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Archive for the ‘Gear Reviews’ Category

Snow Peak Lighting: Torches, Lanterns and Lamps for the Outdoors

Friday, April 11th, 2014

This review comes from Scott Johns, an adventure cinematographer, mountain biker and snowboarder living in Incline Village on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. When Scott’s not creating beautiful imagery for video, he’s out ripping singletrack or shredding big lines in his backyard that we call the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Find more of Scott’s work at

Snow Peak
has rad, compact lighting setups for everything under the sun–or stars, as it were. As we’re quickly heading into camping, fishing, backpacking and spelunking season, it seems like a good idea to do a short wrap-up of these products–complete with cheesy puns–to help expedite the decision-making process. You can get all of these awesome products at Tahoe Mountain Sports, your one-stop-shop in Tahoe for top-performing outdoor equipment.

Holy Hozukisnow-peak-hozuki-lantern

Snow Peak’s Hozuki LED Candle Lantern and Mini Hozuki Lantern are a good place to start because they are ridiculously versatile. Both feature a warm, yellow light with high, low and manual dim settings for better backcountry ambiance, as well as an adjustable, candle-like flicker mode. Move it quickly and it will even go out! Both models are also equipped with compressible, removable silicone lampshades for easy packing and cleaning. The Hozuki Lantern features a hook and cord for hanging anywhere and the Mini’s hook is a stretchy rubber loop, fixed on one end, with a magnet on the other for easily securing to straps on your pack, tent or anything else you can come up with. The Mini Hozuki even comes in a variety of colors to match your kit.

Not Your Average Tulip

The Tulip LED Lantern is less of a backpacking lantern and more of a do-almost-anything-else lantern. Use it as a desk lamp at home, illuminate a broader area with it pointed straight up, while preparing dinner or playing cards on a car camping trip, for example, or hang it in the tent to get your Walden on before bed. The Snow Peak Tulip’s gravity sensor will know how you have it set up and focus the beam accordingly. It’s snake-like, adjustable neck ensures you’ll always get light where you need it. Output is 250 lumens, running on three D batteries or powered through it’s USB port.


Snow Miner Headlamp/Lantern Combosnow-peak-miner-light-settings

Need a headlamp and a lantern, but don’t want to lug around the extra weight–or spend the extra money? Snow Peak has you covered. The Snow Miner Headlamp is where it’s at. High, low, strobe and dim modes, 110 Lumens and press the silicone dome in to create a focused beam on the fly. The included, unobtrusive hook on the headband instantly converts your headlamp to a lantern.

snow-peak-miner-headlamp (more…)

More Splitboarding Equipment In Tahoe for Fall 2014

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Splitboarding Is The Answer

Ditch the snowshoes. Tahoe Mountain Sports has splitboards and splitboarding equipment for sale online and in Kings Beach. Once you do toss those ‘shoes, or lend them to your friend and kindly leave them at the back of the group, you’ll understand what the hype is all about. Ever trekked through knee-deep powder on snowshoes with a snowboard on your back? Tried breaking trail up a steep mountainside covered in fresh snow? You can probably recall moments of overheated frustration and thoughts of “there’s got to be a better way“. Well, consider cutting your snowboard in half and turning it into ‘skis’ that climb uphill, then reattach as a snowboard for the downhill. Or, even better yet, buy one that’s already split. It’s called a splitboard, and owning one can make – or break – your winter.

Last year we introduced splitboards to our already impressive selection of backcountry touring gear. This year, we’re adding even more splitboarding gear to accommodate the increasing number of backcountry snowboarders that seem to have lately emerged from the depths of Lake Tahoe. Last year, we couldn’t keep Spark R&D bindings with the Tesla System (eliminates the need for slider pins) on the shelf. Same went for most of our Voile hardware and accessories. This year, we’ve more than doubled our order for both Spark R&D and Voile Manufacturing. We’re also adding Jones splitboards to the lineup, and stoked about that partnership because if you aren’t already aware, Jones Snowboards has made their mark as the premier brand in a fast-growing industry.

Please note that it is currently March 2014 and our next shipment of splitboarding gear will not arrive until September. Don’t get discouraged when you see our inventory is low, be excited that it will fill up again soon…with plenty of time to prepare for the record-setting winter of 2015! For any products currently Out Of Stock, you can opt to be contacted via email when they arrive this fall.

Jones Splitboards – Jeremy Jones, big-mountain snowboarding pioneer and founder of Jones Snowboards, is an advocate for sustainable “green” practices. So are we. Jones splitboards provide the most reliable gear available to those seeking extreme adventure. So do we. We’re stoked to have such an outstanding business partner for the coming winter(s). So are they. I’m sure of it.



Solution Splitboard – $849
The Best-Selling Splitboard in the World. Time-tested shape and flex deliver equal performance to your solid snowboard. The design is identical to that of the Flagship, only split down the middle. The Jones Solution floats in powder, busts through crud and chop, and holds a mean edge on hardpack (credit: Magne-Traction). It’s poppy and playful, and is 300 grams lighter for 2015. It’s also a bit stiffer in the torso so you can really slay it up high.

Stiffness: 8/10, Directional Rocker, Camber Under Foot
Ultra Core, Quadrax Carbon, Carbon Split Stringers
Mellow Magne-Traction, Blunt Nose, Progressive Sidecut
Sintered 9900 Base, Stone Ground Finish, Recycled ABS
Stronger Edges, OneBall Jay BIO Wax, Karakoram Hardware





Carbon Solution Splitboard – $1119
Ideal for Technical Backcountry Lines. The Jones Carbon Solution is built for powerful riders who rip technical backcountry lines and demand a splitboard that offers the same ultra-responsive performance as a top-level solid freeride deck. A carbon topsheet and carbon stringers provide a damp, stiff ride that excels in variable conditions. It’s 500 grams lighter for 2014-15, thanks to the Jones ULTRA core with new ultralight wood cores and two layers of carbon fiber. Jones splitboards with ULTRA Construction are the lightest, most high performance snowboards on earth.

