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In the decisively “un-sexy” world of climbing skins, there are a few established players that backcountry skiers have relied upon for years. These guys have refined their product offerings to offer skiers the best combination of grip, glide and durability, while keeping weight in mind, of course. Personally, I’m not someone who equates climbing skins to un-sexy and boring—quite the opposite, actually.

If your touring skis and bindings are your peak-bagging car, then your skins are the wheels. You can’t make it to your objective without them, unless you’ve got some Fred Flintstone hijinx hidden up your sleeve. So, when a new company emerges that’s making its own climbing skins, I get irrationally—your words, not mine—excited to get my hands on them. In this case the ski wheels I’m referring to are produced by Big Sky Mountain Products.

Big Sky Mountain Products (BSMP) is the brainchild of Tom Jungst, who cut his ski mountaineering teeth in Bozeman, Montana, with the likes of Doug Coombs, Scot Schmidt and Jim Conway. Jungst moved to Bozeman in 1977 to attend Montana State University and translated an engineering degree into a business, Jungst Scientific, in 1984. The company manufactured parts and pieces that were implemented in various outdoor industry companies’ products. Jungst would also found Jungst Bikeworks, which manufactured mountain bikes in Bozeman for twenty years before being sold. Now, Jungst teaches at Montana State University while managing BSMP, with the goal of producing climbing skins that will “carry you to new places so you can share those adventures.” In order to appeal to backcountry skiers on a budget, BSMP produces all skins in-house, and the expert variety retails for $119.99, a steep drop-off from many other competing skin brands.

Fun fact: The company’s pineapple logo is a tribute to Jungst youthful antics when he used to hide full pineapples in his friends’ packs before hiking up mountains. It’s a nod to fun-having of his youth and a reminder to always keep fun at the forefront.

Just another spring day in Colorado. Photo: Donny O'Neill

I took BSMP’s expert skins out on an attempt to climb and ski a formidable descent in Colorado’s Front Range. Spoiler alert: We bailed on our main objective due to a litany of warning signs, but not before squeezing out over three miles of early morning touring.

The skins are of the nylon variety, rather than mohair. BSMP engineers the plush component to have a fiber stiffness and angle that helps give it a mohair-like glide, but with the high-quality grip that nylon is known for.

BSMP also strives to provide the most balanced adhesion component with its skins. The company’s goal is to produce skins with a peel strength not too high so they aren’t difficult to remove and not too low, meaning they won’t stick to your bases, and won’t leave any sticky residue, either. The skins are also built to walk the line between weight savings and durability.

So, how did they perform?

BSMP, just prior to rippin'.

We began touring at about 5:00 a.m., with a hard freeze preceding us the night before, which resulted in some truly bulletproof snow on the trail. Throughout the three-plus mile journey to our turnaround point, we traveled across everything from smooth, slick refrozen sugar snow, icy waves of sastrugi and soft, penetrable wind buff, all plastered to slopes in the 10 to 20-degree range.

While the gliding performance was hard to gauge due to the generally icy nature of the snow—I also was more focused on the bothersome 30 mile per hour headwind—I did notice that I had supreme grip each time the slope angle increased on our ascent. There was no slippage and, subsequently, no unfortunate introductions between my face and the icy ground beneath my feet.

When it was time to rip skins, I did notice a bit of “over-adhesiveness,” but I chalk that up to the fact that this was the first outing on this product. New glue, no matter which pair of skins you’re talking about, has an incredibly strong bond. I was pleasantly aware, though, that once my skins were off, there was very little, if any, residue left behind, and my glide on the descent wasn’t impeded in the least bit.

Big Sky Mountain Products Expert Skin.

If I were to include any cons about BSMP’s skins, it would be the cutting and fitting process. The skins come with a snap tail connector, wire tip connector, skin wax and a utility knife dubbed a “trim tool.” The whole process of attaching tip connectors, while keeping in mind the tail connector length and its 10 centimeters of adjustment was definitely tedious, and the utility knife wasn’t the easiest way to trim the skins down to their correct size. In the end, all worked out well, but there’s seems to be a lot of room for error, there. The skins come with instructions and you’d do best to follow them closely.

You can, however, shell out an extra five bucks for a “hooked razor blade,” that will make the cut job easier.  Or, maybe you have a leftover cutting tool from another pair of skins, that’ll also do.

