains, and another nearby not owned by them makes 5. All but Aspen Mountain (the one that drops into Aspen town) have all-day uphill routes. The Aspen Mountain has no good way up the first part when it’s operating, and people ski really fast on that piste. Just as well they don’t allow uphill during operating hours. There is a way you can hike up on the “back” side that can be fairly nice, but is a snowmobile road route as well. Lou

  10. Lou Dawson 2 December 16th, 2017 7:21 am

    Updated news roundup with rumors about Black Diamond ceasing manufacture of Jetforce airbag backpack.

  11. apingaut December 16th, 2017 7:33 am

    Ice skating frozen things when snow lacks has been a good way to pass the time until it arrives. if you are lucky it’s downhill too.

  12. Crazy Horse December 16th, 2017 10:57 am

    The West side of the Tetons has the deepest early December snowpack in the lower 48. Yet they can’t pay people to go to the Targhee resort– 2-300 skiers per day in mid-week.

    The Teton Pass side country is completely skied out within a 5 mile radius.

    My take on the situation: Locals have to work two jobs in order to pay the rent, so they are all sidecountry Pass skiers. Tourist 1%’ers demand the full “resort experience” after they have paid $500-$1,000 per day for a lift pass and room at the resort in Jackson Hole , so the quality of snow is a minor consideration when planning their ski week and skiing at a little local ski area is beneath them.

  13. atfred December 16th, 2017 5:00 pm

    Current Targhee snow conditions:

    Current Surface Conditions:
    Packed Powder, Hard Pack, Machine Groomed, Early Season Conditions,

    Even they could use more snow!

  14. Cody December 16th, 2017 7:27 pm

    I think the Shift is going to blow doors on the touring market, and going to show how outside of the super light market how far behind Dynafit is for bindings (that and how even the Kingpin is lacking now). The majority of people aren’t thinking about big big days so having a binding that uphills AND skis way better and is safer for them, AND they won’t have to have an extra set of skis or holes in their skis is going to be a huge plus.

    We really are now at a time where the average person can have a true quiver of one for boots, skis, and bindings.

  15. Crazy Horse December 17th, 2017 3:34 pm

    “the SHIFT is going to blow the doors off the touring market”
    Cody, I agree, but not because it’s revolutionary or even superior to other bindings. It will triumph in the marketplace because Salomon/Atomic is a large company with a whole quiver of extreme guys and gals that are paid to front it during a year long dog and pony show. Whether it is still around four years from now depends upon whether it can be made reliable or sheds pieces into the wind. The similar BAM binding didn’t set the world on fire, and the CAST system that I’ve argued fills the same mission better at half the price comes from a small company with no marketing budget.

    As a matter of fact one of the hidden motivations for buying this kind of binding is that it allows one to pose as a death defying back country skier when standing in the lift line. The CAST is a big failure because it looks just like any other alpine binding and lacks any techie features to talk about in the bar. LOL

    Ah yes, the mythological quiver of ONE. Belongs in the same category as “honest politician” or “free market capitalism” Putting a shape-shiftier binding on a mid-weight touring ski doesn’t make it into a quiver of one unless your level of skiing is so unrefined that you can’t tell the difference. Sorry, but the best “beef” touring boot is never going to respond with the power and precision of my Lange RS 130 race boots, and trying to make the Lange a touring boot by partly unlocking the cuff doesn’t make it a boot you want to haul beyond the side country. No mid-weight touring ski is going to slice and dice the Eastern ice like a Head Supershape. And if you have 1′ 1/2 of powder a 115+ early rise ski will make you giggle like a teenager instead of bashing your Head on a tree in frustration. Going for a long tour off Rogers pass? I doubt if you will be very fond of your heavy Universal quiver of one after a 20,000 vert. week!

    So long live the full Quiver!

    ps: If you missed it, one of the neat features of the CAST system is the bindings can be rapidly moved from one pair of skis to another for only $80
    per additional pair.

  16. Lou Dawson 2 December 17th, 2017 3:54 pm

    Excellent post-up Crazy, thanks!

    IMHO, Shift will indeed not blow the doors of the ski touring market, but on the other hand there is an enormous market for this sort of thing with people who don’t tour much and I believe it will do well so long as, yes, it doesn’t shed parts or shards, or present some sort of annoying and previously unknown problem as so many ski touring bindings have done over past decades. As for it being the go-to binding for cinema skiers, it appears that it would do that if, again, it’s durable. Will be interesting to watch. If it works I wouldn’t be surprised to see 7 out of 10 skiers at St. Anton using it, for example.