Stiffness: 10/10, Directional Rocker, Camber Under Foot
Ultra Core, Carbon Construction, Karakoram Hardware
Mellow Magne-Traction, Blunt Nose, Progressive Sidecut
Sintered 9900 Base, Stone Ground Finish, Recycled ABS





Ultracraft Splitboard – $1199
One of the lightest splitboards on earth. Tested on Denali and the Grant Teton, the performance of the Jones Ultracraft has been proven on some of the heaviest splitboard mountaineering achievements on the planet. Featuring the same trim and power as the Hovercraft, only with a carbon topsheet and core inserts that cut weight by 25%, the Ultracraft Splitboard is the ultimate ride for long days fulfilling big dreams in monster terrain.

Stiffness: 7/10, Directional Rocker, Camber Under Foot
Mellow Magne-Traction, Blunt Nose, Progressive Sidecut
Sintered 9900 Base, Stone Ground Finish, Recycled ABS
OneBall Jay BIO Wax, Karakoram Hardware




Test The Best: Backcountry and AT Ski Preview for 2014-2015

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

If you read our blog regularly, you know we get to see and test all the new gear about one year before it hits the shelves at the shop. These are always some of our most popular posts, so if there is anything missing that you want to hear about, just let us know in the comments section at the end of the post.

This year we headed down to Mammoth for a full day of ski testing and then had some extra random days in Utah, the Tahoe backcountry and at our local resorts like Squaw and Alpine. Here is a brief rundown of everything we tested and those that made the cut for the ski wall during the 14-15 winter season.

Blizzard Scout and Kabookie pictured with the Cochise2014

Blizzard Scout and Kabookie pictured with the Cochise 2014

Blizzard Skis/Tecnica Boots:

This was our first season offering Tecnica boots for men and women along with two models of Blizzard skis: Kabookie and Scout. Starting with the popular Tecnica Cochise line of boots, Tecnica updated the Cochise boots with a better fit, tighter heel cup, improved liner, new graphics and lighter buckles. The main difference between the Cochise Pro and Cochise Light is going to be the existence of the nicer power strap on the Pro model, and the Light model will come with Tech soles in the box while the Pro model will have Din soles.

As for Blizzard Skis, all we can say is WOW! They ski like a dream, hold an incredibly strong edge, transition smoothly and, in general, were some of the best skis we skied all day. The only downfall is that they are not exactly light, but they are not very heavy either. In our testers’ opinions, these are some of the best one-ski-quiver options you can buy.


2015-Volkl-skisVolkl Skis:

The clear highlight in the Volkl line is the new BMT line, which highlights the V-Werks construction in three new skis (or more accurately, three models of the same ski with different waist widths). The V-Werks Katana launched  this year and has been a solid, lightweight performer that drives with power and determination. The BMT skis on the other hand, are even lighter, can hold an edge as well as all Volkl skis but initiate their turn really smoothly and rapidly, and are therefore really highly targeted to the backcountry crowd along with a strong crossover appeal to that person who spends their time about 50/50 between resort and backcountry. The Volkl BMT skis will come in a 94, 109 and 122 waist. These are light, indestructible, fast turning, strong edge holding, smooth riding skis. Two thumbs up for sure!





salomon-q-bc-lab-skis-2015Salomon Skis and Boots:

We only skied two of Salomon’s skis and they were the Rocker2 100 and Q BC Lab at 114 under foot. The Salomon Q BC Lab (Dims: 140/114/128) is a takeoff from their running line where the S-Lab series represents the best, newest technology and highest end materials that shoes can be made of and developed for. This ski is the new entry into Salomon’s backcountry foray.

Out of all the skis we tested that were in the 115 underfoot category, the Q BC Lab easily beat them all with its immediate responsiveness, lightweight construction and overall consistency in the given conditions. In the same vein, the Rocker2 100 excelled in its class. It wasn’t the edge holder that the Blizzard skis were, but it was a solid, transition enjoying, responsive ski. I would say that the 2015 Salomon skis were the surprise winners of the day.


k2-coomback-skis-2015K2 Skis:

The most exciting part of the K2 line is the addition of the famous Coomback ski in a 114 waist. For 14-15 there will be two different Coomback skis available. This particular test day didn’t really beg for a ski that was 115 under foot, but after coming from the Salomon S-Lab, I decided to give it a try. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the same as the Salomon and while it will be a fun and playful powder ski, it is not a ski that can do it all. The Coomback 104 skied similarly to years past and will be a dependable one-ski-quiver long into the future. The ski for the day today was the K2 Annex 98 with its metal top sheet and sandwich sidewalls, this ski held its line just like the Volkls before it. The Annex series is a great choice for that person spending more than 60% of their time at the resort.








Before I wrap this up I need to mention two of our favorite pieces of winter gear that we’ve been fortunate enough to test, review, and sell – although gear from POC Sports sells out fast because it’s in such high demand. POC helmets and POC goggles are insanely comfortable and integrate perfectly together, creating an almost seamless fit. POC goggles provide superior visibility (peripheral span and contrast/clarity) and, as if you’re not already aware, POC helmets have been repeatedly proven safer than the rest.





After a long day of lapping the slopes of Mammoth and trekking to and from the demo tents, we ended testing over 15 skis between two people. Not bad for an average day of work! Check back here for updates as the skis become available and more skis are tested out for the 14-15 season.


