For my second ride of the season I headed up to my new mountain, Stevens Pass. I started the trip off with a nice hangover from the night before, plus I managed to smash my foot with a maul earlier on Saturday so it was in a bit of pain. All of which went away as soon as I took my first few turns. Amazing how that happens isn’t it.

Looking down from the Meadows

My first run wasn’t too bad considering opening day was 4 days ago with little to no new snow falling since first chair. Armed with my trusty rock board I managed to poke around and find lots of minimally tracked areas off Big Chief. After shacking the cobwebs I headed over to Skyline to see how the Meadows were lookin. The pillow lines were shaping up nicely but were not quite ready to be splayed yet. Although these dudes sure thought so, I think they bugged out but I didn’t stick around to watch.. I had exploring to do.

Future Pillow Lines

Getting off the top of Skyline I noticed a boot pack leading up Solitude and 7th Heaven. Seeing as how I have never been up 7th heaven I couldn’t resist the temptation of exploring it on foot with the possibility of untouched pow as a reward. The effort was well worth it! When I got to the top of Cowboy Mountain I was looking down to fields of untouched pow goodness! After dropping in and making a few turns it hit me.. this snow feels so different from what us PacNW riders are used to. It was very dry, light, and fluffy (I thanked the cold weather for that). Such a blast to not only plow through but also bail into, which I can admit I did a few times. My run down the Rock Garden went from one drop to the next.


Looking East down on Tye Mill (center of image) from atop Cowboy Mountain

Looking West from atop Cowboy Ridge

I then headed over to Tye Mill to see what I could find over there. Once on the lift I saw how little coverage there was in the Tye Bowl area and decided I needed to go back to 7th for another hike. Once on top of 7th I knew this would be my last run down as I was shot, so I dug a shelter from the wind on the leeward side (it was blowing pretty hard up there) and took a ‘break’ while soaking in the beautiful vista. This time I went down by the lift house and launched off the unload platform and followed Cloud 9 down till I got to the top of Hogs Back and mellowed out for the rest of the way down.

Pow Lines at Stevens Pass

All in all it was a killer day. I am very glad I decided to get a pass at Stevens, switching from my old local mtn (Alpental) for something new. Don’t get me wrong.. I love Alpental to death, but I have explored 99% of it and need something new (if you can’t tell by now one of my favorite things about snowboarding is exploring.. seeing what’s over that next ridge). I am looking forward to exploring my new mountain further, and hopefully hook up with some Steven’s veterans who can show me the secret goods.

Looking down on Stevens Pass from atop Cowboy Ridge



I really do love my Burton 3L Hybrid jacket. It does a pretty good job of keeping me at an optimum temperature, which is helped by proper layering under the jacket. It has even kept me dry while riding in the rain for over 4 hrs. But where the love stops is its features.

  • It does not have enough vents.
  • The velcro cuffs get packed with snow and fail within an hour of riding pow.
  • I wear an under glove (for many reasons not relevant to this post) and there is no ninja gaiter to keep the snow out of my sleeve, glove, and off my skin.
  • There are others.. but you get my point.

I don’t think there is a Jacket out there that will deliver everything I want in Tech and features. So instead of buying a new jacket and contribute to over consumption, why not just modify the one I have.


The two major issues I have stem from a similar problem, getting snow in my cuff. To address this I would need to make a ninja gaiter and find a better solution for the velcro cuff.

Ninja/Wrist Gaiter

The first step was to research what was out there. In doing so I found a commonality in almost all the gaiter equipped jackets. The material type(s) and the location of the seam, both of which I feel are a flaws in design.

The gaiters were made with two fabrics, a water proof nylon type fabric that extended from the coat to the cuff (i’ll call this the upper gaiter), and a stretchable mesh like fabric attached to the upper gaiter extending it down and around the palm of the hand (i’ll call this the lower gaiter). Now the concept here is in order to accommodate for various hand sizes the gaiter needs to have allot of stretch where the palm of the hand is. As the upper gaiters fabric type does not accommodate this need they used the mesh like material for the lower gaiter. The major flaw here is that this mesh material allows water and cold to easily penetrate the fabric which in my case (using Dakine Cobra gloves) was subject to exposure, which made the gaiter pointless other than to help the cuff of the jacket from receding up your arm when extended.

