Jul 18 2010

Tribute to Paul Ramer

© 2000

Paul Ramer

Paul Ramer circa 1995 wearing his elusive Avalert that never quite made it to market.

While there are many people who have contributed to the growth of ski mountaineering in America, few were more instrumental than Paul Ramer. It was his vision, more than any other single man’s which accurately defined, perhaps prophesied, the current landscape of the sport. Some of you reading this became aware of backcountry skiing through more contemporary voices, but they all stood on the developments and ideas first promoted in America by Paul Ramer.

Against America’s tidal wave of enthusiasm for Telemark, Paul was adamant that Alpine Touring (AT) was the way, not Nordic. It was an uphill battle all the way. Steve Barnett’s book “Cross-Country Downhill” distilled the enthusiasm for backcountry skiing in 1976, and his choice of telemark gear cast the mold for those who followed. He was just following Ric Borkovec, who chose Nordic as a rehab option to a ski injury, and then found exhilaration in the freedom it provided. Others, like Doug Robinson, Paul Parker, and Alan Bard began to wax eloquent on the telemark turn and the die seemed cast. When the first all-plastic telemark boot arrived, the Terminator, American interest in AT practically dissolved.
Keep earning your turns

Jul 25 2014

Technique: Range set up for testing avy beacons


The author performing a grid search very near the burial location.

The author performing a grid search very near the burial location.

How do I test avy beacons, more properly known as avalanche transceivers?
What follows is my range set up, some notes and illustrations for newbies to understand basic terminology and concepts, and my general procedures. From an overall perspective, I’m just going through some predefined motions to test limits. In terms of the real important stuff, reliability and ergonomics are the bigger factors to consider. When I say reliability I don’t mean it will always work, but how well it recognizes, distinguishes, and holds on to the signal(s) it is receiving. As for the latter, there’s no way to test intuitiveness without somebody’s ass being on the line. I give it my best guess based on 20 years explaining these devices.
Keep earning your turns

Jul 21 2014

Technique: Dealing with bouncing avy beacons

Three successive readings at 80m with Arva's Neo. Boing.

Three successive readings at 80m with Arva’s Neo. Boing.

Anyone who has practiced even a smidgen with their digital avalanche transceiver has noticed a bit of digital bounce. What is meant by this term is the error in the distance reading of an avalanche beacon. It shows up as the distance reading changing with each update, up and down around a number that, at least initially, may only indicate that you’re far away, but not necessarily exactly how far away.

The bounce is magnified the further away you are, and is slowly reduced until, when it really matters the most, when you’re close and need to know where to probe it becomes pretty darn accurate. However, the further away you are, the more pronounced the variation in successive numbers displayed tends to be.

By bounce I mean the variation in the distance reading. If it were an analog display what we might see instead is a volume bar or needle that jiggles up and down about an average position, which theoretically might be the real position.
Keep earning your turns

Jul 15 2014

Is the NTN’s butt too big?

JFB testing the flex of NTN boots at Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2014

JFB testing the flex of NTN boots at Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2014

There is a fly in the ointment, brewing in the background with the New Telemark Norm system. It hasn’t gained much recognition because there aren’t that many people telemarking anymore, and of those who still are, not that many have switched to NTN.

Depending on what size boot you have, and the binding you pair it with, you may not be able to replicate the sweet tele flex you can get with the same size duckbilled boot. It also turns out, this is more noticeable with Garmont/Scott and Crispi brand boots than with Scarpa.
Keep earning your turns

Jul 11 2014

Good Grub: Killer Cole Slaw


Healthy and delicious.

Healthy and delicious.

Here’s a quick recipe that combines two foods rich in cancer fighting ingredients for a new taste on an old classic dish – coleslaw – but with the zing of wasabi added. The main ingredient, cabbage, is rich in the naturally occurring phytochemical indole-3-carbino. This compound helps the body produce detoxifying enzymes that expose cancerous cells to your body’s natural immune system which can then starve them, kill them, and sweep them away.
Keep earning your turns

Jul 09 2014

Review: G3′s District ski

One of the sleeper skis of last season was G3′s District. It wasn’t that it didn’t get good reviews – Backcountry Magazine considered it one of their Editor’s Choice picks. Outside of that the ski didn’t garner much attention because it wasn’t one of the ultra-light carbon-fiber enhanced backcountry skis. Rather, it was a more traditionally constructed ski, with as much attention paid to reducing weight as possible, without breaking the bank or using carbon.

G3's District - solid, reliable skis for BC conditions

G3′s District – solid, reliable skis for BC conditions

Keep earning your turns

Jul 07 2014

Technique: Getting the right volume boot


Getting the right boot means narrowing down the choices.

Getting the right boot means narrowing down the choices.

One of the issues with getting the right size boot for skiing is knowing what a good fitting boot is supposed to feel like. It should be obvious, ideally it will feel snug like a tall, worn, leather hiking boot, only stiffer. Except ski boots never feel like that. Ever.

Because of the inherent stiffness of a ski boot you are simply unlikely to ever feel that. And since ski boots are modular, with a liner and a shell, a lot can get lost in translation. Ski manufacturers try to overcome with liners that give you the sensation of adequate pressure all around, but it tends to also blur perception. That’s where a good bootfitter can help, but it also helps to learn what zones to pay attention to.
Keep earning your turns

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