Chicks Gear Review: Skhoop Skirts Rock!

SkhoopLet me introduce my favorite piece of clothing: the Skhoop Down Skirt. It’s the original insulated skirt, brought to you fromSkhoop’s home of Sweden, but well-established in the US now, via Anchorage, AK.  These skirts are fun, smart cold-climate wear for active women.  Oh, you think it’s not technical wear?  Stand corrected, this piece accompanies me into the ice park, onto the ski lift, and to the rock walls.  Along with my puffy, this skirt comes out of my pack as soon as I finish a climb and the temps drop.  For such a relatively small and lightweight piece of clothing, it does wonders in keeping my core temperature up.

Here’s the beta: The skirt has one complete side zip, allowing you to easily put it on over your layers, for example your climbing pants and even your harness.  The opposite side-zip opens partially, so you can keep the bottom edge of your skirt loose enough to be comfortable skiing, walking for making some outdoor yoga moves.  The front edge is scooped for a flattering look.  The short version of the down skirt stops just above the knees, keeping my bum and my upper legs toasty warm. This skirt is so much fun to wear and it makes me feel cozy.  If I haven’t convinced you yet, you might just have to Skhoop one up and try it!

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Chicks Gear Review: Marmot ROM Jacket

Written by: Karen Bockel

Wow! I have a day off, and while I am sitting on my couch, I mean in my office, catching up on computer work I noticed that today was the first day that I haven’t worn my ROM Marmot Jacket.  I got my official Chicks Marmot jacket on the first day of our Sampler Clinic in the middle on January, then took it straight to an avalanche course and on to Hokkaido, Japan for the Chicks In Deep powder skiing trip.  ROM has been my second skin every day, whether on the ice or in the snow.

Marmot ROM JacketThe Windstopper material is great for keeping wind and weather out while ice climbing. I tend to get cold when I am out in the Ouray Ice Park teaching all day, so when I ordered the Marmot ROM, I asked for size L, even though I am only 5’7” tall.  I love that I can wear a fleece hoody underneath the ROM, and that it stays tucked into my harness.  It’s strechy, so it allows me to swing my tools without restriction.  The leaves are long enough to cover the cuffs of my gloves.  The hood fits over my helmet, great for when it’s windy or snowy.

When I took the ROM to Japan last week, it performed exceptionally well on the trail. We earned our turns there, spending a lot of our days on the up trail.  I loved the water-resistant yet breathable protection of the ROM in the moist (and often snowy) air of Hokkaido.  At the top of a climb, I would add my Marmot Puffy on top and be good to go for the down.  I like simple systems that function in a variety of conditions.  For me, the Marmot ROM exemplifies function and comfort.  Oh, and did I mention the color?  Red and red go well with my complexion!!

Just in case you’re wondering, I did take the ROM off to sleep at night.

Written by Karen Bockel, Chicks Co-Owner and Guide, and Head of the Powder Research Department (actually, Chicks Guide Angela Hawse might be vying for that title, too. That’s ok, I keep good company 🙂

How to Stay Warm on a Cold Winter Adventure

Written by: Karen Bockel

Staying warm on Ham and Eggs

Cold day on Ham and Eggs.

Brrr! Over the New Year, we had many cold, cold days in Colorado and Wyoming.  A strong inversion kept the valley in cold fog with temperatures below -10F.  Even with the sun on your face, the bitter cold air had a bite on any skin exposed, and it was hard to stay warm when you were out all day in subzero temps.   It made me think of how important to was to be prepared when I went to work teaching skiing on the Jackson Hole Mountain resort during those days.  Here are a few tips to keep warm in the mountains in winter:

Layer up.  I know our Captain Kitty Calhoun taught you that you need only four layers:  baselayer, insulating layer, shell to keep wind, snow and ice out, and lastly a warm puffy coat that fits over everything.  Well, you should have seen our Mixtress Climber Dawn Glanc walk to the gym one of those cold mornings, I think she probably had seven layers on!  An extra layer or two of the insulating variety can go a long way, but make sure that they fit with your other layers (no, I don’t mean they all have to be purple), rather they need to work within your layering system.  These days, I often wear a baselayer, a fleece hoody, and then a light puffy jacket underneath my shell.

