Thursday morning we gathered together in the OmniHub, buzzing with a nervous excitement as we anticipated learning what the OmniGames would be. We munched on our bagels and coffee while Scott from Columbia got up and started talking. I think we all assumed we would be hearing about the games, but in true Columbia style we were surprised with another announcement first: TurboDown!
I first read about Columbia’s new technology a couple of months ago over at Gear Junkie. This is Columbia’s new hybrid down jacket that combines the wonderful qualities of down with their OmniHeat Reflective and Thermal Insulation technologies. When put together in this way, they end up with a jacket that has preliminarily measured 8 to 22% warmer than their closest competition. Although it isn’t available in retail until September, we were handed our very own jackets to test out! Still in prototype stage, I’m looking forward to providing some feedback on this amazing jacket!
After suiting up in our matchy-matchy TurboDown, we piled into vans and headed to a mystery location. We ended up at a ranch where two things immediately caught my attention: a lineup of snowmobiles (remember the waiver?) and a bunch of sled dogs! Queue squees of excitement. The snow was coming down hard but I was happy and cozy in my new jacket!
Inside, we were given another presentation, starting with:
“The #OmniTen began as a challenge. We challenged ourselves to find ten people who love the outdoors as much as we do. We challenged ourselves to face reality by asking for honest product feedback. We challenged ourselves to create a dialog with people who inspire us, people who push us, and people who live the #TryingStuff lifestyle.”
….and now it’s time for us to challenge you.
Yes, Columbia was turning things around a bit and putting us to the test! Over the next days we would have ten activities to test our skills. We would be paired up in sets of two, and the prize? The top 5 of 15 teams will be going to Jordan with Columbia Sportswear in April. After seeing several friends go there last year, I knew this was an amazing prize and these games would be hard-fought!
The first five activities would happen this day at the Ranch, while the others would happen the following day and beyond. In order to maximize fairness in teams, they separated us by Summer vs Winter. Each winter person stepped forward and drew a summer person’s name from a hat. I felt like a kid not being picked for the dodgeball team as name after name was drawn and I wasn’t picked. There was an imbalance in the seasons, and at the end there were two summer person names left without a winter pairing. One was me, and the other was Julie from Peanut Butter Fingers.
Remember how I said snow isn’t my thing? Well, Julie is from Florida and it’s kind of not her thing either. We were definitely the underdogs and deemed ourselves Team Florifornia. Our goal was to have fun, try some new stuff, and see where we ended up!
Up First: Needle in an Avalanche
Teams were scattered to different activities, and we started with this. It was a straightforward task, and one I had actually practiced in the past: searching for a beacon in the snow. Other than falling flat on my face on my first step into the deep snow, we did quite well and found our beacon in far under 1 minute.
Second: Dog Days of Winter
OMG I GOT TO RIDE A DOG SLED YOU GUYS!!!! I can’t even explain how exciting this was. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and this gave me the opportunity to check something off my bucket list. We sat as a team in the sled while the musher ‘drove’ the dogs and talked to us about dogsledding. The pups were mostly rescue dogs from a group that his wife runs, and they all live in the house with them! The dogs were so energetic and excited as they were getting hooked up to run, and the minute we took off they were silent and focused. You could see how much they loved being out there, and in fact, as we came back to the start the musher was saying it is the hardest time to control them since they want to turn around and keep running.
At the end, we had a written quiz about the topics we talked about – terms for turning left and right, terms for the harness elements, and more. I took a quick video as we pulled back into the ranch.
Third Task: Snowmobile Drive-By
In this task, we drove snowmobiles out to a distant meadow and did archery in a whiteout snow storm. Crazy! This task included another first for me, because despite being from Northern Michigan, I have never driven a snowmobile. We were given quick instruction and soon I was zooming along at 30 mph. Whee!
At the archery site we had one practice shot and three shots that counted for points. My practice shot and first shot bounced off the front of the target. Whaa? I missed my second shot. On the third, I got it in the black. Wooo! Extra points!
The Final Tasks: Hot Chocolate Run and Our House
The final two tasks were lumped together. In the first, we had to start a fire, boil a pot of water (from snow) and make some hot cocoa in 20 minutes. All we were given was some newspaper, some kindling, a magnesium flint, and steel knife. I was confident with this one since I’ve started fires with these tools before. Unfortunately, the storm wasn’t dissipating and despite our hardest tries, as soon as we would get a nice sparking pile of magnesium shavings they would get blown away or the newspaper would be too wet to catch. We were definitely not the only ones to fail – most teams messed this one up!
Next, we had to build a shelter in 20 minutes with limited tools. The story was that we were out backcountry skiing and got lost in a whiteout. We had to make a shelter that would protect us from the overnight winter storm with only the tools provided. We had two birch logs, a tarp, a shovel, and some rope. Julie and I quickly went to work and had the same vision. Using a leaning tree we built a super sturdy tripod with the provided two logs. We wrapped the tarp around it and insulated it by shoveling snow out from underneath and putting it over the edges. We both easily fit under it, it withstood the wind test (being shaken violently), and we even had time to do some decorating. If only we got throw pillows!
By the end of the day everyone was grinning and exhausted! I couldn’t believe how warm and dry I was after spending all day outside in a snowstorm. The TurboDown is legit! We shuttled back to the hotel to quickly change and get ready for the evening festivities. What were those festivities? This post is already long enough, you’ll have to wait!