Friday, December 30, 2011

La Sportiva Stratos Evo and RSR Preview

Santa was good to me this year and dropped off the new La Sportiva Stratos Evo.  I've been in the market for one of the new ultra light boots for a while, but finally chose the Stratos over the Scarpa Alien and the Dynafit Evo.  Weight wise, in a size 27, it turns out the Stratos is probably the heaviest of the three, but negligibly so (40-50 grams). I think it may ski the best (without actually skiing the others) and   ultimately, it was the stiffness of full carbon, the reputation of La Sportiva, and the sheer beauty finally swayed me.  
Right away, the quality craftsmanship is noted on handling the boot.  Handmade in Italy, the boot looks and feels like it could be worn with a suit (real suit that stiffs wear to work, not a skin suit).  I thought I could just pull it out of the box and try it on but just as this video implies, some instruction is necessary.  However, this is the new version of the Stratos, and actually isn't too cumbersome to figure out.

Starting with just the liner, I loosened the unique lacing system, slipped my foot in, and was happy straight away with the performance fit.  Snugging up the laces and then wrapping them around the ankle a time or two and then keeping it all in place with a velcro tab also allows one to really dial in the fit.  Once the liner is placed in the boot, a second velcro tab secures the forefoot in place and seems to internalize the 2nd "buckle" and make it perform consistently well as it doesn't pop open as with other boots.  Finally, a well designed gaiter keeps snow out and streamlines the appearance.

Liner firmly in place with velcro strap over forefoot

Close up of internal velcro "buckle"

To take the liner out, or place it in the shell, a portion of the cuff must be rotated 180 degrees, opening up the anterior aspect.  However, the dyneema cord must first be unhooked from the buckle (see below)

Cuff rotated back into place

Dyneema cord that hooks to buckle.  This must be undone to get in and out of the boot. 
Dyneema cord hooked in place on buckle
For a race boot, or any boot designed with speed in mind, the closure system needs to be swift and efficient.  Scarpa and Pierre Gignoux use a vertical lever system that latches on the lower posterior aspect of the lower shell.  When the lever is closed, it tightens the cord around the cuff and locks the whole mechanism into place.  Genius.  Dynafit has come up with an overlapping cuff that is locked into place with a side throw buckle.  This horizontal lever has a pin that is inserted into a hole through the overlapping segments.  Also genius.  Both require a single action to transition between ski and walk mode.  Sportiva has stepped into the game and created their own mechanism that appears to blend the other two.  The Stratos have a horizontal throw that tightens the cord around the cuff and pulls a vertical lever into a notch in the back of the cuff.  This locks the cuff in place as the lever spans from the lower shell to the above mentioned and pictured notch.  It sounds complicated but in reality is smooth and really fast.  My only concerns are the durability of the plastic appearing lever and the fact that the receiving notch is built into the carbon cuff without apparent reinforcement.  
Locked in ski mode
As pictured above, the dyneema cord holds the whole shebang together.  It can be adjusted to fit both skinny legs and cankles.  I think mine are some where in between and will require a bit of fiddling since I still had a bit of room in the cuff to wiggle around.

One of the coolest aspects of the whole closure mechanism is how easy it is to release.  When the buckle is opened, a tension bar pushes the vertical lever out of the notch and back into walk mode.  This is something I fought with at times with my Dynafit boots and I was psyched to be able to transition with the flick of a finger.
Unique tension bar that pushes the locking lever into walk mode once the buckle is released
Since 90 something percent of our time is spent walking, the tourability better be fantastic for a race specific boot (I keep saying "race specific", but I think these boots might become a mountaineering boot for long traverses and speed ascents).  When the Dynafit DyNA came out with its 62 degrees of cuff articulation, I felt like I was in running shoes compared to other boots.  I didn't measure, but I'm willing to bet that the articulation of the Stratos exceeds that by a fair margin.
Rearward articulation near maxed out
Forward articulation near max

Durability in a full carbon boot is another big question mark.  A friend who skis full carbon Pierre Gignoux 444s has broken them multiple times, often at inopportune times such as while racing (although another friend skied Mount Robson in them!).  Carbon can crack and boots can break in a million different ways, but one area of wear that consistently appears is around the main rivets of the cuff.  I'm sure all you owners of the TLT Performance know what I'm talking about if you've put in any serious mileage.  All the new boots by Dynafit, Scarpa, and Sportiva appear to have at lease mitigated the problem by adding metal bushings to prevent the carbon on metal wear.  

