Posted by on Friday, April 09, 2010
OK, I'd like to make some separate comments about the performance of these bindings, later. I'll do that if/when this issue is sorted out. Before that, I've got to point out the blatant failure of these bindings: the straps are too long! Both the toe and heel straps do not fit for me. The M/L binding size that I have is listed with a UK range of 6 - 9. I've seen it as 5 - 9, 5.5 - 9 and 6 - 8.5. Either way, my 32 boots are UK size 8, which puts me comfortably inside the boundaries...
Heel Strap. It's too long. The following two pictures show my boot stapped in with the straps made as short as they can go. Notice that the buckle is all the way down and there are no teeth left to grip.
In that position the bindings simply aren't tight enough. Here's the result of me trying to tighten them further:
Quick Fix. So after contacting Union support, they suggested a quick fix: take out the connector. The plastic connector is the mechanism for adjusting the length of the strap. This picture shows that using the straps without the connector shortens the length by about an inch:
These next two picture show what it's like when I'm strapped in without the connector. As you can see, the heel strap becomes a usable lenght, i.e. it is short enough for me to get the heel strap tight. There are still some available teeth.
Note that even with the connector removed, the strap is only just short enough. As you can see 3 pictures above, I can't make it any shorter as the padded part of the strap is right up against the heel cup...
But using the bindings in this way isn't ideal; use without the connector brings two problems. 1st, the washer/bolt setup is designed for use with the connector, and in that configuration moving the strap around doesn't loosen the screw. Without the connector, the screw is constantly becoming a little more loose each time you move the strap around as you strap in.
2nd, the strap isn't centered over the foot because it's dragged over to one side. It's a small issue, but still, you're supposed to be able to setup your straps for maximum support and comfort.
Toe Straps. As you can see in all of the pictures above, the buckle on the toe strap has no where further to go. They're adjusted to be as short as possible. The only solution I had to this problem was to place a folded sock inbetween the binding and my boot. Yes, that meant that every time I straped in I had to replace the sock. Useless. Without the sock, the toe strap was loose; I could push it over the front of the boot when fully tightened.
Solution? When I contacted Union I was fairly encouraged: they suggested the heel strap fix, which definitely got the bindings working in resort, and said they would send out smaller parts. This was in response to me asking for smaller straps, e.g. new straps from the S/M model. What I actually got was a smaller connector for the heel. I got nothing for the toe straps.
An astute reader might spot that the smaller connector doesn't actually make a difference; the male part of the strap stops in the same place for both sizes. If I were to cut the plast part of the strap that slides into the connector then yes, I could save 1.5cm or so. But I'm not doing that, and besides, they'd still be too long.
This photo is a little out of focus, but you can still see that with both connectors set at the shortest possible setting, the effective length of the overall strap is the same:
What Now? Let me be clear that I'm not dissing Union, not yet anyway. They sent me the shorter connectors, in good faith I believe, and I haven't told them yet that they don't work. That's because I chose to contact the shop that I bought the bindings from, which I've done twice, asking them to sort it out. They haven't replied yet. Not cool.
I wanted to post these pictures now, in part as a means to show the problem to those who need to see it. I'll update as and when the situation is resolved...
Posted by on Sunday, January 03, 2010
Absinthe's Neverland is the first snowboard movie that I've bought this season. I'm definitely an Absinthe fan, so each year, if I'm looking for something to buy, I'll normally start with their current production. Here's the review.
The Introduction, leading into the first sequence is excellent, as is often the case with Absinthe movies. I think they get this right every time; an emotive build-up running into some first class shredding. In this case, it's Japan, and the opening section has Nico Muller, Kevin Pearce and a little bit of Eero Ettala.
Powder by the bucket load, trees, drops, everything is natural. Super smooth style; they ride it like the trees aren't there. For me, this concoction of filming style, terrain and riding will always make we want to go snowboard, no matter how many times I watch it. I'd say this is the best section of the film.
Romain follows with some nice, high tempo back country shredding. But the next thing that really grabbed my attention was Annie Boulanger. It seems she is becoming a regular with the Absinthe crew, which I think is an excellent move. It's not a particularly long section, but her riding gets better in leaps each season, the progression and attitude is inspiring to watch. Some of her hits and lines are really impressive. Women's snowboarding is pretty huge now, but I believe Annie B is one of the first to regularly film backcountry parts; that's got to be good for others who would like to do the same.
Marie-France Roy follows Annie, again with backcountry shots. I remember reading some competition or poll results a while ago and if my memory is correct, she cleaned up. It shows here. She's definitely got ability.
From this point onwards I was less impressed. Just another snowboard movie. Actually, I did enjoy Dan Brisse's riding. A good mix of shots, with some huge jumps and nice heli shots. I'd like to see some of those heli follow-cams in full speed.
And not to mention Wolfgang's no-boarding. Ultra-impressive one-footed cliff drops, powder riding with such freedom that looks like surfing. But I wanted to see more.
Urban stuff. The Absinthe crew continues to bring out fresh stuff each year in this area, and yes, some of it is mega impressive, and always ballsy. I still love to see someone stomp an ultra smooth front board down a long rail, but the rest of this stuff isn't doing it for me. If I had to take it or leave it, I'd rather leave it.
Travis Rice. Excellent shredding. As usual, he goes big with technical moves. But what's the deal with the horse? At first I thought it was a response to Leanna Pelosi's intro in the all girls film "As If". Then I decided that probably wasn't the case, so maybe it's just his ego? If that is the case then the song is fitting: "Head Honcho". Whatever, I didn't think it was funny; just kinda stupid. Oops.
