Category Archives: Gear

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.

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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.

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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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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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