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Archive for October, 2009

Black Diamond 2010 Ski Comparison – Megawatt vs. Justice vs. Zealot

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Back in February I was lucky enough to get to demo the entire 2010 Black Diamond Power Series Ski line. Now that we have all of these skis in the shop for a side by side comparison I thought it would be a good time to update my reveiws a bit and answer a few common questions about how the skis compare. I’m going to focus on the three newest (and biggest) models in the line the Megawatt, Justice, and Zealot. I have skied the Verdict and Kilowatt as well so if you have any questions about how they compare feel free to ask. Overall the entire Power Series lineup is awesome, and compares well to the offerings from any major ski manufacturer.  If you haven’t tried BD skis or still see them as only suitable for tele skiing or superlight long distance touring; do yourself a favor and demo a pair, they will change your mind in a hurry.

Black Diamond 2010 Power Series Skis

Black Diamond 2010 Power Series Skis

The Megawatt was new for the 08/09 season and aside from spiffy new blue graphics, is largely unchanged for the 09/10 season. BD says that the tip is stiffer and that they have optimized the fiberglass layup but I don’t think either of these changes will significantly effect the way they ski. There is no reason to change what was already one of the most versatile powder skis on the market. Although its waist dimensions (125mm@188 and 120mm@178) are squarely in the ultra-fat ski range and the huge rockered tip provides as much float as anyone would need, these are surprisingly usable all over the mountain. They may not be the most fun ski on hardpack, but they won’t have you heading to the car to switch skis when your local resort is tracked out by lunch. They have minimal camber underfoot and a large 42m turning radius which makes them very comfortable making big turns through variable snow and the big rockered tip makes them easy to maneuver in tight spaces in deep snow. That big rockered tip gives it the surfy/smeary feel in powder that makes people fall in love with powder specific designs.  These are also great for touring in soft snow, the tip makes it easy to break trail in deep snow and the regular camber underfoot provides good grip when skinning. Also the 188 weighs only 10lb 4oz per pair, surprisingly light for such a big ski. I reccomend the new BD Ascension split skins for these because regular skins get very  heavy when they have this much surface to cover.

2010 Black Diamond Megawatt, Justice, and Zealot Rocker and Camber Profile Shot

2010 Black Diamond Megawatt, Justice, and Zealot Rocker and Camber Profile Shot

The Justice is an all new ski for 2010 and has been getting quite a bit of attention from the ski community. It is a hybrid of the powder specific geometry and shape of the Megawatt in a lighter and more all mountian package. At 115mm under foot it fits nicely in the line in between the 120-125mm Megawatt and the 110mm Zealot. It has more camber, a little more sidecut and much more subtle rocker than the Megawatt. They kept most of the characteristics that make the Megawatt a great ski and put them a package that is more usable for people that want something they can ski everyday. It will be great for people that want a ski that is great in powder and usable all over the mountain, but don’t need an ultra-fat like the Megawatt. Like the Megawatt, the shorter length is perfect for most ladies and smaller guys. Don’t be afraid if 175 is longer than you are used to skiing, the tip rocker makes them feel short and they are very light and easy to ski. The Justice also will be the ski of choice for backcountry skiers that love the shape of the Megawatt but want a lighter ski to take on longer tours. The 185 Justice weighs only 9lbs 7oz per pair and has only a slight kick tail not a full twin tip, making it ideal for touring.

2010 Black Diamond Skis, Profile Shot of Megawatt, Justice, and Zealot

2010 Black Diamond Skis, Profile Shot of Megawatt, Justice, and Zealot

The Zealot has been in the BD line for a while, but the 2010 version gets a significant makeover. Still available in 182cm or 192cm and 110mm at the waist, for 2010 they softened the ski up a bit and added some subtle rocker to the tip. The result is probably the most versatile ski I’ve ever ridden. It will rule the resort in all conditions and be light enough to take anywhere. It’s got a much more traditional camber profile than either the Megawatt or Justice through the body of the ski which makes it feel very lively. You can definitely feel the camber in the tail compared to the other two skis, these want to snap from turn to turn and carve on hard snow compared to the Megawatt and Justice which are content to slide and smear around. I didn’t notice the tip rocker at all on hardpack but it was very noticeable in soft and variable snow. They just charged through crud and didn’t feel hooky at all in variable snow. They don’t quite have that powder specific floaty/smeary feeling that the Megawatt and Justice do in pow, but this is a different type of ski. It’s much more of an all around big mountain ski versus the other two which are more on the powder specific end of the spectrum. Incidentally the 182cm Zealot weighs 10lb 4oz per pair, exactly the same as the 188cm Megawatt. Light enough to tour on but by no means an ultralight ski, these feel solid and powerful in any snow conditions.

