Archive for the ‘skiing’ Category

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We’re moving to our new domain!!!

July 9, 2009

So exciting, we have finally matured from a blog to a website! I feel so grown-up! Please don’t desert us, follow this link and we’ll continue where we left off…

www.xtremesport4u.com

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What skiing skills to you need to take on the Haute Route?

June 11, 2009

We talked about walking the Haute Route the other day, but many of you might already be planning to ski it this year, so here’s some information for you adventurous extreme skiers out there.

For a start you will need to know how to ski on alpine touring skis.

Skiing Europe's Haute Route

You will also need to have the:

  • Ability to turn comfortably through the fall line in difficult deep, heavy snow, or bad breakable crust.
  • Ability to execute hop parallel turns or pedal-hop turns on 35° firm snow.
  • Ability to ski the fall-line with short-radius, rhythmic parallel turns in deep light snow.
  • Ability to side-slip, both forward and backward, on firm 40° slopes.
  • Ability to skate on level ground.

Although the Tour can be completed in under 24 hours on skies, most skiers take about five days, sleeping in high mountain huts and tailoring their plans to the weather and snow conditions. The huts offer simple dormitory-style accommodation, meals and, if you’re lucky, showers.

But back to the skiing skills that are required to do this trip. Remember, this is an extreme tour which must not be challenged lightly, after all –  it is 180 kms from Chamonix to Zermatt with 3,000 m alpine passes and skiing across at least 130 kms of glacial snow and ice.

The Haute Route  heads eastwards from the base of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak, and finishes in the unmistakeable shadow of the Matterhorn. In total, it ascends and descends almost 20,000 m, crosses some 20 glaciers and meanders through France, Italy and Switzerland.

One of the myths about this Tour is that there is only one route. This is not correct. There are several choices allowing skiers to lengthen their tour or avoid trails made hazardous by high winds or avalanches.

With the proper gear, careful planning and clear weather, the Haute Route is as safe and achievable as any backcountry skiing trip. It is physically demanding, however – an average day involves 5 hours of skiing carrying a  pack and is likely to burn between 4,000 and 6,000 calories.

Skiers need to be comfortable skiing both off piste and down advanced (black diamond-rated) slopes. The reason for this has more to do with the conservation and expenditure of energy over a long day than the absolute technical difficulty of the skiing although there are a few steep sections, such as the descent off the Plateau du Couloir on Day 5 and the descent to the Col des Ecandies on Day 3. However, for the most part the slopes are not overly steep.

The challenge comes in managing poor snow conditions (heavy wet snow, crud or breakable crust) and not losing too much energy in the process. Good skiers look like they are hardly working, and this is in fact the case. If your skiing is not up to par you will spend far, far more energy than a better skier.

Skiers who regularly enjoy black or double black runs in most western American ski areas should do fine. If you like to go off- piste and into the crud, ski the trees, and in general look for the steeper shots, you’ll probably have a great time on this tour. But if you tend to stick to the groomed slopes and find off-piste a bit intimidating this is probably not a good tour for you.

You are likely to encounter many different kinds of snow, from the best to the worst, and you need to have sound energy efficient strategies to cope with them.

A good gauge of your ability is how good are you at mogul skiing? If you are good in the bumps and seek them out, then you probably have the skill, the rhythm and the balance needed for steep or difficult snow.

But it requires more than all the above too. You must be able to ski safely and controlled at all times while wearing a mid-weight backpack (7-10 kg /15 lb-22 lb). You need to be in very good physical and mental condition, ready to be on your feet for about 8 – 10 hrs including steep, continuous uphill climbs of up to 1200 m (4100 ft) on some of the days.

Being on your feet every day for 7 days requires a good deal of stamina.

Going with a guide isn’t required, but if you’re uncomfortable navigating your way through a whiteout or rappelling down a mountainside, a guide is the way to go.

Remember that crampons, ice axes and avalanche beacons are part of the necessary equipment – this is not a Tour for the faint-hearted!

But it is worth it. It is an exhilarating challenge with incomparable views and with the final day bringing an incredible ski descent under the North Face of the mighty Matterhorn down into Zermatt.