  17. Michael December 17th, 2017 9:19 pm

    Dedicated skiers living in the mountains might have multiple skis/boots/binders for the given condition (and I’m one of them), but so many folks only own 1-2 pairs, and I imagine many of these skiers will be drawn to the Shift binding for a touring option they can also ski in the resort. The safety pitch and familiarity will also persuade many skiers. Pair this with a 100-105 mm or so waisted ski and a crossover boot (Lange Freetour for example), and you’ve got a versatile setup that might not be ideal for the ends of the spectrum (firm groomers or super deep pow) or long touring days, but it does most things well and makes traveling and selecting a setup easier. Most folks aren’t doing multiple days in a row of 5K+ either. And of course the marketing campaign…

    Didn’t Dukes kill it when they first came out? I drank that Kool Aid.

    And for those dedicated skiers that own a quiver, I can see this being a very good option for traveling where you only want to bring one boot (a nice touring boot) but might do some inbounds or other mechanized skiing.

    Agree completely that the durability is the big question, especially for folks hammering it inbounds.

  18. Matt Kinney December 18th, 2017 10:27 am

    I would suspect BD along with BD-Pieps(?) are hard at work on a new, lighter airbag. They surprised the market with JF2 and perhaps will do the same with a “JF3”. Doesn’t seem like something they would just drop (like tele bindings..sad). I look for better from BD, not less.

    I’ve used the bag for the past couple seasons, though a tad heavy. We’ve all been beta testers for the next generation of airbags. I can’t leave home with out it. It’s so easy to maintain and charge. As far as price, the local outdoor store in Valdez just sold a JF2 for just over $700 so they may be some deals out there. Still think its the ticket compared to others of that size needed for serious touring.

  19. Lou Dawson 2 December 19th, 2017 7:47 am

    I heard from more folks about Black Diamond airbag backpacks, did a bunch of editing for better clarity and opinions based on everything I’m told. Lou

  20. Cody December 21st, 2017 11:47 pm


    -Most (of the entire skiing population) wouldn’t be able to utilize or probably even notice the difference between a 130 race plug huck the gnar boot and some of the “beefier” tour options like the Atomic Hawx Ultra xtd 130 or Lange’s 130 Tour boot.

    – BAM is vaporware still.

    – Cast requires you to buy an extra 1/2 of a binding, and carry that with you, swap it, plus attach some rubber bands to your heels. Hardly a great user experience, not even bringing in the buying/ installing process. Their market is super small anyways and it was always positioned and adopted by that very very small market segment.

    – “slicing and dicing eastern ice” is a pretty fancy way of saying that you have to ski on bad snow a lot. But if you’re living on the east coast you’re probably not going to be doing huge vert anyways…since there is no huge vert. If you’re worried about huge vert days in BC then you sure as hell aren’t going to be thinking about crappy EC ice. If you are regularly traveling to both of those places then you more than likely don’t have the financial burden that’d necessitate a one ski quiver.

    I’m not saying having a quiver isn’t a good thing, but most people have 1 to maybe 2-3 skis and mostly ski in the same area. You could pick the best all around waist for your area (leave out the metal), some “beef” touring boots (where almost all now are under 2000kg), and a Shift. You’d be off to the races for most of the skiing an average person would do.

    I still stand by Dynafit being a very stagnant player in the binding market right now. Yes, embracing the uphill market is smart business wise but it’s not innovation, and Beast was a flop (a damn heavy flop). ATK and Plum are just refining things and making them shinny. Marker, Fritischi, and Salomon are actually changing things by ACTUALLY addressing safety and downhill performance.

    With that being said I enjoy the opposite ends of my quiver using my vipec’s san brakes with my skinny G3 carbon skis when it’s not deep in the BC, and I love my alpine bindings on Enforcers in the resort. But most people aren’t like me or like the people on this website.

  21. See December 22nd, 2017 10:05 am

    Not exactly vapor ware, but I don’t think you can call the Shift a true quiver of one binding. You can’t even buy it yet.

  22. Lou Dawson 2 December 22nd, 2017 10:08 am

    See, that’s a pretty good point (smile) !

  23. Greig Ewing December 23rd, 2017 10:05 pm

    Lou, thanks for all of your work. I’m looking to replace my BCA Float 22 (1st gen) with something newer and must admit to being a bit underwhelmed with the avy pack market at present. I’d like something that’s interchangeable between packs, allowing me to use the bag for different days but can’t seem to settle on a specific bag (RAS leading at the moment). I’ve always liked the ABS vario concept but it’s disappeared a bit of late. Do you think it’s worth waiting a season or 2 for something that will ‘change’ the market or just commit to one of the present options? Thanks, and merry Christmas!

  24. Lou Dawson 2 February 6th, 2018 3:51 pm

    I got a bunch of flack for covering the discontinuation of Jetforce 1 (see beginning of blog post), but sure enough, it is NOT on the new Black Diamond order forms. I wish people could just be straightforward instead of quibbling. I used the term “ceasing production” in an attempt to be nice. But yeah, it’s discontinued. Some are probably still in the retail pipeline if you want one, they’re on the BD website for example. Lou

  25. Kristian February 6th, 2018 7:51 pm

    Sounds the same as when they ended doing ski boots.

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