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September 28, 2012

Insider Mission at GORE-TEX® Headquarters

The W. L. Gore Corporation was kind enough to extend an invitation this week to my colleague Jordan and me to visit GORE-TEX® headquarters and several production facilities in and near Newark, Delaware the past three days, flying us to the east coast and putting us up with a group of other North American retailers to get an inside look at what makes both the company and the product tick.

The entire trip was quite impressive and pointed out what a diverse and global company W. L. Gore really is. In addition to the waterproof/breathable garments we've come to know and love as skiers, they are a huge presence in the medical, industrial, and electronics industries with a host of products based on expanded polytetrafluoroethylene. Heart stents, computer cable, industrial filters, dental floss and the normal assortment of garments for sport, military and rescue purposes were all on display. We were able to tour (but not take pictures in) the membrane lamination plant for the US, and tested the "rain room" and seam taping machine in person.

We toured rooms with countless washing machines running 24/7 testing the durability of fabrics, mechanical feet doing the stationary equivalent of thousands of miles of hiking, and machines for testing the waterproofing and breathability of jackets, pants, gloves and shoes. Our hosts Dan, C.J. Adele and Louise didn't scrimp when it came to wining and dining us either - night one was steak and sushi at a Benihana-style Japanese restaurant, while day two found us at the Chesapeake Inn for oysters and fish, with Maryland crab cakes and Philly Cheese Steaks catered in during the day. Pretty over-the-top, but they obviously have this tour thing dialed.

Overall, the tour made quite an impression - no one does it like Gore when it comes to research, development, and insistence on stringent quality controls at each step of the process. I'm sure some of their customers see them as an 800 pound gorilla breathing down their necks at times, but the product really does speak for itself.

W. L. Gore has a strict "no cameras" policy inside the facilities, with the exception of the rain room. A sample of
every GORE-TEX® jacket and pant has to pass muster here before a manufacturer can go into production with it.

September 23, 2012

Monster Avalanche Incident on Manaslu

A large serac fall and subsequent massive avalanche completely wiped out a full-to-capacity Camp III on Manaslu earlier today, resulting in 9 confirmed dead, many more injuries, and 3 people still missing. Freeski legend Glen Plake was among the fortunate survivors, and was able to make a satphone call to his friend Trey Cook in Chamonix, reporting that his tent partner Greg Costa and climbing partner Rémy LéCluse were among the missing. Another group of skiers containing endurance athletes Greg Hill and Benedikt Böhm was camped nearby and was able to join in the search for survivors as well as help Plake down the mountain.

Here's the text of Plake's phone call, as reported by Trey Cook:

"Greg (Costa) and I were in a tent together, Rémy was in another. It was 4:45a and I was in my sleeping bag with my headlamp on reading my devotional when we heard a roar. Greg looked at me and said, "That was a big gust of wind," then a second later, "No, that was an avalanche." Then it hit us. I was swept 300 meters over a serac and down the mountain and came to a stop still in my sleeping bag, still inside the tent. We all went to sleep with avalanche transceivers on so I punched my way out of the tent and started searching. Searched for 10 minutes when I realized I was barefoot. Greg was using my down suit for a pillow and I found my suit, I found everything that was in my tent - camera, sleeping bag, ski boots, it was like someone had thrown my gear in the back of a pickup - but there was no sign of Greg. Rémy and his tent are nowhere to be found."

Here's some video of the scene from the Dynafit team - in German, but you'll get the idea

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"Incoming" covers developments that have personal interest to me (ie. gear I might consider acquiring, or events I feel may impact the sport of skiing) - it is by no means meant to be a comprehensive enumeration of gear or events in the ski world at large. Feel free to contact me via the link below with news or images that may be of interest . . .

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