Thursday, November 29, 2007

Snow in the 'Dacks

It’s been a hectic week, and we’re just wrapping up the Winter Sales Meeting. Pay-off comes tomorrow, though. Mount Baker opened today, and a good group from our office will be there testing on Friday. Looking forward to getting back out on the snow, and eager to remove the rust that’s always there on the first runs. Snowy dreams surely tonight, but until the sunrise, here’s a refreshing glimpse of winter from the Northeast comes from Karhu rep Mike Kaz today:

A classic afternoon tour up the Whiteface Mountain Toll Road in Wilmington, NY. On November 19th, my wife Jen and I started up late to descend by headlamp. We found great coverage and cold temperatures. A great way to start the season off, we were able to actually leave our headlamps off for most of the ski down as the almost full-moon was out.

(Jen Kazmierczak heading up the access road for dusk patrol in the 'Dacks. Photo courtesy of Mike Kaz)

We also ran into the "Wizard of the 'Dacks" Ron Konowitz skiing down as he was touring up. Always a character, we chatted for a bit before we headed down to have dinner at our favorite restaurant, The NoonMark Diner.

Things are off to a good start here... can't wait for more snow to put a base down for more skiing in the higher country come January and beyond!

-Mike “Kaz” Kazmierczak

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Cowboy Powder

The show is on in the Tetons, with a Thanksgiving tour report from Karhu skier Eric Henderson:

It’s a tough time of the year to decide where to ski in the Tetons – weighing the grassy smooth slopes of Edelweiss Bowl, or the upper elevations that promise deeper snow but ever-present rocks. Yesterday we went for the upper elevations of the western slope on Mt. Wow, around 10,300 feet. After the first two hours of walking/skinning we were finally knee deep in the goods. Plummer Yurt was covered in snow and quietly awaited its holiday guests. As we continued to skin into the white room of the Mt. Wow drainage our souls and passion for skiing quickly returned to our pace.

(First skin of the year. Photo courtesy of Eric Henderson)

An hour later at 9,800 feet, my “cheap beer” fall training program started to show its ugly head, and I wondered why I always insist on going big on my first tour. Much like last year, and the year before that, I was with one of my major suffer tour ski partners. Dave Barnet has been on my past few years of from the “couch to the slopes” tour, and he always seems to step in and pull me to the top with perfect timing.

(Eric gets a powder grin. Photo courtesy of Eric Henderson)
We thought the weather would clear once we summited, and we would get a clear view of the Teton ranch. No such luck. The winds continued blow, the snow deepened, and the temps seemed to be dropping – time to click in for the first fall-line of the season. Mt. Wow is 1000-foot alpine bowl that leads into rolling glades and open meadows. The turns were fast, filled with light powder, and seemed to end too soon – a true Cowboy Powder experience. Good thing we have a short memory for pain, and we will be doing it again tomorrow.

(Toast to the turns. Photo courtesy of Eric Henderson)

This skier has many things to be thankful for this winter, but one especially is a strong and committed family of skiers that share the same passion for adventure, suffering and smooth powder turns in the Teton. Thanks and happy holidays.

-Eric Henderson

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Giving Thanks

It’s a great weekend to head into the holiday. Today was crisp and cold in Seattle, and while the forecast doesn’t have much precipitation, it should be nice enough to go looking for snow deep in the mountains. Many of our friends and co-workers will be out making turns this weekend, and we hope the holiday finds you making tracks as well. Signing off for a day or two, here are a few thoughts on what all of us at Karhu are thankful for.

