RSS Subscribe 866.891.9177

TMS Blog

Archive for January, 2011

Snowkiting at Skyline, Utah

Friday, January 28th, 2011

Snowkiting till Dusk

WHO: Dave and Pam – Tahoe Mountain Sports Owners

WHAT: Snowkiting

WHERE: off Skyline Drive, Mt. Pleasant, Utah

WHEN: Late January 2011

GEAR: Ozone Frenzy 11m and 13m Kites, Ozone Base Harness and ContourGPS Helmet Camera

Last week, the Tahoe Mountain Sports adventurous team travelled to Utah for a week of skiing, working and then, of course, snowkiting. We started out at Alta with the Mountain Hardwear crew to test out their new DryQ fabric (more on this in a future blog post), then down to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer and finally to a tiny town 2 hours south of Salt Lake called Mt. Pleasant, Utah. Here is where most would likely say, “You’re going where?” or “Are you crazy? There is nothing down there!” But, little known to the outside world, this is pretty much the Mecca for high-alpine snowkiting… seriously one of the most addicting and exciting sports that exists. Mt. Pleasant also happens to be home base for Ozone Kites‘ USA headquarters and they even have a bar attached to the warehouse (the only bar in the entire county no less).

Skyline is a truly unique place. It’s basically a paved and plowed road, at 10,000 ft. above sea level that runs for about 15 miles. They have a plowed out, huge parking area that is shared by kiters and snowmobilers alike, and they even have an avalanche beacon basin where you can hone your avy search skills.

Heather walking up from the parking area to the launch zone

Heather walking up from the parking area to the launch zone

You can see in the pic that there is a super flat launching area right next to the parking lot and then miles and miles of hills, terrain features and untouched powder (or semi-powder/hardpack when we were there). The best part of Skyline is the huge hill right next to the launching zone and it is just super fun to kite uphill, tack back and forth at the top of for a little while and then pretty much soar down to your hearts and kites content. Day 1 had us kiting in very gusty, storm conditions, and I was on the Frenzy 9m. But, when we woke up on Sunday to bright sunny skies, I was worried the wind was not going to show up. So, we headed up the hill, waited for about 20 minutes through no winds and then BAM, in classic Skyline fashion, we got some light puffs and all of a sudden it was on with 10-15 knot winds making for a perfect light wind, end of vacation session.

I got a killer video of Brian (co-owner of Ozone USA/Windzup) ripping it up in front of me and then we both got a little hang time right at the end of the vid, though I didn’t quite land it! Here it is:

Pam getting ready to rip it up

Pam getting ready to rip it up

Brian riding along

Brian riding along

Snowkiting Skyline

Snowkiting Skyline

Dave Laying it out during the storm conditions of Day 1

Dave Laying it out during the storm conditions of Day 1

Heading down the hill

Heading down the hill

Canadian Rockies Pillow Skiing at Icefall Lodge

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

For this Adventure of the Week, we envy Canadian Rockies skiing, hearing from former Couloir magazine editor Matt Samelson of Boulder, Colorado, who’s been writing our blog’s Colorado check-ins. But last week, he apparently could’ve cared less about Colorado snow.

WHO: Matt Samelson and friends

WHAT: SKIING.

WHERE: Icefall Lodge in British Columbia, Canada

WHEN: January 2011

GEAR: TwentyTwo Designs Axl bindings, deep powder skis, snorkel

I heard it snowed 32 inches at Copper Mountain, one of my favorite resorts in Colorado.  And I couldn’t have cared less.  That’s how good Icefall Lodge is.  It didn’t hurt that it snowed upwards of 8 feet the week prior to our arrival at Icefall and another 2-3 feet the week we were there.

Located a 20-minute helicopter ride north of Golden, British Columbia, Icefall is tucked up against the B.C.-Alberta border with Mt. Kemmel and Mt. La Clytte standing guard above it all.  Although, under the midwinter January skies, we rarely saw either peak.  With near-constant snowfall and the prior week’s dump, there wasn’t much reason to head to the alpine.  Especially with evidence of a large slide near the hut that had demolished trees 20 feet and taller.  Nope, there was no reason to venture into the alpine.