The intro to Gigi's section is fun, but for his main part, I don't think it's a patch on his riding in something like More. Don't get me wrong, I can only imagine how hard it must be, given schedules, travel, conditions, filming etc. to continually come up with belter video-parts; but when you've become accustomed to someone producing awesome material, unfortunately you start to expect it. I didn't get that this time.
The soundtrack. I think that Absinthe music scores tend to be quite varied and for me, that's the case with Neverland. As such, there are some little gems in there, but also some beats I care little for. I still think Futureproof is my favourite soundtrack of theirs.
Absinthe have again, included Flip Side in the extras. It's a documentary showing the making of their movie from the previous season, in this case, Ready. I love this stuff. I'd pay for it by itself. You get to see more of the riders, who they are, what their schedule is like. There's this amazing clip of a few of them just shredding in a resort before they start filming. MFM hits a natural feature, the type that you or I would, only they go ten times bigger. I love that. I really wanted to see the whole thing :)
Overall, it's an OK movie. I thought the opening sequence was top class, but after that, with a few exceptions, nothing else lived up to the beginning, which leaves a feeling of disappointment. I think previous Absinthe films have been better, and would recommend those instead. I haven't seen any other movies this year, so I don't know how it stacks up in the fresh bunch... A few little gems in the sound track.
Absinthe's Neverland Soundtrack
Here's a link to the Neverland Soundtrack.
Posted by on Thursday, October 22, 2009
Back in Janury, 2009, I was in Morzine. We spent quite a bit of time shredding in Avoriaz, and I was particularly impressed with the Stash. In addition to making numerous runs through this natural park, I got the chance to meet with the head of the Avoriaz Park Team - Jean Noel - the connection being made as part of the review I was writing for the wsg. He gave me the low-down on the current design, future plans for the stash and some general info on all of their parks.
Over and above what I've wrote for the wsg, I wanted to post the majority of the photos I took, to try and give a good impression of what type of features are available. With it being spread out over a large area I didn't get everything, and specifically, I didn't get any good photos of the more advanced features. I did take a couple of runs through the more difficult sections, but didn't have the camera at the time...
So the Stash was originally built back in 2004/2005, and at that time it was for advanced riders only. Since then they've added additional runs, like "Main Street" or "BioTop". With 3 or 4 routes through, the Stash now caters for all levels of freestyle ability. The park team has designed it as a freestyle "run", the aim being to provide good lines that flow. I think they've achieved this. They shape it every night and there're easily 20 hits from the top to bottom: rails made from logs, boxes, pic-nic benches, rainbows, wall-rides, pow-slashes, hips, jumps through trees - it's awesome.
All the wood they use comes from California - they couldn't get it carved the way they wanted in France; all of the natural feature are smoothed off so they're safe for jibbing. Also from America is the grading system they use. The runs through The Stash are rated from 3 levels - as the parks are in the states. It's good for all shredders.
And they're not sitting back. Each summer when the snow's gone they look for new lines, places to put new jibs. Jean was explaining that they'll have the diggers out, moving dirt, building up take-offs and landings, he even showed me a one or two ideas that didn't quite work out the way they wanted them too. Constant effort. It's evolving. And there are potential plans to build a new, separate Stash, for kids, somewhere below the Chapelle Park.
I love The Stash. Seriously, it's really good. There's a lot to explore and its jibby-design complements the other parks they've got - especially the nearby Chapelle Park. You won't find any kicker lines in the stash, or metal rails, but that's ok because they're available in the park. What you will find is something pretty damn close to a natural, freestyle run. Lots of hits, lots of fun. It's got a new, 6 man chairlift servicing it too - so getting back to the top is quick...
Posted by on Thursday, October 08, 2009
This is a quick review of my last set of snowboard gloves, made by Level. Unfortunately I'm not totally sure what model they are. I won them in a competition (Onboard Snowboard Magazine) - so didn't get any of the packaging. The inside label reads "Camo Pro", so maybe that's it. But after checking out their site, I couldn't find them; perhaps they don't do them anymore...
The main reason for writing about these gloves is that all of my previous gloves have been poor. The majority of my first snowboarding trips were filled with cold-hand-days. Never fun on a chairlift. Seriously, I couldn't seem to find a decent set. I'd had some entry level gloves by Burton, some expensive gloves from Rome and some Grenade mitts. None of them were up to the job.
I did buy some mittens from Drop: full Gore-Tex with heavy insulation. They've always been bone-dry, and super warm. But that's the problem, they're often too warm. Then, by chance I randomly received some gloves for free, and they turned out to be awesome!
So what's so good about them? Here's the list:
- They're under-gloves, my preferred design, fitting easily under your jacket cuff.
- They've got that handy wrist-strap, combined with being easy to whip on and off, so accessing stuff with your bare hands is quick.
- They're not too bulky, so zips and other not-so-small items can be worked.
- They've been durable. Admittedly I've torn mine - but that was not on the hill...
- Most importantly, they've kept my hands warm and dry. Only on the coldest days have I opted for my mitts.
In a nutshell, they've been great. Tech-wise, the wrist strap is that membra-therm stuff (is it like neoprene?). Don't know much about it, but as under-gloves, which do make you more vulnerable to snow (up the sleeve), they've kept my wrists dry. They've also got some vent holes on the top of the hand - which may have contributed to the good performance...
