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Archive for December, 2011

Looking back at an awesome 2011 at Tahoe Mountain Sports

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

It’s been another great year here at Lake Tahoe, and we’ve had a lot of great events, made successful by you, our friends, fans and customers. Here’s a quick look back at some of the fun stuff from the last year that we hope will get you looking forward to 2012 at Tahoe Mountain Sports.

We started the year off with a demo of our MSR Snowshoes at National Winter Trails Day with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association – folks got to try out all the awesome snowshoes from Mountain Safety Research in the beautiful setting of Tahoe Meadows near Mount Rose.

Then we hosted a Leave No Trace Winter Awareness Workshop in March to help every outdoor lover leave the winter wilderness in as good a shape as they found it. Thanks to Leave No Trace for your partnership!

Then in May we headed down to Reno for Riverfest with Keen Sandals and Outdoor Research to check out all the zany whitewater antics.

The Big Blue Adventure Series Run to the Beach in July broke records for attendance, and we teamed up to get athletes great deals and prizes with Suunto Watches and Salomon trail running gear.

Too many of our brands to list showed up this summer for our sample sale that hooked customers up with crazy prices – don’t miss this one in 2012!

Tahoe Beneath The Surface Author Scott Lankford gave a fascinating talk on Lake Tahoe History that even surprised some of our most knowledgeable locals. Thanks Scott!

We hosted two Ladies Night events with special deals just for women, with the help of Lole, and of course some tasty wine from Uncorked in Tahoe City and snacks from Westminster Cheddar!

Our 5th Annual Pro/Am Disc Golf Tournament was also a record breaker, reaching the full 90 player capacity for the first time ever! Thanks to the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association, NutSac Disc Golf Bags, Vibram, Merrell Footwear, Hostel Tahoe, Ferrari’s Crown Resort, Tahoe Dave’s Skis & Boards, Faux Pro, Tahoe Valuation Services, Plumas Bank, Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort, Alpen Software, Brimm’s A Catering Co., LOKI, North Tahoe Public Utility District, Kavu and Tahoe Adventure Company for helping us with such a fun event!

This fall we gave thanks to the mountain safety professionals that we all depend on when we’re out having fun in the snow with Pro Night. Brands like Black Diamond, Mountain Hardwear, Hestra, Marmot, Mammut (shown here blowing up an avalanche airbag!) K2, Dynafit and others gave great deals to these important folks.

A new event this year, we hosted “Drink to That” Night, an evening of beer and holiday shopping that raised funds for the Tahoe Institute for Natural Sciences. Here TMS owner Dave hands $1,000 from Patagonia to Will Richardson of TINS! Thanks to sponsors Outdoor Research, Horny Toad, Black Diamond.

And so, thanks for a great year from all of us at Tahoe Mountain Sports – we look forward to more fun events, great deals and exciting opportunities in 2012!

Tahoe Weather and Sport Report: December 2011

Monday, December 26th, 2011

Everyone’s itching for some Tahoe weather buzz since it’s been fairly dry here so far this season. But just cause the snow hasn’t flown much, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do here. This Tahoe weather and conditions report comes from TMS staff who’ve been out enjoying the sun, ice and hard pack. For weather forecasts and predictions, visit NOAA or Tahoe Weather Discussion.

ALPINE ICE SKATING is where it’s at right now. Browse any day’s Facebook news feed from your local Tahoe friends and people are posting pics and talking about ice skating. The weather is prime for it. Bodies of water like Eagle Lake, just a short hike from Emerald Bay, Five Lakes, up off Alpine Meadows Road, and the meadow pond just west of Safeway in Kings Beach are packed with people gliding the glass.

SKIING… Grab a big group of friends and it’s all good. The firm conditions and more intimate mountains (i.e. lack of terrain) will take you back to those East Coast days (if you ever had them) where it was all about making turns with friends. Stick to the outside of the slopes for a less-slick path down.

NORDIC SKIING is not great right now. Most of the Tahoe Nordic centers are still not open but you can find short routes at Auburn Ski Club (2 K) by Boreal and Royal Gorge (15 K). No one at TMS has been out yet to scope these out, so comment on this post if you have!

HIKING is great, and TRAIL RUNNING is do-able in spots. The Rim Trail out of Tahoe City’s Fairway Road is the clearest I’ve found on the North Shore. Other trails have patches of super hard-packed snow that makes running difficult. Head even farther east into Kings Beach and Incline Village and you’re sure to find trails clear of snow and ice. I took a hike up the Eagle Falls trailhead today and made it almost to Velma Lakes. The trail was fairly icy and snowy in parts, but totally hike-able and fun. The weather is perfect for hiking!

