Category Archives: Gear

Searching for the perfect resort skis.

Last Season – Dynastar Huge Troubles with Marker Dukes

Another powder day at Red today, the best conditions so far this season. It was a little on the  heavy side (a few face shots that splatted onto my goggles), but not so warm as to get sticky, and deep enough (boot to knee) to slow you down on the steeps.  I brought out my rock skis for opening day, but when the skiing is this good, I want to be on my Huge Troubles. When I was shopping for skis I knew I wanted some that would float through anything (110mm under foot), smear effortlessly when I need them to (neutral camber), and yet carve like a GS ski in firmer conditions (damp wood core with lots of side-cut), and they do it all.  I initially mounted them with Marker Dukes, figuring I’d use them for occasional side-country touring, but found the Dukes were impossibly heavy, a misery to tour with (I’m used to Dynafits), were actually difficult to get in and out of, and raised me too high off the skis. So I sold the Dukes, mounted some light and simple Salomon z12s, and couldn’t be happier.

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Dynafit Titan Boot Review

I have narrow and low-volume feet, and long thin legs. As a full-time skier, and having used the Raichle Flexon ski boots (a perfect fit that was confirmed in a 3D boot compatability scan) for lift serviced skiing my entire skiing life, I have high expectations for how a boot should fit and perform. To my endless frustration and disspointment, the ski touring boots available seem to have been designed for intermediate skiers with broad feet. Over the years I’ve endured and heavily modified as succession of touring boots – Raichcle Concordias, Scarpa Denalis, Scarpa Lazers, Garmont Megarides, and just last season a new pair of Garmont Radiums. Although not anticipating purchasing boots this year, this Fall I tried on a pair of the new Dynafit Titan’s, just to get sense of the fit and flex, and in a Cinderella moment, instantly knew that I had to get a pair.
The stock liners seemed suupportive and fit well un-molded,  but were a struggle to get on and off in the comfort of my living room (and would therefore be impossible in the mountains), so I’ve replaced them with some lightly used Intuition alpine overlap liners. Much easier, but which I anticipate will still be struggle to get  on after a cold night snow camping. They also lighten up the boots a bit. I swapped over the locking buckle receptors from my Garmont Radiums (a very useful little feature), and took them skiing.
These bright white boots sure do get noticed on the skin-track, with lots of skiers curious to know what I think of them. After a few days of use, they’ve met my highest expactations. They’re by far the most comfortable touring boot I’ve used. The Intuition liners haven’t even been molded for these shells (they’re molded for my Radiums) yet I’ve got no pressure points whatsover and  my heel remains locked in place at all times. I’d expected to have to punch out the shells after identifying the hot spots, (as has been necessary with all other touring boots) but that shouldn’t be necessary. The walking action is smooth and uninhibited, as efficient as any boot I’ve tried. They’re apparently a little heavier than my Radiums and Megarides, but the extra weight isn’t noticable in use. The tech binding toe-pin receptacles have proprietary guide notches to make stepping into the bindings easier, but I didn’t notice any substantive difference. The walk/ski adjustment switch is simple and effective. When descending, with only light pressure on the buckles (no cranking required), they come close to my downhill boots in performance – smooth, stiff, and supportive, inspiring confidence in challenging snow conditions. I’m excited to explore their full potential.
It’s unfortunate that the stock liners are so difficult to get on, but these are the boots I’ve been waiting 20 years for. Comfortable and easy striding, yet paradoxically delivering the highest in skiing performance.

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Dynastar Huge Trouble

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I just took delivery of my brand new 185cm Dynastar Huge Trouble skis (140-115-130), and I’m currently in the process of trying to work out where to mount them. The very detailed review that sold me on the skis makes a convincing case to mount them at -3cm to hit the sweet spot in the turning radius.  I’m convinced that most twin tip skis are mounted too far forward, which might explain why all but he most aggressive jibbers I see seem to be leaning back and fighting for control. To confuse things, a tech from Evogear told me to mount them at +2cm else they wouldn’t perform on hard snow. I’m going from my 183cm Head Super Mojos, which I love, so to try to sort this out I measured what I estimated was the functional side-cut length (ignoring the tip and tail) on each ski and produced a spreadsheet comparing the relative positions of the manufacturer’s centre mount positions. My Supermojos are mounted (on the line) at 43.54% from the rear. The manufacturers mounting position on the Big Troubles is at 45.91% from the rear. At -3cm the mounting position on the Big Troubles is at 43.97% from the rear, seeming to confirm the review I read, and which I’m hoping will deliver the feel I’m looking for. These are going to be my day to day resort skis, but with  Dukes mounted on them so that I can skin up to Motherlode on big days,  lap Roberts occasionally, and perhaps use them for cat-skiing. Bring on the powder.

