Skiing Stoke from Lake Tahoe

Category: Reviews (Page 2 of 5)

Product Review – Tecnica Cochise Pro Light AT Boot

Tecnica Cochise Pro Light

By Rob McCormick

Now that ski season finally showed up, I have skied my Tecnica Cochise Pro Lights enough to write a proper review. With designs inspired by the late Arnie Backstrom, Tecnica wasted no time jumping into the AT/Sidecountry boot market. First with the Tecnica Cochise Pro and now with it’s lighter cousin the Cochise Pro Light. The Pro Light saves weight in several ways. It replaced the top strap/buckle combo used on the Cochise Pro with just a power strap. The remaining three buckles are made from lighter material, the rubber instep grip has been removed and a lighter Intuition Liner has been used. All said and done the modifications save roughly half pound per boot.

Moving on to performance, the Cochise Pro Light handles better on both the uphill and descent than my previous high performance AT boots. I started off on the right foot (no pun intended) by getting custom footbeds and cooking the liners. From day one they fit like a dream. The transition from walk to ski mode is flawless with a simple pull up on a strap for walk and easy push down for ski. The walk mobility is phenomenal! Tremendous range of motion on the climb and amazingly comfy for post ski walking back to the car or bar. I usually can’t wait to get my boots off after skiing. With the Pro Light, I can transition right into apres ski without wasting valuable time switching out of boots. Last but definitely not least, the Cochise Pro Light skis like a champ. The exceptional hybrid performance can be attributed to the cuff mobility system, which uses metal to metal contact between the cuff and the shell. It goes without saying they are Dynafit compatible and all high wear parts can be replaced. I have an extremely low volume foot so I had to take up some space in the toe box. Beyond that, no blisters, no pressure points, no discomfort, super mobile on the up and rocking on the down. I can’t wait to take these things on longer tours as the spring cycle kicks into gear.

Review: Manzella Adventure 100 Glove

Appalachian Ski & Outdoors recently sent me a pair of Manzella Adventure 100 gloves to review. Like my feet, my hands are chronically cold. I usually wear mittens to try to retain the most warmth, but they are cumbersome and I have to take them off a lot to do routine tasks. So, I was excited to try these gloves because they are specifically designed to fit women’s hands and because they are in the “warmest” category of Manzella’s three categories of gloves.

The gloves are insulated with Primaloft for warmth and lined with Microfleece for comfort. The exterior is made from Gore Windstopper Softshell for water and wind protection and the palms are lined with synthetic leather for grip. Overall, they feel very nice, inside and out. Though they are lined, they are low-profile and not bulky so they are easy to put on and keep on. They flex and grip nicely and work as well around town as they do on the mountain. I have to say that they don’t work magic; my hands still got cold while ice skating on a cold evening. Despite that, they are probably the warmest and most comfortable gloves that I have used.

Gear Review: Redemption Song Earphones

After gremlins snuck off with the last pair of earphones in the house, Rob and I were treated to two new pairs from House of Marley. Rob has been using the Redemption Song Earphones and I have been using the Conqueror Earphones.

Both come with a pouch full of silicon tips of varying shapes and sizes so we were able to choose the ones that fit our ears best and provide optimal sound. Being able to customize the fit is especially important so that the earphones don’t slip or fall out when running or otherwise moving around. Its also nice to have some backups in case you loose a tip.

The long fabric cord is another really cool feature. I am the queen of cord tangle; if its possible for something to tangle, I’ll make it happen. The fabric cord on these earphone is significantly less likely to tangle, and much easier than rubber to untangle.

Attention to detail and emphasis on social good is another great reason to choose House of Marley. The packaging and the aluminum ring are made from recycled material and a portion of proceeds go to, an organization that supports charities for sustainable and responsible living.

To use these earphones as a handsfree device, you can upgrade any model to a 3-button remote with microphone for $20. You also get a choice of tip color on many models.

Christmas Product Review: Hotwheels Track Pack and the Gyrowheel

Christmas is right around the corner so we are going to review two gifts for kids, one affordable classic and one revolutionary bike riding training tool.

Hotwheels tracks have been around since the 70’s. They are inexpensive, do not require batteries, encourage creativity and are super fun. The Hotwheels Kidspick Track Pack contains orange sections of track that are linked together with red connectors allowing you to create a custom raceway that is compatible with most Hotwheels and Matchbox cars. Unlike many “themed” track kits that are kind of gimmicky, the Kidspick kit contains all the essentials to get rad with none of the bogus flair. The kit comes with track, a loop, 180 degree berm, trackclamp for gravity setups, trigger propulsion system, risers, jump, catchtrack, carrying case and of course one HotWheels car. The traditional propulsion method is to set up a high start point and use gravity to roll cars downhill. The other option is to use the included rubber band trigger system to rocket cars down the speedway. Kids can get creative with limitless different track designs. Not all concepts work. You need to incorporate physics into your track design to keep cars from jumping off the track. If your track is too steep or off camber, cars fall off. If your inrun to the loop is not fast enough, the car won’t make it. Things get really exciting when setting up large gap jumps. The set comes with a jump and “catch track” that if placed properly will allow your car to stick huge jumps. You can maximize thrill factor by setting up stuff like toy bussess under the jump just like Evil Knievel would do. At around $25 this is good ole fashion fun that lasts for hours and won’t break the bank. You could really go nuts if you got two kits and linked them together. Bring out the stuntman in your kid with a Hotwheels track for Christmas!

