" I'm guessing that the new equipment might have something to do with the crowds. "
No question about that--EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING-- wool knickers, or air force flight pants, wool sweaters and shirts, Dachstein mitts, Sierra Design 60/40 parka and wool balaclavas were a lot heavier, bulkier and more "manly" ( and a lot less waterproof or windproof, although once the knickers, parka and dachsteins were snow saturated and frozen stiff they were windproof
)-- the funk while trying to dry out later in the Harvard Cabin or a bar was a rare delight that had to be experienced! Many of us also wore cotton T-necks under all that, even before LL was around to advise us! lol I wonder why there were so few women in the sport then!!