Category Archives: Gear

G3 Ion Bindings

I love my Dynafit touring bindings. The fundamental design is a work of genius, and much of the skiing I’ve done over the past 10 years would have been much more difficult without them. As to be expected there were initial issues with durability (heel post fatigue) and functionality (truly reliable hold and release), but rather than methodically addressing them, Dynafit has squandered multiple major revisions  trumpeting a succession of poorly conceived and inadequately tested new features (tri-step toe-piece, comfort volcanoes, F12 stiffener, anti-rotation pin, heel pin spacing etc.).  They sometimes operate like an cliched eccentric designer  is calling the shots, when what they really need is a competent mechanical engineer. I’ve been known to rant on the subject, but suffice to say there is room for improvement.


oooh – shiny anodized metal parts.

Fortunately we’re about to see what could be a couple of new viable alternatives, the Fritschi Vipec and the G3 Ion, which both promise to incorporate features such as fore-aft heel piece elasticity and functional brakes into their designs. G3 are based in Vancouver, and their product development engineer Cam Shute lives and skis here in the Kootenays. After underwhelming skiers with the innovative Onyx binding, recent pre-release  pics and info on their new Ion binding caught my attention. Cam recently took some time out from teaching his son to ski on the magic carpet at Red Mountain to run me through the features of his personal prototypes. Rather than reinventing the tech binding, G3 have clearly set out to create a more durable and refined version of a Dynafit Radical series binding. No one feature is revolutionary, but when you go through the list in detail it seems that each has been thoughtfully considered, and the execution appears to be of the highest quality. To top it off, they look great. G3 has coordinated an effective media blitz this week, and a thorough analysis of the various features can be found over at Wildsnow. I’m hoping to get my hands on a pair, so that I can ski the shit out them, and help determine if the Ion actually delivers on a lot of promise.



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I’ve been getting DPS skis onto the feet of quite a few local skiers over the past few years. It’s been allot of fun, operating a low-key retail outlet from my house, and selling skis that I use and can honestly endorse. But the brand is growing, and to expand sales beyond the limited circle of people I’m connected to would  require a conventional storefront, which I’m happy to leave to one of the established players.

Instead I’m now focusing my restless energies on establishing a backcountry ski cabin. I have a particular vision that I’ve long dreamed of creating, and for the past few years I’ve been systematically exploring the region for a suitable location. Finding high quality ski terrain isn’t too difficult in the Kootenays, but finding an area that doesn’t conflict with the multitude of existing commercial, cultural, and environmental interests and issues was much more challenging.

After ruling out many possibilities, I eventually settled on  what I hope will be an available area in the Southern Valhallas, and recently submitted a formal application for  a commercial recreation tenure. Now the government is conducting a comprehensive review and referral process, and within a few months I’ll find out if my dream can progress to more practical matters.


100m from the proposed cabin.



Filed under Backcountry, Gear

Dynafit Binding Issue

I ski about 120 days per year, for both work (guiding)  and pleasure, on Dynafit bindings. Until this last season I’ve been their biggest advocate, but their new model bindings are (in my opinion) fundamentally flawed,  and the company is doing nothing about it.  I purchased new  Dynafit Speed Radical bindings at the beginning of last winter, and mounted them to my new DPS Lotus 138s .  I immediately noticed a significant and unusual amount of play at the boot -binding interface.  I feel it,  see it, hear it, and it annoys the shit of me. I hold it responsible for several instances of premature release while skiing, and while difficult to quantify, mechanically it must be compromising the precision and performance that I value in my skiing. I’m forced to ski much more conservatively than I can with my 2011/12 bindings. To confirm what I felt and observed I measured (with calipers) and confirmed that the heel pin spacing is ~0.3mm wider than my 2011/12 Speed Radical bindings. Here are a couple of short videos’ demonstrating the difference in the amount of play between the 2011/12 and 2012/13 bindings.