2010 Black Diamond Megawatt, Justice, and Zealot Rocker Profile
Megawatt, Zealot, and Justice with ski straps around the waist to show weighted rocker profile

Megawatt, Zealot, and Justice with ski straps around the waist to show weighted rocker profile

PCT Thru Hike – Oregon

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

After the many miles of California, Oregon seemed to fly by. Certainly the length of the trail in Oregon (450 miles) as compared to California (1,700 miles) had something to do with it.  Southern Oregon was quite similar to Northern California, walking in the trees a lot and hot, hot, hot.  The first major stop in Oregon for most PCT hikers is Ashland, Oregon.

I made a brief stop in the Ashland area, staying at Callahans Resort. This was a great overnight stop as it included dinner, laundry facilities, a shower, overnight camping and breakfast for a nominal fee.   Since I had just re-supplied in the Seiad Valley I did not need to make a full stop in Ashland.

After the stop at Callahans I continued towards Crater Lake.  As I was heading north I met a southbound hiker who informed me that the BLM campground at Hyatt Lake had FREE showers.  So, BLM campground here I come.  It was a great deal as the BLM campground had a campsite devoted to PCT hikers, costing only $2, yes $2, which , included use of the showers.  Oh those hot showers feel so good when you are on the
trail!

As I was nearing Crater Lake National Park and getting packed up one morning I was passed by a group of three hikers who were intent on reaching Mazama Village that day.  I too was intent on making the village that day.  The difference was; they had already been hiking for nearly 24 hours and had hiked through the night.  Seems at this point on the trail there was a bit of competition regarding how many miles one could hike at one time.  Ultimately this group hiked, by their own account 58 miles without sleep.  Too crazy for me.  As for me, I had about 14 miles to go to reach Mazama Village that day.

Entering Crater Lake National Park was a bit anti-climactic as other than the signpost not much changed on the trail.  A few miles later things did change as, much to my surprise, the trail was actually less maintained inside the park as compared to outside the park.  What’s up with that Crater Lake National Park?  Although there were numerous blow-downs the trail was still well marked and quite manageable. Eventually, as I neared the more heavily used part of the trail near Mazama Village the trail conditions improved.

After a quick resupply I headed up to the rim of Crater Lake to take some afternoon photos.  After getting some photos I continued hiking around the rim and tried to find the trail leading away from the rim in the dark, under headlamp.  I was unsuccessful and ended up camping in a small nook of a downed tree, out of the wind at the far end of the rim trail.  The next morning I awoke to a nice sunrise took a few more photo’s and departed the lake.

I’ve heard that as one travels the PCT in Oregon you could stop every night and have dinner in the various Camps and Resorts along the way. It seems that may be the case, as the resorts I’ve heard of include
and in order are; Diamond Lake, Fish Lake, Elk Lake, Big Lake Youth Camp, Wilamette Pass Ski resort, Ollalie Lake (closed for renovation this year), Lost Lake (store, no restaurant) and finally, Timberline Lodge.

Although I did not test the “dinner every night” theorem I made a few stops along the way while in Oregon.  My first stop was a quick afternoon at Elk Lake Resort for some pizza (at happy hour no less) followed by a stop at Big Lake Youth Camp, a resupply point for me.

At Big Lake I was picked up by friends for an overnight stay which included plenty of good food and hospitality.  A few days later I met friends and family at Waldo Lake, near Willamette Pass, in Central Oregon for a weekend off the trail.

In addition to going past Crater Lake the PCT also passes by I also saw Mt McGlothlin, Mt Thielson, Mt Washington, the Three Sisters which are comprised of the South, Middle and North, Three-Fingered Jack, Mt
Jefferson, and of course, the stately Mt Hood.  One interesting side note is that in the vicinity of the Three Sister are peaks named Husband as well as Little Brother.  Interesting!  The mid-section of Oregon includes some fairly impressive lava fields which rival those seen on the big Island of Hawaii.

