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Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Info, conditions and gear related to skiing or riding Colorado Peaks, including the 14ers! Ski/Ride Trip Reports
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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby dbroudy » Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:55 am

I know very little about AT gear, but I'd have to agree that you should pick what type of turn you want to make first. The other advantage to light tele is that you do get some glide, I'm not sure you do with AT, but I could be wrong. And, if you wax, you can go from up to down to up with no gear adjustments. Not that locking down your heel with AT is hard, probably depending on which bindings.

It's a personal decision. As much as I, personally, like to tele, and have done it exclusively for 7 years after 25 years on alpine, there is a learning curve. And a fitness requirement to survive a whole day making tele turns that just isn't there with alpine. I switched to tele when I was back east, at least partly to try something new. If I was already in CO, and I was introduced to AT, I'm not sure I would have ever tried tele. But now that I do tele, I'm not sure I'll ever go back to alpine.

I don't think the weight thing is totally invalid though, and have heard it before. If you compare leather boots, 3 pin bindings, and light skis, I don't think that many AT setups will be that light, mostly because of the boots, though I suspect 3 pins are lighter than dynafits. Of course you can't ski the same things either, but if you're looking for XC with turns, then you're not trying too.

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby Carl » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:01 pm

llamaman wrote:No, not choosing tele because of weight, but I might choose not to get plastic boots because of weight, which then rules out AT. A lighter tele set up is still possible. Like I said, I'm not sure (still debating) how focused I'll be on the downhill. I like touring and exploring, so that means miles of up and flat, so I'm not sure a heavy set up (tele or AT) makes sense. But I do need more float, stability and control than what I currently own.

$1300???? I must be looking in the wrong places. I've been checking online retailers (REI, Backcountry.com, a few other random Google finds) and it looks like $1600 is the basic price of admission for AT ($600 for skis, $600 for boots, and $400 for bindings).


I don't want to steer you one way or the other since I'm definitely focused on the downhill (though i enjoy the up) and you're still figuring out what you're looking for. If I skin 5k or 6k vert in day, it's because i'm looking forward to skiing down that much, or more.

I do buy a lot of AT gear as I'm constantly changing things, destroying gear, and refining my setups, so I'm more than willing to offer advice in that regard. Bent Gate is having a pretty good sale right now, which is where I based the prices on. If you walk in there and want to buy boots and skis, I know you can get a sweet setup for under $1000. I personally just bought a pair of Rossignol S3s and Line Prophets (both 10/11 models) in the last two weeks for under $500 each. And I'm selling a few pairs of Marker Barons. I think my used pair is spoken for but I'm selling two brand new pairs, asking $300 each. I think this is the ideal AT binding if you're skiing the resort with it, or you're not willing to buy a dynafit compatible boot. Otherwise, dynafit is the way to go for the backcountry in terms of AT. I've also got a like new BCA Tracker I'm selling, maybe for $200 if I can get that. Lots of deals on craigslist, TGR, and mountainproject. Happy shopping. I'm sure you'll enjoy whatever you go with.

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby llamaman » Wed Oct 20, 2010 12:17 pm

Ok, thanks guys. I have a basic decision to make about the kind of trips I want to do. Do I want to focus on big downhills, or mixed terrain tours? That seems like the first basic split between heavy-duty equipment (real fat skis, plastic boots) and more XC oriented equipment. Probably the best thing to do is rent again (AT, heavy duty tele, and something lighter) and see what I prefer.

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby rickinco123 » Wed Oct 20, 2010 3:41 pm

I completely misunderstood what you were after. Sounds like you just want tour and be able to handle the occasional downhill. You will probably be real happy with the backcountry cross country set up. Most of them are modeled after tele gear now days and way lighter and more flexible than AT gear. I used to ski down from the top of the Strawberry Park chair at Beaver Creek in my cross country skis on the easiest blue........ with no edges. Fortunately there were never many people on that run..... talk about wide turns. On this new generation of cross country ski I imagine you could kick some serious ass on the downhill once you get the hang of it.

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby madbuck » Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:29 pm

llamaman, I think I know what you're looking for.
I have some Fischer Outtabound Crown's (waxless) that I bought a few years ago, still use, and love 'em! Bought some basic Rossi fabric boots. With this, I've had some great tours at Cameron Pass, RMNP, Brainerd Lake, Happy Jack, San Juan hut trip, etc...as well as around town, skiing to work, and upslope 1-day oddities like Horsetooth.

Last year, got some used Scarpa T3 plastic boots for $50 and did some resort stuff to practice some laughable tele turns: my wife and I were at Wolf Creek, I had the skis for the XC ski loop, and finally had the nerve to waste a few hours falling to try them out. Ended up having a blast and really increased my confidence in these skis for moderate downhill. (Definitely not the best for deep powder and technical terrain, and of course you'd want avy training, beacon, shovel, a partner, etc. in those scenarios). Yes, do a class and safety gear first if you go above treeline, higher angle tours, and/or cross avalanche runouts, and try to decide on AT vs. Tele if you're all about the turns.

But there are also plenty of fun, safe, mellow options below treeline throughout the state (mentioned above, and you've probably been to some of them on your XC skis), and if you want to practice turns in a more controlled environment, so to speak, you can bring them to a ski area. I compare these skis to my trusty hardtail: great for touring in cross-country terrain all day; not the best or fastest for big stuff. It is manageable at a variety of terrain, but not the best in any of it.
So I would consider looking at similar backcountry touring setups: metal edge/waxless. If you don't get plastic boots right away, your total outlay is $500-$600 new.
Then, you can decide how much you like it, and decide on a bigger cash outlay for AT vs. Tele. You'll still have the backcountry skis to beat around on.