The seam location of the lower gaiter was placed between the two holes (one for your fingers and the other for your thumb). A logical place for the seam from the viewpoint of a seamstress as this is were the 2 identical cuts of fabric come together. But when you view it from the eyes of a User Centered Designer you will notice that when worn for a long period of time (a day of riding) the seam could potentially create a hotspot on the skin between your thumb and index finger, which is a very sensitive area.

With my research done I needed to find a more appropriate material. Luckily there is a fabric store here in Seattle that caters mainly to outdooring needs, Seattle Fabrics. Not only did i find a stretchable, non-abrasive, waterproof fabric, I found one that is on the eco-froendly side! (I will write more about the fabric in another post)

I made a pattern that did not place a seam on the afore mentioned area. Here is where I added a whole new chapter in my designing knowledge, proper seam selection. The seam selection is extremely important. It will, along with material selection, dictate the life of the garment (from raveling to abrasion damage) as well as aid in comfort. The wrong type of seam in an area that contacts the skin can be very annoying, even to the point of discarding the garment. I choose a single felled seam. As this material does not ravel the felled seam is not needed to protect the edge of the fabric as much as providing a smooth soft edge on the skin.

Unfortunately my jacket was made so well that the lining in the sleeve is adhered to the outer material making it impossible to have an invisible seam that does not penetrate the waterproof outer fabric. Because of this the middle part of my gaiter is only tacked in 3 spots and not sewn all the way around like it should be. I utilized existing stitching on the cuff to sew the upper end of the gaiter to the cuff w/o having to make a new visible line of stitching.


The problem I have with my cuff is the velcro used to adjust the size of the cuff opening, which seems to be a common construction method used on most jackets. The problem with this method is snow. When the velcro comes into contact with snow the snow sticks to both the hook and the loop. This greatly reduces the velcro’s ability to stick, and in the end leaves you with a wide open cuff and the flap flapping around in the wind. When I asked people on the mountain about their experience with this issue I found that it is a common problem many users get frustrated with.

My solution is very simple.. just add snaps. I headed over to a fabric/craft store and purchased myself a snap tool (looks similar to pliers). I used a white colored pencil to mark where the male snap was going to go on the flap, then marked out 3 locations of where I wanted the female snaps to be on the cuff. I tested these locations with a glove on to make sure they are were I wanted them to be. After some adjustments I put the snaps on. Easy Peasy


The gaiter is just right. It comfortably fits under my gloves and does not restrict my movement at all. It does a perfect job of keeping snow and water out of my glove and sleeve. It’s insulative properties work so well that I do not even notice when snow in sitting on the gaiter. An added bonus was that the near perfect fit with my gloves kept my hands warmer!

The snaps I placed on the cuff worked great. They did not fail once even when packed with snow. Having the snaps right on top of the velcro worked out well as I can also use the velcro to adjust the cuff to where ever I want when I’m not riding.

I am very pleased with how these mods turned out and no longer have to spend any time messing with snow in/on/around my cuff when I should be waist deep in powder!

I have recently gotten into designing softgoods, and in my endless search for more knowledge I picked up a book, Sew and Repair Your Outdoor Gear by Louise Lindgren Sumner. While reading a section about proper stitch and material choice Louise said something that sparked my eco interest (pg49). A customer of hers showed up with a shirt he had bought over ten years ago and the stitching was just now beginning to fall apart. Louise admitted to an early career mistake of “over kill in the making” of the garment, but in her mistake she took comfort in the knowledge that, “In todays age of planned obsolescence my customers would not have to return for replacement any more often than every ten years or so”.


An evil plan/design by the manufacturer for a product to become obsolete and/or non-functional after a certain period or amount of use. The faster a product wears out and ends up in the landfill the sooner the consumer will make another purchase. As this is great for the company and terrible for the environment!


In today’s money driven commerce the moral and ethical choices in manufacturing products, including outerwear, have been tossed out the window. Product designers are in a great position to change these practices. There is a deep pool of eco decisions that can drastically affect a products impact on our wallet, our bodies, and most importantly our planet. What I am getting at here is that something as simple as the designers’ choice of stitch can have a major impact on a products life cycle and ultimately its eco-footprint.