I give thanks to winter and snowy mountains; having grown up with neither, I can say it would be a lesser world without them.
-Nils Larsen

I give thanks for the opportunity to find snow before Thanksgiving! When we fret about a lack of snow, we need to remember that winter is a long season. The best skiing sometimes doesn’t start before January, but it doesn’t end before June. I’m thankful to be a backcountry skier who can hike for the white.
-Van Brinkerhoff

I give thanks to my new cyclocross bike to help train in that crappy transition between fall and winter. I give thanks to the new tradeshow schedule, which will give us more time to ski in Utah. I give thanks to I-90 for quick access to the mountains, and to the telemetry data on the NWAC website. For desk jockeys, it helps give a sense of being in the mountains and following the weather, even when you’re staring at a computer screen mid-week.
-Charlie Lozner

I’m thankful for post-Thanksgiving leftovers that I can save for pre-skiing parking lot eats.
-Stephen Golaszewski

I'm thankful that I was born into a life where I have the time and resources to have hobbies like skiing. And I'm thankful to have friends, family and a boyfriend who stand behind me despite my transient wanderings.
-Zoe Hart

I’m thankful for dinky little Maple Ridge and their excellent kids’ ski school program for introducing me to the sport in the first place.
-Dan Gestwick

I give thanks everyday for the incredibly lucky life I have. I think we all often forget that most of the world is still worrying about where their next meal will come from, and not whether to ski the Bertha or Jill, or which ski area has the most snow. Not only do I get to ski and travel to the most incredible places in the world, but I live in a warm sunny straw bale house, eating organic food and drive my converted SUV that gets 140 miles to the gallon! I give thanks this holiday, for having a great job that includes making a difference in this world - helping start Global Cooling around the globe while enjoying the great sports I love, including backcountry skiing and telemarking. Cheers to all that help make the world a better place. Think of what you have, not of what you don't have - maybe buy a meal for a homeless person instead of wishing you had a bigger house. I'm most thankful that I am happy and healthy. Have a great holiday.
-Alison Gannett

My trip home for Thanksgiving every year gives me time to pause, and look at life from a slightly higher altitude. Some call it the 10,000-foot view, others call it the big picture, but most importantly it is a chance to see life from a different vantage point. A chance to see the true value of my learning experiences and absorb the fortune of my gifts. In my big picture I am most thankful for my family and friends, our health and well-being and the beautiful environment that surrounds us. As the snow lays a soft white blanket outside the window I am thankful for the reminder to step back and give hanks.
-Lorenzo Worster

I am thankful for the support and encouragement from family and friends that have brought me where I am today. I give thanks for the mountain education and tutelage in the turn that I received from my father and his friends, and for my parents’ support while pursuing jobs and interests off the beaten path. I give thanks as well to the colleagues and mentors along the way, and my friends here today at Karhu who have helped me combine my passion with my work, for endeavors always fulfilling.
-Graham Gephart

Be well and ski well,
The Employees of Karhu

(Nils Larsen and Eben Sargent, giving thanks for shelter on a chute high above Washington Pass. Photo by Graham Gephart)

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Berner Oberland #2

In the second installment of entries from Alison Gannett, Lorenzo Worster and Zoe Hart’s Global Cooling Tour in the Berner Oberland, Lorenzo’s first line of the trip creates quite a scare.

Our anxiety grew as we looked out our window at the grey shroud that blocked any view of our surroundings. Our first night passed quickly, and we awoke to the muffled thumping of ski boots traipsing across wood floors. It was 4:30am, and time for the guides to get their peeps out on the glacier for a long slow day. Groggily we strode into the late breakfast at 6:00, slowly revived and energized by the coffee and breakfast spread that come with the night’s stay at the cabin.

(Early morning awakening. Photo by Lorenzo Worster)

We were at the Hollandia Hut on the Grosser Aletchfirn Glacier. It hadn't snowed much lately, and the clouds were so thick you couldn't see more than 100 feet before the grey swallowed all features. It didn’t matter though; we were excited for our first full day tour in Europe. Up the glacier we went, following a windblown and disappearing skintrack from the day before. The wind blew across the glacier up many of the north faces, and the sun hit all the south faces, limiting our options for where to ski.

The hike was soothing. One step at a time plodding through the gray toward an invisible goal. Once my natural cadence took over and the weight of my pack faded away, the simplicity of putting one foot in front of another engulfed me. My mind began to drift, up and up. All at once a bright peak lit up by the morning sun and poked its nose through the fog, giving us hope of a goal worthy of skiing. As we drew nearer, the clouds parted, revealing our first view of the beautiful ampitheater around us.