The ROCK CLIMBING community certainly isn’t complaining about winter’s late arrival. People can finally boulder in the sun, and most Tahoe spots are clear. Star Wall at Donner Summit is seeing lots of action. Bowman Lake is a drive but good, as are South Shore spots like Phantom Spires, Sugarloaf and Woodfords.

MOUNTAIN BIKING is good at low elevation. We’ve heard Lloyds, JP’s and Animal in Truckee are still seeing riders.

Stay tuned to our blog for Tahoe weather report updates. We’ll be sure to let you know as soon as it snows!

Gear Review: Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm and North Face Inferno 0

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

We sent gear tester Max Neale up to the cold and blustery reaches of Northern Maine to test out two brand-new insulating layers we’re stoked on: the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad and North Face Inferno 0 down sleeping bag. Did they stand up to the -10 temps? Hear it from Max:

Xtherm at Chimney Pond (model is 6' 3") Cilley-Barber in red

There are three principles for enjoying multi-day trips in frigid winter wonderlands. One: Eat a lot, 2: Keep moving, 3: Insulate as much as possible.

When I set out for an early-season ascent of the Cilley-Barber (IV 4), one of New England’s finest ice climbs, I was hoping the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm sleeping pad and North Face Inferno 0 down sleeping bag were the “as much as possible” in Principle 3.

The Cilley-Barber follows one of the most natural lines up Mt. Katahdin, Maine’s highest peak and focal point of Baxter State Park. The route was one of the boldest ascents in the country when done in 1973. Even today the route is very committing. Getting to its base involves a six-hour drive from Boston, the nearest city, and a 12-mile ski into basecamp at Chimney Pond. From there the route ascends roughly 2500 ft. of snow and ice (WI 4+) to Baxter Peak, elevation 5,268 ft. An old-school north-woods ethic pervades in the park: there’s no guidebook, no pins, no tat, no fixed anything. Rock and Ice Magazine calls Katahdin the Beast of the East.

Early season is synonymous with uncertainty. This is especially true in Maine and even more so on Mt. Katahdin, which is notorious for its foul arctic weather. The ice conditions are unpredictable, the temperatures unknown, and the wind speed irregular. These reasons plus the remote nature of the area force one to bring equipment that satisfies both Principle 3—insulate as much as possible—while also keeping weight down for the slog in. Enter the NeoAir Xtherm and Inferno 0, both of which kept me warm when the bottom dropped out at -10 F.

The Thermarest XTherm is the warmest and lightest sleeping pad on the market. Weighing a meager 15 ounces and packing down to the size of a large orange, this pad has a unique series of reflective baffles that make it ludicrously warm for its weight. The pad also works equally well for summer backpacking—its bottom material is more durable than the NeoAir XLite’s and it’s much lighter and warmer than the competition, such as the Nemo Astro Insulated (24 oz). This is the ultimate sleeping pad, folks.

While lifting you off the ice is important so, too, is slowing the escape of body heat. The North Face Inferno 0 uses top quality 850-fill goose down and high quality lightweight shell materials. Though warmer than it is light, the Inferno is meant for seriously cold weather. Combine the Inferno 0 with the XTherm for a full-blown winter setup. Whether you’re alpine climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, or venturing into cold and blustery Northern Maine, these key items will keep you toasty warm in any winter wonderland.

As these high-end models hit our shop, will update this post with links to buy. For now, add them to your wish lists!

01/20/12 update – here’s a video of the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xtherm from Outdoor Retailer:

Holiday Gear Gift Guide: The Dogs’ Picks

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

This wouldn’t be a Tahoe gift guide series without a few dogs in it. So without further ado, we wrap up our gift-giving advice with these recommendations from Tahoe’s own Fern and Gilly. If you need a present for a dog, shop with us!

