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Backcountry Skiing

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports
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Backcountry Skiing

Postby TT Summit » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:12 pm

I am taking my avalanche level 1 course this December and I am excited about the new mountain obstacles I will be able to tackle safer. I just purchased my Pieps DSP beacon, 240cm PFA Orthovox Probe, and Orthovox Grizzly 2 Shovel. I am in the middle of buying the rest of the gear that I needed. I was wondering everyones opinions on the gear that I still need.

Alpine Trekkers - I currently ski 177cm Volkl Karmas and 185 Line Anthems, both with Look bindings. After buying the rest of the gear, going for a full AT setup is just too expensive right now. Plus I figure the Trekkers will be good for off-piste hikes while at the resorts. What is yall's take on the Trekkers or do you have any other ideas?

Skins - I am looking at the Black Diamond Glidelite STS Nylon skins. They seem like the perfect setup where I can alternate them between skis now and in the future. I also was wondering if anyone has information on the Glidelite Mixed Hair (mohair and nylon) skins? The Black Diamond website does not have much information on them b/c it says only for sale in Europe, but I was wondering if anyone has used them or heard any good or bad on them?

Avalung - I figure why not? Extra safety can't hurt???

Poles - I have been looking at different Life-Link poles, but I did not know which one is the best or more/less what other brands are great. What is a strong pole that is optimal for the backcountry, exchangeable baskets (obviously), handles the stress of jump turns, can take a beating, adjustable, etc.???

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby Carl » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:31 pm

You're off to a great start with the gear. I haven't used that probe but the beacon is top notch (once you learn how to use it) and I usually carry the ortovox grizzly 2 myself. The shovel is rather heavy but it moves a lot of snow. I also like that you can work it like a hoe should the need arise. I've beat on it pretty hard while in hoe mode and it took the abuse quite well. If you haven't gotten a pack, may want to check out the Black Diamond Covert 32 w/Avalung.

I, like many, have owned a pair of Alpine Trekkers, or Alpine Day Wreckers as some call them. You can usually buy them used for around $100 and sell them for about the same a year or two later. They'll work if you can't afford an AT set up but you'll soon want to ditch the extra weight and bulk. I haven't used those skins, and my poles are circa 1984, so I can't comment on either.

Enjoy.

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby skiwall » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:40 pm

Wesley wrote: the Black Diamond Covert 32 w/Avalung


In my opinion it makes more sense to get the avalung on it's own (I found a used one for $40!) if you're planning on using multiple packs. I have a bigger pack for all day trips, but if I'm just in the slack country off of a resort or I'm on a quick dawn patrol, I take a smaller pack. If you get the Avalung separately, you have more freedom to switch around.

That being said, the BD Covert is an AWESOME pack, and I wish I had one. :)
"A good woman knows her place is in the backcountry." - PW '08

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby Carl » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:54 pm

skiwall wrote:If you get the Avalung separately, you have more freedom to switch around.


Therein lies the dilemma. The Avalung works better when integrated into a pack. But when I go on overnight tours I take my Osprey Exposure 50, so no Avalung. Until/unless you want to spend another $100 for an extra Avalung for the 5% of times (in my case) I'm not going out with my main pack.

Speaking of ways to spend exorbitant amounts of cash on a backcountry pack, I bumped into a guy over the weekend who had an ABS airbag pack. I think it was the ESC 15. He let me check it out some I was surprised at how little space the bags and canister took up. Will be interesting to see if these become more mainstream in the U.S. as the price hopefully falls.

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby andinismo_de_co » Tue Dec 02, 2008 1:59 pm

i understand that AT setups are ridiculously expensive: but be aware that trekkers really are not all that great. very heavy, bulky, cumbersome, and in my opinion not worth it. i would rather post hole for 10 miles in 3 feet of powder than use trekkers(well, maybe not.. but you get the idea ;-))

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:11 pm

andinismo_de_co wrote:i understand that AT setups are ridiculously expensive: but be aware that trekkers really are not all that great. very heavy, bulky, cumbersome, and in my opinion not worth it. i would rather post hole for 10 miles in 3 feet of powder than use trekkers(well, maybe not.. but you get the idea ;-))

A good AT setup doesn't have to be any more expensive than a good Alpine setup. Heck, I use a pair of $800 alpine ski boots and got my Scarpa Hurricane AT boots on sale for $475.
Only SNOW will end the madness

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby skiwall » Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:22 pm

Wesley wrote:Therein lies the dilemma. The Avalung works better when integrated into a pack. But when I go on overnight tours I take my Osprey Exposure 50, so no Avalung. Until/unless you want to spend another $100 for an extra Avalung for the 5% of times (in my case) I'm not going out with my main pack.


Good point...