(Zoe Hart, amidst the scale of Europe. Photo by Lorenzo Worster)

To our left I spied an interesting face that looked steep and protected from the sun and wind – short but sweet. We made it to the shoulder of the ridge and after extracting Allison from the sneaky and luckily shallow bergshrund that crossed the col, Zoe and I headed back toward the face. We might have taken a little warning from the frozen sastrugi that we cramponed up to gain the ridge, but the different aspect was not protected from the wind or sun. Gaining the top the snow on the back side was a foot and a half deep and super light.
We were out in the middle of nowhere and getting hurt would lead to a lengthy and not so cheap extradition – facts that didn’t help to calm my nerves. It always seems to look steepest when you are looking down something between your tips, before your first turn. I radioed in and rolled carefully off the small cornice on to the face. Skis headed to the right towards a large bulge that led to an even larger cliff of glacial ice. It was a very picturesque area, but as soon as my skis hit the bulge, I knew it was not the place I wanted to be.

In an instant I was sliding sideways, skiing on glacial ice with two inches of cold powder on top. The snow did little for the skiing surface but explode into the air, enveloping me in the white room. Usually I like the white room, but as I quickly made a left turn and picked up speed, I'd rather have been able to see what was ahead. I shot off the ice onto the face, only to discover that the smooth face of deep-looking snow hid wind-hardened sastrugi barely under the surface.

(Looks can be deceiving. Photo by Lorenzo Worster)

Moving from bad to worse with more speed, there was no hope of dropping a knee. It was all I could do to stay on my feet and try to slow myself before the bergshrund – now clearly not-so-soft either. I hung two large turns down the face planning over the thin cover of powder, just enough to give a sense of control before the small but still intimidating four-foot bergshrund.

Backslap to cartwheel, and I was at the bottom of my first line on the Berner Oberland. Things were off to an auspicious start.
-Lorenzo Worster

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Backcountry Hits the Big Screen

It's been slowly building the buzz for a while, but the big-screen debut of STEEP is just around the corner. If you're not familiar with the film, stop right now and mark the date December 21st on your calendar - the date it opens in 25 top markets around the country.

From producers The Documentary Group:
STEEP is a feature documentary about bold adventure, exquisite athleticism and the pursuit of a perfect moment on skis. It is the story of big mountain skiing, a sport that barely existed 35 years ago.

It started in the 1970s in the mountains above Chamonix, France, where skiers began to attempt ski descents so extreme that they appeared almost suicidal. Men like Anselme Baud and Patrick Vallencant were inspired by the challenge of skiing where no one thought to ski before. Now, two generations later, some of the world’s greatest skiers pursue a sport where the prize is not winning, but simply experiencing the exhilaration of skiing and exploring big, wild, remote mountains.

STEEP features many of the sport’s greatest athletes including Bill Briggs, Stefano De Benedetti, Eric Pehota, Glen Plake, Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison, Chris Davenport, Ingrid Backstrom and Andrew McLean. The man who is often described as the greatest big mountain skier of all, the late Doug Coombs, is the character at the center of the film. He died in a skiing accident in La Grave, France, in April, 2006.

STEEP was shot on High Definition and on film in Alaska, Wyoming, Canada, France and Iceland.

A number of us at Karhu had the chance to watch a sneak preview of Steep earlier this week, and the impression was pretty unanimous: WOW.

STEEP beautifully traces the history of big-mountain skiing, but with faithful attention paid to its roots in European alpinism and the boundaries currently pushed by North American freeriders and ski mountaineers. The archival footage from pioneers like Baud, Vallencant, Briggs, Hattrup and Pehota provides a terrific sense of how daring their descents were... some of which have yet to be repeated. Arriving at the story of Doug Coombs, a central figure, the film enters the Alaskan powder-rush and the helicopter boom, before returning to the current ski mountaineering exploits of dedicated backcountry explorers like Andrew McLean.