Job done. I did look on the Level site to see if I could find them; I couldn't. There are loads of gloves on there though, and quite a few of them look good. Worth checking out.
I've actually just replaced mine with some Dakine gloves: the Cobra model. They're another fairly-light under-glove (I've still got the Drop mitts) and I've heard good stuff about them. Hopefully they'll be as good as my old ones...
Posted by on Friday, February 20, 2009
It's a belt, there's not much to say, right?
That's fair enough, but here are a few points:
Most of the 686 tool belts come with two tools: a #2 phillips and a flathead. I have seen one with just a single phillips, for skateboarding, but all the snowboarding belts have both.
Is it useful? Definitely. I've been caught out twice on the hill, one time I had my tool belt on, the other I was wishing I did, as my right binding had come loose. Most of time someone in the group has a tool, or there are the tools near lift stations - but the tool belt prevents you from ever being stuck, you get the screw drivers for free.
The buckles are also designed with an integral bottle opener, sick!
The buckle and loop on the tool belt are both finished well: smooth with rounded edges. You're less likely to notice this with all your snowboarding gear on, but if you wear the belt off the hill, you'll find the belt comfortable. No pointy bits of metal sticking into the skin.
There are loads of different styles available, for both men and women; just check out the 686 website, and hope you can find the one you like best in a shop. The belts come in different sizes, so make sure you get the right one. The straps are all 100%, full grain, waterproof leather. They feel good, take on a natural, worn look, and don't get ruined by all the snow.
They're comfortable, stylish, useful and they hold you pants up. They make sense!
Posted by on Thursday, February 19, 2009
The Custom has been marketed as "the snowboard that does everything and some more". The Custom gets so many good reviews, it sounds like a legend and Burton keep bringing out new versions with improvements every year. After reading about the Custom I was expecting good things!
Gavin and I did quite a bit of research into boards before we picked the Custom Smalls. In fact there were three of us on the case: myself, Gav and Arran (Gavin's brother). I am 5ft 1 and 47kg so I am on the petite side and need a board suitable for my size and build. After a bit of investigation we realised that there is not a great deal of choice for petite women; well, it's not easy to get hold of all the boards available. See the post on snowboards for petite women.
Arran then suggested that I consider a kids board, great idea. A kids board means that you can get a nice short length and as long as the weight range is ok I don't think it matters that it is labelled kids.
I have purchased two boards since learning to snowboard and hired one. My favourite board by far has been the Youngblood, which strangely, was the hire board. I got the YB when my luggage went missing and I had to get a hire board for a few days. They say everything happens for a reason. Well, I was pretty disappointed to hear that all my snowboard gear was in the UK and I was in Laax, but ridding the youngblood made me realise what I was missing. I found the Forum board really fun to ride, it was a new lease of life. When my luggage finally arrived I reluctantly took it back...
When I took my Destiny out (my first board) it felt like I had bricks attached to my feet. I hadn't realised until then that I don't like heavy boards, they sap your energy. It's not always easy to know when you start out what you want and what you need. I think it was at this point that I started to get a feel for what I liked.
My destiny is very stiff, great for blasting around, but way too stiff and tiring for me to jib on. My Second purchase the Santa Cruz, is the complete opposite. The SC is good for jibbing around and in the park but horribly unstable at high speed; it really chatters. It's also the slowest board that I have ever been on, it makes shallow trails a nightmare. So after riding the youngblood I decided to look for a new board, one that was stable at high speed and fun to jib on. And so I bought my Custom Smalls, well actually Gavin bought me a Custom ;-).
What was it like?
The custom feels really light and poppy. It's got a nice flex and is easy to ride. I found it really fast and stable at speed, it didn't chatter like some boards that I have ridden. My destiny was a fast board but I think I've probably progressed more with the Custom. I could tear around and not get tired. I found the destiny hard to ride all day as you have to be quite aggressive; the custom is easier to ride and feels more responsive. I was always nervous going fast on my SC and felt like I was going to bale spontaniously. With the custom I just went for it! I don't know, maybe I was just in a good mood ;-) or maybe its natural progression. It felt good and gave me the confidence to relax aand have lots of fun.
The custom smalls is twin tip and has the option for a wide stance. Actually it has a super wide stance. I normally use the widest stance possible but when I measured that setting compared to my two other boards it was about two inches wider! I decided on the second widest setting. I haven't ridden the adult's custom so I can't really compare them, but from what I have read they sound pretty similar. There are a few top pros who ride it, Mads Jonsson, Heikki Sorsa, Mason Aguirre, so it can't be bad!
Despite that fact that it's short and light I managed fine in powder, in fact I got some of the best lines I think I have ever had. I felt like I was floating! I used my SC last year in Fernie and combined with my inexperience with the pow I spent most of the time sinking or rag dolling... I was a fully trained gymnast after two weeks. I think the fact that the nose on the smalls has a decent scoop helps slightly. The snow in Avoriaz was slightly different to Canada and probably no deeper than 30cm.
If I had to find fault I would say that the base is not great, it's not the same as the adult's board, which perhaps contributes to the low cost, who knows? The glide of the board has always been an issue for me. I have never had a board that's had a good base, indusive to speeding across the flats. I did hope that my next board would have better tech... But now that I have thought about it, it's not that important. The time I spend on flats/shallows is few and far between. Even If I had a better base I still don't have the weight to glide well. So really it's not that high on my list of priorities.