Here is my hopeful thinking.. Consumers are paying closer attention to the products they purchase. They are more aware then ever before and are using this knowledge to make smarter purchases. Purchases that do the job better and last longer than their cheaper counterpart. I believe that when a consumer knows a product is going to last longer they are willing to spend more on it. In this scenario the products manufacturers reputation plays a large roll in the sale of the product. This reputation creates loyal consumers as well as drawing new consumers who then become loyal. Consumer awareness is the solution to the obsolescence plague.

A great example of this is Dakine packs. Dakine backs their packs with a lifetime warranty because they know they have made the right design and manufacturing choices. In a way they are a bit eco because their packs will outlast most of the competition thus reducing landfill contribution. In return for making such well build packs, not to mention the great features (this will be a whole other post), they have a reputation. Ask almost any skilled skier or snowboarder who makes the best pack and their reply will be Dakine.

So to all you reading this, please, please, PLEASE be a smart consumer. What you demand of the manufacturer you will get.

This year I have taken a strong interest in combining Eco design and Snow-sports design. It’s great to see companies like Bond Clothing (a carbon neutral company) Arbor, Salomon, and so on making an honest effort in the green movement. These efforts will help to protect the environment that we so enjoy.


To start off this season I decided to take a leap and buy something that I have been drooling over for a while, a SickStick from Salomon’s Green Initiative for Tomorrow (G.I.F.T.) Project.

“Eco means a lot of different things these days. At Salomon, it means lighter weight products, a signature bamboo snap, and new materials that are less harsh on the environment. Join the ranks of Wolle Nyvelt, Annie Boulanger, Josh Dirksen and Bode Merrill and usher in a new era with products that can handle any terrain.”


The Sick Stick

  • A unique pinned twin shape that allows it to re-surface from submersions with ease.
  • Pintail design that (tapered tail and fatter nose) creates a floating effect when in motion. This pinned shape also loosens up turn initiation. The advent of the pintail means us tall guys no longer need a massice 170+cm board to keep afloat in the deep white.
  • Stance options that are unlike most directional powder boards in the fact that you can have a more centered stance for riding/landing switch.
  • Royal rubber rails keep the steel edges from chattering up the core.
  • Quadratic sidecut ensures pressure is evenly applied to the edges for easy smooth turning.
  • Fine stone-ground finnish for speed in powder and soft snow conditions.


The Sick Stick gets Salomon’s patented ABC wrapper. This consists of a bamboo veneered core in place of fiberglass/foamcore and waterproof bamboo rods in place of traditional ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) sidewalls.To top it all off Salomon uses a natural wax from OneBall Jay. Not 100% Eco.. but when you consider the impact this would have if all boards were made this way the macro effect would be HUGE.

Sick Stick Eco Facts

  • 20% reduction of petroleum-based materials content.
  • 25% reduction of non-renewable materials.
  • 10% reduction in board weight.
  • The Sick Stick comes in a cotton-bamboo knit bag instead of a PVC sleeve, and the hang tags are printed on recycled paper instead of coated stickers.
  • There are no petroleum-based topsheet materials or lacquer coats on the Sick Stick. The graphic is direct-printed on the board, making it less toxic and, in turn, lighter.
  • The Sick Stick won the Volvo SportsDesign Award for Eco-Design in boardsports for its eco-friendly production methods.

Bamboo has other advantages than being eco friendly. It’s a perfect middle ground between a traditional fiberglass and wood/foamcore deck (less responsive and pretty forgiving) and a carbon composite deck (very responsive and extremely unforgiving). Bamboo rides really well, is pretty forgiving, and has endless pop. These attributes make bamboo my deck construction material of choice.


This deck is a shining example of great design. The right decisions were made which resulted in a board that has cult following. Isn’t that what the product design game is all about; creating killer products that sell well and give the founding company tons of credit in the marketplace? And they did it while being conscious of the planet! My hat is off to you Salomon. Great job!

With deep pow riding on the up and up, more pros like Shaun White take to the big mountains. This product is placed in a prefect position; riding high on the ecowave (with good intention) and catering to the new poster child of snowboarding.. freestyle spiced powder freeriding.

