Pulling out the toys: Outdoor enthusiasts have plenty of recreation options
With temperatures cooling and snow starting to accumulate on Grand Mesa, Western Slope outdoor enthusiasts are gearing up for what they hope is another active winter of recreation.
Although costs are a factor these days, many winter recreation seekers are always on the lookout for the latest technological advancement in their chosen activity.
Snowmobiles are a prime example.
Mountain sleds seem to be the more popular snowmobile in this part of the country.
“We don’t see a lot of trail sleds around here like they have back East,” said Chase Burbridge, a salesman at All-Terrain Motorsports in Grand Junction.
Mountain sleds offer more horsepower and more traction, giving them better ability to climb hills.
A top-of-the-line machine may cost as much as $13,000.
“The biggest issue with snowmobiles now is weight,” Burbridge said.
The lighter the sled, the more maneuverable it is.
Snowmobilers hoping to lighten the load can plan on paying approximately $100 for every pound they try to eliminate when they start altering their machine.
Because of its wide-open area, Burbridge said Grand Mesa is easily the most popular destination for snowmobile riders in Mesa County.
He has even noticed a trend among all-terrain vehicle users.
“People are putting tracks on (ATVs and 4-wheelers) and taking them up to Vega Reservoir,” Burbridge said.
There are few breakthroughs in snowmobile apparel this year.
“Mainly the snowmobile apparel are a lot like the ski apparel,” Burbridge said.
He has noticed one trend. Instead of snowmobile helmets with a full face shield, many riders are foregoing the shield in favor of goggles, which have better venting.
“(That’s) to keep from fogging up,” he said.
As with other backcountry activities, Burbridge said avalanche beacons are becoming standard gear for many snowmobilers.
“Everybody (should) carry a beacon, a probe and a collapsible shovel,” Burbridge said. “I almost feel naked when I ride without them.”
After years of going more toward narrow skis, the trend the past couple of years has been toward wider skis, both in the Alpine and Nordic disciplines.
“That enables good floatation in powder,” said Nick Jordan of Board & Buckle Company on North Avenue. “It makes the ski easier to turn, not catching edges.”
In short, Jordan said, “It makes you come out of a turn easier (and) smoother.”
One advancement in skis comes on front rockers (the curved tips). The curve is farther back on the ski, making it more adaptable to different snow conditions.
“It skis everything, not just powder,” Jordan said.
There was a time when the trend was to go with shorter skis. That’s now changing. By making them longer, it allows the ski more surface grip area.
One of the newer technologies for Nordic skis comes in the bindings.
Alpine touring bindings allow skiers to tour and hike with the same skis. Grips applied to the bottom of skis aid in hiking and climbing.
In addition to traditional skins, a new skin, called a split skin, has a non-gripping ridge down the middle, making the snow more packable on climbs.
“You can kick out the heel, slap on the skis and hike up, take the skins off and then do Alpine touring,” Jordan said of the multi-functional bindings.
Hammerhead bindings for Telemark skiing have been on the market for a while but are becoming more popular.
The binding has an adjustable pin for pivoting the binding. That helps the skier adjust to different snow conditions.
Nordic skiers looking for the exercise benefits have been gravitating more toward mini skate skis.
“They’re more for the cardio workout,” said Geoff Mueck of REI Outlet in Grand Junction.
There hasn’t been a lot of new technology in snowshoes.
Still, “Snowshoeing is really gaining popularity,” Mueck said.
With some winter outdoor enthusiasts looking at more cost-efficient ways to spend a day in the outdoors, the sport has become an economical alternative.
“It’s relatively cheap,” Mueck said. “You can pack a lunch (and) make a day of it.”
Although there are no major advances in the sport, the goal each year is to try to produce the lightest snowshoe possible.
Durable plastics, both in the frame and in the decking, have become the latest hot-button item.