I must admit I am not especially bothered by board graphics, I see them more as a bonus rather than a necessity. I do like the graphics on the custom, they are bright and... I love bright colours... But, had the graphics been horrible I would have still bought the board!
All in all I am totally pleased with this board, I have ridden it in Powder, on the piste (groomed and choppy), in the park, and it ticks all of those boxes. I didn't think it was possible to get a board that was good to ride around and in the park, but I am pleased to say Burton have proved me wrong. Who said you can't have everything!
It's ideal for me, and at a fraction of the cost of an adult's board it meant that I had some change left over to buy a new jacket, perfect ;-)
Posted by on Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The T.Rice is an awesome snowboard. I wanted a soft-flexing, freestyle board, that I would ride in the park and around the whole mountain. I was willing to compramise on out-right powder performance. The Lib Tech passed with ease.
My previous board was a Nitro T2 (review), which performed well in the role that I've stated above. However, after the board got banged up riding snowflex, and I suffered in the deep freshies provided by Fernie (trip diary), I decided that I'd opt for a slightly shorter, softer flexing freestyle board, with a view to add a powder stick to my collection.
I bought the 153cm, blunt T.Rice, with Banana Tech and Magne-Traction. After riding this Lib Tech for two weeks on a variety of conditions: park, rails, piste, some ice, soft snow and roughly 30cm pow, this is my review.
Jibbing & The Park.
The T.Rice is great for jibbing around the piste. It's certainly not as stiff as I'd feared; a lot of the magazine gear reviews seem to rate this board as a fairly stiff freestyle board. I don't think that's the case. The bend-the-board-by-hand-in-the-shop test was the first clue. But after riding it, I'd say it has a lovely freestyle flex. It's not as soft as something like a Kink, but it's closer to a DH than it is the T2. It butters well, almost easily but not quite, it's lively, producing nice ollies, and it's easy to move around.
It's got smooth pop. It's not the type of board that you need to put a lot into before you go anywhere, but it doesn't give it up freely either. It's springy. I say smooth because the board seems to respond well no matter how much you put into your ollie.
I ride rails and boxes, but I don't do big gaps/transfers on, so the rail lock that I'm sure is important to some people isn't that much of a factor to me. It doesn't feel much different to the other boards that I've hit rails on, but like I said, I don't really push it that much. No problems here.
Directional Twin & Stance
Before buying the T.Rice I kind of had it my head that I wouldn't compramise on a true twin setup. Obvisouly I did, as the T.Rice is a directional twin. Similar to the Rome Agent, I can't say I ever noticed a difference in riding switch, and I'd say I spend almost as much time riding switch as I do regular. The stance is centered so there are no problems there, and on that note, there are a lot of holes to choose from. Max stance on the 153 is 25", then 23.5", 22" and I guess 20.5" (I didn't bother measuring the narrowest, centered stance). It rides well in both directions and good stance options is a definite plus.
Banana Technology (BTX)
Compared with some of the other boards in the Lib Tech range, the amount of bend to the T.Rice banana is slight. Whilst it looks noticably different from a conventional camber, I can't say I ever noticed the difference when riding it. That statement does come with a few caveats:
- I thought the pressing the board/buttering felt nice. This could have been in part due to the banana tech
- Despite being relatively short I didn't have any problems with the nose diving into fresh stuff. This could have been helped by the reverse camber
- It was the only board I rode for the two week stretch, so there were no immediate/direct comparisons with a regular board
I had one or two doubts about the serrated edge design; I guess I wasn't sure that I was going to like it. However, similar to the Banana Tech, I can't say that I noticed that much difference. For example, lining up for jumps, gliding in a straight line, and, I'm fairly sure, riding down regular pistes, felt quite normal.
It seems kinda strange to me that such a different design wouldn't feel any different? Well, I didn't notice one difference. Towards the end of the two weeks the slopes started to get a little icy. As I mentioned above, I didn't perform any kind of board comparison, but from memory, I'm confident in saying that the Magne-Traction helped with edge hold in the icy conditions. For example, it felt better than the T2. That was impressive.
On regular pistes, I didn't really feel it. I'd say the T.Rice has good edge hold, but not fantastic. Similar to the T2, but not better.
Like any 153cm board (for me), the Lib Tech isn't going to excel in freeride conditions. However, in the two weeks that this review is based on, I did have 3 or 4 powder days, so how did it perform?
First up, let's talk about the pow itself. It wasn't especially dry or especially deep. I'd say ranging between 20cm and 40cm. In these conditions the board did well. I was loving every turn and not digging in. Nothing like the problems I had in the deep Fernie snow with the T2. All's good.
Was it because the snow wasn't too deep. Am I a little better riding fresh than I was then? Does the nose profile have a better scoop? Does the slightly wider nose from a directional shape help? The Banana Tech? All of these little things contributed I'm sure. The board did well. I was still riding twin stance, 22.5". I didn't witness a huge dump of snow, but I sirfed the resort pow nicely.
If you're packing a beeper, shovel and probe, and hiking for fresh lines, you're probably not in the market for a short, twin tipped board...
I love this board. I'm sure I'd have been happy with a DH, which was probably what I would have bought, but I have no regrets. I would say that it's the overall board that impresses me, the flex, the pop, the ride and the feel, and not something specific like the Banana Tech or the Magne-Traction, although those features obviously contribute. I was attracted to the board in the shop because of how it felt in the hand - it seemed to ooze quality. It's exactly the same on the hill.