Just go buy one.. you will love it!

Other products in Salomon’s G.I.F.T. Project include:

  • Answer, Answer Magnum, and Grip snowboards
  • Dialogue snowboard boot
  • Relay Pro snowboard binding

Peep for more information

Winter is back and in full swing out here in the Pacific North West (PNW).. and it’s NOVEMBER!! What a great start to the season. I have been enjoying my new Salomon Sick Stick in all the fresh powder that has landed here. This re-sparked my interest in softgoods design. So… I am going to continue to add posts and will hopefully give this blog a resurgence.

Some of the topics I have in store:

•Performance textiles

•Burton Coat Hack

•Boot Protection

•Steezy Gloves that actually work (with the right additions)

•Powder Wows can = Product Woes – Finding that right combination of look and function between jacket and glove.

•Avy Shovels – my thought on the goods and the bads

Check back soon for more updates..



The innovative capstrap is one of those design moments that came out of a need for a better solution. As allot of concepts of  these types of problems stem from the users themselves, this would be no exception. At snowboarding’s hot summer spot, Mt. Hood,  Burton’s testing coordinators noticed the kids were folding their toe strap down to pull their boot further back in their binding, and a idea was born.



Standard toe straps secure the riders boot to the binding via a strap that goes up and over your toes and holds them down. The problem with the standard toe strap is that does little to hold it in, and the strap has to be so tight in an attempt to hold your foot in that it creates pressure points and becomes very uncomfortable.



The simple yet ingenious solution came from a hockey helmet. Sean McVeigh, a test coordinator for Burton, rigged up a rudimentary capstrap from the chinstrap from the hockey helmet. The chinstrap turned toecap cups the front and top of your toes, and when tightened holds the toe of your boot down as well and pulls the boot back into the heel of the binding. Test riders immediately noticed a huge improvement in heel toe control without the pressure points of standard toe straps. Eureka, if it wasn’t for a patent from Burton I believe every snowboard binding out there would be rocking the capstrap.



After riding the capstrap, I will never go back to the standard toe strap. There are still a few kinks that Burton needs to iron out, my main complaint being the durability of the plastic bar that attaches the cap to the binding. I absolutely love when something like this happens, where users start to use a product in new and creative ways due to unanswered needs. Products that stem from this type of user input usually turn into ground-breaking products. Bravo Burton and bravo Technine for abolishing the shortcomings of the conventional toe strap!


Sorry for the long delay! I am back from my xmas vacation and newyears riding adventures with many new blog ideas. Hope you all had a great xmas with the fam and are bringing in the newyear with style!! Without further dely.. back to the gravity product blog!



Loosing one of my trekking/ski poles and getting fed up having long arguments with them in an attempt to persuade them to function properly, I felt it was time to see what else is out there. My main complaint is the locking mechanism that 90% of the poles out there seem to use (a threaded screw that is locked to the pole turns into a plastic cap that expands out as the screw treads into it) only works for a year in ideal conditions. After the plastic get worn down grit gets inside the pole creating enough slip for the poles to no longer lock. When they do manage to lock in place they have to be so tight to stay where they are that when time comes to collapse them I end up having to take my gloves off to get the proper grip needed to torque them loose. There has to be a better solution on the market, and there is! I introduce you to the patented FlickLock® series by Black Diamond. 


Black Diamond FlickLock PoleBlack Diamond Carbon Poles

Black Diamond has adapted a mechanism commonly found on camera tripods, the FlickLock®. The FlickLock® is a camming mechanism that squeezes the pole shafts together creating an extremely strong joint. This mechanism means the user can now operate their poles w/o ever having to take off their gloves to change the poles length. A simple flip of the locking tab and the poles slide in/out with ease. This new mechanism also means that you no longer have to worry about grit affecting performance, not to mention the speed at which you can expand and collapse the poles! The downside to this type of mechanism is extreme cold conditions effecting the operation the hinge point.

Ergonomic Fit..

The grip section of the poles is nothing new, utilizing ergonomic dual-density grips with variable-width wrist straps. As an adjustable pole they are easily tailored to individual user length requirements. The FlickLock® mechanism tries to accommodate thumb (or finger) placement under the tab and flick up (loosening the joint) or over the tab to flip down (tightening the joint) but falls a bit short of proper fit, even more so on a gloved hand.Black Diamond Fliplock

Design Cues..