Backstage At Outdoor Retailer – Best New Gear For Winter 2014/2015

Monday, February 17th, 2014

We recently made the TMS annual pilgrimage to Salt Lake City to check out the hot new trends and unique innovations coming down the pipes for the outdoor industry next season. We did the classic meet and greet. There were thousands of brands, purchasers and spectators to speak with. We did some research, taking lots of notes and pictures. We probably took too many of each, and now have to sift through it all. We went skiing and snowboarding at both Snowbird and Solitude. After all, sometimes a product run-down with a sales rep doesn’t cut it and you have to actually put equipment to use before deciding whether it’s appropriate for your customers.

We picked up countless product catalogs whenever a .pdf wasn’t available – What a waste of paper! We asked for promos and SWAG (Stuff We All Get). We heard “sorry” and “I can’t…” quite a bit. We also heard “yes” occasionally, and that always makes us smile. But most important, and the part you can most enjoy, is the information we gathered about the gear we plan to carry (or have since changed our minds about carrying) for fall 2014/winter 2015.










We skied day and night prior to the show. Here, TMS-Owner Pam (left) starts the day with top-to-bottom skiing at Snowbird; The North Face athlete and photographer Kris Erickson (right) descends Snowbird with a flare in-hand during an apres-apres night-ski.

TMS employee Adam was rejected at the gates of Alta Ski Area. “Excuse me, sir? You can’t snowboard at Alta.”

And now, on to the gear. This is just a teaser…there is SO MUCH MORE coming in and only so much we can tell you now.



 released their V-Werks Katana skis last year, a super lightweight all-mountain model ideal for both on and off-piste skiing. The V-Werks Katana uses vertical sidewalls and carbon fiber to reduce the weight of their original Katana by 15%. The upgraded version slays powder and holds an amazing edge on hardpack and rides stable at high speeds. The ski was so popular last year that Volkl is bringing it back with color options, in addition to improving their BMT skis, now 15% lighter and included in their line of V-Werks backcountry focused skis for 14-15.


The new Dynafit Denali skis, along with the 2.0 versions of the Radical FT 12 and Radical ST 10 bindings. Like the name entails, the Dynafit Denali was designed for Denali. It was tested by mountain guides on the Kahiltna Glacier in May of 2012. “The combination of weight, construction and materials makes this ski the perfect companion for long ascents and descents,” says Dynafit. “The dimensions and light weight are balanced optimally for performance on both the ascent and descent.” This ski is stiff and skis smoothly, carving very well in advanced terrain and performing excellently on steep, icy slopes.

As for the bindings, we all know the Radical reputation. Ski mountaineers and freeriders love and trust the light weight and top-tier performance of Dynafit Radical bindings.



Venture Snowboards gave their line of solid boards and splitboards a makeover.

Red = Red Mountain (SW CO)
Green = Pine Trees
Yellow = Aspen Leaves
Blue = Bluebird Days

We’re stoked on Venture splitboards and looking forward to carrying them next year! Venture covers all the bases with a full line of splitboards for everything from mellow pow and pillow lines to steep and slick no-fall-zones.


The new lineup from Voile splitboards is looking good with a fresh paint of coat instead of last year’s wood-core look. Here’s their swallowtail (not sold at TMS), the Voile Artisan men’s and Artisan women’s boards, and the new Revelator and Revelator BC (with Scales). We’re stoked to see splitboarding gaining popularity so rapidly!


The Voile Lightrail Binding is now offered in women’s colors (top left). Voile Universal Hardware (top right) is still the most common splitboarding hardware seen in the field, even with the latest pin-less technologies from Spark R&D. Using Canted Pucks that are tilted slightly inward (bottom left) increases your board’s response-time and decreases muscle fatigue. Starting Fall 2014, Voile will include their own Voile tail straps with splitboard climbing skins. Now you don’t have to order separately through another brand and pay double shipping!


The Voile Revelator BC splitboard comes with scales so you can skin up and ride down without splitboard climbing skins. It’s an interesting concept, and a pretty niche design, but would be ideal for anyone who spends a lot of time touring. The scales are well-suited for long approaches, traverses and rolling hills when repeatedly adding and removing skins can become a hassle. I wouldn’t recommend them on slopes greater than 30-degrees, but they’re great on mellow terrain.

black-diamond-jetforce-airbag-battery-packBlack Diamond is releasing a battery-powered avalanche airbag backpack and the hype is building quickly. The Black Diamond Jetforce Pack holds a charge for up to two weeks and is ideal for hut trips and other multi-day tours when you may be required to deploy the airbags more than once. Caught in a small sluff slide but unsure if it will become dangerous? No worries! Go ahead and pull the trigger…you’ve got many more on reserve.The BD Jetforce airbags inflate within three seconds and maintain their volume (200 liters) for three minutes. The second two-thirds of this time is spent automatically refilling the pack in case of an accidental puncture. The weight of the system rides close to the back, and isn’t actually that heavy (28 L pack w/ system = 7.5 lbs). Stay tuned…we’ll have more beta about this Black Diamond avalanche airbag pack in the near future. Models to watch for include the Pilot 11 Jetforce, Saga 40 Jetforce and Halo 28 Jetforce packs.


Arva Snow Safety Equipment makes packs that fit women better and boast serious fashion-sense (see right), backcountry shovels that dig more efficiently and weigh less, lightweight avalanche probes that are most compact and durable, and they offer all the features you’d expect from a top-notch safety equipment brand. Did you know the word “Arva” is synonymous with “beacon” in Europe?

