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An Introduction to Nordic and Backcountry Ski Gear: Part 2 - Advanced Nordic Ski Mountaineering on UL Tele Gear
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
An Introduction to Nordic and Backcountry Ski Gear: Part 2 - Advanced Nordic Ski Mountaineering on UL Tele Gear on 12/18/2012 17:51:30 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

An Introduction to Nordic and Backcountry Ski Gear: Part 2 - Advanced Nordic Ski Mountaineering on UL Tele Gear

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
nitpicking on 12/18/2012 22:39:27 MST Print View

Quite sure those per boot weights are actually per pair, and the per pair weights actually per ski.

Roman Vazhnov
(joarr) - MLife

Locale: Russia
and again on 12/19/2012 00:50:11 MST Print View

Great article, glad to see it on BPL.
Also I would like to see Part 3 - Ski mountaineering on UL AT (Rando) gear, by Jonathan for example.

Steve Price
One Pole? And what about the other gear...? on 12/19/2012 10:51:49 MST Print View

Is Forrest only using one pole in order to save weight? Admittedly I practice skinning uphill without poles (better for balance and reduced shoulder strain), but two poles are kinda nice to have.

I guess if you are solo, maybe you don't carry a shovel, probe, saw and pieps. But I would never go in steep terrain solo in mid-winter

Has anyone pondered a good UL mid winter day pack gear list that would allow for a comfortable over night bivy?


Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: An Introduction to Nordic and Backcountry Ski Gear: Part 2 - Advanced Nordic Ski Mountaineering on UL Tele Gear on 12/19/2012 10:55:42 MST Print View

Great article! Lot's of useful information.

An important pair of boots missed are the Rossignol BC x11s--similar to the Fishers but may fit some people's feet better These are extremely tour friendly and acceptable for turning lightweight touring skis. When I ski tele in the backcountry these are my go to boots. They do take a lot of experience to ski on difficult snow/terrain.

Also I'd advise against carbon fiber poles in the backcountry. They break too easily and the weight penalty for aluminum is well worth it. Even with aluminum I take an extra bottom section.

I've never found ski crampons very useful. If it gets that steep and hard I bring boot crampons--with ski crampons you hit irregularities in the snow with the tip and tail and all of a sudden your crampon isn't even touching the snow! Good-by!

As for skis--you need several in your quiver to pair properly with the right boots for the terrain and snow you'll be skiing. Let your spouse know that this is CRITICAL to you coming home alive. (S)he does NOT want your death on his/her conscience. ;-0

Ryan Bressler
(ryanbressler) - F
In my experience Maritime snow often requires fatter skis. on 12/19/2012 11:17:14 MST Print View

Great article but a little biased towards Continental conditions (powder in the winter and then a quick transition to a consolidated snow pack once it warms up).

"Consolidated snow, associated with warmer maritime climates and spring conditions, makes for easy travel and highly efficient touring. Skiing on consolidated snow does not require a wide ski. Skis with widths of 70mm or less underfoot are normally sufficient."

The author (whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for) ignores a lot of the "not powder" and "not consolidate" conditions that are common in a Maritime snowpack. Typical fall/winter/spring conditions in the cascades (a maritime snow pack if there ever was one) are rarely consolidated enough to make travel on skinny skis with light bindings efficient. Frequent cycles of storm, rain, sun and a fluctuating freeze line often conspire to produce combinations of corn, breakable sun and rain crusts, heavy slop, cascade concrete, tree bombed crud, ice and pockets of powder all in the same run. Skinny skis get locked into this in ways that can literally break your ankle or knee with light boots and unreleasable bindings and make it extremely difficult to turn without resorting to jumping up out of the crud. Most cascade ski mountaineers seem to gravitate towards fatter skis (>88mm at the waste) with a bit of rocker and more powerful boots and bindings to deal with these conditions and provide a consistent feel over the frequent transitions between them.

For reference there is an active thread on the PNW quiver on the ski touring site turns-all-year:
Note that some skiers have skinny skis for volcano skiing but most use something fatter for winter touring.

Having recently moved to the Bitterroots I feel that the hero powder snow of the rockies is actually much more amenable to light weight gear and skinny skis...I find it absolutely remarkable that I can find consistent powder for thousands of feet here...I sometimes ski with my AT boots in tour mode because I don't need the extra support to push the snow around.

Of course Forest is without a doubt a much better skier then I as I only took up skiing a few years ago. He has probably mastered the skills necessary to negotiate difficult snow conditions with light gear which is an impressive feat.

