Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Eating snow (not the yellow kind)

Yesterday I did something that I haven't for a very very long time. I went outside and played in the snow. I realize that most of you consider skiing (all kinds), boarding, snowshoeing etc, would qualify as playing in the snow (and they do), but that isn't what I am talking about. Most snow activities involve goals of some sort. One might go out cross country skiing to increase their aerobic fitness, or go for a day of snowboarding with learning some new tricks in mind, or even something less specific like go skiing to enjoy the day's fresh powder. But all of these are in some way a bit of an adult activity. They generally involve expensive gear and usually some preconceived notion of what a good day of (insert sport X here) would be.

Before I go on, I want to make absolutely clear, that there is nothing wrong with any of these things. I think goals in sports are very important. I think pushing yourself and learning new skills is fantastic. I love the advances that engineering has brought to outdoor gear, and wouldn't go back to skiing on wooden planks for anything. But I miss the simpler days of my childhood where I set off to explore and play and laugh and experience, without any of these encumbrances. Yesterday, for the first time in years, I did exactly that. I went hiking in the snow. I didn't have any real goals. I went along a trail for a while, and then I went off the trail. I allowed myself time to stop and listen to the silence of the trees and deep snow around me. I watched a cloud pass by. I went up a hill and decided to roll down it, covering myself in snow. More importantly, I laughed. Like a little kid. For no reason but that I was happy.

I think with all of the pressures we each face everyday, we tend to grow farther and farther from the child we once were. We forget to enjoy and appreciate the simple things. My day of frolicking in the snow reminded me of what I'd been missing in my outdoor life, while I was busy getting caught up in all the hype. So if there are any of you reading this who know what I mean when I talk about that pressure to succeed in our respective sports, remember what it is that made you love it in the first place, and don't forget to maintain your childish wonderment.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Co-Branding, part 2.

I first wrote about Brand Extensions, Line Extensions and co-branding here and noted that it would be interesting to see how the outdoor industry was going to us them in the future... well Columbia Sportswear is testing the waters in Europe with Nissan.

Set to begin advertising Jan 2006, The 2006 Nissan X-TRAIL Columbia will have a an emphasis on high-value features including a sunroof, advanced DVD based navigation system, heated and power seats with leather trim, and 17" alloy wheels. The X-TRAIL will be one of the best equipped models in the compact sport utility vehicle market. Additionally, all X-TRAIL Columbia models will include unique branded floor mats, door sills and prominent badge placement.

Each X-TRAIL Columbia buyer will also receive a Columbia Selkirk(TM) parka. The Selkirk(TM) parka is a rugged, seam sealed, & lightweight parka with waterproof zippers, zip-off hood, laser-cut multiple function security pockets and Radial Sleeves(TM) technology for ultimate comfort. The garment comes in black and is available, for men and women, in a variety of sizes.

Paul Gils, Europe General Manager of Columbia speaks on the co-branding effort, "This collaboration will complement our marketing efforts as we work to build brand awareness across Europe and our joint efforts will help to expose each brand to new and different audiences. Teaming up with Nissan is a great fit for us since we share common philosophies and the reputation for producing high quality products for outdoor enthusiasts."

Jetta did this in the past with Trek, and Eddie Bauer with the Explorer... will it work for a more outdoor retail soft-good based corporation??

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Forest Service mandate - this land is your land

This week the Forest Service reiterated their stance on skiing beyond the boundaries of ski resorts that are operating on Forest Service lands when spokesman Matt Mathes said,
"Our guiding principal is that national forests are public lands and we should not restrict access to the public's lands. If someone wants to leave the ski area boundary and ski into the backcountry, that's their prerogative as a citizen."
In the past couple of years this issue has surfaced, often inciting heated discussion between ski area operators, the skiers who want to go beyond the boundaries and the search and rescue crews who are often called upon to rescue lost and buried skiers. Such was the case last year when a large avalanche just outside the boundary of The Canyons killed one man and became national headline news.