The Arva Freerider 25 pack gets a face-lift for 2014-2015 with a separate storage bag for snow safety gear. Now you can keep your avy gear organized and easily accessible through the bottom of your backpack. Here’s an unedited video preview from the showroom floor:


ABS backpacks also got a sweet makeover for 2014/2015. As a leader in avalanche airbag packs, the ABS Avalanche Airbag System has the most experience and the highest survival rate (97%) of any airbag company on the market. 2014-abs-45-5-backpackThe ABS Base Unit goes unchanged, since they’re so dialed already, besides a narrower profile (depth-wise) that keeps the weight closer to your body for easier skiing.

Watch for a neoprene stretch fabric in 18 and 24-liter ABS Zip-On packs that provides more space for longer shovel handles. ABS also incorporated their 40-liter and 55-liter bags into the ABS 45+5 airbag backpack (right), perfect for longer tours, mountain guides and connecting routes from hut-to-hut.


The new Mammut Eiger collection, looking sleek and polished. Mammut clothing is designed for extreme use in harsh conditions and demanding terrain, and their Eiger line is for the top of the top. Next season’s outerwear is looking even better than last year…and we thought they’d already had their styles pretty fine-tuned!

Not only is Mammut men’s and women’s clothing functional and fashionable, but check out that sly little headlamp on the mannequin in the middle. Mammut headlamps are super lightweight and provide superior lighting for mountaineers. Still, they’re sleek and affordable so everybody has a need for one, not just those who play in the high-alpine rock gardens.


Smith Optics has a full collection of new colors and styles in both their ski and snowboard helmets and ski and snowboard goggles. This yellow-on-yellow combo is just one sweet headwear outfit. The sneaky Amstel Light simply crept into the shot last-minute. We’re not exactly sure how that got there.

Smith is also unveiling the next generation of interchangeable lens goggles, the Smith I/O 7. If you thought it was easy to swap the lenses on the original I/O, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This video walks you through the process of changing Smith I/O 7 lenses:


Helly Hansen has expanded their clothing line by 25% for 2014/2015! Their Lifa collection features 100% polypropylene fabric that breathes incredibly well on the inside, and it’s coming in two versions: Lifa Flow has a merino wool/polypro blend, and Lifa Active has a polyester/polypro blend. Their new C.I.S. piece is a 3-in-1 jacket with a with a removable inner-liner, and is compatible with all Helly Hansen C.I.S. pieces. HH is also dropping the Mission Stoke Jacket for next year, featuring H2 Flow along the back (circular spaces trap heat better and ventilate faster) and a new stretchy fabric in front that is ideal for freeriders. And an update to an already popular jacket, the Odin Insulator Shirt is now a reversible ski jacket and has a zipper rather than last year’s button-up front.

Here’s a short video preview of the Helly Hansen Supreme Jacket, a top-ranked piece for 2014/2015 with PrimaLoft Gold insulation: a blend of down and synthetic, giving you get the best of both worlds. Also, a four-way stretch liner and exterior go hand-in-hand when you need maximum mobility. Four-way stretch in solely the inner or outer doesn’t help much, but having it in both layers makes a world of a difference. Please excuse the poor color contrast in the video…our hand-held recorder was acting up.


There are several new styles of CamelBak water bottles dropping this fall, including a new coffee mug called the CamelBak Forge, which is is supposedly excellent for adventurers of all sorts. The CamelBak Podium Chill insulated sports bottle (best for warmer months) gets a makeover for next year with a larger mouth piece to increase flow, and the CamelBak Eddy .75 (3/4-liter) is still expected to be their best-seller for the gym/office/car crowd. Live in the city but want fresh water to mimic your weekend getaways in the mountains? The CamelBak Groove Bottle with a built-in two-way filter works better than Brita filters to remove the funky chlorine/metal taste. All CamelBak reservoirs are dishwasher-safe and their glass and plastic bottles come standard with a lifetime warranty. 


CamelBak kid’s packs like the Kicker, the CamelBak Skier (like a mini-Mule, a top-seller), the Scout pack (hiking pack with 50-oz reservoir) and the CamelBak Trail Blazer (15-liter backpack) haven’t changed much except for color options. Neither have CamelBak winter packs for skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and winter hiking. The CamelBak Gamblr is ideal for sidecountry skiing since it’s sleek and slim enough to fit under a jacket yet also holds three liters of water so you don’t have to keep stopping to fill up at the lodge.

The CamelBak Scorpion has external helmet loops, space for storage and a 2-liter reservoir. CamelBak Zoid hydration packs are minimalist with only two pockets, but at $65 they’re the #1 seller in their class. The CamelBak Snowblast isn’t changing anything but color since it’s already so well designed, but now will come in Black, Dark Olive and Brindle. The CamelBak Bootlegger insulated hydration pack is sleek and stylish, meant to hold 1.5 liters of water with a low-profile perfect for donning under a jacket and riding chair lifts.

Ortovox Snow Safety Gear: Beacons, Backpacks, Shovels & Probes

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Tahoe Mountain Sports
is proud to carry the top-dogs in the snow safety game, and we’re especially stoked on
 Ortovox Avalanche Emergency Equipment for 2014. They recently teamed up with ABS to launch a line of avalanche airbag backpacks, a partnership that we’re excited about not only because we love Ortovox backpacks, but we also stand by ABS airbags and their commitment to excellence in snow safety. The Twin Airbag System is top-of-the-line (click here to read more about the ABS Twin Airbag System), and Ortovox went the extra distance to make the system removable in their ski and ride packs so you can choose to ride with or without, depending on conditions and the extent of your backcountry adventure.