For the less skilled amongst us light AT boots, releasable tech bindings and modern ski designs achieve almost comprable weight (and more efficient free pivot touring) then light tele gear without requiring expert level skills to negotiate the steeps without injury.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: BC boots on 12/19/2012 11:35:47 MST Print View

A note on the Rossignal BCX11 compared to the Fischer boots.

While comparable in terms of cuff stiffness (or lack thereof), the Fischer 675 and 875 are considerably stiffer in the sole and thus turn quite a bit better. The BCX11 tours better and fits my foot, so is my choice.

The new version, the BCX12, appears to be mostly the same.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: One Pole? And what about the other gear...? on 12/19/2012 12:18:39 MST Print View

Great article. Wow, Forrest McCarthy writing on Nordic Backcountry skiing. What's next, Mike Clelland drawing illustrations about backpacking light? Seriously, though, great work BPL. I think its great to have so many great articles by so many great writers.

I agree, Ryan. Even though fat skis are sold as "powder skis" they really are more useful, or should I say, more important, in thick, wetter snow. True powder is very forgiving. I've skied it with regular Nordic gear (non BC, no metal edges) and done just fine. The lightweight nature of that gear (weighing far less than any of this gear) really helps. My skis weren't super skinny, but they didn't have much sidecut. This was OK, as powder skiing doesn't necessarily require much sidecut (some of the newer powder skis have reverse sidecut, like water skis). But skiing the usual Northwest glop on those skis, or even significantly bigger skis is really a challenge. Big surface areas and rocker are needed as well as strong boots and bindings to power through turns. Snowboarding is really popular in the Mount Baker area, and has been for a very long time, because of the conditions and the need for something big to manage it.

Other thoughts: First, I sure wish those light skis had waxless bottoms. Oh well, they don't. Maybe someday, as that seems to be the trend. Waxless is much faster than kickers (or skins) but not as much hassle as waxing (again, this is the Northwest, where kick waxing conditions change hourly). I always throw a pair of kickers in my pack, but often managed to ascend the mountain without needing them.

Second, I'm afraid I still don't understand all of the binding options available. I've read a little about NTN, and I'm a bit disappointed it wasn't mentioned. Are there other options for bindings other than the styles mentioned? If so, were they dismissed because they are heavier?

I'm also curious about the three pin (non-plastic) boots versus BC boots. It seems to me that in many cases, the boot is essentially the same boot, but with just a different toe piece. Are the three pin versions really that much stiffer? Is three pin preferred because of concerns over BC bindings failing (something I've never seen or experienced, but heard about)?

Mitchell Rossman

Locale: Minneapolis-St. Paul
Are your T3/T4 Weights Accurate? on 12/19/2012 12:40:19 MST Print View

My '97 vintage Scarpa T3s weigh in at 3 lbs 12 oz/boot for size 12.

Even my '02 vintage Scarpa T2s, which are big heavy boots, weigh in at 4 lbs 12 oz/boot.

Perhaps the newer versions gained a lot of weight?

Otherwise, please keep the ski traverse in the lower 48 ideas coming. Thank you.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: re: BC boots on 12/19/2012 17:28:50 MST Print View

A couple other boots out there that are in the category:

Crispi Svartisen - may or may not be available ins the US, comes in 75mm & NNN-BC:

A new boot from Alpina that they seem to say is their stiffest boot:

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
An Introduction to Nordic and Backcountry Ski Gear: Part 2 - Advanced Nordic Ski Mountaineering on UL Tele Gear on 12/19/2012 17:37:08 MST Print View

Great article, Forrest. A bit of a re-hash of your excellent blog post some months ago but in my opinion a great addition to the compendium that is BPL.

Victor Bushkov
(Victor_B) - MLife
Re: Re: One Pole? And what about the other gear...? on 12/20/2012 04:49:44 MST Print View

Ross wrote:
"Second, I'm afraid I still don't understand all of the binding options available. I've read a little about NTN, and I'm a bit disappointed it wasn't mentioned. Are there other options for bindings other than the styles mentioned? If so, were they dismissed because they are heavier?"

Ross, there is a great article that covers a lot of information about different ski bindings. Unfortunately, the article is in Russian, but you may try your luck with google translate.

Edited by Victor_B on 12/20/2012 04:54:04 MST.

Nils Mann

Locale: Rockies
lightweight backcountry on 12/20/2012 17:37:59 MST Print View

Nice timing. Just decided to go "modern" from leathers with thinnies and have been researching/purchasing a backcountry plastic boot, "lightweight" system. I wanted to go free-heel but decided that only effective way to get a weight below that with AT was leather or BC boots and <70mm skis - pretty close to what I have been using. They are great in soft snow but not much fun in crust or hard surface conditions - and I have been watching hardcore telemarkers and my conclusion is that free heel is not nearly as stable as fixed heel in such conditions. The remaining advantage to a flexible forefoot boot as used in telemark/touring would be easier stride and glide. All skins are pretty limiting so the skier needs to wax or have no-wax bases to get a decent advantage. So the touring system is a bit lighter and faster than a plastic boot system as the amount of climbing drops, - and its a lot of fun to telemark in softer conditions with thinnies. p.s. a randonee AT racing system would be quite a bit lighter than a leather boot system if you are willing to sacrifice comfort.