Posted by on Sunday, December 21, 2008
The Proporta BeachBuoy is a waterproof case designed to keep small devices and valuables safe from water, sand, dirt, dust, and... snow?
As it's name might suggest, along with the information that comes with the case, I'd say the BeachBuoy was designed mainly for use on the beach, or situations where you're around water. However, I decided to take a look at one, and review it's usefullness to snowboarders.
But first up - does it work?
Waterproof to 5 meters
The instructions that come with the BeachBuoy advise a Tissue Paper Test. Test it on something that's not valuable, and shows wet'ness easily. I thought that was a little timid - so opted for the Twenty Pound Note Test. I sealed it up, dunked it in the sink, waved it around a little, and then tested the dryness of the note.
Bone dry. Phew.
I then moved onto my mobile phone. Same routine. Same result. The phone was dry and working after being submerged under water. Nice one, it's waterproof!
Making a call
Proporta also say that devices can be used whilst inside the case, for example, making a call. Easy enough to test. I called someone, asked if they could hear me, asked if the call sounded any different. The response was "it's fine". I could hear them, so I'd say that works. Obviously device use doesn't extend to earphones, as this would break the seal on the case :)
Ease of use
The first couple of times I tried to seal the BeachBuoy I was thinking, wow, that's a bit difficult. The case has two grip-seals, and getting them fully closed takes a bit of finger-work. Then you fold the top over twice, a bit tough, and stick down the velcro flap...
But once you've done it a couple of times, it becomes easy, and the result is a waterproof seal.
So at £10, the BeachBuoy provides a cheap, light-weight case, that's handy for keeping stuff dry and clean on the beach and/or around water. But should you go and buy one ready for your next winter holiday?
The BeachBuoy and snow
My first thought regarding its use on the mountain was well it's nice, but I don't think I'd use it. I don't like to carry too much stuff around with me, it feels a little big to go in a pocket, and besides, my pockets are waterproof... enough. For example, my phone has never been damaged, and I take a bank card out from time to time.
If I am taking more stuff up with me, then it'll be in my backpack, and again, that's reasonably waterproof. Enough for me to not worry about stuff.
But the use of a phone whilst inside the case is compelling. I tend not to make calls whilst on the hill, and I'll avoid getting my phone out if it's snowing hard. But I'm sure there are people out there who make a lot more calls than I do when snowboarding/skiing. And if you're one of these people and you value your phone, a cheap, light-weight and waterproof case could prove really useful.
And as I think about it, the Euro notes do sometimes get a little damp, and what if you needed to carry something like valuable like a passport (which does fit, just)?...
I'll take this with me next time I'm away. I might not use it very often, maybe not even at all, but it may come in handy. Others, perhaps heavy phone users, might make better use of it. But for me, it doesn't really fit with my on-the-hill setup, it won't be an essential item. I reckon I'll use it more at the beach.
Posted by on Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A while ago, I wrote a review of "Go Snowboard" (Neil McNab), an instructional DVD and book, the crux being, I highly recommend it as an instructional source.
Along with that review, and this post, is a link to the product on Amazon. As an affiliate, I can see how many times "Go Snowboard" has been purchased via this site. It seems to be quite popular. In the last 12 months I've sold close to 50 copies (well, Amazon has sold them really). Still, that's quite a lot, and it's way more than any of the other products I've reviewed that are also on Amazon.
What I'm wondering is: if you bought the book from this site, what do you think? Do you think the review is accurate? Did I do a good job?
[If you've got it but didn't buy it from here, feel free to comment anyway...]
Posted by on Wednesday, November 19, 2008
During the 2007/2008 season, we stayed in the Cornerstone Lodge, in Fernie, Canada (BC). The Cornerstone Lodge is in the actual resort, rather than Fernie Town, which is a bus ride down the road. I don't know the exact price that we paid for the 6 person appartment as we booked as part of a package holiday; based on what we looked at around the time, I think the Cornerstone is middle of the road for the in-resort accommodation. Prices are available on their site.
First off, and probably most important, I thought the location was excellent. Perfect in fact. The Cornerstone is situated right between the two main lifts that take you up (Elk and Timber Bowl Express), and right next to the beginner chair (the Deer). When you step out the door, you can literally be at any of the three lifts in under one minute. Awesome. and depending on what side of the building you're on, you can look out from your balcony to see if there's a queue on a powder day, which chances are, there won't be!
What's more, you have both the Griz Bar (after-shred-beers-and-nachos) and the ticket office immediately outsite the lodge. There's also a restaurant and coffee shop on the ground floor of the building. Tight.
If you want on-the-hill, true ski-in, ski-out, the Cornestone is the best, it's right bang smack in the middle.
If you want to be in Fernie town however, it's obviously no good. Personally I'd rather have the mountain right on hand; first on the lifts on a powder day. Sure there isn't much happening in the resort - but I prefer to spend bus-time on the evening and not when there's good shredding to be had!
The quality of the accommodation was good - especially in the rooms themselves. We had 5 people in a 6 person appartment, which had the typical 2 bedrooms plus double sofa bed. I don't often like this configuration becuase who wants to sleep in the living room? That said, there was plenty of space.
