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Innovative airbag helmets could be the next big thing in cycling

Posted by Dan Egan April 29, 2013 09:50 PM

A new Swedish helmet, complete with airbags and fashionable enough to be a scarf, is a radical departure from familiar, bulky biking helmets on the market today.

But research shows that innovations in cycling gear could be very trendy in the near future. The inflatable Hovding Helmet, which is worn around the neck and is specifically designed for the cycling commuter, is already selling in Europe and is coming soon to North America.

Invented by two Swedish students, Hovding is covered by a removable shell that can be changed to match an outfit, and new designs will be launching all the time. Hövding is a practical accessory that's easy to carry around, it's got a great-looking, yet subtle, design – plus, it might save your life.

Sensors around the rider's neck can sense a quick or unusual movement and will trigger the helmet to inflate. The sensors read body movements 200 times per second, and when it senses danger, the Hovding helmet inflates like a hood.

There are some draw backs, however, as consumers can not repack the “air bag” once it is deployed.

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The company that manufactures Hovding was recently honored at the Tribeca Film Festival, in partnership with the GE Focus Forward Film Series, which highlights innovative ideas, such as the ergonomic, practical, and subtle Hovding.

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There are plenty of stats that tell us that wearing a helmet while cycling is a good idea. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2011 there were 38,000 cicyclist injuries, and 91 percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren't wearing helmets.

The US Department of Transportation conducted a survey in 2011 which found that the biggest area of accidents on bikes was in traffic. So even though only 5 percnet of the people surveyed were commuters, they were at the greatest risk. The Hovding helmet was designed specifically for commuters, and in test after test, the inflatable helmet rated higher in safety than traditional helmets, when it came to head injuries.

Airbag technology has been revolutionary in other sports as well, such as skiing and snowboarding, where avalanche airbags have a 90 percent survival rate when deployed in avalanches. The inventors of the Hovding helmets are already getting requests from other helmet-wearing sports, such as skate boarders, equine riders and winter riders.

If you just look at the traffic safety data from airbags in cars you can see that this company is onto something big.

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It's hard to argue against innovation especially around safety.

Listen to the entire interview with Anna Haupt, inventor and co-founder of the Hovding Helmet on RadioBDC:

Follow Dan Egan on Twitter at @SkiClinics and Like SkiClinics on Facebook.

Hot skis and cold snow: The Mount Washington Inferno Race

Posted by Dan Egan April 18, 2013 10:01 AM

The famous Mount Washington “American Inferno” race started in 1933. It was a top-to-bottom race from the peak to the valley floor. Toni Matt won the race in 1939 when he “schussed,” or skied head-on, the head wall by accident. It was a foggy spring afternoon and Matt won the 8 mile race in a record time of 6 minutes 29.2 seconds, with an estimated top speed of over 85 miles per hour.

The 2013 race showed just how tough this competition can be, with freezing temps and high winds the competitors battled it out the entire way up and down the mountain, through Tuckerman Ravine.

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Years later, Matt said that when he reached the floor of the headwall, at the transition from steep to relatively flat, he felt lucky to be "nineteen, stupid, and have strong legs."

Charlie Proctor and John Carleton were the first men to ski the steep head wall in 1931. “We skied it out of necessity, simple as that," said Proctor in an interview with me back in 1992. He said he “just wanted to get home.”

Proctor and Carleton's first tracks down the steep, icy face gave birth to a New England tradition and Matt’s record breaking run not only earned him a place in skiing history, but more importantly created international folk lore that exists to this day.

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Friends of Tuckerman Ravine is an organization with a mission to “seek and preserve the historic recreational use of the Tuckerman Ravine and Mount Washington.” And it is in this light they still hold the Tuckerman Inferno pentathlon each year.

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The race is open both to teams of five (one of whom must be of the opposite sex) and to solo TuckerMen and TuckerWomen competitors.

The Tuckerman Inferno pentathlon consists of an 8.3 mile run, a 6 mile kayak race down the Saco River, an 18 mile bike race north through Pinkham Notch, a 3 mile run/hike up the Tuckerman Trail to Mount Washington's Tuckerman Ravine and a 1 mile ski/hike giant slalom to the floor of the ravine.

This is an amazingly hard event, as hard as it was skiing the head wall on wooden skis and leather boots back in 1931.

For the full results of this year's race, check Facebook.

Listen to the interview on the race and on activities on the Saco River on Edging the Xtreme on RadioBDC:

Follow Dan Egan on Twitter at @SkiClinics and Like SkiClinics on Facebook.

Ride Safe, Ride Hard, Avalanches and Survival from New England to the Alps

Posted by Dan Egan April 10, 2013 05:49 PM

Avalanches are serious business. Even a moderate one can knock down trees, destroy houses, and virtually clean out anything in its path. The misconception is that they only happen in the back country. However, last year an avalanche in France wiped out a moving chairlift with 41 people on it.

Here in New England, New Hampshire’s Presidential Range are the most avalanche-prone mountains east of the Rockies. The website for Mount Washington states, “Since 1954 there have been 10 avalanche fatalities and many other avalanche accidents in the Presidential Range. Historical data indicate that avalanche accidents have increased in the past decade, mirroring the national trend in recreation related avalanche accidents in the United States.”

