BOSTON, MA â€“ Now this is how to start winter: a bombogenesis outside and the largest east coast ski and snowboard expo inside. Thank you, Old Man Winter. Thank you, Snowbound Expo.
It’s the third week of November, and winter seems to be arriving in a timely fashion. Buffalo, New York was so paralyzed by 80 inches of snow, the NFL took the precaution of moving the weekend’s Cleveland Browns â€“ Buffalo Bills game to Detroit. When the Bills punter came home, his truck was almost unfindable in the gargantuan parking lot drift that covered it.
Better still, across I-90 and at all points north, mountains everywhere are firing up the snowmaking.
It’s beautiful to see, especially since last season’s east coast winter didn’t really get going until mid-January.
Meanwhile Boston saw sunny, if cold skies outside, while inside there was nothing but goodwill and buoyant hearts. Snowbound Expo had finally arrived, returning after a long Covid-induced slumber. Formerly known as the Boston Ski and Snowboard Expo, and newly acquired by UK-based Raccoon Events, the three-day event attracted thousands of winter sports enthusiasts from across the country, as well as showcased the latest in gear from hundreds of brands. Winter resorts from across the globe sent representatives â€“ everywhere from Olympic venues to small, but sweet indie mountains, and some of the biggest names in professional skiing came to sign autographs, tell stories, and fill us in on the latest industry related projects they have planned. It was a ski and snowboard cavalcade of whimsy, with whiz-bang gadgets, Christmas list items, and skiing and snowboarding illuminati everywhere you looked.
Hynes Convention Center, right next door to Berklee College of Music, was an ergonomic choice â€“ easy to get to by car or train, (parking was reserved for attendees via on-line pre-order), and the neighborhood was vibrant day or night. It was even convenient to Fenway Park, a must see for any Boston visitor. Here were just a few of the highlights:
Blizzard, Nordica, K2, Fischer, and my own beloved Head stood out among the many brands that had stalls in the auditorium. A number of smaller, craft companies were also present. As I currently need a new set of powder skis/something for Tuckerman’s Ravine and the backcountry around Smuggler’s Notch, I was gravitating toward that end of the palette, and I was not disappointed how each maker had a model specifically tailored to my particulars. One suggestion for next year: get Line and Black Crows to show off their latest.
A meanderer’s dream â€“ the entire world seemingly showed up in Boston, from Chile to Japan, from Alaska to good ol’ New Hampshire and everywhere in between. Two different Alaskan heli-ski operators offered trips to the Juneau area and points even further north, while Japan’s Niseko sent a team to lure us to the Asia’s premiere venues for snow sports: Both the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu are fast becoming the skiing destination du jour for the cognoscenti.
As for the continental USA, take your pick: Sugarbush, Killington, Loon? Jiminy, Ragged, Saddleback? They’re all there. Out west, Aspen, Steamboat, Aspen, and Jackson Hole, and Park City (among others) were present and received vibrant interest from the attendees.
Teton Gravity Research may not have had whiz-bang gadgets, or the latest technology, but they had the Stokemobile. Turning the corner, and seeing that was a Stop the Presses! moment indeed.
TGR also had the sickest designs. (That’s “sick” in the new sense of the word, meaning “totally rad!” not like “sick” as in “down with diseaseâ€¦”)
Clearly the frontrunner for sellouts is the dancing terrapins, culled from Grateful dead lore. My choice was the pom pom hat, but that will move like hotcakes on anything, from shirts to jackets to a big skiing onesie. See if Straight Nate from Smugglers Notch is interested. He rocks the black GD onesie â€“ dancing skeletons on the front, steal your face on the back. He’d love the Terrapins. So would most of Burlington; after all, you can’t spit in Vermont without hitting a jam band fan.
But that was just the beginning. Every TGR design was totally lit, hip to the pulse of the zeitgeist, and stoking your inner fire and love of shredding madly. It lit your fuse to get out there and show off your mad skillz on the slopes and your haute couture in the parking lot. Rock your favorite gear on the slopes, rock the TGR gear in the lot. Lather rinse repeat. TGR me, ASAP!