Here’s a great video from cxnx condensing 6 days into just under 6 minutes:

I have been asked if it is possible to snowboard the Haute Route. I have looked and looked, but although one place mentions that skiers and snowboarders can do the Tour, I have seen no evidence of snowboarders and fear you might have to revert to your skis. However,  if you really don’t want to do that, I suggest you contact one of the many guide companies that offer services and advice on the Haute Route.

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Summer here, but the ski season’s just about to start in the Southern Hemisphere

May 29, 2009

Desperate to go ski-ing? Wondering where to go? Look no further – Cardrona in New Zealand has had its best pre-season snow base levels in over a decade, 120 cm on the upper mountain and 80 cm in the base area.

“We’ve had some pretty extreme weather in May bringing heavy snow falls, the mountain is looking amazing, from top to bottom. It’s been great to get such a solid snow base but I know our operations team is grateful this week has brought some settled weather to continue with pre-season preparations,” said Nadia Ellis, sales and marketing manager.

If these pre-season conditions are anything to go by then winter 2009 is going to be one for the record books. It certainly looks like we’re in for some great skiing and snowboarding from the outset, so long as the cold conditions hold,” said Ellis.

Cardrona is scheduled to open Friday 26 June. For further information, visit the newly relaunched web site at www.cardrona.com.

Cardrona yesterday 26 May. Photo: Tommy Pyatt

This picture was taken 3 days ago, 26th May 2009, by Tommy Pyatt.

Not looking too bad is it?!

Falls Creek, on Mt. McKay, Australia, on the other hand, is making snow in preparation for their opening in one week’s time – the Queen’s Birthday Weekend. Conditions are perfect for snow making with the mercury well below zero and the temperature, taking into account the wind chill component, a cool minus 7.6C.  It has the country’s blackest runs over 450 hectares of snow covered fields.

But it is Mount Buller which has beaten everyone else to the opening day. 248kms north east of Melbourne (about 3 hours), Mt Buller is the most accessible snow resort in Australia and the closest resort to any international airport.

In a special ‘this-weekend-only’ celebration, Mt Buller is throwing open the resort to the public this Saturday and Sunday to share the amazing 35cm of early snow blanketing the resort.

“This is the earliest we’ve opened a lift and ski run in the history of Mt Buller resort. The closest was 45 years ago when we opened on the 16 May in 1964,” said Laurie Blampied General Manager of Buller Ski Lifts.

However, it looks like it’s be New Zealand stealing the show for the moment.

More fresh snow on Queenstown’s premier ski areas of The Remarkables and Coronet Peak on New Zealand’s South Island is delivering spectacular pre-season conditions, comparable with usual conditions in peak season.

Coronet Peak ski area, scheduled to open on Saturday 6 June, has received 50 – 100 cm of snow in the last four days resulting in an 80 cm base at the top of the mountain and a 50 cm base at the bottom.

Across the valley at The Remarkables, the ski area has received 45 cm of fresh snow in the last 48 hours and has received 150 cm over the last two weeks, resulting in a solid 120 cm base across the mountain.

More snow showers are forecast for Queenstown in the coming days…

Soon now, you, too, in the Southern Hemisphere can get up to these tricks (XTremeVideo):

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Winter X games and ESPN pick up Industry Impact award from NSAA

May 12, 2009

With the snow fast receding on the mountains of the Alpes Maritimes it is perhaps untimely to be talking of skiing and snowboarding but one of the reasons we write in this blog is to enthuse people of all ages of the wonder and beauty of the great outdoors so they will get off their fat asses and go and try ‘it’ for themselves. We don’t mind whether it is a ski or snowboard, a bike or base jumping, a surf board or scuba, a hang glider or a mountain to jump off or climb – the important thing to us is that you get out there and give it a go.

Look – the fact is there are far too many of us who do the square root of sweet fanny adams (whoever she was?) other than sit on our over extended backsides drinking some sugarised soda and munching on candy. Tick tock, tick tock, tick………..oh, oh the clock has stopped and there you go – just another number, another statistic for those bespectacled boffins who count and interpret numbers and tell us that we are an obese society dying too young because we have too much cholesterol in our systems.

