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Skiing on the fringe...

Dramatic weather yesterday. I took the dog out for a walk @ 6:45 in a still winter wonderland. 2" had fallen overnight and it was temperate with flurries. By 7:15 the sky was puking snow and it made for the worst commute of the year.

From 8-11am it was 3 inch an hour snow here at work. I absently listened to meetings while it accumulated outside. I got caught up just in time for lunch and headed out with my brother-in-law Reid.

If you want to truly exploit a powder day, you've got to follow a local to the fringes of the resort. The places slightly out of bounds where you can still traverse back if you don't get too greedy. :) Reid took me there.

These are the places tourists never see. The places just a few hundred people know about and maybe less than ten exploit on the right day. It's magic when you happen on a glade or chute no one has touched.

You see the line between the trees and beyond? We had three runs in this vicinity. Yipping and hooting as we took turns between meandering traverses to more fresh. By 2pm the snow had subsided and I was back at my desk with tingling cheeks and a wide smile.

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Took 5 runs at lunch.

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Refining the body rocket...

It's just getting better...

Just drool over the above - Seam Welded pockets. Dirt and abrasion resistant shell. Smooth aggressive taper aft of the parachutes. Highest quality waterproof zippers. The collaboration of Jeff Shapiro, Steve Pearson, and Dustin Martin has yielded a winner from Wills Wing.

There's been constant refinement of The Covert. The pattern is cleaner, the internal storage is more functional, the backplate and components have been refined, and we've all brainstormed about what could be just a bit better. Shapiro is constantly researching, pulling on, and dragging new fabrics over rocks and staying current with outdoor clothing construction trends. If you've seen his blog posts, you know he's staying current with climbing industry trends too.

There were half a dozen or more Coverts on hand at the factory, from each phase of development, which was cool to see. It's been quite a progression from the prototype that was overloaded with the 180lb. crash test dummy, to the newest iterations.

On Shapiro's personal harness, there's always experimentation and scrutiny. Better construction methods, better materials, etc. He's been working hard to perfectly tailor the neck and shoulder gasket to render a fitted, shelf-less finish. You can discern the carbon plate and shoulder flanges contouring the body.

Dustin's the parasitic drag abater. The mad scientist and accepts nary a pubic hair of drag on his gear. I'm surprised he doesn't use a jewelers loupe to comb over components. He accepts nothing less than flawless form which bodes well for all the products he's associated with.

Do you have a harness with a backplate? Torque on it with your hands. Can you bend it? Bummer. Mere mortals can't manually flex The Covert's carbon.

Teflon anodized SOLID billet aluminum slider, machined slider, tool-less backplate removal, and a sorcerer's blend of high strength exotic materials.

Dustin ever scrutinizing what will make him go faster. Wills Wing employs his practices when they show objective advantage, and provide performance benefit without a reduction in handling, safety, or comfort.

Personally, it was a medicinal weekend for me. Since traveling with Filippo last spring, he's become a closer friend that's great to hang with. Seeing Zippy, Dustin, and the WW crew is always inspiring, and it's cool to see the company evolve into their fourth decade. The factory is staffed with highly efficient and super-skilled one of a kind employees who are each a vital asset. The local Andy Jackson Airpark community is one of the most vibrant and involved I've experienced. It's a great place to fly.

Usually Shapiro and I get an overnight caffeine laden drive to hash out life, but busy schedules didn't make that possible this time. Instead, we got caught up on sixth floor hotel balcony after midnight the last evening of my stay. After 45minutes of conversation, Shapiro looks past my shoulder into the dark and quietly exclaims, "Holy shit - Is that a red tail roosting right there?" Sure enough, there was a mature red tail perched 30 feet away, still alert,but settling in for the night. We stared at the pseudo-apparition trying to discern if it was facing us or not. The urbanized red tail was un-bothered by us and we savored it's presence in between subjects of conversation. An exhilarating visit... but from whom? :)

Airtime: 3:20. Flights: 4.

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A weekend to re-LAX.

It's below zero tonight at home, but I was able to escape to the 70's and sun this past weekend. A convergence of flying friends...

Italian team member Filippo Oppici dug himself out from record snow in Boston to try on a new glider and harness courtesy of WW. Shapiro drove out of meat locker Missoula, Zippy sauntered from Santa Barbara, and Dustin ah-hem from Brazil.

We were welcomed by the Wills Wing / Crestline crew for a meteorologically fortuitous and festive weekend. The vibe is alive in Orange, CA.

