12.31.09

Just got back from my Tahoe snowboarding trip! Had a great time. Once again I took the train. I stayed in downtown Reno, went to Mt Rose and Squaw Valley. Came back Christmas Day. There had been a big storm there before I arrived so there was lots of snow, but during my visit to the mountain the weather was sunny so the snow was somewhat hard and compacted compared to what I’ve seen in the past. On this trip I put my new setup to the test: new DC boots, Burton bindings and Burton Dragon 156. My new setup definitely rocked, though I found I just needed treak the forward lean on those new bindings. It’s nice that Burton has included tool-less adjustments on its bindings. There were many ‘firsts’ on this trip:

  1. First trip to bring my snowboard aboard the train
  2. First time to have 2 off-hill days
  3. First time to not go to Northstar
  4. First time to go to Tahoe during the 2 week winter break
  5. First trip to shoot both pictures and video from a single device small enough to fit in my pants pocket
  6. First time to sightsee northwest Reno and visit Grandma’s grave
  7. First time to walk along Virginia St from Moana Ln to downtown
  8. First time to take Reno’s public transit
  9. First time to get a haircut during a snowboard trip
  10. First trip to ride with my new setup
  11. First trip to have meet many people on the train ride there and back and on the ski buses
  12. First time to ride rails at both Rose and Squaw and first time to try tree skiing – going off trail and boarding in between trees – lots of fun!
  13. First trip to make a new Facebook friend
  14. First trip to have photos taken by a professional photographer skiing downhill with me
  15. First time to dine at a downtown Reno BBQ house

One of the snowboard videos on my Youtube that I personally shot, People Falling of the Chairlift, has reached the 100,000 views mark a few weeks ago! I have shot many snowboarding videos but for some reason this one took off with a life of its own. Yes, it was inspired by a Warren Miller ski film.

Just a few more hours until new years. Happy new year!

11.27.09 Whiskeymilitia New Gear for Cheap

Today is the day after Turkey Day and that means it’s the biggest shopping day of the year. About a year or two ago I was in a board shop and I overheard these two girls asking the sales guy for their best deal on snowboarding gear. They had a price limit, but I forgot what it was and it seemed unlikely that they would be able to get new gear during the midseason at a board shop such as this one, that would meet their budget. It seemed that they were newbies to the sport and didn’t really know what they were looking for. If the sales person wasn’t around, I would’ve told them where to go for getting good deals, and that a retail store at this time of the year (January) was not their best choice. Possibly obtain their digits too.

Regardless where I am, and who the manufacterer is, I have never paid full price for any board that I have ever owned. They can be costly, up to several hundred dollars apiece. Of course there are ways of getting around paying full price. For example, I bought my first setup in an after season sale at a sports shop in May. Like buying last year’s car model, buying winter sports gear in the spring can save loads of cash because the main season has already passed. My second board I got from a special unadvertised mid season 40% off sale at my local shop. (Right place right time).  The next one I bought from an employee discount program. It was a brand new Burton board too. My current board I bought used from my neighborhood sports store. And I recently got new bindings from the annual ski/snowboard show at 60% off. They were last year’s model but that was perfectly cool with me. Buying used, last year’s model, or from special limited time deals, the customer can save loads of cash.

Online services like ebay and Craigslist are also excellent alternatives. What I like about Craigslist is that you get to meet the seller, and sometimes the seller could provide you with some helpful insight into the item, based from their personal experience. Plus CL is local, whereas ebay is not. Typically, sellers sell board gear because they’re upgrading, moving, or just needing cash. CL is what I would’ve suggested to those girls I overheard in the board shop.

There are other, specialized, online sources for getting good deals on gear. Unlike the previous aforementioned online sources, these sites cater entirely to the action sports market and focus specifically on selling products for boardsports enthusiasts at discounted prices. These are Websites that were brought to my attention from the sales person that sold me my current board and include whiskeymilitia, dogfunk, and brociety. I have no idea what whiskeymilitia or dogfunk means, and these names sound like they would have nothing to do with snowboarding gear, but as you know, snowboarders are always thinking up random shit. These online retailers mostly feature skateboard and snowboarding gear, and on rare occassions, you might find surfing and wakeboarding stuff. Unlike other online action sports retailer, these sites sell new gear at great discounts, typically between 40%-60% off regular store prices. I think they function as a sort of “clearing house” for items that were leftover from last year’s stock, suplus items, or items that didn’t sell too well, because I notice sometimes that the items were tagged as “discontinued” or “2008 model”. I guess it would be kind of like a “Nordstrom Rack”.