Pillows.  Pillows were the name of the game.  Our group of 16 had a large contingent that either lived in Gunnison or had spent time in Crested Butte.  These were the types of skiers that sought after bizarre lines in the trees and over rocks during a normal ski day, not necessarily a crew lusting after wide open turns.  And with all the recent snow, everything pretty much went.  The typical response to “Does this line go?” was “Doesn’t matter.  You can’t get hurt in this stuff.”  So every morning we went looking for pillow lines.

I’ve never really been able to peg why pillow skiing tops my list of fun things to do on skis.  Maybe because it’s rare that you get to ski them.  Or maybe it’s because of the way they explode when you land on one.  Either way, there’s no type of skiing I look more forward to.

On self-declared “Go Big Friday,” I popped into a clearing between Seduction chute and Crap Shoot after wallowing through near waist-deep snow and slammed on the brakes just before the bottom dropped out.  While composing myself, I heard my roommate Stuart yelling at his buddy Harris about a line, but I couldn’t find him.  Mainly because I needed to be looking straight up.  Stuart had been eyeing up a 45-50 foot drop for most of the week.  The particular rock face he was teetering atop had two intermediate pillows that looked like he might be able to tap with his tails if he really wanted to.  But it was Go Big Friday, so he went and stuck it.  You really couldn’t get hurt in this stuff.

Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Whew! We’re wrapping up our trips to Salt Lake City this weekend after attending Outdoor Retailer, where we scoped out all the new gear for next winter 2011–12. We’ve got loads of fun previews and reviews coming your way, but for now you can check out our OR photo album on Facebook and enjoy this short video of Greg Hill, who I ran into at the Dynafit booth. He’s been all up in the news lately for his recent achievement of 2 million vertical feet climbed in one year. So impressive. We’re not worthy!

Snow Mountain Biking at Tahoe Meadows

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Kevin Joell of Reno doesn’t stop mountain biking when the snow flies, and he still doesn’t stop when the ground is totally and completely covered in snow. Following the snowshoe tracks from Tahoe Meadows he went all the way up onto Chickadee Ridge. I don’t know the exact mileage, but probably over 6 miles round-trip. Here’s his short write-up on his day out.

WHO: Kevin Joell

WHAT: Snow mountain biking

WHERE: Tahoe Meadows, off Mt. Rose Highway

WHEN: January 9, 2011

GEAR: Mountain bike with beefy wider tires, helmet, warm gloves and goggles

I ended up mountain biking up at Tahoe Meadows on Sunday on all the snowshoe tracks. Went all the way up onto Chickadee Ridge. It was a blast. Just lowered the air pressure in the tires and it worked fine… as long as you stayed in the tracks. As soon as the front tire left the tracks, it was instant endo. But at least into the soft snow!

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, ski, surf, climb, dive, snow mountain bike) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

MSR Snowshoe Reviews from National Winter Trails Day

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

On National Winter Trails Day this past January 8, 2011, we packed up our demo fleet of MSR snowshoes, and headed to Tahoe Meadows to show the masses how great MSR snowshoes are. There were 250 participants that day at the Tahoe Rim Trail–sponsored event, and we handed out some 80 free demos!

Most who took out demos, did the guided 1-hour hike, so they got a good feel for a variety of terrain, and had plenty of time on the snowshoes. Here’s a video of one of the guided hike’s intros, this one led by Sean of Sierra Nevada Journeys.

We had quite a few first-time snowshoers, as well as seasoned snow-hikers looking to go lighter and faster. The top selling points for MSR snowshoes are that they’re lightweight, extremely durable, modular (with flotation tail add-ons for deep snow or heavier-weight users), and made in the USA, in Seattle. Plus, they come in a variety of colors to match your outfit; as you can see from the photo below, we were extra careful to color-coordinate each demo with its user. The bindings shown here are the new set-it-and-forget-it SpeedLocks from MSR. Once you set that toe piece for a particular shoe (like these vintage leather cross-country boots) you’ll never have to refasten it again.

