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March 05, 2007

Skiing Innovations Column

This column is worth a read, and talks about the innovations that have improved skiing over the last several years:

  • Inexpensive season passes: Nothing changed the face of skiing in Southern California, Colorado, and other markets faster than the bargain passes. When the price went from thousands to hundreds, skiers who used to make two trips a year started making three and four because lift tickets were no longer a factor in the decision.
  • High Tech ski parkas and pants
  • Snowboards
  • High Tech underwear: This is the aspect of getting ready to go skiing that nobody talks much about, but the changes in these key items of apparel have been remarkable. No longer scratchy, clingy, or uncomfortable, they fit well and keep you warm with fewer layers.
  • Helmets: I'm the only one in my family who does not own a brain bucket, which makes for some challenging conversations at family holiday dinners, since I am a supporter of helmets. I usually wind up with some lame copout like "I haven't found the right color, or size,'' but the bottom line is that most skiers are quite comfortable wearing this plastic chapeau and get a feeling of safety.
  • 4WD, cruise control and road improvements
  • Computer-generated ticket sales, allowing virtually any combination of multi-day passes, plus refund vouchers:
  • Ski area food service
  • Sorels
  • Non-skiing or snowboarding activities, including dog-sled rides, skating ponds, snowmobiles, and nature hikes on snowshoes

What about shaped skis and twin tips? High speed Quads? In Car DVD Players? iPods?

All in all a pretty good list. I like the idea of 4WD, Cruise, etc., having an impact on skiing. I cannot imagine making the 8 hour drive to BH without the Avalanche to make it up the mountain in the middle of a snowstorm at night.

Last trip to BH, we came in during a major snowstorm (a 2 footer) at night and cut fresh tracks up the mountain with 12" on the ground and not a plow in sight. Travis (who we met as he struggled to put chains on in the dark on his 2WD Toyota Tacoma) was about halfway up the canyon. We stopped and shined the headlights on his back tires for him and helped him get his chains on. He was unsure whether to head up or head back and get a motel room. We followed him slipping and sliding his way up the hill.

Makes me thankful for the Avy. The think is a rock. 130,000 miles on the 2003 and almost all of them have been ski trip miles. Trips to Loveland, Wolf Creek, A-Basin, Big Sky, Sunrise, Snowbowl, Alta, and just general driving around the West has taken its toll on my big black truck. The back window has Brian Head, Alta, and Big Sky stickers and the license plate is a derivative of "Black Diamond". The DVD player and monitors, Sirius Satellite Radio, and iPod controls make it entertaining and the heated leather seats loosen up the back for the long road trips home after skiing. The covered bed and ski racks hold plenty of gear. Side Pockets over the tires hold flares, blankets, jumper cables, tow ropes, tie downs, and occasionally food and drinks. Best Vehicle I have ever owned.

Get a 4WD truck if you ski a lot. It will save you.

Posted by Justin at March 5, 2007 12:55 PM


The biggest innovation for me has been one from a non-PSIA advised learning method, the Harb school's backside ball leaner.

The best way to describe it, a slightly bent tube with two rolling balls inside of it. The tube itself is wrapped in a black nylon should strap system so that you may wear it on your back.

The idea is to help with the carving while keeping your skis parallel. If you lean into the turn, you won't hear the balls roll and clack against the side. If you extend your obliques properly you will hear the clack of the balls hitting the tube edges.

Depending upon the speed and authority you make your turn the sound is louder or quieter. Either way, it corrected my turns almost immediately as the instant feedback of the clack worked wonders.

I've used this now with a few aspiring carvers who have wanted to learn a more race oriented stance. Even seasoned pros have tried it and loved the feedback. If you can find one, give it a try to see how you stack up and compare.

Posted by: Oft-piste at March 8, 2007 02:47 PM