You’re out on the hill with your crew having an awesome day and it invariably happens. Someone either gets ditched ’cause they’re slow or makes a wrong turn and ends up at some remote lift with none of the posse in sight. Even at a relatively small hill this can be a pain in the ass, sending you riding around aimlessly, conspicuously solo, hoping you’ll see them or they’ll find you before too long. But at a big resort like Vail or Whistler, this can be a real needle in the haystack situation, with slim possibilities for that lucky rendezvous. Fortunately, the modern world is loaded with communication solutions specifically designed for just these kinds of problems.
Your own vocal chords: The most basic and commonly used comm device is without a doubt your big mouth-although hollerin’ from the lift certainly has its limitations. You’ve obviously got to be somewhat near the intended recipient to be heard. Out of sight, and you’re likely out of luck. The other negative is that it’s pretty annoying to be near someone bellowing with all their might at their friends. Others might take exception to your excessive loudness and want to stuff your beanie in your pie-hole just to quiet you down.
Two-way radios: The most common electronic communication device is the modern walkie-talkie. These handheld wireless devices were huge, heavy battery eaters that might have a half-mile range on their best day ever. But these days, they’re small, powerful, sophisticated tools with an eight mile or greater range. The really good ones like the Motorola TalkAbout have been designed specifically with snowboarding in mind, featuring rubber-molded handles and big controls for easy gripping and operating with gloves on. Push the call button: ring-ring, yo-yo-yo, and all is good with the world again. But there is, of course, a downside-lots of random chatter, and the occasional aggro, “Get off this frequency or I’ll bust your face!” types. Not to mention everyone gets to hear your conversation.
Two-way cell phones: I’ve recently seen more usage of cell phone/walkie-talkie devices. You get the same benefits of the stock two-way radio with the additional ability to make and receive phone calls on the hill. Obviously, a good cell signal at your mountain is essential for this tech to work, but for good or ill, that’s becoming more commonplace every day. A real benefit with this device is the private line. Conversations are between you, and the person on the other end (and any lurkers hanging about). They’re not so well designed for gloved use, so your hand may get kinda chilly pushing those little buttons. So put the glove back on and go ride.
Bluetooth: The bloody cutting edge of mobile communications is the latest in “wearable” technology incorporating Bluetooth networking. Examples include Oakley’s RazorWire glasses, Burton’s Audex system, and RED’s Tantrum G1 helmet. All these devices use the miracle of Bluetooth to allow hands-free communication wherever you happen to be. This tech is simply the dopest shit ever and will become more so with every passing second. Currently, it’s pretty spendy to drop into this brave new world, but if you’ve got that kind of scratch, the tech is there.
Burton Men’s Audex Welded Cargo in mocha, $600, burton.com
Good communication is the difference between perfect cliff drops like this and 300-foot sheer drops into crevasses. Victoria Jealouse. Haines, Alaska. Photo: Adam Clark