Telluride Winter Gear Forum A Resounding Success

Sitting at the western edge of the Telluride valley lays a quintessential hotel mirroring the essence of the surrounding peaks and forests. The Hotel Telluride enticed the likes of gear brands the North Face, Black Diamond, Venture Snowboards, Rocky Mountain Underground Skis and Nite Ize to participate in a new style of forum.

Winter Gear Forum opened Friday night with Blue Orbit playing jazz by the fireplace while attendees mingled in the hotel lobby while treated to hors d’oeuvres and drink samples from Telluride Distillery and Telluride Brewing. Scattered around the lobby each brand’s table was lined with products for guests to feel, try-on and ask questions about – answers surely to come the next morning.

Mark Cohen from the North Face and Mason Daley from Black Diamond began the Saturday morning forum with a gamut of information on waterproofing and insulation technologies. Traditional methods of garment construction using materials like Gore-Tex and Primaloft from each brand was expected. However Mark perked up the attendees when showing off the North Face’s Fuse Form technology in the Fuse Brigandine Coat. The engineered fabric meshes multiple materials into one fabric giving a seamless look while making the coats waterproof, lightweight and breathable – no pit zips needed and reducing the amount of material needed to piece together the product. Reductions to seven feet of material compared to 20-24 feet needed in traditional constructions are now possible using Fuse Form technology.

Mason Daley talked about soft shells and the use of NanoSphere technology from Swiss company Schoeller in their coats where dirt and water simply run off the materials mimicking certain plant’s abilities to repel dirt and water in nature. He called it, “replicating nature.”

Rounding out the morning’s forum, insulation was discussed and the North Face’s use of ThermoBall, the ultralight and packable synthetic insulation. Mark best described ThermoBall as ‘material that compresses like down and repels wetness like synthetics while retaining loft and warmth when wet’.

Winter Gear Forum participants hike amongst aspens on the Jud Wiebe Trail near Telluride, CO
Winter Gear Forum participants hike amongst aspens on the Jud Wiebe Trail near Telluride, CO

Mark Cohen from the North Face shows two different kinds of insulation his company uses in their coats
Mark Cohen from the North Face shows two different kinds of insulation his company uses in their coats

Mason Daley (Black Diamond) and Mark Cohen (the North Face) talk products to an audience at breakfast in the Hotel Telluride lobby at Winter Gear Forum
Mason Daley (Black Diamond) and Mark Cohen (the North Face) talk products to an audience at breakfast in the Hotel Telluride lobby at Winter Gear Forum

A deployed Black Diamond Jet Force back pack is displayed for Winter Gear Forum attendees in Town Park, Telluride, CO
A deployed Black Diamond Jet Force back pack is displayed for Winter Gear Forum attendees in Town Park, Telluride, CO

Rocky Mountain Underground Skis, a Breckenridge, CO based manufacturer,  shows off models at Winter Gear Forum in the Hotel Telluride lobby.
Rocky Mountain Underground Skis, a Breckenridge, CO based manufacturer, shows off models at Winter Gear Forum in the Hotel Telluride lobby.

Venture Snowboards, a Silverton, CO based manufacturer,  shows off models at Winter Gear Forum in the Hotel Telluride lobby.
Venture Snowboards, a Silverton, CO based manufacturer, shows off models at Winter Gear Forum in the Hotel Telluride lobby.

The Hotel Telluride played host to the inaugural Winter Gear Forum.
The Hotel Telluride played host to the inaugural Winter Gear Forum.

Blue Orbit plays jazz in the Hotel Telluride lobby on opening night of Winter Gear Forum
Blue Orbit plays jazz in the Hotel Telluride lobby on opening night of Winter Gear Forum

Where is my friend? Katie begins her search for the other beacon in Town Park Telluride, CO at Winter Gear Forum.
Where is my friend? Katie begins her search for the other beacon in Town Park Telluride, CO at Winter Gear Forum.

Mason Daley demonstrates how to expand a Black Diamond avalanche probe.
Mason Daley demonstrates how to expand a Black Diamond avalanche probe.

After the morning discussion and to take in the cool mountain air, the group embarked on a short hike up the Jud Wiebe trail led by San Juan Outdoor School member Lance Waring. The banter amongst new friends, Arctic Arts Project photographer Kerry Koepping one of them, was inquisitive as our group of nine climbed higher through the aspen tree’s colors. The hike was brisk and fulfilling and the-lunch-with-a-view couldn’t be topped either. Talk of backcountry hiking and skiing filled the lunch spot.

As the sun’s heat began to wane in the afternoon all forum members congregated into Town Park for some burgers and brats provided by Telluride’s own Zest catering. Not only was the food amazing but the demonstrations from Mason Daley were too. The PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon and Pro Avy Safety Set were shown and used for the beacon search challenge. The Pilot 11 JetForce Avalanche Airbag Pack was deployed as well. Smiles were adorned by all as the sun set and lit the San Juans as day two concluded.

Sean McCoy opened day three with a discussion and presentation on ‘wearable technology’ with the center of attention on devices used in congruency with mobile phones. It became clear that the offerings on the table were technologies most individuals were excited to use. From a smart training system to heated gloves, the wearable technology discussion took on a new energy – literally.

Relying on your smart phone to interact with most of the devices raised questions about the future of these technologies. Are wearable wrist or armband heart rate monitors offered by Scosche and Jay Bird seeming to take place of chest mounted monitors like ones PEAR Sports uses? Jay Bird’s Reign measures your heart rate variabilities each morning and will tell you if you should workout that day or not.

But keeping your gadget charged was crucial in the presentation of these great devices too.

Battery life and charging capabilities became the main topic of discussion while Sean introduced products from Scosche, Jay Bird, Garmin, Suunto, Goal Zero, Outdoor Research and EcoXGear. Keeping a charge for your device in order to measure your workout, location, day’s tracking log or even altitude and time is tricky in cold conditions the group concluded. Battery life seems to be holding back our progression and recording of our outdoor events. However, the battery question is not keeping us from exploring and using the devices we create but simply limiting our use until we can create a longer charge.

One last question posed at the forum was ‘when is it good to be unplugged from these technologies vs. telling all the world about what you are doing and which piece of gear you are using to tell your outdoor story with’. Have the outdoors lost their appeal and been replaced by using wearable technologies to tell us how enjoyable the outdoor activity was to us? Perhaps we should go outdoors with gear on and measure.

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