Congrats to Sari on her national championships victory!

A big shout out to goes to our Athlete Advisory Board member, Sari Anderson, on her victory last Saturday at the U.S. Ski Mountaineering National Championships!

The annual race in Jackson Hole, WY is one of the longest-running randonee races in the country, celebrating its 12th year last weekend. Using ultralight skis and boots with nylon skins that affix to the bottom of their skis to go uphill, racers climbed and descended over 8,000 vertical feet on and off-piste at the Jackson Holes ski area. Polartec Advisory Board member and mother of two, Sari Anderson, finished second in the National Champs last year after some equipment issues so she was back for redemption this year. Facing the most competitive field of women ever assembled on US soil snow, Sari had a flawless race this year and claimed the national championships in three hours and four minutes, a commanding eight-minute victory over the next woman.

Read more about her race here.

Sari and men's national champion, Luke Nelson

UTMB Photo and Video Retrospective

Last week, Polartec was once again a proud sponsor of the The North Face® Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc in Chamonix, France. Widely considered to be one of the most difficult trail running races in the world, the event is actually a week-long series of four different races, together traveling through three countries and seven valleys, alongside 71 glaciers and cresting 400 summits around the Mont-Blanc massif. The four races include:

UTMB® (Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®) : considered the “queen” race of the event. 2,500 participants, 170km and 9,700m of positive altitude change. 46 hour time limit.
TDS® (sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie): 122 km and 7,100m of positive altitude change. 1,200 Participants. 31 hour time limit.
CCC® (Courmayer – Chamonix- Courmayer): 98km and 5,600m of positive altitude change and 1,800 participants. Time limit is 26 hours.
PTL® (la Petite Trotte à Léon): TEAM RACE made up of 2/3 people. 300 km and 25,000m of positive altitude change. Limit is 138h and 80 teams (teams need to stay together for the whole loop).

This year all UTMB finishers received a finisher vest from The North Face, made with Polartec® Power Dry® High Efficiency fabric. It’s a symbolic gift that the runners will wear with pride for years to come.

Polartec would like to send a big shout out to its own David Gatti, Director of Military Business for Europe, who completed the TDS in 25 hours and 45 minutes, finishing 351st out of 1,200 runners. Of course, David wore a complete Polartec layering system (Power Dry T-shirt, Power Dry High Efficiency longsleeves, Neoshell Jacket). Congrats to David on his second UTMB finish!

To read a complete recap of the race, check out and the North Face Journal.

Enjoy some photos and video from the UTMB below.

Turk and Boomer complete first Ellesmere Island circumnavigation

We’re excited to see the news that Polartec Challenge Grant winners Erik Boomer and Jon Turk have arrived at Grise Fiord, completing the first ever circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island. The pair traveled 1,485  miles in 104 days – skiing on rigid fast ice, jumping from flow to flow on moving pack ice and finally paddling through ice choked water.

Jon Turk photo from May

According to the expedition blog, Jon can hardly walk and Boomer’s feet are swollen two sizes, but they were always in great spirits despite over 100 days of being wet, salty, and cold.

This is a tremendous accomplishment, especially considering that just one month before leaving, the third member of the expedition, Tyler Bradt, had to cancel his trip after breaking his back kayaking over a waterfall. Turk and Boomer had never met in person prior to the trip.

We’re excited to hear more about the trip and see some of the beautiful images we’re sure they captured. We also want further explanation of this blog entry: Text: “bad boy bear bites hole in tent while we sleep and 5 of his buddies watch”

Stay tuned for more once Jon and Erik get back to the mainland.

Also, we’re now accepting applications for the 2012 Polartec Challenge Grant. Apply here.

Polartec Athlete Advisory Board Hard at Work in Chamonix

The weather in Chamonix provided ideal conditions to test fabric waterproofing.

For the 11 world-class climbers, skiers, mountaineers, runners, explorers and adventure racers on the Polartec Athlete Advisory Board, there’s perhaps nothing as painful as sitting under the fluorescent bulbs of a conference room for an eight-hour meeting. But, if that meeting will result in warmer, drier and lighter fabrics that help them perform faster, longer and more efficiently, they’re happy to put in the time. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if that meeting takes place in the international capital of mountain sports – Chamonix, France.

