The Outside Blog

Skiing and Snowboarding : Jan 2013

Mammut Introduces New Protective Airbag Packs at Outdoor Retailer

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Airbags are a hot topic in the snowsports industry, and Mammut is introducing an evolution of its Snowpulse system at next week’s Outdoor Retailer Show that it’s calling a new category in the airbag market—protective airbags.

The new Snowpulse PAS (protective airbag system) airbags offer trauma protection not currently available from other airbags. In forested and rocky terrain, which means most places in North America, many skiers die from trauma during a slide, not suffocation from being buried. Mechanical trauma causes approximately 15 to 32 percent of avalanche deaths depending on location and which study you’re referencing. Because of its extended neck wrapping bag, an avy victim wearing one of Mammut’s Snowpulse PAS packs has additional chest, neck, and head protection from impacts, better neck stabilization in a slide, and a greater chance of coming to rest with his head on top of the snow when a slide has finally settled.

In the PAS bags, the main airbag volume is in front of and above your head. That means when you come to rest in an avalanche wearing this pack, your head and face will typically be on top of the avalanche with your body in a sitting position, back downslope.

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The Art of Snow

Craig_SUSCFood for thought, at La Montanita Co-op. All poems courtesy of Snow Poems Project, Santa Fe.

It didn’t exactly come as a shocker: 2012 was the hottest and driest year on record. But winter isn’t dead yet. Literally or metaphorically. There’s fresh stuff under the boards from the Sierras to Maine, and in Santa Fe, a cool new creative venture is turning snow into art.

The Snow Poems Project uses spray-on fake snow to stencil poetry on windows around Santa Fe. For the past two weeks, poems written by local residents have been popping up on schools, galleries, government buildings, restaurants, libraries, and yoga studios in town. The poems are short—one or two lines of blocky, uppercase type—and most of them aren't even about snow, but the feelings they convey are the feelings of winter itself: stark, pristine, and wild. Reading them is a little like watching your breath turn to steam on a frigid morning, or following a single pair of footprints across a high meadow blanketed in powder. Dazzling.

Craig_SUSCPoetry is beautiful at Body Santa Fe.

The idea came out of the Cut + Paste Society, a group of Santa Fe women artists and writers, as a way to illuminate public spaces in the darkest of seasons. It's a creative statement as much as an environmental one: "Winter is a time for reflection and the incubation of ideas," says Cut + Paste president Edie Tsong, who partnered with the Santa Fe Art Institute for this project, "and poetry reflects this." Many of Cut + Paste's members are mothers, so it’s also a parent’s effort to bring art into the everyday and to turn cities into “living books,” written from the perspective of the people who live there. Tsong and her team vetted 175 poems submitted by locals (nearly half of which were from students) and winnowed them down to 40, including this one by 12th-grader Pedro Tena:

Craig_SUSCDrive-by art at the Solana Center.

Putting a poem on glass is harder than it looks. Tsong hand cut letters from cardstock, used them to trace the stencils, and then held a stencil-cutting party at Whole Foods. To install, she and her team of volunteers lay lines down with dry erase marker, yardstick and level, and then tape letters and words backwards, so the poem can be read from the outside. Next, the faux frosting: The spray-on snow is squishy until it's dry (when it just becomes chalk). Finally, they remove and wash the letters to reuse again. "People may wonder if it's worth it, but think of the amount of hours of training athletes will do to compete," says Tsong, "and you never forget a race or some physical challenge."

Poems will grace the windows of Santa Fe for the rest of winter; by the first day of spring, they'll begin to fade out, like melting snow.

Craig_SUSCSoup poem, Sweetwater.

For more information and a complete list of poems and places, go to snowpoemsproject.com and www.facebook.com/snowpoems.

—Katie Arnold
@raisingrippers

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Michael Ho Is 55 Years Old and Still Surfing Monster Waves

MichaelHoMichael Ho surfing Second Reef Pipe. Photo: Billabong XXL/Rusty Russell

In November of 2012, Surfer posted the 28 invitees to the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, a 28-year-old event in which the world's best giant riders drop into 25-foot-plus swells to honor the late Hawaiian surfer. Left off the list, though included as an alternate, was 55-year-old North Shore veteran Michael Ho. Commenters sounded off:

"Mike Ho should be in before anybody wats goin on?? He has been in the first one invited every year and actually knew Eddie Aikau blown!"

"I’m confused why Mike Ho is an alternate?"

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Exclusive: Black Diamond Announces New Technical Apparel

Bd1

You’re reading it here first.

In a few days, Black Diamond Equipment will unveil its new collection of clothing to media and retailers at the Outdoor Retailer Trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah. The clothing has been under development for two years, and you’ll be able to buy it at outdoor specialty shops this coming fall.

Outside pulled Tim Bantle, head of Black Diamond’s clothing team, from the ski slopes at Utah’s Canyons Resort for an exclusive interview on design, philosophy, and why the world needs another outdoor apparel line.

On Black Diamond’s Design process and ethic:
Design. Engineer. Build. Repeat. Black Diamond has been doing this for 55 years. Though really the process starts with use. Field use is the first point of entry into product here. Then we go through design, engineer, build and we’re manically addicted to starting it all over again. It’s iterative over time. You can look back over 50 years at carabineers to see how this has played out in history. In apparel we will see a similar evolutionary path. The “BD-ness” of the process is a guarantee of great apparel to come. Does that mean we’ll redefine silhouette of jacket? No. We didn’t do it with the carabiner.  

On why the world needs another high-end apparel brand:
The narrative of our industry is the movement of equipment brands into apparel over time. This usually takes place early in the lifecycle of the brand. The situation we find ourselves in here at Black Diamond is a bit unusual. We have a legacy reaching back five decades and have built a global business on hardgoods that’s as big or bigger than most existing apparel brands. As we build into apparel, we're simply trying to take everything we've learned in equipment and apply it. We want to build product that matters.   

Patagonia, Marmot, Norrona, Mammut, Arc'teryx, Mountain Hardwear—they all make equipment plus clothing. Nobody has hung onto $130 million of pure equipment sales. Apparel makes those kinds of numbers possible.

One of the brands we admire for balancing hardgoods and softgoods is Burton. What Burton was to snowboarding, Black Diamond has been to alpine climbing, climbing, and backcountry skiing. Burton has developed into a world-class hardgoods and softgoods brand.

I am pretty sure when I bought my first Black Diamond headlamp, Princeton Tec and Petzl were on the shelf too. It was the same with gloves. Black Diamond has done a superb job of grinding out really successful business initiatives, of competing in a space that sometimes seems saturated. I think it’s because we’re engineering-minded outdoor lovers who live at the base of a mountain range.

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