We were therefore pleased to see that the Winter X games and ESPN have won the award presented by the National Ski Areas Association for bringing the thrill and excitement of skiing and snowboarding into the living rooms of millions of television viewers worldwide. The NSAA Industry Impact Award recognizes significant contributions made to the ski industry by an individual, business, or other entity.

Here’s some video actiom from m21d95 of the men’s super pipe final held at Aspen, Colorado in 2008, including Shaun White.

“We’d be remiss if we didn’t formally recognize the impact that the ESPN Winter X Games has made on the ski industry,” said NSAA President Michael Berry. “There is little doubt that the exciting action that these games deliver into the homes of viewers both young and old has caused them to pick themselves up off of their couch, and give skiing and snowboarding a try for themselves. Clearly the industry as a whole has benefited greatly from ESPN’s exposure.”

Watch Simon Dumont, in iamn8’s video, win the 2009 big air, beating Jon Olsson with a double front – some style, some class.

The Winter X Games have been held every January for 13 years. Debuting at Snow Summit, Calif., the event has subsequently been held at Mount Snow, Vt., Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Colo., and finally Aspen/Snowmass, where it’s remained for the past eight years.

We add our congratulations to Winter X games and ESPN and find it somewhat ironical that the award is being made on Marco Island, Florida on Thursday. Maybe the NSAA  too – like the Alpes Maritimes – have had enough snow for one year!!

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The Brits ’09 in Laax, Switzerland – super cool

April 7, 2009

Its the place to have been this last week – Laax, Switzerland – where the most established winter festival in Europe has just been held and celebrated its 20th year celebrating all things snow and music. As one commentator said ‘it is where Glastonbury meets the FA Cup on snow and thats one hell of a recipe for entertainment.’

Below is action provided by soulsportstv from the mens and womens Animal British Slopestyle 2009 Championship for snowboarders – Jenny Jones, who had just flown in from the US, won the women’s event with Laura Berry taking second. The men’s event set a new record when 15 year old Jamie Nicholls broke a Brits record for being the youngest competitor to win an overall title.

Winners of the events are listed below:

Animal British Slopestyle Championship Results
Men
1st – Jamie Nicholls, Halifax
2nd – Jack Shackleton, Newbury
3rd – Ben Kilner, Banchory

Women
1st – Jenny Jones, Bristol
2nd – Laura Berry, Milton Keynes
3rd – Claire Frost, Edinburgh

Quiksilver British Big Air Championship Results
Men
1st – James Woods, Sheffield
2nd – Paddy Graham, Sheffield
3rd – Joe Tomlinson, Rossendale

Women
1st – Katie Summerhayes, Sheffield
2nd – Claire Hughes, Fife
3rd – Jessica Thom

Another video from soulsportstv of the SNO!zone British Halfpipe Championships

SNO!zone British Halfpipe Championship Results
Men
1st – Ben Kilner, Banchory
2nd – Dom Harington, Leeds
3rd – Dan Wakeham, Plymouth

Women
1st – Lesley Mckenna, Aviemore
2nd – Kate Foster, Sussex
3rd – Laura Hill, Leeds

Trespass British Skiercross Results
Men
1st – Gregg Samuels
2nd – Craig Robinson
3rd – Edward Cozzi
4th – John Andree

Women
1st – Jasmin Taylor
2nd – Danielle Freeze
3rd – Serena Woods
4th – Helen Pickford

Another video from soulsportstv of the Qucksilver British Big Air Championship

Quiksilver British Big Air Championship Results
Men
1st – Nate Kern, Sussex
2nd – Andy Nudds, Halifax
3rd – Dom Harington, Leeds

Women
1st – Laura Berry, Milton Keynes
2nd – Claire Frost, Edinburgh
3rd – Jo Chastney, Dorset

Animal British Slopestyle Championship Results
Men
1st – James Woods, Sheffield
2nd – James Webb, Bracknell
3rd – Julian Ball, Kent

Trespass British Snowboardcross Results
Men Women
1st – James Foster 1st – Zoe Gillings
2nd – Tim McGregor 2nd – Lesley McKenna
3rd – Nick Dudar 3rd – Dani Stone
4th – David Osgood 4th – Ivy Taylor

