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Archive for February, 2010

Tahoe Backcountry Skiing and Axl and Pieps Review

Friday, February 26th, 2010

The last couple of days have been great in the Tahoe Backcountry, but we are now in for a warmer storm that might affect the snowpack pretty high up. We can only wait and see. On Tuesday of this past week, Jeff and I headed up to Rubicon to find some great, cold, north facing powder. Jeff has been using the 22 Designs Axl Telemark Binding this season and he is a big fan. The bindings skis similarly to the 22 Designs Hammerhead binding, but with the free pivot mechanism, he is seeing the big difference……touring!

22 Designs Axl Telemark Binding

The binding in tour mode

Jeff wrote a review of the Axl binding here, so check it out. Here are a couple quick shots of the binding in action.

22 Designs Axl Telemark Binding

Use your pole to switch between tour mode and ski mode

As you can see from the pic on the left, it is super easy to switch between ski and tour mode with the simple flick of your pole tip.

Generally, for those of you looking for the best Telemark binding for skiing down as well as hiking up, the 22 Designs Axl is a great choice for you.

We also had a chance to play around with our beacons a bit, and we did some testing between the 2 antenna BCA tracker and my 3 antenna Pieps DSP.

Pieps DSP Avalanche Beacon

The Pieps DSP in "send" mode

We cannot say enough about 3 antenna, digital beacons, but they are truly superior to the 2 antenna beacons of the old days. Not only was I able to search faster and more effectively, I was able to get readings until I was practically on top of the buried beacon. The Pieps DSP is fast, accurate, updateable and most of all, easy to use. Check out the screen shot of the Pieps DSP in the pic on the right. The newest software upgrade is to the 6.2 firmware and Tahoe Mountain Sports is the only authorized upgrade center in Northern California. You can bring your beacon into the store for an upgrade or send it to us and we will send it back to you within 1 business day.

Finally, Pam and I headed up to Jake’s on Wednesday after the very warm storm we got overnight. It was still raining/snowing when we got to the bottom of Jake’s but we went up and braved the weather anyways. It was very wet and heavy up to about 8,000 ft, but then the snow dried out nicely and made for some great skiing on the way down. Here are a couple of other pics of Jeff, Pam and I in the backcountry this week.

Black Diamond 10/11 Ski Gear Preview – Drift Ski and Quadrant Boot

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A couple weeks ago we got the chance to get our skiing with Brad, our Black Diamond rep up on Rubicon peak.  Of course this trip wasn’t just for fun, we were also out to check out some of next years new Efficient Series skis and boots from Black Diamond.  Specifically the all new Drift ski and Quadrant boot.

Brad on Rubicon

Brad on Rubicon

The Drift is the widest ski in the new Efficient series at 100mm under foot (138/100/123) and is meant to please those looking to save weight without sacrificing performance in deep snow. It features a lightweight paulownia wood core and an early rise tip. Think of it as a softer and lighter version of the Verdict with an early rise tip.  Granted we had pretty much perfect hero snow, but I had a blast on these. The early rise kept the tips above the boot top powder and the ski felt equally at home making tight turns and wide arcs through the trees. The 187′s I was on felt just right for me at 6′ tall and the ski will also be available in 176 and 166 for those that prefer a shorter ski.

2011 Black Diamond Drift

2011 Black Diamond Drift

2011 Black Diamond Drift

2011 Black Diamond Drift

BD Skis Tip Profile, 187 Drift is Furthest Back, then the 176 Drift with Megawatts in the Foreground

The Quadrant is the stiffest of the new Efficient Series boots and is going to fill the light but still stiff niche in the BD line that has been missing.  Its 120 flex is softer than the Factor but comparable in stiffness to the Method but significantly lighter. The boot is a two piece, 4 buckle design but without the switchable soles  of the Factor and Method and built on an all new ultra light chassis.  They were also just as stiff and significantly lighter than my Dynafit Zzeus’.  The Quadrant is the first true lightweight boot that I’ve tried that really felt like they were stiff enough to  drive big skis.

They are built on a different last from the Factor and Method, I’ve been told they are wider all around. However the liner is also thicker. To me they actually felt like they had the same nice tight heel pocket with a little less volume in the toe, which for me is a plus. The fact that they felt a little lower volume than the Factor out of the box could be due to a thicker liner.   Ski boot fit is very subjective, but I was able to throw these on my feet and ski with only the addition of a Superfeet footbed, not something I can do in many boots.  It’s tough to judge a boot from one day out, but I think this boot could be a game changer with a combination of light weight and the solid feel of a much heavier boot. I’ve got a hunch that these will be a hit.

2011 Black Diamond Quadrant

2011 Black Diamond Quadrant


Rose Knob Corn Skiing in February

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Started hiking up Rose Knob this morning at 6:45am and made it to the skiers left saddle area around 8:30ish. I was on the Black Diamond Zealots with 01 Tele bindings and ascension skins. Mike was of course sporting his new Deuter Freerider Pro 30 backpack. A very difficult and steep skin up during the early morning light gave way to some softer snow once the sun came up and much easier skinning all around. We waited around at the top for about a half hour and our wait was well worth it. We jumped in to the true South face off skiers left shoulder and had just about perfect 1 inch corn all the way out. I was using my Pieps DSP Avalanche Beacon just in case anything had gone, as there was a pretty wet slide path right next to where we were  skiing. Then, it was off to work! Here are some pics:

Osprey Hydraulics Series Preview and Review – Osprey Raptor 6

Friday, February 12th, 2010

The new Osprey Hydraulics line of mountain biking, trail running, and multi-sport hydration packs is an all new category for the backpack and travel bag maker and the early word is this is going to be a killer line of packs for a variety of activites. The Raptor series are the smaller packs aimed at mountain bikers and trail runners. The Raptor 6 we got our hands on to test is the smallest in the series with big brothers the Raptor 10Raptor 14, and Raptor 18 there for those that need to take a little more gear with them. The Manta series is the bigger end of the Hydraulics line with the versatile Manta 20, Manta 25, and Manta 30 for bikers, day hikers, and multi-sport adventure athletes.