The production value brought to the table by The Documentary Group is outstanding. Formerly Peter Jennings Productsion, The Documentary Group spent an incredible amount of time amassing valuable archive footage, shooting lengthy interviews, and capturing their own beautiful imagery with complex cable cams and high-def film shoots in BC, Alaska, Europe, Canada and Iceland. Backing by Sony Pictures Classics provides excellent studio muscle, having come off of successful sports documentaries for skateboarding and surfing in Dogtown and Z-Boys and Riding Giants. For skiers, especially backcountry skiers, Steep has built buzz because of its potential to raise awareness of the sport we love, and why we feel so drawn to it.

Above it all, it is simply amazing as a backcountry skier to have this kind of attention and interest paid to the beauty of the mountains beyond the ski area. The imagery, from opening images of skiers touring across a glacier to the final shots of remote, wild ascents and descents, is focused on the experience - the freedom and possibilities, and the difficult balance between risk and reward - of the backcountry. STEEP captures that experience eloquently and beautifully, and is well-worth catching when it comes out.

For more information on Steep:
Trailer from
The Documentary Group
Sony Pictures Classics

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Monday, November 12, 2007

On Sustainability and Standards

From the website a few weeks ago, we received an email from Rob in Massachusetts. Referring to frequent online discussions on manufacturing practices, he raised some good questions about how we look at standards and practices in their health for the environment, the community and the business. As Charlie says, the blog is a good place for us to address these issues and hear your feedback, and I thought his response was a good place to start.

Hi Folks,
As you may have noticed there's a bit of a buzz about where products are being made, especially in the outdoor community. Speculation being a poor substitute for information, I thought it reasonable to just ask.

I have been using Karhu skis over the years with great satisfaction and will likely always keep Karhu equipment on my short list. I have not been basing my choices solely on manufacturing locale and conditions, but these are matters do enter into my decisions.

What I am looking for is information regarding what it took for you to select a fabrication facility, your experience in developing trust in such facilities and your part in defining and monitoring the working conditions at the production (etc) facilities. We already know that Karhu, as has happened to other companies went through production quality issues, the Betty delam matter comes to mind. We also know that Karhu and the rest went to great lengths to resolve the problems for their customers and resolve the production matters. Those were no small efforts. Some general info about the process would be part of my request as well.

I'm asking for quite a bit and appreciate that time you have just taken to read this. I do hope that Karhu, knowing it can stand proudly as a business with good stewardship intended, can make such information part of it's web site's "About Us" page.


Response from Charlie Lozner:

Dear Rob,

Thanks for your interest in Karhu.

"Sustainability = Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” - Our Common Future, World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987

In regards to stewardship, we look very serious at "sustainability" – in terms of profitability as well as responsibility. It implies ongoing efforts, as opposed to a one time fix. "Sustainability" as a broad term includes both environmental and social responsibility.

From our perspective quality product is integral to the sustainability of our company. It cannot be removed from the equation of where we build our product. Making skis is not something that can be done with cheap unskilled labor. The factory we work with has trained many, many skilled workers and provided many, many relatively high-paying, high-skilled jobs. Our manufacturing is not a hands-off process where we send designs and they ship product back to us; in the first stages, our process engineers spent several months at the new facility to get production running. Today, our engineers and designers regularly rotate through the factory, working with the engineers and staff on site to develop new tools, assist with the process and monitor the production, and our new facility has provided us with our best production quality to date. Because the first hand knowledge gained through these visits, we are confident that our work force is treated and compensated fairly.

The related issues of environmental stewardship and fair labor practices are also part of every decision regarding design and production. It is not "where", but rather "how" you make a product that matters. In the design process of any ski, boot, pole, etc, we look at ways to reduce waste (and cost) in every step of the process. This was the driving factor in moving from Canadian Poplar to Paulownia from China for our new Greenlight cores. This reduces transportation costs and CO2 footprint significantly. It also helps to create local demand in China for sustainable forestry. We work aggressively to reduce scrap materials (ink, epoxy, wood, tops, bases, edges). This is as much a business necessity as it is an environmental responsibility. These practices were in place in Canada, and they are now in place in China.