Polartec president Andy Vecchione addresses the group

This past week, the Polartec Advisory Board members traveled from around the world to Chamonix, carrying stacks of prototype baselayers, insulating layers and weather protection jackets they’ve been testing for past 6-12 months. The athletes joined a team of Polartec product developers and company leaders, including Polartec president Andy Vecchione and VP Jon Adelman, for a marathon meeting to discuss the latest in fabric technologies.

The athlete group, which was instrumental in the development of both Polartec Power Shield Pro and Polartec NeoShell fabrics, has been testing a wide variety of exciting new (and top-secret) Polartec innovations. The group has put those fabrics through the proverbial ringer, evaluating them for warmth, breathability, waterproofness and overall comfort. The athletes shared their opinions on their test garments and talked about what they would like to see in the next iteration of prototypes.

We can’t share exactly what innovations are coming from Polartec in the future, but based upon the enthusiasm at the end of the Athlete Advisory Board meeting, we can assure you that there are some really exciting, ground-breaking fabrics in the pipeline.

Climber Bill Belcourt talks about some of his favorite layers

Adventure racer Laurent Vallete shares his thoughts on a prototype Polartec fleece fabric

Climber Gord Betenia does a simple breathability check

Mountaineer Antoine Barthelemy compares two prototype garments

Skier Nick Devore pulls out a baselayer he hadn’t washed in months to test odor control. Antoine and Kelly Cordes show their dissaproval.

The Board found sunshine in nearby Courmayer, Italy.

Putting Power Shield Pro to the Ultimate Test

Sari and her race partner Pete Gaston happy to be home in Aspen

The Elk Mountains Grand Traverse is a 40-mile backcountry ski race that starts at midnight in Crested Butte and finishes in Aspen, CO. When it comes to fabrics and layering, there’s no better test for warmth, weather protection and breathabilty. Every year racers invariably have to contend with sub-freezing temperatures, howling winds and whiteout snow conditions, combined with brutally long, sweaty climbs followed by bone-chilling descents.

This past weekend, Polartec Athlete Advisory Board member, Sari Anderson made history at the race, finishing as one of two women on the podium for the first time in the event’s 14-year history. Sari is a professional adventure racer, mountain biker and ski mountaineer and this year’s race put all her skills to the test. You can read her full race recap here, but the condensed version is that she raced super-strong – breaking trail through over a foot of fresh snow for the lead teams for miles on end. She and her partner finished in third place overall, in just over nine hours.

One thing Sari didn’t have to worry about at this year’s race was her layering system. Here’s an excerpt from her race report:

Sari breaking trail along Richmond Ridge

Overall, my set-up performed beautifully, but there were a couple of standouts. First of all, I wore an awesome new jacket from Patagonia called the Knifeblade. It’s a minimalistic, anorak-style jacket made from Polartec Power Shield Pro – essentially a lightweight pullover softshell. While I watched almost everyone in the race shed layers on the climbs and then layer up for the descents, I never took the Knifeblade off. It kept me warm and completely dry while it snowed for the first few hours of the race, but breathed well enough so I didn’t overheat once the sun finally came out. Full disclosure – I’m on the Polartec Athlete Advisory Board – but this truly was the best aerobic outerlayer I’ve ever tried.

Another truly impressive bit of gear for this race were my gloves. My friend Doug Heinrich, the glove product director at Black Diamond, sent me a pair of Impulse gloves (made from Polartec Power Shield) to try and they were awesome. I wore them the entire race and my hands never got too hot nor cold.

Congratulations to Sari!

The Patagonia Knifeblade jacket, available in August 2011.

Sari with her daughter at the finish line.

Announcing the 2011 Polartec Challenge Grant Recipients

(from L to R) Andy Vecchione (Polartec President), Janet Bergman, Tyler Bradt, Mike Libecki

Polartec is pleased to announce the recipients of its 20th annual Polartec Challenge Grant. Four separate expeditions will receive funding and support from Polartec to 2011: a solo climbing exploration in the remote northern Russian Arctic, a first-time circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, a women’s climbing first ascent attempt in the Indian Karakoram and a two-man first ascent attempt in the Charakusa Valley of Pakistan.