Dawn layered up!

Dawn layered up!

Don’t Sweat.  If you are performing a strenuous activity such as hiking uphill to your ice climbing destination or carrying your skis up a long boot pack, it is important to regulate your body temperature before you start to sweat.  If your skin and therefore your underlayers get wet, you can loose heat a lot more quickly because water is a good conductor and leads heat away from your body.  Do your best to take of some of those warm layers before you get too hot.

Break time means puffy coat on.  As soon as you lower down from a climb or take a snack and water break during your ski tour, put a warm layer on.  This will keep your body heat insulated before your furnace slows down and you cool off too much.  Missing this window takes a lot of energy and jumping jacks to reverse.

A warm core keeps your feet and hands warm.  Especially for women, it can be hard to keep hands and toes warm in the winter.  Start with keeping for core warm.  Also, have an extra pair of gloves to change into for skiing downhill of for belaying your partner.  My friend Carol Baker (she coming to Japan for her first Chicks trip) uses this trick:  In the morning, she cracks open a pair of Grabber Handwarmers and pre-loads them into her extra gloves in her backpack.  When she pulls them out to wear, they are toasty warm already.   When I go skiing on a cold day, I stick some Grabber toewarmers on the outside of my ski socks, right over of my toes.  That way, they don’t bunch up underfoot when I ski, and they get more air flow to stay warmer.  These little patches are a lifesaver on cold days!

Toprope Ice Climbing – Why It’s Different Than Rock

OurayIceParkChickswithPicksWow, the snow is flying, ice is forming, and winter is here!  It’s December, and the ice climbing season is starting.  The Ouray Ice Park is slated to open December 19, just a few short weeks away.  This is a great time to review a few skills related to toprope or slingshot belay set-ups for ice climbing, and think about the differences between rock and ice (don’t worry, if you ask the Captain Kitty Calhoun, there is really not too much of a difference, and you’re just extending your season either way you look at it).

Ice – A low friction environment!

If you have been busy rock climbing this fall, and have been toproping on rock, it is worth remembering that ice provides a low friction environment.   When the rope runs over the rock, a fair amount of friction is in the system, which is taking part of the weight of the climber on the other end of your toprope belay that you have to counterbalance when you hold her.  In ice climbing, there is very little friction between the rope and the ice.  Therefore, you, the belayer, take the full brunt of the system.   With this in mind, practice these good habits:

– Use a back-tie anchor for the belayer.

– Always keep a strong hand on the brake strand of the rope.  Using gloves can help your grip, and having a back-up belayer is great, too.

– Communicate with loud and clear commands between climber and belayer.

– Pay close attention to avoid slack (which can lead to higher forces) in the system.

ModerateWallChickswithPicksIce – Heavy things fall down on me!!

Coming from rock season where it is much more customary to be belaying right underneath the climber for the best angle of taking the weight of the climber, it is important to remember that ice breaks and shatters and falls…  and often in big chunks, right down to the base of the climb!  So, keep out of the impact zone!  Find a protected belay spot away from the fall line of the climb.  Use these techniques:

– Use a back-tie anchor.  When you belay away from the cliff, the rope angle is your vector of force.  A back-tie anchor keeps you from getting pulled forward or sideways.

– Watch for open water in the canyon.  In the Ouray Ice Park (OIP), you often climb on one side of the river and belay on the other.  Manage your rope carefully, tie in a secure spot, and look for safe crossings.

– When you climb, alert your belayer and other bystanders of falling things by yelling “ICE!!”

InstructionChickswithPicksAll us Chicks guides are excited for the upcoming ice climbing season. For us, the Ouray Ice Park is not only a great training ground and fantastic ice climbing venue but really the home of Chicks with Picks.  This is the place where Kim Reynolds started our company 17 years ago, and where we still go strong today. So many of our ice climbing days are spent in the park, and we have come have a special relationship with the OIP over the years.  A great way to support the OIP is by becoming a member, check out their website for more information.

