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 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 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
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 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
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.
I don’t need to tell you. If you’re here, you know it. If you’re not, you’ve probably heard. The snow conditions are seriously pressing on our nerves in Tahoe. It hurts. It hurts the bottom of your skis, it hurts local businesses and it hurts the local morale.
This is where I could mention some hurtful stats about this year being California’s driest winter on-record or drop some depressing figures regarding snow- and tourism-related economics. Instead, I’ve got some great news! Lake Tahoe has more year-round outdoor fun than any other ski town…probably anywhere. The lake itself offers a plethora of activities, from stand-up paddling, kayaking and boating off-shore to countless foot paths and bike trails on-shore. Although, you may need to stay closer to lake-level to find completely dry and clear trails. If you’re into fishing, the local tributaries will offer you a challenge in beautiful terrain. If you climb, you’re in luck; we’re completely surrounded by granite. You may not find as much ice to climb this time of year, but there are plenty of frozen ponds to go for a skate.
When you’re fortunate enough to see the views that I do every day, it’s possible to eventually take advantage of the fact that you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’m not saying that I do, just that it’s possible! Since I make it a point to Do Something Awesome Every Day, I figure sharing some ideas for adventure would be appropriate. Especially given these “winter” conditions and the notion that we’re all thinking the same thing: “What do I do around Tahoe when there’s no snow?”
Run On The Beach The fact that a sandy stretch of shoreline is available to our free use is almost unbelievable. In the winter months, when the sun’s shining and the temps are in the 40′s, the weather is perfect for running and you’ll often have much of the beach to yourself. So get into some cold weather running clothing, seek out a public access point and take a jog. If the amazing views, solitude and the pleasure of an aerobic workout aren’t enough to keep you moving, then think of it as “late-season ski conditioning”.
In-Bounds “Backcountry” Skiing You got all your backcountry skiing gear ready for the season, and now you have no powder fields to explore. Sure, the lifts are running from 8:30-4:00 daily, but that’s just not good enough. You want a workout, and you want to slap on those climbing skins that hung out in your closet the past nine months. Skin up the resort! Most ski resorts let the public use their groomed runs during non-operational hours (4:01 p.m. – 8:29 a.m.) *If you have information that proves me wrong, please correct me before you fine me for doing something awesome every day. So, if you want to get some exercise on your touring setup or you’re itching for some softer snow, take advantage of the man-made morning corduroy at the local resorts. Bonus: Starting a little after 4 p.m. and climbing an hour or so to the top usually rewards with a killer sunset. Pack a headlamp for skiing just in case; if you want to be off the mountain by 8:29 a.m. and don’t want to move too fast uphill, or you want to take your time watching the sunset before descending, you may be required to travel in the dark. And once again, Leave No Trace so we don’t ruin our reputation with the resorts. In my case, I bring extra doggy bags.
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.
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:
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. Read the rest of this entry »
Thanks to Cody Townsend for the interview and thanks to www.avanthans.com 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.
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:
Admit it: you’re either a ski bum at-heart, you acted like one before you got a ‘real job’, or you’re personally close to a ski bum. If you’re literally close to a ski bum, ask them what type of gifts they’d want for the holidays in the off-chance somebody bought them something both cool and useful. I’ll bet their response would stem from one or more of these factors: winter sports gear, warm winter clothes or tools/gadgets only an outdoor enthusiast could truly appreciate.
I actually did it. I asked three ski bums who work at Tahoe Mountain Sports what they would pick from the store if they could choose three items of separate values: <$25, <$75 and <$300. This gear gift guide is sure to align with the holiday wishes of a ski bum in your life:
Meaghen has a serious fashion sense and it’s obvious when you meet her. She’s always sporting a new style, even at work, and we knew we could count on her to present some quality women’s gift ideas.
I really like the fit and feel of Darn Tough Socks, and they keep my feet nice and dry. I like the Edelweiss because it is nice and thick, so it keeps me really warm but isn’t bulky and doesn’t bunch up in my boot. I always need fresh socks and I LOVE DARN TOUGH!!!
I love to wear flannels all winter long. This one from Mountain Hardwear is soft and thick, it has a nice fit and could easily be worn for something active or casual. I love the color and the fact that it dries quickly and manages moisture so I can wear it as a base layer when I’m on the mountain.
This women’s UGG boot is so comfortable and warm! It has everything that I like about the UGG Classic Boot, but with a better outsole and waterproof material so it’s more functional here in Tahoe. I love having just a plain black boot that I can wear with everything, and this boot works perfectly!
Todd handles all things tech for Tahoe Mountain Sports, so we weren’t surprised when he asked for a couple solar powered products and one of the best beverage storage devices on the market.
For our latest Steals & Deals we’re highlighting some of our favorite gear for outdoor sports as well as cute, casual and eco-friendly apparel for women. For backcountry snow travelers, we’ve lowered prices on the best avalanche transceivers online. Our majorly discounted water bottles for sports are ergonomic, durable and safe to drink from. Women’s outdoor clothing from the industry’s leading brands is comfortable, manages moisture well and moves with you during activities. We have gear and clothing on sale for everyone from kids new to the mountains to the most experienced mountain men and women. If after reading this you still find yourself thirsty for more bargains, head over to our online gear outlet or browse around tahoemountainsports.com - you’re sure to find something to suit your frugal fancy!
