Many parts of the U.S. have experienced heavier snowfall this winter, and much to the delight of skiers and riders, have led to some pretty powdery conditions in mountainous regions of the West. According to the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, changes in equatorial oceanic temperatures and strengthening trade winds, or climactic “anomalies” as they are called, have led to the development of a climate oscillation event affecting weather patterns across the U.S. and globe. In short, La Niña is back.
Many in the snowsport community are likely ready to pay homage to the “Little Girl”, who has already brought a series of storms and epic snow to the West. La Niña ought to have its greatest effect on ski resorts in the Northwest, but the big story may be in southern Colorado where resorts are boasting snowfall at nearly 175 percent of normal, according to Tony Crocker’s Ski Season Progress Report. Telluride’s tally reached 181 inches as of January 28, due in part to some record-breaking snowfall in December.
La Niña is a weather phenomenon that occurs periodically every five or so years and tends to alter climate patterns across the globe. It develops when there is a build-up of cool water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, which is compounded with strong Easterly winds that further this cold-water upwelling. Cooler sea surfaces then affect atmospheric temperatures, which can shift jet streams and cause changes to global temperatures and precipitation amounts. For the U.S., this generally translates to cooler, wetter conditions in the Northwest and drier conditions in the South.
Hoping to witness La Niña’s climate-altering effects in person, I made a trip to the mountains for a few backcountry turns. Knowing that others would be there to enjoy the climate-anomaly conditions, I got an early start to claim my share of the powder stash. I brought along my light and fast Talon 33, which is perfect for making laps off the pass. Its quick on and off capability is also great for stopping and snapping photos of ski partners as they catch up on the skin track.
The NWS Climate Prediction Center is expecting that La Niña conditions are likely to continue through Spring 2009, perhaps to the chagrin of some, but surely to the delight of snow lovers. Check out snow accumulations and outlook forecasts for more info on snow and spring conditions.
On Jan. 11, the Senate voted to advance a bill that would designate almost 2 million acres of land as wilderness (full story). According to the Jan. 17-23 issue of The Economist, “If put together, the parcels of land would be one an a half times as big as the Grand Canyon National Park … It would be the biggest expansion of wilderness in 15 years.” What’s more, conservation groups are working to ensure that the toughest level of protection is secured for the designated land.
The article goes on to report that many of the areas being perserved were in the crosshairs of rapid development. “More than 190,000 acres would be put off limits in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties in Southern California. Other large areas that will be designated are found on the outskirts of Boise in Idaho, along Colorado’s Front Range, and in Southwest Utah.
On Day 1 of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market trade show, the 4 – o’clock hour usually signifies the time when the Osprey team begins to go to the “back room” where we keep the coveted microbrews… Hey, we had some environmentally-friendly beer “cozies” to test out.. But not on Day 1 this year.
Osprey Packs was nominated again for an REI Vendor Partner award, which would be announced at a reception in about an hour… The award is given to companies that go above and beyond in customer service, training and strategic business partnership. It’s about as easy to win as winning “The Biggest Loser” contest on national TV.
No one at Osprey was expecting to win it.. In fact, Osprey’s management team was pretty sure that REI couldn’t award a vendor with an award for three straight years… But Osprey is a humble group of people…
I can now say, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain..” Osprey Packs won once again! A timeline: For 2006, Osprey won for the REI Camping Vendor Partner category. For 2007, the company swept ALL categories, winning the “Vendor Partner of the Year” award, for all categories! And, for 2008, Osprey won again for the camping division… Just in case you’d like to know what it takes to be a company driven to innovate AND service the industry’s biggest retailer better than over 1500 other vendors, Tom Barney, Osprey’s CEO, will post some notes on that topic later this week…
The Osprey Team is settling in to the Great City Of Salt Lake for the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, 2009 trade show. Osprey’s been on the sharp end of pack design for 35 years, and the collection we have to show the outdoor industry trade this weekend carries on the Osprey legacy proudly. Today, our crew is split between booth set up in the Salt Palace, and staffing the on-snow demo at the Main Lodge at Utah’s Snowbasin resort (I know which crew I would rather be on, but we’ll have fun either way). Osprey is up for yet another REI Vendor Partner of the Year award at this show, an honor our small, independent company WON for 2007. Top secret accolades might await from one of the top outdoor media outlets for some of our packs. … And there very well could be some wildlife at our booth party on Saturday…
It’s Timmy O checking in from the Alps, that’s right, Europe’s biggest mountain range. I am currently in Chamonix – France, an insanely beautiful and precipitous alpine valley, that’s an acrostic fondue of LOL, OMG and WTF. Last week I was in Kandersteg (K.steg), Switzerland attending the ‘Ice Climbing Festival’ as a speaker not a competitor, luckily for me as I would have destroyed my left shoulder, having just had surgery 7-weeks ago.
Early one morning I walked up hill in powder snow, carrying my ‘slim in mind’ designed, yet roomy Talon 22
for about 1.5-hours to a massive frozen lake that sits in a gargantuan alpine cirque at the base of towering limestone walls striped with impossibly long ribbons of jagged glistening ice. Imagine: a handful of Ames Ice Hoses, a few Bridal Veils, a couple of Fangs and another baker’s dozen of middling sweet-ass climbs and you get the potential of K.steg, the ice flows were biblical, in fact, I’m sure I saw Cain there and now that I mention it…he was only carrying one axe.
The Swiss enjoyed my show, finding inspiration and beauty in my ironically recounted story of climbing El Capitan with my brother Sean. The climbing finals were held at 9:30pm following my talk and the competition route was like a construction site debris meets frozen monkey bars, consisting of a series of precarious hanging stumps to a 5-meter vertical wall with plastic holds, and then a splintery bear hug across a 3-meter horizontal telephone pole to a few final sticks with picks across a 6-meter ice wall – it was speed based, no, not like ‘up against the wall with your hands up’ speed, more the “against the clock” kind with the first place in men’s and women’s each taking home 500 Euros and after a few glasses of steamy Gluhwein, one another.