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Garmont Radium Review

Following Lee’s query, I thought I’d share some more detailed opinions on my new Garmont Radium boots after 5 days of skiing in them.

Skiing

When skiing they are noticeably stiffer and more responsive than other AT boots I’ve used – Megarides, Denalis, Lasers, and Concordias. When buckled down they really are close to downhill boots in performance, certainly everything I could ever want for backcountry powder skiing. The single locking position feels quite upright, which works for me, but perhaps not for others. It seems that it would be difficult to provide aftermarket components to modify the angle. The power-strap is too long for my skinny legs, and appears to be of the same low quality sewing and materials as those on my Megarides, so I’ll replace them when I can.

Walking

In walk mode they’re perfectly acceptable, relatively lightweight, with a good long stride, but are perhaps less easy to loosen off than the Megarides – as even when unbuckled they hug my foot tightly. The locking upper buckles already seem like a very convenient feature, and have worked flawlessly. Unfortunately I was noticing a minor pressure point on my instep (never an issue in tongue style boots) and I was experiencing some toe bang when walking on flat terrain. The boots are easy to get into, though inexplicably difficult to get out of.

Fit

I stuck with Garmont because I find they fit my low volume feet better than the alternatives. I had deliberately purchased size 28.0, even though I’m technically a 28.5, because I wanted to take up extra volume, but even when cranked down (and I was maxing out the top buckle) I was still getting unacceptable heel slop (even with Medium-weight Smartwool ski socks). Detailed inspection confirmed just how low volume the new G-Fit liners are – at 5cm forward and to the side of the heel, my molded liners are only a few mm thick. Sure they’re fancy looking, with all sorts of extra sewing and materials(why they think sewing on stiffening patches accomplishes anything is beyond comprehension), but just like the older style G-Fit liners that came with the Megarides, they are not even close to providing the support and fit of Intuition liners, which expand to fill empty space. So I simply took the Intuition liners that I’d been using in my Megarides, and the problem was solved. With Intuition liners, they fit like a glove (in Ultralight Smartwool ski socks), I’ve now no pressure point on my instep when skinning, and the much higher volume tongue holds my foot back in the heel pocket alleviating any toe bang.

Conclusion

Overall I’m pretty happy with the boots, though it’ll be interesting to see how they handle extended trips, but for the money they’re charging it’d be nice if they came with liners and a power-strap I didn’t have to upgrade (like Scarpa is doing with the Skookum).

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Garmont Radiums / Global Snow Report

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I just picked up my new Garmont Radium ski-touring boots from Gerick’s in Nelson, and spent the evening fitting them and walking around the house. I can’t wait to try them on snow. I’m coming from the Garmont Megaride, and these are noticably more supportive, with refinements in the shape of the shell that provide a more even fit. I like the locking buckles, and Garmont are claiming that the new liner will resist packing out, but only time will tell. I was concerned that the overlap design might make for difficult entry but it’s certainly not an issue in my kitchen, though snowcamping at minus 20 degrees wil be the real test. I created a new toe cover to use in the molding process (baking them in my oven on an old bread board) – using a neoprene koozie (beer cooler) with additional padding on critical zones – and seem to have acheived close to a perfect fit. 

With only 25cm of snow at the top of Granite, and perhaps 45-50cm in the Nelson Range, I’ve been cruising the internet to see who is actually getting any of the white stuff.  Revelstoke is opening today with 80cm on the upper slopes (they’re advertising early season conditions), and there’s 145cm in the alpine at Roger’s Pass (but still thin down low). Lake Louise is open with 80cm, Sunshine with 60cm and Whistler with 50 cm. In the USA, it’s dumping in the East, a few Utah resorts are open with 50-80cm, while only Mammoth seems to be doing well with 125cm. There’s 80cm at a few resorts in Hokkaido (Japan) while in Europe, Chamonix just had a 40cm dump to make 100cm up high (the Grand Montet opens on the 29th) , while Eastern Switzerland and Austria seems the place to be, Engleberg has 150cm, St Anton 150cm, and Andermatt  a whopping 210cm.

The NorthEast Washington forecast (the most detailed  available for this area)  http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/forecasts/display_special_product_versions.php?sid=OTX&pil=AFD mentions the potential for valley snow early next week. Bring it on.

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Winter’s Coming.

