The Design story of the Saddle Peak ski pack

Published 2008-11-04

Prototypes in Process. Photo by Mark Seacat

You could say that many of us here at “The Ranch” are obsessed with skiing. Bozeman has roughly 4-5 months of stoke season and 7 of pure bliss. Before the snow really began to build up this year, Kyle, Kenzie, and I wanted to add something special to the Mystery Ranch ski pack line. Coincidently, a new lift expansion at Bridger Bowl has changed the one-hour hike to the top of the aesthetic Saddle Peak into a 20-minute affair. We decided to develop a new ski pack to commemorate the new era that is about to commence at Bridger Bowl. The nature of the new terrain necessitates avalanche gear, and Bridger is requiring it to get on the lift. The need for a pack that combined features for both inbounds and backcountry riding fueled our desire to design a pack and provided a creative platform with specific design goals.

These were the primary design features we wanted the Saddle Peak Pack to have:

  1. Quick, easy and secure access to avy gear.
  2. A ski carrying system that is quick, stable and easy to operate that accommodates even the widest skis.
  3. A design that will not ride up while skiing or skinning.
  4. A lightweight and narrow profile for optimal balance when skiing, hiking and riding comfortably on the chair.

Our owners Dana and Renee have been building packs for over 30 years. In turn, Mystery Ranch is a company filled with history. This history is contained in not only the darkest confines of our building, but also in our extensive pattern and prototype archives. These archives give us the ability to mix and match ideas using proven designs to create the best and most innovative backpacks in the world. We decided to start this project using our current all-purpose ski pack, the Ridge Pack.

We really like some features the Ridge Pack has to offer; it carries skis like a champion because of the foam-lined structure. However, this makes the pack heavy and bulky for some situations. We used the same shape and design of the shovel compartment as the Ridge pack, but removed the foam and tailored the design to lay flat to the back. This instantly made the pack both thinner and lighter. Just taking out the foam was not enough to reduce the depth of the pack, so we decided to make the pack taller. This spreads the cubic inches vertically instead of dorsally keeping the load flat against your back.

Waistbelt design and construction, an extremely important component, developed fairly quickly. Using Dana’s proven waistbelt designs as a model, Kyle made some small modifications to customize it to this style of pack. He dropped the foam in an effort to make the pack lighter, added a little zippered pocket with an internal clasp for keys or your pass, and linked it to the corners of the pack so that when tensioned, it conforms to your waist. This created a stellar, low profile, and lightweight waistbelt that locks to you far better than any other ski pack.

Durability was also another issue that we wanted to confront. Ski edges are notorious for destroying fabric. To solve this problem, we decided to resurrect something used frequently during the Dana Design days. Dana Design made a small ski pack that we have hanging in our showroom archive. It has a diagonal strip of Hypalon (a very abrasion resistant material) across the back panel. A Hypalon strip across the shovel pocket, and BAM! – problem solved. We also added Hypalon reinforcement to the lower compression straps to securely accommodate a snowboard.

The crux of the pack turned out to be the avy gear pocket. No other pack has done it perfectly. If this pack was to fulfill our hopes and dreams, this technical detail was something we had to nail. Ideally everything would be as self-contained as possible, so that even during the worst cartwheeling wreck or the biggest jaw-rattling drop, your gear would not go flying into space or smack you in the back of the head. Say no to blunt force trauma!

Mark, a climber, skier, hunter, and lover of the Crew Cab pack, suggested that we copy the arcing zipper of the hydration pocket used on his favorite Mystery Ranch design. Yet again, Mark eloquently demonstrated that the Crew Cab is the solution to just about any problem! We knew this design was field tested, very easy to use and provided quick access to the space. Kyle traced the pattern, and it fit and worked perfectly. Inside the zipper, Kyle installed three tubular sleeves to house a probe, shovel handle, and snow saw. We lovingly refer to this part of the pack as the “tombstone” (because of the shape, not the contents). As an added bonus the avy pocket will also fit most small shovel blades. The access is clean, simple, organized and fast.

We are ridiculously excited by the end product. All of our gear testers have given the pack nothing short of an A+. This simple design has exceeded our expectations in every way. The pack carries even the widest skis extremely well and has proved to be virtually invisible when skiing and skinning. The panel loading design is easy to access and the volume is perfect for inbounds skiing and side-country excursions. The avy pocket and shovel pocket combination work with all types and sizes of gear.

Saddle Up!”