Chicks with Picks is offering three women’s ice climbing events in the Ouray Ice Park this winter.  First up is The Sampler Jan. 22-25, followed by The Complete Jan. 27-31, and ending with The Jiffy Feb. 19-21.  Every event offers all the Chicks clinic levels 1- 5.  All our clinic levels are designed to build on each other, giving you a great foundation to be a well-rounded ice climber.  The OIP is a great location to progress your skill level. Come join us at one of our clinics, we look forward to seeing you in the Ice Park this winter!

Written by: Karen Bockel.
In 2010, Karen began guiding on the West Buttress of Denali and now guides year-round in the mountains.  Karen is an AMGA Certified Rock and Certified Ski Guide, is Avalanche Level III certified, and is a member of the Search and Rescue Team in San Miguel County, Colorado.


Prep For The Ski Season

Snow is coming - are you ready?

Snow is coming – are you ready?

Written by Karen Bockel

There is a winter storm warning in effect in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and the Eastern Sierra. El Nino is just about to visit you!  Chicks is psyched for the snow to fly, and we want you to be ready for the first powder day of the season.  Here a few things you can do ahead of time to be sure you’re first out the door when the snow is building up and the mountains are calling.

1) Give your skis some love. If you didn’t have storage wax on them over the summer, then clean your bases and give them a nice thick coat of wax to sink in for several days.  Get the burrs off the edges from the last spring, and check your bindings for settings, rust, and broken parts.  Or, take ‘em to the ski shop for a pre-season tune.

2) Have a look at your ski boots. Check the buckles, soles, and straps.  I often end up with a fairly worn liner at the end of a season, and might replace it for the next.  Sometimes, just re-heating a thermo-fit liner can improve the fit of your boots.

3) Take your skins out and pull them open to check them. Remove any debris from the glue, trim loose flaps, and re-glue with gold seal if you see dry patches.

4) Dust off your avi gear. Collect your shovel and probe and assemble them to check their functionality.  Get new batteries and install them in your beacon.  Go through a function check with your beacon.

5) Convert your backpack into backcountry ski mode. Pack your avi gear, goggles, an extra warm jacket, a pair of gloves, and a water bottle into your pack.  Add your ski repair kit, a couple hand warmers, and sunscreen.  Then set your pack in the mudroom, ready to go then snow starts to fly.

Interested in taking your skiing to the next level?  Check out our Chicks with Stix programs!

Karen Bockel is an AMGA Certified Rock and Ski Guide and a new proud owner of Chicks.


Chicks Gear Review: Asolo 6B+ GV

Written by: Karen Bockel

The Asolo Women's 6B+ GV - Karen's go-to alpine boot.

The Asolo Women’s 6B+ GV – Karen’s go-to alpine boot.

If ice climbing in the Alpine is your thing, then look no further! The Asolo Women’s 6B+ GV is a rare boot that can do it all on a long adventure in the mountains.

With just enough rocker in the sole, as well as specific shock absorbing materials in the midsole, approaching the climb feels comfortable and easy on the feet. The boot soles grip well on rocky slopes, giving you a secure stance.  Most importantly, the Asolo 6B weighs in at a less then a kilo, these boots don’t slow you down, keeping you fresh and ready for the challenge.

When you arrive at the snow, fear not. These boots keep your feet warm and dry with Gore-Tex insulation.  The comfortable yet secure fit allows enough ankle flex to use perfect French Technique on steep snow and ice.  And then for the highlight, climbing pitch after pitch of vertical blue ice:  This is where the 6B+ really shines.  The rigid sole holds the crampons on securely, delivering great power when you are kicking your feet into the ice.  Snug lacing below the ankle and a women-specific last provide precision and efficiency, making every kick a score.  Bliss!  These are my boots of choice when I am walking to the dance.

Karen Bockel is an AMGA Certifies Rock and Ski Guide and a new proud owner of Chicks.

Karen enjoying ice in her Asolos!

Karen enjoying ice in her Asolos!