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Tom Ross: Ski season over techno-horizon

Who needs a Bluetooth-enabled helmet?

If you woke up this morning to the sight of tattered gray clouds lifting off Thunderhead, perhaps you also glimpsed a dusting of snow. If you’re like me, it made you put down your coffee mug and rise from the couch to take inventory of your ski equipment.

I know, it’s still weeks away. But there’s a brand new pair of last year’s Scarpa T3 Telemark boots calling to me from the depths of the gear closet.

I don’t know about you, but I have a difficult time discarding my old skis. I think of them as being more than mere “sporting goods.” They’re closer to the status of a loyal dog – someone who has shared memorable days in the woods with you.



Just this week, I was admiring a striking new fence made of skis in a yard along Third Street and feeling slightly oppressed – my spousal unit is strongly discouraging me from building a similar shrine to my old sticks.

My quiver of old skis includes a pair of silver Head slalom skis that replaced an identical pair after one of the original completely blew up on Vagabond ski run at the end of a day in the moguls. A former executive at SportStalker insisted on getting me replacement skis even though I hadn’t purchased them from him. Pretty cool.



There’s also a great old pair of Hart mogul skis with pink bases in the garage. Marty Carrigan swapped them for a photo shoot I did with a couple of Hart-sponsored pro racers at Breckenridge. They were great skis.

I have always had a special fondness for the soft Elan powder skis that are retired but still hanging in the rack. They were crazy long – like 211 centimeters. But they were absolute snakes in tight aspen trees on powder mornings. John Kole at One Stop Ski Shop turned me on to them. I’ve seen some people mount Telemark bindings on the exact same ski.

Easily the coolest pair of skis in the garage is the bright green Europa 99s. They are an early Telemark ski but don’t bear any resemblance to today’s Tele boards. Instead, they look like Nordic touring skis with their wax-less, fish-scale bottoms. It was a long time ago, but I’m certain I purchased them at Ski Haus, where the Never Summer shop has a classic ski display worthy of a museum.

The only tip-off to the E-99s Tele heritage is their metal edges – a clear sign that their designer meant for them to be skied on groomed runs.

If nothing else, I take them out once a year on a Christmas tree cutting expedition. They have a ridiculous amount of camber, but they’re still up for making turns on spring corn.

Curious about the new 2007 equipment, I snuck out of work Friday morning and checked out the ski mags at Bud Werner Memorial Library. I saw some crazy stuff in the Freeskier Buyers Guide.

All of the familiar old-school European manufacturers – Rossignol, Dynastar and Atomic – are riding the new wave in the sport. But there are some manufacturers whose names I didn’t recognize.

For example, a company called Armada has come out with a ski that Freeskier gives a “stoke factor” of 9 (that’s really good). The ski is called the “Pipe Cleaner.”

At first I scratched my head. Why would anyone name a ski the Pipe Cleaner? Then my old powderhound brain woke up and I realized it’s a play on words. Armada’s ski is designed to clean up on all the snowboarders in the halfpipe!

The new products that really blew my mind are the ski helmets that are wired for audio and Bluetooth.

I think I can figure out the audio feature on my own. If your ski jacket has a pocket designed for your iPod, you can run an output cord through the buttonhole and simply plug it into the back of your helmet speakers.

It’s the wireless Bluetooth equipment that I’m still confused about. Is it possible that today’s ski helmets come wired for Internet access so people can instant message one another on powder mornings?

Perhaps someday we’ll get e-mail messages projected onto the inside of our ski goggles.

I imagine it would go something like this: “Dude! Where are you! The smoke in the Land of the Little People is up to my armpits!”

Another ski season is just over the techno-horizon.


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