The bedrooms were nice, spacious and comfortable; good storage space and nice bathrooms. The hot tub was ok - just what you need, soothing and relaxing - but nothing like what's on offer at the Lizard Creek Lodge. Think indoor health club hot-tub, rather than outdoor luxury, steaming tub, while looking up at the stars. But then again, I think the Lizard is way more expensive...
The only slightly weird thing is where you check in. There isn't actually a reception in the Cornerstone - you use the reception at the nearby Griz Inn. It's no biggy - as long as you know what you need to do. If you don't, you can end up walking around in the cold. It also helps if you're in a group so that some can stay with the luggage so you're not hauling it around!
To summarise - if I was going back to Fernie I would stay in the same place. To me, the location was perfect, it was reasonably priced and good quality. What more do you need?
Posted by on Monday, November 03, 2008
For a while now I've been intending to move away from having an all-inclusive, wheeled boardbag (e.g. Burton Wheelie Locker), to using two pieces of luggage: a regular case plus a smaller board bag.
I've now completed the transition, pairing a Dakine Tour Bag with a Dakine Split Convertible. Despite having more first hand experience with Burton luggage products, and being impressed, I opted for Dakine for 3 reasons: 1. price, 2. availability/choice and 3. confidence in their products.
The Tour Bag is considerably smaller than the Wheelie Locker, but as you can see, it still holds a lot of stuff. In the picture above I've got my board and bindings, my boots, my lid, snowboard pants and jacket, some impact shorts, a change of street clothes and a few other smaller things like socks. This is going to let me keep bulkier items out of the case as well as distributing the weight - think airport weight limits and their cost structure for extra bags.
The Tour Bag is well padded so your board is going to be safe. Plus there are separate compartments for boots and bindings - though you can use them for whatever you want. These separate pockets have waterproof lining, so they're good for anything that's wet and needs packing.
The smaller size (and cost) means no wheels - but I reckon these are designed to be used in addition to another case (most likely wheeled), so the shoulder strap fits well - wheeling two items can be tricky. It's going to be in the region of 10 - 15kg, so carrying over the shoulder shouldn't be a problem.
The Split Convertible is one of the larger cases available at 120L. I'd have been just as happy with the more common Split Roller, but I was able to pick mine up in a sale, which made the change worth while.
As it happens though, the convertible design is actually quite handy. Both sections can be used separately, so you can down-size to a smaller setup; although I'd say it's more practical to use the bottom one, as it has the wheels and the handle. If you're using the bag in it's completeness, I'd say it's unlikely that you'd ever want to split it up at the airport so that you can check in two separate bags, as per the Dakine blurb. However, you might find splitting it up handy for squeezing into a restricted space, like a small car for example...
The bottom part of the bag is a single, large compartment. The top bag, as shown above is split into three main compartments, plus the two sticking up on the top; all good for organising your gear.
My one question is the coupling of the two separate bags; they are joined with 4 large clips/straps. Although I haven't used the case in earnest yet, say, taking it through an airport, it does feel sturdy and durable. I don't anticipate any problems and I'll report on this after the first proper use.
Price: 2 bags vs. 1
Personally I much prefer the flexibility of a case and board bag vs. one large wheeled board bag - but does it cost more? I've only owned one of the large do-it-all board bags, the Burton Wheelie Locker, so I'll compare the price of two separate bags against that. The Wheelie Locker retails at around £170. The Tour Bag sells at £40 and the Split Roller 120L at £100 - making the pair £140. If you want the Split Convertible specifically, it's another £30, I think, which is quite a bit more: I'd recommend sticking with the roller as I'm not sure the convertible design is worth it.
Those are full prices though. One of the great things about getting a Dakine bag is that there are plenty of them around. Do a quick search on google and you're almost certain to find one in the sale. I got my Tour Bag for £28 and the Split Convertible for £80 - so a pretty good deal!
Posted by on Thursday, March 13, 2008
I've looked into NonStop Snowboard quite a few times; they're a company that specialises in providing instructor courses and improvement courses in Canada. One of the resorts that they operate from is Fernie.
While we were out there I received a couple of emails from Tom Gordon-Walker at NonStop; it turns out he was reading my blog, sweet! Nice guy actually, and after chatting some, I figured it would be worth checking out the Red Tree Lodge, seems as though it's run by the NonStop peeps and he asked if I could let him know what I thought...
The Red Tree lodge offers both a restaurant and accommodation. Given that we were already sorted as far as digs go, Ciara and I were there for the food and drink only.
The first thing that I noticed was the atmosphere; a fairly young vibe, fresh and relaxed. The service was prompt and friendly, and continued to be so throughout the meal.
The food was good and there was a selection of local beers on offer. What was refreshing with the Red Tree Lodge was the menu itself - a little more varied than can be found elsewhere in Fernie.
To top it off, the price was nice. Nothing expensive, simply a fair meal. It's often the case that when new restaurants open they get some of the simple things wrong. Not so with the Red Tree. I was impressed throughout and would definitely recommend a visit it you're in Fernie!
As we were leaving I took a little look around the place. Having not stayed there I can't say much about the rest of the lodge - so here's the official scoop from NonStop:
Red Tree Lodge:
We are proud to be the new owners of a 40 bedroom ski lodge in the centre of Fernie. The ski lodge in Fernie, has undergone £500,000 and has a comfortable welcoming atmosphere with numerous social spaces and fantastic facilities.
As the owners of our own ski lodge and restaurant we can be confident that NONSTOP Ski is the only training company to not only offer first class ski coaching but also fantastic accommodation, meals and recreational facilities.