Ruff Rider Dog Pack

We know what this gift means: a VERY long hike!! We’re happy to carry our own gear if it means a long journey into the wild. $51.95

 

 

Nite Ize Spot Lit

We know what this gift means: staying up LATE!! We’re all about safety here, especially with Tahoe lack of street lights. $6.95

 

 

Snow Peak Trek Bowl

We know what this gift means: FOOD!! We like our bowls deep, and this one delivers. Give us it to us with some of your scraps and we’ll be good until next Christmas! $15.95

 

Our dogs also love some good high-energy dog treats to keep them energized during long days on the trail. Check out these recipes; we’ve reprinted our favorite below, which the dog treat chef says will help maintain a stable blood glucose level in your pup thanks to the cornmeal:

Parmesan Crisps for Dogs
Prep time: 10 minutes
Makes: 24

6 oz Parmesan cheese (grated)
3/4 cup Fresh Parsley (chopped)
1 cup Cornmeal
1/2 cup Chicken stock

Blend all of the ingredients together. Drop a tablespoons of the mix onto a greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 375F for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and the cookies become crisp.

Need gifts for humans? Look back through all of our gift guides this 2011 season: Pam and Dave, Todd, Kevin, Lis, Greyson and Adina.

And if you read this in time and live on the West Coast, you’re in luck:

There’s still time to get your presents before Christmas! Use the promo code FREESHIP to get free shipping on orders over $50 when you order by noon PST today (December 21, 2011).

Holiday Gear Gift Guide: Adina the 3-year-old’s picks

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Adina Polivy is only 3 but she already loves outdoor gear!  Here’s what her mom (TMS owner Pam) tells us she would really like to get from Santa for Christmas.

Camelbak Kids’ Water Bottle

She loves the colors of the bottles but the straw is really the highlight. Easy drinking with no spills. She always asks for bubbles in her water – little does she know that special fun flavoring is actually Nuun Electrolytes and good for her.  There’s no need for juice with these tasty tablets – great stocking stuffers! $13.95

Gordini Teddy Mitts

In pink of course. They are soft, warm and comfortable so she can play outside longer. I like them because they are easy to get on and stay on. She’s had the same pair for 2 seasons and is starting to outgrow them so these will be perfect in her stocking. $16.95

Bogs Classic High Daisy Boots

Everyday when I bring Adina to the store to say hi she goes straight to these boots and says “I want these!”  We tried on all of the boots we carry and these were her favorite.  She can put them on and take them off herself which is a big plus.  They are waterproof, insulated and relatively low profile.  She hikes about a mile a day with her preschool, and they will be outside everyday this winter so I wanted her to have the best boots – these are it! $67.95

For the adults on your list, see the rest of our staff/contributor picks for more gift ideas: Pam and Dave, Todd, Kevin, Lis and Greyson.

Ski Pack Comparison, Picking the Best Snowboard or Ski Backpack

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Ski packs and snowboard backpacks offer a lot of options and features over your average daypack, whether you’re skinning into the backcountry or lapping at the resort, and the variety of options, straps, bells and whistles can get overwhelming. We’ve got more ski packs than we can list here, but we thought we’d highlight a few (seven, to be exact) just to help point you in the right direction. We look at packs aimed squarely at those earning their turns, ones perfect for resort riders who occasionally duck out of bounds, and mountaineering-style packs for skiers and snowboarders with serious peaks in mind.

Each review details ski and snowboard carry options, storage for the rest of your gear, suspension, versatility (would this make a good year-round pack?) and who we think it suits best. To see a complete list of specs, click on the name or image to go to the product page.

Deuter Freerider Pro 30

One of our most popular packs at TMS, this is a solid ski and snowboard backpack. Also comes in Freerider Pro 28 SL (Slim Line) for ladies and slender guys.

Carrying options: With a plethora of compression straps, it can be slimmed down for a day at the resort. The straps are great, giving you the option of snowboard, ski A-frame and ski diagonal carries. Since that’s two compression straps on each side and two on the front, you can still balance your load with the straps you aren’t using to attach your skis or board – making this one of the best packs for carrying your sticks on your back because there’s less swinging and sagging. Each strap is reinforced at its ends so ski or board edges don’t fray or cut the material, and the whole front of the pack is covered in tough Hypalon rubber for serious durability.

Storage: When it comes to the rest of your gear, the huge back panel access makes getting inside easy, and keeps your shoulder straps and hipbelt out of the snow. Deuter uses a really strong zipper, and buckled load lifter straps across the top to insure the zipper doesn’t fail under the weight of your pack. You can also get inside like a traditional panel-loader pack – think your old school backpack – for quick access. A roomy goggle pocket, accessed separately from the top of the pack, hangs down on the inside of the main compartment. The main compartment also houses your hydration sleeve with a port coming out at the base of the neck. Moving to the front of the pack, another panel-loading style pocket has plenty of room for your avalanche shovel, probe, skins and other odds and ends. It has four pockets and one sleeve (good for your probe or shovel handle), and a helmet holder, which attaches to the front of the pack to hold your lid when you aren’t wearing it. Ice ax loops, water bottle pockets, one hipbelt pocket and one hipbelt gear loop round out storage.