Not only are we backing the Ortovox ski packs for 2014, but their avalanche transceivers, backcountry shovels and snow probes are also a favorite here at the shop. Their transceivers feature Smart Antennae and Third Antennae technologies that pinpoint multiple burial victims and give the most accurate distance and directional readings. Their shovels are super-strong, rigid and lightweight so you can pierce through tough crusts and move lots of dense and heavy snow quickly and efficiently. Ortovox probes are also light and strong, and you can count on them during emergencies to deploy without delay and penetrate snow without snapping or fracturing under pressure.

When we leave the house, the hut, the tent or the trailhead, we all hope that unless we’re going out to practice our backcountry safety skills, our emergency snow equipment will never have to leave our backpacks. When the time does come to use that gear, we have to know we can depend on it. Our lives and our friends’ lives will depend on it. Practice all you want; if your gear can’t be trusted you’ll be no good in the field when disaster strikes. That’s why we only carry the best avalanche safety equipment in our fleet, and why you see Ortovox throughout the shop and our online gear store.

Thanks to Ortovox and the American Institute for Avalanche Research & Education (AIARE) for providing the slides for this instructional avalanche safety video:

Check out these top contenders in the snow safety category for 2014:

ortovox-mass-twin-airbag-system Ortovox M.A.S.S. Modular ABS Airbag Safety System
Weighing less than three pounds and deploying in about three seconds, the Ortovox ABS system is compatible with all Ortovox avalanche packs. With twin airbags, you’re protected from the head to the torso. Ortovox couldn’t have made a better decision than to team up with ABS’s 28 years of airbag expertise and Twinbag technology.
ortovox-tour-32-7-backpack Ortovox Tour 32+7 ABS Ready Backpack
Back, hip and shoulder muscles are relieved by the Vent-O-Flex back system and an O-Shaped frame, and an extra 20% of space can be added for larger tours by simply unzipping the middle section. The Ortovox Tour 32 + 7 is ready for you to add the airbag system, but if the terrain or conditions don’t necessitate airbags, just leave them behind save a bit of space/weight. Securely attach your skis diagonally or strap your board vertically, stash your skins and crampons in a separate pocket, and rotate the activation handle from left to right arm depending on user-preference. This is one really, really versatile backcountry pack.
ortovox-s1-avalanche-transceiver Ortovox S1+ Avalanche Transceiver
The Ortovox S1+ is super-smart. Users can now see a display screen with the relative location of burial victims and be directed toward them along the fastest route. This beacon also features the Smart Antennae, which gives you 43% more range than other transceivers by choosing the best signal to transmit based on the body’s position in the snow. Multiple burials? No problem. Well, that’s actually a major problem, but the S1+ will locate up to 4 buried victims and mark each individually so you can continue searching while your partners dig. Also includes built-in slope Inclinometer and will automatically revert back to transmission-mode if it doesn’t move for over one minute during search mode (think ‘follow-up’ or ‘secondary’ avalanche).
ortovox-beast-shovel-saw Ortovox Beast Saw Shovel
High sidewalls and a robust aluminum scoop provide ultimate strength and rigidity in a pack-friendly, collapsible snow shovel that weighs less than two pounds. Inside the shaft lives a snow saw, ideal for carving Rutsch blocks during snow-stability tests and cutting firewood when you end up in survival-mode. The Beast Saw Shovel is ergonomically advanced: a T-handle and lower-hand-grip improve efficient digging in wet conditions, and the oval-shaped, aluminum shaft is stronger than standard snow shovel designs. Don’t need a blade? The Ortovox Beast offers all the same great features and strength, minus the saw for $20 less.
ortovox-240-hd-pfa-probe Ortovox 240 HD PFA Probe
A PFA quick-release tension system deploys in seconds so you’re not stuck wasting any time during a rescue. It also packs back up really fast in case you need to book it out of the backcountry after the rescue. It only weighs 0.7 lbs and is one of the strongest avalanche probes on the market, with a piercing tip that penetrates hard snowpacks with little effort. AL 7075 TS aluminum light and stiff, thus the best choice for probe construction, and an EVA grip is easier to manage and keeps your hands warmer so you can dig more efficiently.

It seems there were some popular terms used frequently in this post: “safe”, “strong”, “efficient”, “lightweight”, “smart”. Do those words mean anything to you, as a backcountry traveler? This is not a coincidence. You can trust in Ortovox Avalanche Emergency Equipment.

Tahoe Mountain Sports also does Ortovox Firmware upgrades for Ortovox transceivers, updating them with the latest versions of Ortovox software to keep you as safe as possible with each passing year. To update your Ortovox beacon, click here: Ortovox Beacon Upgrade - you can either send your beacon to us, or bring it into the shop, and we’ll turn the update around within 24 hours.



Ortovox 3+ Transceiver
Ortovox 3+ Transceiver
MSRP: $369.00

2014 Avalanche Airbag Reviews, Comparison & Buying Guide

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

My job is to pick the best gear to present to the TMS customer base, and with the growing popularity of the Avy Airbag category, these packs have been hot topics of conversation around the shop the past couple of weeks, both in the store and through our online customer service channels. So, here is my take on the pros, cons, ups, downs and all-arounds of this dizzying category of backcountry ski gear.


I am going to break this up into a couple sections and parts since its a deep and intricate topic with lots of info. So, this first post will focus on the differences between the ABS and Mammut systems with a brief discussion about the packs and options for each system.

Quick summary:

ABS Avalanche Twin Airbags:

Twin Airbags situated on side of backpack/body – Provides redundancy in case one bag gets punctured. Airbags are long (ranging from about knee-height to above the head). This keeps your entire body above the snow and provides the flotation needed to “ride” out a slide and remain on top. 170 liters of volume is the most offered by all airbags on the market.