Some details on the equipment I looked at:
a. boot weight: plastic AT boots can be gotten as light as 1.1 kg per pair (randonee racing), excellent lightweight Dynafit TLT5s are 2.2 kg or less (also La Sportiva and a couple others), and many AT boots are now around 3 kg per pair. Good leather 3-pin boots are around 1.9 kg and can be heavier. The Garmont Excursions are nice at 2.2 kg per pair (really bad fit for my feet) whereas most other plastic telemark boots are 3.3 kg or heavier. Talking kgs to an ultralighter measuring in gms seems crazy, crazy.
b. boot comfort: the Dynafits in particular have a very open top cuff in walk mode, very short sole length and a well rockered sole - the result is getting far closer to the comfort of a leather backcountry boot. However they still are stiff plastic. Most people tell me that foam liners in plastic are warmer than leather - I haven't decided yet.
c. binding weight: Dynafit Speed Radical bindings at 636 gm for the pair (includes two level heel lift) versus 650 gm for a 3-pin with cables (no heel lifts) per the MEC web site. (You can almost half the AT binding weight if you are willing to go to a non-releasable binding - I won't and am against the idea - I'd stick with easier slopes in that case and might as well stay with thinnies). Telemark or AT bindings for steeper downhill (e.g. G3, Voile or the new releasable NTN for plastic boots) are 1.35 kg or more.
c. binding safety: The backcountry injury rates look very low regardless of skiing style. With that caveat, ankle injuries appear to be the most common with non-plastic boots and non-releasable bindings such as 3-pin with cables; knees being the most common with plastic boots. From talking to people with ankle injuries, a break or bad sprain are far worse then clean leg breaks or even ACL tears in knees.
d. skis: I suggest that skis are a moot point since you can ski any weight of ski with plastic - the question is compromise between performance on the downhill and weight for the uphill.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: lightweight backcountry on 12/20/2012 20:31:19 MST Print View

Nils - one point you mention - the lighter AT race bindings DO release, but the release is not adjustable. So not as safe as adjustable release, but not non-releaseable.

also, when you refer to "telemark or AT bindings for steeper downhill" it seems you are implying that Dynafits are not suited for steeper stuff. Yet they are used for all manner of extreme skiing and have been for years, so I don't think there is a limitation there.

But your analysis is right on.

Nils Mann

Locale: Rockies
Lightweight backcountry on 12/21/2012 11:39:29 MST Print View

Thanks Paul. Missed the release on the Race bindings. What do you think of using them for backcountry?

I simplified too much on the steeper comment. Hope everyone else gets the point that even the very light Speed Radical is a serious binding - its DIN rating goes to 10. The heaviest Radical binding and the G3 both go to DIN 12 which gives them some more extreme skiing capability - and there are backcountry (not free-ride from lifts) people who say they need it on the steepest slopes where they can't afford to lose a ski accidentally. I believe the Speed Radical is a tremendous fit for lightweight mountainous backcountry skiing.

p.s. The one thing that looked tempting on the G3s is the capability to switch from locked to unlocked heel without getting out of the binding. I am looking for a technique to do this with the Speed Radicals - suggestions??

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Lightweight backcountry on 12/21/2012 13:20:12 MST Print View

If I had the money for some of those race bindings and some F1 race boots I might go for it, although the weight difference between the adjustable release heels and the race heels is not that much, especially when you consider that the race heels are usually lacking good climbing posts.

If you look around on this site you'll find out just about all there is to know about tech bindings sytems.

Tjaard Breeuwer
(Tjaard) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota, USA
Non-double boots on 01/02/2013 19:49:49 MST Print View

How were the non-double boots for overnight use? I do worry about freezing them solid during the night.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Release bindings on 03/06/2013 17:42:13 MST Print View

My Asnes Combi Combat backcountry touring skis and my Atomic TM 22 tele skis use Voile' release bindings.

They are plate bindings onto which are screwed the toe bindings.

Release pressure is via a non-DIN Besser type front mounted plunger which rests against a detent in the plate.

Works for me and I would not go out in the backcountry without release bindings.
The newest release Nordic bindings are Rotefella NTN bindings.

Edited by Danepacker on 03/06/2013 17:43:38 MST.