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| April 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Climb and Ski a Volcano



Mt. Hood Climbing Poster

Spring weather is slowly settling in here in the Pacific Northwest, and the corn snow is starting to ripen. Volcano climbing and skiing season is upon us! It is the ideal time to climb Mount Hood or other volcanoes with the intent to ski down (why else would you climb anything).


If climbing Mount Hood is on your radar, check out our Mt. Hood Climbing Poster. They are only $12 (with shipping in the USA). The poster shows all of the classic climbing routes on aerial photos and gives their first ascent dates.


Mt. Hood offers a quintessential volcano climbing experience, and many of Hood's climbing routes make excellent ski descents. If you have ever thought about standing on the summit of Mount Hood, this season's healthy snowpack should make for a great climbing and skiing season on Hood.


Looking for other volcano ski adventures? Check out the feature article from the March issue of Off-Piste Magazine with beta on Cascade Volcano ski routes from Mount Rainier to Mount Lassen (5MB file).



Sunday, April 24, 2011

On the Road with Solitaire Episode III - The Raptor



Sweetgrass Productions is back with the third installment of On the Road with Solitaire, a 12-part webisode documenting the making of their new backcountry ski film Solitaire.



On the Road with Solitaire Episode III: The Raptor from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pack-friendly goggle case



Tailgate Goggle coverI recently connected with a company that makes cool and functional goggle covers and cases, Tailgate Industries. Goggles are a required item for most backcountry ski tours. I often use a hard goggle case when travelling, but only use a goggle bag when I head out touring, and my goggles tend to suffer as a result. Jeff over at Tailgate developed a cool goggle case that offers the protection of a hard case without any of the bulk. It is called the 49R. The fleece-lined case uses a rigid core (made of 100% recycled plastic) with a pocket and overlapping fabrics to secure and protect your goggles when not in use. The case is curved to match the shape of your goggles and is easy to use. The result is excellent goggle protection when in the case, and a slim, non-bulky case that packs easily in your pack, with or without the goggles in it.


I have been using the 49R for a month or so now, and it is the perfect solution to protecting your goggles without adding unnecessary bulk to your pack. The case takes up no more room than the goggles themselves, but it offers full lens protection and fits nicely into the top lid of a backpack. The case is even slim enough to fit in a jacket pocket. It is a great concept and an excellent way to get rigid case goggle protection without the bulk of a boxy case.


Tailgate also makes the Gondom - a soft goggle case that fits over your goggles while they are on your helmet. Although not as backcountry skier specific as the 49R, the Gondom is perfect for protecting your goggles if you leave them on your helmet for your resort setup. Below are shots of the 49R case. Check out for more beta.



shop for goggle deals and support Off-Piste Mag


shop for goggle deals at and support Off-Piste Mag


tailgate industries goggle covers

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ski Testing Beta



backcountry skiing in british columbia


March and April storms have made for some fun ski testing conditions the past few weeks. Although the bulk of our testing occurs at our local ski hill, I did take a few select skis up to British Columbia for a week of ski touring. Here is a quick report on the Volkl Nunataq, Voile Charger and Dynafit Stoke backcountry skis.


Volkl Nunataq - 139-107-123: Volkl steps into the backcountry ski world with four new skis featuring lightweight construction. The Nunataq is the widest of the new skis and matches the Gotama dimension profile, but it weighs in at a respectable 7 lbs 12 oz a pair. The Nunataq matches flat camber with moderate tip and tail rocker. The Nunataq served up excellent powder skiing. It is lively and ready to turn at any moment. Bigger skiers felt it reasonably soft, with a big sweetspot. Lighter skiers found the same big sweetspot, but described its flex as moderate. Either way, the Nunataq serves up a blend of traditional turning merged with the ability to smear and slide with new school style. The proprietary climbing skin system was developed with Colltex skins. The skins are very lightweight (a blend of mohair and synthetic plush). The tip connection is specific to the Volkl ski tip, and although a little fussy, they worked great and offer great glide. It is so nice to get skins precut to you skis.


Overall, the Nunataq is a lively, wide powder ski ideally suited to mid-winter and deep snow conditions. It is wide enough that we see it as a quiver ski. The kind of ski you take for pure powder skiing fun. Of course, once you get used to the 107mm underfoot and rocker profile, you may redefine what constitutes pure powder skiing fun.