Compressed Nitrogen w/Pyrotechnic Trigger Mechanism (Activation Unit): Compressed nitrogen is housed in a smaller canister than compressed air and therefore takes up less room in your pack. It must be filled at ABS headquarters or swapped out with an ABS canister exchange at a certified ABS exchange center (Tahoe Mountain Sports does this!). The Pyro trigger is easiest to pull when under duress as there is no physical puncturing that takes place. The handle can also be switched from side-to-side for use by lefties, righties, or snowmobilers who wish to keep their hands free for throttle-access. The ABS Activation Unit includes the compressed nitrogen canister plus the pyrotechnic handle.

Here’s a brief rundown of how the ABS avalanche airbag system works:

Mammut RAS
(Removeable Airbag System) and PAS (Protection Airbag System)

Single Airbags Deployed from Top of Pack: RAS and PAS systems utilize a single airbag that deploys out of the top of your pack. The RAS system is the first generation of the Mammut (formerly SnowPulse) systems and is the least expensive. It is basically a large pillow behind and above your head. The Mammut PAS system was released to the North American market in the Fall of 2013 and comes down through the shoulder straps as well as above the head. Basically, the PAS system is meant to protect against head trauma. My one con with the Mammut airbag system is that you can still get buried up to your airbag (neck area) and if you were solo, you would likely still be stuck in the debris of an avalanche and not able to dig yourself, given that you even survive the slide.


Compressed Air w/Physical Puncture Trigger: Mammut packs utilize a compressed air canister which is slightly longer and wider than the ABS canister. Compressed air is more readily available in the marketplace as you can get your canister filled at a local filling shop (like Tahoe Mountain Sports!), scuba shops or paintball stores. The only potential problem here is user error when filling. Scuba and paintball shops are usually unfamiliar with the specific type of filling that needs to take place and therefore there could be user error on the filling side. We always recommend coming in and allowing us to fill your canister or just exchange it for a full one that we always have waiting for you in the shop. On the trigger side of things, the Mammut trigger requires a small pin to mechanically puncture the canister. Through testing in the shop, this takes slightly more effort than the ABS version, but not much. (more…)

Arcade Belts: The Best Belts For Sports – Cody Townsend Interview

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Thanks to Cody Townsend for the interview and thanks to for filming and editing.

I got a chance to sit down with Cody Townsend, professional freeskier and co-founder of Arcade Belts, and he answered a ton of questions I had about “the most comfortable and versatile belts” that myself, as well as many others I’ve discussed them with, have ever had the pleasure of wearing. Arcade Belts come from Olympic Valley, California, right at the base of Squaw Valley Ski Resort. The idea for durable and stretchy, streamlined and stylish belts stemmed from countless days skiing directly outside what is now the Arcade headquarters, and it shows in every little feature: They’re super strong, even when stretched to the max. Form nor function will alter in extreme weather. They’re easy to adjust on-the-fly. They have more fashion sense than you do. They’re affordable and will outlast the others.

Walk into Tahoe Mountain Sports on any given day and I guarantee at least one of the few employees will be sporting a belt from Cody and his crew. None of us have a dressy Arcade belt yet, but I doubt we return from the holidays without at least a few between the six of us. I notice Meaghen’s The Pacific all the time, and if she’s not wearing that she’s in one of five others from seasons past. Meaghen: I swear I only notice the belts! Dave wears his The Hemmingway to work, and on the same days he rocks it backcountry skiing. I know for a fact because I ski and work with him. I’ve given both The Sedona and The Scout as gifts, and they’re now cherished by their recipients. I rotate between The Midnighter and The Foundation, and I wear them for every single thing I do except trail running, yoga and chillin’ on the couch or sleeping. And that’s not even completely true; I’ve fallen asleep in my pants and an Arcade belt, and specifically recall waking up thinking, “I can’t believe I didn’t wake up to take that off.”

Don’t just take my word for it. Look around…you’ll start to notice a trend at the waistline.

Arcade Belts The Atwood
Arcade Belts The Atwood
MSRP: $25.95
Arcade Belts The Mariner
Arcade Belts The Mariner
MSRP: $31.95
Arcade Belts The Ranger
Arcade Belts The Ranger
MSRP: $23.95
Arcade Belts The Congo
Arcade Belts The Congo
MSRP: $24.95
Arcade Belts The Hemingway
Arcade Belts The Hemingway
MSRP: $25.95
Arcade Belts The Pacific
Arcade Belts The Pacific
MSRP: $24.95
Arcade Belts The Porter
Arcade Belts The Porter
MSRP: $31.95
Arcade Belts The Vapor
Arcade Belts The Vapor
MSRP: $23.95

Shop Arcade Belts online

Clothing & Apparel 101: Waterproof Versus Water-Resistant Outerwear

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

Other than injuries and broken equipment, wet weather has always been the quickest way to a ruined outdoor adventure. But it doesn’t have to be.


Staying under the safety of your tent’s rainfly isn’t the only option when a storm rolls in, unless of course all you brought was that beautiful 800-fill down puffy. That jacket may be the warmest garment in your closet, but anyone who’s spent more than ten seconds in one during a torrential downpour knows it will just turn you into a human sponge under those conditions. Thankfully, dragging around more rubber than a dominatrix isn’t the only alternative anymore!

Tahoe Mountain Sports put this waterproof gear guide together to help you navigate the modern plethora of sleeker, lighter, more-comfortable, water-shedding, moisture-wicking, wind-breaking and all-around-adventure-slaying wet-weather gear out there.

