I’m writing this with one eye on the TV to see if I can spot Todd Richards or Michele Taggart in the XVIII Olympic Winter Games opening parade of nations, but those blue cowboy hats certainly do hide their pretty faces, as my mother would say. What is with this world? Why are we always depicted as a bunch of cowboys? I bet Betsy Shaw has never even been on a horse. Too bad our official IOC outfits don’t include those chic red berets the Canadians get to wear (and backwards at that).

Still, something about the Olympics, the music, the “Chariots-of-Fire” inspiration that puffs me up with patriotism like I’m Betsy Ross, making me want to ride through my neighborhood waving an American flag. The Olympics make me pathetic. Wish to God I was there. But I probably have a better and far warmer seat right here in my Utah living room than Lee Crane, SOL Producer, has in the nose-bleed section with pals Billy Miller and Jeff Galbraith, anyway. I’m not jealous. No, really, I want to be in Heber City right now.

As for the Olympics, if you don’t know who’s representing the U.S., then you haven’t been reading much SOL lately, and I will not take the blame. It’s all over the place, but you will not find it here because I’M NOT THERE. Moving on.

What’s the Gospel this time ’round? Previews of the latest in women’s equipment and the women who run this zany industry, plus the Gospel Word: Grrl news, upcoming events, cool bands that snowboard, and the like.

Women’s equipment:
January 28-31 I tested some amazing equipment for women at the Snow Industries of America’s on-snow demonstrations, here at Solitude, Utah. Compared with last year, at least half a dozen additional snowboard manufacturers had women’s boots and other equipment to test, and for that reason, I must conclude that we are making a dent in this industry.

I maintain the theory that step-in systems are the future for women snowboarders. Why? One word: Control. I was totally down with this year’s K2 Yak boot, as well as the Burton Ruler step-in and the Nice Siren boot with the Switch step-in. How to discern? Fit, control, overall feel, and loads of research.

K2 Clicker’s still got my fancy, but before I confess all, I must first ride them all and collect more research, including taking a few turns in Blax boots, Device step-ins, Morrow’s women’s boot, the Fringe, and their 3D-Revert step-in, and Rossignol-none of which had my size 7 available to test.

Also at the show was the introduction of Shimano’s own boot/Clicker system for women. Since I was under the impression that the two were the same, I asked VP of K2 Snowboards, Brent Turner, what the difference was between Shimano boots/Clicker systems and K2 boots/Clicker systems. “We have an evolving contract with Shimano which includes distribution, marketing, and sales, of both Shimano brands and K2 brands and bindings,” said Turner. “Part of the deal is that the manufacturing of the bindings has to be through Shimano.”

According to Turner, “Shimano has taken their own tack,” and this year, have six new boots and Clicker binding systems on the market. Enter Carrie Kizuka, from Shimano. As far as I know, Carrie represents the only female mechanical engineer (who speaks Japanese) in the hardgoods side of snowboarding. As the designer for Shimano’s boots and Clicker systems, she’s hanging with the boys in the R&D department in SoCal at the Shimano headquarters, but as she told me on a lift ride, she plans on “concentrating on women’s boots, specifically” in the near future.

Still sound slightly incestuous? “To me it’s all like a chess game,” explains Turner further. “It’s totally exciting. Like Burton does this, so what’s our countermove?” Although I didn’t get an opportunity to ride the new Shimano boot, it’s nice to know we’ve got kin in the boot market. And with Kizuka on board, it could mean checkmate for the Shimano/Clicker family. Check back in a few months for the Annual Circleplus Hardods Review for the word on women’s boots and step-in systems.

For those old-schoolers still stuck on conventional boot/strap set-ups, I did slip into a pair of Salomon boots and rode the 154, Michele Taggart-inspired board. The boots fit snug as slippers, the two-straps and their nifty new ratchet systems worked without hindrance, and the board, well, it is difficult to describe a dream, isn’t it? Let’s just say I laid tracks on every run at Solitude that fine day. Salomon will be introducing their step-in systems March 2, at the SIA show in Las Vegas.