The reiteration of the Forest Service stance comes upon the heels of three separate rescues near Lake Tahoe just outside the ski area boundaries of Heavenly Ski Resort.

The bigger issue at hand (which US skiers and ski areas need to come to terms with - perhaps following the lead our European friends) was summed up by what Search and Rescue Deputy Mike Sukua said:
"The bigger issue is: are you prepared to go in the backcountry, whether it's legal or not. People should get out there when they are ready, not just because they can."
Well put indeed.

The Full Story

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Doing more for the Sherpa

Outdoor Profile

I've known Roger Kehr for a little over a year now. This soft spoken man possesses the passion and drive for the mountains equal to a half dozen people. Since moving on from his "previous life" as a business owner and entrepreneur in New Jersey, Kehr has engaged in a number of outdoor related creations including the Backcountry Awareness Week and worked at Snowbird Ski Resort first as an instructor and now as the director of special events.

But it's not what he does all winter that is most note worthy. Like most mountain employees in the off season he keeps himself busy - but it's not working a summer job that keeps him busy. Last summer Roger along with his wife Florence spent a great deal of time putting together a high altitude medical course to teach Sherpa climbers and guides essentials enabling them to better serve their clients as well as their families as fathers/mothers/brothers/sisters in providing a better way of life.

In learning about the Extreme Altitude Medical Training course that they organized and funded, it's impressive to see what these two have been able to do. What's even more amazing is to look at the students who attended. Check out the Sherpa students who participated in the course - among them are 49 summits of Mount Everest and countless other summits including Shisha Pangma and Cho Oyu. What's even more amazing is the fact that few of these climbers knew even the basics of high altitude medicine.

If you're looking for something worthwhile to join forces with that is sure to be rewarding and beneficial to the Sherpa people, they are looking for additional sponsors. Additionally they could use medical supplies for next year's course.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Girls Will Ride In....

The Brand that makes clothing "For Girls who Ride" is now going to offer outerwear for Girls to Ride In! Nikita Clothing, created and designed in Iceland, and worn around town all over, will premiere their technically advanced, and fashion-forward products at SIA next week. A more natural line extension than some, we now need to ask, can you move from Nylon track suits to Gore effectively? Will your customers follow? Good Luck!!

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Marmot Backcountry Adventure Sweepstakes Winner

Drum Roll….the winner is, Nick Southall. Who is this Nick Character, you say? He resides in Hood River, Oregon. Although, he is neither a Ducks or Beaver fan, Nick routes for the UK National Rugby team. You see, Nick is a transplant from the Midlands of England. He attended the University of Southampton and shortly after, he set off to travel the world. Somewhere between Nepal and Australia, Nick fell victim to the spell of his future wife. He followed her to Oregon, where he proceeded to become an Environmental Scientist. Nick works for Inter-Fluve, Inc. They specialize in the design, construction, and restoration of rivers, streams, lakes, ponds and wetlands. Mr. Southall partakes in the surveying and planning of Inter-Fluve restoration projects.



As you can see from the attached photo of Nick, he enjoys levitating and defying gravity on Mt Hood. His means for transportation are some old Tua skis with a Fritschi Diamir Freeride Binding set up and the Scarpa Denali TT Alpine Touring Boots. His playground of peaks entails Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt Hood.

Marmot, Backcountry.com, and Pro Guiding Service are happy to hook up Nick with an amazing adventure in the North Cascades. Nick is talking with the infamous Martin Volken, to figure out what level they want to take it to on their backcountry adventure. I’m sure Nick will be stepping it up for this trip. Keep an eye out in April, when Nick will be reporting back with some photos and first person accounts of his experience. Take a look at some of the opportunities that Pro Guiding Service has available, Click Here.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Officially, Smith enters helmet market

Ketchum, ID (Thursday, December 22, 2005) - Smith Optics, best known for ski and snowboard goggles and sunglasses, is launching into the helmet category with a full line of snow sports helmets for the 2006/2007 winter season. Smith will use their knowledge of winter sports technologies to enhance the combined function of goggle and helmet performance. Industry experts agree that the snow sports helmet market is on the precipice of a surge as new technologies such as those that Smith offer appear in helmets and as consumers are encouraged to wear helments by a variey of coalitions including doctors, instructors and resorts.

