BC Banter: BCM Gear Test Underway, Wet Avalanches Across the West, BD Explores Selling its Brands, Tahoe Closes Early and OB Death in Crested Butte

Backcountry Magazine Gear Test & Board Test Get Underway


Griffin Dunne at work. [Photo] Mike Lorenz

Next week kicks off the Backcountry Magazine Gear Test and Board Test. The ski test, which takes place at Powder Mountain, Utah, includes 40 seasoned testers who sample 50 boots and 200 skis over the course of five gear-filled days. And in Crested Butte, Colo., the on-snow testing continues, with 36 testers trying out more than two dozen split board brands over the course of the “work week.” This year, the Board Test will be partnering with TransWorld SNOWboarding to bring the industry’s most credible splitboard, boot, binding and accessory reviews to an even larger audience. Read more about that, here.

Wet Avalanches Affect Ski Area Operationhighland-avy

From Wyoming to Colorado, warm, slushy conditions are triggering avalanches and impacting ski area operation. On Tuesday, a skier triggered an in-bounds avalanche in Aspen’s Highland Bowl; the slide ran down B-Fore, a run located about halfway from the summit. And with heavy rains on Wednesday and Thursday adding to the unseasonably warm temperatures, wet slab avalanches are becoming all the more possible. “We have had a lot of melt water infiltrate the snowpack during the recent warm sunny period,” Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Brian Lazar said in Thursday’s forecast. “All this water has made its way deep into the snowpack, and the freeze yesterday and last night put a thin frozen cap on the underlying moist to wet snow.” In Jackson, the World Championship Snowmobile Hill Climb was called off after two wet avalanches occurred on the face of Snow King. For backcountry and resort skiers alike, check the local avalanche report before heading out.

Black Diamond Looks to Sell Brands


Black Diamond Inc., parent company to Black Diamond Equipment, POC Sports
and Pieps, is considering strategic alternatives for their three brands. Only one year ago, Black Diamond Inc. sold its Gregory brand, which was acquired by Samsonite for $85 million. “I expect to be surprised when an ultimate buyer is announced,” said D.A. Davidson analyst Andrew Burns in a recent SNEWS interview. “Just as we were surprised when it was announced that Samsonite was buying Gregory.” According to SNEWS, potential buyers also include big names such as Amer Sports, Jarden, Columbia and VF Corp. The prospective sales are largely connected to Black Diamond Inc.’s challenges as a public company. Black Diamond Inc. CEO Peter Metcalf notes: “When you have three specialty brands, that are relatively small by Wall Street standards, you’re saddled with a very high cost of being public with a higher percentage of overhead costs.”

Tahoe Ski Resorts Close Early For the Season


Homewood Resort with some not-so-stellar conditions. [Photo] Associated Press, courtesy of Rich Pedroncelli

TAHOE, CALIF. It’s time for Californians to bust out their mountain bikes, if they haven’t already. Sugar Bowl Resort announced that they are closing on Sunday, March 22, instead of their normal mid- to late-April date. The early closing date is attributed to California’s four-year drought and the corresponding lack of snow coverage. The nearby Sierra-at-Tahoe suspended winter operations as of Monday, March 16 and has yet to release a reopen date. “Although temperatures remain high and the forecast lacks precipitation, we are fully committed to resuming operations if we receive an adequate amount of snow,” Sierra-at-Tahoe General Manager John Rice said in a recent operations update. Currently, the Tahoe Basin snowpack is 19 percent of average. Other closed resorts in the area include: Donner Ski Ranch
, Homewood, Soda Springs
and Tahoe Donner.


Out of Bounds Death in Crested Butte

Crested Butte’s Terminator Chute. [Photo: Courtesy of 14erskiers.com]

CRESTED BUTTE, COLO. On Monday, March 16, Crested Butte local Zane Mason, 33, passed away as a result of a fall while snow skating. The CB native was found Monday afternoon at the base of a 250-foot cliff in an area known as the Terminator Chutes, on the western side of the Butte. Authorities were notified at 3:05 p.m. “It was determined that due to the significantly unstable conditions, unsupported snow and falling rock debris, the impending loss of daylight, and to ensure the safety of all involved rescue personnel, that the recovery of Mason’s body would take place at first light the following morning,” the Mt. Crested Butte police statement read. The Crested Butte Search and Rescue team mobilized at 6:00 a.m. the next morning and successfully retrieved Mason’s body. “It is with great sadness to hear of a life lost, whether it happens within our boundaries or outside of them,” said Erica Mueller, resort spokesperson.

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