Suspension: A dense foam backpanel and a flexible loop around the outside of the backpanel zipper combine to give a lot of weight transfer while staying flexible enough to move with you. The theme of dynamic movement also goes through the pivoting, well padded hipbelt. If you’re skinning on a warm spring day, down to a t-shirt, you’ll appreciate the foam channeling on the back panel that allows for some ventilation. Overall, this is a very comfortable pack.

Versatility: With both a hydration sleeve and water bottle pockets, this would work year-round, so you don’t have to buy a separate day pack for day hikes. The gear loop (think climbing harness gear racks) on the left side of the belt could hold a few pieces of climbing protection – either for rock or ice, or just a biner to hang your hat.

Who it’s best for: Skiers and snowboarders looking for one pack to do it all – backcountry, sidecountry, in-bounds and even hiking or light climbing duty in the off-season. Comfortable and durable, there’s a reason this is one of our most popular packs. (more…)

Holiday Gear Gift Guide: Todd’s Picks

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Todd handles all things tech for Tahoe Mountain Sports, so we weren’t surprised when the Pieps Vector beacon made his holiday wishlist. Read on to see what else a tech-oriented outdoorsman might want for Christmas, Hannukah or just for being extra nice.

Snow Peak Snow Miner Headlamp

I have a special talent for losing headlamps, so I’m always in the market for a new one. This is the most ingenious headlamp design I have seen in a long time. The LED lamp is housed in a silicone dome that allows it to go from a headlamp to a hanging lantern. Push the dome in and it focuses the beam. Pull the dome out and it diffuses the light 180 degrees. Best of all it’s small, light, and has a super-long battery life. $49.95

Pieps Vector Avalanche Beacon

It’s high time I upgraded my old analog beacon. Turning that knob and following the loudest radio static noises adds unnecessary complication to rescuing a buried backcountry companion. I could just move up to a three antenna digital transceiver but the technophile in me demands the smartest and most advanced transceiver on the market (afterall, this device could save somebody’s life). Enter the Pieps Vector. The GPS-guided search strip with vector triangulation makes search and rescue faster, easier, and more efficient. This is the first transceiver with a USB rechargeable battery, and you can download your GPS tracks and vertical profile onto the computer. $599.99

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

Nobody likes to be cold. This highly compressible synthetic puffy jacket packs small enough to carry around everywhere and add an extra layer in a pinch. I could carry something like this around in my jacket pocket. It’s thin enough to layer under practically any shell without adding bulk and amazingly warm for its weight. $179

For more outdoor gear gift guides, see other TMS staff and contributors’ wish lists: Lis, Greyson, Pam and Dave, and Kevin

Holiday Gear Gift Guide: Lis’s Picks

Monday, December 12th, 2011

The countdown to to Christmas is full-on now… I know I’m busy prepping some packages that need to get out by week’s end to make it across country in time. Here are a few things on my wishlist this year. I’ve especially highlighted some stocking stuffers that would be great for not just me, but anyone on your list that lives an active life. Click back to Kevin’s wish list, Greyson’s gift picks and Pam and Dave’s picks for more holiday gear gift ideas, and look for more favorites in the coming weeks.

 

Lole Lola Dress

As a Tahoe Lole ambassador, I’m always in the know about the latest and greatest from this women’s line. A classic like this Lole Lola Dress would be a great gift to get. It’s so basic that it fits every mood, and the cut is unique enough to stand out in any holiday crowd. It’s got that not too baggy, not too tight drape to it. I could see myself dressing this dress up with some cool tights and colorful shoes, and then dressing it down with jeans. $59.95

 

 

 

Dakine Mia Hat

Every Christmas, a beanie is on my wishlist. I love accessorizing (er, covering up dirty hair) with hats! I think the color on this Dakine Mia hat is the perfect mix of red and orange. $29.95

 

 

 

 

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

This is the one essential that I’ve always had but have never upgraded. It’s time! I’d love to get a new headlamp like this classic Black Diamond model. Headlamps make great stocking-sized surprises… who doesn’t love a little something bigger than the expected oranges and chocolate in their stocking?! $39.95

 

Sharkies!