I partied with the Swiss, gyrating under the flood lights in front of the ice climbing wall in 0-degrees F to classic AC/DC - I was then ‘shook all night long’. ACDC, after which I woke up in neighboring town, then took the train back to K.steg in a daze grateful for life, mostly for my lips.
- Timmy wanted to post a link to Paradox… So here it is.
Osprey Packs posted its 2008 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) report today. The report reflects Osprey’s 35-year commitment to sustainable business practices and gives a glimpse at what we’ve got on tap for 2009 CSR initiatives. The commitment to create a long-lasting, durable product has been at the company’s core since the start, defining its mission for quality design with less impact. For Osprey, sustainability is built into its packs, which are built to last a lifetime and backed by a brand new, all inclusive All Mighty Guarantee.
I personally have a lot of respect for Osprey’s sustainable business initiatives for many reasons.
- It’s a fact that the company builds the highest quality product that stands the test of time. I am present at company meetings and consistently, the customer service team happily reports low incidences of returns or defects.
- Osprey strongly integrates its employees to spearhead its CSR efforts through a proactive Osprey Green Team, headed by Osprey’s Sam Mix.
- Just as important, Osprey founders Mike and Diane Pfotenhauer, and the Osprey management team, support Osprey’s sustainability efforts 110-percent.
- Osprey integrates its local Southwest Colorado community right along with the communities related to the industries and factories it does business with, into its sustainable business commitment.
Of course, the local and industry communities are strongly tied to environmental initiatives due to the rural location of Southwest Colorado and the nature-based outdoor industry, so environmental initiatives end up being prime beneficiaries through community support. It’s truly about the environment at Osprey – so much so that it was initially tough to develop a CSR program because so many of the business decisions of the company inherently take the environment into consideration.
Osprey’s marketing director Gareth Martins sits on the board of the Conservation Alliance, which engages the team at Osprey in the work of these two important organizations as well. CSR is real at Osprey; the company experiences highs and lows associated with doing the right thing but the entire team is commited to finding solutions step-by-step while still remaining a successful and healthy company. Incremental change is key to a successful CSR commitment.
Osprey’s CSR reports are posted quarterly. We’ll be posting them right here on this blog and very much look forward to hearing from you about our efforts!
by Gareth Martins
Director of Marketing, Osprey Packs
Day two of the Ouray Ice Festival brought us a classic bluebird Colorado day and plenty of ice enthusiasts. Many took us up on the opportunity to demo a Variant Series packs as they headed out for clinics. Osprey athlete Ben Clark was happy to discover that he made centerfold for the Spring 2009 catalog.
Plenty of folks stopped by the Osprey tent to chat, eat Reeses peanut butter cups and… oh yeah, demo Variant Series packs. The comp proved challenging for all climbers, with noone getting to the top. Hats off (not helmets) to Osprey athlete Majka Burhardt for giving it everything she had!
By Gareth Martins, Osprey Director of Marketing
Day one of the Ouray Ice fest is over – or at least over for me – there are still hundreds of folks still out thumping the streeets of Ouray! Today’s forecast 1″ of snow. Today’s reality – 1 foot of new snow and it is still snowing as I write. Despite the weather the disciples of ice have still made their way to the NW San Juans. Things seemed a little slow at the ice park to begin with but is that an Osprey pack (or two) in that shot?!!
The snow kept falling all day but by the time we arrived at the Community Center for the ever popular dinner /silent auction / drink lots of Fat tire beer the place was packed! I’d urge you to focus on the HUGE crowd in the background rather than pondering what on earth Sam is discussing with the gal from PrimaLoft. Do you really need PrimaLoft in a backpack?
People bid like crazy on all silent auction items and we saw 2 Variant 37′s and a Kestrel 38 on the backs of the prowd winners. No qualms about reaching into their wallets to support the Ouray Ice Park. The buzz is all about the Mutant 38. Developed with the input of Osprey athlete, Matt Helliker this pack rings my minimalist bell and apparently lots of others at the fest. We couldn’t keep folks eyes and hands off this pack. For those of you in the US – be patient, not available until August 1, 2009!
If you are at the Ice fest head on down to Ouray Mountain Sports for 20% off an Osprey pack.
So, while the press cranks out the gloom and doom, we have a different take on things here in Ouray. The festival is cranking and we can’t wait for the comp tomorrow. Stay tuned!
For much of the West, conditions of instability in the snowpack and a high number of avalanche incidents have led to increased anxiety about snow safety for many this winter. Reports of three separate incidents involving in-bounds avalanche fatalities, the most in over a quarter century, is causing worry among skiers that reaches beyond the backcountry community. New York Times ran an article today by Christina Erb covering these incidents and the reaction from resorts and local skiers where incidents have occurred. According to the article, many western resorts are burning through avalanche control budgets and using greater measures, like deterring skiers from avi-prone areas, to help prevent in-bounds slides. The reaction from skiers has been a much heightened awareness about snow danger and the use of added caution on the hill, even in-bounds.
The instability in the snowpack this season is the result of early snow and rain that produced a weak, unconsolidated layer. This was followed by multiple heavy snowfall events that added stress to the snowpack and lead to more avalanche-prone conditions. The alarming number of slides and avalanche fatalities, both backcountry and in-bounds, will surely encourage more folks to seek out information on snow behavior and avalanche safety. One resource on backcountry travel I like is called Snow Sense by Jill Fredston and Doug Fesler. It’s a concise guide to evaluating snow dangers, and good reference following an avalanche safety course.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Parr