Sugar Bowl gears up for equipment and apparel sale on Labor Day weekend

If you’re looking for new equipment to use on the slopes this winter, it may be available at a steep discount during Sugar Bowl Resort’s annual Labor Day gear sale. The event takes place in the Truckee High School parking lot, Aug. 31 to Sept. 2.

Top name-brand ski and snowboard equipment – jackets, pants, gloves, under layers, helmets and, of course, skis and snowboards – will be available at 50 to 65 percent off last year’s regular retail prices. Brands include Arc’Teryx, Armada, Burton, Helly Hansen, K2, Patagonia and Volkl.

The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day. Truckee High School is at 11725 Donner Pass Road.

Passes for the 2013-14 season at Sugar Bowl and Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort also will be on sale.

Information: www.sugarbowl.com

Volkl Gotama skis really rock

By Art Bentley

After years of skepticism about the claims of manufacturers promoting wide skis shaped like the defining parts of a rocking chair, I’ve come around. The rocker design rocks.

What convinced me was a day on the Volkl Gotama, a portly plank 130 millimeters wide at the tip, 123 at the tail, and 107 underfoot.

Recently, I took a pair all over Bald Mountain, the legendary hill, better known as Baldy, that has been attracting folks to Sun Valley, Idaho, since late 1939, shortly after Ernest Hemingway finished writing “For Whom the Bell Tolls” in room 206 at the Sun Valley Lodge.

At first I was a trifle leery. This is a beefy board, and I was on the 178-centimeter version, 18 centimeters longer than the slalom skis I usually use.

However, Brad Woods in the ski shop at River Run assured me that due to the rocker design, the length would not be a drawback because the points at which the ski touches the snow are much closer to the boot heel and toe than on a cambered ski with its slight upward arch. Consequently, rocker skis can be tipped on edge much more quickly and easily.

Because I didn’t know what to expect from the Gotamas, I enrolled in College, the easiest run on Baldy, denoted by the green circle that usually marks terrain barely steep enough to induce motion. At Sun Valley, however, it’s not so easy skiing green. College tilts 19 degrees, which would easily rate the blue square of an intermediate run at many resorts.

I angled down the slope from the top. The snow was firm and fast, not supposedly the most favorable condition for full-rocker skis, whose element is deep, untracked powder. I gained speed quickly, easy on Baldy, which has no flat spots. I weighted the downhill edge of the uphill ski, and instantly the Volkls snapped around in a quick, tight and surprisingly effortless C-shaped arc that reminded me of another German name: Porsche.

I repeated the procedure, the result was the same, and my confidence soared. I let the skis go and started leaning into the turns as hard as I could. The Gotamas continued to perform with the same solid authority that makes this sport so addictive.

Five inches of snow had fallen the day before, covering a surface that remained solidly frozen where the groomers hadn’t ventured. Can-Can, a blue run of about 25 degrees, was bumpy and icy under the fresh snow. The skis couldn’t have cared less. As long as I was positioned properly, they turned with the same sport-car precision.

Next I tried Flying Squirrel, a blue run groomed nightly. Here I noticed another trait of the full-rocker design. Whenever I wanted to slow the skis, all I had to do was press with my downhill heel, directing force to the tails. Immediately, the brakes were applied.

Later, I sampled untracked snow in one of Baldy’s eight bowls. Although the skis were scraping a gelid surface under the powder, I got a sense of how they perform in bottomless snow.

Products that may be life-savers when you’re out on the slopes

By Art Bentley

For the skier or snowboarder who has everything — except maybe a strong urge for self-preservation — an empty bag may be the ideal gift for that next big occasion.

Mammut Snowpulse Air Bag Technology

This bag comes in a $700 backpack, accessorized by a $129 cartridge for inflation. The Mammut Snowpulse Air Bag Technology system is designed to help a snow junkie survive an avalanche, a constant danger for powder-crazed daredevils who stalk deep untracked snow beyond the boundaries of designated ski areas.

As long as they remain inbounds, where snow conditions are carefully monitored by the Ski Patrol, skiers run little risk of avalanche. However, in-bounds slides with fatal result are not unheard of.

One killed a snowboarder late last month at Donner Ski Ranch near Lake Tahoe. At about the same time, two skiers at Squaw Valley, also near the lake, were caught in another slide. They survived.

Beyond the ropes, the danger escalates sharply. Three years ago, people were killed in slides in unpatrolled back-country near the Mountain High ski area, close to Wrightwood.

With a 30-liter capacity, the backpack would seem to carry just about anything a back-country skier could want or need in an emergency, short of a St. Bernard. There are pockets for ice axes and goggles. Space is designated for an avalanche beacon, GPS device, a probe pole, even a shovel, not to mention water, food and first-aid supplies, all noted in a check-list displayed on fabric inside the pack.

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