Wesley wrote:Speaking of ways to spend exorbitant amounts of cash on a backcountry pack, I bumped into a guy over the weekend who had an ABS airbag pack. I think it was the ESC 15. He let me check it out some I was surprised at how little space the bags and canister took up. Will be interesting to see if these become more mainstream in the U.S. as the price hopefully falls.


Very nice... I've heard of them, but I've never seen one. My Dad suggested that I invent a rocket pack- hit the red button, go up fast. :)
"A good woman knows her place is in the backcountry." - PW '08

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby slopestyle » Tue Dec 02, 2008 2:25 pm

First off, welcome to the backcountry.

Your off to a good start by the looks of it with your class and the gear that you already have. However, I must second Wesleys concerns about the Trekkers. They are a cheap alternative and work decently for shorter hikes, IMHO, but if your planning multi day trips where you might have to strap your skis to your back they become a bit of a pain. Biggest reason is that your stuck in your normal alpine boots, which as we all know are bulky and don't really walk to well. If you already have a pair of AT boots (doesn't sound like you do) you can get away with the Trekkers a bit better. I've had many days where I have to drop the skinning and climb in my boots, it's a nightmare in traditional boots. I do understand the cost burden though, and am still paying off my AT setup, but it was worth every penny!

For poles I've got a pair of BD Expidition poles and love them. They colapse down nicely and when stretched out they lock great. I haven't had a problem yet with them slipping after a hard plant from some airs or catching myself from almost falling. These poles are bombproof if you ask me.

I don't have the Glidlite skins but do have BD Ascention STS skins. They work pretty good, just make sure that your skis fit in the tip loop. As for your statement about them working with skis now and in the future, don't count it. You need to trim your skins to one particular ski for maximum effect. You can trim them off a bit more so that you have a straight edge that is several mm shorter than the waist of your narrowest ski so that you can swap them out with others. Doing that though reduces your surface area and if you get onto steeper stuff you might start to slid back.... I recomend one pair of skins per ski. If you take care of both they'll give you years of dedicated service.

As for the Avalung- GET ONE. You've spent 400 bucks on a beacon, another 100 or more on a shovel and probe, so why not get something that can help you out more when your burried. You can find these used for around 40-80 bucks or new for about 130. Well worth the cost if you ask me. As for the integrated into a backpack: you can go there if your only using one backpack. However, if your like most of us you might do a simple day hike with a smaller bag or longer multi night trips where you'll need a larger one. If you have the stand alone model you'll be able to use it with any bag you own. If its integrated your stuck. Also, one of your goals if you are caught in a slid is to try and get rid of all your gear, your pack being one of them.... I know that in real life you don't really have a chance to drop everything off, but its the principle of the thing.

Other than that good luck, and if your looking for somebody to head out with let me know because I'm always looking for other folks to ski some lines in the BC with.

~Sam
Life's journey is not to arrive safely at the grave in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, "HOLY s**t!!...WHAT A HELL OF A RIDE!!!!"

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby Geof3 » Tue Dec 02, 2008 3:27 pm

Well, I've got to chime in on the trekkers etc. While your thinking is ok, it should be looked at a different way. First, any good AT gear will get you through resort days. Freerides, Naxo's whatever. Short of monster hucking constantly, they would be fine. Todays generation of AT boots are so close to full alpine boots, the same applies. Unless you are racing or something. Plus a lot of todays AT boots have the option of being AT soled, or DIN soled with a quick swap.

The rig you are talking is going to be heavy and not great for anything more that a quick shot on Pikes or a short hike. An approach in full alpine boots would be a nightmare for many reasons if any real distance is involved. It's rare to be able to use tennis shoes or light hikers until late in the year.

I would sell the alpine rig you have and find killer deals on AT gear online, ebay is a good choice. Always good deals there. Maybe start with a ski that isn't super popular to see if you like this game and than go from there. I ski and teach pretty much exclusively on AT gear. Never an issue. I run Seth's with Naxo's and Tornado boots with the rocker sole. I also have a pair of BD crossbows with an older naxo that I picked up for 250.00. Deals are out there...

The bonus of doing all this is actually ENJOYING the backcountry thing VS suffering needlessly...
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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby TT Summit » Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:31 pm

Wow, I appreciate all the help and suggestions. I will try to tackle each one.

The only issue I have with the built-in Avalung packs, as someone mentioned, is the fact that I will definitely be taking different bags with me on different treks. From hiking out of bounds from resorts, to single day trips, to multi-day trips, I will definitely want the flexibility. When it comes to safety equipment, I have always been hesitant on purchasing used gear. Of course, thinking of the simplicity of the Avalung, I am guessing this would be one of those exception times. I have been watching ebay, but I have just been hesitant. I guess the recommendation to go used is good enough to change my thoughts on this piece of equipment.

Those airbags look pretty cool. I am surprised they haven't picked up over here seeing that we have some of the highest levels of avalanches anywhere in the world.

