Vermont Open ramps up Stratton's spring
By Matt Boxler
Traditionalists rejoice. Just because the world’s longest standing snowboard event packed up and moved west this year doesn’t mean the roots of the sport aren’t alive, well and worth celebrating in Vermont – right where they’ve always been.
The pink elephant in the Green Mountain state this season as far as snowboarding is concerned has been Burton Snowboards’ decision to move the 31st US Open Championships, held for 30 years in Vermont – including 27 years at Stratton Mountain – to Vail, Colo.
Business is business, understands pioneering snowboarding pro Stephen Hayes, who got his start in the sport sledding around Stratton in the late 1970s on a vintage snurfer. But tradition is tradition. While it’s impossible to replace a spectacle the magnitude of the US Open, Hayes and Stratton Mountain resort have teamed up to develop a throwback event to honor snowboarding the way it used to be.
Adventure demands gear AND education
By Matt Boxler
The pioneers of backcountry skiing probably didn’t see it coming this far, this fast. Secluded pockets of privacy deep in the woods remain a reward worthy of their efforts, but with five million skiers and snowboarders venturing off-piste each season, the secret is definitely out.
The backcountry represents a solid growth opportunity for the industry, as 20 percent of both skiers and snowboarders explored this type of terrain last season, according to a special report on the sector published by Snowsports Industries America (SIA).
“Backcountry skiing is a growth opportunity for our industry,” stated Mike Hattrup, director of K2 Backside. “Whether accessed via chair lift or trailhead it’s still the backcountry and it’s our job as an industry to promote the products and knowledge for a safe experience.”
For alpine skiers and snowboarders, access to the backcountry has never been easier thanks to an explosion in technology-driven alpine touring (AT) equipment. Manufacturers have made breakthroughs in skis, boots and bindings – as well as splitboard set-ups – that provide consumers with the optimum blend of uphill efficiency and downhill performance.
“These consumers are swelling the backcountry ranks,” the SIA report states. “The alpine skiers will use this gear most of the time strictly for alpine, but it gives them the option to tour and the backcountry image they want. In other words, they’re alpine skiers dabbling in backcountry terrain.”
Not all New England resorts embrace this movement with similar enthusiasm. Citing safety concerns and/or “theft of services,” many resorts prohibit uphill “skinning” within their boundaries. Those caught could face trespassing charges, have their lift tickets revoked, and face fines or other penalties. Other resorts encourage it, hoping to capitalize on this growing segment. More and more, resorts are offering guided backcountry tours to educate guests.
Expert fit is money wisely spent
By Matt Boxler
Robert Arnold recalls the early days of custom ski boot fitting with a certain level of fondness. His preferred technique was to climb into the bathtub with his state-of-the-art leather Molitors cabled up nice and tight around his feet.
“My mom was furious,” the 61-year-old Bow, N.H. resident recalls. “They were my first expensive pair of boots – I believe they cost about $125 in 1967, which would probably be $700-$800 today.”
Soaking leather boots in warm water to mold them to your feet was not uncommon back in the day. And Arnold is one to know all the tricks of the trade. He is the grandson of Fritzie Baer, the 1950-1959 general manager of the Gilford, N.H. Belknap Mountains Recreation Area – now Gunstock Mountain Resort. Arnold began his love affair with skiing here 57 years ago.
When Arnold first took to the slopes in the 1950s wearing double-laced leather boots, achieving the ultimate performance fit required an adult’s strong fingers. “I loved it when my dad would tighten my ski boot for me and if he wasn’t around, I wasn’t shy about asking a stranger for a little help,” he said.
Tight lacing was critical for transferring power to those wooden skis and getting them to perform on classic New England boilerplate. Whether laced, or later buckled like the cable buckle system featured in the Molitors, leather boots were only truly good for a season or two as the rawhide shells quickly softened and wore out, bathtub treatments notwithstanding.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Ski boots have evolved radically since then with the innovation of custom-molded plastic shells categorized for every skier profile and terrain use imaginable. Performance has never been better, yet that singular constant – fit – remains the most important, and often most elusive, component.
Skiers go gaga for their gadgets
They are absolutely essential, not always necessary and sometimes they even stretch the limits of appropriateness. They solve problems, ensure safety, provide comfort and project a little bling-bling. They are accessories, and we the skiing people have an obsession with them to the tune of $1.2 billion dollars each year.