In North Central Oregon the rain began in earnest, thankfully it only lasted for a couple of days.  When the rain stuck I was hiking with two fellow PCT’ers.  On the first day of the rains we were leaving the Jefferson Park area (Mt Jefferson) and managed to reach Ollalie Lake and hang out on the porch of the currently closed store through the worst of it.  We resumed hiking and hiked until after dark, setting up camp in the rain.  The wind blew and it rained most of the night.  In the morning I was still warm and dry.  I continue to be impressed with the MSR Hubba as it has not failed me yet.  Others have not been as lucky.  I’ve seen others whose tents have either blown down or leaked.  The next day was not much for making miles as we started late and quit early, only reaching Clackamas Lake by mid-day.

While at Clackamas Lake we received a health dose of trail magic in the form of burgers, corn on the cob and hot chocolate from some  car- campers who hailed from the Portland area.  We gathered firewood andhad a pretty good sized fire to dry things out.  After that both the weather and our attitudes improved.

At night fall the skies began to clear and the temperature started dropping.  I was a little worried that I might be cold as the Lafuma bag I bought while in Tahoe is only rated at 30 degrees.  As it turned
out my worries were unfounded.  I gave the bag a good shake to fully loft the down and settled in for the night,  Overnight it was quite cold, in the upper twenties I’d guess.  The Lafuma bag came through once again.  I think the thing I like the most about this bag is the extra down in the hood and in the foot-box.  It really does make for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Continuing north we began to catch glimpses of Mt Hood to the north, covered with a fresh blanket of snow.  So, I guess it was c-c-cold the night before and there was certainly a positive side of the rain which
is the impressive views of Mt Hood with new snow. Seeing Mt Hood was a welcome sight as it was an indication of how far north we had come on the Oregon section of the PCT.  We arrived at Timberline Lodge on Mt Hood on Monday of Labor Day weekend.  Arriving at dinnertime was a plus as once again we skipped cooking for ourselves and let our debit/credit cards do the cooking.  On a whim we check to see if there were rooms available and opted to share a bunk room.  We took the opportunity to re-dry all of our gear, do laundry, shower, etc.

The next morning my hiking partners over the last week decided to skip breakfast, planning to hike 32.5 miles by starting early.  I opted to stay for breakfast and planned to hike about 25 miles.  Breakfast was
a buffet complete with fresh fruit, waffles, and the rest of the usual breakfast fare.  I think I ate for all three of us!

After the buffet my progress was rather slow as there were plenty of photo opportunities of Mt Hood to take advantage of.  So much for a 25 mile day.  I ended up hiking into the night, again relying on the Mammut Headlamp.  Along this part of the PCT the trail is in the Bull Run watershed which supplies drinking water to the City of Portland. Although it was a nice section of trail the camping opportunities were limited and I camped at one of the few spots I found, at a small spot near the trail junction to Lost Lake.

The next morning I arose early as I was meeting friends at the Eagle Creek Trailhead in the Columbia River Gorge in the afternoon.  I opted to take the Eagle Creek Alternate trail rather than the PCT as it is more scenic and a unique and largely undisturbed ecosystem.  Along Eagle Creek I caught up with Ryan and Bob Rob who made their goal of the previous day and were hiking with a friend of Ryan’s that was providing their ride to Portland for a resupply.
As for me, my journey for this year is complete.  Although the days are getting shorter and the weather could change at any time, more than anything I am just “done walking” for this year.  For the last few weeks I had the feeling that was it time to get off the trail.  From the beginning my hike was “about the journey” rather than the destination.  From that perspective I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.  I enjoyed the journey, met a lot of really nice people and both saw and photographed a lot of beautiful scenery.  I’ll be putting up a website with many more photo’s this fall so others can also savor the beauty of the trail.  Should any of you out there in cyber-land choose to do a section or a thru-hike of the PCT I wish you nothing but good luck and the wish that you too “enjoy the journey”.

PCT Thru-Hike Update: Northern California

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

After spending a week at Lake Tahoe it’s time to get back on trail. But first some honorable mentions to the local merchants at Kings Beach.  I absolutely enjoyed my stay in Kings Beach.  While in Kings Beach I stayed at Ferrari’s Crown Family Resort and XYZ, received a chiropractic adjustment and a massage at Rutley Family Chiropractic. (Thanks Dr. Kellee and Farida).