Outerwear fabrics these days almost all have some built-in (or coated on) resistance to getting wet, but there’s a big difference between water-resistant or water-repellent and truly waterproof outerwear. Under harsh conditions, water-resistant/repellent quickly translates to absorbent. It won’t take those types of jackets, pants, boots etc. long to become saturated in heavy rain (e.g., the aforementioned puffy).

How Waterproof is It? 


Click here to read about Arc’Teryx’s industry-leading waterproof outerwear.

Legitimately waterproof means sealed seams, welded or storm-flap-protected zippers and waterproof membranes. These items are rated based on how well they resist the entry of pressurized moisture in a laboratory setting. Most are measured in millimeters, but what the heck do those numbers actually mean?

The “mm rating” of a waterproof garment tells how much rainfall the item can withstand over a 24-hour period without any moisture leaking in. The higher the “mm rating”, the more waterproof the garment is. There are just shy of 305 mm in a foot, so a 20,000 mm waterproofing is pretty darn waterproof (withstanding 64 feet of water in 24 hours). Some garments, however, might also (or instead) provide a “psi rating” (pounds-per-square-inch).

A higher “psi rating” means a garment can handle more pressure. Rainfall can range between 1 and 7 psi. So, why do you see ratings of 25 or even 40? It’s because other forms of pressure can try to squeeze that moisture through the waterproof membranes in your outerwear (e.g., pack weight on your shoulders/back or sitting in the snow). That must be why my butt always gets wet when I’m snowboarding!

Breathable vs. Non-Breathable Outerwear

Okay, now that you’ve calculated the pressure of your bottom, let’s talk about those pits. Non-breathable fabrics are going to be the most bomber of waterproof materials, but that’s not going to help much if you’re moving around a lot.


Click here to read about The North Face FlashDry waterproof-breathable technology.

Look at it this way: Breathable fabrics (e.g., Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q Elite) let moisture move from the inside out, but not from the outside in. Non-breathables don’t let moisture move in either direction. That’s why Old Yellow, your raincoat from the 90’s, keeps you dry until you start exercising, then the inside turns into a steam room.

Breathability is measured by how many grams of water vapor will pass through a square meter of your garment’s fabric, from the inside to outside, in a 24-hour period (g/m2/24 hours). The pores the vapor passes through are thousands of times smaller than a raindrop, which is why something waterproof can also be breathable. Waterproof membranes also usually incorporate materials resistant to oils, like those from your body, sunscreen, etc., that might compromise the waterproofing over time.

In summary, the rubber raincoat you grew up with, or a more stylish modern version made from polyurethane-coated nylon, will always keep you the driest if you are only doing things like hanging outside or walking a short distance to school, the store or across town on an errand-run.


photo: Jim Grandy

But if you are backpacking through the Sumatran rainforest, jogging in Seattle or backcountry skiing the Sierra Nevada, you’ll want something that is both waterproof and breathable.

Hey, That’s Not Waterproof!

Leather is not fully waterproof, ever. Neither are water-repellent coatings. But many waterproof products do use water-repellent coatings, because the waterproof membrane is usually sandwiched between other layers. This is generally called the DWR or “durable water repellent” coating/finish. Washing your Levis in some Nikwax, however, does not make them a pair of ski pants.

Nikwax is, however, a great way to extend the life of your waterproof garments. You see, your garment’s DWR will wear out before its waterproof membrane does. And if you revitalize it before that happens, the garment lives on. Once the DWR is completely gone, though, there’s no bringing it back. And the rest of that garment is now compromised. But please, read each item’s care instructions before playing Scientist. Then try either NikWax Tech Wash for in-laundry care or NikWax TX Direct for spray-on pre-wash care.



Here are some of our favorite industry-leading waterproof-breathable membranes:

Black Diamond Backcountry Ski & Safety Equipment Gear Review

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

­­­Brennan Lagasse is a writer, educator, photographer, athlete and ski guide living on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, CA. Brennan has skied first descents all over the world, from the Arctic to Antarctic, including ski descents on all seven of the world’s continents. He co-guides a one of a kind helicopter assisted ski touring program in Alaska’s famed Chugach Mountains each winter, but is just as ­content to be backcountry skiing and adventuring in his home range of the Sierra Nevada, whenever possible. You can check out some of Brennan’s work at:

BD Gear in the Arctic

Black Diamond Equipment atop yet another summit. Svalbard, Norway.

Black Diamond Equipment (BD) makes just about every piece of ski gear you need to get into the backcountry, and get home safely. As the Tahoe area BD Ski Ambassador, three of my favorite pieces of BD gear that I use and trust are the Carbon Megawatt Skis, Anarchist Avalung Pack, and the Whippet pole. All three are perfect tools for use in the Sierra Nevada, but are just as apt for use abroad.

Carbon Megawatt Skis

It’s as if these skis were specifically made for skiing the West Shore peaks of Lake Tahoe. The Carbon Megawatt is the closest powder ski I’ve found that works with you on the up, but doesn’t compromise performance on the down. It’s what most current ski manufacturers are going for when they’re designing skis for the backcountry market, but unfortunately all too often the skis either kill it on the up, and lack integrity on the down, or they’re horrible on the up, and slay it on the down.

As playful, responsive and fun as these skis are to ski, they really shine in the skin track as well. BD has worked on shaving necessary pounds off their original model for a few years and have finally found a balance where at just over 8 lbs it’s hard to find another surfy powder ski that’s as light as these, but also keeps the performance so high on the descent. For this years model, the Carbon Megawatts are 2.5 pound lighter than the stock model, which is a huge improvement over the already stellar model produced from last year!


First Descent in Svalbard, Norway. Carbon Megawatt Skis & Whippet self-arrest pole.