The ski lodge has spacious bedrooms each with brand new modern furnishing, queen size beds and ensuite bathrooms. Bedrooms have stunning views of the local mountains and some have private balconies.
Communal Sitting Rooms:
We wanted to ensure there are plenty of communal social spaces in the lodge where our clients can meet and socialise, chill out playing cards or watch a DVD. There are four communal sitting rooms spread throughout the lodge each of which has:
- Comfortable sofas and armchairs
- Cable TV & DVD player
- Wireless internet
Yep, that's right... no ski lodge would be complete without its own indoor swimming pool and spacious hot tub and ours is no exception. So after a hard day riding powder you can loosen your muscles with a few lengths of the pool and a sociable soak in the hot tub.
The lodge also has its own 100 seat restaurant and bar. We have designed this space with a really comfortable homey feel so that it becomes as popular a space to read, play cards and socialise as it is for eating. With a wood burning stove, plenty of comfortable sofas, dining tables, a well stocked bar and fantastic food this is the heart of the lodge. The restaurant is open to the public and serves dinner and breakfast for all our course participants prepared by our team of professional chefs.
Films are good - especially after a hard days exercise on the mountain. We have therefore dedicated a whole room for watching movies. With an overhead projector and rows of comfortable chairs this is the place to sit back, unwind and enjoy an evening in with a good film.
If you want high performance it's important to keep your equipment in good shape. We have a room dedicated to tuning your skis or snowboard with tools and supplies for waxing, edge sharpening and gouge repair. Each of our courses includes a training session on how to tune your gear so you get the most out of your skis or snowboard.
Posted by on Sunday, January 06, 2008
On Friday evening I used and assembled the helmet cam for the first time. The thing that I'm most interested in with this camera is how well it actually attaches to a helmet. Is it going to be practical on the hill? Will it be steady enough for usable video? This is the main subject of this early review.
I do however have some other observations. I won't go into much detail, but I will list them here at the top:
- The video quality is actually ok, as good as I'd hoped
- The sound quality is aweful, almost a waste of time
- Connection to the pc and transfer of files is very easy
- It's not difficult to start and stop recording while the camera remains helmet-mounted
Here are the contents of the ATC-2K package:
The batteries (2 AA), SD card and connections are all at the back, which has a well sealed cover.
Mounting the camera on a helmet
A rubber strap is used to wrap around the helmet. The strap is held in place by a plastic buckle, which also acts as the female part of the camera-to-strap connection. It's a slot and click connection.
The strap itself seems good; once in place it's pretty damn tight and doesn't appear to be going anywhere. The major problem with the design is the way that the strap is fed through the buckle. It leaves a gap.
Once attached, the weight of the camera causes it to sag, which in turn causes it to wobble once in motion. As part of the package there are a few rubber strips with sticky backs. I'm certain that these are intended to be used a padding for this gap - to help prevent the wobble.
The padding actually works pretty well. I tried 3 video tests: one with no padding, one with a single rubber strip and one with two pieces of rubber. The difference was cleary visible. The optimum seemed to be a single strip, and it cut out a lot of the wobble.
Side mount vs. top mount:
As per some of the pictures I've seen, it's possible to mount the camera on either the top or the side of a helmet. To facilitate this, the connector that is attached to the camera can be rotated. This means you can set the camera to be level wherever it is mounted.
I chose to side mount the camera for two reasons. 1st, I can't see how the rubber strap will wrap around a helmet to achieve a top mount. 2nd, I think I'll look more of a dork with it in that position.
There are two issues that I've encountered with having it side-mounted. 1st, you can actaully feel the weight of the camera. It's slight, but it's there non the less. 2nd, it really gets in the way of your googles. I'm going to have to wear the goggle strap under my helmet.
Aligning the camera:
I didn't find aligning the camera to be that difficult. After the first attempt of setting it up, I walked around the room looking at specific objects and then watched the video back to see if the camera was looking in the same area. After a few slight adjustments I've made a reference line on the helmet, and it seems pretty reliable.
These comments may be a little premature, but I can't help thinking that a half decent slam is going to smash the whole thing. The camera unit itself seems very solid, but there are quite a few plastic pieces in the whole connection jigsaw, and that seems like a weak link.
What's more, when the camera is disconnected it still has part of the plastic connection wrapped around it. I'd hoped to carry the camera in my pocket as an ultra portable alternative to my video camera, at times when I don't want to carry something larger. Now I'm just worried that I might damage the plastic connector...
At this stage, I'm still fairly encouraged. The design of the helmet mount could be better, but it might just work out to be ok. Time will tell. On the plus side, the quality is good enough for what I want and the operation of the camera is dead simple. On the down side, I don't like that plastic connector being wrapped around the camera all the time; it's in the way. I might be able to get it off, but it looks to be a right fiddle.
I'd like to try the helmet cam on my skateboard before I go to Fernie - and see how the footage comes out...
Posted by on Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This is the first book of its kind that I've bought and read. Most people would agree that when it comes to avalanche safety, a book alone is no substitute for regular practice with avalanche equipment, guidance from an expert or real life experience of travelling in the backcountry. I was looking for an introduction, some background knowledge, things to think about. The ABCs of Avalanche Safety covers exactly what the title suggests - it's a good place to start.
The book is pocket size, say 4" by 6", with around 130 pages. The content is split up into 4 chapters - Snow and Avalanche Basics, Practical Guidelines for Stability Evaluation, Safety Rules and Rescue and Case Histories - each filled with concise information.
