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Backcountry/AT ski setup

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

Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby Bean » Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:44 pm

My hard snow / mountaineering skis are 175 kilowatts, the tan ones. They're solid all-around skis, but the bases are paper thin and about as hard as silly putty. When it comes time to replace, I'm giving the K2 Hardside a hard look. 2 sheets of metal but still reasonably light. Kind of wanting to put some Silvrettas on my KWs, but I need to pick up some Koflachs first (if anyone knows of a size 12 available for sale, ideally the Arctis Expe, let me know - my foot does not like Scarpa boots at all).
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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:57 pm

I am an ex-racer as well. I was very skeptical about soft boots but along your journey for the right equipment, you will get an education in how skis and boots match up. A stiff race boot totally overpowers my AT skis, an AT boot feels great! You need to get the ski for your boot.

I would also recommend you look for something thinner under foot like an Atomic or Volkl BC ski. I came up with "thin" skis before shaped skis took over so I like to sink way down and rise in my powder turns I suspect you will be much happier with a thinner ski underfoot. I have never skied rocker so I cannot comment there. If you are used to chattering on an iced up race course, I don't think you will need dampening materials. Dampening adds weight and you actually may prefer a livelier ski.

I have Marker bindings, love they way they ski but sometimes I regret the way they tour. In areas where I need to switch back and forth alot between ski and climb ( undulating roads ) they are a PITA and sometimes I have to really pound the snow out of them to get the heal re-attached but...... they ski great. I would enjoy hearing what you finally end up with.

Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby Bean » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:06 pm

I strongly discourage even considering anything under 90mm underfoot for backcountry skiing. The snow is incredibly variable, and the extra width keeps things managable. Dampness is a good thing when you hit breakable crust, at least for my skiing style.
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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby mtnfiend » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:13 pm

Gotta agree with Bean here. My Mt. Bakers are 88 under foot and were the fattest skis I had ever skied on at the time (like many am an ex racer). I'm now looking for skis between 100 and 110 underfoot.

Find a good demo program and ski a few different kinds to get a better idea. It also makes sense to me to take 2 pairs out at a time so you can compare in the same conditions.
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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby GSracer » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:49 pm

Good stuff, guys(and ladies)...you brought up one of my bigger concerns, ski width. I do plan to demo, I just didn't have a clue where to start as my current "powder" boards are 175cm 112-66-97 2007 Fischer RC4's hahaha. Very confused on the width thing though, seems to be two distinctly different schools of thought. I'm trying to get the most versatile ski I can get as I really only need one pair for backcountry stuff, but I am terrified of the squishiness factor. One brand of ski I have heard lots about other than the BD's are the Volkl Gotama/Katana/Mantra family...thoughts on these? I'll be a little more specific on my needs...want something managable in tight technical spaces but can roll big fast super G turns with in the open spaces in pow/crud/corn and have the ski stay reasonably stable.

Since a couple of you are advocating AT boots, specifically the Factor and Titan, are these of comparable stiffness/performance? Also, I have a very narrow flat foot, and will probably have Surefoot do some liner work(wow...cant believe the price tag on these things!)

I will follow up with my decision but might be a while later this year.

Many thanks again for shedding light on the subject as it seems I'm definitely behind the times.

Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby lordhelmut » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:51 pm

Bean wrote:I strongly discourage even considering anything under 90mm underfoot for backcountry skiing. The snow is incredibly variable, and the extra width keeps things managable. Dampness is a good thing when you hit breakable crust, at least for my skiing style.


Agree on 90mm underfoot or above. I used to use Dynastar Legends (82 underfoot) and got absolutely worked. I now use Icelantic Nomads (105 underfoot) and they work damn well. My buddy tried to convince me that every ounce counts, so I tried going superlight with the G3 Xenoxide's (177's, 105mm underfoot). I'm 5'11 185 and they seem to fit the bill. I've come to view the Nomads as my personal "one all be all" ski. It fits me like New Balances fit my feet and Cloudveil shells fit my build. Since I have unorthodox dimensions, s**t like this means a lot.