It's not as common of a setup as I would think....but for me, it's a blast!

Good luck/have fun!

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby llamaman » Thu Oct 21, 2010 12:51 pm

Thanks all for the input and advice. I think the wisest thing for me to do is NOT buy anything. That goes against everything I hold to be dear and true (yes, I'm a gearhead), but it probably makes sense to just rent a bunch of times this year and learn more. I was planning to buy some four-packs to WP, Copper and Loveland anyway. So i'll try some AT and tele gear at those places. And I'll try AT and tele stuff in easy backcountry areas. Then maybe by the end of the season, I'll know what I want. It's not as fun as buying shiny new toys to play with, but it's better than buying shiny new toys that I immediately want to replace because I don't like them.

Does anybody know if there are good sources of AT and tele rentals near Winter Park and Copper Mountain??

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby Dave B » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:01 pm

llamaman wrote:
Does anybody know if there are good sources of AT and tele rentals near Winter Park and Copper Mountain??


I'm not sure about tele stuff, but I know JAX here in FoCo rents AT gear, typically Scarpa Denali boots, BD Kilowatts mounted with Fritschi Freerides - the whole kit and kaboodle rents for about $35 (including skins and poles).

Also to keep in mind, when we were in there last year one of the girls that helped us hinted at the fact that they sell their rental stuff every other year (this coming spring would be the next sale). I'm only releasing that info because I've pretty much decided on dynafits for my set-up (when that glorious day comes :D ).

And just one more option, Sierra Trading Post has a couple of really good AT and Tele boots in stock right now, you can't beat their return policy and if you order by noon they will most likely arrive in Foco the next day. Plus if your thrifty and do a little internet search I bet you could find a coupon code for an extra 20% off and free shipping.

Good luck - maybe we'll get a chance to ski together this winter!

Cheers!
The mountains - whose summits reach or exceed arbitrary thresholds for elevation and prominence - are calling and I must go.

-John Muir

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby Girlslovesnow » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:29 pm

llamaman wrote:Does anybody know if there are good sources of AT and tele rentals near Winter Park and Copper Mountain??


Wilderness Sports in Dillon rents both.
"I wish people would quit telling me I can do anything I want. I never thought I couldn't"

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby dbroudy » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:35 pm

Inquire at shops about demos too. Usually more than rentals, but most places will take the cost off whatever you end up buying, up to a point anyway.

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby llamaman » Thu Oct 21, 2010 1:36 pm

davey_rocket wrote:
llamaman wrote:
Does anybody know if there are good sources of AT and tele rentals near Winter Park and Copper Mountain??


I'm not sure about tele stuff, but I know JAX here in FoCo rents AT gear, typically Scarpa Denali boots, BD Kilowatts mounted with Fritschi Freerides - the whole kit and kaboodle rents for about $35 (including skins and poles).

Also to keep in mind, when we were in there last year one of the girls that helped us hinted at the fact that they sell their rental stuff every other year (this coming spring would be the next sale). I'm only releasing that info because I've pretty much decided on dynafits for my set-up (when that glorious day comes :D ).

And just one more option, Sierra Trading Post has a couple of really good AT and Tele boots in stock right now, you can't beat their return policy and if you order by noon they will most likely arrive in Foco the next day. Plus if your thrifty and do a little internet search I bet you could find a coupon code for an extra 20% off and free shipping.

Good luck - maybe we'll get a chance to ski together this winter!

Cheers!


I rented tele stuff from Jax last winter. That place is hit or miss in terms of knowledgeable staff, but I guess most places are that way. They screwed up my reservation and had to send me out with boots that didn't quite fit right. I'll try the Mountain Shop too. But it would also be nice to find places close to the resorts I plan to visit.

And, yeah, let's try to hook up for some skiing. I'd probably hold you back, but if you don't mind that I'm definitely interested in getting out with experienced people.

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby Dave B » Thu Oct 21, 2010 6:01 pm

llamaman wrote: I'd probably hold you back, but if you don't mind that I'm definitely interested in getting out with experienced people.


Ha ha, for sure, although I might have given the wrong impression about my skill level :lol: - we're probably on just about the same level.
The mountains - whose summits reach or exceed arbitrary thresholds for elevation and prominence - are calling and I must go.

-John Muir

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Re: Equipment suggestions for backcountry beginners

Postby louguy231 » Sun Dec 26, 2010 12:21 pm

I have never skied before and really have no desire to do any downhill stuff especially in Colorado. I am a climber and have summited several of the 14ers so I know the terrain is nothing to underestimate or disrespect. I am wanting to cross country ski more for the workout and to get out and away from Denver. I was thinking of doing this either on a trail or on the road leading up from Bakerville. I do not want to break treeline and really just want the workout and to get into the alpine and altitude to train for the coming summer season of climbling. I was wanting some recommendations on skis/boots and if this area that I am talking about is no good do you have an alterative around the Denver area that is not crowded. My ideal place to do this would be a road that is not plowed during winter and has a realtively flat grade. I appreciate any guidance and I will have my shovel,avy beacon and avy lung with me. Not taking any chances just wanting to get out and enjoy the winter.
Thanks,
Shawn

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