A close second for best gear was Head’s skull and crossed-skis design. Worn by Linsey Vonn most famously, and rocked as well by other female USA team luminaries, this hat is choice. It’s a perfect gift for your favorite shredding hottie.
As for more hi-tech, cold weather protection, there were the latest and greatest designs on everything from pants and jackets to inner layers, gloves and socks.
Wow, take your pick. Leading off was Bode Miller, arguably America’s GOAT and certainly doing his part to participate philanthropically and scientifically to the scene with his various projects. A crowd of hundreds flocked to his Q&A session that kicked off the event Friday afternoon where he talked about everything from his career to his new business projects.
Friday’s other superstar was Dan Egan, of the famous Egan brothers, America’s first extreme skiers and stars of decades of Warren Miller films. Talk about an icon. Like Bode, Egan is still active in the culture as well as the sport: he’s written not one, but two books. He’s hosting skiing tours around the globe, from Antarctica to Europe. And he’s still as grand and gracious an ambassador for the sport as we could ever ask he and his brother to be. Kudos to John on that score as well. May we all live a skiing life as grand as the Egan Brothers.
Egan has two books out currently: one is called 30 Years in a White Haze, co-authored with seminal winter sports journalist Eric Wilbur. The other is an instruction manual, All Terrain Skiing II, and corresponding YouTube video channel. [Author’s Note: over the course of the winter, we will be reviewing both books, and endeavoring to use the skills taught in All Terrain II in places like the front four of Stowe and the Castlerock area at Sugarbush to backcountry adventures in the actual Smugglers Notch and New Hampshire’s Tuckerman’s Ravine.]
Sunday brought Conrad Anker, America’s GOAT climber and expedition mountaineer. Gladly, everyone assembled knew him from his numerous first ascents, his guiding NatGeo film teams to far-flung destinations, and assisting scientific explorations, rather than just “that guy who found Mallory’s body on Everestâ€¦”
And while we’re at it, read that phrase again slowly, and let the monumental importance of that feat sink inâ€¦he found Malloryâ€¦on Everestâ€¦
That’s no mean feat to just be airily dismissed. To me, that’s as important (but not as difficult) as summiting Meru with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk.
That being said, go to YouTube and watch that movie â€“ Meru – right now. RIGHT NOW! Run, don’t walk. It’s the pinnacle of big mountain adventure films. It will make a great holiday film, and get you in the mood for the mountains.
Anker is a paragon. He belongs in the Great Pantheon of American Athletes right alongside Tiger Woods and Babe Ruth and Larry Bird. A superb speaker with a fascinating topic every time out, Anker is the Polestar by which every American mountaineer should set their compass.
The brightest stars in winter sports journalism held a pre-show meeting, discussing everything from the state of the industry to the expectations for the coming season to the very topic of journalism and its meaning in a 21st century world. It was more than just a meet and greet, it was a bonding, and story lines were traded by the score.
Rest assured, winter sports readers: you’ll be getting a front row seat for adventure. You’ll feel winter’s icy chill, you’ll hear the scrape of your edges, you’ll see the yawning jumps just before you hit them, spinning wildly, before sticking the landing. Your season may just be starting, but your friendly neighborhood skiing writer is in mid-season form already, be they from Boston and Bangor or British Columbia or Biarritz.
FINE ARTS MUSEUM
I was not about to abandon Boston without taking advantage both time and opportunity to delve deeply into one of Boston’s treasures, and the proximity to Boston’s Fine Arts Museum. While I only had time to explore one floor ni depth, we hit the new Old Kingdom of Egypt exhibit, the new star of the museum. The “Best Supporting Exhibit Award” went to the most excellent Stringed Musical Instruments Through the Centuries showcase.
But most of all, Snowbound did what we needed it to do, get us all together, Finally, the family is reunited. The fervor of our sports was palpable in every wide smile and each friendly face. We were chatting as though we’d never been apart, and that’s enough to warm us through as many 80″ bombogenesises (bombogenesi?) that Old Man Winter Wants to throw our way. Cowabungaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!