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| November 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Avalanche Education



North Cascades Mountain Guides Avalanche II Class


Winter seems to have gotten up to speed mighty fast. The first powder turns of the season are already old news and the first avalanche fatalities of the season have already made the news (Colorado and Utah), and it is only November. British Columbia has issued a high avalanche hazard warning for the South Coast and storms appear to be lining up in the Pacific, ready to deliver more snow. It sounds like a good time to ask if you are ready for the season and to evaluate your skills. Make this the year that you take an avalanche class, hone your route finding skills or take your avalanche education to the next level.


There numerous qualified sources to begin or further your backcountry skills. We ran an article about choosing a quality avalanche safety course a couple of seasons ago, and the information holds true today. Ultimately, the quality of any course is determined by the experience and training of the instructor. When looking for courses, ask whether instructors are affiliated with organizations such as the American or Canadian Avalanche Associations (CAA) or the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE), and find out if instructors are certified members of the American Mountain Guides Association or the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. Detailed content standards and certified instructors can be found on the American Avalanche Association website.


Several of our supporters (look to banners on the right - a little shameless promotion for our supporters) offer certified AIARE courses and many of the Canadian backcountry lodges offer CAA affiliated courses. From Payette Powder Guides and Sawtooth Mountain Guides in Idaho to Three Sisters Backcountry and Wallowa Alpine Huts in Oregon to North Cascades Mountain Guides and the the Northwest Mountain School in Washington, there are numerous quality options for in depth avalanche safety education.


If a straight up avalanche class does not tempt you, consider a general backcountry skills workshop, a course to expand your comfort in the backcountry and help build your general skill set, including staying safe in avalanche terrain. What better way to build your own skills than to spend several days with veteran ski guides. Skiing with guides is always educational. North Cascades Mountain Guides even offers a women's specific backcountry workshop, run exclusively by women. The workshop pulls together the Northwest's top female instructors and guides for a long weekend clinic, run by women for women.


Clear your calendars, book a course and ramp up your skillset. If November is any indication, it looks like this is going to be a winter to remember, and the skiing is always better in the backcountry.


Friday, November 19, 2010

A Far White Country - NW Skiing History Project



We received word from Lowell Skoog that he has completed another chapter of his on-line history of Northwest skiing. Here is the scoop from Lowell:

"A Far White Country"

My previous chapter ("The Ski Climbers") dealt with events between about 1928 and 1948.  In this chapter, I've jumped back to the beginning, roughly the years between 1890 and 1920.  This chapter describes how skis first came to Washington's mountains, how the railroads made winter recreation possible in the Northwest, and who the first skiers were.  I expect to insert another chapter between this one and "The Ski Climbers" as I continue my work.

You can find the new chapter on the website devoted to the book:



Dawn Patrol Humor



The Dawn Patrol mantra



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ski Rocker 101



Ski Rocker 101The October issue of Off-Piste (#46) included an article on ski rocker that has garnered a lot of requests for copies of the magazine. Written by Jeremy Rooper from the Mountain Shop in Portland, Oregon, Rocker 101 offers a window into the evolution of ski design and the rise of rockered skis.


I had orginally asked Jeremy to put togther a paragraph on how rocker  influences ski length choices. Well, I should have known that when I asked a 20+ year veteren of the ski industry a question like this, I might get more than I asked for, and I did. Jeremy's article is a must read for anyone interested in rockered ski technology. In fact, the article may even convince a few misanthropic old schoolers to at least consider the merits of rocker technology. If you are not a subscriber, consider kicking down and getting the best in grassroots ski culture delivered to you door.


Read the full article on ski rocker technology here: Rocker 101

Monday, November 15, 2010

Contagious Enthusiasm



With the first significant snowfall each season come the phone calls, emails and photos of many a friend who has made it out for their first turns of the season. Given my  role as the publisher and editor of Off-Piste Mag, the barrage of first turn tales is inescapable and helps fuel the fire for the season to come. Personally, I try to hold back the urge to get out with the first flakes of the season and like to wait for the snow to cover the stumps and downed trees.


That said, I only managed to hold off until the second significant snowfall this season before venturing into the hills on skis, and it was at the urging of my offspring that I decided it was time to check it out.


With an eight and four year old in tow, I did not hold lofty aspirations of peak bagging or record setting vertical, rather the day was about the basic task of hiking for a few turns, something neither of my kids has ever done.


Blue skies and cold snow were the order of the day, and the kids suited up with contagious enthusiasm. Our turns were modest, but the level of enthusiasm was off the hook. What a great way to start the season. Let it snow.



Mountain Khaki Subscription Spiff



mountain khakis promotionOur November subscription spiff ends in two weeks. Now is your chance to win a sweet pair of trousers from Mountain Khakis.


Subscribe before November 30 and you will be enetered to win one of 15 pairs of pants from Mountain Khakis. You can select any pair of pants from their website, men's women's or even kids.  They make a great pair of trousers. We have been sporting their Alpine Utuility pants for the past year and highly recommend them.