I also picked up some new gear at Tahoe Mountain Sports (TMS), most notably a Lafuma Fast and Light 30 degree sleeping bag and a Mammut Lucido headlamp.  The new sleeping will both lighten my load and
thanks to the crew at TMS for all the help! It was a bit of a challenge getting moving after nearly a week off the trail but I did get moving again.  I opted to take the bus to Squaw Valley and rode the tram to the top where I promptly headed the wrong way on the PCT.  Oops!  Luckily I ran into another PCT thru-hiker who
advised me I was heading southbound, rather than Northbound.  Good thing I had not gone far.

Although there are scenic places on the trail through Northern California it was certainly not as scenic as the High Sierra’s.  Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful places along the trail in Northern California, it’s just not the mile after mile beauty found in the High Sierra.

I found some interesting places to camp in this section including places where you would not expect to camp including a rocky outcrop part way up the ridge below the Castle Crags and a saddle with view of Mt Shasta to the east and the Marble Mountains to the west.  These afforded me nice views rather than being camped in the trees. The most scenic parts of this section of the PCT include; views of Mt Lassen and Mt Shasta, traversing the Castle Crags, and the Marble Mountains as well as seeing the Trinity Alps.

That said, it was not as remote either.  This afforded me the opportunity to stay with “Trail Angels” and in small towns along the way.  This was a welcome way to meander through Northern California.

I was fortunate enough to stay with Trail Angels in Truckee, just south of Belden, in Belden and also in Old Station.  Thanks to each of you for your hospitality.  Towns I stopped in for overnight visits included Sierra City, Belden, Etna, and the Seiad Valley.

While in Sierra City I camped on the lawn of the church as many of the PCT thru-hikers do.  After setting up camp, Duffy the church caretaker said “oh, did I mention there is a bear that will rattle the dumpster across the street in the middle of the nigh, but don’t worry, it never bothers the hikers”.  By this time there were several of us camped on the lawn and another four or five hikers who had dumped their packs and went to the store in search of food and drink.  Amish Gypsy, one of my recent hiking companions, happened to look up into a tree and noticed two bear cubs.  The first question that came to mind for the three of us in camp was “where’s mama bear?”.  We gathered our food bags left camp and advised the food and drink crew.  The cubs scampered away and as luck would have it, mama bear did rattle the dumpster a couple of times in the night,  but never ventured into the church yard.   A week later I heard that she had stolen food bags subsequent to our visit.

Another highlight of this part of the trail was being removed from the trail by the California Department of Forestry (CDF).   After leaving Old Station, the day after a lightning storm, a group us hiked past the Subway Cave and the Cave fire onto the Hat Creek Rim.  I got into taking photo’s of the fire near the Subway Cave until I realized the fire was getting out of had and I decided I better get out of there.

After hiking the rim we were paralleling the highway when we noticed smoldering fire on the other side of the road as well as a note on the trail.  A few minutes later a CDF truck came by, spoke with us and took us to a safe place, a road junction.  In all, seven hikers were “deposited” at this “safe place”.  As luck would have it, we ended up getting an unsolicited ride to Burney Falls State Park.  Our benefactor also happened to have ice cream for all of us.

During the section of PCT I crossed the halfway point and also adopted the trail name of “Trail Chef”.  This name was the result of numerous comments about the appetizing nature of my meals, especially my dinners.  My meals were prepared using a combination of grocery store and mail ordered freeze dried ingredients.

Gearwise, everything continues to work well.  Absolutely no problems with the MSR Whisperlite stove or the Hubba tent.  The Thermarest NeoAir continues to work as well.  The new Lafuma sleeping bag is working great, much lighter than the 15 degree bag I carried through the high Sierra.  In fact, with the new 30 degree bag I think I am sleeping better than ever.  The new headlamp is great.  I’m still not sure how they did it, but it throws a circle of light, and this comes from four led’s.  I’ve used it several time while hiking into the evening and even on low beam it provides enough light to hike with.