The next gift item is an amazing piece of technology designed to help kids ride a two wheel bike without training wheels. The Gyrowheel, designed by two Dartmouth Alumni, goes in place of the standard front wheel on your kid’s bike. It uses cyntrifical force to stabilize the bike when moving forward. It offers more tension at slow speeds and less at high speeds allowing the rider to learn to balance naturally. It comes with three different settings so that you can start with the most stable and back it off as balance improves. Eventually your kid won’t need it and will be able to ride a bike about five years ahead of schedule. At $150 the Gyrowheel is not cheap. The smart thing to do is buy one and share the cost with your neighbors. Once your kid can ride, pass it on to the next kid. Pretty soon you will have a BMX gang of four year olds terrorizing the neighborhood.

UPDATE: Fact correction from the manufacturer. SBDC apologizes for the misinformation.
I do have two quick fact corrections for you however. First, Gyrobike’s basic “proof-of-concept” was the brainchild of four undergrad engineering students for a class project. Gyrobike’s founder and CEO was at the business school at the time finishing her MBA. She licensed the patent, founded the company, and worked with a team of engineers in San Francisco to bring the concept to market.

The second thing is about the physics behind why Gyrowheel works – it isn’t a centrifugal force that creates the stability. If you really want to geek out – the physics principle is called “gyroscopic precession.” ( Simply put, the disk/wheel wants to stay “upright” and at a 90 degree angle to the axle – the “axis” it is spinning around.

Here’s one last tech toy that rocks…The Syma Remote Control Helicopter. Here’s our review from last year.

Syma metal series mini helicopter review

Getting Janky With It

Film Review: Boot Deep by JANKYFilms

Sitting on my couch, looking out the window at a snow-less Mt Rose, I just finished watching Boot Deep by JankyFILMS. The 34-minute ski flick, filmed mostly at Alta, brought me straight back to the 1997-98 season that I spent there, living in the “fort” of the Alta Peruvian lodge. The film is well made, with quality cinematography that captures the unique feeling of living and riding at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon. There are shots of clouds rolling in up the valley, dry snow pouring out of the the sky, the excitement of an impending Interlodge, sunrise over Superior, good old day drinking and general carefree silliness on skis. Besides the soulful soundtrack (Thievery Corporations works impeccably for the pow sequence) and the beautiful shots, the lightheartedness is what really shines through. The skiers are good, but the footage keeps you on edge. Unlike most ski movies these days, where the lines are smooth and near-perfect, Boot Deep skiers are more likely to double eject or shoulder check. Here’s to JankyFILMS for keeping it real and bringing me back. My only critique: let’s see some more women. I know they’re hard to find at Alta — especially when they’d have to share a dank, smelly, closet-size dorm room with the likes of the cast and crew — but they’re out there.

The New Gold Standard – All. I. Can. sets a new precedent in ski filmmaking

By Rob McCormick
The future of ski films has arrived and it is called All. I. Can. by Sherpas Cinema. More of an art piece than a ski film, All. I. Can. is a notable departure from the ski porn formula we have been watching for nearly two decades. The result is a visual masterpiece.

All. I. Can. incorporates timelapse photography to create a living, breathing planet intertwined with freeway interchanges that carry blood to and from the beating heart of the Earth. Aerial photography of urban landscapes reminds us of the transition the planet has undergone in the past 100 years without being preachy about it. The athletes are introduced with a creative animation sequence similar to Richard Linklater’s work in The Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. The music is thoughtfully selected and flawlessly edited.

Oh yes, there is skiing in the movie too. You may even recognize a few names such as Mark Abma, Ingrid Backstrom, Kye Petersen and JP Auclair. The slow motion powder sequences are the most stunning and unique I have ever seen. The film focuses more on human powered access to the mountains than other means. It’s refreshing to see helicopter footage when necessary, such as plucking Kye Petersen off a mountainside that has disintegrated around him, without being gratuitous about it. How many times have we seen a product logoed heli dive into the abyss after dropping skiers off on a knife edge summit? Helicopters ARE cool but do we need to see helicopters filmed from other helicopters? Do we need to see helis in terrain parks so that skiers appear to be flying higher than the copter? Why does a helicopter even need to be in a terrain park sequence? I digress but the bottom line is that ski movies have become brutally redundant and we have become desensitized to even the most spectacular lines and footage.