"We're going into the helmet market because we feel there is an opportunity today and a ton of potential growth in the coming years," said Smith Optics President, Ned Post. "We're working with the most advanced helmet factory in the world and know that we can take what we've learned in the last 40 plus years in the eyewear business to combine unmatched technology with cutting edge style."

Smith has entered into a long-term agreement working directly with a leading helmet factory to develop helmets using lightwieght In Mold and Bombshell hardshell construction technologies, plus an entirely new construction technology called Smartshell On Mold, which allows designers more freedom to create unique shapes and maximizes the final products' cosmetic appearence. "Smartshell opens the boundaries of EPS helmet design, allowing mold shapes, shell types and joint lines previously impossible with In Mold or hardshell construction," said Drew Chilson, Helmet Product Development Manager. "It's exciting because we have an entirely new, very proprietary tool box with which to design and manufacture new shapes."

"We are the market leader in goggles in the snowsports business and we have been actively incorporating helmet compatability into our goggle designs for the last three decades," said Eric Carlson, Director of Product and Merchandising. "In 2000, we revolutionized goggle design with the Triad, the first goggle to incorporate an outrigger system that helped it fit all helmets in the market. Every goggle we've designed since has incorporated an outrigger or articulating outrigger to increase helmet compatibility.

"What we're seeing now is that goggle performance is directly dependent on helmet features," Carlson continued. "Most helmets seal the top brow of a goggle and don't allow warm air to exhaust which causes fogging. Fogging will ruin a day on the mountain pretty quickly. Our experiences with and understanding of winter sports technology provides us with a unique opporutnity to offer a better helmet product for skiers and snowboarders.

"We recognize that we need to shift from making goggles that fit well in other helmets to building goggles and helmets that function well together."

Many of Smith's helmets will include AirEvac, a new technology that actively draws air through sublte, cleverly hidden integrated helmet vents. These vents create a vacuum effect that draws air out of the goggle, increasing air circulation and eliminating fogging.

"The marketing and product development teams dedicated to this effort have tremendous experience in the helmet industry," said Blair Clark Smith Optics Sr. VP of Marketing and Sales. "Our goal is to provide the same performance, style and support for helmets that we provide in the goggle and sunglass businesses while revolutionizing the integrated fit of the helmet/goggle combination," Clark said.

Smith will be debuting their line of helmets at SnowSports Industries America and Outdoor Retailer shows in January and helmets will begin shipping to retailers in Fall 2006. The helmets will include the most advanced ventilation features, audio systems compatible with iPod/MP3 players/cell phones, a crash replacement program and graphics to complement the goggles.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Go west already!

There are a few things that for me say "Ski Town" and it has nothing to do with shops, galleries, real estate or triple mocha cappuccinos and EVERYTHING to do with snow. Parked cars that like snow mounds, cars that drive around with feet of snow on top of them, people literally digging out, locals who wear beanies all winter and the line up at the local hill on the day after.

If you've never been to Mammoth Mountain you have NO idea what you're missing out on. Sure it's starting to feel the urban influence but if ever there was a time to head west to a ski town where snow is still king and the mountain is everything you've ever dreamed of, well, you you'd better pack your bags.

I spoke with Steve the "snowman" who runs Mammoth-Snowman.com and he was on fire about the 50 inches in 24 hours that they just received and how this last storm dropped nearly 12 feet of snow.

But don't worry, this type of thing happens a couple of times a year in Mammoth. If you happen to time it right, you'll likely not forget it for the rest of your life.

Photos courtesy of Steve at www.mammoth-snowman.com

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