FINALLY the A9 gets closed due to snow and everyone in the UK has had to scrape ice off their cars on at least one morning.
As the clearing up from the Kendal Mountain Festival and Black Friday continues, winter 15 finally seems to have arrived. For the second year running we have had a very mild October and November. There was rain but it wasn’t raining the whole time, it’s actually been quite alright. There is plenty of muttering about the season’s being 2 months later than they used to be and the unpredictability of good skiing at Christmas but we do tend to make these judgments based on very short time scales and the unreliable memory of how it used to be. Yes I have skied thigh deep powder on boxing day but that was only once, and I also wrecked my ankle in December on a drainage ditch that wasn’t completely filled in.
Now that winter is here lets get out there and enjoy it. I have already seen good pictures of snowy runs in the lakes, the first little tours of those lucky enough to live in the Alps and Skimo Scotland getting very excited about printing your name on your race number for better personalised cheering on. Walk, run, climb, ski or board it just doesn’t matter.
So what’s new for Winter 15?
Grivel, DMM, Black Diamond and Petzl all have new axes or updated versions for this winter. BD have an updated Viper, Petzl have redesigned their Summit range of general purpose axes and Grivel have the Helix, designed specifically for scottish winter. If you want some more detail pleas read Luke’s blog post New Ice Axes.
Ski touring bindings have also had plenty of development for this winter. The Marker Kingpin is out. In my opinion one of the best ski touring developments for many years. It marries a pin toe piece with a standard step in alpine heel. Not that an original idea as Dynafit tried something similar but Marker really seem to have put the binding together well and not tried to be too complicated. As with all alpine kit a couple of seasons use will be the best test but it looks to be my next binding for the ‘one set does everything’ set up. The Vipec from Diamir has also had some tweaks to the toe meaning it should be compatible with just about all boots by using one of the two toe inserts. Previously it struggled with boots with very low profile toes like skimo race boots but most of these are now fine I am told. Please read ‘How to choose your Bindings‘
Another ski tour specific product is the Julbo Aerospace goggle. A google designed for ski touring with an innovative venting system. The whole of the lens and part of the frame can be pulled forward to make one massive all sides vent. Used to either quickly dump heat and moisture from the inside or actually worn like that for climbs and lift rides. Iit certainly seems like a good idea as long as it can be done with gloves on. Julbo have 20 pairs out on test with the Britsh Mountain Guides and we are looking forward to their reviews of it.
This seasons biggest development comes to synthetic insulation, the on going search for synthetic down. A fibre that lofts, compresses and insulates like a down cluster but one that isn’t degraded by damp and is easier to care for. Both Rab and Montane have baffled jackets for this season using synthetic clusters, the Rab Nebula Jacket, and the Montane Hi-Q Luxe Jacket. With many narrow baffle down jackets being worn everyday about town and often in the rain, this technology if it passes the field tests would be a great delevlopment. The baffling that these jackets require opposed to sheet synthetic insulation which needs minimal stitching actually improves the look of the jacket, which is no bad thing, and could be as responsible as their performance for their initial popularity. Look out for my own mini review coming soon.
Baselayer is another area to receive some love for this season. We have the rebirth of Dryflo from Rab. Dryflo was an ever popular 100% synthetic baselayer from Lowe Alpine that made the brand transition over to Rab as Equip own both companies. Dryflo has been loved for years and complements Rab’s other very popular baselayer fabric MeCo (Merino wool / Cocona synthetic blend). Patagonia have also revamped their Capilene range with new fibres and packaging. Capilene could actually be the only baselayer to be older or more loved than Dryflo!
If you have a favourite piece of kit that you would like to tell us about or something that you just can’t believe we don’t stock then drop me a mail. I love to get customer feedback.