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When it comes to avalanche training and information, most of it can be very technical and sometimes hard to understand, but in the last few years, there has been a trend to focus more of the information toward the growing number of recreational and advanced skiers that are venturing off into the backcountry.

Henry Schniewind has been on the forefront of this movement since the late 1980s, after he graduated from Montana State University with a degree in Snow Science.

Armed with a passion for skiing and his degree, Schniewind moved to Val D'Isere, France, where we carved out a niche for himself by creating awareness for vacationers from around the world on the dangers of avalanches.

What started out as an afternoon presentation at a popular bar in Val D'Isere has grown into a full fledged company that does presentations around the Alps and the United Kingdom. What makes Schniewind's avalanche program so different is his focus on providing useable information for the everyday skier that saves lives from the Alps to New England.

His company motto is “Ride Hard, Ride Safe." On his website, where his main theme is “Safety is Freedom," skiers and riders can find information on weather, conditions around the Alps, access his blog and watch videos all designed to keep skiers and snowboarders on vacation safe.

Schniewind is originally from Newton, Mass. and has a teenager's race at Green Mountain Valley School and at Blue Hills. Once an employee of the former Ski Market retail chain, Schniewind has been recognized as a world-wide leader in avalanche safety. He has given over 750 talks and courses in the last 20 years, including presenting at international snow science conferences. He has published many papers and articles, and is motivated by the fact that that nine out of 10 victims of avalanches trigger the avalanche themselves and their injuries could have been avoided.

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In the Alps each winter there are an average of 100 deaths per year. And when you add up that figure to the deaths in North America and beyond, it's clear that avalanches present real danger. Henry’s Avalanche Talks (HAT) is an easy-to-understand voice amongst the technical and often complicated snow science information that tends to be distributed by avalanche sites and experts.

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Schniewind has been a long-time friend and ski partner of mine for over 30 years and I featured him on my long-running television series Wild World of Winter.

Hear the entire RadioBDC interview with Henry Schniewind on Edging the Xtreme with Dan Egan:

Follow Dan Egan on Twitter at @SkiClinics and Like SkiClinics on Facebook.

Record-breaking, big wave surfer Garrett McNamara

Posted by Dan Egan April 4, 2013 12:42 PM

Garrett McNamara, who also goes by ‘GMAC,’ is an American professional big wave surfer, and extreme waterman, known for breaking the world record for largest wave ever surfed around the world. He has been a passionate surfer since his family moved from Pittsfield, Mass. to the beaches of Hawaii and he has never looked back. McNamara's professional career spans over two decades around the pacific and beyond.

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Don’t let McNamara’s laid-back, surfer persona fool you: as an professional athlete in his mid-forties, an age at which most are thinking of stepping to the sideline, he's ramping it up a notch. His recent world record wave ride in Portugal was on a wave ranging from 90-100 feet in height, and for him it was just another day at work.

That day that was six-plus years in the making. McNamara was tipped off to the wave by an email sent from a small village on the coast of Portugal. A local that wanted to know if the wave, a geographic phenomenon off the coast of Portugal called the North Canyon, was worth riding.

Living with the constant quest of riding the “barrel” or “tube” of the wave, McNamara's adventures include surfing in Alaska on a wave caused by the falling ice of a glacier into the frozen arctic waters. McNamara admits it was "a little crazy, but worth the risk, because the falling ice creates perfect waves."

He credits his survival to planning and fitness along, with his ability to hold his breath. McNamara is currently taking classes so he can surpass his personal best of 4.5 minutes under water.

“You have to survive the beating the wave hands out,” said McNamara, “and sometimes the bottom is a bit rough, like a coral reef, so you really just take a series of breaths whenever you can.”

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Over the past 10 years, McNamara has been on a mission to catch the biggest, best waves on the planet, and he has succeeded. He is arguably the most committed ocean explorer in the world. You can put him in any situation in the water and GMAC is not only ready to go, but go hard!

At 17 years old, McNamara entered and placed in the prestigious Hawaiian Triple Crown Series. Along with his brother Liam, McNamara began to attract the attention of major sponsors and signed deals with a number of prominent brands in Japan. The brothers spent the next 10 years on the competition circuit, traveling and becoming fluent in Japanese. It was the realization of a dream come true for both brothers.

McNamara continued to push the limits of pro surfing, and soon he started to get towed into waves on Personal Water Craft or Jet Skis, which enable surfers to chase down and catch giant waves that were thought to be impossible, beyond the reach of surfers paddling with their bare hands.

Predictably, McNamara couldn't leave well enough alone. He is still on a mission to explore the world’s oceans for the best and biggest waves Mother Nature has to offer.

Listen to the complete Garrett McNamara interview on Edging the Xtreme on Radio BDC with Dan Egan. GMAC talks about surviving the white water of his world record ride and compares it to riding on a moving avalanche of snow.

Follow Dan Egan on Twitter at @SkiClinics and Like SkiClinics on Facebook.

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