A unique feature of this system is that only one item is displayed on the page at any one time, with different items rotated about every 25 minutes or so. You never know what’s coming up. One minute you might see Skullcandy headphones, the next minute DC skate shoes, and the next a high-end Burton deck. You never know. A downside to this is that they may not always have your prefered size/color/model available, however. But the advantage of this randomness and unpredictability is the great discounts off the regular retail price. I have the whiskeymilitia site bookmarked in my browser.

On the right side of the page is where you enter your choice of size/color/style/model and the options for your shopping cart. Below that there is a column that displays which colors/sizes are available and how much of each are remaining in stock. The stock quantities are displayed in real time, a real nice feature. In the left side are the
pictures of the item, a description, and comments from users, if any. There’s usually a helpful sizing/conversion chart and multiple pictures of the item can be viewed in a popup.

But what I really like about these sites, and which I find very amusing, is the product description. The descriptions are almost never boring, stuffy or stale, because they usually consist of some witty remark or comment, which refers to how this product is going to make you “cool” and accetable and how it will help you reach your life’s goals, which in the boardsports world is the attainment of women and booze. These witty remarks reflect the boarder’s need to be rebelliously independent and to party. They are mostly aimed at males, aged 17-24, who live in suburban or semi-urban households, and who participate in skateboarding/snowboarding/surfing or any combination of these. They are most likely to be active social networkers and the types to go into a Walmart and commandeer the PA system. Here are a few examples:

Chocolate mousse just doesn’t look as good without a sprig of mint on the side, and your getup doesn’t look as good without the DC Men’s Garnish Hoody. This full-zip reversible sweatshirt lets you choose between dots and stripes. That cute girl in your Urban Planning class will never guess that you’re been wearing the same hoody every day for the past two weeks.

The DC Men’s Watchin Hat gets 72 channels. Of those 72 channels, 67 show strictly skateboarding, three feature naked pie-fights, and the last one is so dirty, we can’t describe it here. You’ll have to get this fitted New Era cap and find out for yourself.

It takes balls to face the cold. Wear the DC Men’s Brave II Full-Zip Hooded Sweatshirt to give yourself the manly motivation needed to bundle up, sprint to the corner mart, and return with a case of cold ones when the warm weather is on vacation.

Stash the DC Men’s Duffy Polo Shirt in your bag so you can change identities when you finally leave the park for the day. Your girlfriend will appreciate the soft cotton threads and your mom will thank you for finally showing up to a nice dinner without blood all over your shirt.

Who ever writes these descriptions must certainly be very creative and know whats up in the boardsports community. I always enjoy reading them even if I don’t intend to buy anything. If you’re a boarder and looking to buy new stuff, and don’t mind the surprise and random show and tell, knowing that you’re not always gauranteed your size or color preference, these sites might be an excellent choice for scoring new gear for cheap.

11.21.09 Boarding Buddies

Diane has been very interested in learning snowboarding and we talked a little about it last night. I’ve been suggesting that we go up together and I can show show her how to ride. Maybe at Mt High or Bear. She was surprised to hear that you can board here in socal. She doesn’t have any gear and I recommended that she rent the gear first, then buy later, but she says she is sure she’ll like it so wants to buy the stuff instead of renting. She also wants to learn to skateboard. We talked about finding some open parking lot near where she lives so we can skate. She’s going to get a skate deck from a family member over Thanksgiving. Last night on Youtube I saw a video that a guy took as he bombed a hill on his long board, holding the cam low to the ground. In the description, he says he is using one of those Flip Cam Ultra HD cams. I think I might try the same thing on my long board.

11.14.09 Flatland Snowboarding

XCsnowbr

I had never heard of this, but I knew it was inevitable. Sooner or later someone had to invent it. And now I guess someone already has.  I’m talking about cross country snowboarding. Yes, just like XC skiing, it’s snowboarding on level ground. These 2 extreme sports pioneers are wanting to popularize it and have made a video, which you can see in the link above. Is this lame or cool? In the video, they look like 2 bunny rabbits hopping across the trail. It looks hilarious at first. But the foundation of snowboarding is being “different” and alternative, and it’s all about exploring new ways of doing things. I guess we’ll let the viewers decide.