I’ve also been able to ski the Carbon Megawatt’s (188 cm) in variable terrain and have been quite impressed. They are a powder ski through and through, but they do hold an edge and can get through some firm junk when need be. That’s a huge bonus for such a large ski. In fact, I came to trust last years model so much that as I got fully used to the skis I found myself skiing them in lines that I normally wouldn’t (tight, complex, steep couloirs) because they can hold an edge and are simply so much fun to ski.

Overall, I’ve yet to find another fat ski (147/120/127) with such a solid turning radius (28 meters) that can wiggle when need be, open up whenever possible, break and climb skin tracks so fluidly, yet also get you through variability. They’re a trusted tool, and if you find yourself looking down a few thousand feet of untouched bliss this winter, your fun factor will be through the roof with a pair of these Black Diamond skis strapped to your feet.

Anarchist Avalung Pack

BD has a whole line of Avalung packs that come in all different shapes and sizes to accommodate diverse needs for diverse skiers. I choose to go with the Anarchist because it’s their biggest model (45L in the M/L size, 43L in the S/M size). I often need to carry a lot of gear on ski mountaineering adventures, and am always lugging around extra gear when ski guiding. This pack is also big enough to use on a multiday tour, which is nice to have a pack that can cinch down when you don’t have a ton of gear on a tour, but can also accommodate more gear when need be.

Black Diamond Outlaw Avalung Pack

Black Diamond Outlaw Avalung Pack








One of the standout features of the Anarchist Avalung pack is the ergoACTIV suspension, which is just a fancy way of saying the pack is ridiculously comfortable. That’s a huge difference with other similarly sized packs that feel bulky when you wear them-no matter what’s inside. This does not happen with this Avalung backpack. The packs seems to move with you and the padding on the back does a great job meshing to ones back. It’s incredibly comfortable for how much storage you get, and I haven’t even nailed the major feature yet. (more…)

Oakley Snow Goggles Replacement Lens Tint & Goggle Fit Guide

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

Since Oakley makes so many different types of snow goggles for skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, winter paintball battles, extreme snowball fights and other awesome winter activities, a guide to properly fitting your face and choosing the perfect lens tints seems appropriate. Oakley snow goggles come in two different size groups: Small/Medium or Medium/Large. Oakley goggle lenses are


Small/Medium Fit: A-Frame, Ambush, O2 XS, Twisted, Elevate and Stockholm.
Medium/Large Fit: Airbrake, Canopy, Splice, O2 XL and Crowbar.
*Unfortunately, you can’t really just measure the diameter of your face to find the proper fit. As always, do your best to try on gear (or at least a similarly sized model) before purchasing.


Oakley goggles
are designed to integrate well with helmets. The ‘Outrigger’ found on many Oakley models brings the strap out and around the helmet without stressing the goggle strap. Silicone beading on Oakley goggle straps keeps them in place by gripping to helmet shells. Oakley goggles are flat on top of the frame so they fit flush with helmets, and vents wrap entirely around their frames (rather than solely on top) so ventilation is never compromised. In fact, the Oakley Airbrake Goggles fit flush with 98% of helmets on the market.

*If you wear optical correction lenses under your goggles, go with models that have greater volume like the Oakley O2 XL OTG Goggles (O.T.G. = Over The Glass).



Oakley uses High Definition Optics and is known world-wide for both Lens Superiority and All Day Comfort. Oakley lenses are tapered; other lenses are curved, which distorts light thus forcing your brain to adapt, eventually giving you a headache after you’ve been out for a while on brighter days. Oakley’s tapered lenses are thicker in front of the eyes and thinner at the edges. Yay! No more headaches when you’re rocking the best optics in the world!





Oakley uses Plutonite, the clearest and strongest polycarbonate in the world. In fact, they own the patent on it. Plutonite protects against U.V. rays and is within the lens, not as a finishing coat. When lenses with a layer of UV protection get scratched, harmful rays break through the scratches. Not with Plutonite!

Speaking of strong, Oakley tests their lenses to meet the Anzi 88.7 standard for eyewear safety, hence their popularity with construction workers, military and other professionals in the line of duty. A 1/4″ steel ball is fired at Oakley lenses from point-blank-range at 101 mph, and a heavy metal spike is dropped from five feet above the lenses. If the lenses don’t absorb the impacts, they don’t leave the factory.

Polarized light occurs on/near water, ice and asphalt. Other goggle companies use a sandwich construction, whereas Oakley infuses polycarbonate around the lens to maintain the clearest lens in the world. Noticing a “worldly” trend here?

Many lenses use Iridium. What’s an Iridium coating, you might ask? It’s bonded on a molecular level so it won’t scratch off and absorbs almost as much glare as a polarized lens. Iridium greatly improves contrast and provides a bit darker shade in bright light.

A few examples: Oakley’s ‘Storm’ lens tint is a ‘High Intensity Yellow’ and the Iridium in this tint is radically different from the yellow lens color, maximizing depth perception on the stormiest days. The ‘Persimmon’ lens tint is slightly darker than the ‘Storm’ lens, but also with incredible depth perception. ‘Blue Iridium’ is ideal for a Tahoe lens tint; it is versatile for mostly sunny yet occasional grey skies.



Click Image To Enlarge



Here’s an image guide to help you choose the ideal Oakley goggle lenses for any conditions:












Check out our line of 2014 Oakley Goggles:





Oakley Airbrake Goggles
The most technical of all Oakley snow goggles, the Oakley Airbrake has a switchlock that creates the fastest, simplest lens swap in the industry. To change the lens, simply pop them out using the tab behind the ‘Outrigger’, replace the lens with another, and apply pressure to pop it back in. The Airbrake also comes with an extra lens for storm days!




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