The heart of Osprey Hydraulics is the new Osprey/Nalgene Hydraform Reservoir that is exclusive to the Hydraulics packs. It features a rigid spine and handle combination that makes the reservoir easy to slide in and out of a full pack and a specially shaped plastic panel sewn in between a nylon panel and the back of the reservoir that creates a sort of baffle that forces the reservoir to conform to a specially designed shape that fits perfectly with the reservoir compartment on the packs. The result is a reservoir that is easy to take in and out of the pack and keeps the water compressed so that the water doesn’t slosh around inside and upset your balance during your active adventures. Osprey is the first company to really think about how the pack and resevoir interact and design a system that is a lot more than a bag full of water and a sleeve in the pack. It may seem to be making something simple more complex than it needs to be, but attention to detail is  what makes Osprey stand out from the crowd.

The Osprey Hydraulics Hydraform Reservoir

The Osprey Hydraulics Hydraform Reservoir

The Raptor 6 we got for early testing here at Tahoe Mountain Sports is just the right size for a couple hour bike ride or trail run. It has just enough space for 2L of water, a pump, tube, and flat repair kit, and a few energy bars. If you’re looking to take a camera and an extra layer, you may want to step up to the higher capacity Raptor 18.

Osprey Raptor 6

Osprey Raptor 6 With Front Pocket Open

Both the Raptor and Manta Series packs share a lot of innovative features aside from the new Hydraform Reservoir system. One of them is the new LidLock helmet holder, a simple oval shaped plastic piece attached with stretch cord that you can thread through a helmet vent and turn to simply and firmly attach a helmet. Another is the magnetic sternum buckle that keeps your hydration hose in easy reach. Also the AirScape suspension and back system to keep your back cool and the pack secure.

Osprey Raptor 6 with LidLock holding a bike helmet

Osprey Raptor 6 with LidLock holding a bike helmet

Overall the Osprey Hydraulics line looks like its going to live up to the hype and deliver some of the best multi-sport hydration packs around. The only gripe that I have with the pack is that its difficult to get all of the water out of the reservoir when you are done using it, opening up the possibility of mold and bacteria growing in there. However the reservoir does have an special coating on the inside to prevent this kind of growth, so this will likely be a minor gripe.

The Osprey Hydraulics line is being released soon and we expect to have all packs in stock and ready to ship by 2/25/10. These have been drawing a lot of interest so if you want to get in on the first shipment I recommend placing a pre-order today!

Osprey Raptor Series Back System

Osprey Raptor Series Back System

VholdRs at Squaw, They’re Everywhere!

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

So I’ve been taking the VholdR Contour HD 1080p out to Squaw and experimenting with different mounts and settings.  There are tons of people out riding with various POV camera setups these days and getting some awesome footage. My favorite setup so far is with the Vented Helmet Mount set up on top of my Smith Variant and the camera shooting in the 960p Tall HD mode. This mode has a taller 4:3 aspect ratio compared to the  16:9 wide screen view of the 1080p mode.  It makes it much easier to get both the ground/skis and the horizon in the shot which gives the video nice perspective.  I haven’t gotten a true bluebird powder day yet, but I’ve been impressed with the footage I’ve been getting in less than stellar light conditions. The video below was shot at Squaw on Feb 3rd and 4th.

Our unofficial buddy Miles Clark has been absolutely tearing up Squaw recently and skiing some impressive lines with his ContourHD rolling. He uses the Flat Surface Mount on the side of his helmet and usually shoots in in 1280 x 720 720p HD. He has this setup pretty dialed and the footage looks great! The quality of the skiing in Miles’ videos is on another level compared to mine so check out his blog and see what its like to jump pretty much every cliff at Squaw! His video below was also shot on Feb 3rd and 4th, just with a few more interesting line choices than mine!

Mt Rose Backcountry Skiing – 2.3.10

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Headed up to the Spark Plug area of the Mt. Rose Backcountry this morning. We didn’t know what was going on with the snow up there, but we were pleasantly surprised by the softness and deepness of the pow on all but the south facing slopes. Lots of wind transport overnight along with an extra couple of inches of precip really smoothed things out and we barely saw another track the whole time. On this ski, I really debated between taking the Black Diamond Verdicts or the Black Diamond Megawatts, but I took the Megawatts and I was happy I did. The Megawatts have pretty much been with me on every backcountry trip I have taken this winter and I just love the way they slay the powder. I was wearing my trusty Cloudveil Serendipity Jacket with Cloudveil Koven Pants and it was a perfect combo in 20 degree cold and blowing weather, while hiking and working up a sweat. Of course I was wearing by Icebreaker underneath because the Atlas BF150 is the only way to go. No Vholdr videos today, but I did get a few pics.

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