Metal on metal
And what kind of sole did Italian boot makers come up with?  I'd have to say a surprisingly beefy Vibram sole that looks more at home on a traditional climbing boot.   If any weight were to be shaved it seems it could have been done here but again, it looks like all attempts were made to produce a quality product that will last.  The burly full sole also makes the thought of taking these "race boots" out for some real adventures.  

Full Vibram sole?

So with the heavy sole, the overall weight (with some sweat from this mornings workout) checks in at 740-751 grams per boot in size 27.0.  Advertised at 694 grams (534 for the shell and 165 for the liner) in size 26.0, I feel the weight is probably pretty accurate with with any marketing claims.  The sneaky  way the carbon boot manufacturers report weight can be misleading as Pierre Gignoux makes two boots, one the XP444 and the other the XP500 with the numbers being the weight of the shell.  Needing to brush up on my Italian, I missed that the liner weighs as much as it does and thought the boot would check in a bit lighter.  Chi se ne frega?

Oh, and did I mention the skis?

So I know the main question will be how do they ski?  After one day with the cuff not properly adjusted to the girth of my leg, I'm really optimistic.  It was slightly hard to discern the difference between the new boots and the new skis but at least the combination felt great.  The boots are stiff and the skis feel like razors (read new and not abused) compared to my others.  I might have to touch on the subject again once I have more days on the boots and have skied more than a couple groomers and soft chop.  

But for now, I'm just psyched that Santa and his Italian little elves can make more than just rocking horses and other assorted crap.  They really stepped up their game this year.  

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Rando Rally Results

This morning we had our best race and turnout yet.  I'm not sure of the official count, but around 25-30 people showed up to chase each other around like fools in the crisp winter light.  Temps were perfect for racing (i.e. skin suits were comfortable once moving).  

We had some opening remarks by Brandon Dodge, Brighton patroller and defender of all skiers, and then I gave a pre race briefing to outline the course and to counsel caution on the DH given the meager coverage. Tanner was the official starter and his brother Tyler the official photographer.  

Christmas Eve Spandex 
We were off with some hooting and hollering and then I stepped out of my right ski.  Jason and Jared took notice and put the hammer down.  Facing the wrong direction as the field swallowed me, I got back into my binding and tried to give chase when I stepped out again.  Letting out a primal yell, I was getting frustrated.  No gentleman's agreement here as in cycling.  The guys up front were attacking while I tried to get my junk show punter self together.  

I probably burned the engine too hot, but caught back up and transitioned with the J's.  Except I blew the transition at the top of the Millicent lift, as for some reason my boot buckle wouldn't lock in ski mode.  Eventually (20-30 seconds later), I was mad pursuit, hoping to clean up my act.  
The usual sprint start
Our next climb was from the Brighton base to the summit of Patsy Marley, skinning around the lake en route.  Again the gap closed, particularly when Jason experienced a skin failure, but again I stepped out of my binding (not sure why, but probably has to do with the small plastic piece that underlies the toe lever keeping it securely locked).  On top of Patsy, the others were just finishing their transition as I pulled in.  I fumbled about again and then gave chase only to really ruin my race by crashing into a "rock well" and falling even further behind.  

But, in spite of my errors the day was fun with our whole group scattered all over.  Hopefully everyone else thought so too since there was some confusion about the correct route.  The remainder of the course went up Patsy a second time from Michigan City, down to the pass, up Honeycomb, and then back around the lake and down to Brighton.  Jason edged out Jared for the win and I limped in for third.  Emily nipped Emily for the women's victory and given the confusion over the course, there was no clear "rec" winner but everyone earned a second helping at their holiday feasts.  And, as has become the tradition, victory pies were handed out to both the first place man and woman and an extra was given to the racer with the heaviest gear.  

Thanks to Dodge and the rest of the folks at Brighton for allowing our shenanigans and for all those that came out to play.  Stay tuned for the next one in a month or so...