Wednesday, November 10, 2010

OMC Backcountry Expo and Gear Sale



OMC Backcountry expo



OMC in Portland, Oregon is hosting its annual backcountry expo this weekend. It is a great opportunity to check out the latest equipment , chat with industry reps and find a great deal on used and rental gear.


Check with OMC for more details.


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Salomon Quest 12 boots



Salomon Quest 12 AT bootsFresh on arrival here in the office is a pair of Salomon's new Quest 12 AT boots. It is the same boot that was realeased last winter with tech fittings (Dynafit compatible) and quickly recalled due to failure of the fitting. The boot has been re-released this season without tech fittings. The touring pads with Dynafit compatible tech inserts are NOT being released this year, and according to Salomon "there is no set date for release in the future."  So, the Quest 12 does NOT have Dynafit compatible steel inserts in the toe pads.  The boots are still compatible with other ISO norm touring bindings from Fritschi, Silvretta, Marker, etc, and they are currently compatible with the ISO norm for alpine DIN standard by swapping out the appropriate heel and toe lugs.   


The boots are, for a guy with a strict nordic background, very alpine-boot like. The Quest weighs in at 4.58lbs/boot (9.17lbs/pair) and is decidedly stout relative to my normal Scarpa Spirit 4 set up and most other AT boots I have tested. The Quest 12 is obviously targeted toward the alpine skier who wants a little touring flex for short walks and boot packs.


Burly, wide buckles are complimented by a very wide power strap. Although only a "three-buckle" boot, the Quest feels like it should be able to go head to head with any burly touring boot on the market without any problem. Walk mode is noticeably minimal, but improves when you release the upper buckle. Without skiing in them, I am willing to go out on a limb and say these boot are mostly about the down. With any luck, I should be able to get a day or two in this month and will report back on their on-snow and uphill performance.


Salomon Quest 12 Alpine Touring Boots




Check out the Salomon Quest Ski Boots or shop the full line of Salomon ski boots at

Monday, November 08, 2010

Federal Land Avalanche Protection Act of 2010



We all value our regional avalanche centers. The resource to backcountry users provided by the network of avalanche centers is invaluable. We get the best in weather forecasting, snow and climate data, not to mention professional snowpack and avalanche hazard analysis. Most everyone is also probably aware that funding for our avalanche centers is often at risk. Most centers operate on budgets that rely on funding from a variety of resources with  the bulk of funding coming from the U. S Forest Service with some state and private funding. The now ubiquitous "Friends of Avalanche Center" groups provide an important advocate and revenue generator for almost all of the avalanche centers in the United States, but there is currently an opportunity for you to help put the need for additional avalanche safety funding on the Federal Government’s radar.


Although it was raised in 2009 without action, Senate Bill 2907 is aimed at providing Federal funding resources for avalanche forecasting and research. Dubbed the Federal Land Avalanche Protection Act of 2010, the bill is out of committee and awaiting votes in the House and Senate. The Bill is sponsored by Senators Lisa Murkowski (R - Alaska), Mark Udall (D - Colo.) and Mark Begich (D - Alaska) and would appropriate funds to support avalanche safety information, research, education and coordination on avalanche-prone National Forest System land.


To voice your support for the bill, write your local representatives and senators. There are many ways to contact your representatives and senators, but here is a direct link to a website that lets you voice your opinion and, if you like, share the process via various social media outlets.


Read Senate Bill 2907 here. (pdf dowlonad)

Check the bill status here



Thursday, November 04, 2010

Mountain Khakis Subscription Promotion



We have hooked up with the crew at Mountain Khakis again to offer a November subscription spiff.


Subscribe before November 30 and you will be enetered to win one of 15 pairs of pants from Mountain Khakis. You can select any pair of pants from their website, men's women's or even kids.  They make a great pair of trousers. We have been sporting their Alpine Utuility pants for the past year and highly recommend them.


Mountain Khakis Promotion - FREE PANTS!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Snow in Idaho



We just heard from Chuck at Payette Powder Guides, a relatively new backcountry hut operator in Idaho. Sounds like they have been gearing up their operation for the season and have had the first significant snowfall of the season to boot. Here is what Chuck has to say:


Winter has arrived in the mountains! Last week we received a foot of snow at Lick creek Summit, and we made a trip to the yurts to shovel and make final preparations for winter.


Fortunately, we had our annual wood party in early October and, with the help of lots of hard working friends, managed to stuff every nook and cranny under our yurt platforms with plenty of fire wood for the upcoming winter. Located about 15 miles northeast of McCall, Idaho in an area that burned heavily in the 1994 Blackwell fire, we have plenty of standing dead trees to choose from.


Skiing the burn is surreal and unique. We love it. There are just enough snags left to help anchor the snowpack and provide much needed definition for good visibility on a powder day.


With a moderate to strong La Nina weather pattern forecast for the Pacific Northwest, we just might be skiing this month!




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