It's been kinda cold as of late :)

Filippo and I met at the rental car counter around 1am. Half way through the rental process, I was informed the last car had been rented to the woman I courteously let off the shuttle before me. Hmm... I should have tackled the rotund renter on the way out the shuttle bus. I rented from another company off the first company's computer and 30 minutes later we were driving Dollar out of the lot. Useless to complain as renting a car elsewhere was $4 more and 30 minutes.

Saturday morning at the chocolate factory. A half dozen Coverts to finger. Dustin tweaked machine in the foreground.

Friday morning turned from casual to rush, rush. The crew had 30 gliders to test fly and after weeks of inclement weather, it was ON. Everyone converged late morning and rounds up the hill began.

Effortless all day flying at AJX

I flew three rounds all day on a couple of Sport 2's and a sweetie U2. The U2 let me work the very lightest lift at the end of the day low on the hill. The rest of the WW test crew ripped out rounds and Shapiro, Filippo, Zippy, Barker, etc. got their race face on in the afternoon. It was a warm day where you landed after as long as you wanted, with a smile.

As Filippo said - "Very paraglider".

The conditions lasted well past sunset and we went out as a group to dinner to celebrate the day. BIG thanks to all the Wills Wing Crew who hosted us so graciously over the weekend.

Finishing the final rounds of test flying.

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Dr. Batman is getting quality airtime over Cape Town:


Photo over Table Mountain looking toward the Cape - Photo by Adam West.

Below is the remote LZ after a 140km flight into the interior.

Photo by Adam West.

Check his blog for more photos with details:

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Hmmmm... seems as though the rumors are true. Shapiro would like to remind me that he beat me in Santa Cruz as well as the pre worlds, but it must have just been that I was flying the FASTEST HANG GLIDER IN THE WHOLE WORLD at less than its top speed.
And since my current glider is, well, FASTER... hmmm....

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all photos courtesy of Dane Burns

A couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to head down to Salt Lake City to attend the Outdoor Retailer show at the Salt Palace. It's always a great opportunity to see the "newest latest" in gear and textiles that most of the major manufacturers in the outdoor industry are offering for the '11 year. It's impressive to see what was considered well designed gear improved. Makes me wonder what developments will happen next year.
The OR show is also an event that attracts many like minded people so it's not uncommon to run into friends that I haven't seen for up to 10+ years. Really cool to see old friends from times past and to catch up on the evolutions in our lives.
One of the best parts about being down there for me was the time I got to spend hanging with the KAVU crew and to catch up with the "boys" from KEEN. Super positive energy while looking toward the future was all about laughing it up and planning adventure. Pretty easy to be stoked around those guys. So psyched to be involved with both companies. First, they provide the clothes and shoes that keep things comfortable and casual during daily life, and, both are all about "giving back" and sharing the positivity with communities around the world. Their generosity has lent to the Cloudbase Foundation's effort to help the kids in Canoa, Ecuador. Proud to be linked to KEEN and KAVU, for sure.

Along with seeing old friends, I had the opportunity to meet some new people. I had heard about Bill Belcourt for years in both the flying and climbing circles. He heads the gear department at Black Diamond and has climbed rock and ice routes all over the world, some of which are routes that I would either love to try or have been lucky enough to have done. He is also a multi time US Paragliding world team member and is still killing it with huge flights in his home state of Utah. A true mountain pilot and climber, he also has a family with a young kiddo. We have so much in common that I was hoping to get a chance to meet Bill and to check out the Black Diamond booth while in Utah.

After meeting up, It worked out for Bill to take a day away from work and the family to go out and swing the tools on a road side route, just up the canyon from the house O'brien lived at while in Provo. I met him and his friend, Dane Burns, at the park and ride next to the Point and we drove up to climb the 5 pitches of ice on a route called "stairway to heaven". On the short walk in, he schooled me on the many ways to strategically convince your partner to allow you to lead the best pitches. In the end, it just stung him as my "nice guy" technique allowed me to get to lead the money pitches but, the truth is, he had done the route so many times in the past that he only allowed me to think I was playing it well. I felt like I lost by winning...or is it won by losing? Either way, I was stoked to be there, so it was winning regardless;-) It was the perfect thing to do before an 8 hour drive back to Missoula. The ice was in pretty good shape and the climbing was fun. After topping out, we rapped off, I thanked Bill and Dane for getting out and was on my way. It was a great end to a good trip.

I had 6 days to crank in the shop, sewing as much as I could before heading down to the WW factory in LA to meet up with Steve and Mike, Jeff, Dustin, Zippy and our good friend from the Italian team, Filippo to get him sorted with his new glider and harness. More on that later.

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