None of our demo participants who had a pair of snowshoes from another brand liked their old pair better! We had quite a few folks stop by already wearing MSR snowshoes, like Kevin Joell of Reno, pictured below. He’s worn his MSR snowshoes  on a 5K Winter Xterra snowshoe race and while carrying a pack to go snow camping, and he calls them a great all-around lightweight snowshoe.

Beginner or pro, you can’t go wrong with MSR snowshoes! Hope to see you out at National Winter Trails Day next year…

Kahtoola RNR22 Running Snowshoes Review

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

I’ve been itching to strap on a pair of the new Kahtoola RNR22 Running Snowshoes, and finally got the chance at National Winter Trails Day up at Tahoe Meadows. The TMS crew was there offering free Kahtoola and MSR snowshoe demos, and boy were we busy! I was only able to sneak away for a short jog, but here’s my review and some radical video footage of me in action.

LIGHTWEIGHT: Each snowshoe weighs in at only 1 lb. 6 oz. so it barely feels like you have anything but your shoes on. The slight flapping as you run is to be expected from any snowshoe, but the RNR does so gracefully and with barely any snow jumping up behind you.

STRONG: I took these on both hard-packed snow and crunchy, chunky crud with pockets of 5-inch-deep powder. While they obviously performed best on the hardpack. They didn’t falter through the crud; it just takes a bit more muscle strength and balance to power through. See them on the more rugged terrain (which looks worse when you’re on top of it) at about 20 seconds into the top video.

AGILE: Coming in hot down the trail, some slow-pokes crossed the trail right in my path. Thanks to the agile Kahtoola RNR 22s, I was able to fully flex my cat-like reflexes and cut through my obstacles with ease. See the below video to see for yourself. I’ve got skills with these Kahtoola running snowshoes!

Next time, I’ll wear winter tights and less layers and really take them for a spin. My monstrous pink ski pants didn’t really let me feel the full throttle these Kahtoola running snowshoes can offer.

Colorado Ski Conditions Check-In: Monarch, Silverton

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Matt Samelson of Boulder, Colorado, brings us this second update on Colorado ski conditions. Though Matt resides some 1,500 miles away from our brick-and-mortar store at Lake Tahoe, the former Couloir magazine editor is a loyal online TMS customer. Look for his series of Colorado Ski Conditions Check-ins on our blog this winter.

The central and northern Rockies had been getting hammered for more than a week. Then the Colorado snow pattern normalized just after Christmas. The snow spigot turned south and the San Juans got absolutely crushed. My brother Mike was turning 30 on December 29, and the plan was to ski Silverton the next day, Thursday. With Siverton only open Thursday to Sunday, there was going to be some serious snow awaiting us. And then it really started snowing.

I had just mounted a new pair of 22 Design Axl bindings to my Moment Belafonte skis. Now I know that the free pivot climbing tele binding is old hat for most folks now. But I hadn’t experienced — hadn’t even tried them out. Because I knew that when I did, I would need a pair. Well, I finally gave them a trial run up the shoulder of Mount Royal toward Peak 1 in Frisco, and I was right; I did need a pair of them. The free pivot through deep snow was smooth, and making steep kick turns was effortless. It felt just like an AT setup without the indignity of having to lock your heels for the descent.

En route to Silverton, Mike and I caught up with our friends Garth and Sandy from Gunnison. They are on the snowpacking crew at Monarch, and a plan started brewing. Garth and Sandy seem to be friendly with most everybody in the Gunnison Valley, which is a good way for plans to get hatched. Sandy agreed to meet us on Monarch Pass for a quick tour, and Garth headed to the resort to snowpack. But after one lap near the power line off the pass, Garth called. About an hour later, Mike, Sandy, and I joined the regular snowpacking crew at the base of the resort. One release form and a chair lift ride later, we were climbing into the back of a cat.

