This year our two new categories of winter gear, air-bag-equipped packs and fat-tired mountain bikes, also proved to be the most popular around Outside's headquarters. The packs didn't surprise me, as we have a pretty good crew of backcountry skiers here. And after an avalanche killed three people in Washington in February, and one of the survivors credited her air bag with saving her life, the whole country was suddenly talking about the technology. NPR ran a piece about how they work; a headline in USA Today read, "Deadly Washington Avalanche Highlights Airbag." Backcountry skiers and snowboarders—myself included—who previously hadn't seriously considered wearing an air-bag-equipped pack started saving up for one. (They're expensive.) If you or someone you love spends a lot of time in slide-prone terrain, see what all the buzz is about.
Then there are the fat bikes, with their comically oversize tires; they look like they were made for circus clowns. I figures a few guys in the Upper Midwest might want to bust through snowdrifts and tear around snow-packed singletrack on 'em, just like bands of stir-crazy dudes in Alaska have been doing for years. But it turns out these big boys are just as fun in mud and sand, too. While I haven't hung up my full-suspension 29er just yet, after surfing several of the latest fat bikes down arroyos here in Santa Fe, I have to admit: those clowns are onto something.