All of the BD poles use an ergonomic shaped handle that helps to indicate proper hand placement, and 5 of the 6 poles in the lineup utilize color and materials to enhance the products ability to tell the user how to hold the grip. Decreasing the chance of improper use. The same can’t be said of the FlickLock®. Shape helps to aid in telling the user where and how to operate the mechanism, but not much. A solid black color adds to the confusion of operation. Color would not only help to play a role in the user understanding how it works but how to use it as well. Shape and texture of the flick tab could use some improvement as well, especially to accommodate a bulky gloved digit.


In addition to the FlickLock® mechanism BD has also developed a number of features that you won’t find in many other poles. Features such as an attachable snow-saw and built in ice pick. 

Cost Effective Weight Reduction?..

BD offers a fairly inexpensive carbon fiber version that reduces your overall gear weight as well as your swing weight. In my opinion this isn’t the area that really matters when it come to light weight gear as the base model aluminum poles are already featherweight as is.

Pole to Prove Conversion..

The FlickLock® series is designed to combine the 2 poles into an avalanche probe. Although this is a nice thought in reducing the amount and weight of your gear, the concept is useless as a lifesaving device. In a avy situation time is of the essence, and the time required to turn these poles into a probe means they are more useful in body recovery rather then a live rescue, but useful non the less.

Pole to Saw Conversion..

Black Diamond SnowSaw

3 of their 6 ski poles are designed to accommodate a snow saw. Contrary to the pole to probe conversion this adaptation of a saw and pole could prove handy in snow study situations. The process of attachment seems relatively painless. It’s still up to debate if this option is better adapted to a shovel setup over a hiking pole. I side more with the shovel as it speaks more of snow testing than a pole, and the fact that you more than likely have the shovel out and at hand when snow testing where as your poles are probably firmly planted somewhere to the side. 

Pole and Pick –or- is it Pick and Pull..

Black Diamond Whippet Pole

Another feature of note is the Whippet Self-Arrest Pole that come with a suspect looking pick. BD emphasizes that the pick in no way substitutes for an ice-axe, and adds that it must be held by the poles handle grip and not like an ice-axe (lower on the pole). Sole intention here is to aid in self rescue, but how effective can a stubby version of an axe be? There is allot of room for this concept to become more useful. My opinion is that there is some merit in the idea but in its current form little justification in a real world application, although when in a pinch might prove useful.

¾ Toothed Basket..

BD has also developed a new basket to aid in those slippery crusty days. The front edge of the ¾ basket has teeth molded into it that I assume would aid, if only a little, in slippery conditions. Non the less it’s still an adaptation that takes the shortcoming of current solutions one step closer to that beautifully designed product.


Hats off, and happily gloves on, to BD for creating a diverse line of winter poles that attempts to address multiple user needs. Although some features fall a bit short of making the design grade they are pushing the perception of a pole. The FlickLock® mechanism alone makes them my #1 pic for winter trekking poles!

BTW the BD Expedition Poles will be my next purchase. I chose the Expedition because of its packability and FlickLock® mechanism.


Avalung II by Black Diamond

Avalung II

When traveling in the backcountry it is said there are three essential tools required to aid in a safe experience, a beacon, shovel, and probe. Anyone who says this obviously has not heard of the Avalung by BlackDiamond. Of course the best way to stay alive in the backcountry is to avoid being caught in an avalanche and make sound decisions about you and your groups actions. In the event that you survive the the fall of an avalanche and become buried you chances of survival lessen by every minuet you are under the snow. You have a 95% chance of survival if you are found and dug out within 15 minuets, after 30 min you chances of survival are very poor. The Avalung increases the chance of surviving a burial by 70%  and buys precious time for your successful rescue. Wearing this product alone will NOT save you, but it will help. This product may appear to have very little to do with design and more about engineering, but that’s not entirely true. It takes a problem, analyzes the human aspects of interaction and survival, and creates a solution with the user at the center of it’s existence both literally and fundamentally, = Design.