Voile Charger - 137-112-126: Although not new for 2011, the Voile Charger remains a distinct standout in the backcountry powder ski category. The Charger is a super playful ski that is incredibly agile for its dimensions - and respectably light at 7lbs 8oz per pair (171cm). The Charger makes you feel like you can do no wrong. It floats and turns with incredible ease, making short work of any soft snow.


We see the Charger as a quiver ski - a playful mid-winter powder board. It handles the gamut of backcountry snow conditions, but it excels in soft and deep snow. The Charger offers up quick short turns in the trees and opens up without hesitation in alpine terrain. Its moderate tip and tail rocker profile lend the ski a little new school smearability and make sure you float with ease, but it still turns our old school arcs if you prefer. If your quiver is in need of a playful powwder ski, the Charger deserves your attention.


Dynafit Stoke - 129-105-119: The Stoke was released last season, but holds its own in the freeride mountaineering category. The new more forward binding location gives the ski a more responsive feel and makes it more versatile in its turn shape. The Stoke is a very capable ski, but rather than a playful powder board personality, it is a do-it-all mountaineering ski with soft snow dimensions. Its personality is more serious and get-it-done oriented than pure hedonistic powder consumption. The Stoke is at home in mixed alpine snow. From the wind effected ridgelines to protected basins, the Stoke is ready. Its modest early rise tip does not have the easy initiation of a more rockered ski, but it keeps the Stoke ready for the next turn in any condition. The Stoke weighs in at an impressive 7 lbs 1 oz (173cm) and is ideal for big tours and varied backcountry snow conditions.

Rain-X For Ski Topsheets



Rain-X keeps snow off your topsheets


Snow build-up on your topsheets is a fact of backcountry skiing, and spring is probably the worst season for snow build-up on your topsheets. Warmer temperatures mean heavier snow. Heavier snow on your topsheets means you are dragging more weight up the hill than you need to.  K2 tried to address the issue wth p-tex topsheet material on their backcountry skis, and it helps reduce build-up, but even the p-tex topsheets benefit from some sort of additional coating to help shed snow.


I have tried a variety of things over the years to reduce snow build-up on my topsheets while ski touring. On the advice of a buddy, I recently began using a product called Rain-X. It is one of the best and least expensive options I have tried. It was developed for car windshields and works great at making rain bead up and disperse on your car windshield. Well, it turns out that it does a pretty damn good job of keeping snow off your topsheets while ski touring, too.


Every topsheet material is a little different, but Rain-X is super easy to apply. Just squirt a small amount on your topsheets and rub it around with a cloth or paper towel. It does not take too much, but you have to apply it every day or two to maintain its effectiveness. Longevity of its effectiveness is dependent on your topsheet material and the snow conditions. I recommend applying it in the morning before you head out the door.


You can find Rain-X at auto parts stores, gas stations and even some grocery stores. The 4-ounce bottle pictured runs around $4 and will last quite a while.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Life Cycles Mountain Bike Film



Ski season lingers on in many parts of the West, but we recently watched Life Cycles, a mountain bike film. It is not your average action film. There is plenty of inspiring bike action, but what carries the film is the stunning film work and visuals that filmmakers Derek Frankowski and Ryan Gibb create revolving around the sport of mountain biking.

The visuals are not just simple artsy shots. The film is creatively driven and offers a fresh approach to the usual action film recipe. From the industrial and bike production footage, to the time lapse seasonal changes, Life Cycles is unlike any action sports film you have ever seen. Sure, the riding, landscape and action are still primary, but it is how these guys present it that makes Life Cycles so cool to watch.

Part of what helps set the film apart is their use the Red camera system, a digital film system that allows for high quality footage. The Red system merged with a unique vision for a film come together to create a visually stunning movie.

With bike season on the horizon, you need to check out Life Cycles. Now we need these guys to take on the ski film genre...


Life Cycles OFFICIAL Trailer from Life Cycles on Vimeo.

Snow keeps falling



Winter is hanging on in the mountains. Mt. Hood continues to be in the storm path, and I just returned from a winter-like week of touring up at Powder Creek Lodge in central British Columbia.


April in the mountains can serve up quite the variety pack of weather, but Powder Creek lived up to its name last week as Ullr delivered fresh cold snow all week.  As usual, I had a variety of skis for testing including the new Volkl Nunataq, Dynafit Stoke and Voile Charger. Conditions were ideal for getting to know big skis.


Here is a quick slideshow of the skiing over the week. We are working on wrapping up our ski testing, so look for some beta on next year's boards in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the last days of winter...



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