As for boards, K2′s Hayley Martin and Heidi McCory got sick of guy boards and launched the Luna series with the help of pro rider Athena. (Although I heard great comments about the Luna series, I was unable to ride it at the show because every other grrl there was demo-ing the damn things). So I picked up Morgan Lafonte’s pro model, the Synergy. Fast, slightly stiff tail, long (155), narrow waist, and light-a total Morgan Lafonte piece of machinery-meant for high speeds, steeps, and big mountains.

Other grrl boards I’d add to my “Women’s Boards for the Future” list include Rossignol’s Wave, a snappy, slightly soft little thing, Morrow’s Wildflower, Original Sin’s 151, Burton’s pro deck by Victoria Jealouse with it’s Super Fly II construction (more stable than last year), and of course the Salomon 154, which I already mentioned. This is just a taste of what’s to come next season for women.

Grrls in the Industry:
Although there weren’t a lot of women reps testing equipment at the on-snow show, there were more women present from the softgoods side of the industry than I anticipated. Lisa Palvino, formerly of Original Sin, now Burton’s softgoods gal, was paling around with Wild Women’s Snowboard Camp director, Mary Simmons. And Leah Butler, from Smith, was riding hard with M’Lissa Sampson from Bombshell. Janet Freeman from Betty Rides brought her mom along (who was testing some funky-looking short fat skis) and Jackie DiFilipio from Turtle Fur was all over the mountain testing anything she should fit her feet into.

The consensus from these softgoods gals was that sales were up for women’s clothing in more commercial ski/snowboard shops (not necessarily so in specialty shops) and that women skiers were among the buying populace of what was once considered women’s snowboard clothing only. “It’s skiers that are stoked on Betty Rides these days,” commented Janet Freeman, president of Betty Rides. “They like the silhouettes and fit of our jackets.”

After two more successful Wild Women’s Snowboard Camps this season, director Mary Simmons, popped the news that next year, she will be launching a series of Wild Women Snowboard Camps in three or more locations. Says Simmons: “We’re talking to resorts in California, Colorado, of course Jackson Hole (which is where the camps are presently based) and possibly New England and Whistler. We want to make it more accessible to more campers. I want to take it to the next level and make it a nationally recognized program and put together a team of pro rider instructors. We also want to offer more for advanced riders-the opportunity to ride with some pros and take your skills to a higher level.” The WWSC is currently looking for a media-partner, corporate sponsors, and instructors. For info, call (307) 734-5154; email: Bearsb@aol.com.

Gospel Word:
Deep Clothing founder, Tracy Fong, had a baby (gender unconfirmed at time of writing); Victoria Jealouse broke up with Mike Hatchett (rumor has it he’s desperate to get her back); and Morgan LaFonte’s got a boyfriend and is in love, and less importantly, is hosting advanced snowboard clinics at The Canyons, UT, February 26-March 2; Chamonix, France, March 28-April 4; and Valdez, AK, April 18-26. Call (800) 842-7855 or email www.peakx.com.

Christian Begin, that wacky Canadian filmmaker with the kooky laugh is on the loose, last spotted filming Athena, Morgan, and Victoria in Whistler for his latest grrl flick, “No-Man’s Land.” (“Sizzling Mama’s” being his first grrly film). I’ve seen previews-this thing will rule because unlike other snowboard flicks starring just grrls, it’s got skiing. Yes, I said the s-k-i-word. If you don’t find Victoria Jealouse and Kim Vandeweigh (a skier) carving side-by-side down gnarly peaks in Alberta, graceful, beautiful, and inspiring, than you’re an egghead, sister.

“Sister 7,” the Austin-based band lead by singer Patrice Pike has been spotted riding in the Rocky Mountains. Do yourselves a favor, grrls, buy their “This the Trip” CD. It’s ubiquitous beats will provide insatiable amounts of Walkman-riding pleasure.