When I initially contacted Dynafit (Salewa) on the issue, they postulated that I might just have a faulty binding, and sent me a (single) replacement heel piece. It measured exactly the same. I put it out for discussion on the TGR skiing forums, and had an on-line conversation with Lou (Wildsnow) Dawson, but no-one seems to have any idea what I’m referring to, or has offered a solution.  I pressed Dynafit on the issue, and they (Eric) eventually acknowledged that the heel pin spacing had been widened, apparently a decision by Dynafit Europe that has not been publicized to my knowledge.  Eric suggested that I should look to Plum or G3  bindings as a solution, which although refreshingly honest, does seem a tacit acknowledgement that Dynafit have and are continuing to sell what I characterize as a defective product.

I’m currently investigating Plum and G3 bindings as an alternative, and am even considering how I might fabricate boot heel inserts that precisely match the wider pins (a potentially simple solution – Dynafit?), but right now I would advise against anyone purchasing Dynafit Radical series bindings for high performance skiing.


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A New Canon

The Old Canon – RIP.
Virtually every photo that I’ve used in the 332 posts I’ve made on this blog since November 2006, has been taken with my trusty Canon Powershot SD400 digital camera. I’ve been carrying it in my thigh pocket, sans case, whenever I’m skiing, through every variation of cold and wet you can imagine, and it’s always worked flawlessly. I’ve considered upgrading, but figured I’d just use it until it died, and that day has finally come. So from this point on I’ll be using my new Canon Elph 300HS, which is close as I could find to the latest incarnation (same battery, same memory card) of my old camera. It’s got a bunch of fancy new features that’ll take me a while to learn, or more likely ignore, but all I really need is for it to be there when I need it on whatever adventures are to come.


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DPS Skis.

DPS Rossland.
I’ve been trying out rockered skis the past couple of years, and have appreciated the turning ease and flotation of skis like the Rossi S7 and the Salomon Rocker 2. However with both these popular mass produced skis, I felt that the overly soft tails and lack of torsional rigidity limited their performance and range. DPS are a small boutique ski manufacturer based in Utah who have developed a reputation for building the most technologically advanced carbon fibre skis, and their Wailer 112RP model has been receiving glowing reviews in magazines and on the internet as a no compromise, rip the shit out of all conditions ski. Similar in shape to the Rossi S7 and Armada JJ, but engineered and manufactured to higher standards. They seemed like the perfect ski for me, and perhaps for many other passionate skiers. So I contacted the company, convinced them I could represent their skis effectively, and have begun selling them in Rossland. The traditional model for retailing skis out of a storefront seems antiquated in a world where a larger selection is available for less on the internet, but I’m gambling that there might be an opportunity to sell a select range of high quality skis, at competitive prices, with personalized expert service. They’ve been so popular that availability is limited, but please do contact me if you want to know more, and I’ll have demos available if you want to give them a try.


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Salomon Rocker 2 Review

Of all the new models released of late, these are the skis I’ve been most curious about. Pre release reviews have been gushing, and it from what I’ve read they seem targeted at exactly the type and level of skiing that I do. So about to jump on the lift for yet another day of powder skiing at Red, I was stoked to see a pair in my size (192cm) available for demo, and with a minimum of fuss I got to take them out for half a dozen runs on Granite.

They’re long and fat (122cm waist), light weight and soft flexing, with a pronounced rocker at the tip and tail. From first turn to last they were easy and predictable. On the limited amount of groomed snow that I skied, they carved relatively short turns with a soft smooth railing sensation characteristic of Salomons. In open powder they danced through turns of any radius, and when it got tighter and steeper they whipped around the tightest of arcs with the subtlest of initiation. They were light and fun, and are my favorite of the bunch of new model skis I’ve demoed this year.

However because they’re so soft I found it easy to over ski them with my usual aggressive angulated technique. Channeling my inner jibber I found that a centered body position and rather passive technique worked best, though above a certain speed I felt that I was skimming rather than carving, and I couldn’t ever really get into top gear. In smooth consistent snow I didn’t have any problems, but they’re deflected by heavy and inconsistent conditions. In situations like lumpy high speed run-outs and cut-up crud on groomers I had to adopt a bit of a survival stance, whereas on my regular boards (185cm Dynastar Sixth Sense Huges) I’d just rail through that shit without thinking.

