Over the last couple years, a number of friends and acquaintances have lobbied to get me into back country skiing (BC), or ski mountaineering (SkiMo), or alpine touring (AT). These are all variants of where you power yourself up mountains and then ski back down. In the northeast, it struck me as wrought with risk and delivered pour return on investment in time and gear to acquire a new outdoor skill. Last winter I demo'd some alpine touring gear at Loon Mountain in NH. The boots were essentially re-labeled downhill boots and were the most tortuous things I've ever put on my feet. It was a miserable experience. I shelved the idea of getting into this discipline for the time being.
Well, now I live in a state where back-country is a really big deal. There have already been SkiMo races, and it is only November! I did more research. One of the boots I tried on but it was not in the demo fleet last year was a Dynafit TLT 7. It fit like a glove and had tons of effortless pivot. It is an $800 boot though, and I didn't want to commit that kind of money into gear for a new activity that could fizzle out or an activity that might quickly move into a more specialized area. Dynafit also has a non-carbon version of the boot that was available on sale right now, the Speedfit model. That got me thinking. Then Dynafit has a new TUV certified binding. I value my knees, and some of the minimalist "tech" bindings out there have questionable safety records. They don't release in all the same ways that a regular downhill ski binding releases. Toes tend to be locked in until heel comes out. The Dynafit ST Rotation made some improvements in this area. Still not the same as a downhill binding, but at least Dynafit has taken an extra safety step. I liked the idea of getting boot and binding from same company to avoid compatibility issues, which is quite common in this arena.
So what about skis? This is what I struggled with mightily. Some were pushing me into super lightweight SkiMo gear. The problem is, you can't really take it into powder. The skis are too narrow. I will eventually want to untether myself from groomed runs. On the other end, a true BC ski is super wide to float on bottomless powder. I don't see myself hitting 35 degree avalanche prone terrain right away either. These wide skis are heavier and not optimal for groomed runs.
Just like in the mountain bike world, they talk about "quiver of one" bikes. If you have to pick one bike that did every thing pretty well but was not a pure cross country, pure downhill, endure specific, etc etc bike, which would you pick? The BC ski world also touts skis that can be quiver of one. They are not too wide or skinny, not to light or heavy, not too stiff for flexy. That is where I needed to be right now. I will ski mostly groomers to start. I would hope to hit powder days on controlled terrain. Chest deep powder in the back country or boiler plate crud at the ski area? Don't need a ski good for those because I won't ski those conditions for now.
I went with mid width Black Diamond Helio 95's. Reviews were decent, they are pretty light, and the 17/18 model year skis are deeply discounted right now. I took a leap of faith this setup would work for me and got it on order.
|Black Diamond Helio 95 (173cm long) skis, Black Diamond GlideLite Mix skins, Dynafit ST Rotation 10 bindings, Dynafit Speedfit boots.|
The gear performed flawlessly. After more than 6hrs and nearly 10,000ft of climbing, zero blisters on the feet. A few pressure points, but that is it. Skinning up to nearly 12,000ft is no picnic. Even though I'm getting pretty well acclimated to living at elevation, you still can't go as fast up as you can at sea level. At least that feeling like you're going to pass out stuff is well behind me now. It will take some time to regain DH skills. I used to be able to bomb 2000 vertical feet at Cannon Mountain and beat the tram car I rode up in back down. I am so far from being able to do that now.
|Powder/packed powder conditions at Wolf Creek on November 25. All natural snow here, 66" claimed so far this season. Lots of intermediate terrain to get started on.|
Back to N + 1. N + 1 is not a new sport toy added to a quiver. N + 1 is a new outdoor endeavor. What is the correct number of outdoor passion pursuits? N + 1, where N is the current number of pursuits you are engaged in.