Women
1st – Katie Summerhayes, Sheffield
2nd – Claire Hughes, Fife
3rd – Emma Lonsdale, Settle

Quiksilver British Big Air Championship Results
Women
1st – Emma Lonsdale, Settle
2nd – Katie Summerhayes, Sheffield
3rd – Claire Hughes, Fife

Men
1st – James Machon, Bamford
2nd – James Woods, Sheffield
3rd – Charlie Richards, Sheffield

Of course its not all about the action in the mountains at the Brits ’09 – one thing the Brits takes very seriously is the apres ski and this year was no exception with every noise pollution law being flagrantly abused and music loud enough to tear the roof off of any chalet from the likes of Scratch and Vadim, Gentlemans Pistols, Jett Black, Kandi Coded, Funk Royale with Deep Sax and MC Tucca, Darren Jay, Micky Finn and MC Rhymes,The Go Team DJs and Kovak, and MC Tim Warwood and Mitch Matthews.

No doubt Laax is now recovering from an invasion from Britain and celebrating the fact that it was another very successful week from which very few left disappointed.

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The importance of finding the right shoes for your chosen sport

April 3, 2009

I am sure you will have, at one time in your life, cursed the shoes on your feet… I know I have. I had one holiday where we did a lot of hill walking and only belatedly did I find out that I should have bought hiking boots at least a size, if not 2 sizes larger than my feet actually are…

So what are the truths about sports shoes and how do you know what to look for and what to buy?

Here is a very simple breakdown of some points worth remembering when buying new shoes…

Hiking Boots:

You have two choices: leather or lightweight hiking books. Leather has the advantage of moulding to the shape of your foot, but obviously it comes with a higher price tag. However, either of these boots must have ankle support. The boot must be at least one size – if not 2 – larger than your normal shoe size. When you put the boot on, unlaced, you should be able to slide your toes to the end of the boot and fit your finger between your heel and the heel of the boot – this extra space is important because your feet swell when warm and there is nothing worse than being miles out on a hike and find that your feet are blistering and terribly sore.

Your toes must not touch the front of the boot. To make sure you have the right size, when trying on the boots, bang the toe of the boot against the wall – if your toe touches the end… the boot is too small.

When lacing the boot up, don’t lace too tightly. The foot should be comfortable with a little movement around the heel area.

Wear two pairs of hiking socks – this gives extra protection against blisters, gives good padding and also draws the moisture away from the foot. Although it goes against the grain to say this, natural fibre socks are more likely to cause blistering. Thank you to mooutdoors for the video.

Break your boots in before you go for a long hike. Even the best fitting most comfortable boots are likely to cause blisters on their first outing.

Mountain climbing boots:

You will need the stiffest hiking boots possible. These are often called stompers. These will allow you to attach crampons if needed. They also provide better stability when hiking in snow or through icy portions of your trail. Stompers are also best for long backpacking trips where you are carrying a heavy load. They will provide you with the best grip and steadiness when you are under the weight of a stuffed backpack.

Rock Climbing Shoes:

Different types of rock climbing require different types of shoes.

Slippers:  these hug the foot tightly, are light and have very thin soles to give maximum sensitivity. They are ideal for training, wall climbing and bouldering.

All-purpose:  these are typically cut high to protect ankles and are designed to be comfortable and good performers. They can be used for a wide variety of rock climbing such as multi-pitch climbs, cracks, edging and smearing.

High performance: self-explanatory. These shoes are cut low for added flexibility and lighter weight. High-performance shoes are designed to fit tight for maximum rock-sensitivity and control. They are ideal for high-intensity climbing and difficult sport-climb routes.

Have a look here to see the huge variety  of rock climbing shoes available, with thanks to waterstoneoutdoors .

Ski boots

Good ski boots should be snug, and should support your foot and ankle while allowing enough flexibility to manoeuver with. They should keep your feet warm, dry, and padded to protect you against impacts which may result in injuries. Having the proper fit is the most important thing to consider as far as these boots are concerned.

The main difference in ski boots is how to put them on and there are two different type of methods for this – either top or rear entry. In general, rear entry boots are easier to use but top entry boots give more support.