In conclusion I think Salomon are onto a winner with Rocker 2, and should cut in to sales of the popular Rossignol S7s and Armada JJs at places like Red Mountain. They’re a perfect do everything ski for most intermediate to advanced off-piste skiers, but (like the aforementioned skis) are just too soft for real charging. I still haven’t found anything that can compare to my beloved Dynastars.


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Lightweight Ski Touring Gloves

MEC Navigator Glove
I carry both warmer and a lightweight gloves when ski-touring, but 90% of the time I’ll be wearing the lighter ones, and these are my current favorites. Sure leather gloves provide delicate sensitivity, and reliable grip, but when they get wet (and gloves always get wet) they stay wet, and if you’re using and abusing them, they wear out fast. So I stick with fast drying synthetics, and have until recently found that cheap construction and gardening gloves do as well as any. This year I splurged on the Navigator model gloves from MEC. The palms are made of notoriously durable and waterproof Hypalon fabric, with Schoeller softshell backs, and a light fleece lining. Hard to go wrong for $29 (now on special for $21). A couple of weeks back they got completely soaked in a minor snowmobiling incident (it was raining and there was a small creek involved), but I continued wearing them for several hours of skinning up through a blizzard, and by the time I reached the top and was ready to ski, both my hands and gloves were dry. I expect they’ll be too warm for the sunniest spring conditions (though otherwise cover a remarkable range), and would be even better if they fit like ArcTeryx’s latest and greatest, but so far they’re everything that I need.

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Dynafit Titans – Follow Up.

I’ve had perhaps 100 days now on my Dynafit Titan alpine touring boots, and my initial impressions have been confirmed. These boots continue to be comfortable enough that I’ll wear them house to house, even when I’ve an hour drive to the trailhead, yet paradoxically clamp down for maximum skiing performance. Minor issues that I’ve noticed over this time include:

– A cant adjustment mechanism that continually rotates, never locking on the desired setting, and that has a noticible amount of lateral play. Obviously a design fault (many users have had the same issue), Dynafit is sending me non-adjustable replacement rivets which should address the problem.

– A less than positive (compared to the Garmont Radium for instance) forward lean locking mechanism, which unless I pay full attention (locking it into ski mode before buckling up seems to help) can easily revert to walk mode or lock in the 15 degree rather than the desired 21 degree forward position. Several of the internal screws holding the forward lean mechanism in place have begun working their way out, but I monitor them periodically, and just screw em back in.

– Wear in the rubber around the binding toe engagement notches, but this seems to have no functional effect.

– The stitching attaching the velcro to the power strap has come loose. I’ll get around to re-sewing it sometime soon.

I recently had a chance to try on (just in store) the new Dynafit TLT5 boots, and was so impressed with their low volume fit, light weight, range of touring movement, and surprising supportiveness in ski mode, that I might eventually (once they’ve had time to work out the bugs) find a way to justify buying pair for longer tours, but for aggressive backcountry skiing, the Titans are still the benchmark.