Happy holidays everyone,


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pic of the Day, Patience and a History Lesson

Today was the winter solstice so we decided to try to actually go skiing for a change instead of resort walking.  What we found was a foot or two of facets, a few stout crust layers separated by more facets, and some powder, all topped off with a 6 inch soft/wind slab.  We stuttered up the chute debating the worthiness of the objective (it was not worth even the moderate risk), and turned tail to get some exercise doing some more resort walking.  
Blustery morning in Suicide Chute (Photo by Jason Dorais)

So while we wait for winter to actually set in, dreaming of actual steep skiing, here is a link from to a short history lesson with videos about those on whose shoulders this sport was built.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wasatch Conditions - Wolverine Cirque

With a limited number of skis that I feel like trashing this "preseason", I haven't really done anything exciting except for race and chase friends up and down Brighton, training for the future.  Also, with a newborn in the home, the longer adventures will have to wait a little while.

But, Saturday, the affable Christopher Cawley offered his company for a relatively short tour through the narrow swath of backcountry terrain sandwiched between Alta and Brighton.  We made short descents from Rocky Point, down three chutes in Wolverine (Granny, Huge, and unknown), and out Patsy Marley (Chris) and Grizzly (me) to the car.

The best snow was in the sheltered Cirque and we were quite pleased as two of the chutes that we deemed skiable had no tracks until ours.  Rocky up high, the lower chutes were a nice blend of dry powder and deep facets that improved throughout the apron.

Chute #2 Photo by CC

Conservative skiing with sharks lurking, photo by CC
CC looking for rocks

Chute #3, photo by CC
So the bottom line is that there is some fun snow out there but caution is still the name of the game given the shallow rotten snowpack.  And, the bummer of the whole deal is that once we finally get snow, all the fun stuff will be off limits until things heal.

From the UAC:
"Our snow pack is so weak, its looking for any excuse to slide – slabs of only a few inches thick can overweight these weak layers of surface hoar, near surface facets and depth hoar. If you are heading into steep terrain, above about 9,500’, realize a “slab” can be the old, fist hardness snow, a small wind drift, or an old buried wind crust. Anything you trigger could be large enough to catch and carry – you will almost certainly hit rocks if you go for a ride, and could go into trees or off cliff in the wrong spot."
To donate to the UAC in appreciation of their fabulous work, click here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Eve Rando Rally

We will be meeting up the morning of Christmas Eve for another informal "race".   And by that I mean more like a backyard pick up game where there will happen to be a bunch spandex and skinny skis running around.  A few of you have already expressed interest and are on the "list".  For anyone else, send me a message.  Short, tall, skinny, fat, spandex or jeans may and should apply.  Location and time TBA.

Here's a quick flick of the last time we got together...

Monday, December 12, 2011

Light and Fast Ski Mountaineering: Part Two

Last time, I touched on the gear I use in my attempts to go both faster and farther.  This episode is devoted to general principles of training for those interested in becoming a better endurance athlete and by default a faster ski mountaineer.

Great photo by Matthew Turley of the start at last year's Powder Keg

I'm not going to get into the nit picky details of macro cycles and tapering.  Guys with more patience for those details have already discussed that stuff.  I hope Professor Harder won't skewer me too badly here but this is mostly intended for those that get out and ski a lot but don't really "train".  I will give a quick and dirty on endurance training and then finish with a rant about heart rate monitors.

One's athletic potential is predetermined by genetics.  Getting the most out of that is why we train.  Gains can be made through multiple adaptations to different physiologic stressors.  By training, we target improvements in our oxygen delivery (Cardiac output, capillary density), oxygen uptake (mitochondrial density) as well as our ability to clear lactate.  The maximum capacity to transport and use oxygen during incremental activity is called the VO2 Max and is expressed in ml/kg/min. Improvement in this number reflects gains in fitness.  

More spandex
As mentioned, there are various methods of training that target different parts of our overall aerobic fitness.  Suffice it to say that by training as outlined below, all aspects will be addressed.  However, during certain workouts, it will be obvious which parts of the system are being stressed.  

One last point of anecdotal evidence before moving on...