Liners in the boot mould to you feet and over time they become compressed. It is important to look after the liners which means that after a long day skiing don’t go back to the lodge and drop your boots in a forgotten corner – you must either remove the liner and make sure it dries properly or place the boot in a heated environment overnight so it dries out. Boot liners are designed to help regulate the temperature of the foot and to wick away excessive sweat. As it compresses with use, it stops doing this. It is recommended to change your liners every 2 years – if you are skiing about 4 weeks a year.

And a final note on ski boots – the suggested life of a ski boot is 7 years. If you ski 50+ times a year then the time period is shorter.

Good descriptive video here from mhawk98642 showing you how a ski boot should fit.

Snowboarding boots:

Similar with other sports footwear, the most significant factor that ensures your comfort and performance is a good fit. When snowboarding your foot can swell by half a size so it’s important to have a boot a little larger than your normal size. Snowboarding boots should fit snugly around the ankle, and should hold your heel firmly down in the boot.

If you’re going for Soft Boots you should feel some toe movement. For Hard Boots there should be minimal toe movement.  Once the boots have been used the internal padding will become compacted, thereby increasing the available space slightly. Your heals must NOT be able to lift at all when the boot is laced up. To check this out, lace the boots up and stand on tip-toe… if your heel lifts the boots are too big.

Here’s a very useful short video of a nifty way to tie your snowboot laces so they don’t loosen during the day. Thanks to DogfunkFilms for sharing it with us.

That covers the footwear of  some of the extreme sport catagories we talk about. Next time I’ll see about some of the others…

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Equipment failure to blame for McConkey’s fatal crash?

March 30, 2009

The tragic news of Shane McConkey’s death on Thursday while skiing/wingsuit flying in the Italian Dolomites would appear to have its root cause in failure of the equipment that McConkey was using. This is according to an emailed statement released by JT Holmes who was with McConkey at the time of the accident and reported by Tim Mutrie.

The statement is reproduced below:

‘Yesterday, March 26, 2009, Shane died while skiing in Italy. There are some technical aspects that are left out from this statement, and it does not touch upon the beauty of the Dolomites and the skiing we shared before the accident or Shane’s typical shining persona, full of adventure, humor and life experience.

We chose to ski off of a cliff with our wingsuits and fly them away from the cliff wall before opening our parachutes for landing. We skied and hiked off of the Pordoi cable car to a spot Shane had base jumped once before, in the summer. We spent a bunch of time preparing for the jump, building a kicker, helping each other gear up, and finally we were pleased and prepared and went for it.

Shane did a double back flip in perfect McConkey style. As planned, afterwards, he went to release his skis in order to fly away from the wall and safely deploy his parachute. This is where the jump went wrong. He was not able to release either of his skis. He remained focused on releasing them by reaching down towards his bindings. This put him into a spin/tumble/unstable falling style, that may have appeared out of his control, but in reality, Shane was not concerned about flying position or style; just concerned with reaching those skis so that he could get them off and fly or deploy his parachute. He succeeded in releasing both of skis and immediately transitioned into a perfect flying position; then he impacted the snow, and died at that moment.

The whole thing took place in about 12 seconds. Once he released the skis, he was immediately in control of the flight and would have only seen the ground and imminent impact for a tiny fraction of a second before he hit. Shane’s parachute did not malfunction; it was never deployed.’

Shane McConkey was born in Vancouver, British Columbia and became a professional skier based out of Squaw Valley, California. He won numerous awards and competitions. McConkey started as a competitive freestyle skier, but moved on to be featured in a long line of extreme skiing movies. McConkey was known for combining BASE jumping with skiing, as seen in such feats as skiing into a BASE jump off the Eiger. He had more recently taken to winsuit flying and believed there was nothing better than skiing down a mountain, launching himself off a cliff and flying like a bird.

He is survived by his wife, Sherry, and 3-year-old daughter, Ayla.

Shane McConkey

Shane McConkey

And as if we could ever forget we have included just one short video footage of Shane in action where it is self evident to see a master of his chosen profession at work – a combination of balance, grace, skill and courage.

We send our most sincere condolences to Sherry and Ayla.