While helmets and goggles are among the most popular items – which is fitting given their capacity to insulate us from earthly and heavenly forces alike – the market is flush with so much more – like sunglasses, auto racks, luggage and wax. From touch screen-enabled glove liners and GPS-enabled smart phone applications, to hand- and toe-warmers, to poles and gloves with built-in squeegees, they are also headphones and headlamps, backpacks and boot heaters, locks and yes … even rocks.
In all, accessories account for a third of all snowsports products purchased – including equipment and apparel, according to market data collected from more than 1,200 retailers by Snow Sports RetailTRAK™ for Snowsports Industries of America (SIA). And this year, pre-season accessories sales were up 4 percent in units and 7 percent in dollars.
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- A new tradition: Vermont Open ramps up at Stratton
- Adventure demands gear AND education
- Tackling bumps on boards
- Diversity drives snowsports fashion trends
- Expert fit is money spent wisely
- Skiers go gaga for their gadgets
- And etiquette for all ...
- Ski manufacturers adapt as sidecountry goes mainstream
- Snowboard technology delivers cutting-edge performance
- Ode to a survivor: Plake eludes Himalayan tragedy
- Fat boards drive innovation
- Freeriding 'fats' are driving the ski industry
- Orange is for diggers
- High-tech gadgets drive form and function
- Smuggs debuts Riglet Park for youngest of rippers
- Parks and reclamation: Sugarbush style
- 'Craig's Door' opens to snowboarding's soul
- RideVermont's wonderful wizard of blogs
- Snowboarding pioneers use their influence to make a difference
- Wescott gives back to snowboarding community
- A father and daughter rediscover the soul of skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho
- Snowboarding women confront widening gender gap
- Rossignol's MagTek is the 'One'
- Spring brings top-notch snowboard events
- US Open welcomes world's best to Stratton
- Listen up PEEPs, freestyle safety comes first
- Wescott overcomes adversity to win gold
- Win or lose in Vancouver, Teter a champ
- Cannon opens new Mittersill chapter
- New England's 'Magnificent 7' punch tickets to Vancouver
- Broken Arrow worth locating at Okemo
- Clark launches Foundation to help riders achieve their dreams
- Free learning packages for New England riders
- Stratton schools the field
- Powers builds on his Foundation of success
- Burton's Olympic uniforms create buzz
- New England riders begin Olympic pursuit
- Resort programs focus on competition
- At Mount Snow, the best gets better
- Totally cool gift ideas for the skiers & snowboarders in your family
- In Vermont, junkboarders stake their ground
- Not all rockers sing the same tunes
- Just wait until next season
- Spring is a perfect storm for bargains
- Stratton marks 25 years hosting US Open
- All indicators predict a March to remember
- No place like New England for spring snowboarding
- Mini shredders get head start with specialized rides
- Sunday River hosts World Cup alpine, snowboardcross
- Plymouth State students seek big air, big support for autism
- New England riders mark their spot at Winter X
- Maine resorts bring rail jam to the streets
- Touch of Gold: Wescott, Powers open resort features
- In the backcountry, splitboarding gains traction
- New England resorts offer January learning discounts
- Protect and defend: Wristguards, helmets a must
- Freeriders flock to Loon parks
- Enrollment surging at Smuggs' night school
- Colleen Quigley launches Ladies Room at Waterville
- Ragged Mountain takes riders to the Wild side
- Burton, Noboard team up to create NoFish
- Burton gives riders Infinite stance options
- Bean Snowboards: The new taste of Boston
- Killington debuts New England's first Stash
- Carinthia sets new park standard
- In search of New England's fastest chairs
- Vodkas take on local flavor in ski country
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- Snowboarding for dummies (volume 1)
- Fashion that fits from lifts to lodge
- As AC/DC would advise ... 'Ride on'
- Snowboarding for dummies, volume 1
- Quality of instruction on the rise
- Dawn of the Age of the Spawn of the Snowboarders
- Get thee into the woods
- To test, or not to test ...
- Why floating bindings offer the greatest control
- Revolutionary ski may change the industry
- Young man's innovation may be the next big thing
- Chairlift vs. gondola. Discuss.
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