Concise should not be confused with simple, however. The book is written with technical and scientific language, especially so with the descriptions of how the snow cover forms. Photos and diagrams are used in places to suppliment the text, and to good effect.
I think the size of the book itself is a plus. Being handy, with a small number of direct chapters, makes reading encouraging; it's easy to dip into any of the sections for a quick read. Its size also makes it portable; weighing you down isn't a concern, so it's easy to take away.
In contrast, I occassionally found the vocabulary a little slow to digest. At this stage, some of the snow science seemed quite heavy, given my lack or practical experience.
So what about the scope of information? This is where the book really scores. Starting with an explanation of avalanche terms, it then provides foundation knowledge about different types of snow and how avalanches form. There are guidelines for assessing the risk, how to avoid avalanches and how to perform a search. It's a good mix of theory and practical advice. Simply put, it's the ABCs of avalanche safety.
Written on the back cover: A respected authority since 1961. I can see why. This is a good book. What's more, at around £6 it's very accessible. At the time of writing, Amazon has it listed with the Search Inside feature - so go take a slightly closer look!
Posted by on Wednesday, December 12, 2007
I'm a fan of Absinthe films, especially the last two, so I was really looking forward to this season's Optimistic. It didn't disspapoint - I think Optimistic's a good snowboard movie with some exceptional parts... but for me, overall, it didn't grab in quite the same way as Futureproof and More.
So which bits didn't work? Mostly, I think it's the case that having really liked Futureproof and then thinking that they took More farther still, Optimistic had a tough benchmark to beat. I do feel that as the film gets going, it kinda settles in. My favourite bits are mostly at the beginning, so it seems to mellow out as the movie goes on. Don't get me wrong, the riding and filming is strong throughout, it just bobbed around my personal that's so good meter, whereas More kept leaping above it.
What about the excellent parts?
Gigi's section really appealed to me. The music's funky and the riding is varied. There are some heli follow-cam shots of Gigi and Danny Davis hitting this backcountry kicker that might be some of my favourite ever. The action smoothly follows the rider showing how big the jump is and you get an idea of what the kicker might look like from the rider's perspective on the run in, yet the rider and the kicker appear small in the vastness of the whole scene; awesome. There's also this sequence of Gigi riding down a side street with steps and rails, how can he make that sequence look so good? It just oozes style.
As well as some pretty sick shredding (I really like the way he rides powder), MFM's part has a true laugh out loud section - a snow-spray assault on skiers. You might think it's a little harsh, you might think some of it's justified, either way you'll probably think it's hillarious. The film is worth watching just for this bit!
Trees. There's some excellent tree action in Optimistic. Trees and deep powder. The section shot in Canada towards the beginning of the movie shouldn't be missed. Visually it looks fantastic, the trees, deep snow, the sun. And then check out the riding, Marco Feichtner and Wolle, it's like the trees aren't there, except when they're jibbing off them!
Perhaps most impressive in the movie is Wolfgang. I reckon Wolle Nyvelt was on a mission last season. Seriously, he has so much footage in Optimistic, so much powder, so many good shots. It's like he owns the DVD. The guy is riding deep pow on a wooden stick with no bindings better than most people when they've got both feet hooked in, it's insane. His riding alongside Matt Beardmore is also top drawer. I can't always tell who is who, but it's all good. Wolle really kicks this film going, he's killing it!
Other parts that I liked
Annie Boulanger is representing female snowboarders and has some really nice backcountry riding, pushing it pretty hard. I found myself liking quite a lot of the urban scenes. Mikey LeBlanc provides a lot of charisma along with some gutsy street moves. Then there's Hans Ahlund putting down some really sweet jibs, making it all look varied. The section with Romain De Marchi and Danny Davis has a handful of hits from a backcountry kicker that deserve to be watched over - super smooth riding/filming and a sick tail grab in there.
If you're into extras you may find the DVD a little thin in this area... having said that, Flipside's The Making of More (part1) is included, and it's really good!
I really like the soundtrack to Optimistic, there's some nice tunes in there, the mix is good. I'm not going to try and classify it, I'll just say it's right up my street. The production of the movie's intro is especially noteworthy. Excellent song, it's pretty inspiring. Here's the track list in the order played, with uk iTunes hook-up:
- "Rusted Wheel", album "Carnavas", by Silversun Pickups
- "Wolf Like Me", album "Return to Cookie Mountain", by TV On The Radio
- "Season of the Witch", by Donovan Leitch
- "Calling For The Dissolution", album "Criminal Saints", by Scott Sullivan
- "Don't Sweat the Technique", by Eric B and Rakim
- "Frosty", Meka
- "Cadillac Dust", by Elliot Brood
- "John The Baptiste", album "File Under Forgotten", by The Ants
- "C'mon C'mon", album "Pawn Shoppe Heart", by Von Bondies
- "Ain't Cha", album "Hell Hath No Fury", by Clipse
- "Jamna Plagor", by Dungen
- "Spring and by Summer Fall", album "23", by Blonde Redhead
- "The Man Who Came To Stay", album "Killamangiro", by Babyshambles
- "I Love My Bitch", album "The Big Bang", by Busta Rhymes
- "Presentazione Orchestra", album "Stasera Shake! Volume 2", by Rafaella Carra
- "Fragments", Meka
Here's most of the soundtrack to sample:
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