We take our jobs and our position in the outdoor industry very seriously. Graham, Dan, Eben, Nils, Francois, and I and everyone at Karhu are as much a part of the community as you and everyone on TTips. We ride our bikes to work, use FSC-certified paper for our consumer brochure, and on and on. We support Alison Gannett, Lorenzo Worster, Zoe Hart and other athletes that are out there trying to make a difference and generate awareness as well as inspiration. We want to be able to pass winter on to our kids and our kids’ kids. That's what gets us up for work in the morning and keeps us going late into the night. Thankfully we are in a position to make fun products and also make change.

We will be addressing issues like this and others on our new blog... As it grows – and the discussion with it – we welcome the chance to foster more conversation with the community at large.

As a consumer... keep pushing the industry. That's your job. Don't let the current Green movement become a passing fad.

Best regards,
Brand Director – Karhu

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mon, er… Tuesday Stoke

Nothing serves up inspiration in the start of the work week like powder runs and adrenaline-pumping chutes. It started with a few friends sending links and photos around, usually on Monday mornings through the fall and start of the winter, and it’s since become known as the “Monday Stoke.” It’s not about wishing you were some place else, but instead jumpstarting the week.

Tweaking some Karhu videos on YouTube this morning, I stumbled onto an 0607 teaser from Karhu skier JT Robinson and his ripping friends in Utah. Things are running full steam this week with catalog production, so this stoke comes on Tuesday. But I think it’ll do the trick…

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Nothing Gets You Ready for Uphill like Uphill

Cool entry this morning on Lou Dawson’s blog, WildSnow from guest blogger and Aspen Alpine Guide Ron Rash on bootpacking Aspen’s Highlands Bowl early in the season.

...So starting around November 1st I’ll be meeting members of Highlands Ski Patrol at the base to take the lifts up and then walk out somewhere in to the Bowl to start packing. The day starts at 8 and goes till 4:30. We will walk side by side down sections of slope anywhere from 200-400 feet long. On the uptrack we hike single file. On steeper exposed sections we’ll use climbing harnesses and be rigged to a rope. Years ago the patrol tried sending their ragtag crowd of boot packers down one of the steeper slopes — with no ropes. After a few took slides for life, ropes were employed. That’s how steep Highland Bowl is.

It’s truly amazing in this day and age that simply walking the slopes is still the best and cheapest method for stabilizing steep terrain...

Read more from Ron Rash on Wild Snow here

It’s great exercise, sort of a preseason check-up on your fitness level, and great motivation to push harder as fall turns again to winter. But programs like this one at Aspen and Mad River Glen’s Fall Work Days (where skiers hike and help maintain tree skiing terrain) are also great reminders of just what lies underneath – a key part of mental preparation for the season. Better understanding of the hazards beneath winter’s wonder, and the base layers of early season snowpack helps develop smart choices skiing your favorite areas later in winter.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Preseason Training - Eric Henderson

Second of the week, a few words from Karhu skier Eric Henderson, a Teton local whose guiding at Jackson and in Alaska require some excellent ski fitness:

When a client asked me recently what I do to train for the upcoming winter ski season, “Drink cheap beer” was not the answer he was looking for. I backpedaled through summer and early fall activities and quickly covered my tracks with a list of mountain runs from the summer, multi-day climbing excursions, 18-hour days moving food/booze from one side of the Tetons to the other (ah, summer catering) and regular training days of running and stretching.

It made me realize that in some way or another, I’m always training for skiing. Once skiing is in my subconscious, it's hard not thinking about it in every activity I do and how it relates to every carve I make. Which means I’m always training.

In practice, fall for me is the time to rest the body and soul and begin to visualize the up-coming season. Before the snowpack builds, I do a few four- or six-mile maintenance runs, some yoga for idiots, hunting, a little beer drinking and always catching up with friends. Because once the snow starts to fall, things pull in a little more – days filled with powder, countless telemark turns, a smaller core of friends, and thousands of feet of skintracks and bootpacks. As for the beer? It helps to add a little extra layer of warmth after such an active summer.

-Eric Henderson

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