Anyways, Black Diamond, G3, Icelantic, Fristchi, Dynafit. Can't really go wrong with these brands, but keep in mind, Dyanfit takes a bit to get used to. If someone says they fell in love with their bindings instantly they are lying through their teeth, but once the maturation process was done, I've heard nothing but good reviews. I'm a bigger guy and don't mind the extra weight of the Freeride bindings. They are so easy to use, popular for a reason.

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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:55 pm

Whatever works for you. I am a short turner, love short turns. I ski with 86 under foot and I do not have any trouble with any kind of chopped up snow, sastrugi or any other kind of mank. Just 10 years ago an 86mm waist would have been considered wide, so it can be done. Definitely agree on demoing.

Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby Bean » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:57 pm

I have no experience with the Gotamas, but have a few friends who skied them lots this past season. They all loved how they skied, but they were super fragile. Not ideal for the Colorado backcountry, with how many rocks you're likely to hit through a season.

Forget SureFoot, just get Intuition liners (especially if you get Factors - Dynafit boots have pretty good liners, and Scarpa uses Intuitions stock, so you're set if you get a Scarpa. Garmont liners are even worse than BD's, and that's saying a lot). They're not cheap ($160-180 MSRP), super light, warm, fit perfectly, and ski great. As far as which boot will fit your foot - it sounds like Garmont or Dynafit will work for you, but there are so many different opinions about the exact same boots that you have to just try a bunch on. The top-end stiff boots from each manufacturer ski similarly enough that you shouldn't worry about it - fit is king.
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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby Bean » Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:59 pm

lordhelmut wrote: Can't really go wrong with these brands, but keep in mind, Dyanfit takes a bit to get used to. If someone says they fell in love with their bindings instantly they are lying through their teeth, but once the maturation process was done, I've heard nothing but good reviews. I'm a bigger guy and don't mind the extra weight of the Freeride bindings. They are so easy to use, popular for a reason.

I fell in love with my Dynafits instantly. Took them out for a couple laps on Berthoud pass, next time I took them out was Longs. Sold my Dukes as soon as I got a new pair of skis and used that $ to buy more Dynafits.
gdthomas wrote:Bean, you're an idiot.

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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby mtnfiend » Fri Sep 17, 2010 2:38 pm

I just love a little pre-ski season banter !! 8)
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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby Oman » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:52 pm

GSracer wrote: One brand of ski I have heard lots about other than the BD's are the Volkl Gotama/Katana/Mantra family...thoughts on these? I'll be a little more specific on my needs...want something managable in tight technical spaces but can roll big fast super G turns with in the open spaces in pow/crud/corn and have the ski stay reasonably stable.


Our oldest son is ski patrol at Winter Park and swears by his Mantras for just about everything there -- tight trees, the Cirque, pillows, powder, crud, and those long bump runs off the C lift. Main downside for a backcountry ski is the rounded tail that prevents you from using it to stake out a Megamid.

I'm taller and fatter than Lordhelmut but skied almost exclusively last season in-bounds and out on Dynafits. I'm not hucking much (and I'm too old to understand why anyone would go big in the backcountry anyway) but they were bombproof on bumps and steeps. For a backcountry ski I really like my K2 Coombas, which weigh about as much as the Mantras but are fatter (102 mm) with a square tail.

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Re: Backcountry/AT ski setup

Postby RobertPetrowsky » Fri Sep 17, 2010 6:07 pm

I just got a new AT setup myself. If you are an ex racer the only boot to look at is the Black Diamond Factor. I have been skiing Lange Comp 120 Freerides and they blow them out of the water. I have my Lange setup on a true race fit and I can safely say the Factors are just as stiff with a slightly higher cuff and the walk mode is great. You can change the sole blocks from alpine (standard) to At and the attachment appears very strong.

I have to agree with everyone saying to go with the Kilowatts. I just picked up a set of last year's in 175 and they are as torsionally stiff as my Volkl Expression V that I use for my current all mountain ski.

Check on Dynafit or G3 Onyx for bindings. The thing that sold me on G3 is the base plate can be mounted to a number of skis so you can swap bindings. Lou Dawson has some good reviews on binding stiffness (how much they allow boots to move in them and on the ski) and it looks like the "tech" style bindings can have as good or better hold than some of the alpine bindings out there.

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