Filed under Backcountry, Gear

Leisure Suit Gear Review

Discussing our pre-race strategy.
According to Wikipedia, the Leisure suit achieved it’s short lived fashion zenith in the mid 70s, but as a connoisseur of kitsch I always keep one in my wardrobe for special occasions. While my brown Levis Pantela suit  has seen plenty of action at parties, with its’ durable stretch polyester open weave fabric and comfortable loose cut, I figured I needed to explore it’s potential as a competitive skiing outfit.
There wasn’t much fluff to be found, but under warm sunny skies it was a fun and social  Coldsmoke  Powderfest at Whitewater this past weekend. Lured by the possibilty of some impressive prizes and a bit of curiosity I signed up for the King of Coldsmoke competition, in which the results from the Randonee Rally, the Backcountry Booter, and the Banked Slalom are tallied to crown a champion. Coming into the competition I knew I wasn’t going to dominate in any one event, but I figured I was pretty versatile, so could be in with a chance.
The bag-pipes playing while in the start gate were a nice touch.
It was my first Randonee Race, and I enjoyed the format, providing for  a good variety of challenging ski-touring adjacent to Whitewater resort. My brother and I paced the long course at the upper end of of our regular ski-touring pace, and came in at 2hrs and 35mins, about 25 minutes off the (lycra clad) podium. If I was to race again I’d try to source some lighter gear and  practice to get a lot faster at the transitions. I thought I had my skis-on skin removal technique dialed, but it all fell apart under the pressure of competition. The Leisure suit proved well suited to Randonee racing, providing excellent ventilation, allowing unrestricted movement, and ensuring extra cheers (and motivation) from the small crowd.
Given-er on the Bootpack.
The Backyard Booter was a combination bootpacking/free-skiiing/slopestyle event held on the Powderkeg cliffs. It was great that the patrol had previously closed the venue, so we got to ski in a remnant section of untracked powder. Coming just after the Randonee Race the bootpacking sprint to the top was a lung buster, and I struggled to place 4th. Attempting to ski to the judging criteria I skied a fast and fluid line with a moderate drop through the main cliff band, but the judges (and the crowd) were obviously more stoked with the big hucking flippers. With a light fleece mid layer added for warmth, the Leisure suit performed flawlessly.
On the Sunday morning I completed the Poker ski-tour at a relatively relaxed pace. I got nothing in my poker hand, but I skied the event alongside Jeff and Dustin who both won Scarpa ski boots and ArcTeryx backpacks for their three aces.
The final event was the banked slalom, held on a firm (for a powder junkie like me) fast and fun course. I was stoked to complete two clean runs, and placed in the middle of the field. I was most impresssed that Whitewater outside operations manager Kirk Jensen was able to lead by example, cleaning up for the second year running. In slightly colder conditions and for less active use, the leisure suit was a bit chilly.
In my leisure suit I was prepared for all situations.
Due to a misplaced results sheet the final placings weren’t able to be calculated at the end of the weekend (apparently we’ll be notified by e-mail), but the reigning champ, Scott  Jeffery of Nelson, was a clear standout, placing a very impressive third in each of the events. It turns out that my strongest event (with my long reach) was the swag catching on the deck, and I scored a sweet carbon probe, some nice ski socks, and a hat.
I was pleased with all my results, pretty much performing as well as I was able, and I’ll likely be back next year, with revised tactics, and the maybe even the Leisure suit.


Filed under Backcountry, Gear, Whitewater

G3 Alpinist Skins Review

I used and loved purple Ascension skins for many years. When they were bought out by Black Diamond a few years back, I stayed loyal, but I didn’t appreciate the changes. My yellow Ascension/Black Diamond skins gripped like the proverbial shit to a blanket, but the poor glide was unacceptable – they made striding inefficient, and short downhills extremely awkward. they were bulky,  the cable tip attachment system wore out rapidly, and even the storage bag provided was too small. I needed new skins. I’d had a bad experience with G3’s first generation skins (they hadn’t dialed their glue recipe) but I’d been hearing good things about their Alpinist skins, so gave them a try.

I bought straight 100mm skins, which provide more than adequate coverage on my 102mm waisted K2 Coombas.  After trying trimmed skins, I find straight skins are much easier to fold, and less prone to glue contamination. Being unadjustable at the tip, the skins were purchased in a fixed length, which seems to work well on my skis. I’ve long been an advocate of the rat-tail (sewn-on webbing and bungy cord) but the proprietary tail attachment system on these skins is simple and effective. I have concerns about the durability of the elastic material, but only time will tell. I think the the large scalloped tail notch on my K2 Coombas helps keep the skins securely in place, and the only time I’ve had the tails come off was when kicking my tails into well consolidated snow (when pulling the ski tail out of such snow the elastic tail can be pried off).  The two clips which attach the tip of the skins look pretty distinctive, high tech, and low profile. They’ve worked flawlessly thus far, and I hope they prove durable. The skins grip as well as necessary, and glide beautifully. I now look forward to short downhills, where I can pick up a bit of speed and sometimes even throw in a turn or two. The glue sticks well in all the conditions I’ve encountered, is reasonably easy to pull apart (a non-stick strip down the center may be helping), and appears to be in as-new condition after about 20 days on snow. The skins pack small, and come with a stuff sack that is light-weight, easily accommodates the skins, and opens without issue. G3 seem to have paid attention to all the details, and I’m totally stoked with my new skins.


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