During the 1970s and 80s, running was hugely popular and high mileage was the name of the game.  A 2:30 marathon was commonplace and US distance runners were somewhat competitive on the world stage.  Then, along come the 90s and the idea that one could get less for more (i.e. Interval training without the mileage - an idea that continues to resurface).  Throughout that decade, US distance running fell off (with a few exceptions, Bob Kennedy most notably).  For the common man, a sub 2:30 became a rare feat and for the elite, even making the finals at the Olympics or world championships was cause for fanfare.  Recently, US distance running has seen a resurgence with multiple sub 13 minute 5Ks and two sub 27 min 10Ks as well as much improved marathoning and showings at the world level.  I believe a major reason for this is an improvement in training with the elite athletes now combining high mileage and very scientific interval type training.  That was a long way of saying there are no shortcuts and to be smart about your training.  That said, here's the dumbed down version...

Sherpa's Simple System: (adapted from years on the track, experiments on skis, and from stealing bits and pieces from those faster than me)

Training is slow adaptation to physiologic stress.  How you stress the system is important.  First and foremost, sport specificity matters.  If you are a skier.  Much of your training time will have to be spent skinning up hill to gain maximum benefit for that discipline.  The same applies to runners, cyclists, etc.  That much should be obvious. Of course there is some crossover but the core of one's "body of work" should be specific to train efficiency so one can make the most out of their fitness.

That out of the way, a general week of training (assuming one has a decent aerobic base) should approximate the following (give or take a hard day for an easy day):

Easy day
Hard day
Easy day
Hard day
Easy day
Long day
Rest day

Then repeat...

With an easy day potentially substituted as a rest day.  That seems simple enough, but the details get confusing.  They should be determined by the end goal, be it a running speed attempt at the Grand Teton, a ski mountaineering race (typically 2-3 hours over 5-7K vert), or something on either end of the spectrum such as a 5K road race versus a 100 mile run.

Here are my top 10 hints...

1. The easy days should be conversational.  They should feel easy... like you could go all day.

2. The hard days should be hard but I feel most hard days should conclude feeling like there just a little left.

3. Long should be overdistance for your event.  This applies to shorter races/goals and obviously not to some of the longer running races.  Examples would be a steady 10,000 vert if the goal is a 5000-7000 ft skimo race or a 20 mile run in the mountains if the goal is to run the Grand.

4. The hard days should be a balance between intensity and threshold work (to work different aspects of the aerobic system), again with the end goal in mind.  For short skimo races, 4-6 minute intervals x 4-8  above lactate threshold would be a good intense day and then 4x20 minutes at threshold would be a good longer hard day.  Others include 30 sec on and 30 sec off x sets of 20 minutes, 4-6 x 1000 vert, a fartlek (10, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 min hard with equal rest), or race simulation on a course of your choosing.

For those who aren't familiar, lactate threshold occurs once one is unable to clear lactate as fast as it is produced and is defined typically as a blood concentration of 4mM (~1 is normal at rest).  Basically, at this point things are starting to go anaerobic and any intensity above threshold cannot be sustained for long.

5. The overall goal is to place as much physiologic stress on the system as one can handle while still deriving benefit and not breaking down.  I think that for most of us (amateur athletes), we are undertrained.  Work, families, life gets in the way.  Try to come up with a way to meet an overall mileage/vertical/hours goal for the week.  It will help keep you honest.

6. Train with partners.  Find people of similar ability (or just a bit faster) and hold each other accountable.  This also makes the days more fun. 

7.  Keep a training log.  Again, it keeps you honest. And, it provides a way to see improvement.  

8.  Constantly find ways to stimulate your training.  By that I mean change up the workouts periodically to avoid stagnation.  Again, the point is to cause a physiologic adaptation to stress. At some point, by doing the same thing over and over, I feel the law of diminishing returns comes into play.   

9.  Find ways to have fun.  For backcountry skiers this should be obvious.  Easy days or long days can be tours to spectacular terrain and can include anything from powder laps to seriously committing skiing.   For me, an example would be skiing the Y Couloir,  Provo Peak, Superior, or any of the thousands of awesome lines in our back yard.  Just keep it conversational.

10.  Train with a goal in mind.  That could be a particular Skimo race like the Powderkeg or a backcountry project like a large traverse or speed ascent.  A good goal should inspire and fuel desire and make the monotonous hours of training easier to swallow.  For most, a few months of the above mentioned training schedule followed by a taper (decrease volume and intensity for ~ one wk) should be sufficient.  To get further gains, see a real coach/exercise physiologist. 

