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Jan

28

2014

Efficient Tools for Backcountry Skiing Tours

mountain-winter-2014-backcountry-ski-tour

Look here for ski mountaineering, hut trips, and multi-day backcountry skiing forays.

By Matt Hart | Photograph by Clay Ellis

Ski: Fat alpine skis bog you down on long approaches. The Voile Vector BC measures 121/96/110 and weighs in at six pounds, 14 ounces per pair—with a wood core. It’s technically a midfat ski, but feels lighter on the skin track. Cooler still, on a tour in Washington’s Cascades, the waxless, fish-scaled bases let me maintain momentum on rolling terrain that would normally require multiple transitions. You don’t have to put your skins on till it gets steep. On the way down, tip rocker keeps you afloat in deep powder, and has a responsive feel in tight couloirs. $550

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Boot: Most manufacturers struggle to build a boot that marries downhill performance and uphill potency. Dynafit cracked that code with the TLT 6 Performance CR. At just over 2.5 pounds, the TLT 6 saves gobs of energy, but is laterally stiff enough to make the downhill fun. An improved shell—more anatomical—creates better power transfer. A thicker liner and heat reflective layer underfoot add warmth. To operate, simply unlatch the top two steel cable buckles to engage walk mode; close them to ski. Customize with variable tongue inserts. $1,000

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Binding: Even though Dynafit’s patent expired a few years back, they’ve maintained dominance in off-piste “tech” bindings. The engineering marvel, TLT Speed Radical proves this point. When the skin track pitches up, a quick flip of the pole increases heel height. If conditions turn bulletproof, engage the reliable speed crampon. And at just 340 grams per binding, weight weenies rejoice. Dynafit ditched the traditional ski brake from this model to shave another 200 grams per binding. (They ship with leashes.) It’s the easiest tech binding yet to step into thanks to a bumper and guide groove. $400

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Skins: A nylon skin delivers durability but won’t pack down well. Mohair skins break down faster, but offer noticeably enhanced glide. Split the difference on long ski tours with the Black Diamond GlideLite Mohair Mix STS skins. $165

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Harness: No hyperbole here. The CAMP Alp 95 is the lightest harness in the world. It also compacts to the size of a lemon. A single tie-in point and two small gear loops slash weight to about a third of a traditional harness. Fixed leg loops mean fewer moving parts. $50

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Shovel: The blade of the Voile T6 Tech Avalanche shovel is made with heat-treated aluminum to prevent flaking and chipping. A snow saw hidden in the handle helps when cutting test columns in a pit. $65

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Gloves: I’ve retired from chasing dudes in tights up mountains, but I still love the ski mountaineering racing, or “skimo”-inspired, Camp G Comp Wind glove. They cover your hands with breathable, lightweight fabric studded with silicone grips for a superior hold on ski poles or climbing tools. If the wind picks up, deploy a mitten shell to keep digits toasty. $85; camp-usa.com

Long Underwear: Go Merino wool once, and you’ll never go back. For big days and long trips, the Ibex Woolies 220 long underwear protect my legs. Wool done right outperforms synthetics and cotton. Here, small-diameter yarn provides superior warmth and comfort. If putting skins on at the car causes you to break out in a sweat, don’t worry; the Woolies draw moisture away from the body. $85; ibex.com

Probe: Tug the plastic grip at the top end of the G3 Carbon Speed Tech SL probe, and a full-length shock cord quickly snaps it intact. Clear markings every 5mm make it an invaluable tool for snow pit analysis. $78

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Snow Study Kit: Carry the BCA Snow Study Kit, and use it. The right tools to decode the snowpack aid decision-making. A lightweight case holds a slope meter for assessing terrain, an analog thermometer for snowpack analysis, and a magnifying loupe and crystal ID card to get up close with the snow. $95

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Backpack: The Osprey Kode 42 keeps specialized gear handy with loops for ice tools and a helmet compartment. Load the main cavity from the top or through a zippered back panel. $169

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See more time tested gear here. From the Winter 2014 issue.

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