I love Sharkies and would be stoked to find these in my stocking. They’re a great stocking stuffer for any outdoor lover, and a great alternative energy boost to other more processed gels and gummies. I bring them on long runs and hikes and on every longer mountain bike ride I do. Sharkies are wheat free, gluten free and vegetarian (gelatin free) with naturally occurring electrolytes. $1.89

 

Get Radical: Dynafit’s New Radical Backcountry Bindings

Friday, December 9th, 2011

If you are into backcountry skiing but haven’t tried Dynafit bindings yet, do yourself a favor. If you’re just starting out, you could buy another AT binding, then buy Dynafits a few years down the road when you realize what most others have (they’re the best)… OR you could save money and just buy them now.

There are stats all over the internet showing backcountry skiing booming in the last couple years, and I am firmly part of that boom, starting a few years back. Luckily, I was talked into going whole-hog when buying my alpine touring setup and bought Dynafit bindings – the Vertical STs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m roughly 110 percent sold on the Dynafit design, and really have no complaints about them. They’re ridiculously light – you carry no binding (no extra weight) with your boot as you stride in walking mode (which is super smooth and natural), and they ski as well as my alpine bindings when it comes to power transmission and flex. But I decided to check out the latest and greatest anyway when the new Dynafit Radical series rolled into Tahoe Mountain Sports.

The Dynafit Radical Series, available in the burly Dynafit Radical FT, the economic Dynafit Radical ST and the uber-light Speed Radical, makes a number of evolutionary changes – all of which, in my estimation, will make these bindings even better.

The way you get into a Dynafit binding is by stepping into the toe pins up front, which lock into metal inserts on Dynafit compatible boots (Like the Black Diamond Quadrant) then dropping into the heel. When I first bought the Vertical STs, it was a bit of a hunt to hit the pins in the right place with my toe. But the Radical series adds metal wings, so all you have to do is bring your toe forward into the toe piece, and the wings stop your boot right where you need to step in.

When you’re skinning up hill on AT skis, most bindings have a way to lift your heal, which means it doesn’t have to drop all the way back to the ski on steep inclines with each step – sort of like walking up stairs – which is much easier on your calf muscles. My older Vertical bindings did this with what’s called a “volcano.” The heal piece rotated from ski mode, to a flat walking mode, and then up to two different heights for different inclines. Some folks found their volcanoes getting loose and rotating a little too freely after a lot of use. The new Radical bindings address that by limiting that rotating motion to the transition from walk to ski – but the two climbing modes are now accomplished with a flipping heal riser that promises to be even easier to change with your ski pole.

Another concern that had many hesitate from going to Dynafit bindings was the release mechanism – and while I have never had a problem with either pre-release while skiing or a bad release while crashing – Dynafit has made improvements on that front as well. A lot of alpine bindings have a low friction plate under the toe to insure a smooth release, and Dynafit has co opted that technology at the heal (Dynafit bindings release at the heal) with a spring-loaded piece that slides from side to side.

There are more subtle changes between the old Vertical and new Radical bindings, but after a few years on the Verticals, these are the changes that jumped out on me. I can’t recommend these bindings enough, whether you’re a backcountry veteran or just getting into the sport.

Need a pro endorsement? We talked to Greg Hill, backcountry skier extraordinaire who got over 2 million vertical feet in the backcountry last season, about the Dynafit Radical series when it was announced last winter:

And as always, if you’ve got any questions about the new Dynafit Radical bindings, backcountry ski gear, give us a call, send us an email or stop on by Tahoe Mountain Sports!

Holiday Gear Gift Guide: Greyson’s Picks

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Greyson, Tahoe Mountain Sports’ web editor, shares his holiday gear wish list with us today, and his picks are prime for any skier or snowboarder on your list. Peek back at Kevin’s wish list and Pam and Dave’s picks for more holiday gear gift ideas, and look for more favorites from TMS’s core staff and contributors in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

The DryGuy Circulator
With the car outlet adapter I’d be able to warm and dry my ski boots on the way to and from the ski resort, so I wouldn’t have to worry about my boots at home. $24.95

 

SmartWool Midweight Hoody
I’m a sucker for hoodys as layering pieces, and you can’t beat merino wool for thermal regulation, moisture management and beating the funk factor. $109.95

 

 

 

Gheeks goggle protectors
This is one of those slap-yourself-in-the-forehead-wish-I’d-thought of that great ideas for keeping goggles protected in my pack, on my helmet or anywhere else. $17.95

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