Monday, May 19, 2014

2 friends on heavy gear with my wife in the middle on a recent spring outing. Note the ridiculously heavy "all about the down" setup on the left and the slightly less beefy setup on the right sandwiching the skimo setup in the middle.
"It's all about the down" in US backcountry ski gear with most manufacturers (only Voile and euro imports buck this trend I think?) offering very heavy even as their lightest gear choices. I remember our local ski shop commenting on how light they thought my K2 Coombacks were with Dynafit Speed Radical bindings when they mounted them only to see how far off the mark they were when they mounted my Dynafit Low Tech Race bindings to my PDGs! That isnt even the lightest out there as you all know!

This heavy weight gear mentality is what it is I guess. It's not like people who schlep around the backcountry at a snail's pace are causing global pandemics, contributing more to global warming or anything bad. In fact, the more people on stupid heavy ski rigs the better as far as Im concerned. I mean, they only make a paltry few descents  (if more than 1) and leave a lot of untracked pow for me! By all means, the US backcountry market should focus on even heavier offerings!

The one exception is women's ski gear. And Im now getting serious (although as I write this my jest above seems like a REALLY good idea!). Ive mentioned it before but heavy ski gear is an especially poor choice for female skiers who are generally much lighter than men and don't have the muscle mass either. While there are MANY fit women out there, men can just carry heavy things longer because of how we are built. Nothing especially impressive about that, it just is what it is. Anyway, take a light person without much muscle mass and give them heavy things on their feet and you have the makings of a suckfest. I know there are exceptions to this but in my general experience, Ive never seen this proven wrong and Im talking about in general here.

It seems that women (and small guys as well) get a double bonus from skimo-oriented gear. First, they aren't at a weight/performance disadvantage over larger group members anymore. Second, smaller gear for smaller folks will not really be that different dimension-wise to the proportions the bigger skis give to bigger skiers.

One more compelling thought here is light gear gives someone who might not be in the best shape at the moment the chance to hang with fitter skiers on fatter gear.

I was reminded of this over the weekend when a group of friends got our for some spring skiing including my wife who has been overwhelmed with work this winter and has not had much time to ski. She saw the light and got a light setup and has been skiing it all winter in and out of the area. She is 5' tall and so the 160cm Dynafit PDG ski is about what she would ski anyway. Additionally, the Dynafit TLT6 Women's boot (only boot I could find in a 22.5 mondo) is more than burly enough for someone this size (heck, guys my size who are way better than Ill ever be use this boot!). The one weighty choice we made was getting Dynafit Speed Radical bindings since she is not an expert skier and wanted a lower release setting and more heel lift options.
Not bad foe a working mom compared to a high school cross country runner and a kidless woman who literally skis the backcountry 4-6 hours almost every free day all season! My wife hangin' early in the morning.

Don't get me wrong, light weight gear is no substitute for fitness. However, it really is amazing what a difference it makes. While my wife was not able to keep up with the group for the whole morning, over a 5 hour outing her and I ended up about 30 minutes behind the group by the end and we got in more vert. Most importantly, she had fun. After all, what is skiing about other than that? I know other women who are very good skiers but dislike the backcountry because it is really hard to get around on Marker Dukes, fat skis and 4 buckle boots while running nylon skins.I suspect that for many non-skimo backcountry enthusiasts similar gains in fun can be had with a skimo mentality.

I skied the tour on my own PDG skis with PDG boots and while Im 6'4" still had an absolute blast even when things got a tad warm. I also broke all the trail and was so far out in front that I could not see the group most of the time. You can have a LOT of fun on light gear, right? I know Im probably preaching to the choir here as anyone who finds this blog is likely to be a skimo racer but I really think that the benefits of a skimo mentality for general backcountry application are under-emphasized.

Anyway, just some thoughts on light weight gear for the "everywoman" in the backcountry.

Yep, it's all about having fun! Woot!

I hope you all are having your own spring backcountry fun!


Post a Comment