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| July 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mt. Hood Snow Dome Summer Ski



Fresh brewed coffee in hand, I sat on the deck at Cloup Cap - the morning light illuminating Mt. Hood. Taking in the glow of the mountain, I slipped into my ski boots for the first time in almost two months this weekend. The usual razzing about why my pack was so small, and whether I needed help getting my boots on filled the air. Playing off the sarcasm, I pointed out my favorite credo, "Pack light, mooch heavy," and then asked if anyone had room to carry my jacket.


Tempted by the robust summer snowpack, I motivated a couple of Hood River pals for a mid-summer ski up on Mt. Hood over the weekend. The mountain bike and the family have been keepin' my mind off of skiing the past couple of months, but with summer temps finally here, our still relatively good snowpack is disappearing quickly. It seemed like the time get out, while the gettin' was still relatively good.


We stepped off the deck at a civilized half past six and began our hike up the East Moraine. There are a few lingering snow patches around 6,000 feet, but the snow has receeded to the upper mountain for the summer. Aside from firm conditions at the toe of the Eliot Glacier, the snow was already soft as we booted up along the Cleaver to the base of the Snow Dome.


We topped out at about 10am with snow consistency pretty damn good, but looking at more runnels and sun cups than I might have guessed. There are also more crevasses than I recall down where the Dome merges onto the Eliot. Still, it was very skiable and very fun to be ripping turns down the hill on July 30. If you are keen to get out, I recommend you get soon....


Here's a few photos of skiing the Snow Dome.



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Garmont to move North American HQ to Portland, OR



Garmont alpine touring ski boots


Garmont North America announced they will be relocating their headquarters to Portland, Oregon, not far from Off-Piste Mag's North American office (our only office). The press release goes on to call Portland an "outdoor and footwear capitol," likely due to the fact that NIke, Adidas, Columbia, Montrail and Ice Breaker call it home and not because Off-Piste Magazine is located in the nearby Columbia Gorge recreation corridor.


Either way, we welcome Garmont to our local 'hood and look forward to having the venerable ski boot manufacturer nearby for easy access to testing their telemark and alpine touring ski boots - not to mention we love Bridgdale socks, too.


Read the full press release about Garmont's move to Portland.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Banff Wildlife Camera



Check out this incredible video made from 12 months of footage taken by a motion trigger wildlife camera in Banff National Park. It looks like just about every critter in the area passed by this camera over the 12-month period including cougars, wolves, black and brown bears and moose - pretty darn cool.



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Skiers of the Altai Mountains



Altai Skiers


Back in 2005, I was able to join Nils Larsen on his first trip to the Altai Mountains in Northern China to meet and begin documenting what is believed to be one of the last remaining cultures to rely on primitively made skis for travel and hunting. The skiers of the Altai Mountains represent the roots of skiing. Their skis are handmade from local spruce trees and literally look ancient.Traveling to the Altai was a trip of a life time for me. Nils has subsequently been able to return five more times to continue his documentation of the Altai ski culture.


Following his first few trips, Nils produced the film Skiing in the Shadow of Genghis Khan: Timeless Skiers of the Altai about his first several trips. He also has a blog with some of his journal entries from his travels, including his January 2010 trip.


Nils has also been working on developing a new ski company inspired by the utilitarian nature of the skis used in the Altai Mountains. Appropriately called  the Altai Ski Company, the new skis are geared toward a unique blend of do-it-all utility that speaks to the way skis are used in the Altai Mountains. We are not talking descent oriented backcountry or mountaineering skis like we normally feature, rather the Altai Ski company skis are short skis with permanent skins that enable a blend of walking and sliding.


I have actually been able to use the skis a few times as Nils has been working on the design. I have skied them with 3-pin bindings and plastic 2-buckle tele boots. They are a lot of fun. We have found one of the best ways to ski them is to use the single pole style of the Altai skiers


Check out these vid clips:

Altai Skis in action

Altai Skis video clip 2


For more reading about Nil's Altai Project check out our interview with Nils from 2009.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Snowpack Data



The Northwest has been having an unusually cool and wet spring and summer this year. The temp outside my office is a mere 65 degrees and it is July 17! I am not really complaining. The weather has been great for riding and working outside.  Another side benefit is that our already healthy snowpack from the winter has been lingering much longer than normal. Cold temps mean slow melting snow. This means the summer skiing is better than normal, too.


Check out the following images and stats on the snowpack in the Northwest and beyond. These cool satelite images and weather geek maps paint an amazing picture of the snowpack. Volcano skiing anyone . . .


A July 7 report shows snow-water equivalents over 500% of average in the Northwest!


SNOTEL snow water equivalent


July 8 snow depth averages in the Northwest.


NOAA Snow Depth Map


NASA satelite image shows snowpack on July 6, 2011


Satelite image of july snowpack in the northwest

image credit NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response

SKi report coming next...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Osprey Raptor 14 Hydration Pack



Osprey Raptor 14 mountain bike hydration pack


Summer is in full force and, although there is still good skiing to be had in the Northwest, it is prime mountain biking season. I have had a new mountain bike hydration pack on my wish list for a couple of seasons, and when I saw that Osprey was making hydration packs, I decided it was time to try something new. My old bike hydration pack was a minimalist - little more than enough space to carry water and a spare tube. I wanted to upgrade to a pack that was big enough to carry a layer or two and a reasonable lunch, but not so big that it felt like a full daypack - enter the Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack


The Raptor packs come in four different volumes: 18, 14, 9 and 6-liter. The three larger sizes include a 3-liter Nalgene hydration reservoir. The smallest pack uses a 2-liter. I chose the Raptor 14, the second largest in the series at 14 liters (850cu in.) It is small enough that it cinches down to a minimalist style when empty and large enough that I can take a wind/rain shell, a warm layer, food and the essential trail repair gear without over stuffing it. The size has proven ideal for full- and half-day rides.


The construction is quintessential Osprey - high quality and bomber. Like Osprey's ski packs, the design pushes thoughtful innovation with functional features. The suspension system is excellent without being overdone. Unique details like the magnet that holds the mouth piece to the sternum strap help set this pack apart.


The Raptor has three primary compartments (excluding the hydration pocket) - one small top pocket, one large main compartment and a third medium-sized compartment. The large and medium spots add mesh pockets and sleeves for tools, pump and tube storage. There are also two stretch-mesh side pockets and a nice stretch pocket with a clip closure on the face of the pack.


It took a couple of rides to learn how to best pack the Raptor 14, but I have found the layout and size to be a great match to my needs.  In fact, I have found myself grabbing it for day hikes as well as mountain bike rides. The Raptor 14 has proven to be a do-it-all hydration pack. It carries well fully loaded, water and all, and it cinches down to a compact quick-ride size, too. As with their other backpacks, Osprey has found a great blend of technical features, functionality and comfort in the Raptor 14.


Osprey Raptor 14 hydration pack

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