Again, I mean only to provide a basic framework from which one could start to make improvements over the typical, "I ski a lot and am fast" type of training.  Feel free to offer criticism, comments, etc.

And now for a quick rant on HR monitors.  Don't be a slave to them!  There is no such thing as a "bad zone".  All zones have their purpose.  If company X defines four zones from recovery to aerobic to threshold to red line or suprathreshold, those numbers don't apply to every individual.  Max HR varies by age.  HR increases with altitude, dehydration, heat/humidity, and even varies day by day.  So, to say that training between 145-155 bpm is bad is ridiculous.  If that's all one did then they would likely feel overtrained with little benefit.  If one only trained in a lower zone, say from 110-135, they would also lack the benefit derived from those more intense sessions.  Train solely in the threshold and higher zones and you become a sprinter or completely overtrained.

Friends argue that having one more metric to gauge performance and guide training is helpful.  They feel that combining perceived exertion with HR training zones with total volume and daily volume gives the best overall measure of physiologic response to the stress being placed on the system.  I'll agree with that but still maintain that I don't need a HR monitor to tell me I'm going all out.  Nor do I need one to tell me that my "joking around laughing pace" is easy.  If my conversations start to get strained, I'm approaching threshold.

Jason and I were talking (arguing), and after much playing devil's advocate for both sides of the argument we can't see the need.  If anything, we feel that strict adherence to HR monitors and proprietary "training zones" leads to under training.  To quote Brain Mackenzie, a coach with UK athletics, "Heart rate training is particularly inappropriate during interval training."

Boom!  Let's hear the rebuttals to that...

Happy training everyone!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Wasatch Vert 120

Looking to simulate a race type experience without having to travel to Colorado, I sent out a mass text that we would be having another informal underground skimo race.  This time, the format would be modeled after the Canadian race, the Vert 180.  The idea is to find a short hill and do as many laps as possible over a given time period (i.e. 180 minutes or in our case 120 minutes).  

I  spread the word (sorry to those I forgot - DM) and hoped for a good turnout in spite of daddy samurai Jared skipping town to race some Coloradans.  Pulling into the Brighton lot a bit late because of an accident in the canyon, there was already a crew assembled consisting of Layne, Tim, Adam, Nate, Nick, and some newcomers.  Out jumped Jason and Angus from one vehicle and Nate and Kristeen from another.  Adam and I joined the group and then up walked Chad and Matt and Matt.  Our "underground" skimo race was turning out to be a party.  

Pre race briefing
All 18 or 19 of us skinned partway up to the Milly lift before finding a nice open spot to start the race.  I gave a quick welcome, went over the guidelines (stay skinner's right and skier's right to avoid mishap on the tight course), and drew a crooked starting line in the snow. Someone suggested a Le Mans start so we left our skis and backed up 50 meters or so where I drew another crooked starting line.  Matt was the official starter and used an unorthodox, "START!" as the command.  Off running, Jason was first in his skis thanks to the autolock on his Plum Race 145s.  Followed closely by me and Nate, we remained a bunch for the first lap.  

I found the format to be entertaining as everyone always seemed to be in contact with someone, either chasing on the way up or cheering someone on the way down.  I hope it made the race more enjoyable for everyone given the varying collection of gear and backgrounds.  

Jason trying to kill the camera man (Adam)
Eventually, Jason began to pull away and was the clear winner with 9+ laps to his credit before the 2 hours elapsed.  I completed my 9th lap, arriving at the start line as my watch read 1:59:31.  Nate rounded out the top 3 working on his 9th when we called time.  

Overall, I was really impressed with the effort given regardless of the gear.  We had an assortment of race specific set ups to HUGE reverse camber skis to tele gear to even a splitboard.  Afterward, we regrouped at the base and miniature pumpkin pies were given out to the fastest female/splitboarder (one in the same), fastest heavy metal participant, and "race division" winner (not Jason because I didn't want to give him a pie, or me because I didn't want to buy myself a pie).  

We will be having another race, hopefully in the backcountry in a week or two.  Stay tuned...