The Sherpas Cinema crew are extremely talented cinematographers. In 2011 they have come out swinging with a film that will be watched for years to come. All. I. Can. doesn’t just raise the bar for ski movies, it sets a new gold standard.

Check out more on this revolutionary ski film and where to see it next on this piece by Unofficial Networks Backcountry Reporter Brennan Lagasse:
More on All. I. Can. from Brennan Lagasse

All. I. Can. may be purchased (and is well worth buying) on the Sherpas Website:
Sherpas Cinema Website

Gear Review: Hydrapak, Ryders Eyewear and GU Chomps

The rain finally fell toward the end of September, packing down the dirt and finishing off an excellent summer of biking with prime riding conditions. Last weekend we headed up to Downieville to camp by the Yuba river and ride the downhill. The trails were in good condition and the 17-mile ride gave us the perfect opportunity for a final test of some of the gear we have been happily using all season.

Hydration Pack: Hydrapak Morrow $124.99
This pack has everything that you need and nothing that you don’t for a take-everywhere, do-everything hydration pack. Made from lightweight, durable, rip-stop fabric, the 800 cubic inch pack comes with a 100-oz bladder. The bladder hitches onto the inside of the pack so that it stays upright and in place, and a slick zipper lets you open and close the bladder to fill with no spill. The straps and back panel are made from ventilated mesh that has been keeping me cool on hot rides. Six conveniently placed pockets store everything I need for a ride, just where I need it. One of the coolest things about this pack is that all of the straps have easy, tuck-away storage for the excess, so that there is no strap dangle or flapping while riding.

Sunglasses: Ryders Defcon Photochromic $69.99
Ah, technology… These durable, lightweight glasses change their tint depending on the amount of sunlight. This meant that it was bright enough to see obstacles clearly while riding down a shady creek bed and then dim enough to protect my eyes from the glaring sun when we emerged from the shadows 10 minutes later. The glasses fit well on my face, staying in place while the rest of me got bumped around.

Energy Chews: GU Chomps $35.20 for 16
Gone are the days of worrying about keeping an energy bar warm enough so that you don’t break your teeth, or choking down just enough grit to power you through the rest of your ride. GU chomps are easy to chew and they taste like candy, so they go down easily and provide quick energy during big climbs and tours. I alternated between the caffeinated and non-caffeinated flavors depending on whether I needed an extra energy boost or just some extra calories. Flavors include orange, peach tea, blueberry pomegranate, strawberry, watermelon and cranberry apple. Peach tea and strawberry were standouts for me.

hydrapak, gu chomps, ryders eyewear

Things to do this summer: Model Rocket Launches

Jason Mack and Ethan McCormick blast off!

Remember building model rockets as a kid? Well it’s just as fun now as it was then for kids and adults. Building rockets is a good educational wintertime hobby when it gets dark and cold early. Summer is a great season to launch. The Tahoe region has many huge valleys which virtually eliminate the chance of getting a rocket caught in a tree. Serious rocket enthusiasts can head for the Black Rock Desert which provides the ultimate canvas for thrilling launches. First timers should note that morning is typically a more consistent time of day to launch when wind is minimal.

Kids + rockets = stoked! Ethan McCormick and Declan Mack at Launch Station Hulu

Review: Icebreaker Clothing

Nature Shop recently gave us the chance to test out some quality wool clothing from Icebreaker. The New Zealand based company carries everything from underwear to coats for kids and adults. Our whole family got outfitted and we were all thoroughly impressed.

I tried the Bliss Hood (Blizzard Stripe) and it quickly became my go-to shirt for everything from a camping/skiing trip to Mt Lassen to a weekend in San Francisco. Warm, soft and lightweight, the buttoned v-neck and casual stripes disguise this highly technical garment, making it suitable for everyday use.

Our son also scored a hoody. It’s not often that two-year-olds get excited about clothing, but this was one of those rare times. As soon as we got his LS Hoody out of the box and he spotted the skateboard print, he couldn’t wait to get it on. I have to admit that I was a little nervous to put it on him for fear of the dreaded “Itchy!” scream, but I didn’t need to worry, the hoody was as soft as a baby blanket and he loved having it on. His second favorite part of his new shirt was the booklet that came with it, including pictures of the Merino sheep that were sheared to make the shirt. He walked into school that morning and proudly announced, “My shirt was made from the fleece of a sheep!”

Rob switched from ski touring and bike riding in cotton boxers to Icebreaker’s Relaxed Boxer w/Fly and there is no turning back. The excellent moisture wicking and soft, relaxed fit make a huge difference on long rides and tours.

Aside from the comfort and style of the products that we tried, we were impressed by the ethos of the companies who provide them. Every Icebreaker product that Nature Shop ships is accompanied by a green tag that says “trace me.” By entering the “BAACODE” from the tag on your garment at, you can find out info on the sheep station(s) from which its fibers originated.

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