I’ve made my plans and reservations for this year’s trip to Lake Tahoe this past week. I’m very excited and looking forward to it. It includes three days of riding, split between Mt Rose and Squaw Valley, and one day off-hill. This year for the first time I will not be going to Northstar. It’s very expensive there, where a day ticket now costs $79, not to mention they’re the only resort that do not offer student discounts.  Mt Rose and Squaw do, however, which I’m able take advantage of. Plus I’m not all that thrilled about the Northstar mountain for some reason. Its terrain seems plain and generic and lacks diversity. It can get very crowded there with mostly Bay Area people that clog the trails. In fact it can get so crowded there that I made a video called “Afternoon Rush Hour” and posted it on my Youtube. The last time I was there I rented my gear. All they had in the rental shop were leftover boards that no one wanted. But my biggest complaint is the way the mountain is set up. To get from the base lodge area to the mountain, you need to take a tram, which is the only way to get up to the mountain. This creates a huge bottleneck problem especially in the morning when a zillion skiers and boarders arrive at the mountain. As a result it can take up to an hour in the lift line as you wait to board the tram. No other ski resort I’ve been to has this problem. Long-time employees have told me that the place has become too corporate as well. For these reasons, I have omitted Northstar from my agenda.

Just 35 minutes from downtown Reno, Nev., Mt Rose is the closet ski area to town. This year I’ll visit there two days, one day each during their “Student Discount Day” and their “Ladies Day”.  Mt Rose is unique. Although it’s comparatively smaller than other area resorts, Mt Rose for me is synonymous with hot boarder chicks. I’ve met more boarder chicks there than at any of the other Tahoe resorts, so I’m excited to see what “Ladies Day” is all about.

The other ski area where I met lots of boarder chicks is at Timberline, which, interestingly, is about the same size and has the same number of lifts as Mt Rose. The smaller skiable acreage must have something to do with it. Smaller resorts really do seem to be more personable.

11.6.09 Ski and Snowboard Show LA Convention Center

This past Saturday I checked out the local ski and snowboard show here in the Los Angeles area. The event, called SkiDazzle, takes place every year at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but this year it was extra early – it was scheduled on the Halloween weekend. I’ve visited the one in Portland, OR, and one in San Diego, but this was my first time to attend the Los Angeles event. I made new friends there, like Janellie, pictured above, who worked in the information area near the front entrance.

I usually like to go to these events because I can shop for new stuff and new gear and get the latest info from my favorite resorts all in one stop. Secondly, most everything you buy is discounted about 50% off, and thirdly, I get to discover local boardshops that I never knew existed. It’s a sweet deal, and, as it says in the literature, it’s a great way to kick off the ski season. Finally, you always leave with free swag, such as free/discounted lift tickets.

I overheard someone mention that 90% of the people who come to SkiDazzle are snowboarders, which I found interesting. At the one in Portland, the percentage of skiers is much bigger. My theory: the “surf and skate” lifestyle culture of Southern California definitely contributes to a more edgier, alternative mode that is likely to produce more snowboarders. Additionally, the small local ski areas, the fake snow, and the warmer weather, means less authentic skiing opportunites in general, but boarders have a certain type of craziness, disregard, persistence and dedication that makes them want to ride no matter what. In the Pacific Northwest, where there are big mountains everywhere, traditional skiing continues to be prevalent, based on my personal observation.

Interestingly, except for one retailer, I did not see any skiing gear being sold there.

Being my first time there I was somewhat disappointed. It was smaller than I had expected, and there were less people than I thought there would be. Maybe the lower attendance was due to the fact that the day I went was Oct. 31, Halloween Day. In fact the event closed extra early to allow attendees to attend to their night time festivities. There didn’t seem to be much going on there, may be because I’m comparing it to the ones I’ve been to in the past. There was a cooking demo, a tire chain contest, and several vert ramp demos. Then there were a selection of ski resorts present and local retailers. I saw a few contests to get people interested and engaged. Two classmates have told me that this year it was smaller than in years past, and another classmate says you can get better deals on the Internet. Except for the free Bear Mtn ticket and Mt High stickers, I came away with little free swag. The $12 parking and the $17 admission made it even less attractive.

The big advantage to going to these things are the great deals possible on new gear. Everywhere I went, everything was discounted. In one store, I found a Burton Custom 156 discounted at 50% off its store price of 529. The Custom is my number one pick for a snowboard and I would have bought it except that I have my gear already. It was last year’s model, which explains the big discount, but according to the sales guy, the construction is identical to the 09 model – just the graphics are slightly different.