This Mammut transceiver is very user-friendly and comes equipped with a third antennae, the new standard in beacon technologies. The Mammut Element Barryvox uses a single button for all functions and is able to locate and mark multiple burial victims. Mammut backcountry gear is developed and manufactured in Switzerland, where quality-control is of highest priority. Get one of the best avalanche beacons at an affordable price while supplies last!
Filter your drinking water on-the-move with this innovative water bottle design from Vapur Anti-Bottles. Highly versatile, they’re perfect for just about everything. The Vapur MicroFilter safely removes 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of protozoa, so you’re safe from Salmonella, Cholera, E. Coli, Giardia and other nastiness. The Vapur Elementsoft water bottle and MicroFilter combined weigh only 2.7 ounces (filter – 1.1 oz) and will filter a minimum of 500-liters at only .5 liters-per-minute!
Another water bottle with a built-in filter, the CamelBak Groove bottle is 100% BPA-free and has a fold-down bite valve that ensures it remains spill-proof. You can filter up to 180-gallons with the 10.5-ounce insulated Groove filter bottle, and double-walled insulation keeps your water cold longer than other bottles. Carry it close-at-hand with the convenient loop on the cap, or let it bang around at camp or in the back of the truck – it’s really, really durable!
Long pointelle sleeves and a large collar add even more style to this already fashionable and eco-friendly Lole dress! The Lole Grenoble 2 is made from a blend of cotton, recycled polyester and elastane, so it’s soft on the skin, and at 34-inches long its classy-casual look is appropriate just about everywhere. If you’ve worn anything from Lole women, you’ll agree most of their clothing is exceptionally versatile, and this dress is no exception!
Between December 4 and 16 win a NEMO sleeping bag and a backpacking pillow by simply entering your email address here!
We’ve teamed up with NEMO Equipment to bring you another great gear giveawayjust in time for the holidays! Do you enjoy sleeping comfortably both indoors and out? Or maybe you know someone who does, and they would appreciate the most comfortable sleeping bag EVER even more than you would. ….. Wait a minute! What am I saying? Who doesn’t like sleeping comfortably? Okay, sorry, let me start over. If you’re not the kind of person who appreciates a good night’s sleep, you probably have no reason to be here. Everybody else, this giveaway is for you!
You could win a warm and cozy outdoor package including a NEMO Rhythm 25-Degree spoon-shaped sleeping bag anda NEMO Fillo inflatable backpacking pillow. That’s a $265 value! If you’ve never slept with NEMO, you’ve been missing out. Their innovative ‘spoon’ design has wowed testers and won numerous awards industry-wide. NEMO spoon-shaped sleeping bags match your body’s contour better and allow for more comfortable side-sleeping than traditionally shaped bags. They provide more room at the knees and elbows to allow movement during the night, and they’re amazingly lightweight for how warm they keep you. NEMO pillows are also very soft and comfortable on the skin and are a backpacker’s delight, adding lightweight luxury on (and off!) the trail.
Between December 4 and 16, visit our contest page on Facebook. Enter your email address in the box and we’ll select one random entry on December 17. Contest winner will be contacted via email. It’s that easy!
Check out this cool video highlighting NEMO’s spoon-shaped line of sleeping bags:
We have the best Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday sales around, so don’t miss out! And if there was ever a time to shop local and support your favorite Ma & Pa, Brick n’ Click company it’s on Small Business Saturday. Get jaw-dropping deals on the best sports equipment and outdoor clothing for winter while prices are their lowest. Now is the time to shop for the holidays!
If you’re in the greater Tahoe area and you can make it to our store in Kings Beach, you can take advantage of 20-70% off almost everything in the store throughout the long weekend! If you can’t come see us in-person, no worries; you can still save big on outdoor sports gear and apparel.
Save on holiday shopping for big ticket items like warm winter jackets and pants, boots and avalanche safety gear, and creative and affordable stocking-stuffers like warm down booties and socks. We have a gift for everyone on your list! Plus, all the outdoor clothing and accessories you’ll need to stay warm and comfortable through winter.
Through Cyber Monday (December 2) we’re taking 25% off all Marmot Clothing and Icebreaker merino wool, plus 20% off Prana clothing and Deuter backpacks and accessories! Good luck finding deals on brands like these at any other time or place! *Our sale on Icebreaker and Marmot already began. Prana and Deuter prices get slashed starting Thanksgiving Day.
Bonus: Any purchase of The North Face gear or clothing comes with a complimentary The North Face fleece-lined beanie!
Since we’re anticipating snow and the winter hype is strong, I thought I’d share some cool shots from last season. Get stoked…unlike most other places on Earth, Tahoe sees sunshine up until just about the time it snows. Sure, our radical weather systems roll through a later than our neighbors in the PNW, but we also avoid those melancholy transitional periods. Here’s to living in Lake Tahoe!
Cool contrast in the Northstar terrain park. Unknown flyer.
Dave (TMS Owner) skis off the top of Mt. Shasta. Click the image to read about it.