Well, the Tahoe season is over, so its time for a bit of reflection. This year was a big gear year for me, I got new boots (Fischer Vacs130) and I turned over my quiver almost completely- I bought new all-mountain ski (187 Blizzi Bone) and a new powder ski (190 DPS 112RP). Incidentally this was the first year when I was skiing the top length in each of my skis, as before I was always skiing the second length from the top. So I felt that I was ready for the steep and deep days, but unfortunately the season has not cooperated fully, and I found myself wishing for a hard snow ski in a quiver or the first time in my more than 10 years in Tahoe. Nevertheless, after 50 on-snow days here is what I liked and disliked about my gear choices.
1. The biggest impact was not surprisingly boots. Overall, I loved skiing the Vacuums, the snow feel and control is unbelievable, and light weight is icing on the cake. The product is undeniably a beta, there were issues and there will be more, but it made a big difference to my skiing.
2. I loved the Blizzard Bones when I tested them last year and after a whole year, I am not disappointed. The ski feels connected to the terrain, quick and stable, grippy when I need it and floaty when I want it. It was interesting to get back on my proRiders after spending two months of the Bones- the Pros are another level in stability on a straight-line, but they feel noticeably slower and clunkier everywhere else. So, the Bone is what it is- a brilliant compromise all-mountain ski that delivers supreme versatility above all traits. I am definitely keeping it for the next year.
3. The powder ski didn't get too much workout, but I nevertheless managed to get them out on a few days. When I tested the 112RP I felt that there was nothing that could upset them and they were this magic bullet for powder snow. After more extensive testing I am starting to feel the limits of those skis, they sometimes get bogged down in Sierra Cement where a burlier and straighter ski would do better, but overall, they still deliver what I want and they suite me better than most of the skis I tried this year. Nordica Helldorado felt very good (but totally different), but not good enough to jump ship. So one more year for Bananas for me.
4. The biggest surprise this year was torsional stiffness in my new skis, I found that I was a lot more confident skiing sloughed-off icy steep faces. The only time I skied Light Towers this season involved a drop onto a a very steep hards snow wall section above some rocks followed by a short steep traverse to good snow. I was on the 112RPs and they held like a champ. Afterwards I thought that I would have never done that on my previous powder skis (that line cried for the ProRiders anyway...). Ski technology has gone a long way and today skis are made a lot better than what we used 5 years ago.
5. Disappointment of the season: Not skiing Alpine much, and not getting to know its terrain. I had high hopes for it, but somehow it never worked out. In the dry months, when the snow was better at Alpine it was a lot more crowded and rocky, so I always found myself going back to Squaw. The team schedule and a long shuttle bus ride also limited the options, so I only made it there for an odd day or two when the snow started falling, and never on a good day. So, that was a missed opportunity, maybe next year wI will get there more.
As always, thanks to Starthaus for keeping my family gear-happy and well-taken care of. This year I met a lot more Bears than I did during all previous years combined, that was good to meet all of you. The highlight runs of the year were probably following my daughter down the Main Chute on Palisades, the first tracks on Funnel after a big storm (thanks, King Grump and Sinecure!), perfect steep corn off Smoothie when it just opened, and a number of others that I cannot recall already. I may or may not still be able to get some odd skiing in this season, but I am looking forward to the next one.
My clueless gear predictions:
The next year should be a bigger year for side country gear: no-downhill-compromise bindings and stiff boots with ski/walk mode. Looks like the technology has finally matured to the point when that gear can be used every days at the resort with occasional side country excursion, (or just an easier walk from the car!).
The rapid evolution of ski technology is slowing down so there won't be huge changes. I feel that the reverse/flat camber trend is going away and skis are returning to camber underfoot paired with tip rocker or tip/tail rocker. I have not tried anything that significantly topped the Flipcore Blizzards, so they should retain their position as the strongest line of expert skis.
Future gadget of 2012-2013: An action chest or helmet mount for your iPhone so you could use it as a GoPro. Cell phone video quality is amazing, so it is a bit silly to pay for a separate gadget that records inferior videos. Someone would make a mount that would let you use your iPhone as an action cam. Waterproof, easy to use, and still allowing to use as a cellphone.