”Polartec is proud to have supported adventures and exploration around the globe for 20 years now,” states Global Director of Marketing, Nate Simmons. “The 2011 Challenge Grant recipients epitomize all the trips we have supported over the years and exemplify Polartec’s commitment to innovation and expanding our perception of what’s possible.”

Mike Libecki

The first Polartec Challenge Grant recipient is solo expedition specialist Mike Libecki. Libecki, who has explored many of the last remaining corners of virgin Earth to climb dozens of first ascents, will this time travel to a remote and restricted corner of northern Russia above the Arctic Circle to climb walls that have never been explored before. Libecki will be dropped off by a Russian icebreaker and then have to ski and paddle over 50 miles of sea ice and open ocean on a homemade rig to reach his climbing destination. The trip will be the culmination of over six years of planning and reconnaissance.

Jon Turk

The next grant recipient is the team of Jon Turk, Tyler Bradt and Erik Boomer that will together attempt the first complete circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, one of the closest points of land to the North Pole. The expedition will travel over 1,400 miles across treacherous moving sea ice, glaciers and rocky coastline using kayaks, skis and sleds to complete the journey.

Janet Bergman

The third Polartec Challenge Grant recipient is a first ascent attempt of a 6,135-meter unnamed peak deep within the Indian Karakoram by an all-star team of female climbers. The team consists of pro climber and Polartec Athlete Advisory Board member Janet Bergman, Chamonix-based mountain guide Zoe Hart and Alaskan guide Kirsten Kremer. The unnamed peak is located on the eastern edge of the ‘Line of Control’ between India and Pakistan and the team plans an alpine style ascent to the summit in one light, fast, free push.

Kelly CordesThe final grant recipient, Kelly Cordes, actually received the award last year, but had to postpone his expedition because of an injury. Cordes, who is also a member of Polartec’s Athlete Advisory Board, and his climbing partner Kyle Dempster will travel to Pakistan’s Charakusa Valley, home to massive technical peaks including K6 and K7, along with scores of unclimbed rock and ice objectives, to attempt the first ascent of an unnamed rock spire. The 6,200-meter spire, near K7, has been attempted several times and its virgin summit remains an objective that requires the rare combination of high-end rock skills, tenacity and high-altitude mixed-climbing.

In addition to the grant money, all of this year’s Polartec® Challenge winners will be fully outfitted with Polartec® garments, designed to keep them warm, comfortable and dry in the harshest of climates.

About the Polartec® Challenge Grant
The annual Polartec® Challenge Grant seeks to assist frugal, low impact teams who respect the local culture and environment and serve as role models to outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. Applications are evaluated on the basis of their vision, commitment and credibility. Past recipients of the Polartec® Challenge Grant include outdoor pioneers and adventurers such as Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Steve House, Marko Prezelj, Andrew McLean and John Shipton.

Polartec Challenge Grant Deadline Approaching

Polartec Challenge Grant winner Greg Hill

Are you the kind of person that thinks climbing and skiing two million vertical feet in one year sounds like fun? How about climbing the Seven Summits, all before you turn the age of 18? What about riding your bike for months on end, along the ancient (and potentially perilous) Silk Road through Asia? If you’ve got a dream for big adventure, Polartec wants to hear about it – and potentially help you make it happen with the annual Polartec Challenge Grant. Since 1991, Polartec has assisted over 100 expeditions around the world.  We builds fabrics to withstand every kind of climate and we want to support adventures that put our products to the test.

16-year-old Jordan Romero on his Seven Summits quest

The deadline for the annual Polartec Challenge Grant is just over a week away (Jan. 15) and we’re still on the hunt for good applications.

“The Polartec® Challenge Grant seeks to assist frugal, low impact teams who respect the local culture and environment and serve as role models to outdoor enthusiasts worldwide. Applications are evaluated on the basis of vision, commitment, educational and cultural value.” Apply for the grant here. Read a press release about the selection process here. Tell your friends!