In another store, called Val Surf, located, naturally, in the San Fernando Valley, I did pick up some new Burton Mission Doom bindings at a special Halloween Day-only deal of 60% off the list price of 219. (I admit, I’ve always been a little skeptical buying snowboard gear from a surf shop. I’d rather buy from a shop that specializes in snow and skate gear.) These were also last year’s model, which is OK with me. The Mission Doom was a one-year only limited production model and is identical to the Missions except that it uses the toe strap from the Cartel (a higher-end Burton binding) and Burton then renamed it Doom. The Missions are midlevel bindings that are ideal for all mountain freeriding which is mostly what I do. The Doom is all black in color, so the store discounted it 60% (instead of 50%) because it thought that the name “Doom” had a Halloween theme.

The current bindings I’ve been using are a basic level Burton binding and a Burton deck that has the cheaper extruded base, both of which I bought new back in 1999. The Burton boots I’ve been using were bought used a few years later, but also were from that era. My whole setup was of such good quality that there was no need to buy new. But after ten years, I thought it was time to update. Last year I bought a 2005 Burton Dragon with a sintered base and new DC boots from Zumiez, both of which I also hadn’t taken up to the hill yet. So with the purchase of these Mission Doom bindings, I now have an all new setup and I will have finally moved up to the 21st century of snowboarding technology. Wow.

There are pros and cons of going to these ski/snowboard events. While there are many great deals that can be found at these events, the sales floor can have lots of commotion, confusion, pressure and a feeling of rush and urgency as each sales person is constantly moving from one customer to the next. This is not an ideal situation when making decisions about spending your cash. You should have the time and space to contemplate your purchase especially if you’re going to make a long-term investment. At an individual store, the sales staff can take the time to answer your questions and help you make the right decisions on what’s best for you. But finding the best deals may mean driving around town and that takes time. At these events, it’s one-stop shopping under one roof. Of course the Internet also has great deals, but you can’t really see them in person or know how the gear would fit on you, whereas at these events, you can get your feet wet. Another disadvantage with these events is that the venders usually only have enough room for the more popular items, meaning they have a limited selection. So there are pros and cons.

Basically, I think these shows are a way for the retailers to offload items that didn’t sell well in the last season. They know most people aren’t going to buy old stuff in the spring and then have to wait all summer and fall to use it, so they save it in the warehouse until the fall, when more people are in the mood for buying ski gear. I think that’s part of the psychology behind this. My advice is to do your research before you go and get an idea on what you want to buy, and then if you see your item at the show, buy it and get out and ride!

11.2.09 Mt High Opens Halloween Weekend

Hey I just discovered that Mt High opened for skiing this past weekend ya! Their Website says that’s because of  cold weather and aggressive snowmaking, which resulted in one of their earliest openings in the resort’s history. Now I’m tempted to go up there and check it hopefully sometime this month.

Mt High is the closet ski area to LA and Orange counties and is located in the Angeles National Forest north of Rancho Cucamonga. There are no mountainous roads to get there, just mostly highways, and they have the largest tubing area in Southern California, according to their Website.

10.29.09 How to Snowboard Online Videos

snowprofessor-howto

I came across an excellent how-to-snowboard website that has streaming videos. If you’ve been looking for streaming videos on snowboarding instruction, I think this may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. The site is called snowprofessor.com.

The site is run by a brother-sister team from Colorado. They’re both snowboard instructors. They started the site because, as mentioned in their Web page, they went looking for how to snowboard videos on the Internet but couldn’t find any decent ones, so they decided to make their own how to snowboard video series.

The site contains a series of videos divided by topic. Most of the videos are devoted to instructing the novice how to move around on a snowboard on the snow, and is broken down into short chapters starting with the real basics and ending with linking turns.  There are a few other videos on tips, like how to do jumps and how to buy your gear. Usually one from the pair is in front of the camera demonstrating, while the other is behind the camera.

I really enjoyed watching these instructional videos. The wide-screen video quality was excellent, unlike the often blurriness problem found in many Youtube videos. The picture quality was crystal clear.  They used lots of analogies that made it easier to understand. The instruction was clear, concise, straightforward and easy to follow.  I noticed they avoided technical jargon. For example, they referred to jumping up with your board as a “pop”, whereas in snowboarding and skateboarding lingo that would be called an “ollie”. And I especially liked how when the narrator would be talking about how to do something, they showed a clip of someone demonstrating it on the hill, so you could follow along and see what they’re talking about. The audio production was excellent too.

As a former snowboard instructor myself, I see that they have included all the necessary progressions and presented them in the proper sequence, using simple, easy to understand terminology. I highly recommend this site. It may be the definitive learn to snowboard video series on the Internet. If you’re a newbie and want to learn snowboarding but don’t know where to begin, go check em out.