One of my skis that I’d stashed on the summit of Old Glory and had gone missing, showed up. I was riding to the summit as part of the Seven Summits Poker Ride  http://rosslandtrails.wordpress.com/2008/09/09/seven-summits-poker-ride/ when there it was, sticking up out of the rocks. There was a core shot in it that I don’t remember, so perhaps it’s had some use? Will the mystery ever be solved?

With temperatures dropping to below freezing in the local mountains, and even a few snowfalls in the higher ranges, winter feels like it’s coming early, and I’m thinking about skiing, and ski gear. I’m going to give the new Garmont Radiums a try as my touring boots, and 188cm Coombas with Marker Dukes as my lift skiing/Mt Roberts set-up.

Talking with Potsie about the summer grooming at Red this summer has me stoked on all the new lines we’ll be charging. It sounds like they’ve really done things right and opened things up.  Just looking up at the Slides you can see the difference.

I’ve even been doing Google Earth fly-throughs of the Monashees between Revelstoke and Blue River – contemplating a ski traverse for the fall, and calculating how I can drop some more weight from my traversing pack. I hope it starts puking in October!

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Broken Dynafit Insert Post

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I thought it was just the attachment screw working itself loose, but the issue with Dynafit heel insert in my Garmont Mega-rides is actually a broken locater post. I’ll call Garmont tomorrow and try to sort something out in time (15 days and counting) for my ski traverse.

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Randy’s Poles

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My brother Cam has been ranting for years about the limited function of his ski pole’s, and we’ve imagined all sorts of additional features that could be incorporated. I guess we’re not the only ones, as Randy from Orange County was sporting these home modified poles at Wildhorse recently. That’s a compass and a temperature gauge (purchased at REI), and a very clean installation.

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Dynafit Spare Parts

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Through two seasons of use I’m convinced that Dynafit bindings are a reliable high performance binding, but they’re not indestructible. It took a long time and a few reminders but Salewa USA (Dynafit’s North American distributors) were very helpful and friendly on the phone and sent me all the replacement parts and spares I needed in time to ski. As I’ve documented previously the metal post on which the heel piece mounts will fracture and break with extended use, so I’ll be periodically checking for cracks, and will carry a replacement heel post and base plate on longer and more remote trips. The plastic heel riser post can also break, though almost always the casualty of a clumsy or aggressive move (an ill-advised 3ft drop to flat while in the high climbing position broke mine). I’ll be carrying a spare with screws. Finding a lightweight Torx T10 driver for the screws was initially a challenge, but apparently Avid mountain bike disc brakes ship with a suitable driver, and my local shop (Revolution Cycles) had lots of extras lying around.

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Destructable Dynafits

It took me a long time to become convinced of the merits of Dynafit bindings. They might be ok for weight weenies puttering about on easy angled terrain, guides or intermediates, but how could such an insubstantial device withstand the hard use of backcountry skiing in the Kootenays. I finally bought a pair of Dynafit Comforts during last winter, and I’ve put about 100 days of powder skiing and traversing on them since. I appreciate their lightness, and love the touring action. It was on the advice of websites such as http://www.wildsnow.com and my previous experience (I’d used them on the Bugaboo to Rogers pass traverse last year) that I accepted their improbable durability (though I had broken the crampon attachments, which were replaced on warranty), and headed off on the Northern Selkirks traverse without any spare parts. I broke off one of the plastic heel-risers (a screw broke) on day two, not a critical issue, but an inconvenience on the multiple long steep climbs. I would have carried a spare but that they were not readily available locally. On day seven, part way through a long climb, I noticed that one of my heel-pieces had an unusual amount of play. and on closer inspection I discovered that the heel-post had seperated completely from it’s metal base-plate. The only thing holding it the whole heel unit together was a very tenous purchase that the post still had on the boot length adjustment screw.

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I was still able to utilize the middle heel rise position for climbing, and could click in to skiing mode, though the binding would release at the slightest forward leverage. I locked my toe piece on the descents and modified my technique so that I could still ski in a delicate and precise fashion for the last three days. On finishing the trip I checked out the other heel piece, and found it was cracking at the same location, and would surely have broken in short time.

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I freely admit to being an aggressive skier, ripping hard in all conditions but always in control (I don’t fall).These bindings were not used for any lift serviced skiing and I’m not into big air or hard impacts. I had them set on a DIN of 10, the heel spacing was set using the gauge, and I only rarely locked the toe-piece for skiiing. The bindings come with a two year warranty, so it’ll be interesting to see how Salewa North America respond when I return them. Until I know more, I’m saying that the practical life of these bindings is approximately 100 days of hard skiing.

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