To try a pair for yourself, head to skiskinsonline.com.

The post Gear Spotlight: Big Sky Mountain Products climbing skins appeared first on FREESKIER.

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In the latest episode of Cody Townsend’s THE FIFTY series, the Lake Tahoe-based skier takes us through the preferred gear he’s been using on his quest to climb and ski all of the lines from the book, Fifty Classic Ski Descents of North America. Besides physical fitness, planning and experience in the mountains, the gear you take with you can directly factor into whether you succeed or fail to complete your chosen objectives. Enjoy this near-15 minute episode of Townsend diving deep into the skis, boots and bindings that he relies upon.

The post Cody Townsend presents The FIFTY: Gear Talk appeared first on FREESKIER.

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FREESKIER Magazine by Erin Spong - 1w ago

WORDS • FREDERICK REIMERS | FEATURED IMAGE • COURTESY OF LINE

On May 14, the US Trade Association announced plans to impose tariffs on an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese-made goods. With skis, bindings, outerwear and gloves making the proposed list, we couldn’t help but think back to this story, which originally appeared in our 2020 Trend Book, and what the trade conflict between the US and China means for the ski industry and its consumers. 

On August 20, 2018, Jennifer Harned sat at a table in Washington, D.C., in front of a panel of eight assorted trade and labor officials and told them why Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs on China-made ski gear were a bad idea. The president of helmet-maker Bell Sport, Inc. (parent company of brands like Giro), had been concerned that her allotted five-minute testimony wouldn’t stand out amongst 349 other witnesses over the six-day hearing, so she memorized her speech in order to maintain eye contact with the trade and labor officials. She also brought four crushed and dented helmets with her—each impacted by a real accident—and had them passed amongst the panel while she spoke. Amongst millions of spoken words, Harned says, she knew “the helmets would tell a memorable story.”

Her main point: if a 25 percent tariff was levied on helmets, and her company was forced to pass those costs to consumers, those consumers might just forgo replacing a helmet that had been damaged in an impact—like the ones in their hands—and people would certainly end up, as she testified, “dying of an impact to their skull.”

SKIER: Daniel Loosli | LOCATION: Champery, SUI | PHOTO: Ahriel Povich

On September 17, 2018, the US International Trade Commission decided that helmets would be exempted from a 195-page list of thousands of items slated for a 10 percent tariff increase—provisionally slated to rise to 25 percent on January 1, 2019—presumably on the basis of Harned’s presentation. Despite testimony from trade group representatives from the Snowsports Industries of America (SIA) and Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), they were the only items among five categories of ski products—helmets, knit hats, leather gloves, ski bags/backpacks and belts—to receive a reprieve from the tariffs.

Certain ski gear is amongst some $250 billion worth of goods produced in China being tariffed by the US Trade Association in a dispute over alleged Chinese intellectual property theft. Tariffs on the most recent list, approved in August, were set at 10 percent, to rise to 25 percent if the dispute is not settled. Furthermore, the Trump administration has threatened to lay tariffs on an additional $267 billion in goods, which would almost certainly hit additional ski industry products including skis and apparel. The tariffs will definitely damage ski manufacturers and retailers alike, though trade talks were rekindled in early January 2019, raising optimism that an agreement might be reached to avoid further escalation.

“Companies would be forced to pass the costs on to consumers,” says SIA President Nick Sargent, “and few will be able to move operations out of China.” In his August testimony before the committee he also pointed out that the inevitable price increases would impact dozens of other businesses, not just ski shops but resorts and restaurants, especially in small towns where tourist’s budgets drive the economy.

Scenes from Hestra's glove design process. Leather gloves are included in the list of tariffs imposed upon China-made ski gear by the Trump administration. PHOTO: courtesy of HESTRA

“If we raise the price of a $175 ski glove to $200,” says Hestra USA President Dino Dardano, “We may well sell a lot fewer gloves.” Hestra ate the cost of the 10 percent increase on goods already ordered when the tariffs went into effect, says Dardano, “because we consider an order a contract, and it would be bad business to break a contract.” It would not absorb the rest of the tariff if it does rise to 25 percent, though, he said.