As I was approaching the Seiad Valley, not a town but the last bit of a civilization along the PCT in Northern California I passed several southbound hikers who mentioned that I would run into goat herders soon.  I’ve lived and traveled throughout the Northwest for most of my life and as a result of my travels in Southeastern Oregon I’ve seen Basque sheepherders.  So, even though I heard goat herders and expected to see goats I expected to see Basque sheepherders.   I was a little surprised to see about twenty goats, two dogs and a young couple with a four-month old baby when I rounded a corner on the trail.  I had quite a nice visit with them.  They were living off the land for the summer, so in a sense they were “hiking their own hike”. After sharing a bottle of goat’s milk and a thirty minute chat they headed south and I continued north.

After leaving the Seiad Valley it was a few more days before I reached the end of “the state that never ends”, that being California.  I say that because of the 2650 miles of the PCT, California comprises about 1,700 miles.  Stay tuned for tales of the trail in Oregon.

-Mike

Granite Chief Wildnerness Trip

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

I recently went on a short overnight backpacking trip into the Granite Chief wilderness. The weather was as good as it gets in september with clead skies and daytime highs in the 70′s. We hiked about 7 miles each way to a beautiful and secluded secret campsite. The campsite was up at an alpine lake a little over 8,000ft so we went prepared for overnight temps in the 30′s or lower and were pleasantly surprised. I diddn’t have a thermometer, but I never even had to zip up my Lafuma Warm’N Light 1000 sleeping bag! I used quite a bit of gear from TMS on this trip and I’m going take the time to review some of it and let the pictures of the trip speak for themselves.

Deuter ACT Lite 65+10 Backpack: There is a reason that this has been our best selling pack for two years running. It has the best combination of weight, capacity, and price on the market. The adjustable AirComfort back system also makes it fit a very wide variey of people.

Nemo Losi 2 Person Tent: While the Losi 3 person was the hot seller this summer, the Losi 2 is an equally awesome tent. It is very roomy for a 2 person tent and is easy to set up. The quality is top notch, typical for Nemo. At 4.9lbs it features two doors, two vestibules and bomber construction that is designed to last. It also offers the option of pitching the tent with just the rainfly and footprint for those looking to go ultralight.

Lafuma Warm’N Light 1000 Sleeping Bag: Probably the best combination of warmth, weight and price of any sleeping bag we carry. Only 2lb 3oz and compresses down 16×6 inches. Was warm enough that I never even fully zipped it up on this trip.

Snow Peak GigaPower Stove: Everyone I’ve shown it to is amazed at how small, light, and powerful this stove is. It weighs less than 4 oz and a watched pot certainly boils very quickly with this thing, and I was not using full power. The best thing about it, price, $39.95.

Thermarest NeoAir Sleeping Pad: I can’t say enough good things about this pad. Its lighter, packs smaller, and is more comfortable than any other pad I’ve tried. While we didn’t encounter any very cold weather on this trip it also has a surprising insulation R value of 2.5 for an air pad.

Vholdr 1080p Helmet Cam coming soon…

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago, we did an epic 25 mile mountain bike ride from the top of Packer Saddle, home of the famous Downieville Downhill over to the town of Graeagle. This route basically paralleled the Sierra Crest on the west side then we climbed up and over the crest to Mt. Elwell and down the east side of Elwell to the town of Graeagle. I got some of the best footage yet with the Vholdr ContourHD Camcorder and here it is:

A few days ago, we also found out that VholdR is coming out with a new helmet camera and it will be called the 1080p. This helmet cam will have a faster frame rate than the existing Vholdr ContourHD and will have a removeable lens. Coming in at $329, we think this is a total steal. New units should be landing here at TMS within the next few weeks so be sure to preorder yours today because I assure you, we will run out!

Winter is on the Way!

Monday, October 5th, 2009

An early season storm has left the mountains around Tahoe with a blanket of white. Not enough accumulation here on the north shore to make any turns, but the east shore was rumored to have gotten some lake effect snow that may have piled up enough for October pow turns. Although its unlikely that this snow will stick around long, its certainly gotten people pumped for winter. Here at Tahoe Mountain Sports is no exception. We are getting new winter gear in every day including the new Cloudveil 09/10 Line and the New Black Diamond Power Series Skis. Get excited, winter is on the way!

October Snow in Tahoe 10.5.09

October Snow in Tahoe 10.5.09

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