When a victim is buried in an avalanche they face many problems. The more urgent of which is the build up of carbon dioxide poisoning your pocket of air and warm exhaled air melting and freezing the snow around your breathing area, sealing your airway. Both resulting in death by asphyxiation.


Devising a breathing system/cannel that separate the area of exhaust air from fresh air creating and artificial air pocket.


This device is worn on top of your outerwear, the last item you put on. When caught in a avalanche the victim bites down (with a deathgrip) on the mouthpiece. This provides 2 functions, first by connecting you to the Avalung airway, and second by keeping snow from lodging in your airway.  Once you come to a stop in your snow tomb  (usually .8 meters below the surface) you breathe into the mouth peace. It then carries the warm poisonous exhausted air away from your fresh air intake zone as illustrated in the image above.


At first glance you wouldn’t notice the attention details, from the harnessing system to the placement of the mouthpiece. Obviously you would not want to block the key components of its operation, but can the function can be hindered by additional gear/outerwear such as a pack?

-The placement of the exhaust is so key that even with a hip belt (from a pack) or with your arms at your side it will not prevent the carbon dioxide from being released.

-The location of the harnessing easily integrates with a pack. The straps hardly interferes, if at all, with the fir of a pack.

– Wearing the Avalung is also a breeze, easy on and easy off with a single clip yet so secure it will not sift while tumbling about. The harness location and design also maximized freedom of movement, no more limiting that wearing a pack.

-The placement of the mouthpiece keeps it far enough away from the body that it is easy to find, but not far enough to make it difficult to bit down onto. The shape of the mouthpiece, a tall thin lip that wraps all the way around,  aids in keeping it in your mouth once you have bit down.

– Color. The somewhat neutral color scheme help it to blend in with your outerwear. Which can be a plus when wearing this device at a resort. (I already get enough stares)


– I would like to have seen some storage built into the harness. (perhaps integrate a pocket for a beacon as the heart of this device is right were my beacon usually is making it difficult to access)

– It would be nice to have the mouth piece a bright vibrant color for ease of use in the chaotic situation of an avalanche.

NOTE of WARNING: Some say that users tend to take greater risks when using these types of products. That users may feel that they will be ok because they are using said product/s. THE #1 SURVIVAL TOOL IS YOUR MIND! Wearing the products alone will not save you. You MUST know how to use them, practice, and most of all make sound level decisions when traveling in the backcountry! Be safe and enjoy the splendorous winter wonderland!

Back Country Access – Tracker DTS 


BCA Tracker DTS

This product is used by anyone that is venturing into the winter backcountry. It is a life saving devise that helps to locate individuals involved in an avalanche, otherwise known as an avalanche beacon or avalanche transceiver.


When caught in an avalanche victims are often buried under and average of 0.8 meters of snow. This makes it very difficult to locate victims.


Simply put, create a locating device/system that operates in two modes, send and receive. While partaking in a winter activity the device is in send mode, sending out a digital locating signal. When a victim is caught in an avalanche the surviving party switches their devices to receive. Using the buried victims location signal (his device still being on send) the party can hone in on the victims location for recovery.  


The overall design, when compared to other beacons, has been better organized to allow for straightforward interpretations. This design is very user centered, and as a result is easy to use. Its advanced components and simple design allows for fast operation times that have saved hundreds of lives, and as a result makes this one of the best selling transceivers on the market.

-The universal design, replacing instructional text with operational icons, allows any one of any language to understand and operate it. 

-The colors and placement of key functions also aid in this transceivers ease of use and navigation.

-The big red button screams to be pushed, resulting in a search that lights an LED’s, giving you the direction and distance to walk. 

-LED over LCD screen allows for colder operation.

-Separate displays for distance (a number) and direction (a moving arrow, like a compos) simplifies searches for inexperienced users. 

– Even in a panic state the user wouldn’t have much difficulty, one of the most important criteria!


With the type of technology this beacon uses I think it just about hit the design on the head. Easy to read icons, appropriate placement of functions and colors. It’s simple and intuitive! So, short of adapting new technology or revamping how one should use a beacon, I don’t have any suggestions for change. Bravo BCA!



Please take a moment to read the ‘About’ page before indulging in my insightful splendor. This will help you to understand where i am coming and the purpose to this blog. Thanks for reading GPS