Burton’s Martina Magenta, Italy’s highest ranking GS rider, said “No” to the Italian Olympic Snowboard Team and bailed out in protest of the FIS/IOC regulations.

Marguerite Cossettini was back in the bullring of Boardercross after a miserable time at the Winter X Games (see Gospel IX), sweeping her umpteenth Swatch Boardercross victory in Big Bear February 1. Question: Why do you suppose she only won $5,000 for first place when Jason Brown took home double that amount for his first place title? Does this mean Marguerite was only half as good? Or perhaps, it’s just a test, challenging Marguerite to compete in twice as many boardercrosses in a season? I got it: She’s a Girl! Two more Swatch Boardercrosses in America take place February 19-22 at Copper Mountain, CO, and March 6-8 at Mount Snow, VT.

Boarding for Breast Cancer will be bigger than ever this year thanks to the help of our Olympic medal-contenders, Shannon Dunn and Michele Taggart, plus participating riders, Leslee Olson, Tricia Byrnes, Tina Basich, Hillary Mayberry, Kyla Duffy, Aurlie Sayers, Wendy Powell, Noah Brandon, Jason Ford, Joe Curtes, Ron Chiodi, among others. The unconfirmed top-two band candidates include “Rage Against the Machine” and “Veruca Salt,” but you will be the first to know, here, in the land of the Gospel, when the word becomes official. The BBC takes place at Sierra-at-Tahoe, April 18, 1998. Call FUSE at (802) 864-7123 for rider registration, volunteer, or general info.aker with the kooky laugh is on the loose, last spotted filming Athena, Morgan, and Victoria in Whistler for his latest grrl flick, “No-Man’s Land.” (“Sizzling Mama’s” being his first grrly film). I’ve seen previews-this thing will rule because unlike other snowboard flicks starring just grrls, it’s got skiing. Yes, I said the s-k-i-word. If you don’t find Victoria Jealouse and Kim Vandeweigh (a skier) carving side-by-side down gnarly peaks in Alberta, graceful, beautiful, and inspiring, than you’re an egghead, sister.

“Sister 7,” the Austin-based band lead by singer Patrice Pike has been spotted riding in the Rocky Mountains. Do yourselves a favor, grrls, buy their “This the Trip” CD. It’s ubiquitous beats will provide insatiable amounts of Walkman-riding pleasure.

Burton’s Martina Magenta, Italy’s highest ranking GS rider, said “No” to the Italian Olympic Snowboard Team and bailed out in protest of the FIS/IOC regulations.

Marguerite Cossettini was back in the bullring of Boardercross after a miserable time at the Winter X Games (see Gospel IX), sweeping her umpteenth Swatch Boardercross victory in Big Bear February 1. Question: Why do you suppose she only won $5,000 for first place when Jason Brown took home double that amount for his first place title? Does this mean Marguerite was only half as good? Or perhaps, it’s just a test, challenging Marguerite to compete in twice as many boardercrosses in a season? I got it: She’s a Girl! Two more Swatch Boardercrosses in America take place February 19-22 at Copper Mountain, CO, and March 6-8 at Mount Snow, VT.

Boarding for Breast Cancer will be bigger than ever this year thanks to the help of our Olympic medal-contenders, Shannon Dunn and Michele Taggart, plus participating riders, Leslee Olson, Tricia Byrnes, Tina Basich, Hillary Mayberry, Kyla Duffy, Aurlie Sayers, Wendy Powell, Noah Brandon, Jason Ford, Joe Curtes, Ron Chiodi, among others. The unconfirmed top-two band candidates include “Rage Against the Machine” and “Veruca Salt,” but you will be the first to know, here, in the land of the Gospel, when the word becomes official. The BBC takes place at Sierra-at-Tahoe, April 18, 1998. Call FUSE at (802) 864-7123 for rider registration, volunteer, or general info.