I had heard stories and looked at the topography from afar, but had never ventured into the Monarch snowcat terrain before. It’s impressive. Lots of chutes.  Nicely spaced trees. And amazing snow that day. We tromped around with the crew for a couple of hours, made a couple of nice turns, and generally had a great time poking around the area. And it was still snowing.

Originally, Mike and I were going to fire down the road to Telluride to catch up with our brother Scott and other family members in preparation for the “big day” at Silverton. But when we got to Gunni there was a fresh 9 to 10 inches, a 12-pack of the champagne of beers in the house, and it was dark. So we called it, and set the alarm for 5 a.m.

But Mother Nature wasn’t done. It kept snowing. And when that happens in the San Juans, roads start closing. Which is exactly what Red Mountain Pass did . . . for three days. So we didn’t make it to Silverton. “Settled” for the consolation prize of skiing with family at Telluride. But that just means we’ll have to go back in the spring when unguided skiing at Silverton kicks off again.

Pieps Vector Beacon to Hit U.S. Market Soon

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

We just got the confirmed word from Pieps with details about their soon-to-be-released Pieps Vector, the world’s first maintenance-free, 4-antenna avalanche beacon with GPS support and rechargeable batteries. We’ll dig up some more info at its official unveiling at Outdoor Retailer later this month, but for now, here’s what we know:

The Pieps Vector opens up an entirely new dimension in terms of range and search-strip-width thanks to its GPS technology. It utilizes 3 antennas / Dual Sampling Technology, and features a self-checking, fourth reference antenna that’s maintenance free. Its lithium-ion battery is rechargeable, eco friendly and economical. As far as looks go, it’s the traditional Pieps yellow with a snazzy fold-out antenna that quickly transitions it into search mode and improve its range.

GPS: Three letters, but such a big impact! The Vector’s GPS capabilities provide support during the primary search phase to maximize the search strip width and give you coordinates for alerting mountain rescue. A GPS map gives you a complete overview of all areas covered in the search, including MARK and SCAN functions and signal reception. Just imagine having access to GPS tracking during your entire tour or search! Plus, it’s all downloadable to your PC or MAC via a USB.

RANGE: The Pieps Vector has a revolutionary 80-meter, circular, digital range. The fold-out antenna enables simultaneous operation of both main antennas (Dual-Sampling Technology). Its doubled sensitivity gives you maximum search-strip-width and faster signal reception. Plus, it’s ultra-fast when time counts; just fold out the antenna and it switches to search mode automatically.

POWER: The Pieps Vector uses lithium-ion technology so it’s rechargeable with a USB interface. This means high performance at extremely low temperatures and permanent display of remaining battery power (transmit and receive). An additional adapter will be available for use with regular alkaline batteries.

We can’t wait to get our hands on the new Pieps Vector and test all these amazing features out for ourselves. Look for our update after Outdoor Retailer later this month.

UPDATE 1/25/11:
We’re back from Outdoor Retailer and experienced the Pieps Vector for ourselves. Surprise #1 was the Vector’s price tag. Retailing at $599.95, the Vector came in a bit more affordable than we thought it’d be. There’s something satisfying as well about the fold-out antenna that switches it lightning fast to search mode. Here are some specs:
Weight: 200 grams, including batteries
Dimensions (inches): 4.5 L x 2.9 W x 1 H

Check out our Pieps Vector videos taken at the OR Winter Market:

Pieps also unveiled the Pieps DSP Tour, a pared down version of the DSP, the Pieps TX600, a mini-transmitter that runs on a different frequency for dogs and equipment like snowmobiles, and the Pieps Backup Transmitter for secondary avalanches.  But certainly the brand’s top honors now go to the new Pieps Vector.

Tahoe Mountain Sports Gift Cards Fast, easy, and one size fits all. Buy Now! Follow us:  

Switch to our mobile site