Hestra is working to sidestep most of those tariffs next year by moving the production of its US-sold gloves to its factories in Hungary and Vietnam. The company has five factories worldwide, and gloves sold to European consumers will remain in the two China factories, which are obviously unaffected by the American tariffs. The net effect so far company wide, says Dardano, is a three to five percent increase to the consumer.

For Line and Full Tilt, the strategy is more of a wait-and-see, says Global Brand Director Josh Malczyk. Full Tilt’s ski boots are made in Italy, so are unaffected, whereas the company’s Chinese-made Line ski bags will see a price increase. As for the potential for tariffs on its Chinese-made skis, Malczyk says, comically, “Donald Trump and his family skis in Aspen—in jeans, probably—so we might be spared.” If tariffs on skis do come to pass this year, Line has a production, testing and prototype facility in Seattle, says Malczyk, which could be ramped up to help sidestep some of those costs.

Eric Pollard working in LINE’s Seattle-based prototyping facility. PHOTO: courtesy of LINE

Malczyk, like Bell’s Harned and Hestra’s Dardano, has contacted Congress members about the issue. Dardano is also on the board of SIA, which has retained both a DC law firm and a lobbying firm. “You have to make your voice heard on this,” he says.

Rich Harper, manager of international trade for the OIA, is also urging ski industry manufacturers to invite Congress members to their headquarters for a visit. “Show them your employees who design, develop, test and market your products in the United States,” he says. “They need to see that this trade war is impacting American companies, too.” Between such pressure on the Trump administration from American business and recent reports of slowing Chinese growth, many are optimistic that the newest round of trade talks will yield progress toward an end of the trade war, hopefully before ski lifts stop spinning this spring.

The post Just Tariff-ic appeared first on FREESKIER.

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All photos: Bjarne Salen

Cody Townsend is one of the most recognizable names in skiing at the moment. He’s been a regular in Matchstick Productions’ annual flicks since 2005’s The Hit List, has wowed mass audiences with his fast, fluid approach to big-mountain skiing and won over the hearts of ski enthusiasts the world over with his low-key demeanor and charisma. This season, he announced his most ambitious project to date, the goal to ski all fifty lines in the beloved book, 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, by Chris Davenport, Art Burrows and Penn Newhard.

Definitely not slowly, but surely, Cody Townsend is ticking off one classic ski descent after another. Upon summiting and successfully descending Giant Steps Couloir in California, Townsend made his way to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for his 12th mission of the season: The Grand Teton.

With little knowledge and experience on this mountain, the insanely gifted skier phones in an expert friend to help him tackle this beast of a line. Known for his outdoor adventure film-making prowess with works like Meru and more recently, Academy Award-winning Free Solo, Jimmy Chin has summited and skied The Grand Teton more than 20 times in his 20 years of living in Jackson.

Over 7,000 vertical feet and six repel sections, the Grand Teton is no walk in the park, but with the talents and expertise of Townsend, Chin and videographer Bjarne Salen, the crew successfully checks another line off the mighty list.

Follow The FIFTY Project on Instagram

The post Cody Townsend presents The FIFTY: The Grand Teton, Wyoming appeared first on FREESKIER.

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A competition unlike anything else in the ski industry, SuperUnknown was started by Denver-based production company, Level 1 Productions, to bring 10 of the best “unknown” freestyle skiers together for the chance to win a large cash prize and the opportunity to film with Level 1 for their upcoming film that drops each fall. After a week-long session at Winter Park with one of the most diverse crews Super Unknown has ever seen, it was Blake Wilson who rose to the top of this up-and-coming skier crop–as voted by his peers–and crowned Super Unknown XVI king.

“This is definitely a surprise, there’s such a super stacked crew and it was amazing to session with you all, I’m honored,” said Wilson upon receiving the sought-after honors.

Italian Giorgia Bertoncini, despite tweaking her knee on the very first day, very first run, walked away with the first-ever women’s title.

“I think that this is a great experience to show to the girl’s freeski world that there is not just normal competition, there are other ways for them to get noticed and pursue a career with shooting video,” said Bertoncini of her first experience at Super Unknown.

As told by Level 1 Productions:

Winter Park Resort has rolled out the red carpet for SuperUnknown Finals yet again, stacking some of the most technical jib and jump features we’ve ever seen, and delivering on our request for blue skies and warm spring temps. This year’s crop of Finalists is our most global yet, brining their individual styles and skill sets from eight countries around the world-each with a unique approach to skiing which is guaranteed to make this year’s Finals a tough one to judge.

