Monthly Archives: February 2011

Gear-O-Licious: Columbia Omni-Heat / Omni-Dry

Columbia 2011/12 Omni-Heat / Omni-Dry / Omni-Tastic!

Full disclosure: For those who don’t already know, I’m writing a blog for Columbia Europe called ColumbiaSnowFans.com. And while running a product review for a brand for whom I’m working may seem like a conflict of interest, ChamonixInsider readers can rest assured that I would never jeopardize the credibility of the Insider by spewing about some product I don’t fully believe in. And after testing some of the Columbia gear I’m blown away by how good it is and would feel like I was not upholding the mission of this blog if I didn’t tell you all about it.

So yeah, the Columbia crew in Geneva sent me out a new piece from their 2011/12 line and after skiing it for the past two months I am totally in love with it. The jacket is one of Columbia’s top-of-the-line Titanium series and features their Interchange system which pairs a lightweight, synthetic down inner with a lightweight, 2-layer, waterproof/breathable ripstop hardshell. Basically three jackets in one, which is nothing new but always surprising that more brands don’t do it.

There are a lot of reasons this jacket blows my hair back but first and foremost is this Omni-Heat story, which in this piece revolves around Thermal Reflective technology derived from the little silver dots in the lining of the insulating layer. These act in the same way as an emergency blanket which produces a phenomenal amount of warmth to weight by reflecting body heat. Columbia claim the technology is 20% warmer and after wearing it for the past few months I’m convinced that 20% warmer is on the conservative side. The insulating power of this stuff is amazing.

The Inner – I’ve been wearing the inner on its own quite a lot and have found that it’s not only lighter but also much warmer than the Patagonia Puffball I’ve worn for the past couple of years. It’s also more fitted than the Puffball yet retains its range of movement thanks to the stretch panels under the arms. Two zipped handwarmer pockets, an interior chest pocket and an over-sized mesh interior pocket, elastic drawcord at the waist, micro-fleece collar. Everything you need, nothing you don’t, very warm, great fit, I love the color, super lightweight. Perfect.

The Outer – Due to the warmth of the inner, the outer layer has spent more time in my pack than on my body, however as spring rolls around I’ll start wearing the outer without the inner as I did this past weekend at the Otavalo Telemark Festival when a warm wet snow was falling in Les Houches and everyone’s jackets were soaking wet except mine. I kid you not. It was warm enough that despite the snow I only wore the Columbia outer over a lightweight Helly-Hansen synthetic base layer and never felt cold throughout the day. In fact, throughout most of the day I had my pit zips either halfway or fully open. Like I said: warm, wet snow.

Columbia claims its Omni-Dry technology is more air-permeable than Gore-Tex but once again, that’s an easy claim to make these days. What I will say is that even after a full day testing telemark gear by doing laps on the Prarion lift, my jacket and base layer were both still dry at the end of the day. The outer was so dry in fact that when I got back to the car I just shook the water droplets off and pulled the insulated liner on over the outer. I’ve had well over 20 years experience with Gore-Tex in every condition imaginable and in the wet-snow/high-aerobic conditions at Les Houches that day the Omni-Dry technology performed at least as well, if not better, than any other waterproof/breathable product I’ve ever worn. And man, I’ve worn a lot.

The outer has a waterproof front zip, mesh lining, removable powder skirt, removable hood, pit zips, two hidden-zip handwarmer pockets, a hidden-zip chest pocket, interior chest pocket and a big mesh interior goggle pocket. The lightweight ripstop fabric is slightly brushed for a nice hand, although it’s a bit louder than what I’m used to but then again it’s been awhile since I wore a true hardshell so perhaps I’m just not used to it. There are rubberized reinforcement patches on the shoulders and at the bottom sides that clearly add to the weight but they will greatly prolong the life of the jacket. Years ago I received a 3-layer Gore-Tex Middle Triple jacket from The North Face, the weight and design of which was ground-breaking at the time. After the third day of wearing it I noticed that the edge of my snowboard had shredded the lightweight fabric exactly in the spot where Columbia has placed the reinforcement at the bottom of the sides. So while weight is important to me, it can’t come at the expense of functionality so, for me personally, I’ll gladly trade the few additional grams of reinforcement for increased longevity.

So there you have it. Bottom Line is that the Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective tehcnology is amazingly warm and Omni-Dry far exceeded my expectations for both waterproofness and breathability. When I find out what this jacket will retail for next autumn I’ll let you know but for now I’ll easily throw it two-handed overhead horns.

Chamonix Guide Maxime Belleville Dies in Crevasse Fall

We regret to report that while leading clients Maxime Belleville of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix fell into a crevasse yesterday, 23 February, at around 11:20. By the time rescuers were able to reach him Mr. Belleville had perished.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Maxime Belleville’s  friends and family. May he rest in peace.

Page O’ Loveliness: Seb Montaz > Helbronner > Fresh Snow > Telemark > Cute Girl in Bikini Pt. 2

There’s just something heart-stopping about the pure beauty exhibited on this page. Happy Friday.

http://vimeo.com/20074018

Seb Montaz’s Courmayeur Snow Report and a Cute Girl in a Bikini

After more than a month of drought we finally got a bit of snow and, as always, the best way to find out where the best powder fell is to stalk Seb Montaz. Yesterday he headed over to Courmayeur and scored what he reports as 25cm at 2500m.

http://vimeo.com/20034910

Oh, and by the way, not that anybody in Chamonix would be interested but the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is out. Just sayin’.

Otavalo Telemark Festival This Weekend in Chamonix

Heads up freeheelers, it’s time once again for Otavalo’s annual Telemark Festival.

Certainly, Otavalo’s reputation as the best tele shop in Chamonix proceeds them and the crew there are not afraid to give back by throwing a bit of a weekend-long soirée.

There’s not a whole lot more that can be said that’s not laid out on the poster above except that if you’ve ever thought about giving the old telemarks a go then this is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. See you there.

Felix Has a Secret

Anyone who has been in Chamonix long enough knows there is a clear difference between “It hasn’t snowed in 30 days” and “There’s no snow.” Chamonix charger and videographer Felix Hentz takes particular joy in illustrating this distinction with two gut-wrenching videos.

And for those keeping score, please add 1,735, 426 bonus points to Felix’s scorecard for keeping his secret stashes secret with just enough clues to guide those in the know to the goods. Well done, gentlemen.

Plake, Montaz, Couloir Caché – ‘Nuff Said

The Couloir Caché on the west face of the Tour Ronde was opened in January 2009 by four guys from Courmayeur: Francesco Civra Damo, Davide Capozzi, Matteo Lupo and Francesco Camale.

Here’s another video from Seb Montaz of the Couloir Caché that not only does a better job of showing what the skiing is like but also tells you how to get there (complete with GPS coordinates) as well as what to take. Merci, Seb!