I finally got out ski touring. Did a medium length walk in the Wasatch near I-80 yesterday, a bit north of where most of the popular touring is. Snow here is what locals call a “Colorado snowpack,” meaning it’s been thin all winter and cold temperatures have metamorphosed the snow crystals into faceted depth hoar grains that make skiing difficult, and will inevitably cause a huge avalanche cycle once the storms come again (and they will). So the tour was more of a fitness walk than anything else, but still good exercise and scenic.
As for gear (this is the OR trip so I have to talk about gear), during the tour I used a super new backpack from Backcountry Access. The “Squall” is a low volume, fully featured ski touring pack with a nice diagonal ski carry system, back panel access flap, combo zipper/topload opening, stretch panels and more — all for about a $50.00 street price! Is outdoor gear getting cheaper? In general I’d say slightly, and any trend that direction is welcome. Driving this process is that ever more U.S. outdoor companies are having products made in the far east, then importing, as opposed to importing European product. A good example of this is the Squall pack, but a more radical example is the Black Diamond ski line, which has excellent pricing for the kind of quality they’re offering — both made possible by having gear built in the far east. As far as I know BD is planning on having their soon-to-be ski boot line made in the east as well — we’re hoping that means the stratospheric prices of ski boots my someday be history.
Key element of our backcountry skiing tour was being above the now infamous Salt Lake City pollution inversion that’s been in place these past days, and was really bothering my eyes and throat. More than one person has commented on the irony of having Outdoor Retailer in one of the (for the moment) most polluted cities in the United States. When you think about it, the foul air kind of puts things into perspective. You can wander the show floor and see all sorts of green products with recycled this and natural that — but what’s any of that stuff doing to solve our real environmental problems? It’s a buzz killer, but the truth is all that junk does has very little effect. The way I see it, If we need to make a huge 50% reduction in carbon economy to reverse global warming and end extreme air pollution, things like the OR show may need to be sacked or at least reinvented — perhaps done in a more de-centralized way that involves less traveling and less concentration of humans in one place.
But wait…, advantage of trade shows is economy of scale. If you’re a buyer, having nearly everything you’re looking at located in one building is an incredible time saver. Same thing if you’re a journalist. So perhaps OR is better than the alternative, which would involve buyers having to travel even more as they trotted all over the continent looking at product lines, or else suffering through virtual sales presentations that only shadowed the process of actually looking at and feeling the goods. Yeah, as with any aspect of life in modern civilization, when you start trying to figure out just what things you’d ditch to get that 50% carbon reduction, trade shows start sounding like yet another thing on the “keep it” list — after all, they do power the show with wind credits, so not all is lost.
Perhaps the most amusing part of this is that the Outdoor Industry Association and certain larger outdoor companies are putting quite a bit of pressure on Utah and the Fed to create more legal wilderness and roadless areas in the state, ostensibly because this land is needed for the outdoor industry to thrive (somehow things like mountain bikes get left out of the equation). Instead, how about they devote their political clout to anti pollution initiatives so OR show participants can breath? After all, if the 14,000 core outdoor people attending the OR show all choked, there wouldn’t be much of an outdoor industry anyway.
At any rate, I avoided choking because My OR show activities yesterday were limited to attending a “Bloggers Ball” party in late evening. Unlike many parties during the show, this one was small and a bit quieter, though it was crowded and noisy enough to still qualify. The idea was to have a number of bloggers there, as well as industry folks of various sorts. While not as many bloggers and web people showed up as I expected, it was fun to meet guys like PowStash, the famous Backcountry.com web forum supporter and poster (google his name), as well as a couple guys from Gear Junkie who are in the midst of building and operating a substantial gear related website and blog. For me the order of the evening was to talk money whenever possible, as in how to get paid for working. Funny how that was always the dilemma in the freelance magazine and book writer days of my life, and is still the subject of the hour when I get together with internet colleagues.
Thanks to all you blog readers WildSnow.com is able to sell enough banner advertising and do enough affiliate and pay-per-click advertising to keep me going and keep the site afloat. But selling a few more ads would give me the freedom to make much needed improvements to how our back end functions (comment spam prevention, post editing, stuff like that). Thus, other than covering gear and trends, I’m here at OR to schmooze existing advertisers and try to get a few new ones. Proof will be when you see another banner ad or two — it looks like we may have a bit more advertising revenue coming in soon. If so, that’s because you are reading this, commenting, and generally supporting what we’re doing here. Thanks!
As for me selling more advertising, it helps immensely if you loyal blog readers explore our advertisers here on WildSnow.com. More, when communicating with those advertisers please thank them for supporting this website! (And if you talk to a company that isn’t advertising here, ask them why not?!).
I’m back on the road today headed for home. Looking forward to less traveling and more backcountry skiing!