 

The post [Full Highlights] SuperUnknown XVI Finals, Part Three appeared first on FREESKIER.

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In the second chapter of his three-part project, Endless Winter, Nikolai Schirmer, along with childhood friends Eirik Verlo and Krister Furnes Kopala, make the call whether to stay in Norway and suffer through the less-than-ideal conditions or head south to Austria to pillage its historical snowfall. In an attempt to cut his C02 emissions, Schirmer trades a convenient flight for his trusty, diesel-fueled Obi Van—but will the effort to get to Austria be worth it? Press play on Chapter Two, above, and follow the sustainable skier on his climate-conscious quest for powder.

The post Nikolai Schirmer continues his sustainable skiing quest in chapter two of “Endless Winter” appeared first on FREESKIER.

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Featured Image: Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool/Adam Klingeteg

From Tanner Hall landing on the podium of his first-ever Freeride World Tour (FWT) competition in Hakuba, Japan, to rookie Jacqueline Pollard snagging the victory at the second stop at Kicking Horse, British Columbia, to Markus Eder consistently dominating throughout the competition and Ariana Tricomi defending her overall title, the FWT 2019 set a whole new precedent for the big-mountain freestyle competition. To relive all of the glory, stop by stop, FWT put together a highlight reel of this season’s greatest moments. Grab a towel, this edit will have you frothing over the insanity that is the FWT.

The post Stop what you’re doing, the Freeride World Tour 2019 season highlights reel just dropped appeared first on FREESKIER.

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If it’s an unusual sporting contest, it’s likely a Red Bull event. This spring, Red Bull brought its 500-person, mass-start ski and snowboard race, dubbed Red Bull Homerun, to Davos, Switzerland, and the competition was pure insanity. Dressed in speed suits, sumo suits and even banana suits, 500 stoked out skiers and snowboarders sprinted to their skis to race down a set course as fast as possible. With nothing more than bragging rights and a rowdy après party as a reward, every competitor gave it their all to be crowned the Red Bull Homerun champion. Commentated by Henry Jackson, this is the craziest competition to ever hit Davos.

The post [Must Watch] 500 skiers race to the finish at Red Bull Homerun in Davos, Switzerland appeared first on FREESKIER.

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If you’ve ever stepped into a pair of ski blades, you know how tricky it is to stand on child-sized planks, let alone ski. Lean too far back and you’re on your ass; too far forward and you’re eating snow for breakfast. Pro skier Chris Whatford, AKA BLADER UNKNOWN, on the other hand, is back from a four-year blade hiatus to show us exactly how you use these puppies. After watching this South Lake Tahoe skier flip, twist, grind and slide his way through BLADER UNKNOWN III, you’d think the kid was born wearing Moment Ski blades.

 

The post [Must Watch] BLADER UNKNOWN is back for a third installment appeared first on FREESKIER.

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Cody Townsend is one of the most recognizable names in skiing at the moment. He’s been a regular in Matchstick Productions’ annual flicks since 2005’s The Hit List, has wowed mass audiences with his fast, fluid approach to big-mountain skiing and won over the hearts of ski enthusiasts the world over with his low-key demeanor and charisma. This season, he announced his most ambitious project to date, the goal to ski all fifty lines in the beloved book, 50 Classic Ski Descents of North America, by Chris Davenport, Art Burrows and Penn Newhard.

Officially one fifth of the way through North America’s 50 classic ski descents, Cody Townsend heads to the Eastern Sierras in California for his biggest single-day mission to-date: Giant Steps Couloir. Before heading up California’s second tallest peak–sixth tallest on the continent–Townsend calls in snowboarder Nick Russell and author of Backcountry Skiing the Eastern Sierra, Nate Greenberg, to join himself and videographer Bjarne Salen on this giant ascent. Roughly 20 miles, 12,000 vertical feet and 10-plus hours later, these guys experience first-hand the skiing fruits of their slogging labor.

PHOTO: Bjarne Salen PHOTO: Nate Greenberg PHOTO: Nate Greenberg

Follow The FIFTY Project on Instagram

 

The post Cody Townsend presents The FIFTY: Giant Steps Couloir, California appeared first on FREESKIER.

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