Saturday, January 19, 2008

Safety Week Helmet Head Contest

Check out some of the masterful helmet heads we had at Okemo today, and vote for your favorite in the right hand column of this page. By the way, here's Jeff, our mastermind behind this competition and the definite gold standard of helmet heads:












Friday, January 18, 2008

Dress for [Outdoor] Success

The upcoming Martin Luther King weekend promises to be one of the best in several years. The snow is amazing but it will be crisp and exhilarating out on the mountain. To get the most out of your precious time at Okemo, start by knowing how to dress appropriately for the winter activity you are about to pursue. Most outdoor enthusiasts will tell you for maximum comfort, always wear warm, loose-fitting clothing and dress in layers. This way you can always adjust as temperatures change, base to summit, outdoors to indoors. When you are inside, you will want to shed a layer or two. I love to wear cotton in the warm summer months but in the winter, cotton can be your worst enemy. Cotton absorbs perspiration, but does not wick it away, therefore you end up damp which quickly turns to cold. I far prefer some of the new synthetic fabrics that really keep me comfortable. Many new fabrics on the market are specially made for cold weather. An outfitter or a good ski or snowboard shop can steer you in the right direction. Woolen sweaters, non-cotton turtlenecks, a warm hat and insulated gloves or mittens are essentials, along with waterproof outer garments, both top and bottom. Don't forget the long underwear! Nowadays, the heavy thermal cotton we grew up with have been replaced by thin, base layer fleece, microfiber or polyester blend.

Sunscreen is a must except on snowy days. Keep lip balm in a pocket and apply often. Pick up a pair of goggles at your local ski shop; these protect against precipitation, sun and wind. Fleece garments, especially the new windblocker kind, are great for skiers.

Don't wear blue jeans, khakis, or even Carhardtts. They provide no warmth and get wet easily. In fact, try not to wear any cotton at all. (Think: Cotton is Rotten.) Cotton holds moisture from perspiration and snow. Once it gets wet, cotton’s insulating properties disappear when you’re out in the elements. Also remember that you loose 90% of your body heat through your head; so buy a warm hat and wear it. A fleece neck gaiter, wrap, or bandana is a great little investment in warmth and comfort.

Your Base Layer
The main job of the base layer is to remove or wick moisture away from your skin to the outside of the fabric, where it can evaporate to keep you dry in any weather. Today’s top base layers provide critical next-to-skin moisture transfer for highly active performance sports like skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, cycling, running, skating, climbing or kayaking. Modern higher-tech fabrics are also less bulky for easier layering. Gone are the days of cotton thermal underwear that gets wet and eventually make you cold. When you are looking for comfortable base-layering options, be sure to look for light-weight, breathable fabrics that provide mobility, and fast-wicking comfort. For active, aerobic exercise, Conditioning Web™ support technology or CW-X® insulated support garments feature Auto-Sensor®, a new nanotechnology fabric with thermal, moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating and anti-bacterial properties. Four-way stretch CoolMax is often used to provide motion control and increase the transfer of moisture away from the skin. You’ll want your base layer to be silky smooth against the skin, with flat seams that are frictionless under your outer layers.

Your Mid Layer
This is the multipurpose layer that may be worn under or as an outer layer on calm, clear, dry days. The mid layer’s job description is to provide insulation, and to absorb moisture away from the wicking base layer, and transfer it to the outer layer where it can evaporate. Mid layers are ideal for stop-and-go activities like skiing and snowboarding. Wear alone or as a cold-weather under layer.

Your Outer Layer
The outer layer’s major function in life is to protect your core from the external elements. You should look for fabrics and apparel that are engineered to keep your body dry and comfortable through any range of activity. It’s also important to keep in mind that weather can change quickly when you are out in the elements, so look for outer layer garments made from materials that can handle a wide range of conditions. Look for waterproof yet breathable with core venting, storm flaps, reinforced stitching, and sealed seams.

So, where do I get this stuff?
Any ski or snowboard shop at Okemo or in Ludlow, or at suburban stores like Eastern Mountain Sports, outdoor outfitters, major sporting goods retailers, or online gear giants like LLBean and REI. For off-price and sale items, overstocks or discontinued lines, Sierra Trading Post is a good bet. High-tech garments like these can be a bit pricey, but the value comes back in craftsmanship and durability. I have a few Patagonia Capilene® t-shirts that originally were about $25 each. I’ve have three of these for over 10 years now… they still look and perform about as good as new. A point of interest for the planet-conscious; Patagonia retail stores will accept old, tired Capilene garments for recycling through their Common Threads Recycling Program. Check out

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about being more comfortable in the elements, enjoy your new high-tech fabrics. I’ll see you outside.

Here’s a few items to look for:
Base Layers
Here are some higher-tech fabrics to look for: Eastern Mountain Sports’ Techwick® or Bergelene®. Patagonia’s Capilene®, Mountain Hardwear’s HyperDry™, ThermaDry™ or eXtend Featherweight™ or Under Armour.

Mid Layers
Products made with Polartec®
Patagonia’s Synchilla®
Eastern Mountain Sports’ Supermicro™ fleece
Ibex Climawool®
DuPont™ ComforMax™

Outer Layers
Obermeyer: Stormshield HP™ with Toray Entrant GII®, treated with DuroGuard™ water-repellant fabric protector; Patagonia: Deluge DWR®, Mountain Hardwear’s Conduit™ and Marmot’s Precip Plus® or products made with GoreTex®.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Trail Pick of the Day

I don't normally login for the sake of a trail pick, but the Tomahawk Family Cross on Lower Tomahawk today was SO MUCH FUN! If you're on the hill this coming weekend, be sure to give it a go - it's a total hoot and can be fun for the whole family!