Pie trophy to top female/splitboarder

And BTW, I'm now a papa.  I guess I could be the Sherpapa.  Lars Andrew Dorais was born last week, is the cutest kid on the planet, and hasn't learned how to sleep yet. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Light and Fast Ski Mountaineering: Part One

Everyone does it.  Bloggers, or as I prefer, those that keep "online journals", always seem to give unsolicited advice about how to go faster, be more efficient, or do things better.  After a 3 hour aggressive conversation with a couple friends about training methods yesterday, I decided to put down my thoughts in a multi part series on everything from training, gear, clothing, partners, etc.  

Got Speed?
Disclaimer: These posts are my opinions only, based on my limited experience, and are deeply rooted in a "Light and Fast" philosophy.  User discretion advised. 

First up: A gear review for traveling fast and efficiently in the mountains.

Backstory:  Back in the day, when I was (and still am) what Jared lovingly referred to as a "punter", I thought I needed a four buckle boot to be able to ski anything cool.  I managed to make my way up and down some of the Wasatch's most classic lines such as the Y, Superior, and Timp's East Ridge.  Each was a mini expedition, hugely satisfying, but exhausting.  I think many people start out like I did with certain goals but end up with having a sour experience and never see the process through.  Coming from an running background, I was accustomed to aerobic suffering and thought I could hang with most people.  Cue Jared and Bart.  Little brother Sam had invited me along for a trip up Box Elder Peak.  We were tagging along with Jared and Bart, who had plans to link up Box Elder, the Pfeifferhorn, Superior, and on and on.  They showed up on skinny skis and funny boots (F1s and early model Dynafit race boots).  From the gun, I had trouble keeping up - even on the flats.  By the time I landed on Box Elder's panoramic summit, Sam had been waiting for days and the other guys were half way up the Pfeiff.  I was utterly blown. 
A blown punter...
It wasn't making sense.  I'm not the fastest or strongest but I can typically hold my own.  I was moderately untrained given work and school demands but those guys blew my mind.  I couldn't quite put my finger on the allure of their style but I wanted more.  Sam got me in over my head a few more times and I kept getting left behind.  In my defense, Jared was on the US Ski Mountaineering Team and Bart is a professional mountain biker/cyclocross champion, so it's not like I was getting smoked by some Joeys.  

Over the course of a season and a half, the gap closed as I became better trained and more efficient but on a memorable Valentine's Day, Jared gave me the gift of speed.  He was looking for company for a long tour and offered to let me borrow his Dynafit ST7s (similar to the Seven Summits) with speed bindings, mohair skins, and Scarpa F1 boots.  That day, my eyes were opened.  The fitness (relative) was there all along.  I managed 10,000 vertical feet and it felt like five.  The next day, I bought his used gear and haven't looked back.  Here is the evolution...

My first AT boots were clunky NTN compatible boots.  Next, I chose heavy 4 buckle over built monstrosities.  I saw the light with the Scarpa F1s then changed to the Dynafit DyNAs and then added Dynafit TLT Performance and am now considering the future (Dynafit EVO vs La Sportiva Stratos vs Scarpa Alien vs Pierre Gignoux 444)???  Right now, the Dynafit TLT5 Performance is in my opinion, the best all around option on the US market.  That may change once Sportiva releases their boot line, but for now, the TLTs are the best combination of light (1050 gms without superfluous power strap), stiff, and walkable (60 degrees of cuff articulation).  They can climb steep ice and rock, drive any reasonable ski, and have withstood hundreds of days in the mountains. 

I started on Black Diamond Kilowatts before changing to Dynafit ST 7s then to Dynafit Seven Summits to the opening of Pandora's Box...  I now have multiple skis that all serve their purpose.  A few rules I live by when selecting a mountaineering ski are length around 170 cm, weight under 1200 grams, width around 75 mm, and needs to be stiff.  These criteria lead to a maneuverable ski that does well in variable conditions.  It can be easily carried through technical climbing, and is light enough to go both long and fast.  Some of my recent choices are below.

