Danny - Nothing too drastic. I've carried an ice axe on it and snowshoes in the side pockets, but nothing more. There isn't enough snow here most of the time to really justify skis, though I know Chris Townsend always seems to find some. You're probably right about the mesh, but I put a strip of duct tape over the area that comes into contact with the axe so no problems there. And the main material has coped fine with being dragged up and down scree slopes, grit boulders and iced up scrambling routes. I've never carried a shovel in it, but I've no reason to think that it would be any more damaging than snowshoes.
David - It is short, but it doesn't seem to make a difference. My back is 23.5", so on the long side. It feels short at first (I'm used to ula and golite packs), but I've found that by lengthening the shoulder straps until it sits on my hips and then pulling the load lifters in, it carries well. Besides, with the sorts of loads I carry in this (the most has been 30lbs) it's perfectly comfortable. The belt is excellent at stabilising the pack, in fact that's the intention, as it's meant to carry high to allow complete freedom of movement in the hips for running.