The fact that the AT Setup isn't too much is understood, but also relative on the situation. New boots AND bindings will be more than I want to spend and definitely more than just the trekkers. I will, at most, go bc skiing 5 days this winter (have to study for the Bar exam for 2.5 months) and then I will be HOPEFULLY getting a job at some law firm. So, my days are limited this year (I say that as I did last year, and pulled 41 days on the mountain + was a ski instructor, lol). So, the $150 for a used pair of Trekkers to last 5 days I see as a better deal. I totally understand yall's points, but the time and money are both limited this winter. Also, I won't be doing any long hikes at all; after are class, me and my buddy are doing a single day hike and ski.

I plan to do my skins to my Karmas, as that will be my primary (for now) bc ski. The Karmas and lines are very close to being the same with only a 6mm difference underfoot and a tail difference of around 8mm. Any knowledge on the mixed hair skins though?

I really appreciate all the replys and concerns. Keep feeding them my way if you think of more. I have been wanting to get into the bc for a few years now and I finally get the opportunity to!

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby TT Summit » Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:40 pm

slopestyle wrote:First off, welcome to the backcountry.

Your off to a good start by the looks of it with your class and the gear that you already have. However, I must second Wesleys concerns about the Trekkers. They are a cheap alternative and work decently for shorter hikes, IMHO, but if your planning multi day trips where you might have to strap your skis to your back they become a bit of a pain. Biggest reason is that your stuck in your normal alpine boots, which as we all know are bulky and don't really walk to well. If you already have a pair of AT boots (doesn't sound like you do) you can get away with the Trekkers a bit better. I've had many days where I have to drop the skinning and climb in my boots, it's a nightmare in traditional boots. I do understand the cost burden though, and am still paying off my AT setup, but it was worth every penny!

For poles I've got a pair of BD Expidition poles and love them. They colapse down nicely and when stretched out they lock great. I haven't had a problem yet with them slipping after a hard plant from some airs or catching myself from almost falling. These poles are bombproof if you ask me.

I don't have the Glidlite skins but do have BD Ascention STS skins. They work pretty good, just make sure that your skis fit in the tip loop. As for your statement about them working with skis now and in the future, don't count it. You need to trim your skins to one particular ski for maximum effect. You can trim them off a bit more so that you have a straight edge that is several mm shorter than the waist of your narrowest ski so that you can swap them out with others. Doing that though reduces your surface area and if you get onto steeper stuff you might start to slid back.... I recomend one pair of skins per ski. If you take care of both they'll give you years of dedicated service.

As for the Avalung- GET ONE. You've spent 400 bucks on a beacon, another 100 or more on a shovel and probe, so why not get something that can help you out more when your burried. You can find these used for around 40-80 bucks or new for about 130. Well worth the cost if you ask me. As for the integrated into a backpack: you can go there if your only using one backpack. However, if your like most of us you might do a simple day hike with a smaller bag or longer multi night trips where you'll need a larger one. If you have the stand alone model you'll be able to use it with any bag you own. If its integrated your stuck. Also, one of your goals if you are caught in a slid is to try and get rid of all your gear, your pack being one of them.... I know that in real life you don't really have a chance to drop everything off, but its the principle of the thing.

Other than that good luck, and if your looking for somebody to head out with let me know because I'm always looking for other folks to ski some lines in the BC with.

~Sam


If you want to join us, we are planning on doing one of the easier 14ers (assuming snow conditions, etc.) after are course. We are skiing staying in Breck. the 15th-18th and skiing Copper, heading down to Crested Butte to do our course from the 19-21, and then planning on going bc on the 22nd. We plan to hit up one of the peaks between Crested Butte and the trip back to Denver (got to drop my buddy off to get his Off-road jeep from being worked on). As far as skill level, I consider us both good skiers. He is a boarder, but he stays up with me anywhere I go. Obviously pinpointing the level of skiing online is difficult, but I really haven't encountered anything I won't do on a mountain by myself, more/less with someone with me I will always follow. Let me know.

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Re: Backcountry Skiing

Postby ajkagy » Tue Dec 02, 2008 7:11 pm

BillMiddlebrook wrote:
andinismo_de_co wrote:i understand that AT setups are ridiculously expensive: but be aware that trekkers really are not all that great. very heavy, bulky, cumbersome, and in my opinion not worth it. i would rather post hole for 10 miles in 3 feet of powder than use trekkers(well, maybe not.. but you get the idea ;-))

A good AT setup doesn't have to be any more expensive than a good Alpine setup. Heck, I use a pair of $800 alpine ski boots and got my Scarpa Hurricane AT boots on sale for $475.


no joke, i got most of my AT gear on sale...you just gotta look online, find coupon codes, just wait for sales.

in my opinion, if you are going to go all AT you should do it right. Don't mess around with freerides or naxo's, go dynafit, super light and burly. I would get rid of those alpine trekkers...makes a heavy alpine setup even heavier, but if you aren't skinning too far then it will get you by.
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