JD skiing off the summit of the GT on Nanga Parbats

1. Trab Aero World Cup - 164 cm, 64 underfoot, and 720 gms.  This is a race ski but is also perfect for long traverses or huge peak enchainments.  I used it for the OTIAD and Jared used it for the Hulk Hogum.  They are squirrelly, but can be skied in any conditions quite effectively.  Jared also skied the Grand Teton on this ski. 
Post GT speed run

2. Dynafit Nanga Parbat - 167 cm, 102/73/89, 1100ish gms.  A perfect steep skiing tool.  It's light, stiff, holds an edge when it counts, and can easily be thrown on one's back while performing technical climbing.  Jason and I have used it for most of our spring skiing last year, including Mt. Whitney, Split Mountain, and the Grand Teton. 

Nanga Parbats on the summit of Mount Whitney
3. Movement X-Logic - 176 cm, 127/88/115, 1100 gms.  This is an anorexic midfat that feels like cheating.  Lighter than the popular Dynafit Manaslu (also a good powder choice), the X-Logic has been my go to ski in soft conditions. 

4. La Sportiva RSR/RST - The RSR is a race ski with similar dimensions to the Trab World Cup.  I've yet to mount mine, but per reports, they are a touch lighter, ski similarly, and are a bit more affordable. The RST is my replacement for the Nanga Parbat.  Mine is 167 cm, 116/77/106, and weighs 1190 gms.  Stiff, beautiful, and more fun to ski than the slightly skinnier NPs.  I plan on using it for most adventures this year and will report back once I have more days on it. 


Plum Race 145
Fortunately, I got sound advice before I made the mistake of wasting money on Fritichi Freerides or other such archaic garbage.  My first touring bindings were the Dynafit TLT Vertical FT 12s.  Completely unnecessary.  I trimmed the excess down and became a fan of the Dynafit Speed binding which worked well for a while.  More cuts have landed me on the Plum Race 145, the Dynafit Low Tech, and the Trab TR race.  All are iterations of the same elegant model and weigh in the 140ish gram range per heel/toe piece combo.  That's less than half the weight of the speed binding and easily less than a third of the heavier Dynafit bindings.  Many people complain about the lack of heel riser but with the articulation of the above mentioned boots, it's unnecessary.  La Sportiva makes the RT binding with an optional riser that comes in around 175 grams for those who can't "compromise".  The only drawback that I can see is these bindings cannot be adjusted to fit different sole lengths and therefore only work with one boot (however, there are plates that can be mounted between the ski and heel piece that allow some adjustment).  Again, for most tackling this style, there is only one boot...


Mohair, Mohair, Mohair.  The end.  Tail clips, toe clips, bungees... for the most part, who cares?  None of that matters as much as good glide, good technique, and efficient transitions (i.e. don't dick around, taking skis off to transition).  Jason has never had anything but toe/tail clips and transitions faster most and has never held up the crowd. 

Pros and Cons:

So take any combination of the above and what do you get?  The answer is speed, endurance, sexy equipment with a touch of carbon, and the newfound ability to talk sh## to your friends.  As Jason likes to joke with us, "Which one of you ******* dares to keep up with me today!?"  Once your whole clan buys into the "light is right" philosophy, the slow tours to the regular spots, morph into long range missions into new terrain, and ultimately, more skiing.  

The down side to all this nonsense is a decrease in skiability...or is there?  As the terrain becomes more and more technical, how many people are going to mach down a 50+ degree icy slope over cliffs on 100mm waisted skis?  How many people can get there on 4-5 pound boots that walk and climb more or less like alpine boots?  There is an adjustment period as one gets accustomed to the need to ski more neutrally and the deflectability of the lighter weight skis.  And, certain conditions make things challenging, but as I've mentioned before, too much powder gets boring.  

Another potential complaint is decreased durability.  Gear breaks.  I've had a couple problems but they all have been warrantied.  Jason, Jared, and I all have hundreds of days on our Dynafit boots.  The skis are indestructible.  The race type bindings are getting more and more durable and I have never pre-released.  I feel especially comfortable on the Plum Race 145s.  The gear is good and we trust our lives with it.  

Lastly, high end lightweight gear is not cheap and it is hard to find used.  What to do?  Spend the student loans (I did), mortgage the house, drive a crappy car, find a way.  Every addict finds a way.  While expensive, I have already done more than I ever thought possible while watching Jared and Bart skin away from me that day, and every dollar was worth it.  I now have a lifetime of memories in the bank and the interest on those is a better return than on any other investment in this crappy economy.