Two Mountains, one pass, at a price that is a bargain at either one. I have had a Squaw Valley USA season pass since the ski season of 1982-83. To me, lift access at Squaw Valley is a necessity akin to oxygen, water, or shelter. Suddenly this year, my pass works at a whole other ski resort, the adjacent Alpine Meadows. Alpine Meadows has open boundaries where I can find fresh pow days after a storm, and my choices for groomers and tree skiing just tripled. Squaw’s KT22 will always be my favorite lift with it’s brisk, six-minute-and-42-second ride to 1,700 vertical feet of incredibly playful terrain, but the merger of Alpine and Squaw created a 6,000+ acre playground, making Tahoe Super Pass pass holders very hard pressed to not find what they are looking for.
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fiveten.com, 14.7 ounces
This stylish parkour shoe has good ventilation and is extremely lightweight, yet it is rugged enough for demanding hikes. Stealth rubber provides unmatchable grip whether you are running up a wall and doing a backflip, walking to the edge of a 3,000-foot cliff in your wing suit, or just walking to class. Based on looks and comfort alone the Chase became my shoe of choice for day-to-day use. The soft soles and glove-like fit provided a blister-free environment for my feet for several hikes up Norway’s Trollveggen, and since they are lightweight and low bulk, I choose them as an approach shoe for backcountry ski missions where they will spend more time in my pack than on my feet.
I love aviators. I kind of feel like Maverick from Top Gun when I rock them. Smith’s Serpico was my all time favorite pair, incorporating a wrap-around curve that added function to the timeless aviator fashion. It’s shortcoming was durability. The answer? the Showdown. They’re so light you forget you are wearing them, yet, they stands up to significant abuse. The upgrades–barrel hinges with a slight overlap at the arm junction and new way of holding the lens in place–mean that the shades forgives my occasional dropping and smashing. Coupled with Smith’s $10 Zipper Case, I am able to leave these in my cargo pocket while I ski, and in my checked luggage when I travel. I even put them in my wing suit’s leg wing on BASE jumps and skydives. It rattles around in there, but they come out unscathed.
A huge improvement on the revolutionary HERO camera, the HERO 2 boasts a feature that takes an 11-megapixel photograph every half second, a massive improvement from the original HERO’s two-second increment, and has proven to be an invaluable in capturing radical action POV still shots. In a 12-second base jump, I get 24 shots rather than just six, so it eliminates the luck factor. When I follow Timy Dutton straight-lining through a chute, I will capture that spray-free moment in the crux. Sure, at the end of the day I have taken 700 plus photographs, but the camera is extremely lap-top friendly, so I can trash all but the money shots before I load them onto my computer, so I do not waste any valuable space on my hard drive. The new firmware produces an image quality that is indiscernible from HD camcorders more than triple its size, and its ten-shot burst feature allows me to take a full sequence while standing by as my bros huck cliffs on skis, step off mountains and giving over to gravity, or slide a rail in the local park. The only downside is that I get so fired up capturing images of other people, I get far fewer shots of myself!
I need a backpack that I can forget I am wearing, otherwise, I may choose to forget to wear it. K2′s Pilchuck Kit keeps my rescue shovel and aluminum avy probe close enough to my body that it does not affect balance or require removal on a chairlift. This is the pack that I use for in-bounds pow skiing and sidecountry skiing, often at times when I’d contemplate going with out. I now have no excuse for preparedness–and I don’t wish that I did. The included Rescue Shovel can lock the shovel blade at 90 degrees, which I use for digging out my car in the morning and testing snow in a pit, and the handle is long enough that my back thanks me after I finish building a jump take-off. It also has features that I hope to never use, like ability to build a rescue sled and a metal blade burly enough to hack through hard avalanche debris to save a buried friend. The avalanche probe is stiff, strong, and as light as anything on the market, and I hope to never use it. It all comes in a minimalist backpack that is strong and simple. I strap my skis to it for hiking, and stash an energy bar or two inside for when the powder warrants skipping lunch.